The music blared across the back fence: electric guitars, drums and loud male vocals. Underneath that burbled voices, laughter and the sound of bellyflops and dive bombs hitting the pool water.
He shook his head and closed the sliding door to the backyard. The back neighbours’ daughter was having a party. At least she’d sent a note and flowers in apology – in advance. She’d been away from home for a number of years and her parents were so pleased they’d gotten her to come back. Personally he thought their methods were over the top, she was no longer a teenager after all but they seemed stuck in the mindset that she was an errant child.
The party was a statement of some kind obviously. The flowers indicated that it wasn’t aimed at him or the other neighbours – the ones on either side of him had already commented to him on the arrangements they’d received. He wondered idly what her sucker punch on her parents was going to be, the state of the house or something else? Where had that thought come from? Interesting. When he’d seen her in their backyard the last few days he’d dismissed his initial impression of tightly controlled anger, she’d been so laid back. Yet, what was wrong with that scenario?
He watched one of the party goers execute a fancy dive off the top board the put him above the fence spinning in the air to plummet feet first into the water below. The diver looked fantastically fit from this distance and had finished the spin facing over the fence. Two more divers followed him, all making the same move. He’d played that game himself as a boy, but the tattoos across the third one’s back were familiar...
He locked up the house and walked around the block with his cane, as if to complain. The street outside the house was lined with utes, muscle cars and a couple of nice convertible sports cars. Their driveway was solid motorbikes. He walked up to the door and rang the bell. The door was opened by a young man he didn’t recognise whose only response was, “Please come in, sir.” The door was locked behind him. There was a handgun tucked into the back of the doorman’s shorts.
It was quieter in the house than it was outside. Leaving the door and its guardian behind him, he penetrated the interior of the building, passing the closed doors to the study and home office. Kit bags followed the internal halls in neat lines. He found people in the dining room, papers spread across the table, the clustering of personnel awfully familiar. Someone on the far side of the room said the magic word and the entire room braced and looked at him, including the party girl.
“As you were,” old, familiar words. “Where am I? Central HQ?”
“I’m glad you came, sir,” the party girl made her way over to him around the furniture and through the men of the, maybe even her, planning staff, “It makes it much easier to give you this.” She handed him an addressed envelope.
He opened it with a finger and read the letter inside. “I was medically discharged, you do realise that?”
“If I may be bold, sir, it’s your mind we need, not your body.” A level gaze met his. A tiny faded scar to the side of her left eye caught his attention, she’d nearly lost the eye to one of the enemy’s nasty little flechette rounds.
“And you are?” He knew her name of course, but it was becoming obvious that her parents hadn’t asked questions when they’d dragged her home.
“Operations Officer, Third Strike Force. Your Operations Officer, sir.” She paused, “You’ll be wanting the 2IC for a back brief, won’t you sir?”
“Of course. One question.”
“Why the party?”
“We needed to concentrate. The court confined me to the house.” She grinned, “And I did tell my parents I had to work this weekend.”