Jasmine ripped up the t-shirt she found in the alley dumpster and wrapped it around the bloody hole on Professor Barrett’s left leg.
“Is it broken?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“No, the bullet shot straight through,” she said.
Barrett’s eyes widened. “There’s so much blood.”
“Don’t worry, my team is coming and they’ll take care of you.” She tightened the makeshift bandage and placed her blue jacket under his leg, praying it was enough to stop the bleeding. She wouldn’t get paid if he died. While she worked, she replayed the last few hours in her mind, attempting to pinpoint her mistake. The assignment was simple: she and Cardinal were to pick up the asset and make the drop off.
The Agency, one of her current employers, didn’t anticipate an ambush. Now Cardinal was missing, maybe dead, and the asset was damaged.
“What happened back there? Why were those people shooting at us?” the professor asked.
“They want to use your expertise to locate an African queen’s crown,” she replied.
“They could’ve just asked.”
“Shooting is how the FBI asks. Anyway, we can’t allow you to help them. If they get it, they’ll be one step closer to completing the prophecy.”
He leaned his head against the concrete wall. “You don’t actually believe that fable is true, do you?”
“I don’t, but the people I work for do,” she said.
“It sounds unbelievable. Almost Lord of the Ring-ish. One crown to rule them all,” his voice trailed off.
Jasmine stood in front of him, “Can you get up?”
Barrett bent his right leg and used the wall to lift his body. “Ugh!“ he cried. “I don’t think I can walk.”
“That’s okay. Put your arm around my neck—”
The sound of shoes slapping against the pavement got louder. Jasmine leaned Barrett back against the wall and grabbed her gun. She was poised and ready to shoot when Cardinal emerged from around the dumpster, his grey suit ripped and maroon tie askew.
“I thought you were dead,” Jasmine lowered her weapon, tucking it inside her left shoulder harness.
“I escaped through the bedroom window.” Cardinal said.
“So, you just abandoned me?”
“Look, I knew you could handle it and if anything went wrong, we’d meet here. That was the plan, right?”
Jasmine shook her head. She’d deal with Cardinal later. For now, they needed to get the asset to a safe house before the drop off. She had debts to pay and couldn’t afford jeopardizing the pay out from this job.
“Did you call it in yet?” Cardinal asked, pushing a button on his iPhone and pressing it to his ear.
“No, I lost my phone back there.”
He raised his index finger to silence her. “Yep, I found her. We’re in the alley behind Bob’s on Hope Street.” She thought it odd he’d given an address. Their superiors decided on this pickup location. He was quiet for a few moments and said, “Copy that,” before sliding the phone into his jacket pocket.
“Help me get him up,” Jasmine said, turning to retrieve the professor. Cardinal pushed her forward and grabbed her gun. She stretched out her hands, placing them on either side of the professor so as not to crash into him. She wheeled around to stare at the barrel of her semiautomatic.
“Sorry, Jas,” Cardinal said.
“What’s happening?” the professor shouted.
“Change of plans, professor. You’re coming with me.” Cardinal smiled.
“You know what they’ll do to him.” Jasmine took a step forward.
“They offered me more money.” He kept the gun trained on her. “Don’t try it, Jas. You’ll lose. Now get the professor and help him to the sidewalk.”
Cardinal followed behind as Jasmine dragged the professor along the alley to the street where a black SUV waited.
“Keep moving,” Cardinal said pressing the barrel of the gun against her neck. The rear door opened, and Cardinal shoved the professor forward. Hands shot out, hoisted the professor inside, and slammed the door shut.
“Step away from the car, Jas.” She took a half step back as Cardinal glanced behind to find the passenger door handle.
“Bastard,” Jasmine said as she lunged towards him, grabbing and raising the gun above them. Two shots fired as they struggled for control. Jasmine connected her knee to his groin. He released the weapon, screaming and grabbed his crotch. Jasmine smashed the back of his head into the passenger door.
Satisfied he was temporarily out of commission, Jasmine retrieved her gun, opened the door of the SUV, and hopped in the front passenger seat.
“It would have been a shame if I had to pay him instead,” Eboni, the FBI Director for Special Assignments, said from behind, as they drove off. Jasmine glanced back to see the professor slumped in between Eboni and another agent. “Don’t worry about him. You’ll find what you need under you.”
Jasmine reached under her seat and pulled out a small blue tote. She inspected the contents and found a fresh pair of clothes, shoes, car keys, a green folder and a roll of cash wrapped with an elastic band. She counted the money first before examining the folder’s information.
“Cinder is waiting for you at the airport. We only have a few more days before Mercury goes into retrograde.” Eboni leaned forward and placed her hand on Jasmine’s shoulder. “It is vital you retrieve the scepter to complete the collection or the ritual won’t work.” She leaned back as the car came to a full stop at a parking lot. “I know you won’t let me down.”
“Have I ever?” Jasmine said as she slammed the car door shut and headed off to her next assignment.