The words echoed in her ears like a gunshot.
"Your husband…appointed Head of MI6…Head of MI6…MI6…"
Elizabeth threw her phone in her beige purse and sprinted out the door, locking the Mallory flat with trembling fingers. She ran down the stairs, clumsy in her high heels. The adrenaline roaring through her veins gave her energy and clouded her vision, making the run to her car and the drive to the MI6 building blur together. Q would be wondering why she hung up on him or perhaps not. Surely he could anticipate that upon such news she would be tearing down the road as fast as she could, hoping against hope that she would make it before her husband accessed her files to dig up the ghosts hidden insides. He had the proper authority for it now, from his lofty view as friend to the CIA and head of MI6. Somehow in her gut Elizabeth knew that she was already too late.
She roared up to the first security checkpoint and took a deep, gulping breath before rolling down the window and flashing a blinding white smile at the guard on duty. He looked skeptically at her proffered CIA credentials and security pass before waving her through.
"Keep it together," she muttered to herself, inhaling deeply through her nose. She swerved into the first available spot in the parking deck and took a moment to smooth down her honey-colored hair. Two security checkpoints later, she had undergone a retinal scan, had her badge examined under a black light, and had stripped off her trench coat and wedding ring for closer scrutiny. The woman in the cranberry-colored dress shot daggers at anyone who dared to look her way as she stood off to one side in the lobby, impatiently tapping the toe of one foot. The security officer took her time examining Elizabeth's things. The woman periodically glanced up at her through her bifocals and looked back down at her identification.
"I'm Elizabeth Mallory. I've been here before."
"I'm M's wife. I'm here to see Q."
"I've been in this building before, I work as a liaison between the Central Intelligence Agency and MI6"—
"So it says on the card."
Elizabeth felt a jolt white-hot anger sear through her while she stood off to the side of the MI6 security checkpoint. She rarely got mad but when she did…well. She carried no clout here, in this British-run agency, far from any Agency colleagues or even any Americans. The woman in front of her, sitting at a barstool and hunched over a tiny security desk, would decide whether Elizabeth got past the lobby. Meanwhile, her husband sat on the top floor and ran the place. After what seemed like an eternity the grumpy woman waved her through and Elizabeth collected her ring, bag, and coat and did her best not to sprint down to the computer laboratory.
When she looked into Q's office he was busy scratching his head with a mechanical pencil and staring off into space. Elizabeth had to bang one hand against the transparent glass door for him to notice her. He glanced down at his computer and let her into the office with the click of a mouse.
"Too late Liz," he said, with the sympathy of a doctor breaking a bad diagnosis, "He's already gotten into your computer files. All of 'em."
"Fuck indeed," Q replied, "You'd better get up there."
They stared at each other for a long moment. Six years ago both of them had been rookies, Elizabeth shipped fresh from the CIA and Q pulled up from MI6's basic training. He helped her with computer work and she helped him get contacts within the Agency.
"Well," she said finally, smoothing a shaking hand down her dress, "Thank you for the information. I'd best be going."
"Godspeed," Q said wryly, and he stared at his keyboard to avoid looking into her eyes.
Elizabeth could count on one hand the number of times that she had been truly afraid. She was an experienced operative. No matter how many times it was said that courage was born of fear, Elizabeth knew better. To do her job, and do it well, she had to feel nothing but silence.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. I must not fear. I must not fear."
She repeated it to herself like a mantra, wiping her sweaty palms on her dress and walking slowly out of Q's office and into the hallway. Gareth had no sooner sat down in M's chair than he'd begun cracking into her files, she just knew it. The thought was terrifying. More nerve-wracking than being shot at. Scarier than running from foreign police officers with blood splattered across her clothes. He'd know now, just as the former M knew, that her real job didn't consist solely of shaking hands with foreign agents.
She ran into the outer chamber of Gareth's office and the secretary, a lean, dark girl with steely eyes, jumped quickly out of her chair. Elizabeth knew that she looked like a lunatic with her hair out of place, breath coming in quick gasps. Her arm extended of its own accord and wordlessly handed the girl her credentials. The black woman's eyes widened.
"He's on the phone with someone from Langley now, ma'am. I"—
Without further introduction Elizabeth lunged for the door. Miraculously it wasn't locked. When she yanked it open and strode into the middle of M's sparsely-decorated office, the sight that greeted her would have been anticlimactic to any other observer. Gareth sat quietly behind a desk, scribbling notes onto a pad in front of him. A stack of black file folders rested at his elbow. Elizabeth stood, wringing her hands as he muttered into his earpiece. For a few moments silence reigned. Soon Gareth tapped the headset with his pen and raised his head to meet her gaze.
"Sit," he ordered, his voice so frigid that it sent a shiver up her spine.
He touched the earpiece again and resumed his muttering to the person on the other line. Gareth didn't look away from Elizabeth until she walked forward and stiffly lowered herself into the chair across from his desk, sitting ramrod straight on the edge. Her heart knocked against her chest. Gareth ended his conversation with a curt "That's all of it. Goodbye," before removing the earpiece and tossing it on his desk.
Elizabeth couldn't move. She could feel the angry energy radiating off of her husband as if it were a tangible force. With shaking hands, Elizabeth twisted her wedding ring around her finger and numbly watched him stare into her eyes. She did not want to see the result of his journey into the black CIA files, a journey that would have brought him face to face with all of the skeletons in her closet. Gareth slid his free hand under the lip of his desk, his gaze never leaving hers. He pressed a hidden button under his desk and she heard the lock on the door give an audible click.
Elizabeth Mallory, professional killer, stared into her husband's cold green eyes and was afraid.
Author's Note: Reviews and constructive criticism are always welcome! Also, the title will be explained in one of the upcoming chapters. Thanks for reading! :)