Word count: 903
The alley behind the restaurant was narrow and poorly lit, but at least it was relatively clean. Well, apart from dumpster Riley was using for cover. She felt rather than saw Gabriel as he crouched down behind her, both of them peering around the dumpster trying to spot their target, who was supposed to be conducting a meeting in this very alley. If their intel was accurate.
"Any sign of them?" she asked Gabriel, hoping he'd spotted the target on satellite or the restaurant's cameras.
"Not yet," he whispered, leaning in so that his mouth nearly touched her ear. She suppressed a shiver at the contrast between the warmth of his breath and the chill November air.
Or mostly suppressed.
"I'm fine," she whispered back. "Just hoping we aren't out here too long." She really wasn't cold, not with Gabriel directly behind her, close enough to serve as her own personal furnace.
"I'll buy you some hot chocolate when we're done," he promised.
Fifteen minutes later, Riley was starting to wish she already had that hot chocolate. She flexed her hands in her gloves, trying to keep the blood flowing. Gabriel, she'd noticed, wasn't wearing gloves. She had no idea how still managed to fire his weapon in this weather.
"Sure you're not cold?" Gabriel whispered again.
"I'm fine," Riley repeated, trying not to sound annoyed.
"Only reason I'm asking is that you're practically leaning against me."
She twisted her head with a start and realized that he was right--she'd backed up until they were nearly touching. "Sorry," she muttered, pulling a few inches forward.
"I didn't say I minded." He stopped, attention suddenly elsewhere. "He's coming."
They both focused on the mouth of the alley, sharp and ready. A moment later, a heavyset man entered, hands thrust deep into the pockets of his leather jacket. He took a few steps into the alley and looked around. Riley and Gabriel ducked back quickly, pushing into the dark shadows of the dumpster. She waited for Markson to walk in further--to spot them and call the whole operation off--but his brief inspection seemed to satisfy him. Apparently he was more concerned by the possibility of random passers-by than dedicated surveillance, which suited the profile they had of him as a man too arrogant to believe he could be caught.
Riley thought he might be nervous--it wasn't everyday that a Naval officer decided to sell military intelligence to a Russian agent (and how Cold War was that?)--but Markson simply took up position at the side of the alley and waited, statue-still. A few minutes later, he was joined by a blonde woman in a slim, dark winter coat.
"Natalia Bagrova," Gabriel whispered behind her. "She's a cultural attaché with the Russian embassy."
"We've got him," Riley replied, excited. Cyber Command had been tracking Markson for months, tracing transactions and bank transfers and digital drop boxes, and hadn't come up with anything better than circumstantial evidence. He'd simply been too careful. This was the first time he'd done anything that could possibly lead to an actual conviction.
"Only if he actually gives her something. There's no rule against Naval officers meeting with Russian agents, even if it is at night in a suspiciously dark alley."
Riley nodded, waiting with bated breath as Markson and Bagrova exchanged greetings. She couldn't hear what they were saying, but Gabriel had assured her he could listen through their cellphones. Given a little more warning, they would have set up proper surveillance in the alley--microphones and cameras that would have rendered their presence unnecessary--but the messages setting the meeting place had gone out less than an hour before, and there simply hadn't been time.
Bagrova's teeth flashed in the light, smiling at something Markson said. She pulled her purse off her should and reached inside.
Behind them, the door leading from the restaurant swung open, and a group of loud, winter-clad people piled out, all of them stumbling and leaning on each other in a way that suggested a fairly serious degree of intoxication.
"The restaurant closed two hours ago!" she whispered.
"Staff," Gabriel replied, standing up. He pulled her with him, and pushed her up against the alley wall, stepping in so he was flush against her.
"What are you doing back here?" one of the revellers asked.
Riley couldn't reply because Gabriel had covered her mouth with his, and was doing a very good job of pretending to make-out passionately. She responded automatically, and then with more intention as she caught up to him. Perhaps a little too much attention, she decided feeling him start to harden against her. Impishly, she stepped up the kiss, letting her tongue flick out, and was rewarded by feeling him push up against her a little more.
One of the revellers laughed. "Get a room. It'll be warmer," he advised. Around him, the others laughed as well.
Out of the corner of her eye, Riley could see Markson and Bagrova look down the alley in surprise, then drift away. Gabriel, also apparently watching, pulled back immediately, and gave the revellers a look that Riley couldn't see, but that was apparently enough to make them decide they had business elsewhere. They moved on.
"Sorry," Gabriel said, stepping back.
Riley shook her head. "It kept Markson from catching us," she said. She followed him out of the alley, touching her lips involuntarily as they went.
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