Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-One

If Starling didn’t respond to a prompt within 48 hours, Smith would assume she was either dead or in the wind, which would be a whole different headache, but that never happened. And when it did, he would deal with it.
As it was, she responded to his text prompt within 37 hours and proceeded to check the dead drop by the Memorial. 
From a cheap hotel at the edges of DC, she reviewed the information. She knew of neither operative, her intelligence exposure was very limited, she only ever knew names of those who needed to go away or be disposed of. Here were two more. And this, Smith promised, would be a challenge. They were, at present, whereabouts unknown. With a whole country to hide in. He reassured her that they were likely still in the country, as both of their identities had been flagged. There was, nor would there be, any more outside support than that. If they were identified at a border, they would likely be detained, so they would avoid borders. It was possible they could escape the country otherwise, but unlikely. Smith’s speculation, and The Freak agreed, was that they would go to ground and wait for the heat to die down. 
The Freak smiled. She’d never had an unlimited assignment before. She would be given no support whatsoever, she always worked alone. No Ops, no hardware, no safe houses...just a credit card that drew on a Swiss bank account that was, effectively, bottomless. 
She made notes in a small journal in a personal code, everything she knew she’d need. She watched the sat video of the gunfight over and over. They had a plan but weren’t afraid to improvise. More opponents just seemed to make them fight harder. They were very good.
Better than she would have thought, looking at the pictures Falconer had sent back to Smith. Baxter was overweight, old, it should have been easy. But he didn’t just succeed, he picked up a defector along the way.
Psychology profiles said that the relationship between them had deteriorated when they had finally slept together, breaking a sexual tension that had maintained their relationship for years. Baxter went back into the field as an on-call contractor, rather than training more agents. He opted out of a close relationship with anyone after that. If you’d have been looking for it, you might have thought he was getting ready to break away as he did but who could predict the circumstances under which he made his escape.
Baxter trained her, and the her, Falconer, was a much less interesting read, if for no other reason that until a few days ago, she’d been ideal. She’d done as she was told, learned what she was supposed to, and always got the job done. 
She looked at their two pictures one last time before destroying the memory stick. Two targets. One who couldn’t take the life and ran from it, and one who was a sad, light version of her. A agent with no life, but the job was not her life. For The Freak, there was nothing else. Well, except her experiments, of course, but that was part of her job, as far as she was concerned. It was a perk, and if anyone knew it was only Smith, and he would never complain. She purged the hard drive of her laptop, dumped the cache, and ran scrubbing software. 
She didn’t know where they were yet, but she would figure it out. It was what she did. And after she figured out where they were, she would kill them. It was what she did. 
She had long ago forgotten Freddy’s warning. She had never come up against anyone better than her. The few who were almost as good provided a challenge, a satisfaction, that she found more and more uncommon in her line of work. The surprise challenges were more diverting, more engaging, more satisfying, but the conclusion was always forgone. 

Baxter: Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty

Smith rubbed the bridge of his nose and them replaced his bifocals. 
“She did what she was told do, she did it flawlessly. Why are we even talking about this,” Freddy said from the far end of the table.
“She deviated!” Scott returned, slamming his hand on the table. “She could have been done in 15 minutes, less even, but she waited almost three hours.”
“Maybe she was hungry,” Freddy said, smirking.
“Assuming she didn’t lie to us,” Maggie said, putting her hand over Scott’s, “then she was more successful than we could have dreamed. She played the long game, she did the right thing. She was in there long enough to allay suspicion, she played it just right.”
Scott shook his head.
“Opinions?” Doyle said, running his hand over his head, “I’d only have an opinion if she hadn’t done her job. Did she do it? Will there be blowback? No? Then why are we even talking?”
“And the souvenir?” Smith asked the table. 
“That’s the only concern I have,” Tom said. 
“But she volunteered the information,” Doyle responded. 
“So...we’re comfortable with deviation from the plan so long as she’s up front about it?”
“She deviated all over the place!” Scott yelled, trying to draw back to his pet topic.
“No, she didn’t,” Tom replied. “We gave her parameters, not single options. She did the job, she did it her way, and generally I’d go with what Doyle says, why are we asking questions. But taking a souvenir? That...could be a concern.”
“Why?” Smith asked, knowing the answer already.
“Attachment!” was Scott’s immediate response.
“Scott, I’ll be interested in your opinion when you don’t insist on shouting. Tominda, please continue.”
“He’s not wrong, but that’s only one reason. Attachment, yes, but also...well it also means she enjoyed it, she wants to remember it. I never say that in our sessions, she was always so neutral. And for this to be the one thing, the one thing where she seems to be human, where she’s still a kid, she wants something to commemorate her big adventure...that’s a concern.”
“It’s a tie. Maybe a DNA exam can find skin cells on the cloth, test them, find out who it came from.”
“And how does that tie to anything?” Smith asked.
Tom opened her mouth and then realized she didn’t know how to respond. 
“The ifs are astounding,” Smith continued. “If this happens and if she’s caught, and if anyone decides Olivia was murdered, for that matter, all of which are unlikely. All happening together are impossible. Unless you’re afraid of Alice telling stories, taking her tale to someone and taking evidence with her. But then she wouldn’t get to play anymore. 
“No, as far as I’m concerned, even with her taking a souvenir, you should all be proud. I gave you a job, and you did it. She’s perfect.”
For three more years The Freak was assigned jobs under the in-house code name The Kid. After that was a string of codenames as she aged out of the safehouse and began to live on her own, using the skills that Scott and Maggie had taught her. Around that time, Smith began to use her to fulfill the occasional subcontract at high profits. By the time she was 21, she had a small flat in London and an apartment in New York, more than a million dollars in the bank, and a job that took her around the world killing people, making them vanish, creating accidents, doing as she was told just a few times a year. She was, by Smith’s definition, perfect. 
Of course, several times a year in London and often when The Freak visited cities, there were unexplained deaths or vanishings. No one but Smith put the figures together, because no one but he and The Freak ever saw the whole picture. To him, it was just another cost of doing business. And another way he had control over her if the time ever came. 

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Everyone acted as if she were getting married. Scott came in and stood awkwardly and said he knew she would do really well. Then there was an awkward pause and then he ducked his head nervously and left. Maggie asked her a lot of questions in the guise of making sure she was ready, but she was really forcing The Freak to reassure her. Smith offered the same reverse reassurance, but at least he asked questions about the job. 
“What is your name?” he asked.
“Katya,” she replied, with a lilting whisp of Scandinavia on her tongue. 
“How old are you?”
“How old would you like me to be?” she responded salaciously. Smith glared at her for a moment and then continued to grill her.
Doyle and Tom did not come to see her off. She remembered that both had been more than usually solicitous at their last lessons. Freddy was standing in the hall as she left her room, dressed in the clothes Maggie had laid out for her, hair pulled back as instructed, makeup applied according to orders.
She saw him leaning against the wall. “Did you bring me something?” she asked.
“No,” he said, his voice in his nose as it was when he thought he was saying important words. “I come by to tell you how special you are and how I believe in you.” His mouth broke into a crooked, spiteful grin. He held out a small rectangular box. Another girl would have hoped for jewelry.
It was a slim, carbon fiber knife, light as a couple of quarters, with a special sheathe. She didn’t need to ask where it was supposed to go, and she hitched up her dress and fastened it to her thigh without any notion of decorum. 
“What do you know?” he asked when she was done. 
She sneered. “Just about everything.”
He stepped close to her, and she could smell his lunch. “It’s that just about you have to worry about,” he growled. “I promise you one thing, you know more than the guy you’re seeing tonight. But one day that ‘just about’ will be what you have to worry about. And on that day,” he grinned, and it was honest now, happy and wide, “that day will be more fun than you thought you could have.” He bobbed forward and pecked at her cheek; a baffling gesture. “I guess I came to say somethin’ sentimental after all.” He stepped back and winked. “Knock ‘em dead.”
A limo came and delivered her to a high-rise hotel downtown. She didn’t know the woman’s name, she only knew that tonight she would call her “client” Olivia. 
Olivia, it turned out, was a light, small woman with vaguely Asian features who spoked clipped English by way of Shanghai. The Freak was not surprised to be wanded with a metal detector outside the door. She knew what Olivia was like, what she liked, what she wanted, and how to deal with her. She knew Olivia was important. Beyond that she knew nothing about what Olivia was like, what mattered to her, or why she had to die. That information was extraneous.
Smith had told her to move at the earliest moment she could, there was no gain in stalling. The Freak did not obey, and she knew that her rookie status and the favor she had gained as a perfect pupil would protect her. She had not always obeyed because she was afraid of getting bored or having her lessons denied her. She obeyed because, so far, there was no advantage in her causing trouble.
After The Freak was deemed to not be a threat, Olivia invited her into the hotel suite. The lights were low and after the door closed, Olivia bowed and kissed The Freak’s hand. 
“I am pleased to meet you,” she said in her fake voice.
“The pleasure is mine,” Olivia said, linked her arm, and led her to the table. 
Someone more old-fashioned than The Freak might have said Olivia was acting like a complete gentleman, but that was only as long as it suited her purposes. She took The Freak’s shawl, pulled out her chair, and served her all three courses from room service chafing dishes at the side of the table. 
Even though any adult could not have comprehended that “Katya” was of drinking age, Olivia poured her several glasses of champagne during the meal, and The Freak acted appropriately giddy. She had taken a pill that day at lunch that would neutralize the affects of alcohol, but the customer was always right. And the customer wanted Katya tipsy.
After dinner they went out on the deck and Olivia lit a long thin cigar. They were a long way up. When The Freak shivered in the wind, Olivia did not offer to return her shawl, but pulled her close, wrapping an arm around her.
When the cigar was finished, they went inside so Olivia could have a glass of brandy. As she slowly swirled it in the balloon glass, she dropped a phrase into the conversation. The phrase indicated that The Freak should get to work. 
The Freak gave her a bright, shiny smile, and slithered out of her dress. She pulled the knife off her thigh as she pushed the dress off. She let Olivia appreciate her figure, and then began to approach her. She crawled into the older woman’s lap, drawing a gasp, and the The Freak reached into her heavily padded bra. 
All through the evening, throughout the time that The Freak knew Smith was pacing the floor, that her teachers were waiting in anticipation, she had been watching. She had crawled out of her head, let Katya do the work, and had watched from a mental corner like a spider in a web. If she had killed Olivia right away, she wouldn’t have learned anything. And she knew, even before Freddy’s words, that there was still much to learn. She had watched Olivia’s every reaction while they ate, while Olivia bragged about her high position, while she had described how beautiful Katya’s lips were, how her eyes were drawn when Katya’s legs crossed... It had been an education. 
The Freak was holding a tiny baggie that she had secured in her bra. She didn’t have to hide it there, she didn’t have to use the pill inside, she could have opted to do anything she wanted. 
She opened the small bag, pulled out a pill with a miniature dove on it. She placed it on her tongue, and then offered the tongue to Olivia. She never even said a word.  
It was a gamble, The Freak observed, but the risk was what made it fun. The knife had been a precaution, Olivia was supposed to die in an accident. Murder would have been a lot harder to clean up, but it was considered a backup option. 
The pill would begin to metabolize, quickly, and if it stayed on The Freak’s tongue too long, she wouldn’t be able to complete the mission. If Olivia didn’t take the pill in the next five seconds then the pill would need to be spat out and a new plan enacted.
Olivia waited all of two seconds before taking the pill from Katya’s tongue and letting it dissolve in her own. She then took the other pill out of the baggie and returned the favor. 
Olivia pushed Katya up gently and began to led the way to the bed, shedding clothes. When she was halfway to the bed, she collapsed. In mid-step, the woman simply folded over and fell to the floor. She lay there silently a moment, then there was a burst of movement, a sharp, fast seizure. The body unfolded, curled up again, let out a  sigh, and died. Her skirt was unzipped, her shoes were off, and her shirt was half unbuttoned. Perfect. 
The Freak stood over the body and looked, memorizing every detail, taking it in. Her face was still flushed, she still looked happy. Potentially the most painless way she could have died. Instant heart attack with no chemical traces from the pseudo E-tab she had ingested. 
She returned to the dress, grabbed the knife. She used it to cut a tiny sliver of cloth from the lining of Olivia’s skirt. She put it in the tiny baggie and returned it to her bra. She strapped the knife to her leg again, pulled the dress halfway up, letting it rest on her narrow hips. She moved to stand near Olivia, put her hands to her mouth, and let out a bloodcurdling scream. One she’d practiced. 
An instant later, the guards were in the room, her dress was roughly pulled on, and she was out in the hall. 
The next day, when calmer heads prevailed, someone more important than the guards would call the specialized service that allegedly employed Katya. They would be informed that due to the emotional trauma Katya had quit and walked away. No, of course there were no records. No, of course they didn’t have a history of traffic with Katya. A heart attack? With no traces of everything? How could they possibly blame Katya for that? Did the client have a record of heart trouble? She did? And you bring these ridiculous accusations to our door? We will remove you from our list of clientele. Good day sir. 
And the skeletal remains of a specialized escort service that played to certain...proclivities, one that had been whispered into Olivia’s ear months before, for the next time she was in town, whatever might have existed of that company simply evaporated. 
The limo had waited for The Freak and it took her home. She was debriefed, given a mug of hot chocolate, and sent to bed. She slept like a rock.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-Eight

The Freak was washed, dressed, and exited the facility. She had no possessions, whatever she had owned she had outgrown. 
Smith made a phone call from the car and drove her to an empty gun range. Only one other man was there, about the same age as Smith, but instead of having white hair, he had short, spiky hair the grey of storm clouds. He was introduced as Doyle and The Freak was introduced as Alice. If Doyle was surprised by the presence of a child, or if he even noticed, he didn’t show it.
“You ever shot before?” Doyle asked.
She shook her head. He led her to a bench where there were two Colt .45 handguns in pieces. 
“Watch me,” Doyle said, and put the gun together piece by piece, making sure she saw every action as he attached the slide to the frame, checked the chamber, slid in the magazine. When he was done, he put the gun down. “Now you,” he said, and she complied without hesitation, imitating his movements flawlessly.
“Good,” he said when she was done. “Now, can you take it apart?”
She had trouble with one of the release catches, but she managed it. 
“Put it back together and you can shoot it,” Doyle said. She assembled it and then Smith stepped forward with a box of ammunition.
“Now,” he said, showing her the box. “This is lesson one. You like learning, I can tell. I know you also like hurting, even killing others.” She didn’t deny it, her eyes just bounced back and forth between his face and the box of rounds. “So I, and some friends of mine, are going to teach you how to get better at it. How to be the best at it. And then we’ll let you do it. And you will be very happy, I can promise you that. How does that sound?”
She just nodded.
“Now,” Smith continued, “when I hand you these, you can turn that gun into a weapon. Right now it can’t hurt me much, but when you put these in it, you can kill. You will kill, just not today. As a reward for learning, we will let you shoot one magazine worth of rounds today. Every day you behave, you will get more rewards. If you act up, if you disobey the rules, you won’t get to learn anything, and you’ll be very bored. We won’t hurt you, we won’t punish you, we just won’t let you have any fun. When I give you these, you may be tempted to kill both of us, but if you do, someone outside will kill you and the fun will be over, is that clear?”
That seemed to demand an actual response. “I understand,” she said. 
Smith handed her the box. She loaded the bullets herself, after a moment of figuring out how the fit, and then Doyle showed her how to take the safety off, and she shot at a target 20 feet away. Only half the rounds hit the paper, but she was assured that was fine, the gun was way too big for her, and she did very well. She was also told she couldn’t shoot it too much, or it would hurt her wrist, she wasn’t strong enough to shoot it a lot yet. But she would again, and more besides. She didn’t trust Smith, but she did believe him. 

The Freak moved into a house where she was watched by a man and a woman Scott and Maggie. They weren’t married, but they acted married. They let her do what she wanted to, and when she misbehaved, they made notes and she lost rewards. 
She didn’t see Doyle every day, sometimes she saw a woman named Tominda, but she went by Tom. Tom taught her how to fight. The Freak thought she knew how to fight of course, and Tom was only a little bigger than she was, but she could never hit her. Tom let her try as often as she wanted, and when The Freak was exhausted from trying, Tom reassured her that she’d learn.
Her favorite days were the days with Freddy. Freddy had a narrow, ugly face, and he taught her about knives. Just like fighting, she thought she knew all about them, a thousand cats could testify to that, but no one had ever handled a knife like Freddy did. It was like magic, he was so fast, he was so good. The Freak couldn’t help but like all of her instructors a little bit, but for one year in her adolescent training, Freddy was her idol. 
Once a week she was visited by Smith, who took it upon himself to teach her how to talk. “I used to speak like this,” he said, using a broad New York accent. “Then I went to school in England and learned to speak like this,” he said, using a clipped Oxbridgian voice. “Now why do I sound like this?” he said, returning to his normal tone. 
“Because it’s boring,” she said.
“A nicer word is that it is inconspicuous,” he responded. “Do you known what that means?”
She nodded.
“Sometimes you want to be boring or inconspicuous,” Smith continued. “Sometimes you will want people to notice you, to be conspicuous. Do you understand?”
She nodded.
“Good,” he said, and put a small device and a piece of paper on the table. “Now, I want you to read this poem into recorder, and then you can hear what you sound like. I promise you will be surprised.”
As she grew, Scott and Maggie taught her other things, simple things she would need to learn, like how to cook, how to take care of her clothes, how to take care of herself. She learned how to put an hour’s worth of exercise into an exhausting 15 minutes. She learned how to do yoga stretches after anything strenuous so her body wouldn’t get stiff. Scott taught her how to shake hands in different ways, how to smile to be scary or to make people like her. They both taught her how to dress in different ways and do different things with her hair. Maggie taught her how to use tampons and pads, and when she reached a certain age, Maggie told her about masturbating and gave her a vibrator. If she had a need, it was fulfilled in the house. 
As days went on Doyle taught her how to move with a gun, how to shoot different guns, how to take everything apart and clean it after she was done. He had her run 100-yard wind sprints and try to shoot while her hands were shaking. He had her stand outside in the cold, shooting a clip every ten minutes, just to see how bad she got. The other aspects of her training expanded as well. 
After more than a year, when she was approaching 14, Smith ended one of their dialect sessions early.
“Do you remember when I told you I might have a job for you?”
The Freak’s interest leapt. “Yes,” she said, not showing any reaction.
“Do you understand the term trial by fire?”
“It means you’re going to throw me in the deep end.”
“Where, I might add, we are all very confident you will swim like a fish.”
“I will.”
“I know.”

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-Seven

He had white hair, but he didn’t look like any other man she’d ever seen. Her grandfather stood with arrogance, the stance of a man beaten but not cowed. Her father stood with the posture of a man who is so big he rarely has to show his dominance. The man who took care of her father’s money was hunched, always looking as if he was asking someone to hit him.
The old man, Smith, he called himself, stood differently. He stood while they brought her into the meeting room. He stood like he was ready to run, jump, react, but he was also relaxed. The tension of being prepared should have made him look like a coiled spring, but it did not. Years later she would see video of Bruce Lee in interviews and recognize the same stance. 
The Freak shuffled along in her shower slippers, her hands cuffed together. The cuffs were not removed, rather another set of cuffs was used to attach her hands to U-bolt on the table. Somewhere along the line she had created a shiv (no one could conceive who would have taught her how, and surely she couldn’t have figured it out by herself), sharpened one edge to a razor, and used it to shave her head. It was easier to occasionally crop her hair than let it grow out. In exchange, it gave the guards one less part of her to grab. 
Smith did not sit, but took her in. The stubble on her skull was rough and uneven, patches of scalp showing through. She wore a shapeless grey tracksuit, but she still looked like a convict. 
He had looked at her file before this meeting, in fact, had been following her activities for more than a year. 
“I would like to talk to you,” he said, still standing. “Would that be alright?”
She tilted her head and regarded him. Her shorn head made her green eyes look like they took up half her head and her ears stuck out, in contrast to her small nose and mouth. 
“Why?” Even so young she already had the economy of speech of a long-term prisoner.
“Several reasons,” he said. “One, I think you’re interesting. I might learn something. But reason two is I might like to take you out of here and offer you a job.”
“You want to fuck me?” she asked bluntly.
He did not react to the profanity. “No,” he said simply. “But if that is something you’re interested in, I can find someone for you to fuck or to fuck you.”
Her eyes were flat, like a snake’s. “I don’t care.”
“Then I don’t care either. So, we’re done talking about fucking,” he said briskly. “What’s your name?”
She told him.
“But the girls here call you Mama, is that right?”
She shrugged.
“If you don’t want to talk to me, you can go back to your, uh, room.” His avoidance of saying “cell” was stronger than using the word.
“They used to. I haven’t seen another girl in a long time.”
“What do the...what’s the ridiculous word they have for guards here?”
“Supervisors,” she supplied.
“What do the supervisors call you?”
“Of course. And what do you call yourself?”
She frowned at that, squinting slightly in thought. “Do I have to tell you?”
“No,” he said, “But I need to call you something.”
She didn’t respond, just kept looking at him.
“How about I call you Alice,” he said, “just to call you something.”
She shrugged and he took that as a yes.
“So, Alice, I understand you’re quite dangerous.”
“I guess.”
“Alice, I’m here to have a conversation with you, please don’t waste my time.”
She wasn’t used to being talked to like an adult. She sat up, considered him. “I’m a killer,” she said simply.
“Good,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”
They talked for hours.

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-Six

The girl who became the Starling had once had a name. She had, just like any other operative, had a number of code names over the years, but this year she was the Starling. In her head, just like Baxter was still Baxter, she would always be The Freak. It was the first name other children had given her, and she had earned it, and so she kept it.
The Freak was born in Brighton Beach, on Long Island. She was the child of recent immigrants, offered asylum from the crumbling USSR in the free and welcoming United States. There was already a Russian community in the area, but as post-Cold War Russia crumbled, more and more immigrants, both legal and otherwise, swelled their numbers. They spoke the language of the home country, served its food, observed its customs, and organized crime continued as usual. Better than usual, even, for this was a land of opportunity, after all.
When The Freak was four, she seized her mother’s diamond stud earring and pulled until it came out. Years later, The Freak thought of the narrow ragged scar left in her mother’s earlobe and would give a small, satisfied smile. 
When she was five, her grandfather taught her to play chess. He had learned in the gulag. He had come to the United States after being released from prison in the aftermath of the USSR’s collapse. He spent the entire trip from Vladivostok through the Panama Canal to New York in a box little bigger than a coffin. He had nothing with him but a blanket, a bucket, and two gallon jugs of water. He was small, but not frail, wiry and almost secretly powerful. He was covered in tattoos that The Freak loved to run her fingers over. He was missing two fingers, and he even let her stare at the stumps and touch them with fascination. He had learned to play chess in the gulag, where they had to keep the game in their minds, as pleasures were not allowed. 
Her grandfather had hoped that by turning her mind to keen mental pursuits, they could stop the madness that he saw in his granddaughter’s eyes. He was not successful. Instead, he just taught The Freak the deeper ways of tactics and strategy. 
When she was six, she was caught killing a cat. She had set aside a corner of the basement that no one used and built her own Frankenstein’s lab, filled with tools she had scrounged. It was not the first animal she had victimized, dissected, analyzed, played with. It was just the first time she was caught.
The spanking, from her hulking father, meant nothing. But his words, his face, when he held her ears and looked into her eyes, was still in her memory. “Do not let me catch you doing this again,” he said in his rumbling style of Russian. “Do you understand?”
Of course she understood. He didn’t tell her to stop. He told her not to get caught.
She moved the lab to an abandoned building and would stop there for an hour every day after school. She learned to take her clothes off before her experiments. There was nothing sexual about the experiments, or her nudity, it was just a safety precaution. If someone noticed blood on her, she would eventually get caught, and she could not be caught. 
That kept her sated, for the most part, until she was nine. When she was nine, a new boy came to school. He was also of Russian stock, his face so perfectly formed that he looked like a doll. The teachers liked him. He could be much more rough and tumble than he looked, and he was good at soccer, so the boys liked him. And of course the girls liked him, they just had to look at him and he fell into the prince-shaped hole that fairy tales had built into their self-images. 
She didn’t hate him, she didn’t have any emotional reaction to him whatsoever, but she knew that he was gifted in a way that he didn’t earn. She was smart because she worked at it. She could climb walls because she had trained at it. She could beat her grandfather at chess because she had gone to the library and read books about it. She got away with something just short of genocide on neighborhood pets because she was smarter than everyone else, because she tried. Everyone liked him because...why? Because he was pretty? Because he looked special? Would they still like him if he looked different? That was the new experiment. 
He was bigger than her, and it was hard for her to control him, so the gag came out. People heard his screams and found them. He was tied to a tree, she was standing before him, naked, holding a box cutter. 
She never found out the results of her experiment, but the boy was certainly never the same. He was too panicky to ever play soccer again. His scars eventually healed, and his parents had money for very expensive surgeries, but his voice was always scratchy from his screams and his nose never quite looked right.
The Freak was sent away and her parents pretended she had never existed. Her lab was lost when an old building was demolished, and the results of her extensive experiments were lost to science. 
It is difficult to control a monster, but if you can, a monster can be very useful. This was what Smith knew when he discovered The Freak. She had dominated her juvenile detention facility, the youngest girl there by several years, in with junior high students, but without committing a single act of violence she was the queenpin of juvie in two months. 
One night she was reading a Wolverine comic in the common area when a screw called her name. It had been so long since someone had called her by name that she didn’t realize she was being called. The other girls called her “Mama” with a slight tone of awe. 
Instead of calling again, the guard tore the comic out of her hands and gave her detention. She was forced to spend the next day in a small locked cubicle, writing essays on behavior and obedience. 
The next day she faked an illness in her room and the guard was sent to investigate. She lived, but she never walked again. The Freak was kept in complete isolation for almost 18 months, until she turned 12. 
Then the old man came to see her. 

Baxter: Chapter Twenty-FIve

Only those who really knew him would know that Smith was furious. His face was flat and tight, and a small muscle occasionally jumped under his left eye, as if he were trying very hard to wink, but failing miserably. 
His secretaries avoided him as much as possible. He never had a good relationship with them, they were disposable, tools, just like everyone else he worked with. The secretaries didn’t even have the stature of being pieces on the board, they were just a means to move said pieces. 
Smith sat behind his desk and stared at an illuminated wall. He replayed the satellite footage. There was no audio, but even the visuals told a story. Falconer and Baxter had a standoff, then Falconer joined him. She went to the car, and he had a time-synched audio file of the phone call. He remembered that part anyway. Then the choppers came, and the satellite footage erupted in fire and smoke and shooting. 
The footage tracked the two operatives as they made their way down the hill. They were occasionally lost in the foliage of the forested road to Hood Canal. Smith gritted his teeth at the long empty expanses of road where they were vulnerable. A drone would have solved everything, but even he had to ask for authorization for that kind of activity, domestically, at least, and he couldn’t answer to anyone on this. He couldn’t even take action and ask for forgiveness afterward, not with a drone, not with this public and this administration. He’d already have to justify the loss of a Blackhawk and eight black ops specialists. It wasn’t quite a disaster, and certainly would have been perfectly worthwhile if the operation had succeeded. As it was, it was a blemish on an otherwise spotless record, and not the kind of thing he looked forward to explaining to an oversight committee. Baxter wasn’t a high-enough profile target to justify the action, but he’d have time to make something up.
He couldn’t ask for help. That was partly logistics, partly vanity. He’d be damned if he would lower himself to asking for assistance to kill a fucking retiree and his former protege. On top of that, asking for help would mean admitting things weren’t completely under his control, which would undermine his authority. 
And that added to the ongoing problem, which was that he could only justify so much satellite coverage, and the more they ran, the easier they would be to lose. 
He lost them in The Dalles, at breakfast. By the time they bought a truck and took to the road, Smith had already expanded his search to a grid of hundreds of square miles. Without another handy amber alert, there’d be no way to pull the camera coverage from the places they had visited, and even if he could get it, small towns weren’t carpeted with cameras like cities were.
So, they were in the wind. And he couldn’t have that. She’d betrayed him, gone over to Baxter’s side, and Smith was sure the bastard had weaved quite a tale for her. It didn’t matter what it was, it was the fact that even after faking his own death and being absent for more than ten years, he was still able to command more loyalty than Smith himself was. 
Smith used a digital pointer to circle the area where the satellite coverage lost Falconer and Baxter. He sent it to his computer. He added everything he had regarding the two operatives. His eye flexed and squeezed as he wrote up a mission document. 
When he was finished, the memory stick went into a secret pocket inside his coat. It was hidden in a fold and had two snaps, making it impossible to see and just as challenging to try to pickpocket, even if you happened to know it was there.
He left his office without comment to either of his secretaries, and they knew better than to say anything to him, not in this mood.
Sometimes you had to do things yourself. Sometimes the old dirty tricks were the best ones. 
He left via an exit that only the most important men in the building could use. He was ignored, even as he committed several federal felonies by carrying information out of the building. The guards ignored him, only concerned with people entering the building. The logic, such as it was, said that if someone as high as Smith wanted to break the law, there was no way to spot him. When he entered, he didn’t get a pat down, he didn’t scan his badge. Instead he was subjected to a retina scan, a fingerprint scan, and a voice check. If anyone was clever enough to slip a counterintel agent through that kind of security, well, they probably deserved all the secrets they could carry.
Shuttle bus to train station, train to the suburbs, train back into town, cab to the Jefferson Memorial. The whole time, watching for tails without looking like he was watching. 
He found a particular bench at the Memorial and sat. You sat at these benches at your own peril, due to the large numbers of homeless people who roamed the Smithsonian and memorial lawns. He ignored the panhandlers who approached him. One, who was more dedicated than the others, put himself directly in Smith’s line of sight, demanding a response. Smith slowly raised his head, exhaling smoke, and made vicious eye contact with the scrawny, meth-faced man. The spare-changer gave a twitch and walked away as fast as he could without actually running. 
Smith sat back, took another puff. With his left hand he reached into his coat, opened the secret pocket, and palmed the memory stick he had prepared. He stretched out his arms, expanding his chest as if he were appreciating the fresh air. His left arm curled around the back of the bench, and the left hand disappeared from sight.
Right behind the bench was an old brick wall. Smith cradled the memory stick in his two smallest fingers, and ran the other two along the bricks. He found the notch, pressed it, slid it. Silently, a small cavity opened in the brick. He placed the memory stick inside, closed it. 
A minute later he finished his cigar, ground it out on the bench, threw it flawlessly into a trash can that was ten feet away. 
He stood up and walked away, pulled out his phone. The number was an answering service, and he passed on a message about a deposit. That message would in turn be forwarded to the most dangerous man Smith had ever met. Smith was dangerous of course, but he had control. Baxter could be dangerous, but it wasn’t his resting state. The Starling was a snake waiting to strike, just waiting for slightest excuse to commit acts of staggering violence. Smith thought of most of his operatives as tools, implements to be used in the right time and place, under the right circumstances. The Starling was the same, only he was a limited-use tool. He was a weapon.