This interview was originally published by The Plotline on September 30, 2011.
I created Special Agent Kathrin Night in 1986. She graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1994, and has worked for (officially and in some cases unofficially) MI6, Naval Intelligence, the FBI, CIA, NYPD and the BITA (investigative arm of the United Nations Security Council).
I could tell there was going to be trouble when I walked into the room. Her dark lashes gave her amber eyes a sort of otherworldly gleam. Maybe it was just the lighting. I studied her; as always, her hair was perfect, shiny, wavy, wild…looking touchable and seductive. Such smooth skin on her strong jaw…I couldn’t help but stare at my creation. Beautiful, tough, and complex: she was more like a warrior than anything else. I felt badly that I’d put her through everything I had in three books – with many more to come. Shattering her ankle and taking her out of active service now seemed cruel. I suddenly felt guilty.
“Special Agent Night,” I smiled, having a seat across from her.
“Author,” she replied.
“Author…” I repeated, sort of disappointed she’d been so impersonal.
“You don’t like that.”
“It’s not about what I like, really.”
“Well, you know I don’t care for doing interviews,” she said quite factually.
“I know. I appreciate that you came.”
“I didn’t think I had much of a choice.” She raised her right eyebrow.
That eyebrow told me everything I needed to know. She was now in control.
“So,” Agent Night said, cocking her head slightly to the left, “I have some questions.”
“Okay, shoot,” I replied, realizing shoot was not a wise word to say to a trigger-happy character. “I mean, go ahead…ask away.”
She took a moment…most likely to profile me: evaluating my jewelry, my make-up, and my posture before she spoke. “You don’t seem to have a confidence issue.”
“That’s not a question.”
“True.” A twinge of a smile appeared, then disappeared as quickly. “Do you feel threatened by me?”
“On the contrary. I have a great fondness for you.”
“Then why are you constantly beating the…daylights out of me in our books?”
“It’s not like that.”
“Come on – over the course of three books and a pending sequel, you’ve practically drowned me, thrown me out of an airplane, bashed my head into a concrete floor, tried to strangle me, had me standing on an improvised explosive device…you’ve left me in the desert to die, had me beaten and tortured and…”
I needed to slow her down. “Whoa…wait a minute…I don’t do anything to you that I know you can’t handle.”
“Handle? And then you send me to a shrink. What exactly is that all about? And the flashbacks…I almost forgot about those.” Her eyes were narrowed and fiery.
“Listen, I’m very careful about what I do to you. I have faith that no matter what I throw at you, you’ll find a way to rise above it. You haven’t let me down yet.” She still looked angry – more like ‘seemed’ angry since no one could ever see through her Poker face. “I actually try some of the things I do to you to make sure you can get out of them. I’ve had to tone down a couple because they were too dangerous.”
That eyebrow went up again. “Tone down? Really. Like what?”
“Like in the Nubian desert. I was going to have them tie your feet to your hands, then your hands to your neck, so that if you tried to get free, it would choke you.”
“You DID do that,” she interrupted.
“Right, but I was going to have them tie a plastic bag over your head as well.”
“I would have been dead.”
“I know that…now. I had thought you could tear the bag open with your teeth, until I tried it myself, that is. Having that bag tied over my head was terrifying…there was no way to grip it with my teeth, and I couldn’t get the rope untied before I’d run out of air.”
“I didn’t realize you’d tried that.”
“Yeah,” I nodded.
“What’s the deal with the Russian?” she asked without warning.
I couldn’t believe it. “The Russian? That’s what you call him?”
She reconsidered the reference to her lover. “Aleksey. What’s the deal?”
I shook my head. “He’s your partner. Domestic and otherwise. I’m not sure I understand your question.”
“You have a habit of taking away whatever you give me.” She paused. “I kind of like having him around.”
I smiled. It was her way of asking me not to kill him off. She was growing to love him, as I’d hoped. I was glad. I really did want her to be happy. “He’s good for you.” I could sense she was thinking about his bright smile, his turquoise eyes and his sculpted physique. At least I knew I was. He truly was a catch.
She moved on to the next subject like she had a list in her head. “How much do you and I have in common?”
“As time goes on,” I smiled, “not too much. We’ll both always believe in doing what’s right, in seeing justice served.” I tried to think of other things, but she was so much more than I could ever be. “I’m sorry if you thought I was beating you up. I have to make things realistic.”
“It’s part of the job.”
“I just wanted to understand your motivation behind it. I’d rather have things that way than be a coward.”
She was always strong, always determined, and I was proud of her. “I hope you can enjoy Aleksey. And I hope you can appreciate Doctor Scully.”
“Scully…” she sneered. “Why are you wasting my time by sending me to a shrink?”
“I’ve put you through a lot. You don’t even realize some of the things that happened to you in your childhood. Dr. Scully can help you with all of that, if you’ll let her.”
“You know I have trust issues.”
“Yeah, I know that. But I also know you’ll figure out who to trust when the time is right.”
She took a breath. “Falling from that cliff in Afghanistan…and shattering my ankle…those things happen in my line of work. The assailant won’t kill anyone else, and I’m walking better than anyone expected. Sometimes I can’t even tell I was injured. The pain doesn’t bother me. But not working…well, I have a hard time with that.”
“I understand. But sometimes things happen for a reason. Sometimes people get on the wrong track and they need something monumental to get them onto the right one.”
“How is fighting terrorism the ‘wrong track’?”
“It was starting to suck the life out of you,” I explained.
“Am I going to get my career back?” Before I could answer, she said, “I want to rephrase the question. Are you going to continue to dangle carrots in front of me or are you going to let me do what I’m made to do?”
“Yes.” I knew toying with her was dangerous. But for some strange reason, I couldn’t resist.
“To the latter?”
“Yes,” I smiled, finally giving her something. I owed her that.
“Thank you,” she actually smiled back. But I knew the smile wasn’t for me. It was because she was glad she was going to be fighting injustice again. It was, after all, her life.
“For the answer or for letting you get ‘back on track’?”
“Yes,” she said, and quite glibly at that. Then her face changed, a sort of satisfaction came over it. “I just thought of another way we’re alike. Neither one of us seems to ‘play well with others’.”
She was right about that. I got the feeling that the interview was almost over. I wanted to hug her, but that kind of thing would only make her feel awkward. And I’d already done enough to her. I wanted to tell her that I was always with her, but she didn’t need that kind of reinforcement – she’d probably roll her eyes at it. What could I say before we parted ways that would let her know how much I admired her? I was a big wuss, and she was a rock.
“Hey, writer lady,” she said with a single nod, “are we done here? I have a hockey game to get to.”
“You don’t have any other questions for me?”
She blinked. “Yes, one more actually.” A pause preceded, “Is your life as good as mine?”
I was flabbergasted: paralysed by so many thoughts that they morphed into blankness. “What?” I said with nearly a double-take.
“Other than my ankle, I’m in excellent physical condition, I do basically whatever I want, I’m extremely comfortable financially, I have a fantastic mountain home on the West Coast and my penthouse in New York City…and the only thing I really have to worry about is going back to work. Do you have it that well?”
“Why do you ask?” I really didn’t know what else to say, and that kind of popped out.
“Your shoes are quite worn which tells me that you can’t afford new ones. The skin on the tops of your hands looks dry, and your fingernails aren’t all the same length, indicating that you do chores, wash your hands a lot and don’t take the time to take care of them. Your eyelids have a tinge of yellow – so your liver isn’t as healthy as it should be. You look tired, and borderline anemic.” She cocked her head, and those waves of silken brown hair shone gold under the overhead lights.
She was an amazing profiler. Everything she said was spot on. “No. I don’t have quite the life you do.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” she replied after studying me for a moment longer. “Take care of that liver. I’ve got more for you to document.”
“That you do,” I smiled, knowing in her own indubitable way, what she was really trying to say. “Tell Aleksey I said hello.”
“I will. And please thank Rose for this opportunity to go one-on-one with you. I’d originally thought it was a bad idea, but it worked out.” She effortlessly pushed herself up from the chair and headed towards the door.
Although I constantly hear her voice in my head, seeing her in this way was so different. I wanted to say or do something…the ‘just right’ thing… more for me than for her. Her sophistication made me feel like a dork in comparison. “Special Agent Night,” I blurted as she opened the door.
She turned slightly and looked at me. I stood, straightening my posture as tall as I could, then gave her my best possible Navy salute. “It’s an honor to know you.”
“Likewise,” she said, saluting back. And then she was gone.