This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Disclaimer: The Bourne Legacy is a part of the Bourne franchise created by Robert Ludlum and I do not own even the slightest part of that. This is only a labour of love adding to the ever expanding Bourne universe.
'Are you a doctor?'
Marta felt her entire body tense at those words, but she did her best to hide it. She continued to fossick through her salad, casually stabbing her fork into a cherry tomato and eating it.
After finishing her mouthful Marta looked up. The man who had spoken was, by luck or design, standing with his back to the sun so all she could initially see of him was a large black outline.
'I'm sorry?' she stalled for time, blinking to try and get a clearer image of the stranger.
'I asked if you were a doctor,' the man moved to his right pulling a chair over to her table and sitting down.
Marta raised an eyebrow at his rudeness. At least now she could get a better look at him; mid twenties, solidly built but not in a gym junkie kind of way, he looked like a person who worked for a living. He carried himself like a person who knew his way around a boxing ring too. She was pretty sure he had been hanging about down by the pool for almost the entire time she and Aaron had been sitting at the outdoor dining area of this rather upscale hotel.
It had been Aaron's idea, a treat, some place fancier than their normal fare. Aaron was currently over by the buffet table getting them coffee and she was sure yet another plate of food for himself. Marta had to admit she was jealous at Aaron's ability to eat almost anything he wanted and not gain any weight. An unintended gift from Sterisyn; a souped up metabolism to go along with the intelligence and enhanced strength.
Marta put her fork down on the table. 'I think you have me confused with someone else,' she shook her head. 'I'm not a doctor.'
The man frowned, 'No, but I thought –'
'You thought what?' Marta butted in, worry making her a little rude. This man had sat down uninvited, waiting for Aaron to leave the table first before making his move.
The man blinked at Marta's tone. 'It's just your friend called you Doc.'
Marta sighed and rubbed her eyes, muttering, 'That stupid nickname.'
'Beth, everything alright?' Aaron said from behind her.
Marta looked up to see Aaron standing there, a plate of scrambled eggs and toast in his right hand, the handles of two mugs of coffee laced through the fingers of his left.
Marta felt the tension ease from her shoulders. She shrugged casually as she picked up her fork and returned to poking at her salad. 'This guy,' she nodded her head in the stranger's direction, 'thinks I'm a doctor or something.'
Aaron laughed as he placed the mugs on the table and pulled out his seat. 'Beth,' he addressed the man as he sat down, 'a doctor? You're barking up the wrong tree, bro, she can't stand the sight of blood.'
The man frowned at them, 'but you called her doc.'
'As in "what's up, Doc" you know? My girl here,' Aaron tilted his head in Marta's direction as he picked up his coffee mug, 'crazy for Looney Tunes, you should see the Bugs Bunny crap she has at her place.'
Marta's lips thinned as Aaron slung his arm over the back of her chair. She glared at him, 'as opposed to the Star Wars crap at yours?'
Aaron's arm dropped away from her chair. 'Memorabilia,' he corrected her, 'and it's an investment, you wait and see.'
'Guess I made a mistake, sorry to disturb you.' The man began to push away from the table.
'Why do you need a doctor for anyway?' Aaron asked casually, taking a sip of his coffee.
'Oh,' the man hesitated a moment before sitting back down. 'My nephew seems a little sick.'
Marta's instincts took over. 'What's wrong with him, is it serious?'
'No, I just –' the man looked over his shoulder back towards the pool. 'I think it's just heatstroke or something.'
Aaron pulled his plate of food closer and picked up his knife and fork. 'Lots of liquids and a lie down in a dark room should fix that,' he hesitated and looked up at the man, 'or is that a cure for hangover?' Aaron shrugged before returning his attention back to his food. 'You could try the hotel; I bet they have a whole hospital on speed dial for just such an occasion.'
The man nodded and rose to his feet. 'Yeah, good idea, I should have thought of that.' He began to move away before turning back and addressing Aaron. 'You ever serve in the military?'
Aaron shoved a forkful of eggs into his mouth as Marta hurriedly reached for her coffee to try and mask her surprise at the question.
Looking up at the man, Aaron swallowed his mouthful before answering. 'Private contractor in Iraq for a few months before I decided it wasn't for me, you?'
The man shrugged, 'Couple of tours courtesy of the army. I thought I knew the look. You see any action?'
Aaron smiled at the words, 'If you call guarding transport containers full of farming equipment action, then sure.'
'We all serve in our own way,' the man said.
Aaron nodded, 'That we do. Hope your nephew feels better.'
'Thanks, oh and ma'am,' the man addressed Marta, 'nothing wrong with Looney Tunes. I was a big Yosemite Sam fan myself,' he smiled a little shamefacedly at admitting it. 'That and the Road Runner, loved how that guy could run. Nobody could ever catch him. You stay safe now.'
'Thanks,' Marta's words were directed to the man's retreating back as he walked away. The man paused for a moment to talk to a couple lounging at the pool before he disappeared into the hotel.
Marta dropped her fork and placed her hands flat on the surface to push away from the table. Aaron's hand grabbed one of hers tightly before letting go again.
'Breathe, Marta,' he instructed her, all the while continuing to eat. 'First rule in the army, eat and sleep when you can because you never know when your next chance will come. Besides, getting up now will be too obvious.'
Marta took a deep breath and reached for her fork. 'What just happened?'
'You tell me.' Aaron picked up the ketchup bottle and squeezed a generous dollop over the last of his eggs. 'What's your impression?'
Marta dropped her fork back on the plate, there was no way she could even think of eating right now. Her stomach was tied up in knots. Taking a deep breath she tried to assess the situation from a scientific point of view. 'Young, American,' she began to note out loud, 'military, obviously and he knew you were too. How did he know you were a soldier, does that take special training or –?'
'We have a secret handshake,' Aaron smiled at Marta's surprised expression. 'You just know,' he tried to explain; 'there's a feel, a look about a guy who has actually served boots on the ground in a war.'
'But is he still an actual soldier, on duty I mean, or is he retired and just on vacation?' Marta watched as Aaron sopped up the last of his eggs with some toast. She had already noticed that while to anyone else he looked like a guy just eating his breakfast, in fact his eyes, hidden behind his ever present sunglasses, hadn't stopped roaming. Darting from face to face, checking out the exits and noting who was talking to whom. While this was a quite normal thing that Aaron did automatically wherever he went, it seemed to have increased in intensity since the soldier had walked away. 'He's not retired is he? Oh god,' Marta's hands fell into her lap where she immediately began to twist her fingers together. 'They've found us haven't they?'
Aaron reached across and pulled Marta closer to him, to a casual observer it might have looked like a couple cuddling up to each other. 'It's all right, Doc,' he whispered into her ear. 'I don't think he's from Treadstone, or whatever they're calling themselves this week.'
Marta took a deep breath, 'Why do you think that?'
Aaron squeezed Marta's shoulders tightly once before dropping his arm and pushing himself away from the table. 'Because if he was,' he leant down and stole a cube of cheese from Marta's plate, 'we'd be arrested or dead by now. Beside he wouldn't have warned us, if he really wanted us found.'
'Warned us?' Marta pushed her chair back and stood next to Aaron. 'What warning?'
Aaron swallowed the last of the stolen cheese before answering, 'The Looney Tunes reference. He loved Yosemite Sam, he's Uncle Sam.'
'And we're the Road Runner.' Marta finished.
'And the Road Runner never gets caught.' Reaching down Aaron handed Marta her big sun hat. 'He told us to go, get out of here. He's given us a head start before he tells anyone else.'
'But why?' Marta linked arms with Aaron as they began to casually stroll towards the hotel.
Aaron shrugged, 'Maybe the program helped the guy's unit out once. We did a lot of work before Byers burned the whole thing to the ground. We saved American lives, it's the one good thing I can take from all this, I did some good once, I saved lives.'
'You saved my life,' Marta reminded him.
'Aw shucks, ma'am,' Aaron drawled as he tipped an imaginary hat at Marta, 'just doin' ma job.'
'Stop that,' Marta wrinkled her nose at Aaron's cowboy impersonation. 'But it still doesn't explain why he warned us. Is he some sort of friend,' Marta stopped walking and turned to look at Aaron. 'Can he help us get free of Byers for good?'
'I doubt it, he's just a grunt like me,' Aaron rested a hand on Marta's back and began steering her towards the hotel entrance. 'Nowhere near high enough up the food chain to be of any use, even if he wanted to. Besides I'm thinking they weren't expecting to find us so easily. These aren't our normal digs.'
'Tell me about it,' Marta grumbled, goose bumps rippling up her bare arms as they walked inside the foyer and the hotel's air conditioning met them full blast.
Aaron sighed, his keen ears hearing her muttered words. 'I know I promised you something nice, a few days of pampering and not looking over our shoulders. Just our luck we chose the same damn hotel as the American government. I was just going off my own experience, four-star hotels never factored into it, I'd be lucky to get one-star fleabag motel when I was working for Byers.'
'So maybe it's not us they're looking for?' Marta was surprised when Aaron steered her towards some shops that had set up in the hotel's large foyer, rather than head straight for the elevators.
Aaron stopped in front of a jeweler, just a couple gazing at the gaudy expensive necklaces in the display window. He lowered his voice; even though they were in a non-English speaking country it never hurt to be constantly aware of potential eavesdroppers. 'I don't care who they're after, we caught a break with that guy and I'm not going to look a gift horse in the teeth.'
'Mouth,' Marta corrected Aaron, 'you look a gift horse in the mouth.' She caught a sideways glance at his expression, 'never mind, not important. So what's the plan?'
'You know the way to the back stairs?' Aaron asked.
'Of course,' it had become routine for Marta to learn all the exits whenever they stayed anywhere. A habit she had picked up quickly from Aaron. She knew the back stairs, the service elevators, even the way through the kitchen that the local prostitutes used to sneak in and out of the hotel.
Aaron handed Marta the plastic card key for their room. 'Grab our bags and meet me at that kids arcade a few streets over in fifteen minutes.'
Another habit of Aaron's was to never unpack, everything you needed had to be at hand in a moment's notice. You never knew when you had to get out of a room quickly, like now. Their entire lives were crammed into two backpacks. Of course they had arrived with quite a few suitcases in hand; even if most of them had been empty. It was one thing to not necessarily look the part, rich people were known to sometimes dress down, but you had to have the accessories. A couple of backpacks drew the attention more than almost a dozen suitcases.
'What about our passports?' Marta asked. It was common practice to leave one's passports in the hotel safe when checking in. It was one way the hotel ensured you didn't leave without paying your bill, like they were about to do.
'Those covers are blown, or about to be.' Aaron said, 'and I want anyone looking to think we're still at the hotel for a few more hours.'
'I'll miss Beth,' Marta sighed, 'but at least we saved some money.'
'Always the optimist, why don't you grab a few bath towels and some peanuts on your way out, since we're not paying the bill.'
'Because that would be stealing, although,' Marta reached up and ran her fingers through her hair, 'I do love their shampoo.' Catching Aaron's grin she frowned at him. 'And what will you be doing while I am committing grand larceny?'
'Muddying our trail a little,' he leant forwards and kissed her on the forehead. Just a married couple about to part ways, 'and everyone steals the shampoo. They factor that into the bill.'
Aaron watched as Martha walked towards the elevators, he knew she'd stop at a random floor then double back to their rooms. He always worried when she was out of his sight, but in the months they had been together he knew she was more than capable of sneaking in and out of the hotel.
This should give him enough time to lay a few false trails before they left for good. Walking towards the reception desk Aaron saw that Richie Rich was big noting himself again in the foyer. This was a nickname Aaron had given a guy who had caught his attention the day after he and Marta had arrived. Richie loved to flash his big car and Rolex and talk loudly into his cell about all the great deals he had made. Aaron grinned as he slipped his sunglasses into his pocket; he'd been hoping Rich might be around when they left.
The concierge smiled blankly at Aaron as he approached, 'Any messages for room 814?' he asked the young woman.
The woman, Cassandra her name tag read, tapped at the computer. 'No messages, Mister Rappaport,' she said.
'Well how about that,' Aaron leaned on the marble counter, 'I told them not to contact me unless there was an emergency, I guess they haven't managed to burn the building down yet after all.' He gave Cassandra his best sleazy, businessman smile. 'Mind you it's not good for the help to realise they can live without you, am I right?'
Cassandra just smiled.
'Can you book a table for two at the restaurant for six tonight?' Aaron watched as Cassandra's fingers flew across her keyboard. 'Oh and a massage for the good woman say about three, that should give Beth enough time to dress before dinner, right?'
'I have an opening with the masseuse at 3.30,' Cassandra said, 'I could push your dinner back to seven?'
'Yeah, better do that, you can't rush beauty.' Aaron looked over at some pamphlets that were sitting on a rack nearby. 'Say, is that tour of the ruins still available?' he picked up a brochure and began flicking through it.
Cassandra checked her computer, 'I have a couple of openings for Thursday, would that suffice?'
Aaron waved a hand, 'Yeah, yeah, make it one booking though, ruins bore me. Say, do they do any scuba tours around here, that's more my style.'
'I could check, sir.'
Aaron glanced at his watch. 'I gotta book, sweetheart, there's a tennis bet I'm gonna win that will pay for dinner tonight. Just leave the info about the scuba thing; I'll pick it up later.'
'Yes sir,' Cassandra's voice cooled at being called sweetheart.
'You've be a great help.' Aaron walked away from the desk towards the big glass doors of the hotel.
Now if anyone asked about Mark Rappaport all she'd remember is how much of a sleaze he was. Just another rich businessman who thought the world owed him. Just like old Richie who was currently trying to chat up yet another poor woman, what was that the third one this week? Aaron pulled out his cell and began tapping, head down appearing to not look where he was walking. Deviating his course slightly he bumped into Richie.
'Hey,' Richie Rich turned to glare at Aaron, 'watch where you're going.'
Aaron rocked back on his heels and looked up. 'Hey, sorry man didn't see you there.' He blinked and pretended to take a second look at Richie. 'Do I know you?'
Richie straightened his suit jacket where Aaron had brushed up against him. 'I don't think so,' Richie looked at the woman, as if to apologise for them both being subjected to such an idiot.
'Yeah, yeah, I never forget a face.' Aaron clicked his fingers and pointed at Richie. 'You tried to buy me a drink at the Hammerhead,' Aaron named a well known local gay bar, 'a couple of nights ago.'
Richie blinked in shock at Aaron. 'I certainly did not!'
'Oh, wow,' Aaron looked from Richie to the woman, 'did I just out you to your girlfriend, bro?'
'I'm not –,' Richie spluttered as the woman walked away. 'He's kidding, tell her you're kidding.' Richie looked back at Aaron but he was already leaving the hotel. 'Hey,' Richie yelled after him, 'tell her I'm not gay!'
Exiting the hotel Aaron walked over to the closest waiting cab and pulled the door open. Only after he had given the driver directions for the nearest tourist attraction and they had pulled out into traffic did he open his jacket to reveal Richie's wallet. Aaron figured the guy would spend the next twenty minutes or so trying to convince his wannabe girlfriend that he wasn't gay before realising he'd been robbed. Opening the leather wallet Aaron gave a small appreciative whistle. Inside was several thousand Dong and two, no three, platinum credit cards.
Grinning to himself Aaron pulled his cell back out and began checking for local airlines. Using the first card Aaron booked two first class tickets for Mr and Mrs Rappaport to Greece for next week, and then with another airline he booked two business class tickets to Australia for tomorrow. Tossing the first card on the seat he pulled out the second and proceeded to book several more flights across the globe. Not that it really mattered as soon as the government realised the Rappaport passports were still at the hotel they would probably ignore all the tickets, but there was always a chance they wouldn't realise Aaron and Marta had left straight away, any delay would be time well spent on them getting out of the country.
Glancing up Aaron noticed the driver staring at him through the rear-view mirror. He waved a card at the driver. 'Son-of-a-bitch thought he could cheat on my sister and get away with it? Think again.'
'Family important,' the driver said.
'Got that right,' Aaron replied. Looking up he realised they were stuck in traffic. 'Hey, we're close enough I can get out here.'
'No, no,' the driver began to protest, seeing his fare rapidly disappearing, 'not at destination yet.'
Aaron peeled off two hundred of Richie's money and waved in the driver's direction. 'Here's fine.'
Seeing the money the driver began to nod. 'Here's fine,' he agreed.
Aaron snatched the money back before the driver could take it. He made a show of extracting a hundred Dong more. 'And if anyone asks if you saw me?'
'Family important,' the driver said as he took the money, 'I take cab across city, never worked hotel today.'
Aaron nodded at him as he left the cab, leaving the credit cards behind. An enterprising man like the cab driver would probably know who to sell them to. Walking the streets, back in the direction of the hotel, Aaron emptied the wallet of any identification, dropping any cards and bits of paper into the nearest trash bin. The wallet looked genuine leather and would fetch a nice price next time he was looking for some quick cash. The rest of the money went into his pocket, and then Aaron pulled out his cell, popped the back and took out the sim card. He snapped the fragile plastic in two and dropped them to the ground as he walked, binning the cell. It only took a few minutes at a nearby grocer to buy a new burner and add Marta's number. Now if anyone back traced the number from the airlines it would be just one more dead-end.
Aaron could see Marta waiting outside the arcade as he walked towards her. She had taken the time to change from the cute little sundress to jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. 'I thought I'd find you inside,' he said to her as she handed him his leather jacket.
'You're late,' she snapped, 'I was beginning to think something had happened.' The ever present music and computer noises from the arcade easily masking their conversation from any passing pedestrians, it was one of the reasons Aaron had chosen the place.
Aaron glanced at his watch before slipping the jacket over the ridiculous green polo shirt Marta has insisted he wear. 'I'm only a few minutes late,' he said. 'That soldier's really got you rattled hasn't he?'
'I don't like the idea they're so close.' Marta admitted, 'the last time was Manilla and we almost didn't make it.'
'Hey, hey,' Aaron reached out and grabbed Marta's arms. 'They don't know we're here and by the time they do, we'll be long gone.' He made sure she was looking at him before adding, 'we're okay.'
Marta sniffed and nodded, 'Okay.'
Reaching down Aaron picked up his black backpack; he seemed a little disappointed at its weight. 'What, you couldn't fit in a bathrobe?'
Marta laughed a little, letting some of the tension drain away, and ran a hand through her hair. 'No bathrobe, not even a fluffy towel.'
Aaron shook his head in disappointment as he slung the pack over one shoulder. 'You make a lousy criminal, Doc; at least tell me you took some shampoo.'
Marta's smile was more relaxed as she slipped her backpack on and began counting off her fingers. 'And conditioner, those peanuts you wanted, plus some pretzels and a few vodka bottles from the minibar.' She looked up and noted Aaron's bemused expression. 'What?'
'I take it all back, Doc. I'm just surprised you didn't steal the mints off the pillow.'
'Actually,' Marta pulled out two small gold wrappers from her jeans pocket. 'You were late and you know I eat when I'm anxious.'
'Well, that will teach me not to be on time.' Aaron began walking up the street, lengthening his stride as Marta quickly followed.
'So how long do you think we have before our friendly soldier spills the beans?' Marta asked.
'An hour, two tops if we're lucky,' Aaron glanced sideways at Marta, 'personally I don't want to waste my luck.'
'No, we don't seem to have much of that at the moment.'
'What are you talking about, Doc?' Aaron and Marta turned left off the side street and began walking down the main road. 'Since I met you, I'm the luckiest guy in the world.' He said as he placed himself closest to the traffic, the better to spot any suspicious vehicles.
Marta snorted at Aaron's words, 'Right,' she reached out and laced her fingers through Aaron's. 'Still luckier than poor Beth and Mark. Their credit rating is going to be taking a dive after skipping out on that bill.'
Aaron laughed, 'Good thing they don't really exist.'
'I was wondering about that,' Marta said, 'I mean June was a real person, right?"
Aaron's smile grew a little sad for a moment. 'Yeah, June was real.' He glanced sideways briefly at Marta before resuming his scan of the people and road around them. 'But the Rappaports are pure fiction. It was why I chose to end them here, the only ones to get hurt out of this was going to be a major hotel chain.'
'Wait,' Marta slowed her stride to stare at Aaron, 'what do you mean end them here?'
'We've been pushing those passports a little hard lately,' Aaron explained, 'someone was bound to take notice and I knew you wanted to spend a few weeks somewhere a little nicer so I thought give ole Beth and Mark a big send off.'
'I did not say –,' Marta paused to punch Aaron on the arm. 'When have I ever used those exact words?'
'You didn't have to, Doc; a guy just knows these things. Besides it was a nice week, while it lasted.'
'It was,' Marta agreed, 'until the government came and ruined everything, again.'
'They do have a habit of doing that.' Aaron paused at an intersection, pulling Marta a little closer as they waited for a break in the traffic. Seeing a gap they hurried across the road.
Marta looked around, 'Are we headed for the train station?'
'Yeah, thought you might like a trip up the coast. I heard about a quaint little fishing village that doesn't ask too many questions when strangers come around offering money for passage out of the country.' Aaron noted Marta's questioning look. 'What you thought I spent all day on that fishing boat brushing up on my Tagalog? We lucked out with that fisherman, Doc; he connected me with a whole network of like minded individuals, as long as you got the cash.'
'Or a fancy gold watch.'
Aaron nodded before pulling back his leather jacket to reveal a Rolex. 'Turns out Mark sure had expensive tastes.'
'Did you charge that to the hotel bill?' Marta tugged Aaron's sleeve down before anyone else could see, 'honestly I don't know what Beth saw in him.'
'Well I hear he had a very big –' Aaron stepped sideways to avoid any elbows before finishing, 'pay check.'
'Don't believe everything you hear.' Marta paused on the street outside the station. She glanced back at the bustling street behind her. 'Time to get away from it all, time to get lost again?'
Aaron smiled at her words. 'It's my favourite place to be.'