Swedish Massage While You Wait
The air of office was crisp enough that it seemed to crease as the door opened, admitting the tall figure of Michael Knight. Twisting around to carefully ease the door back into its frame, his eyes flitted away towards the corners of the room. With an easy gait, he made his way straight over to the other side of the desk and comfortably started rifling through the drawers. He paused after couple of minutes and titled his head towards the door.
Muffled footsteps announced an intruder – or rather, the rightful owner of the office – steadily eating up carpet on the way towards the room. Michael shut the drawers and vaulted over the desk, quickly hurling himself into a chair opposite and throwing up his feet onto the desk. As the door opened, he was the picture of a bored man waiting in a doctor's office, sans trashy parenting magazines.
“You're early,” Devon Miles noted, frowning at him.
Michael shrugged. “Don't get used to it.”
A suspicious wrinkle appeared over Devon's eyes, but he made no comment as he walked briskly over to his desk and sat down. He affected some offence at the feet rudely taking up space on his desk, and only managed to move them by poking a sharp pencil at the sole of Michael's shoe.
“Take it easy, old man!” Michael said, crossing his arms. “No need to get rough. Now are you going to tell me what's going on, or can I go get some sun?”
Devon self-consciously brushed a hand over his hair, then shook his head. “Really, Michael, is this the sort of disrespect you're going to brandish every time we meet? I thought you said you liked me.”
Michael rolled his head to one side, considered shooting off a loud snore, but settled for hanging his head forward to spit Devon with his most unimpressed expression. Catching the hint, Devon cleared his throat and shuffled some papers on his desk.
“The Foundation has a mission for you,” he started importantly.
Michael held up a hand. “Wait. A mission? What is this, the evangelical society?”
The older man closed his eyes briefly, and his lips moved as though he was quietly counting to ten. Thusly composed, Devon opened his eyes and continued, pained, “By mission I mean, of course, a case for you and Kitt. There will be many cases such as this, where law enforcement needs assistance in some matter or another. In this instance, an important eyewitness is refusing to testify and needs some encouragement to do so.”
“Usually people have a good reason for not wanting to testify,” Michael told him, sounding almost bored. “And what use is Kitt in all this anyway?”
Triumph flashed in Devon's eyes. “You have arrived at the answer in your own reasoning, Michael. We are assuming that Miss Angelica Patterson is refusing to testify because she fears retribution from some quarter. I'm sure Kitt will ably provide the necessary protection.”
Rubbing at the ache forming behind his eyes, Michael regretted not stopping for some coffee on his way over. He peered underneath his fingers at the man sitting opposite him for a few moments before dropping his hand and sitting up in the chair.
“Sounds easy enough,” he ventured.
“Well, now, these sorts of things must start small,” Devon said with a sage nod. “But we'll work our way up to more important cases, I'm sure. You'll leave immediately...that's if you're feeling up to it. I understand this situation must still be difficult for you.”
Devon paused and surveyed him like a worried uncle. Shifting uneasily on the chair until it creaked in protest, Michael pressed his hands together at the fingertips. He shook his head a bit too fast. “No problem. Where am I headed?”
Concern peppered Devon's brow, but he set his mouth firmly. “Seattle. There you will make passive contact with Miss Patterson, under the guise of a replacement masseuse – ”
“I see two problems already,” Michael interjected. “One, Seattle has absolutely no sun this time of the year. And two, masseuse? I don't know about your generation, but mine didn't get to take that class at school.”
“We have it on good authority that Miss Patterson allows a certain amount of trust with her masseurs,” Devon added quickly.
Michael left out a heavy breath, disgruntled. “Whatever happened to telling your life story to a hairdresser?”
“Miss Patterson's wealthy lifestyle allows for alternative means of doing so,” Devon answered lightly. “And do not concern yourself too much with becoming a masseuse. You will have a contact in Seattle will not only give you some idea of your job, but insert you into a position to enlist Miss Patterson as a client.”
“So that's it, huh.” Michael didn't even try to sound enthused.
Devon's cheek twitched. “If there are no more questions, you may leave. Someone will give you the case file in the garage.”
Michael clapped his hands together and jumped up from the seat. He sauntered towards the door, swinging his arms at his side. Devon coughed loudly, directing attention back at himself. Pausing, Michael raised his eyebrows, waiting.
“Perhaps next time you wish to discover something about me,” Devon spoke cautiously, “you might try asking instead of blundering through my desk and putting everything out of order.”
Offering a guilty grin, Michael stepped outside. A thought occurred to him. He stuck his head back in. “You know what, Devon, I do like you. But you're almost as stuffy as this office.”
Devon's expression flitted between exasperated and pleased. “For your information, this is a study. To call it an office makes it sound so rudimentary.”
Michael rolled his eyes and headed down the corridor.
The first sign of any trouble upon arriving back at the garage was two sets of voices. Michael stopped dead, hand straying to the holster he no longer wore. Shaking out his fingers and staring down at them wistfully, he tightened his posture and tread quietly into the garage. He saw the two legs sticking out from underneath the Trans Am immediately and stood with his feet either side of the person.
“Alright, come on out slowly and no one gets hurt,” he announced.
Small wheels squealed over concrete and then she appeared, staring up at him from the floor with narrowed eyes. Flicking a greasy hand back through her brown hair, she sat up and held out her other hand to him. Michael merely looked at her hand, unmoved.
She sighed in exasperation. “Are you going to help me up or not?”
“What were you doing under Kitt?” Michael demanded.
“Making sure you haven’t busted any of his circuits before I let you whiz on out of here,” she replied mulishly. “Now if you don’t mind – a little help, please?”
“Michael, there is really no need to be impolite,” Kitt spoke up.
Michael took her hand and pulled her up. As she dusted herself off, he moved to sit on the bonnet, stretching out across the front of Kitt almost protectively. Relaxing his stance, he eyed her up and down. Despite the mechanic overalls and smudges on both clothes and skin, she looked to have a good figure. And somehow, he supposed she’d look nowhere near as beautiful if she traded in the grease for make-up.
When she turned back to him, he afforded an easy smile. “I’m Michael Knight.”
“I know,” she said shortly.
A silence fell between them. Kitt spoke again. “Michael, this is Bonnie. She’s the most able mechanic of the Foundation.”
“I’m the only mechanic right now,” Bonnie pointed out, but with a smile.
Michael shifted his weight to slide off the bonnet, now favouring her with a smile of his own. “Sorry about before. I just wasn’t expecting someone...like you here.”
“Here are all the files you’ll need,” Bonnie rattled off without looking at him. “With all relevant details on both your contact and the mission. This information has also been loaded into Kitt’s databanks so anything you’ll forget – and you probably will – he’ll tell you. You good to go, Kitt?”
“Yes, Bonnie.” Kitt sounded slightly down. “But just in case, could you run a check on my systems one more time?”
Bonnie laughed and patted his scanner. “I’m going to miss you too. You be careful.”
Snatching the files from her outstretched hand, Michael moved back towards the driver’s side door, raising his eyebrows. “No goodbye for me?”
“Bring Kitt back in anything but one piece and you’ll get yourself a real short goodbye,” Bonnie warned.
Sliding into the seat, Michael waited for Kitt to shut the door before saying out loud, “Does she have a problem or what, pal?”
“Bonnie is very helpful in my maintenance,” Kitt responded mutely. “I am unsure why she was so hostile against you.”
“She might be jealous…”
“Do you think so?”
Michael shook his head. “Kitt, no need to sound so hopeful, huh?”
“Me? Jealous? I am not programmed for jealousy.”
“Or lying, sure,” Michael added with a grin. “Come on, we’ve got a long trip ahead of us.”
The only thing more boring than staring at the road as it passed in front of him was probably staring up at the roof. Michael had put the chair back so that he could lie down, arms propped up behind his head. He was bored enough to attempt counting the long seconds. But that was about as riveting as counting sheep and he wasn’t all that in the mood for falling asleep either.
“Are we there yet?” Michael asked, smothering a smirk.
“I will inform you when we are in close proximity. I fail to see how asking me that question several times will make the trip go faster.”
“It’s something kids ask when they’re bored,” Michael explained, yawning. “And I’m most definitely bored.”
“I didn’t realise I was transporting a minor,” Kitt commented.
Now that got Michael’s attention. He sat up abruptly and stared at Kitt’s modulator with some incredulity. “Was that a joke?”
“Why? Did it amuse you?”
“Wasn’t bad,” Michael conceded. “Do you have any particular programming like that?”
Kitt seemed to consider this. “No…no, I don’t think so. But I would say anything to stop you from asking me that irksome question again.”
“I won’t ask if you don’t.”
“Seems fair,” Kitt agreed.
Seattle hardly welcomed them in any acceptable fashion. Michael stared out at the dreary darkness pressing in from all sides and groaned. Unbidden, wistful images of a sandy beach rose to mind – along with a nice brunette in a bikini. He had to smile at that. Kitt slowed to a halt on the kerb. Although his legs were itching to walk out a few cramps, Michael kept looking out dispassionately at the drizzle. A dim street light managed to shed a few rays across the sign of the shop.
“We’re here, Michael,” Kitt informed him helpfully.
“I know that, pal.”
Gritting his teeth, Michael pulled the collar of his leather jacket up over his neck and opened the door. He ducked out into the rain, looking back only briefly to make sure that Kitt closed up behind him. He leapt over one puddle only to find himself landing in another one, with cold water splashing up his jeans. Biting back a yelp, Michael rapped on the door.
No response was forthcoming. Glaring up at the shopfront, he read out in a mutter, “Swedish Massage While You Wait? Get soaking wet while you wait, more like.”
He knocked louder, increasing in volume until his knuckles hurt. At last, the door opened, and a gust of hot dry hair escaped into Michael’s face. Momentarily stunned, he took a moment to collect himself.
“Devon Miles sent me,” he wheezed. “Name’s Michael Knight.”
At first he looked around and saw nothing, then looked down to see a man a good foot shorter than him, and would be a good deal shorter without a shock of blonde hair that shot up towards the ceiling. The man blinked at him for a few moments before a grin spread awkwardly across his face.
“Did not expect you so soon,” he said gleefully. “I am Henrik Mezger, do come in.”
Keeping a polite smile on his face, Michael ducked to step inside the shop and found himself in what resembled a cluttered storeroom. He shrugged off his jacket as the heat began to seep through his skin.
“You're seeing the client tomorrow morning,” Henrik told him, disappearing behind a stack of shelves.
Michael crossed his arms defiantly. “I don't know a single thing about giving anybody a massage.”
“Oh I'm sure it will come naturally!” the voice bounced back at him. “There are but five strokes in Swedish massage, quite easy to learn...and you'll be kneading and compressing her flesh in no time!”
Here Michael had to raise his eyebrows. He walked around the shelf to find Henrik fiddling with bright green pots that seemed to be wafting strange scents across the room. Trying to keep any interest out of his voice, Michael probed, “That doesn't sound too bad. So is this one of those shoulder things or is it the full massage?”
Henrik glanced up at him. “Oh. The client tends to need a lot of work on her lower back. Not to worry, she'll have a towel on.”
Michael fought the grin that threatened to escape. “Still seems fairly intimate, doesn't it?”
“Professional distance,” Henrik warned.
Maybe these missions of Devon's wouldn't be so bad after all.
The lights dotted along the street hadn't yet dimmed when Michael emerged from the shop, shrugging on his jacket and holding out his hand palm up to make sure it wasn't raining. Satisfied, he moved slowly through the gradual dawn and patted Kitt's roof. A slight tap on his knee made him look down at the door as it opened gently. Michael slid into the seat.
“Is something wrong, Michael?” Kitt enquired.
“No, nothing wrong. The appointment is in half an hour. And besides, I wanted to see how you were doing.”
An almost surprised taint filted through Kitt's modulator. “What for?”
“Just in case you get lonely by yourself out here,” Michael replied, awkwardly resting a hand on the dashboard. “Sorry I didn't see you much last night.”
“I do not get lonely. My sensors could locate you all through the night.”
“Not even a little bit lonely?”
“No, I am unaware of such a feeling,” Kitt responded stoutly. “But it is not an unwelcome sight to see you.”
Michael shook his head. “Fine, be that way. Give me a run down on this mission again.”
“Angelica Patterson. Witness to the shooting of two individuals with suspected involvement in organised crime. She identified the perpetrator as one John Fatone to police, who arrested him. He was already on bail for a previous altercation. Without her eyewitness statement in court, the case will be dismissed.” Kitt paused. “Michael, what are you doing?”
Michael started and looked down at the steering wheel, where his hands were delivering slow but steady strokes. He jerked his hands away quickly and cleared his throat, giving his fingers a good shake.
“It's called a massage, Kitt,” he answered.
“What is its purpose?”
Michael shrugged. “Supposed to relieve tension.”
“I fail to see how.”
“That's because you don't have any muscles to get tense!”
“Michael. Just because I have a molecular bonded shell instead of muscles does not mean I do not experience tension.”
“Okay, okay.” Michael laughed. “Tell you what, I'll give you a nice long wash after we're done here. That should help your tension.”
“You misunderstand me.”
“No, buddy. I think I understand you perfectly. But for now, let's start making tracks, shall we?”
A few minutes later as he was driving, Michael had to admit that it wasn't a bad part of Seattle, still suburban enough to be lined with trees and houses. The houses started turning into small estates with high iron gates and the drive ways disappeared behind long hedges. By now the sun was beginning to shed a bit more light over the roads.
There was a flash of light ahead, and suddenly Michael felt his arms seize up. Panic thudded inside his chest and he squeezed his eyes shut. A tight ache flared across his forehead.
“Michael? Michael? Are you alright?”
“Pull over, Kitt,” he muttered.
The offending car burred on past on the other side of the road, lights disappearing into the increasing light. Michael took a deep breath and craned forward to rest his forehead on the wheel. Another breath and he forced himself upright, slowly tracing his thumbs in small circular patterns.
“I'll be fine,” Michael assured, but the words sounded hollow. “I think.”
How long had it been, he wondered, since Las Vegas? Not that long, but it felt like a lifetime. In a way it was. That was a lifetime ago and here he was, Michael Knight, staring aimlessly out the windshield of his car – a car the same and yet so different. He forced himself to meet the headlights of the next oncoming car, burning them into his eyes, trying to burn them deeper into his memories.
Rubbing the phantom pain in his forehead, Michael inwardly remonstrated himself. He was in Seattle, not Las Vegas. Tanya Walker was dead, and the flash of her gun was nothing but harmless headlights.
“I'll be fine,” he repeated.
“No, it's not that.” Kitt sounded concerned. “My sensors have detected a boy in considerable distress on the sidewalk.”
Forcing himself to look sideways, Michael noticed the boy looking up into the sky with dirty tear tracks on his cheeks. He sighed and threw open the door.
“What are you doing, Michael? We'll be late.”
“Well what'd you point him out for?” Michael demanded.
A few short strides brought him in line with the boy who turned his miserable expression over at Michael. Digging in his pocket for a handkerchief, Michael handed it to him and looked up into the sky. He found himself peering into the branches of a tree. A distinct high pitched yowling reached his ears.
“Your cat?” Michael gestured upwards.
The boy sniffled. “Yes. Snowball got chased by this big dog and now she won't come down, and I'm afraid she'll stay up there forever...”
“Forever's a long time. Let me see what I can do.”
Michael slid back into his seat. “Kitt, is there anyway to get that cat down? Can you spot any ladders?”
“I'm afraid not, Michael. We really must go.”
“What about if you eject me just a short way up?” Michael mused, pressing his fingers together under his chin thoughtfully.
“That would be unwise.”
“I didn't ask if it was unwise, pal. Okay. Give me a short boost – ten feet.”
Mutely, Kitt began the countdown for the eject. Unworried by the silence, Michael prepared himself but wasn't quite able to clamp down on the sinking feeling in his stomach as he was hurled up through the open sunroof. The branch came closer...closer...and just when he realised he probably wasn't going to make it, Michael lunged forward and grabbed it, leaving his legs dangling out below him.
The cat eyed him up from a few inches away. Michael eyed her right back. After a vehement yowl, she leapt – Michael closed his eyes – and then started clawing her way down his jeans.
“Ow, watch it!” Michael exclaimed.
Snowball the cat meowed disdainfully and launched herself from his boot to the ground before running into the arm of her owner. Michael glared at her before calling, “Kitt? Do you think you can catch me?”
“I'll need a moment to align my – ”
A horrible snap in his ears was the only warning before the branch broke, sending Michael back down the way he came. Except it wasn't a cosy chair he landed in – his back met Kitt's bonnet with a loud bang. Staring balefully up at the tree, and then across to the boy holding the cat, Michael slumped over the side and dragged himself back into the car.
“Thanks, mister!” the boy said enthusiasticaly before running off.
“Nice catch,” Michael told Kitt sarcastically.
Kitt's modulator flashed. “I'm terribly sorry, Michael. Is there any way I can make it up to you?”
Suddenly feeling sympathetic at what sounded like guilt in Kitt's voice, Michael tapped his fingers over the dashboard. “Forget it, okay? You'll do it better next time.”
“What if I don't?”
“Kitt. We're late here. Time to step on it, don't you think?”
“I could let you play whatever music you want on the way back to the Foundation,” Kitt seemed to be thinking out loud.
Michael sighed. “Tempting, but not necessary. Forget it.”
“I could load some computer games for you.”
The words of placation died on Michael's lips.
“Sounds good to me, partner,” he agreed, thinking of a much more entertaining ride home.
Angelica Patterson's manion was more fortress than anything else, ringed with tall forbidding bar fencing and complete with a small force of security guards at the entrance. Michael adopted an open expression when one came to the window and held out the newly minted card supplied to him.
“Michael Knight,” he informed them. “I'm from Swedish Massage While You Wait. Miss Patterson is expecting me.”
The guard leaned in to leer at him, a wad of grey gum sticking to his molars. After scrutinising the card, he nodded and moved to the side as the gate opened. Michael waved casually at him as he passed and proceeded up the long drive way. Glancing around the rolling lawns and accompanying rows of trees, he had to admit it was a nice set up.
“You'd need an army to get into here,” Michael mused out loud.
“An army? Hardly. The fence has many weak spots which might be exploited by a – ”
“Kitt. Shut up.”
Michael parked outside the entrance, where a tight-faced attendant gestured for him to follow. Winking back at Kitt, he made his way into the mansion. Kitt's red sensors whisked backwards and forwards.
“No need for him to get snappy,” his voice came quiet. “All I did was correct him.”
Turning into the room, Michael didn't quite expect to find his client standing there already. Even less expected was her attire – or lack thereof. Adorned in a towel that was wrapped around her from under her shoulders, she held out a hand which he took in his own, delivering a flash of a smile to her. She shook his hand firmly.
“I have a meeting shortly,” she said briskly. “So do not take forever.”