"Your drink, Herr Newman."
"Danke," Newman replied absently, making no eye contact.
Newman surveyed the restaurant. The newlywed couple from Room 202 occupied a centre table, embarrassing themselves as usual, feeding each other and pretending to be impossibly in love. It was an act, of course. Herr Newlywed began an affair with his office assistant years before his nuptials. Eventually Frau Newlywed would catch on but, until then, life is a cabaret, no?
Newman knew these things. Newman knew a great many things. That was his job - to know things. Secrets. Dangerous secrets.
Lost in a fantasy involving a threesome between Herr, Frau and the office assistant, Newman failed to notice the blonde's arrival.
"Hello, Muse," Newman replied without looking up.
Muse showed no reaction but Newman knew she was annoyed by him using her code name in the clear. That's why he did it. He enjoyed annoying the Muse. Later, Newman planned to really "annoy" the Muse and the thought of her chipmunk noises caused a vague stirring in his loins. Focus, he thought, focus.
Muse sat down and ordered a Hendrick's with a slice of cucumber, no ice.
Newman allowed himself a tiny smile, just a tightening of the lips at the thought of Muse liking it "straight up."
"Down boy," Muse said, "and cheers."
They clinked glasses.
"So," Muse said, "you have news?"
Newman paused for effect.
"Yes. Nothing earth-shattering other than I've located agent Kirsch, who later this evening will become ex-agent Kirsch."
Muse's heart pounded as she fought for composure. Kirsch! The most secret of secret agents. Totally invisible and completely devastating. Kirsch! Could it be true?
"Are you sure?" Muse probed.
"Quite sure," Newman replied, "In fact she's sitting over there, the corner table by the exit."
Muse pulled out her compact, flipped up the mirror and regarded the long-sought Kirsch. She didn't look like much. Muse imagined her as a librarian. Kirsch sat alone, her back to the wall, head down and scribbling furiously into a journal.
"Hmm," Muse muttered, "not much to look at. What tipped you off?"
Newman swirled the ice in his glass, an unsophisticated gesture that irritated Muse, as did most, to be true, all, of Newman's gestures. She knew they were all fake, anyway. It didn't matter.
"Penmanship," Newman announced with a flourish, "penmanship."
Muse stared at Newman as if he was covered in leeches and imagining the horror the leeches felt.
Muse leant across the table, her face inches from Newman's and whispered, "Penmanship?"
"Ah, Muse," Newman sighed, "someday maybe far in the future if you stick with me and pay attention you will learn to pay attention ... to details. They say the Devil is in the details but it's the details that will send our adversaries to the Devil."
Newman allowed himself a brief chuckle and smile, celebrating his witty observation.
Muse, unmoved, repeated, "Penmanship?"
"They all make mistakes, you know," Newman lectured as if to a particularly dim student. "I managed to observe Kirsch's journal while pretending to admire the garden."
Muse thought, "You probably admired her tits, too," but let it pass.
"Beautiful penmanship," Newman continued, "and in ink. It was the ink that caught my interest. What kind of writer writes in ink? A Number Two pencil is the rule according to Stephen King. Ink, never."
"Hardly damning," Muse objected, "penmanship and ink. What does it prove?"
"It fits the profile we constructed for Kirsch. Deliberate, careful, never makes mistakes. What kind of writer fits that description? None!"
"What are you going to do?" Muse asked.
"Ah, well, Miss Kirsch is going to have an 'accident' this evening. Apparently her hair dryer fell into the bathtub. Such an unfortunate accident."
"But, what if you're wrong? What if it really is just a writer and not Kirsch?" Muse inquired.
"No matter," replied Newman, "no matter. In the grand scheme of things. We'll move on and start the search anew. No matter."
The waiter appeared with their orders which they ate in silence. After dinner, Newman paid for the meal and they retired to their room for the night.
The morning was bright and sunny. The hotel opened the patio for breakfast and most early risers enjoyed the sun and mild temperature.
Kirsch sat at a table overlooking the garden when Muse arrived.
"What do you want, bitch?" Kirsch asked, not looking up from her journal.
"It takes a bitch to know a bitch, bitch," Muse replied.
Kirsch looked up, regarded Muse and said, "What do you want, bitch?"
Muse sat down and said, "A coffee American and a croissant, please." The waiter, standing nearby nodded slightly and moved away.
When her order arrived, Muse slurped some coffee and bit the croissant in half.
"Busy night?" Kirsch inquired not looking up from her journal.
Muse swallowed the croissant, took another slurp of her coffee and mumbled, "Newman."
Kirsch stopped writing, looked up and said, "Newman?"
"Yes, Newman," Muse continued, "it seems he had an unfortunate experience."
Kirsch allowed herself a little smile and said, "Cyanide?"
Muse paused for effect and said, "Cyanide can be traced. No, peanuts."
Kirsch stopped writing, looked up smiling, "Peanuts?"
"Yes," Muse continued, "peanuts. Newman was deadly allergic to peanuts. He kept an epi-pen with him at all times. At dinner last night after he told me he had identified you I put peanuts in his food."
"OK, I can see that," Kirsch replied, "but why didn't he use his epi-pen?"
"He did," smirked Muse, "I replaced the contents with water."
"Newman died in agony?" Kirsch looked amused.
"Oh, yes," Muse confirmed, "and his last sight was my tits waving in his face. I mean, I'm not a total monster. I'm just a bitch."
Kirsch looked at Muse, pulled her close and gave her a long, wet kiss.
"You're not a bitch, Muse," Kirsch purred, "you're my bitch."