Who was June Monroe?
Newly returned from Yemen the conspicuous wealth and unconscious consumerism around him still shocked and distracted. He refocused his attention to the man just ahead of him heading to the metro station; he couldn't afford distractions, distractions got you killed and worse, others – innocents killed.
The man he followed was alert to tails and observant which went a long way to confirm the details in the file he had memorised. Joseph Shaw seemed like any other professional in the city; he could be a company lawyer, a trader in the markets, a V.P. of one of the many businesses in this part of Manhattan. What he was, in reality, was a supplier; a supplier of weapons, specialist forces and any kind of death that his buyers sought. Nor did he care to whom and what he traded. Free trade was encouraged in the United States of course, just not that free. Shaw was notorious for his lack of discretion and his current willingness to sell even to the likes of Al Qaeda was what had brought him into the cross-hairs of the Outcome programme and given Aaron Cross his instructions.
He was to monitor all forms of communication – check, all taps were in place; discover the various routes of financial laundering and hidden accounts – check, the Trojan he had managed to place on Shaw's phone and computer were gathering that intel even now; and, finally, gage Shaw's habits to detect any flaws that could be exploited to facilitate his 'accidental' death – ongoing.
Even over the short period that Aaron had been monitoring his target he had recognised his deep paranoia, but then again was he really paranoid if he was being monitored? Aaron would leave that question for the theorists; he was only interested in his mission. So far he had recognised the three guards that were Shaw's regular personal escort and two others who appeared to be following as well. Aaron had marked one as FBI and dismissed him as irrelevant, but the other was still unidentified which is what brought Aaron out of the shadows today. Getting close enough to clone the other tail's phone had been easy enough but he also wanted to put on a chemical marker for back up. If he followed Shaw into the Metro station it should provide the distractions he needed to complete the tagging and find out just who this other spook might be.
Excellent, he was held up at the entrance. Aaron moved with the natural flow of the crowd, saw his opening and, as the crowd jostled, placed the chemical marker on his target's hand before allowing the flow to pull him away again. Task accomplished Aaron could merge into the background completely unnoticed. Unnoticed until a voice rang out in the crowd. 'Ken! Kenneth!'
Oh God! He recognised that voice. It was impossible, this could not be happening. Not stopping, not turning or in any way acknowledging that the call could be for him, Aaron quickened his pace; not enough to draw attention, but enough to pull away from the source of the unexpected complication. Nipping onto the nearest train just before its doors closed he allowed himself time to consider just what the hell he should do next. He had to check, he had to be sure; after all there were many people who were called Kenneth and maybe he had been mistaken about the voice. It couldn't be her! Not here in Manhattan. He had to follow this up quickly.
Leaving from the next station Aaron returned to his working base and, after passing on the details of Shaw's other tail and requesting full monitoring, he set about pulling up the CCTV for the metro station from earlier.
There was Shaw, his guards, the FBI tail and there was the, as yet, unidentified tail and Aaron himself. He slowed the download, looking, scanning, any second now. He paused the scene and closed in on the person who, he could now see, was not only calling out but waving towards him. There she was, a face from the past, a past that was now dead, calling out to a dead man. Aaron felt his throat close up in unexpected emotion, Mrs June Munroe was in Manhattan.
Aaron did not like to re-visit his past, Kenneth James Kitson was dead and buried, and, most of the time, Aaron was glad of it. Kenneth's life had not been easy and there had been precious little kindness in it but, one of the bright spots of his early life had been Mrs Munroe. In a state home that, like many, was very short on funding and therefore attracted the less than suitable carers for its charges, June Munroe was an exception that was so very noticeable among the dross. She had actually cared for the children who were in her charge and, while ever she was on duty in the home, Kenneth had felt there was someone who was on his side.
Aaron sat back, gazing at the picture in front of him. He remembered gentle hands that soothed his scrapes and bruises, a patient voice teaching him his letters and singing along with the other children in the home to Sesame Street. He remembered hugs when he had been heart-broken at some cruel name or nightmare. He remembered kindness in a life that was usually filled with brutality and pain and he felt a desperate need to re-connect with that one person who had meant so much to him.
So much, he knew, was impossible but the desire to just see her was almost choking him. He had to report this, to get fresh instructions but not right this moment. Right now he would just look a little longer at the face on the screen and let the ache fade.
Later, when he could speak without obvious emotion in his voice, Aaron contacted control and let them know the situation. He was told to stand by and shortly received a call in return; he was a little surprised to find himself talking directly with Colonel Byer who seemed more than a little concerned.
'Are you certain that it is this woman June Monroe?'
'Yes sir, I have checked the CCTV footage to confirm.'
'Do you know of any reason why she would be in Manhattan?'
'No sir, none.'
His phone cleared down and Aaron waited. He continued his tasks for the day; pulled his blood work; ate; updated his reports and viewed the monitoring he had in place on his three targets. Colonel Byer rang back.
'Information seems to suggest that Mrs June Munroe has recently moved to New York from the San Francisco Bay area to be near relatives. The fact that she picked you out even in a crowed metro station cannot be overlooked but your mission there is crucial and cannot be put on hold; neither can you be replaced at this time. You must continue your mission but be extra careful as to how you move around the city. Do not approach Mrs Munroe for any reason. Is this understood?'
'Yes sir, but what if she regularly crosses my path out here? What are your instructions for such a situation?'
'This is being dealt with elsewhere, do not concern yourself about it. Focus on your mission – that is all.'
And with that the conversation was ended.
Days passed without any further incident and no further sightings of Mrs Munroe. By the end of that week Aaron had identified the second spook as a freelancer currently in the employ of the Saudi's and had worked up a viable plan to have Mr Shaw expire by sadly ingesting incorrectly prepared Fugu in his sushi. The plan had been cleared and all was in place. Its implementation would be down to others, he would ensure there was no fall out afterwards. One less arms dealer would make the world a much safer place.
The next day he found himself in a queue of people waiting to cross Spruce Street but saw ahead of him what he was sure was the back of Mrs Munroe. He was stunned, she was so close. He couldn't back up without making a fuss which would draw her attention but, if she turned round, she couldn't fail to see him. As they waited for the lights to change Aaron became aware of a bike messenger approaching quickly, weaving in and out of the traffic. Time seemed to slow and he knew what was going to happen but was helpless to stop it.
The messenger caught Mrs Munroe and spun her into the traffic, an oncoming bus had no chance to stop and she was hit hard before the driver could break. People shouted, screamed and pushed as Aaron forced his way forwards. Mrs Munroe was crumpled on the ground, her injuries severe. He couldn't stay but he couldn't leave either. This was his fault, he had caused this as surely as he had pushed her himself. He knelt at her side taking her hand. She looked up into his eyes and smiled; 'Kenneth, it is you' she whispered her voice failing as her eyes teared over, 'They said you were dead, they told me …' Aaron never found out what they told her.
He had to move, but he couldn't leave without some part of this lady who had died simply because she had remembered one of the many children she had cared for. Using the skills he had been trained in Aaron claimed her wallet and moved away from the scene as others tried to calm the bus driver, and yell after the long gone and never to be identified bike messenger.
He walked and kept on walking with no real destination in mind. His mind, which had once been so slow to put things together, was now whirling with thoughts, patterns and painful images. He felt his head buzzing like it had just after the IED had exploded and changed his life forever and he couldn't stop thinking and seeing things he didn't want to think and see. He just wanted it all to stop.
Aaron dropped off the grid for four days. He knew he would have hell to pay afterwards but for the sake of Mrs June Munroe, who had remembered a lost and lonely little boy called Kenneth, he would pay whatever price they demanded.