That had been almost a year ago. His little trip to Normandy had turned into an exile in France. The Canadian army seemed like the Boy Scouts compared to these Watchers; this was more like James Bond meets the Masons; a militant cult of librarians. Following around a bunch of people who can't die, writing down everything they do? It was hard to believe. Who would have ever imagined that the crazy TV show his girlfriend obsessed over could actually be real? Even the hazing rituals were different: he'd spent the first few weeks being teased unmercifully for his poor spelling. The worst part for him was the sheer boredom. His days were filled with dull lectures on cataloguing, history, memorising names and faces, observation and writing a good Chronicle. He wanted to finally do something, out there, in the field.
This was the first time they had let him out into the streets alone and he took full advantage of it, as he would any day pass. He supposed there were worse places to be stranded than Paris; everywhere he looked there were women who could be models, striding down the sidewalks… gorgeous! He decided to stop at one of the patio cafés for some serious babe watching— or rather, to further refine and practice his observation skills.
By late afternoon he had mastered the skill of refilling his drink just often enough not to lose his table, waiters being a rather touchy group, here more than ever. He continued to casually observe the street, assuming the role of a bored tourist. He almost dropped his pose, and his coffee cup, at the sight of a black leather mini-dress, and the woman who wore it so well. Straight dark hair and high boots complimented the style, an effect marred only by the bulky oversized purse she was carrying. After he rolled his tongue back into his mouth, he realised that the woman was trying hard not to be noticed. That a woman in a black mini-dress would not want to be noticed was suspicious in itself.
As the woman passed close to the café he was shocked to recognise a face straight out of the Identification lectures. Dark hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, small mouth…Amanda! As he watched her from behind (and what a lovely behind it was) something slipped out of the bag and bounced along to the rhythm of her long-legged stride. It was a dull metal carabiner clip, swinging on a loop of black nylon rope. Aha. To observe the Lady Thief on a job was an opportunity not to be missed: the grace, the skill, the confidence, the beauty of a body in motion. How could he resist? He took his time paying the cheque; never draw attention to yourself. The waiter seemed relieved to be rid of this dreamy-eyed foreigner, hoping for a customer who would actually spend money.
Even Dawson had to admit Stephen J. Savage could shadow with the best of them. It came from his background in defence and security. He had no problem blending into the pedestrian traffic while still keeping his target in sight. Oh, he had no doubts that she could lose him in a second, but to do that she'd first have to know he was there. For now, he had the advantage. When she moved into the alleys, staying hidden became more difficult, but not impossible. His self-confidence swelled; he was tracking Amanda, after this they'd see he was ready to be assigned.
Somewhere along the way she had slipped into a small shop and returned in a more "businesslike" black jump suit (it was amazing what a woman could get away with in a public washroom). Stephen followed her to the back door of a small but exclusive art gallery. He wouldn’t be surprised if she went straight for the Louvre, but there was a distinct difference between overconfidence and sheer stupidity. This lady knew her own limitations.
Stephen was no fool either; he stepped only where she had stepped, touched nothing. He even imitated the high-stepping gait Amanda used to avoid any ground level trip-sensors. Not that he didn’t also admire what it did for her legs. She worked in absolute silence and every move was perfect. The show at the gallery was entitled "The Art of the Jewel"; displays were filled with a fortune in cut and uncut stones. Picking and choosing as if this were her own private shopping trip, she took was pleased her and left the rest. There was an instant of panic when, in a sweep of the room, the Lady Thief seemed to look straight at him. He tried to slip farther into the shadows when something went wrong. He may never know exactly what he had triggered, but the resulting alarm screamed like a thousand raging demons.
Amanda ran like a deer and, after a startled moment, Stephen followed. Reaching the back exit, he heard more than saw someone in the alley. He dodged the first attack, pivoting to the side at the last moment and, of course, that was when his government-issue knee decided to give out. His leg crumpled beneath him, bringing him down, as a well placed blow from a bag of loot took him out.
Amanda took one look at the unconscious man and swore in Old French. The first thing she did was pull up both sleeves, but what she found provoked more creative curses. One wrist did have a tattoo, but it wasn't the full Watcher's circle, just the wing symbol. Coincidence? She had to get away before the gendarmes came, but now she was curious. Making a quick decision, she dragged him, none too gently, through several alleyways.
When they were finally somewhere more private, she had time for a thorough search. She found one set of handcuffs (amusing), with two sets of keys (the spare set was a very interesting search), a stunner (bad boy!) and finally a wallet. The wallet was deep in a front pants pocket; at least he had that much common sense. A passport and Canadian driver's license both read Stephen J. Savage, a few francs (what, no credit cards?) and a business card. Now this was an item that stopped her in her tracks, the card was for DeSalvo's— Duncan's dojo out West. On the back was a hand-written note. Watcher in training, it read, please don't kill him. Merde!
§ § §
Dawson was just getting some breakfast ready in what passed for a kitchen in Le Blues Bar: coffee, chocolate chip waffles, bacon and eggs. He was about to sit down to eat when he heard a knock at the door. "We're closed!"
"Joe, it's me. We have to talk." Amanda's voice. He sighed and unlocked the door.
She walked in briskly, slowed down only by the large, heavy bag she dragged behind her. He wondered what might be in that bag and then, knowing Amanda, just as quickly decided he didn't want to know. "Busy night?"
"You could say that, but not in the way I would have liked." She swung her legs as she sat in the chair, and one foot kicked the bulky duffel bag. A muffled sound came from somewhere within. "Tell me, Joe, how have you been lately? Anything interesting happen in the last year?" kick "Anything exciting, dangerous, Savage?" kick, grunt.
Joe was a little bit confused; this was too much to deal with before breakfast. "No, things have been pretty much—" wait a minute… "Did you just say Savage? You didn't kill him did you?"
"Oh, he's fine." Kick "Tell him you're fine Stephen dear." Grunt. She opened the bag; a head popped out, gagged with a silken scarf. "I think this one's yours."
Joe pulled out the gag; the man sputtered and coughed for a moment before looking up. "Oh, hi Boss! I've been practising my tracking skills. You should have seen me…"
"Savage, you know you're not supposed to be in the field yet."
"Oh, come on, it was Amanda. I just wanted to observe."
Here the lady herself cut in; "Yeah, I can just guess what you wanted to observe."
"Calm down, let me take care of this." He turned back to Stephen, "At least get out of that stupid bag."
He struggled out, slid gratefully into a chair and gazed longingly at Joe's breakfast. One thing he had discovered in the army was that he hated being reprimanded on a empty stomach. Joe had spent his share of time in uniform too and with a sigh slid one of the plates over.
"You realise, kid, that we're going to have to do something about this." Stephen scowled; at 35, he hated being called kid. "I think a couple of months in the Library will calm you down a bit."
"The Library? No way; that Pierson guy gives me the creeps." Amanda somehow managed to stifle a giggle.
"After that, we'll talk about your first assignment. I'll keep in mind the fact that you like Watching women." Stephen didn't like the look on the man's face when he said that, but he completely missed Amanda.
"Debra?" she whispered softly. The old man gave a tiny
nod and smiled.