Jaime, Collin and Stephen splashed through the drainage
pipe, heading into the belly of the city, long since immune
to the stench around them. The pipe narrowed two more feet,
forcing them to hunch over. In the dark, they felt their
way along the wall, knowing sooner or later they were going
to find a manhole or drain from the street or something big
enough to let them crawl out of this hellhole.
"Hawaii," Jaime said, breaking a long silence.
"What about it?" Stephen asked, directly behind her. He
kept one hand in hers, the other on the wall.
"I think I'm going to go to Hawaii."
Collin chuckled from in front of her. Always the heroes,
they had stuck her in the middle. Again. "When is that
"As soon as I get out of here. I need a vacation."
Now Stephen laughed. "You wouldn't know how."
She stopped to stretch. The roof was too low for her to
stand, so she leaned over, stretching her back and arms. "I
might surprise you."
Here in Argentina their job had been simple. To
ascertain the production of uranium was used for nuclear
reactors and not nuclear weapons. So far, the job had been
a piece of cake. Posing as American representatives of the
civilian company, Agency of Nuclear Technology, they had
easily obtained access to the Ezeiza Processing Plant and
the Pilcaniyeu Enrichment Plant.
Rico Chavez, an employee of Ezeiza, had been born in
Argentina and educated at MIT. Already suspicious of his
superiors' motives when Jaime had approached him with an
offer of cash in exchange for a look into the Ezeiza
records, he had readily agreed.
The records indicated nothing improper was happening at
the plant, and the crew had been about to call it quits and
Except now Rico Chavez had been hit and Jaime had been
seen in the room.
God, I'm tired. Jaime couldn't even remember the last
time she had taken a holiday.
Keeping to the left, they traveled through the maze.
The tunnels led to a ladder. A manhole. The street
above. Two cars were parked directly beside them, blocking
their ascent to the real world from anyone who might happen
by. The rain fell, but it had lost its wrath.
When they crawled onto the street, they didn't have a
clue how far they were from where they entered the drains.
Collin replaced the cover and put his arm over Jaime's
shoulder. They walked off, Stephen two steps behind. The
buildings they walked by advertised rooms for rent by the
Collin detoured into a lateâ€“night market while
Jaime and Stephen leaned against the outside wall.
Collin was back within three minutes, stuffing a small
package into his jacket pocket.
They kept moving.
Walking past a dilapidated building whose neon window
sign proclaimed the establishment simply as "Hotel", they
exchanged looks, walked over the threshold and got
themselves a room.
The clerk's eyebrows arched when he looked up from his
newspaper. His chapped lips spread into a crooked smile
over his short, dirty beard when they requested one room
for the three of them.
"Si." He leered. "Si, si."
If they hadn't been so tired, if they had cared one iota
what this moron thought, they might have defended
themselves. But they were and they didn't, so they let him
think his perverted thoughts, grabbed their key and took
the stairs to the second floor.
The carpet had been red at one point. Torn and
discolored, it fit perfectly with the spotted walls that
screamed for paint.
Room 2A. Top of the stairs and to the right.
Stephen entered first, turning on the lights.
Collin shut the door behind them, snapping the lock.
"Bathroom. Now," Stephen ordered Jaime.
She grunted as Collin pulled out the brown paper bag and
tossed it to Stephen. Stephen caught it overhand.
Jaime sat down on the edge of the stained tub, her hands
on her knees as she waited for the torture.
The threeâ€“byâ€“five bathroom reeked of things
living where they shouldn't be living. Stephen sat on
closed toilet seat and used the back as a table. Opening
the bag, he pulled out the peroxide, aspirin, gauze and
firstâ€“aid tape. Stretching his leg out, he reached
into his jeans pocket and got out his Swiss Army knife.
She saw him in the mirror on the back of the door as he
worked, the concentration etched on his chiseled features,
his blue eyes watching his own fingers move.
"This could really use some stitches," Stephen said.
"And?" she said, wincing when he dabbed at the wound
with a cloth soaked in peroxide.
She could see her blood on his fingers and on his watch.
A droplet was even running down the back of his hand, but
he ignored it.
"FYI," he said, tossing the cloth into the sink. "You
scared me," he added, looking her straight in the eye
before cutting a couple of butterfly bandages.
"You should learn to drive better."
He smiled. Jaime always loved his smile. It made even
the worst times seem okay.
"You do need to get another hobby besides babysitting
me, you know," she told him. He smiled again, only this
time there was a mischievous edge to it and she knew she
He pushed harder on the cut, making her yelp.
"Bastard," she said.
"Whiner," he shot back.
Collin appeared in the doorway. "There's no phone so we
can't check in," he said.
Jaime winced as Stephen pulled the edges of the cut
together with the tape.
"We'll sleep here and call first thing in the morning,"
"There's only two double beds," Collin said. He reached
in his pocket and pulled out a coin, positioning it on his
bent thumb. "Head's gets the single. Tail's gets her."