The timeline has now caught up to the end of Blood money.
The laptop rested on a low table, while a tall figure paced in front of it. An impatient rustle of silk followed each movement until finally they stopped in front of the computer and hammered on the keyboard. The pacing resumed until the well cultured tones of Diana Burnwood issued from the speakers.
"I assume this is the person that has been intervening with our missions?"
"If you mean saving your collective asses, then yes, this is me."
Back in her remote island office, Diana heard the electronically scrambled reply and hissed in irritation. What burned the most was that they were right, without the intervention of this ghostly person, they would never have managed to save the Agency from liquidation.
"What can I do for you?"
"Is no longer active with the agency. But I'm sure that you knew this."
"I am aware that he no longer works with you but I am very sure that there is a way for you to contact him. After all, you have made freelance arrangements with him."
"If you know so much, then you should be able to contact him yourself." snapped Diana.
"I could. But he wouldn't trust me."
"Neither do I." answered Diana wryly.
"All I want you to do is deliver a message. He will take action from there."
"It's for him to decide whether he comes or not. I assure you he is quite safe from me. If we wanted him dead, it would have happened already."
"Yes, you've already demonstrated your knowledge of our operations. What assurances do I have that you won't harm 47?"
"Then what do we stand to gain by aiding you?"
"Nothing. This is between 47 and myself. You have already gained from my intervention, now it's my turn."
"What's the message?"
"Tell him to go to Hong Kong and visit an old friend in the red-light district."
An electronic beep signalled that the called had signed off before Diana could reply.
Diana leaned back in her chair and thoughtfully tapped her lips with a pencil. The voice was right, she could get a message to 47 but the question wasn't could she, but more one of should she?
"First boarding call for flight 573, JFK to Hong Kong. Please board through gate 12."
47 unfolded himself from the sofa in the first class lounge and picked up his bag. Making his way along the corridors, he presented his boarding pass and was duly processed onto the plane. Stowing his single carry-on in the overhead compartment, he settled into his seat and watched the rest of the passengers boarding, mentally ticking them off the passenger manifest that he had stolen from the security desk that morning. And although he doubted that the 98 year old lady next to him was much of a threat, it paid to be cautious.
A few moments later his ears rang slightly as the main door was sealed and the cabin fully pressurised. A smooth motion as the plane taxied out and pressure on his chest as they climbed into the sky. Soon the plane levelled out and the seatbelt sign winked out. The brightly uniformed attendants began making their rounds and all was well as the plane roared towards China.
47 enjoyed the meal, didn't watch the movie and declined a pillow. As he closed his eyes and leaned his head back, he thought to himself:
** Mei Ling, what kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into now?**
It was winter in Hong Kong and snow clotted the gutters and curbs just outside the airport doors, despite the heavy traffic. Quickly obtaining a taxi, 47 delivered the address he had been given by Diana. As the taxi pulled into traffic, he remembered that conversation.
"I thought I asked to be left alone."
"I have a message for you."
"Since when are you an answering service?"
"Since our mutual acquaintance contacted me directly in my office on my private comms channel."
"They seem to be everywhere."
"Indeed. There's a message for you, do you want it?"
"What happened to the trace?"
"I assume you traced the communication?"
"We tried. There appears to be no evidence of it on our servers. For all intents and purposes, I spoke to a ghost."
"Interesting. What was the message?"
"Go to Hong Kong and visit an old friend in the red-light district. I assume you would know what that means?"
"It does. Thank you Diana."
"Be careful 47."
He terminated the connection and erased the log. As he turned towards his closet, a knock at the door made him pause. He went to the door and peered at the intercom screen.
A teenage boy wearing the uniform of a local bike messenger service slouched in the hallway, impatiently checking his watch. No one else seemed to be in the hall.
"Can I help you?"
"Package for a Mr. Reaper?" said the boy.
47 sighed and opened the door. One indecipherable scrawl later, he walked back into the room with a large envelope. He passed it through a fluoroscope and a chemical detector before opening it. Inside he found a pamphlet for the Jade Palace of a Thousand Pleasures and a plane ticket.
Which brought him to where he was now, entering the lobby of the Palace of a Thousand Pleasures.
Decorated in sumptuous marble and gilt the hotel gave off an expensive upmarket feel, which was compounded by the elegant clientèle bustling through the lobby. The concierge smiled brightly at him and asked:
"Do you have a reservation Sir?"
"I believe that it was made under the name of Reaper."
"One moment please."
She tapped at the computer and then stiffened in surprise. Looking up at 47, she gave him the same bright smile and said:
"You suite is ready Sir and you have a dinner reservation with Miss Ling in the main salon at nine tonight. The porter will show you to your room."
47 entered the elevator with the porter carrying his bag and was directed to his room. Once he tipped the porter and closed the door, he paced the room and concealed what few weapons he managed to slip through the airport. He glanced at his watch and decided that there was time to clean up before dinner.