Ida Laider, Down and Dirty *1*. By Jolen Casper & Alex McIver.

The call came on a day that should have been just like a hundred before, until it wasn't. My life of peace and quiet was torn away from me. Like a black and white photograph from a happy childhood thrown into the fire.

I had moved out to the farm full time a couple of year’s back, to get away from the hassles of the city. Before that I only had a few times a year on the place. It has been in my family for five generations and I hoped one day to pass it on to my kids.

Shading my eyes from the midday sun, I looked out over the picturesque fields and lake that was my domain. My body glistened with sweat and grime, the result of a long, hard mornings work.

Mike and I had been out in the barn. He’s a young farmhand that helps me run the place. He keeps me amused with his enthusiasm. “I’m going to get a drink” I call out to Mike while he finishes buttoning up his jeans. “See ya tomorrow sport, same time, same place.”

Approaching the house, I can hear the phone ringing. I’m in no hurry, they can call back. So I stroll on through the side door into the kitchen. Just inside, I feel the cold metal of my old friend the Colt Buntline special. She’s been hanging there over the fire as long as I can remember. My ritual complete, I grab a glass, pour myself a beer and am halfway out the door again when I hear the answering machine kick in.

“Laider. This is Wilson. Phone me back.” That was it, nothing else, just silence. I stopped dead.

Why did Wilson need to talk to me? Last I saw the Lieutenant Colonel he hadn’t been too pleased with me. I had dropped a grenade into his SUV on my way out of the parking lot. I think that had something to do with it.

Whatever it was it wouldn't be good news. But I had to know.

Downing my beer, I slammed the glass onto the counter and grabbed the phone. Wilson answered on the first ring. I cut to the chase.

“Ida here,” I growl. “What do you want Wilson?”

“Where have you been Lieutenant? We need you back, it’s an emergency” came his reply, cool as ice.

“I’m not a Lieutenant any more,” I reply, trying to hide my surprise. If they wanted me back then things must be bad. “and I don’t come running when you call either bub.”

“You’ll come for this Laider. We’ve lost Harris.”

“And you want me to go look-see for ya?” Damn, Harris was one of the good guys, and I owed him one. Wilson had me over a barrel, and not in a fun way.

“You are just what we need right now.” The Colonel went on, his voice growing fainter with each word. “Plus you are totally expendable.”

“What was that?”

“You are one of the best, Laider. Look we have to do this now. Are you in or out Lieutenant?” Wilson asked bluntly.

“I’m in Will” like I had any choice, “when do you want me there?”

“Today, be in my office at 5pm.” The Colonel hung up.

Tightening my grip, I felt the delightful snap of the telephone receiver breaking in half. Wilson was manipulating me; I hate the way he does that.

He hadn’t left me much time to travel. Splashing my face with water from the sink I discarded my sweat and beer stained shirt. Making my way upstairs, to my bedroom in the loft, I slide out of my old denim cutoffs. Within minutes, I’m dressed in a figure hugging white blouse and black miniskirt I pocket my car keys and Id card as I head downstairs. Before I leave I give the stock of my old Colt Buntline a farewell pat.

“Looks like they’re going to let mama play with their new toys again baby. You be good while I’m away.”

I head across the sun baked earth to the garage. Rolling out my old truck I take one final look at this sanctuary before heading out along the dirt road.

Twenty minutes later, I’m headed north on I-395. I could drive this in my sleep, and have a few times. Passing all the government ‘farms’, I finally reach the parkway, and head to my old office building downtown Washington. The nondescript building seems like a hundred others in this town, but this one houses the headquarters of P.U.S.S.I. I’d worked for them over ten years and I sure wasn’t happy about another ten minutes. I pushed open the mirrored doors and flashed my ID to the guard, Rich, he’s been with this place as long as I can recall. He always does his job, I’ll give him that.

“Hi Rich, you’re still hanging around this place, huh? I figured you would have retired by now.”

That old silver fox shook his head slowly.

“It’s good to see you back Ida, things are dull around here, since you left.”

I take that as a compliment and head on down the green tiled hallway to Wilson’s office. Opening his door, I walk in to find the Colonel behind his mahogany desk with a frown on that wrinkled puss of his. He’s staring at a red file marked ‘Top Secret, Level 7”. Now I know this is trouble, that’s the highest level of classified this office handles. Well, officially anyway.

“Ida, good to see you, have a seat, we got big trouble.” Wilson never was one to sugar coat anything so if he’s worried, there’s a damn good reason.

“Yeah, I didn’t figure you called me in here for knitting lessons. You said Harris is missing, what’s up?” Crossing the thick blue carpet, I take a seat in the high backed leather arm chair. “So how long has he been missing and what’s the mission? Harris is a capable guy, I can’t imagine him not being able to handle himself.” I take out a cigar and light it, blowing smoke rings as Wilson starts to fill me in.

“First off, when’s the last time you qualified with weapons Laider?" He grunts this out like I’m some damn rookie on my first mission.

“Give me a break, Wilson. I can shoot the balls off a gnat at 200 yards.” That earns me a chuckle.

“Well you won’t be shooting at gnats this time, kiddo. We’re talking high stakes. How’s your poker face?”

“Come on Wilson, you know damn good and well, I can bluff anyone out of their pants without working up a sweat.” I start giggling like a silly teenager and he gets the idea. “Yeah with a rack like that and your subtle touch, you could.” The Colonel rolls his eyes, but he is smiling, a rare bit of emotion.

“Enough with the twenty questions bub, you know I’ve got the goods, so fill me in.” I lean back and rest my boots on my CO’s desk. I always wanted to do that back in the day, only got the chance a few dozen times.

“Times have changed Laider,” Wilson continues, ignoring my heavy boots and shapely legs, “We can’t afford to call in outside help, not with the review committee’s eye on everything we do.”

“Skip to the important stuff Colonel. I came here to repay a favor, not listen to department politics.” I blow a smoke ring at the ceiling.

“Alright, Ida, Harris was tracking a communications engineer by the name of Eddy Rex. We believed he had ties to a large organization with the intention of disrupting our economy.” He says, I start tapping my feet on the desk and he gets the message. “Long story short, we lost track of him somewhere in the Caribbean. And we need you to pick up his trail.”

“Well, why didn’t you say that?” Lowering my feet, I lean forward, my elbow resting on the desk. “Throw me on a plane with a fire team of my own and I’ll have him back by breakfast.”

“We don’t work like that any more Lieutenant. This is a streamlined operation, just you and an intelligence specialist.” Wilson leans forward until our eyes are level. “The emphasis is on stealth Laider, try and remember that.”

“Fine. I’ll have him back by lunch then. Let’s get this on the road.” I say.

“For once I agree.” The Colonel and opens the door. “Come on”

Stubbing the cigar out in the coffee cup sitting on the desk, I fell into step beside Wilson. Heading down twisting green corridors to the back rooms, where P.U.S.S.I keeps its intelligence personnel and boxes of tinned pickles.

Barging into an office, the Colonel grabs some papers, and points at a young, green looking desk jockey. “You, time to go now.” Thrusting an orange folder into my hands he strides off down the corridor again, with the intelligence geek scurrying behind him.

Following the pair down the stairs and through more corridors, I flipped through the documents; reports from Harris, mission profiles. All basic stuff, the last report came from the island country of Coraks, in the Caribbean. Some tactical genius decided that I should start my search there.

“Right,” Says Wilson after we arrive in the underground parking lot. “This van will take you to the air base, then a jet to Miami where Davis here will set up shop. Good luck.”

With a sharp salute, the Colonel turned on his heels and walks out. I’m left with the geek to climb into the van.

“Hi,” said Davis once we were settled and moving, “I’ve read up on all your missions. It is a privilege to serve with you ma’am. First in your class, accomplished air force pilot, aced the survival training and ten years with private undercover secret service intelligence. If it wasn’t for your piss awful psych evaluations you’d be the best of the best.”

“Yeah, thanks kid.” I say when he shuts up for a moment. “What exactly are you supposed to do again?”

“I provide intelligence. I talk to you via a tiny radio uplink in your ear.” He smiles at me, I just shrug. “I give you intel from live satellite feeds. I identify any subjects you photograph and any computer files you copy, come to me for analysis”

This all sounds like a waste of time to me. I’m planning on breaking into wherever Harris was heading to last and blasting anyone I don’t like the look of.

I always found simple plans are the most reliable. Besides they make for interesting stories.

“Okay, Davis, where’s my bag? Wilson knows I go nowhere without my accessories.” Yawning, I look around the van, finally spotting my signature Armani bag of goodies.

I pull it up front, and start going through everything to see if they forgot anything vital. I work with a wide variety of weapons, and try to foresee anything I may require.

My Ka-bar knife was there in all its seven inches of black steel glory. Digging deeper, I fished out the smallest handgun I’ve ever seen. Turning to face Davis I raise my eyebrow.

“And what the hell is this?” I inquire.

“The Walther PPK, it is a versatile weapon for undercover work. It is small lightweight design allows it to be easily concealed. Operational directive states that this is to be your primary wea-”

Lobbing the diminutive pistol over my shoulder, “Hold it right there, kid. Is this a joke?”

I started digging through the bag, trying desperately to find anything from my old collection. “Where the hell is all the good stuff?”

“That’s all there is. It is the standard equipment authorized for a mi-” “Are you out of your skull, pea brain? I don’t go to war armed with sparklers!” Sighing heavily, “I want fire power, you newbie idiot!” Interrupting the lack of intelligence boy again, I threw the bag over my shoulder, pocketed the knife and slumped down on the seat next to him.

“Well, we’d best do some shopping when we get to the base. I’m sure the air force won’t mind if we borrow some stuff. They owe me a favor there anyway.”

“But we have already received our supplies and they are more than adequate.” The geek sounded nervous, I liked that in my prey, not someone that was supposed to feed me intel.

“Sure thing kid; I’ll let you to tell the Colonel why I got massacred ten minutes into the mission” Resting my feet on the dashboard I leaned back, forced to wait out the journey.

Our little road trip continued in silence. Once we arrived at the air base, my little watchdog ordered me to wait by the hanger, then scurried off to sign some papers.

Like I’m going to wait there while weapons are going unused.

The storage lockers weren’t hard to find, and the MP patrolling the area didn’t expect much trouble from the cheerful, buxom office girl approaching.

“Could you please help me? I’m trying to find the visitors center.” I purred.

The private was more than happy to point me in the right direction

“Thank you.” I said looking up into his eyes. “I always appreciate the help of such a fine young man”

Leaning forward, I kissed him. After the briefest moment, he pulled away. My instincts were still sharp; The MP had resisted the urge to act inappropriately on duty, but wasn’t paying enough attention to miss the security card I swiped from him.

“Sorry. I’m just. Sorry.” I mumbled, hurrying away as the lusty secretary.

Sneaking back to the lockers, I helped myself to what I wanted, and left the key card somewhere discreet. I could have picked the lock without any trouble, but it never hurt to practice your craft. And it’d give the young private a story to share this evening.

Worst case scenario, Colonel Wilson would have some extra paper work to fill in. But that’s what he gets paid for anyway.

Meeting Davis back at the hanger, I loaded my restocked bag into the jet, smiling warmly at the P.U.S.S.I. man.

Driving out from the hanger, there’s a C-130 transport on the runway. “That’s our ride to the island, kid. Shake a leg and get the gear on board, I’m going to go ask the sky jockey a few things.” I walked off without waiting for his reply.

Walking around the plane, I take check for anything out of order, it’s a habit. Climbing the aluminum ladder, I take a peek around the interior, before eyeing the cock-pit. The pilot, an old timer, with more hours logged than half the commercial pilots put together, salutes me.

“That’s unnecessary.” I say, returning his salute with a nod. “We’re considered civilians right now.”

I take a seat in the co-pilot chair and start firing away with maintenance hours, inspections, schedules, etc. I like to make sure I get where I’m going in one piece before the shooting starts.

The virgin from P.U.S.S.I. boards and stows my gear. “Thanks kid, take a seat.” I say giving him a cheesy smile. He looks like he wants to say something but changes his mind at the last minute.

“Okay, let’s roll this metal cage on down to Miami.” I strap in, as our pilot Mitch runs through a final preflight check. Igniting the jet engines, he starts us down the runway. I was going into battle again…

I just got comfortable when I heard the pip-squeak buzzing my ear. “Ida, Ida Laider, this is Davis, I’m doing a routine check, can you hear me?” I turn and look at the kid setting five feet behind me. Taking a deep breath to calm myself and looking into the P.U.S.S.I. operative’s eyes and calmly asked;

“Kid, I’m five goddamn feet from you, in a goddamn tin can, of course I can hear you, are you fucking kidding me? OVER!”

The rest of the flight was uneventful, and amazingly quiet. Mitch landed us in Miami, and a black Chevy S.S. waited to take me to the boat for the Islands. Now, whoever had the great idea that an S.S. wouldn’t scream ‘spy’ was right, because here in Miami it was the more common street peddlers ride. The two agents looked like Cheech and Chong on a bad trip, but they got me to the boat on time.

I grabbed my gear and headed up the ramp to the ocean liner when I caught ‘Cheech’ saying with disbelief “I can’t believe it. Man, Ida Laider.” Shaking his head, ‘Chong’ replied “Yeah, me too buddy, she’s a hottie.”

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