Echo, Part 22

Henry held Ana in his arms and was glad that she drifted off to sleep rather quickly.  She needed her rest.  Growing a child was hard work.  He, however, found it rather difficult to fall asleep.  His thoughts kept drifting to the car across the street and, his eyes kept opening and turning towards the window.  In the worst moments of the long night, his imagination had federal agents bursting through the glass, the shards scattering across the room and ripping the sheets on the bed.  He knew that wasn’t likely.  As he and Ana had discussed, if whoever was out there had wanted Henry and Ana in custody it would have been a simple thing.  The subterfuge meant they were waiting for something.

Ana stirred next to him and Henry turned towards her. Her breathing was slow and regular, her chest rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern that was enchanting.  He blinked several times as his eyelids grew heavier and when he opened his eyes again sunlight was peeking through the blinds to splash in long rectangles on the far wall of the room.  Ana still slept and Henry carefully got up to not disturb her.  Stepping over to the window he peered through the blinds to see that the car had left at some point in the night.  Or, at least, it wasn’t parked in the same spot.

Without disturbing the blinds, Henry twisted his head to look up and down the street as far as he could.  The car was nowhere to be seen.  That didn’t mean it wasn’t out there still.  That didn’t mean it hadn’t been relieved by a different crew in a different car.  That didn’t mean that if they left the house during the day they would be followed wherever they went.  The car wasn’t where it had been.  That’s all he really knew for sure.

He went through the house, checking doors and windows to make sure they were still closed and locked.  It wasn’t too far off from his normal routine, if anyone happened to be watching or listening to his movements.  He checked the doors and windows every day.  Just because they’d had two years of quiet didn’t mean everything was as it seemed.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary and the remaining windows that looked out on the street showed no sign of the car or any other cars that looked out of place.  Not many people parked on the street on his block so he thought he’d recognize if any weren’t the normal ones.  He didn’t want to be overly confident about it but he was fairly certain he did recognize the few cars out there.

He made his way into the kitchen, placed a cast iron skillet on the range and lit a fire under it to let it warm up while he pulled food from the fridge for an omelet.  Ana wondered in shortly thereafter and got the coffee started.  They worked in silence, enjoying the quiet and the company without having to disturb either with words.  While coffee wasn’t something Ana drank much of anymore, she took great pleasure in making it each morning.  She loved the smell to start each day.

When they sat down to their plates of food, Ana asked, “How’s the weather today?”

Henry smirked.  “Sunny for the moment.  Haven’t heard the forecast for the day so I’m not sure what it’s going to look like later.”

“Got a busy day at work?”

“Yeah, couple meetings I’m presenting in and a few projects I need to put some time in.  I could meet for lunch, though, if you felt like getting out later.”

“That sounds good.”

Henry was impressed with their own cleverness.  The weather question had actually been about the situation out front, of course, and everything after that had been setting up a way to meet outside later so they could talk about anything that’d seen that morning.  They hadn’t planned the conversation, it had just happened.  Perhaps those first days when they’d been on the run had left more of a lasting impact on how they thought and reacted to things than they’d known.

Another comfortable silence settled in while they finished their breakfast and sipped on coffee.  Henry read the newspaper and Ana was halfway into a thriller she’d read several times before.  Once he’d finished the article he’d been reading, he got up, collected their dishes, kissed the top of her head, put the dishes in the sink and went to get ready for work.

Ana was still at the table buried in her book when he was ready to go.  “Text me later if you want to do lunch.”

Without looking up she said, “Good plan.”

He smirked again and went out the front door.  He tried to scan the street without breaking stride, without making it obvious that he was looking around more than he might on a normal day.  He wasn’t sure how well he did.  It felt awkward and he eventually stopped looking around to just focus on getting to his car.  As far as he knew, it was just a normal day.

The morning passed quickly.  The work helped him push aside his worries for a few hours.  Then the call came in from the front security desk that Ana was there and he locked his computer to take his wife out to lunch.  She didn’t normally meet him at the office when they dined together but it made sense that she would today.  They could walk down the block to the slew of restaurants there.  The walk would give them time to talk without having to worry about a car being bugged.  And since they hadn’t talked about where they would eat, it was unlikely a team could have been put in place to monitor them.  They would still have to be mindful, though, because if they weren’t being watched their conversation could easily be picked up.

Ana picked a small Italian restaurant they hadn’t eaten in before and they got a table away from the windows and doors, in a dark corner where they could see the rest of the dining area and watch as people came in.  They settled in and ordered two items off the lunch special, a plate of gnocchi and a large piece of vegetarian lasagna.  The pictures on the menu made both look very appetizing.

For a few moments they chatted about the day so far, what they had done, the random things they had heard and seen, all the normal gossip of a few hours spent apart.  Then, after their water glasses had been topped off, Ana leaned across the table and whispered, “Did you see anything else this morning?”

Henry shook his head.

Ana pressed on, “And any thoughts about what we should do next?”

Again Henry shook his head.  He frowned, opened his mouth, shut his mouth, and frowned again.  He had no idea what they should do.  He didn’t even have half-ideas.  The few thoughts bouncing around the back of his mind were barely more than whispers of their own.  He couldn’t hear them well enough to give them voice.

“I had a thought,” Ana said, leaning even closer to Henry as if she was going to peck him on the cheek.

“What was that?”

Before she could answer, two men wearing dark suits walked into the restaurant.  Despite the low-light, neither took off their sunglasses.  Henry and Ana watched from the corners of their eyes as the two took a table nearby.  A wire dangled behind the left ear of both men.  The men appeared to be looking at the menu but neither did more than hold the open binder in front of them.

Ana turned her attention back to Henry.  Fear flared in her eyes.

And, begin:

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