The beeping of her cell phone dragged T.K. back to consciousness. She had set the alarm to wake her at 5 a.m., well in time to prepare for the press conference. She blinked blearily and wrenched the crinks from her neck, grunting at the loud cracks she elicited from her joints.
She made her way to the showers by way of the coffee machine, mentally preparing for another full day, her guards faithfully in tow. Perhaps not the last day, they might not be that lucky, but a day when things would start to fall into place. Certainly, at least, there was something to report at this morning's press conference.
Once she was awake and clean, she called Antonov's number.
“You ready to go home?” he asked.
“Why are we doing this again?” she replied.
“Because you can't do two press conferences in a row wearing the same clothes.”
“No one gives a shit.”
“Lots of people give a shit and we're not going to argue about this again. If you're ready, I'm around the back.”
“Be right out.” Once she hung up, she told Larry and Moe that Antonov was around the back.
“We'll get you to the back door and then meet you on the road,” Larry said.
The followed her dutifully down the stairs to the back door, where she signed out with the desk officer. She stared at the door for a moment and just as she raised her hand to push it open, one of the guards stopped her.
She turned. “Yeah?”
“Are you armed, ma'am?”
She was surprised for a moment. It was a perfectly good question, just not one she'd been expecting. She lifted up the edge of her coat. “Of course.”
“Great. See you in a minute.”
She exited through the door and nodded at Antonov, who waved at her. She took a breath of the cool morning air. The sun was still down, she reflected. No one should be awake at this hour, let alone all of us. A dark thought occurred to her. This was his time. This was when he would be awake, just heading home after an evening that ended with a body dump or a dead family. She shivered and began walking to Antonov's car.
It smelled good, like it were a fairly recent purchase, and the leather interior was still being generous. It also smelled like the driver himself, no doubt dosed daily with his own aftershave or whatever.
“Morning,” he said.
“Hey,” she replied, hoping they wouldn't have to be chatty on the drive. It was too damn early.
“You need breakfast or anything?”
“Maybe later. Let's just get moving for the moment.”
“You wanna listen to anything?”
“So long as it's not news,” she said. “Or country,” she amended.
“Snob,” he said with a sniff, and turned on a light pop station.
Larry and Moe fell in behind them at the first light, driving an unmarked Dodge Magnum. Being on the open road like this, she was strangely comforted by their presence, as annoying as it might be otherwise.
It only took ten minutes for one of the morning DJs to reference the case, and Anotonov snapped the radio off. By that time they were pulling onto I-5, a straight shot from Olympia and Anderson's home. After another minute of silence, the driver spoke.
“So, where do you live?”
“By Chambers Lake, you know it?”
“Yeah, had a friend who used to live down there. Take Sleater-Kinney, right?”
Antonov refused to take the hint. “Do you have a suit?”
“A suit. Do you own one?”
“Is it clean?”
“Do you mind?”
“Well, it's just, it's too late to get it pressed and cleaned at this hour, or to get you a new one, so if you don't have a clean one, I'll have to make a contingency plan.”
“This is serious, Anderson.”
“Not as serious as you make it out to be.”
“Get this straight,” he said, taking his eyes off the road for a moment, locking them onto her. “You're tough. You look tough, you talk tough, you act tough. That's awesome. It means men and women want to respect you. You're not too pretty, which means women aren't going to be threatened by you. But right now, people respect you because they respond well to you and because they've been told to. Tomorrow morning, when you present, for the first time really what the fuck is going on, you need to look like an authority figure, and you cannot do that in a leather jacket. You just can't.”
“Fuck!” Anderson replied. “I have a clean suit, alright! It's my church and funeral suit.”
“Excellent. What kind of church?”
“My parents were half-assed Presbyterians. I thought you knew all this stuff about me.”
“I'm not feeling chatty.”
They rode in silence the final few minutes to the Sleater-Kinney Road exit, and then she began to give directions to her home.