This story is by Mackenzie Scherer and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Juliette watches silently as snow trickles from the sky, shivering as the icy specks land on her exposed face. Taking one more drag from her cigarette, she tosses it to the sidewalk, stubbing it out with her shoe.
A quick check of her watch shows she is right on time, entering the building. Walking past the secretary, no one dares stop her from her destination. She enters the familiar office, the stench of cheap cologne burning her nostrils. She sits on the cheap wooden chair in front of his desk, slouching uninterested at what he has to say.
“You are in trouble,” Tom says resting his interlocked fingers on his mahogany desk.
Looking over to the window she notices it has quit snowing. At least the snow quit. A slight movement in the corner of the window catches her attention.
She watches in morbid fascination as a spider in the window traps an unsuspecting fly in its silk.
“I can’t cover this up,” Tom shuffles a few papers mindlessly around his desk.
She nods, leaving his office in a daze. Leaning against the building she lights up another cigarette. Pulling her gray beanie farther over her ears she sighs.
The senator made it perfectly clear. She has 24 hours to clear him, or else. Her perfect record as a fixer and her life would be over. It wasn’t her fault the senator was an idiot. She made a deal with the devil and he wants his due.
She has one last hope. I must really be desperate she thinks as she take on last long puff of her cigarette. She throws it to the ground. Following the sidewalk to her car a block over, she enters her red BMW. Leaving the busy streets of Washington she heads for the quiet suburb of Potomac, Maryland.
She parks near the Cabin John Stream Valley trailhead. Her contact is sure to be on the hikers only portion of the nearly nine mile wooded trail.
Exiting her car she shivers, when a particularly strong gust of wind hits her face, pulling her black leather jacket that is too thin for the cold, tighter around herself. She curses her contact for being the kind of crazy that enjoys hiking in the winter.
Lighting another cigarette she begins to trudge down the path. A few minutes down the trail she spots a familiar blonde figure leaning against a tree. Breathless she moves closer to the figure. Is it the cigarettes leaving me breathless, or is it you?
“Told you to quit smoking,” the blonde says with a roll of her eyes when Juliette gets near. Definitely the cigarettes. She thinks, instantly regretting her decision to pay the blonde a visit.
She swallows her pride not rising to the familiar jab.
“I’m in trouble,” Juliette taps her pack of cigarettes against her palm nervously. She slides out her last cigarette placing it between her lips.
“Obviously. What’s wrong?” Karen asks pushing off the tree gracefully. She pulls the lit cigarette from Juliette’s lips, stomping it out on the ground with an innocent smirk.
Juliette closes her eyes. Taking a deep breath she pinches the bridge of her nose. Don’t punch her. No one can get under her skin quite like Karen.
“The senator was caught.” She crumples her empty pack of cigarettes, “He is going to set me up.” She tosses the empty pack at the blonde, frowning when Karen snatches it out of the air.
“Why should I care?” Karen asks, pulling out a stick of gum, to take the place of the brunette’s nasty habit.
“What do you want?” Juliette asks looking the piece of gum as if it was poison. She eases the piece of gum into her mouth chewing slowly. If it’s poisoned I don’t have to worry about this mess.
The blonde brushes past her, the scent of jasmine and leather is uniquely Karen. Leaning against a tall oak tree Karen seems so innocent. Karen sends a small smirk her way before turning her back.
The silence is deafening, the last place Juliette wants to be is left alone with her own thoughts. She shuffles her feet kicking a stick. Out of habit she reaches for her cigarettes forgetting Karen stomped her last one. Shoving her hands into the back pocket of her jeans her nerves get the better of her. She repeats her previous question, silently begging for an answer.
Karen straightens her posture. She turns her piercing blue eyes towards Juliette, stalking towards her until they are face to face. Brown meets blue as Juliette nearly stumbles back, two inches of height feeling like miles. It’s easy to forget how intimidating Karen is.
“I want you to come back to the organization.” It was a simple request on the surface. The implications of that statement are frightening. She left the organization for a reason. Juliette chews her bottom lip. I can stare down a dictator, but her. She chills me to the bone. She turns her head breaking the staring contest with the blue eyes that pulled her into this world so many years ago. It was such a innocent question.
“How would you like a job.” That single question from Karen pulled her into this life.
Karen softly grabs her chin, breaking her out of her memories, turning her head until their eyes meet.
“You are the kind of good I need, Jules.” Juliette shivers at the sound of her name. Not again. Stepping away, she shakes her head no, refusing to return to that world.
Karen shrugs her shoulders, returning to her hike as if nothing had happened.
Juliette sprints back to her car, stopping to catch her breath. The cold air burns her lungs. She enters her car slouching in the driver’s seat. Punching the steering wheel she knows her last hope has just faded. She drives back to her apartment in a daze.
Tossing her keys into the glass bowl by her door she couldn’t help but think she was missing something important. Sitting on her well-worn, black leather couch she takes a deep breath inhaling the scent of cigarettes and cedar. Pulling out the information on the senator, she has stored by the couch, she scatters the pictures around her beat up, stained cedar coffee table. She stands, pacing nervously stopping by her black desk she bought from IKEA.
She pulls her last pack of smokes she keeps for emergencies, out of the drawer. lighting one up she relaxes instantly. Walking back over to her couch she slouches Propping her feet on the coffee table, she closes her eyes. What was missing? The senator was going down and she was sinking with him. Unless… She grabs her cell phone to make a few quick calls.
Ten minutes later a sharp knock sounds from her front door. Yanking the door open she is greeted by a smirking blonde. Karen strolls into the apartment making snark comments about Juliette living in such a dingy apartment when she could easily afford something much nicer.
Karen sits properly on the couch, legs crossed like a lady. She arches her eyebrow, a soft smirk gracing her blood red lips.
“I know you set me up K,” Juliette says slamming her door hard enough to break the chain latch. She pivots to face Karen, she is stopped in her track when she hears laughter. Juliette loses it, how could she be laughing about this. Her face turns beat red, vision blurring she stalks over to the couch. Grabbing Karen’s button up shirt collar, she manages to snap a few buttons from the force. The laughter stops, all traces of humor gone.
“You wanted me back.” It was a simple statement, much like the one that got Juliette in this mess in the first place.
Karen nods in agreement, leaning closer until their noses touch, “Not me Juels.” She snarls, grabbing Juliette’s hand. Shifting her weight Karen pulls Juliette to the couch, straddling her waist she clutches the brunettes chin far rougher than earlier.
She knows it is the truth. Only one other person could have set this up. Karen calmly gets off of Juliette, her point proven. Opening the apartment door she stops turning to the still stunned Juliette.
“Never forget I taught you, Jules, I can break you.” She leaves without another word, closing the door quietly.
Night gives way to morning. The night was spent re-reading every shred of evidence, she could leave nothing to chance.
The time window closes as a tired Juliette leans against her car at the designated meeting spot. Lighting up a cigarette, she checks her watch as a black SUV parks next to her.
A tall well built man exits, it’s the senator in all his shining glory. “Time is up,” his voice rattles as he stomps towards her.
“It’s handled.” His shock at her statement proves her theory. Racketeering, money laundering, and fraud are text book charges for the senator. An under age sex scandle on the other hand doesn’t fit his profile. That was the missing piece.
He wrings his hands, pulling an envelope from his pocket he passes the payment to Juliette.
She throws it back in his face. “You will need it for a good lawyer.” she says taking another drag of her cigarette.
“How dare you.” He pulls his phone from his pocket shaking he presses a few buttons.
“This situation made no sense, until I realized I was supposed to fail.” She tossed her cigarette to the ground stomping it out, blowing the last bit of smoke in his face. The senator coughs putting his phone back in his pocket.
“Why would I want you to fail? It’s my head,” he says pacing in front of her, pulling on his short graying hair.
She pulls her phone from her pocket sending a quick text to her real target.
Pulling a file from her car she hands it to him. He is shaking so severely he nearly drops the folder. Inside were picture of individuals following Juliette.
“I didn’t,” he trails off when she holds her hand up to silence him, taking the file from his hands. She was right; he is too stupid to set her up.
“I’ll go speak with your lawyer.” Juliette enters her car slamming the door in his face. She slings gravel, tires sliding, out of the parking lot on her way to his lawyer’s office.
She parks in her usual spot a block away, cursing the lack of parking in D.C. Jumping out of her car she sprints to law office. Catching her breath outside of the building she enters. Strolling past the secretary, without knocking she barges into Tom’s office. Tossing the file onto his desk, pictures scatter everywhere. She crinkles her nose at the sickening smell of cologne.
“I was set up to fail,” she says leaning her hands on his desk.
“I can’t believe he set you up Jules. He will make a lot of enemies. I bet he will be finished in Washington.” Tom shakes his head, processing all the information she just shared.
“I couldn’t believe it either” Juliette walks away from his desk. She leans against the wall by the window. Looking down at the spider that calls the window home, she sees yet another fly is trapped in its tangled web.
“Which is why I don’t,” she says squashing the spider in the window. “He was just the web for me to get caught in,” stalking to his desk she spins his chair to face her. “You forgot one very important detail. I am not the fly in this situation. You are,” she says rolling his chair away with a push.
“Jules we are friends I would never. ” Tom pleads with a sob, begging when he hears the police sirens.
“Greed is a powerful force my friend,” she replied tears falling at the betrayal just as the police bust through the door.