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CHAPTER THREE
Tea for Two


I woke.  I was never really asleep anyways, considering that I had been hit with the butt of a rifle I was probably unconscious.  I tried to remember my dream, but the pain in my forehead made sure I didn’t succeed.
So instead  I concentrated on where I was.  The room was Victorian, and had thick shag carpeting that rose up to meet my ankles.  Actually, I was surprised that even after I'd insulted White and taken a shot at him that he didn’t torture me and stuff me in a port-o-potty or something.  
I sat up, producing another wave of pain.
"So you’re up."  I gasped, looking around the room for the person who had spoken.  I found her sitting on a chair twenty feet from my bed.
"You have a meeting with Mr. White today, you won’t want to miss it."  The woman spat.
I massaged my forehead.  "So where am I?"  I questioned.
The woman laughed and pointed to a pile of clothes lying on the floor.  "Get dressed and I will escort you to the grounds."  She smiled a fake, toothy smile and left the room.
I only now noticed that I was no longer wearing my stealth clothes, instead a robe was tied around me--hugging my skin.  I got up from the bed.  The pain was almost unbearable.  Each step brought a new wave of pain--like a steady beat played on a drum.  
On the floor there were two piles of clothes, one I recognized as my stealth suit.  But the other pile was a top-of-the-line brand new tuxedo--no doubt this is the suit that White wanted me to wear.  Hastily I put on the tuxedo and headed out of the room.  
"You look very nice in that suit."  Suddenly the woman who had woken me up had appeared right in front of me, and was now admiring my suit.  She gestured with her hand.
"Right this way sir."
Before I could protest, she had grabbed me by the hand and was now leading me toward the east wing of the house.  We went through a closed door, a deserted corridor, and through a screen door.  Soon I had grown nauseous and was thankful when the woman stopped.
"Mr. White will see you soon."  She smiled another one of her otherworldly smiles and left me alone.  
I sighed and looked out to the huge garden that now engulfed me.  There were multiple walkways, with dozens of tiny garden lights lining the sides.  Hundreds of different plants and trees covered my view of the other end of the garden.  
But I’m not here to look at gardens I silently notified myself, and began looking around for any ways to escape from--wherever I was and contact the CIA.  But of course, I found none.  So instead I decided to try to navigate through the endless garden.  So I quickly took one of the dozen or so paths and followed it.  Now when I said that the garden was huge, that was the largest understatement of all time.  The garden was--at the very least--gigantic, hulking, towering, galactic, and in the dictionary of a first-grader, very big.
After a very long time walking through the garden I pushed past a pile of Poplar trees and into a large, cement floored clearing.  Nothing was in the clearing except a small, round table in the very center.  This, I assumed, is where White wanted his little "chat".  I made a move to go to the table but stopped.  I had heard voices--or so I had thought because as soon as I strained my ears to hear them again, they were gone.  But that didn’t discourage me, I crept along the bushes trying to figure out where the voices had come from.  Finally, after two times of creeping around the clearing I could hear the voices coming nearer.  Although the voices were far away, I could still hear bits and pieces of the conversation.  
"Yes.....payment.....soon......Striker.....revenge."  Then I could hear the other voice say.  "Payment?......soon?.....revenge.....project striker......the Unites States?"  A laugh.
Suddenly I wanted to know what project Striker was and what it had to do with the U.S.  I wanted so badly to get closer and hear the entire conversation but I suddenly noticed the voices getting closer and one voice saying, "We will meet again in an hour, goodbye."  Then there was a rustling about five feet away and footsteps told me that someone--most likely White--was coming my way.  Quickly I got up and bolted toward the table, then I sat down panting heavily.  Seconds later White stepped out from the rows of bushes and sat down opposite me.
Once he sat down, he ushered into the bushes and a French maid appeared carrying a polished silver tray of tea cups and tea.  She quickly set it down on the table and scampered away, her high-heeled boots sounding like gunshots on the cement floor.  White poured himself a cup of tea and began to take long sips from the cup.  I smiled back at him, poured a cup of tea, and put it to my lips.  In return, I made long fake slurping sounds.  I hadn’t drunk any tea, in case the man had poisoned it.  
He stopped drinking and looked at me.  An eerie expression--like a cross between anger and joy--was glued to his face.
"So"  He said in a delighted voice.  "So....how much do you know?"  I looked at him for a moment and pondered on the question before answering.
"I know enough to get you locked up until your skin rots on its bones."  I lied.  Actually I didn’t know enough to put him in jail for five minutes, let alone a lifetime.
He laughed.  I could feel the color draining from my face as if someone had just pulled a plug.  I knew the laugh, the very same laugh had been on the cell phone message.  I now had enough information to put him in jail for twenty years--maybe more.
"You don’t know who you’re messing with Stem,"  He said with a sneer.  "That organization you work with can’t touch me,"  He chuckled.  "nor can the police."  He snapped his fingers and two muscled bodyguards emerged from the bushes.  
One bodyguard put his arm around my neck and pulled.  The other bodyguard held down my legs so I could not thrash and kick.  White smiled like a boy on Christmas.
"And do you know why they can’t get near me?"  I couldn’t speak even if I had wanted to.  The arm grew tighter around my neck, surely the bone would soon collapse under the pressure.  White glanced at me.  Then he sighed and flicked his fingers.  Instantly, the bodyguard released his grip.  
"Now,"  White took a swig of the tea. "please answer my question."  I frowned and collected all the saliva in my throat, hauled back, and spit.  The sickening ball of phlegm landed between White’s eyes.  He casually brought up a handkerchief and wiped the thing from his face.  
"You’re going to wish you hadn’t done that."  He said with a smile.  
"Oh really, and why is this?"  He clicked his fingers and the two bodyguards held me down again.  "Because I was hoping not to kill you, but you have left me no choice."  He clicked his fingers again and the bodyguard holding my legs pulled a needle from his utility belt and ejected a tranquilizer before I could fight back.  I groaned....and the world went black.


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