Shadow of the Templar: Old Spooks' Club
On timeline: along about With A Bullet or so
Someone was kind enough to give me a Langridge prompt. I sure as hell wasn't going to pass that up.
Dorothy Langridge blew through the lobby of the Templeton Club at full speed, powered by a damned good head of steam and a cigarette clamped in her jaws. The doorman had been busy with a member of the club but he'd chased after her with alacrity, his "Ma'am, this is a private club, you can't just come in here" delivered in an urgent undertone that lost a little something by being delivered at trotting speed.
"National emergency," Langridge said, waving her CIA identification badge at him without slowing down. "Piss off."
It didn't put him off for longTempleton was an old spooks' club, after allbut it made him hesitate for a crucial two seconds in which Langridge neatly outpaced him. He fell behind, unwilling to leave the door unguarded. He'd probably be calling for security, but that meant that she had at least a couple of minutes, and she couldn't ask for more than that. All right, she could, but she'd start with two minutes and see how much more she could wrangle when the time came.
Puffing smoke like a locomotive Langridge strode down the main hallway, ignoring the curious glances from either side. She bared her teeth in a fierce sneer, chewing on the filter of her cigarette, so mad she could chew bullets and spit nails. By the time Maculhy saw her coming, it was too late for him to do anything about it. She saw him blanch and half-rise from his chair, then dig up a sickly smile and paste it onLangridge put her hands on Maculhy's table and leaned into them, jetting smoke from her nostrils. "Arthur Ingram Maculhy, you are a liar and a goddamned sneak," she declared, loud enough to make half the heads in the dining room rise. "And so help me God I always knew that about you, but I never thought you were a coward."
"Dorothy," Maculhy said, reclaiming his equanimity. "Nice of you to... join us. May I introduce"
"No, you may not," Langridge said, her eyes flicking in the direction of Maculhy's dinner partner, yet another of those interchangeable fat old spooks. "If he'll eat dinner with you then he's as big a louse as you are, and I don't care to know him."
"Dorothy," Maculhy said again, pained.
"Don't you 'Dorothy' me, Mac." Langridge yanked out a chair and dropped into it. "And if I hear one more word in that patronizing tone of voice, I will put out my cigarette on whichever of your body parts is closest to hand at the time."
Maculhy removed his hands from the tabletop with all due speed. After a tense and mildly-insulted moment, his slighted dinner partner chose to chuckle under his breath and relax into his chair; Langridge dismissed him from her mind forthwith. Leaning forward, she stabbed her cigarette at Maculhy's face, making him wince back despite himself. "You cut my quarterly budget by twelve percent, Mac," she said. "You know goddamned well that the only way my department can function on this new budget is by letting someone go."
"Times are tough, Dorothy," Maculhy said, one wary eye on the cigarette, just in case. "Russia is yesterday's news at the Agency, you know that. The higher-ups are funneling damned near ninety percent of our funding into anti-terrorist actions"
"And then," Langridge said, "you have the temeritythe utter gallto notify me of my new budget by email at 4:45 on a Friday afternoon, after you've already left the building. If I didn't know you better, Mac, I'd say you were a scuttling rat-fink coward of a man who didn't have the balls to defend his budgetary decisions in person"
Maculhy held up both hands as if to ward off the tirade. "I swear it wasn't on purpose, Dorothy. My secretary spent all day working up and sending out the new quarterly budgetsit was only coincidence that yours went out so late"
Langridge's cigarette stabbed into the table not an inch from his belly. Maculhy jumped, the legs of his chair screeching back half an inch or so; a wisp of smoke rose from the tablecloth as Langridge pulled her cigarette back, revealing a small blackened hole. "Try again, Mac," said Langridge, jabbing her crooked cigarette back into her mouth.
Maculhy closed his eyes, briefly. "All right," he said. "Maybe I wanted to give you the weekend to calm down and come to terms with it, because I had the feeling you were going to react in just this manner."
"That's better. Maybe you should have thought of that before you slashed my budget in two, Mac." Langridge sucked in a lungful of smoke and let it out again. "Now, because I do understand that priorities at the Agency have changed, I'll be nice and settle for an eight-percent budgetary cut. Isn't that nice of me?" Maculhy's dinner partner cleared his throat and opened his mouth; Langridge jabbed a finger at him, cutting his contribution off at the root. "Shut up," she said warningly. "I've never liked kibitzers."
"I'm sorry, Warren," Maculhy said, with an apologetic glance at the other man. "We didn't precisely hire Dorothy for her manners."
"How nice of you to passive-aggressively lecture me on my manners when you find it perfectly appropriate to use your secretary as a stalking horse," Langridge said. "Eight percent, Mac. Or we'll find out just how quickly I can get you kicked out of this overgrown treehouse fort."
"Dorothy," Maculhy said, but the fight was rapidly leaching out of him now; Langridge leaked smoke from between her gritted teeth and waited. Finally, Maculhy sighed. "All right," he said. "Eight percent. I'll rejigger the budgets on Monday"
"You'll do it now," Dorothy Langridge interjected, fetching her battered cell phone from her pocket and sliding it across the table. "Call Emma and tell her what you're doing, get her working on it. You'll forgive me if I don't currently trust you any further than I can throw you, Mac. After all, I know who you work for."
"You may as well go ahead and do as the lady asks, Art," his dinner companion put in, folding his hands across his ample belly. "I don't think I'd care to be on the receiving end of that cigarette, myself."
Maculhy rolled his eyes to heaven and spread his hands in a why me? gesture, then picked up Langridge's cell phone. Once he actually started to dial, Langridge relaxed back into her chair and ground out her cigarette against the sole of her shoe, flicking the dead butt into the equally-dead fireplace that stood beside the table.
"I must admit, that was impressive," Maculhy's dinner companion said, resettling himself in his chair to face Langridge. "I don't believe I've ever seen Art get so effectively bearded in his own den, so to speak." He shifted and harrumphed, steepling his fingers together in front of his face. "But you'll pardon my manners, I'm sure. I'm Warren Carstairs. And you are...?"
"Unable to bring myself to care," Langridge said, with a narrow little frozen smile.