"Just the check, and a short stack to go, please,' Harris told the waitress, who was eyeing him up with something right between suspicion and fear.
"Be right up," she blurted out before fast walking away towards the kitchen.
The child had gotten noticeably older looking during the course of his meal when he stood to leave after the waitress had returned with more pancakes his t-shirt was no longer pooling at his feet, it was instead hovering above his ankle. His speech and reasoning abilities had also noticeably improved, there was a light in his eyes that wasn't there before, and he could count to fifty with only minor mishaps. Harris made note of it but didn't know what, if anything, he should or could do about it.
"Woah," Harris said to the child, "Let's get you back to the room before you hit puberty."
The child nodded and they exited the restaurant, much to the relief of the staff. The orphan was swinging his bag of pancakes around and making airplane noises, which was odd because he had yet to see or experience an airplane in any way. The fact that this child appeared to be learning things without being taught them either escaped Harris or it just didn't come off as weird to him. He was simply content to be in the child's company instead of doing his job. When they arrived at the motel, the child resembled a five or six year old and had zero in common with the infant Harris had originally stolen only hours ago.
Once inside the room, the kid climbed onto the bed and began to empty his bag of pancakes onto the bare sheets. He didn't care that they were cold, or that there was no syrup, or that they were just lying on a motel sheet with nothing to save them from the thriving culture of disease-causing microbes that undoubtedly made their homes in the very sheets and blankets he was currently using as a plate. He just cared that they were pancakes and that they were his.
Harris clicked the television on and looked for something kid-friendly, which isn't exactly the easiest feat at foursomething in the morning with only the standard shitty motel cable channel line up to choose from, but he had hope in his heart and that was going to have to be enough.
As he flipped past the usual late night infomercials promising everything short of immortality for three easy payments of $49.99, the oddball preacher trying to hasten along the end of the world, pointless rehashing of the day's events and sports games, experimental animated shows, and ancient re-runs, he muttered impolite things about his job to himself while becoming increasingly annoyed at the state of today’s television programming options.
It took a few rounds of cycling through all the channels but he eventually flipped past a World War II documentary about the 82nd Airborne Before he could flip to the next channel but after some smoke started to come out of his ear the child looked up from what he had done to his pancakes and stared wide-eyed at the television, currently showing grainy black and white footage of WWII soldiers jumping out of a plane. He eyes widened and his mouth fell open. Half-chewed pancakes fell onto the sheets.
"Soldiers," he said, matter of factly, I'm a soldier too," he told Harris.
"That so? You look a little young for the army."
"Yes, I am. Serial number 43340978."
"That's one crazy imagination you have their little guy. I'll play along, what kind of soldier are you?"
"Infantry," his voice was more mature now, it held confidence and it was clear that the speaker knew what they were saying.
A knock at the door disrupted whatever trance the kid had entered. He turned his newly freed attention to the door and shoveled pancake pieces that had fallen out of his mouth back into it without looking. Harriss's ears perked up as he realized that he was too engrossed in being amused by the orphan to pay proper attention to his environment. He should have known there would have been a knock, but he didn't, instead, his ears perked up, telling him he had dropped his attention. This sort of thing hadn't happened to him in years. He also hadn't felt anything other than indifference towards people in years either.
This small failure was unexpected. He was both unaware his attention had waned and unprepared for the possibility that it was a possibility. He didn’t think it was possible until it happened. Now that it happened, he was hyper-aware it could happen again. He assumed the heightened state of awareness he had acquired was permanent unless he made the conscious decision to dull it. It turns out that when you can almost hear people think, the occasional bout of ignorance is bliss.
Harris shook his head and cautiously approached the door, turning to glance at the orphan before looking out the peephole only to be disappointed at seeing the couriers that should have been there earlier, that is to say, hours ago. Harris found a way to mumble while gritting his teeth as he undid the three locks which were currently forcing the door to act as a wall. Once that feat was accomplished, the two couriers entered the room, one was sucking on a straw from a fast food chain joint.
"You guys are dicks. What took so long?"
"Uber Eats was bumping tonight. We got here as soon as we could."
Harris had heard the rumors about some field agents moonlighting with rideshare companies to make ends meet but thought it was bullshit, like most of the things that people say someone said. It made sense to him and he thought about doing it here and there but figured most people would have more tact than he, or at least more respect for their position. While it was true that field agent for a top secret government project was never a well-paying gig, despite what the movies tell you, the idea of spies delivering pizzas between missions was moronic at best, the stuff of shitty fiction at worst, at least according to Harris.
Most espionage related work is dreadfully boring. Hours of waiting followed by days of surveillance, miles of paperwork punctuated with the occasional knife fight, then more paperwork until a fist or gunfight breaks out, but never two consecutive knife fights is basically what a typical day boils down to. Ivory Soap percent of the time it was a snooze, so some of the lower ranking field ops started signing up for Uber and Door Dash, then the referral codes started circulating and it was all over. Every other op and their mother was driving part-time.
"Uber Eats was bumping? That's why I was stuck in this shit hole all night babysitting when I was supposed to be home? You blew me off for what? Five bucks in tips?"
The one who was drinking sucked on his straw extra hard as if to let his partner know he wasn't going to be the one who answered the question presented to them.
"Uh, you don't really get tipped," the other one said, rubbing the back of his head and staring at his shoe, "but we manage a few hundred a week anyway."
"Yeah, it's pretty easy. We thought the kid was dead or we would have been here sooner," added the one with the soda.
"Yeah, like tonight, the last person we delivered to wasn't home, so we got to keep the food," said the one not having a soda at the moment.
"After we waited five minutes," added the straw sucker.
"Yeah, five minutes ain't much. Think you want to try? I have a referral code, if you do 35 trips in your first week, I get $400."
Harris considered the offer. On one hand, it seemed attractive. If he signed up and got his own referral code, he could clean up. On the other hand, it would be helping someone out and he wouldn't immediately benefit from doing so, so he was instinctually adverse to the proposition. On the other-other hand, cash meant nothing to him. Endless amounts of money was one of the only perks to being, essentially, made into an almost superhero and enslaved by the government in the name of protecting freedom. There’s usually a silver lining. After mulling the offer over for a solid twenty seconds, he said, "Give me the code and I'll think about it. You sign up on your phone, right?"
"Yeah," answered the soda drinker while the other one handed Harris a business card with his referral code and the web address to his drive share tips blog, "but I heard your phone only has one button."
Harris shot the man a dirty gaze. He responded with insulting Harris by implying the number of buttons on his phone was a determining factor in how much of a real man he was, which was followed by Harris slapping the cup from the courier's hand, which caused the non-soda drinking courier to start saying "Chill bro, chill," in an increasingly non-chill tone of voice.
All this was noticed by the child and he shifted his attention to the drama unfolding before him. His face had the look of a dog who wasn’t sure whether or not the person at the door was just delivering food or trying to break in and rape-murder everyone inside the house.
Harris stepped into the personal bubble of the courier that insulted him, poking his index finger into his chest while gritting his teeth and considering his next move. He usually felt killing coworkers was wrong, but these guys were different. The escalation frightened the orphan, he was without any frame of reference whatsoever for properly interpreting the situation, so he did what all kids do and
Lil' Remo launched himself from the bed onto the courier not being harassed by Harris. The man instinctually caught the air born mutant who then proceeded to bite him on the neck, causing severe bleeding. As the man was collapsing the kid grabbed the hair of the other courier and clung to him piggyback style. He began to strangle the man but his arms weren't as strong as his teeth and never would be, which is the case for most of us.
The courier slammed his back against the wall, causing Lil' Remo to grunt before biting into the man's neck. The courier fell to the ground on top of the child, who pushed him aside and stood up. He shook his head and wiped the blood from his mouth before looking at Harris with something closely resembling pride on his face.
"OK," Harris said with a tinge of awe in his voice, " that was impressive but, to be honest your technique is sloppy. Your elbows are a mess, but I don't want to get into it right now. You have a good foundation, but do you know what to do after the killing?
The child shook his head to indicate that he didn't.
"How could you? First off, you spilled a lot of blood. That's not really a good thing. Too messy. Next time, break necks or stick a finger into the base of their skull. Easier to clean up that way."
The kid nodded in complete understanding.
"I don't suppose you know anything about getting rid of bodies?"
The child shook his head to indicate that he had no concept of the idea.
"Thought so. Rule one is no blood. It’s too late for rule one, so we have to extra rely on rule two. Rule two is be smart, I’ll take care of most of that tonight, you just pay attention. We're going to wrap these guys up in blankets and then we’re going to take a ride. Sounds like fun right?"
The child neither nodded his head nor made a face.