Less than a week later, Lulu finds herself on another assignment, training more men, in updated technologies, for the agency. More associates under her supervision means more work in the short term. Better agents are a bonus, she sees the value in the necessary evil of on-going training. It makes her sigh. To begin, she drags her feet, going about the process of unlocking an innocuous brown door, awfully similar to the other brown doors on level 3 of an unremarkable, cheap hotel in a good downtown neighbourhood. She greets Graham with barely a nod, relieved he has come early. The room and it's décor would undoubtedly be oppressive on one's own.
In the corner of the room, an assassin rifle sits atop a tripod. It moves occasionally on it's digital mount, responding to altering coordinates but Graham's attentions are on the room's other large toy. He introduces himself quickly, his attention focused on the telescope. She sets up her laptop, a small amount of tracking equipment and using an app., links to the weapon's coordinates.
“You like you're work?” Lulu begins, by way of conversation.
She takes over the table with her tools, looking at Grahan out of the corner of her eye. He is a lean man with peculiar, angular features.
“It's not interesting enough.” Graham grumbles.
Lulu fails to acknowledge he has response. His pessimism stumps her. Stillness envelopes the room. Time passes slowly, they pour over the equipment and Graham takes notes on an i-pad. After a time, he lights a cigarette, leaving the table to blow smoke carefully out of their rented window. Afterwards, he makes them coffee
It's a relief when the digital fingers of the mantelpiece clock creep towards shift change and Graham can' t help musing that a such a good looking could make for such poor company. He drops his coffee mug into the small sink with a clunk and fetches his coat. It's a false cue, an odd moment and even the men can't explain how these things occur. As though attuned to one another, Al enters the room at precisely the moment the other man is ready to make his exit. Graham rolls his eyes for the benefit of his partner. He heads out into the corridor wordlessly, relief evident in his stride.
Al lets the brown door close with a click. If he's surprised that Lulu's the 'Super' he doesn't let it show. She looks up, assessing him, perhaps remembering having seen him in the foyer. Al's face is distinctive on account of his moustache. It has appealing 70's qualities. He nods at her and fingers his facial achievement. Lulu's full mouth curls into an involuntary smile. Captivated, Al is oblivious to the treat he is witnessing.
Schooled in stony reactions, Lulu's composure is inexplicably, momentarily, melted. Butterflies quake in her belly, shivers shake in her limbs. Lulu imagines the 'tache tickling her lips. The flight of imagination passes. She recovers. Ever the gracious host, she introduces herself to the room's newcomer. As she stands to shake his hand, the expensive material of her skirt shimmies down her ripe, rounded thighs, righting itself. Al fights the urge to ogle, managing to keep his eyes level with her face. She is all business.
“Is it German?”
“Yes. 'Ready for battle'.” He stops. “At least that's what it means.” Al self-depreciates without thinking. He feels the world spinning and tipping, experiencing a heady sensation at the realisation everything else about him is irrelevant, in the face of attention from this crazy-beautiful, full-figured woman.
Lulu means only to pass off the compliment as a allusion to his chosen profession. Her assertion comes out, instead, as an invitation. Lulu laughs, caught off guard by her own candure. Al admires her with an eyebrow raised. He isn't to know she is practised in the habit of withholding merriment. The woman before him is radiant in her mirth, her cheeks are flushed, her eyes dancing. He watches with approval. Al raises his lips beneath his moustache in a smirk. It's a habitual mannerism of his.
Lulu feels the room heat up and wishes she had thought to wear a more loose fitting skirt. She shifts. Al slides an appreciative eye up her leg, to the fullness of her hips. Suddenly Lulu's breasts are uncomfortably taut against the material of her blouse. Lulu fights the urge to take deep breaths, acutely aware that she'd rather be dead than thought of as the type of woman in possession of a heaving bosom. Her face flushes with the effort of reigning in her reactions.
Al can't take his eyes from her. She's like cookies and cream, all curves and playful glances. His cock aches in his pants. He has been alone with Lulu less than 15 minutes. Already he is ready to abandon the afternoon of study in favour of any chance at rendering his man-meat sunk into her honeyed flesh. Al coughs. Rank and file of associates reasserts itself, fighting to override the turn of events. In the stillness of her narrowed gaze, Al fingers a button midway down his cotton shirt.
“You will learn valuable new skills from this assignment. Think of it more of a training exercise.”
“It's a glorified stake out. An insult.” His tone derisive.
“Yes, if you wish. It's a minor job, you will learn much from my new methods”
Al sighs. He resents the up-dating of his techniques, eradication of skills honed by years in the service. Technology no substitute for intuition and intellect, Al wouldn't dream of owning an i-pad. He is almost religious in his devotion to hard-won skill, over quick-fix gadgets.
“Where would you be if your dinky system powered down? Ff there is a brown out, for example? A power surge? Instinct alone, unlike technology, can save you.” Al eyes the equipment with suspicion.
Lulu reads scepticism in his expression. As a man in his early forties, his handsome features are pronounced, a sensual turn to his lips, smile lines etched into crinkles at the sides of his eyes. He looks like a man who used to be happy. At the moment, his grey-green eyes are a chilly, boring right through her.
“Fine.” Lulu concedes. She turns her back on his grey-green disdain, making her way to the kitchen.
Once she's gone, Al relaxes his hunched shoulders. He straightens his shirt. He can barely believe the goddess he saw a week ago passing namelessly through his company foyer is here as his superior. He pulls on his woollen tie, it hangs more loosely round his neck. Al touches his moustache, then rubs his hands. A blood vessel in his cheek twitches. He controls his urge to pace. He looks around for the first time, standing in shadow, alongside the window, peering down at the world below.
“What do you see?” She re enters soundlessly. It annoys him.
“I think this room is exposed. The sun is likely to shine through this window very soon.”
Al indicates the well-polished glass panes that take up almost a whole wall.
“I think that if I was a passer-by and for some, inexplicable reason I were to look up, this telescope” He taps it. “And that gun - ” He indicates the formidable weapon with a wave of his hand. “Would be visible, caught in light strong enough to obscure the tint and lay bare these objects. I think if this was my hide out, I wouldn't have booked it. And if I had, I wouldn't be staying.”
Al can't explain why he feels so extraordinarily defensive. He steps back into the centre of the room. Lulu clears her throat.
“We have thought of this.” Her tone is even.
She crosses the room and adjusts the Venetians until they are almost closed. With a flick of cord she drops a pretty, sheer, layer of material in front of the Venetian bands.
“Believe it or not, two layers are enough to obscure the light you speak of. Nothing will be exposed.”
Lulu's firm tone is laced with double entrendre.
“Is that so? Miss...”
“Lulu Ravenhead.” Al rolls the name around on his tongue. “Your daddy was a poet.”
“Don't patronise me.”
“Sorry.” And he was.
Al chooses to change the rapidly developing hostility in the room, simply by sitting. He does so in the closest available chair, at the instant the notion comes to him. Immediately the mood in their room changes. Lulu hadn't clocked the amount of tension between them until it begins to dissipate. Al smooths his hand over his moustache and looks up at the most beautiful working supervisor he had ever laid eyes on.
“Hyperbole aside, it's a nice name.” He grins. It's disarming.
“You don't want to work with me, do you?”
“It's not you, Lulu, it's the ground-work you're making me re-cover.”
“You mean the revision the department is making you do.”
“Where would you rather be?”
A pause. Lulu blushes. It's unlike her to ask for personal details. Al's light eyes flick over her in assessment. She sips her water, trying to marshal her thoughts. She is never this flustered and her obvious weakness irritates her nobler instincts.
“What I meant was, what kind of hobbies do you in enjoy?”
Al stares at her. Lulu sighs.
“What kind of leisure activities does a man, such as yourself, get up to in his time off?”
“Who wants to know?”
“You? Or the department?”
Lulu sits. Like everything she does, the movement is graceful. Her electronic equipment creates a fine, comforting, ocean of space between them.
“Me.” She adds quietly. “Just me.”
Al regards her with naked disbelief.
“If we can't work together, then let's work out why not.”
“I told you.”
“You're a reasonable man Al. A woman like me, trying to re-train a man like you? Guess what will happen to you if my efforts prove unsuccessful?”
“I've been working in the department for 13 years.”
“I know, I've read your file.”
“What don't you know?”
Lulu glances out the window. It's well into the afternoon and the light is beginning to change. Impressed by Al's ability to assess how the planes of sunlight would alter the anonymity of their hideout, she notes his prediction would be in evidence, had she not earlier closed their blinds. She quakes a little on the inside. The sensation puzzles her. Perhaps she has been indoors too long? Lulu reasons away the niggling realisation that perhaps it is Al sending her senses reeling.
“A lot of things” Her honest reply hangs in the air like a person shouting a conversation, long after the loud music has ended.
So many minutes had passed since he first posed the question, her answer makes him stare. Al doesn't say anything. Instead he turns away, retreating in much the same way she had done, making his way to the kitchenette. Lulu watches him go. A part of her acknowledges that she should get back to work. They have three days to master these new systems. Another, more mischievous part of her reaches up and undoes a button on her silk blouse. Her fingers shake as she passes the ivory jewel through a buttonhole. She pats her full lips to steady herself and stands.
In the kitchen, Al takes a moment to steel himself. When he re enters the room, the picture she paints throws him completely off kilter. Lulu's entire focus is on him. Al grins beneath his moustache. On a more self-assured man the gesture would not be so endearing. His heart pounds. Her brown eyes sparkle and she crosses the room.
“I think we shouldn't work today.” Her voice is husky.
She reaches up to undo his woollen tie and remove it altogether, a strange expression in her eyes.
“Oh really?” His voice cracks revealing his surprise.
Lulu slides off his tie and twines the material suggestively in her hands. She leans in to whisper.
“I don't think either of us could concentrate. Do you?”