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Asset Management Chapter 1

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

Washington, DC was the beating heart of the political machine and a favorite location for networking and high-dollar fundraisers. The Republican Party always took advantage of this particular venue because there were so many rich, conservative donors who lived nearby. Most of the supporters of the fundraiser considered the décor of the enormous ballroom elegant with its imported marble floors and handcrafted crystal chandeliers. Toni, however, was oblivious to her surroundings.

 

“At least I get to play bartender for part of the evening. Look at all these fat cats stuffed into their too tight tuxedos,” she grumbled into her wireless communication device. “God, how do their wives crawl in bed with them every night? Don’t their big old potbellies get in the way? Kim, make sure to steer Byron to my bar as soon as they get here. I’d rather not cut this too close.”

 

Toni carefully scratched under one side of her ash blond wig. It and hazel contacts created the illusion of a typical college student picking up extra cash by working the special event.

 

She sighed, unable to shake the feeling that something terrible would happen tonight. Ha, feeling. Toni chuckled aloud. At least that was one thing she and Sophie had in common. She knew Sophie didn’t put any weight on all that mumbo jumbo crap that Kim was always talking about. Toni and Sophie dealt in facts and things you could actually see and hear.

 

Toni shifted uneasily behind the bar as she thought of the fateful night when a similar suspicion had burrowed into her unconscious brain. As it turned out, that feeling of doom proved spot-on.

 

Can’t think about that now.

 

The only good outcome from that night was Sophie’s resignation from the FBI and the subsequent partnership and joining of forces with her two best friends. The price paid was brutal to everyone. Sophie lost her partner, Nat, and Toni felt the loss of a good friend. In addition, Nat’s death left Sophie bitter and suspicious of almost everyone.

 

Sophie entered the ballroom, offering her escort for the evening a quick smile as she excused herself.

 

Toni whispered into the comm link. “I don’t see Kim. Where is she? That bastard better show.”

 

“Calm down, Toni. I just saw Kim and Byron out front. They should be here in five. I’ll direct her to you as we planned,” Sophie replied, when she was well away from prying ears.

 

Sophie’s transformation, in her salmon-colored evening gown that hugged her curves in all the right places, amazed Toni. She also noted the admiring glance that Kim quickly masked as she resumed her character for the evening.

 

Kim’s ability to adopt any persona they needed constantly shocked Toni. As a former theatre graduate from Stanford, Kim was, by far, their most talented undercover player.

 

“I’ve got a bad feeling about tonight. Did you place our contingency disguises where the cameras can’t track the change?” Sophie asked.

 

“Of course. The paranoia of these bank execs sometimes works to our advantage. The hotel always has to have a few very private locations for their guests. I’ve found every one of them and used the schematics for the building to ensure safe hiding places. I see Kim coming in now so you’d better hurry back to your date. Kim picked out a nice dress for you, by the way, so I can’t wait to see what she picked out for me. She certainly has a flare for selecting just the right outfit. Whoa…”

 

“What? Something wrong? Is Kim okay?” Sophie asked.

 

“Yeah, yeah. Check out the redhead coming in behind Kim and Byron. Wow. I definitely need to meet her.”

 

“No. No way, Toni, you do not have time tonight. Didn’t I just say I have a bad feeling?”

 

“Shh, date alert at two o’clock, intercept in less than three.” Toni distracted Sophie, narrowing her focus in the direction where the two couples were connecting.

 

Sophie turned and accepted a glass of wine from her escort.

 

Byron and Kim approached Sophie and her date.

 

Byron glanced at Sophie and his eyes traveled up and down her body, spending an extra couple of seconds seemingly admiring her cleavage.

 

Toni listened intently to the conversation of the two couples as she continued to serve drinks.

 

“Hello, Ted. I hear the divorce is now final. I see you haven’t wasted any time. Who is your lovely companion?”

 

“Byron. I’m glad you could make it. This is Amanda. Amanda, this is Byron and…?

 

“Oh, how rude of me, this is Wendy,” Ted added.

 

The two couples shook hands.

 

“I see you already have drinks. I hope the bars are stocked with the good stuff and not some inexpensive off brand,” Byron remarked.

 

“I overheard someone saying that only some of the bars are carrying the more expensive liquor. I believe that bar there is one of them.” Sophie pointed to where Toni was serving.

 

“I’ll come with you. I’d like to ask about their wine options.” Kim took Byron’s arm.

 

Toni’s eyes were surreptitiously on Kim and Byron as they walked to the bar where she was serving. “Good evening, sir, what can I get you to drink?”

 

“I’ll have a scotch, neat. If you don’t have anything better than Glenlivet eighteen, I suppose that will suffice, but do not give me any Johnny Walker Red or other similar brand.” Byron turned to Kim. “Wendy, what would you like, dear?”

 

“Can you tell me what options you have for white wine?”

 

“We have either a chardonnay or a Riesling,” Toni replied.

 

Kim frowned, then expertly turned Byron’s attention to her while Toni poured an inexpensive Johnny Walker Red. “Perhaps you can indulge me later in your room if they don’t serve a pinot tonight with dinner.”

 

“Here you go, sir.”

 

Byron took a small sip of his scotch and immediately scowled at Toni. Setting the glass on the counter and pushing it toward her, he growled in irritation, “I specifically requested not to have an inexpensive scotch. Will you please check to see what other options you have?”

 

“Oh, I am terribly sorry, sir, let me check.” Toni used her most apologetic tone.

 

She casually retrieved the glass, carefully avoiding the sides and turned around while she used the special latex to capture his prints for fingerprint recognition. She pulled a bottle of Glenlivet from the hidden shelf, along with a bottle of pinot. Carefully placing the latex inside a napkin, she turned around and smiled at Byron and Kim. Pouring from the Glenlivet bottle, she handed the new drink to Byron.

 

“I found a pinot. Would you like a glass, miss?” Toni asked.

 

Kim smiled at Toni. “Yes, that would be lovely, thank you.”

 

Toni handed her the glass of wine, fumbling it and spilling it on Kim’s hand and the edge of her sleeve. “Oh, my God, I am so sorry. Let me get you some napkins.”

 

Toni began wiping Kim’s hand and sleeve and then handed her the napkin with the latex print.

 

Kim discreetly placed that napkin in her purse and used another to wipe at her sleeve.

 

Toni watched closely and registered Byron’s irritation at her clumsiness, but fortunately, he didn’t appear to take notice of the exchange between them. They had choreographed their subterfuge well.

 

The commotion drew Sophie and Ted to the bar.

 

Ted smirked at Byron. “It seems your requirement for a particular brand of scotch is more trouble than it’s worth. We should just skip the before dinner drinks and instead, enjoy an after dinner cocktail in our rooms. Separate rooms—I wouldn’t want to crash your party, Byron.”

 

Byron’s irritation seemed to dissipate. Although they’d planned for this, Toni was uncomfortable with the knowledge that he probably recognized this as the perfect opportunity to get Kim to his suite. She suspected Sophie was having a full-fledged shit fit right now about his apparent eagerness to get Kim alone.

 

“Quite right, Ted.” Byron turned to Kim with a broad smile. “I do hope you will join me in my room later. I’m sure I can arrange to have a bottle of pinot brought to the room.”

 

“I’d like that, Byron. Thank you for the offer and for inviting me tonight.”

 

“I assure you, the pleasure is all mine.”

 

Toni glanced over, saw the look of loathing in Sophie’s eyes, and glared at her. Blowing their cover with a display of obvious emotion wasn’t an option. Sophie needed to remember that Kim was a pro and had the situation under control.

 

Toni had no concern about Kim’s ability to get close enough to capture a high-quality picture of Byron’s retina, using her specially designed camera embedded in Kim’s colored contacts. Byron was not a tall man, so she knew that Kim’s three-inch heels would provide the perfect angle to capture a high-quality shot of his iris. And Toni knew it would require a closer, more intimate atmosphere for her to get the job done.

 

“I better head to the ladies’ room and see if I can try to salvage this dress,” Kim announced.

 

“I’ll come with you. I might even have something to help remove any possible stain,” Sophie offered.

 

“We’ll meet you at the table by the podium after we’ve had a chance to network a little bit,” Byron said.

 

Sophie and Kim strolled to the bathroom while Ted and Byron mingled with those around them.

 

As soon as they were well away from their dates, Kim whispered into her comm link. “Time to start phase two, Toni. Your style change is in the west wing hospitality bathroom. I hid it in the ceiling tile above the first stall. Cameras are deactivated.” Kim chuckled.

 

“I know that laugh. What the hell kind of outfit did you pick for me? I better look hot. I need to connect with that stunning redhead,” Toni whispered into her comm link.

 

“Oh, you’ll look hot all right, but the amount of cleavage might be a bit risqué, even for you, Toni. It will definitely be a completely opposite look compared to your normal combat boots, leather jacket, and ripped jeans.”

 

“Perfect. Thanks, Kim.”

 

“Don’t get sidetracked by that redhead. I may need your help later with the transfer of images. The lens is your prototype and I’m anxious to see the results,” Sophie added.

 

As soon as Kim, Sophie, and their dates left the bar area, Toni slipped the pill that would simulate the symptoms of food poisoning into her mouth. It wouldn’t take long before she developed a sudden need to visit the bathroom and had the excuse she needed to leave her bartending station.

 

 

Sophie entered the bathroom and made a quick sweep of the stalls to ensure they were alone. Kim carefully extracted the latex hidden in the napkin and handed it to Sophie who delicately placed it in a plastic zipper bag. Sophie gently pushed back an errant lock from Kim’s expensive wig. She placed her hands on Kim’s arms and absently stroked down Kim’s well-defined triceps.

 

Kim smiled.

 

“Listen, I want you to be extra vigilant with Byron. I’ve heard some things about him that I don’t like. Even if we have to abort the mission tonight, don’t hesitate to call for reinforcements. Don’t take any chances and don’t let that slime bag take things too far just to get a good picture. Toni and I will be listening in, so all you have to do is say the magic word and we’ll be there in a jiffy.”

 

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve done this a thousand times. I’m an expert at wiggling out of an unwanted embrace. He’s a banker, for God’s sake. I think I can handle him.”

 

“Your welfare is more important to me than completing this mission. I, um…”

 

Kim took one of Sophie’s hands and interlaced her fingers. “I know, Sophie.”

 

 

Toni burst into the bathroom, rushed to the toilet, and vomited.

 

“Damn, I thought it would only look like I was getting sick. I didn’t actually think I would be puking up my burrito. I’ll never eat Mexican food again.” Toni yanked a generous supply of toilet paper off the roll and wiped her mouth. “Hey, do either one of you have a mint or something?”

 

Kim pulled a stick of spearmint gum and a roll of mints from her purse. “Here. You still look a little peaked, but it should wear off quickly, especially after the big purge. Sorry. I guess the side effects are different for different people.”

 

“You’re looking kinda cozy there, did I interrupt something?” Toni grinned.

 

Sophie frowned. “We better get back and Toni, you need to get dressed.”

 

“Relax. I’m on it. I’ll hang out here for another minute or so. I don’t want them connecting us, even while I look like Cathy College. I still don’t like that you two are in such close proximity to one another tonight. Don’t forget to avoid the cameras. Sorry, Kim, but we’d better not recycle any of these disguises—both of you really stick out. I know we’re supposed to capitalize on your looks to get close to Byron, but nondescript disguises put us less at risk.”

 

“Good point. I personally would rather we use a different tactic in the future than put Kim in danger of being mauled by some disgusting middle aged bank exec,” Sophie added.

 

“See you later tonight. Break a leg, Kim. All we need is that picture, then Sophie and I can work our magic.”

 

Kim and Sophie exited the bathroom just as Toni’s stomach acted up again.

 

“Shit, I am never volunteering to do this again,” Toni grumbled.

 

Toni leaned over the sink and tossed cold water on her face. A warm hand touched her back. She looked into the mirror and was surprised to see the stunning redhead.

 

“Are you okay? Can I get you anything?” a husky alto voice inquired.

 

“Thanks. I’ll be fine, just a touch of food poisoning, I think. I’m heading home right now.”

 

“Would you like me to call you a cab?” The woman was looking closely at Toni. She appeared to show genuine concern, but alarm bells were going off in Toni’s head.

 

“No, but thank you. I’m good now.”

 

Toni rushed out of the bathroom in search of her next disguise, hoping Kim left a toothbrush and toothpaste for her.

 

 

Toni glided into the ballroom and watched as several heads turned in her direction. She was scanning the room hoping to set her sights on the redhead.

 

Almost as if she felt her scrutiny, Toni turned her head right and locked eyes with her object of desire for the evening. A practiced glance at the table revealed an open space. The dinner portion of the evening was almost ready to start and she wanted to make sure she was sitting at the same table. Toni made a beeline for the table before her golden opportunity passed her by.

 

“Is this seat taken?”

 

“It is now. We were wondering who would be brave enough to join our boring little group.”

 

Toni noticed the woman openly appraising her dress. Gaydar intact. Yep, she definitely plays for our team. Toni quickly glanced at the other table guests who were all distracted with their own conversations. Several others in the group pinged her gaydar.

 

Toni raised one eyebrow. “Boring, huh. Well in that case, I ought to seek out another table. I was hoping this was the one to start the table dancing.”

 

“Attorneys never table dance. We buy the table dancers. How much?”

 

“How much what?”

 

“How much will it take for me to get you to table dance?”

 

“A kiss and you have to join me.”

 

The woman chuckled and her husky laugh sent shivers down Toni’s spine.

 

Damn this woman is sexy, even her laugh causes me to tingle.

 

“Touché. You are certainly going to liven up my evening,” the attractive redhead remarked.

 

“Camille.” Toni offered her hand. “At your service.”

 

The woman extended her hand. “Heather. I’m glad you decided to join us. Can I ask an entirely rude and inappropriate question?”

 

“Such a sweet talker. How can I resist such a request?”

 

“Why are you here by yourself?”

 

“Oh, that’s easy. My date had a sudden onset of food poisoning and she insisted I go.”

 

“Hmm, it must be going around, I just met a woman in the bathroom who also mentioned having food poisoning. I hope it didn’t originate in this hotel.”

 

“No, definitely not. Probably just a coincidence.” Toni paused. “How come you aren’t here with a date?”

 

“I’m married to my work, so I have very little, if any time for a social life. When I’m lucky, like tonight, I snare unsuspecting women into my web.”

 

“Promises, promises.”

 

“Would you like a glass of wine? White? Red? Take your pick.” Heather pointed to the two bottles of wine on the table.

 

“White, please.”

 

“At the expense of sounding cliché, what do you do when you’re not attending boring fund-raisers and livening them up with table dances?”

 

“Oh, a little of this and a little of that—mostly related to technology.” Toni learned a long time ago that the best cover stories usually have an element of truth to them, so she offered up this partial truth. This woman seemed like a person who could detect a bullshit cover easily.

 

After graduating from Stanford with a degree in computer science, Toni had expanded her knowledge base by entering into the fascinating world of biometric security. Learning how to break nearly fail-safe security systems led to her prototype development of a high-resolution camera that would capture near perfect retinal displays—good enough to break any biometric security installed. Her crowning achievement was placing the camera into a paper-thin contact lens.

 

“Technology, huh? Sounds riveting.”

 

“Are you making fun of me?” Toni asked, smiling flirtatiously.

 

“No, never. I am a bit of a geek myself in my limited spare time.”

 

Waiters began delivering salads to each table and the women’s conversation subsided momentarily. Toni was well aware of her prior commitment to complete the mission and assist Sophie with the security breach and asset movement, but she couldn’t help inquiring about this beautiful woman’s plans.

 

“So, do you have any specific plans for the evening, after this little shindig ends?”

 

“I thought maybe I would hit a strip club or two, get a lap dance, and gamble away my entire inheritance. You?”

 

Toni burst out laughing. “Oh, I plan to accompany you to those strips clubs, give you that lap dance, and steal several of your thousand-dollar chips while you are distracted and getting drunk on cheap liquor.”

 

“Perfect, shall we begin our festivities at ten p.m. on the dot?”

 

“I think it might take us a bit longer to get to Vegas, unless we take your private jet. You do have a private jet, don’t you?”

 

“Of course, but we’ll have to find a different mode of transportation to get us back to DC, because I plan on putting up my jet as collateral and I am sure to lose that at the roulette tables.”

 

“Fine, I’ll call my buddies to spring us from jail and provide first-class transportation back to the land of politics.”

 

“Wait, why will we be in jail?”

 

“Oh, I plan on counting cards and then telling them that you put me up to it. Then you’ll vigorously deny the accusation. I’ll take that as my sign to throw a punch at the smelly security guard you’re in a nose-to-nose argument with, but the police have already been called and gun beats fists any day of the week,” Toni joked.

 

“Will you finally make a pass at me in our cozy jail cell?”

 

“I’ve been making passes at you since I sat down at your table,” Toni quipped.

 

“You do realize that before the night is through you and I will be in a passionate lip lock.”

 

“I’m definitely not opposed to a quick bathroom break.”

 

“I thought you would never ask.” Heather smiled.

 

“I might as well find out whether you are a good kisser, before we start our wave of crime.”

 

“I don’t think you will be disappointed.”

 

“No, I don’t expect I will.” Toni stood up and offered her hand to the redhead. “Shall we?”

 

Toni glanced at her watch to make sure she had enough time to enjoy her rendezvous in the bathroom. She knew that Kim hadn’t had time to get a picture yet and suspected she would have to join Byron in his hotel suite.

 

 

In an effort to maintain a certain sense of decorum, Toni resisted the urge to race to the bathroom, despite her craving for the beautiful redhead. A quick glance around the restroom confirmed that they were alone. Toni luckily remembered to turn off her comm link—a few minutes of silence wouldn’t be the end of the world.

 

Toni tugged the redhead into the handicapped stall and locked the door. “More room,” she offered.

 

“I see you’ve done this before.”

 

Toni’s eyebrow lifted in mock surprise. “You haven’t.”

 

“I didn’t say that. Just making an observation,” Heather responded.

 

“While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all the witty banter—a total aphrodisiac—no offense, but stop talking.”

 

Toni pushed the redhead against the bathroom door and crushed her mouth, finally satisfying her need to capture those luscious lips.

 

Heather closed her eyes and Toni thought she saw her surrender to the kiss in a way that was more emotional than physical.

 

Toni ran her hands up and down the outside of her dress and almost lifted up the dress to access her panties, but for reasons unknown to her she stopped.

 

Too bad I had to meet this intriguing woman while on a mission and in disguise.

 

Toni couldn’t believe she was about to stop herself from fucking the redhead in the bathroom stall—but something seemed totally wrong about the situation. Heather was way too classy for a cheap one-night stand.

 

Toni broke from the kiss, panting, and looked directly into the woman’s eyes. She thought she saw arousal and maybe something else, before the woman pulled back. She recognized the mask of controlled interest. It was a role she played often.

 

A look of inquiry replaced the mask. “Why did you pull away? It was just starting to get interesting,” Heather asked.

 

Toni offered an uneasy cough. “Um, I wouldn’t want your tablemates to start spreading rumors. We ought to get back to the table and force ourselves to suffer through the remainder of the speeches. I was dying to feel your soft lips and that’s enough for now.”

 

“To be continued, then…”

 

“Absolutely.” Damn, if only it were that simple. All the subterfuge was killing her chances to develop any kind of real relationship. Toni knew that eventually Kim and Sophie would acknowledge their feelings for one another leaving her the only one to continue to flit from woman to woman.

 

I wonder how I might run into her as Toni.

 

For some reason she wanted to get to know this woman and playing one of her twenty other aliases was damned inconvenient.

 

 

Toni and Heather sauntered back to their table and received knowing smiles and nods from their tablemates.

 

Toni looked at the other tables and noticed that Byron and Kim were no longer at their table. Good, it won’t be much longer now.

 

She knew that Byron probably convinced Kim to have a drink in his room, which is exactly what they needed. Toni smiled to herself as she noticed Ted sitting by himself. Nice work, Sophie. It amazed her how Sophie always managed to wriggle free from dull politicians and businessmen.

 

Toni turned her head noticing Heather’s sudden intense scrutiny.

 

“Have I smudged my lipstick?”

 

Heather shook her head. “No. I was just thinking about going to Vegas with you.”

 

Toni raised an eyebrow. Something told her that was only a ploy. “I believe you said we’d be meeting for that later tonight at ten.”

 

Heather smiled. “That I did,” she said, before picking up her fork and taking a bite of her salad.

 

 

Kim flashed Byron her most charming smile as she entered his suite. “Thank you for inviting me tonight, Byron. I’ve had a lovely evening. If you don’t mind, I really only have enough energy for a quick after dinner drink. It’s been a long, hectic day so I think I’d better retire to my own suite after that.”

 

“Of course, my dear. Let me just open up this bottle of pinot that I asked them to send up and we can relax for a few moments.”

 

Byron crossed to the bar and opened the wine. Kim had a flash of discomfort when she wasn’t able to see exactly what Byron was doing as his back was turned toward her. The comment Sophie made earlier about hearing things about Byron resonated before she tossed it aside and focused on her mission.

 

Byron smiled at Kim as he handed her the wine.

 

Kim, sitting on the loveseat, shifted to make room for Byron to sit close to her. Perfect. She turned to face Byron, looked directly into his eyes before touching the button concealed as a sequin on her dress. Pressing it three times, she sighed in relief. Three shots should do it. Now to get out of there.

 

Their glasses touched in a toast.

 

Byron, with a lust-filled expression, looked directly into her eyes. “To our next Republican President.”

 

Kim took a small sip. “It’s a done deal,” she said. She was ready to make her excuse to leave.

 

Byron frowned. “Is the wine not to your liking? I can have them send up a different bottle.”

 

Kim, not wanting to make her exit too obvious, decided to finish the glass before making a graceful exit. “Oh no, the wine is lovely, but I do really need to leave after I finish this drink.” Kim took a larger sip from the wineglass.

 

 Byron smiled.

 

The faster she finished, the quicker she could join Toni and Sophie. Just as she took another big sip, Sophie’s words came rushing back to her. She began feeling dizzy and noticing Byron’s satisfied smirk, she knew he had spiked her drink. The previous warning settled too late into her consciousness, yet she still had enough wherewithal to let Sophie know the score.

 

She touched another button—I’m in trouble—while attempting to clear her head. “I don’t know what is wrong with me,” she slurred. “I suddenly feel dizzy and I know I haven’t had enough alcohol to become impaired.”

 

“I simply cannot let you leave when you feel this way,” Byron said, patting her thigh. “Come with me and you can lie down and rest for a bit until you feel better. I will escort you back to your room when you are up to it.”

 

With Byron’s hand on her back, Kim managed to stand before he encircled her waist with his arm urging her toward the bedroom.

 

Kim knew she was slipping further into the abyss and summoned all her strength to resist. “No. I think I’d better head back to my suite. Please, Byron, take me back,” she pleaded.

 

A thud against the outside suite door resounded in the room and Kim saw Byron turning his head in the direction of the noise. God, please let it be them.

 

 

Sophie and Toni burst into the suite.

 

Sophie narrowed her gaze at Byron, who was holding Kim upright.

 

“What the hell is going on? How did you get into my suite? Security,” Byron screamed.

 

Sophie rushed to Kim’s side and pulled her away from the man’s grip. “What the fuck did you give her, you slimy bastard?”

 

Byron, caught unaware, readily let go of Kim. “Hey, she’s my date.”

 

“Not anymore.” Toni turned to Sophie. “I’ve got her, go ahead, and take care of him.”

 

Sophie delivered a quick, well-placed strike to Byron’s carotid artery interrupting his blood supply.

 

Byron collapsed onto the floor.

 

Sophie followed Toni, leading Kim out of the suite. Kim stumbled and Toni pulled her in a tight hold, half dragging, half lifting her to safety. They only needed to get to the room where they’d stashed the new disguises.

 

Just a few more feet. Almost there. Shit. Thank God, Kim was such a little bitty thing, Toni thought.

 

While Toni was helping Kim, Sophie methodically pulled Byron’s security team, who littered the floor in the hallway, into the suite. Toni was pleased by her friend’s martial arts expertise. She left Sophie to finish the job. She was thankful that Byron’s suite was in the section of the hotel where the privacy of the guests was paramount and security cameras were magically absent.

 

 

Toni managed to get Kim to the private suite at the end of the hall where they had stashed the new disguises. She pulled out the key card to enter the room quickly and without notice. Sophie had already ensured there were no security cameras, eliminating prying eyes from the transformation that was about to take place. Toni pulled Kim to a chair to prop her up and get her attention.

 

“Kim, honey, look at me and let me see your pupils. Come on, hon, let me see those beautiful orbs.”

 

“Mmph, Ton, jus let me sweep, lil nap, pease. Come on, not en of worl’, aft all. Jus a few mins, pease.”

 

“Shit. If Sophie doesn’t kill that bastard, I just might. Kim, I know you want to sleep now, but I need you to help me just a little bit.”

 

Gently pulling Kim forward, Toni pushed down the zipper at the back of her dress in an attempt to remove her gown. She needed to replace it with the old lady style-pantsuit sitting in a duffel bag next to the king-sized bed.

 

“Mmph. No. I don wan’ you to, wan’ Soph. Lub Soph,” Kim slurred.

 

“I know, hon, I know. I promise I’m not trying to take advantage of you, but Sophie is kind of busy right now, dragging those bastards’ asses. I promise she will be here soon and then she can take over.”

 

“I made mess, drink spiked, shoulda known.”

 

Toni sighed in relief as Sophie burst through the door.

 

Sophie narrowed her eyes and frowned at Toni.

 

Toni threw up her hands in defeat and exasperation. “Hey, don’t you look at me that way, you big Neanderthal. I’m just trying to help Kim into her new disguise. Get your freaking head out of the gutter and get your ass over here to help. Better yet, you get her changed.”

 

Toni glared at Sophie, who she suspected had the good sense to realize her initial reaction was wrong, as she looked away in embarrassment.

 

“Sorry,” Sophie mumbled to Toni’s retreating form.

 

“Soph, you came. You my hero, I lub you,” Kim slurred.

 

Sophie’s face turned a bright shade of fuchsia as she continued to dress Kim and apply the latex face of an old woman.

 

Toni was quickly donning her own disguise as another old woman. As she finished with her latex mask and popped in the new contacts that would turn her eyes to the watery blue of an old woman of eighty, she sighed.

 

“God, I hate all these theatrics that Kim always prepares for us. This latex is so God damned itchy I want to scratch my freaking face off the entire time I have to wear it,” Toni complained.

 

“Shut your piehole. You know as well as I do that her disguises keep our lame asses from jail and your sweet tushy from being Bertha’s beeotch.” Sophie was stroking Kim’s hair as she put the finishing touches on her disguise.

 

“Fine. Whatever. You better get your ass in gear and get into your old man’s outfit before those goons wake up. As soon as they do, you know they’ll start doing a room-to-room search for us. How long do you think Byron will be out? He is going to wake up, right? You didn’t kill the poor bastard, did you?” Toni asked.

 

“No, I didn’t kill him but I wanted to. We have a good half hour.”

 

“Good. That’ll give us time to get that retinal scan into the computer and make the transfer of funds.”

 

Sophie grabbed the suit and tie that was just a bit too large for her, creating the illusion that her advanced age was the cause for the ill-fitting suit. She added a hat and cane to her outfit and adjusted her posture to appear hunched. The transformation was compelling.

 

“Come on, grab Kim’s other side and put the walker in front of her. Hopefully, we can act like she has difficulty walking and the added prop will lend some authenticity to the disguise. I’m glad Kim thought to bring that.”

 

Toni grabbed the collapsible walker and helped Sophie place Kim’s hands on the rails. Sophie and Toni each took a side and moved forward slowly creating the appearance of three people of advanced age shuffling to their next destination.

 

“All right. Here we go. It’s showtime. Do you have all the computer equipment we need in our getaway vehicle?” Sophie asked.

 

Toni lifted her lip in a snarl. “Why do you always do that? I’m not an imbecile. Of course everything is set up according to plan.”

 

“I never said you were an imbecile. It’s just that you sometimes get distracted with extracurricular activities. You had to take that redhead to the bathroom, didn’t you? I don’t think tonight was really the time or place to get distracted. Now look what’s happened.”

 

“Hey, I’m not the one who offered up Kim to go up to that prick’s room and have a drink, just so we could get the retina scan. She offered because you know that Kim is the only one who could pull that off. I’m sure no actress and I’m not even going to comment on your lack of finesse. If we left it up to you, your inner Neanderthal would have surfaced and you would use toothpicks to pry his eyes open after you bashed in his head. Oh, wait, you bashed his head in after that chop to his neck. Just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

 

“I did not bash his head in for no reason. After I temporarily cut off his oxygen supply with a quick blow, I had to make sure he would be out for a while. Hmph. Why am I even bothering to explain myself to you? You overgrown, hormonal, oversexed, miscreant.”

 

“Ah, ah, ah. Careful or I’ll start thinking you don’t love me anymore. Come on time’s a wasting.”

 

 

Shuffling out of the suite, the three friends managed to make it to the elevator just as the door was opening. Toni waved her gnarled hand to signal to the occupants of the elevator that their entrance might be a bit slow.

 

“Going as fast as we can,” Toni’s old woman voice said.

 

 “Lobby, please,” Toni warbled out as they settled in the elevator cab. A man punched the lobby button and, in sync with acceptable elevator behavior, looked the other way, politely waiting for the elevator to reach their desired destination.

 

Toni reached in her pants pocket for the valet parking ticket that would bring their non-descript car around to the circular drive in front of the hotel. The parking attendant was patiently waiting as the three friends slowly made their way to him. The attendant jogged to the car and pulled up at the exact moment they reached the front of the hotel. Toni handed the attendant a five-dollar bill. She would like to have given him more, but that would have called too much attention to them and they couldn’t afford to do that. He smiled at her and she suspected he was grateful for even the small amount.

 

“Thank you, ma’am. Do you need any assistance getting into your car?”

 

“No thank you, young man,” Toni responded. She was almost positive the young man was working his way through college. Noting his nametag—Brian—she would find out the parking attendant’s full name so an anonymous donor could provide him with a college scholarship.

 

“You have a great evening.” Toni settled Kim into the backseat then, waving at the man, she got in on the passenger side while Sophie climbed in on the driver’s side.

 

 

Sophie drove the car slowly away from the curb and cautiously entered traffic.

 

Sophie glanced at Toni. “If you stowed away the right laptop, the program is all set up for you. All you have to do is load the disc.”

 

“Humph. I stowed the right equipment—you arrogant shithead.”

 

Toni pulled the specially designed laptop from under the seat. Her fingers flew across the keys at a record pace. She pulled the digital photo disc from her pocket and inserted the specially designed mini CD into her laptop.

 

One hundred strokes later, she leaned back and smiled. “Gotcha, you bastard.” The screen flashed a transaction complete message confirming the transfer of funds. “Oh, what a wonderful sight to see.”

 

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