The flight to Heathrow was fine. In fact coach class is one of the few places being altitudily challenged ever is worth it. And it never gets old arriving in Tweed Central. To quote the fine British type scholar Edward Izzard, Europe is where the history is made.
I picked up my bag at the baggage conveyor and with the wave of a diplomatic passport, cleared customs in record time. I was authorized carry of my duty pistol of course, but I really didn't want to see the reactions to my throwing knives, stakes, and of course the Ithaca WitPro shotgun in my carry-on bag. I still fully intend to be a slayer that dies of old age, and being properly equipped is always a good way to lead off a mission.
I made my way across the terminal to the signs marked "Ground Transport". I kept my eyes open looking for someone who might be more than normally interested in a short blonde American who coincidentally worked for the State Department. I didn't spot anybody right off the bat, but my 'something's just not good' detector was operating at a low-level buzz.
I made it to the taxi stand and was greeted as an old friend by some woman I'd never met before. She had the right passwords so we got into a cab and headed down into London so I could catch a train.
I got out of the cab with my suitcase, my carryon, and a shopping bag that held a nicely gift wrapped package, a sat-phone, and my train tickets through to Istanbul. I made it down to my train car in plenty of time and used the free moments to check out if any hotties or potential ne'er do well's were checking me out.
Unfortunately and fortunately the answer to both was a resounding no, so I sat in my Business Class seat in the comfy Eurostar, put in my earbuds and waited for the train to leave the station. Five minutes later a cute dark haired guy sat down in the seat next to me, smiled briefly, then buried his nose in a newspaper. I sighed, love or even flirtyness and Buffy were never meant to be together I guess.
The train departed just a few minutes later and we were off. The satphone was in my carry-on, the package, in all its gift-wrappy glory, was cunningly concealed in the shopping bag between my feet. It didn't weigh more than a few pounds and was solid with no shifty or slidey bits. I had gotten a window seat so nobody could just do a runby and pickup. I was traveling under a civilian passport for this part of the trip and my weapons were close at hand.
Still, my instructors had always drilled into me, the most dangerous parts of an op are the beginning and the ending. So I stayed on my guard while looking as relaxed as possible. The trip through England was pretty boring until we got to the coast. Then you could see the big horse carved into the hillside just before the train dove underground and under the English Channel.
The train trip, according to the oh so helpful guidebook, under the channel would only take about half an hour. In my experience an apocalypse can be started in fifteen minutes or less, so I kept my guard up while still trying to look relaxed. By this time, my seat mate had finished his paper and was making notes in some kind of squiggle on a legal pad. Switching off with occasionally gnawing on the pen cap while staring at the ceiling in thought.
I figured chatting would make me look more touristy so I turned to face him and smiled, "Hi I'm Buffy!"
He actually recoiled in shock. Usually I only have that effect on demons I'm about to slay.
"Uh huh what? Oh! I'm David. You're an American?"
"California born and bred. You don't sound Tweedy or Frenchy or Germanish. You're an American too?"
"Yes. I'm from Missouri. Not as exotic as California I'm sure."
"I'm sorry I startled you, but I figured since we're going to be seatmates all the way to Paris at least, I should say hi."
"That's okay. I get too wrapped up in my work sometimes. My old boss used to give me hell about it."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a financial security consultant. I help banks find new ways to hang on to their money."
"Banks need more
ways to get money? Really?"
"Hey! They think so and they pay me to find them. So what do you do?"
"Oh, I'm a personal shopper in LA. One of my clients was so super happy about the work I did, she gave me a trip across Europe by train. I've never been here you see. Do you still live in the States?"
"I live in hotels mainly. All over the place."
"That is so sad," he nodded in agreement and went back to his squiggles. We had exited the tunnel by this time and were on our way to Paris. I glanced over at David and noticed a strange yet familiar tiny drop on his jacket cuff.
It was dried blood. That was something I would know anywhere.