Cutscene: On the Trail of Dead Men

April 18, 2017:

In which Isa Reichert reflects on her current investigation, and Agent Coulson's efforts yield information.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Phil Coulson

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The town of Cardona, Spain, is a sleepy little town northwest of Barcelona. Locally, it's best known for its natural rock salt deposits, mined since Roman times and used throughout the region. Up on the hill, the Castle of Cardona caters to tourists with its views and its Parador hotel inside. It's a luxurious setting, perfect for romantics and travel afficionados.

Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva is not here to be a tourist.

She had taken the quinjet down onto an abandoned field. Abandoned, its roof has caved in, and the property is in disrepair. Perfect for the SHIELD agents' purposes.

Her reassurances to Coulson that she could sleep in the cockpit had been hollow. She'd stared at the dark instrument panel for hours, unable to sleep.

Now, twenty minutes before three o'clock in the morning, the vast sweep of the Milky Way glimmers overhead like luminous gauze.

With a grunt Isa pushes herself from the seat, fishing her cigarettes from the pocket of her bomber jacket, huddling into the shoulders more securely. It was his jacket, and while it no longer smells like him, it's still comforting to keep close.

It's also an excellent jacket. The night is cold.

Glancing down the vestibule to make sure Coulson's attention is elsewhere, she takes her Stetchkin pistol, tucks it into the waistband of her jeans, and eases out of the quinjet as quietly as she can. He wouldn't approve, but she won't go far. Just enough for a cigarette to soothe her nerves.

She stalks a short distance from the aircraft, looking around with the haunted tension of a deer before finally slumping against a tree trunk. Fishing a cigarette out, she pinches it between her teeth, fumbling around for her lighter.

The flick of a cigarette lighter had never sounded so loud to her ears or seemed so bright. She cups her hand around it, shielding the tiny flame as she looks up, suspicious.

It's not paranoia if they really are out to get you, she'd told Coulson, though at the time she'd meant it more flippantly. Yet the sentiment was true then, and even more so now. That sensation of being watched still clings to her like oil over water. Going outside might not have been the best idea, but the cockpit was beginning to feel stagnant; choking.

Isa leans back and draws unhappily on her cigarette, exhaling a wreath of smoke and looking up at the veil of stars above.

Oh, Misha. What had you gotten yourself into? Who did you piss off, and what did you do to get yourself killed? Her frown deepens as she looks to the stars. What were you involved in, and what really happened to you…?

But the stars have no answers.

At five minutes to three o'clock an electronic message reaches Agent Phil Coulson's account. The only content is security footage, sent from the staff of a small hotel in the French Riviera.

Its grainy footage shows a handsome man with short blonde hair and blue eyes scanning the lobby and walking up to the front desk. He's wearing casual clothing, with a clumsily-knit grey scarf thrown haphazardly around his neck. There's an honest quality to his trim features, but the shadows under his eyes and hollows under his cheekbones suggest a man haunted. His jawline sports a faint five o'clock shadow and a thin scar running from his cheekbone down to his neck.

He certainly doesn't look like a man of evil intent. The tired smile he gives the woman at the desk comes too easily, and there's no malice in his eye. He doesn't look like a governmental agent, either; there's a bit of polish and sterility missing from his appearance and mannerisms for that. He's dressed too casually; carries himself too loosely.

Either he's an innocent man, or he's one who happens to be a very, very good actor.

Yet he must be a good actor. An incredible actor, even, because this is the face of a dead man.

The sophisticated facial recognition software available to an agent of Phillip Coulson's calibre identifies the man as one Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov.

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