If you have not read all three books in The Alexis Stanton Chronicles you may not want to read these next two chapters because they contain spoilers.
This phone conversation had served its purpose, yet the Admiral always had to build and rebuild the plan before he was satisfied. And come to think of it, I don’t know if he was ever fully satisfied, even when the operation turned out perfectly.
Admittedly, I’d do this exact same thing until the action was complete, but I did it internally. I didn’t need, or want, an audience. Yet, his was a great mind to have on our side, so I let him continue with his brainstorming. Another half an hour on the phone wouldn’t hurt as long as it kept him happy. Besides, he did come up with the first and decided upon course of action. At least the view from my office was stimulating.
My eyes caught a green Mustang pulling into the parking garage. I knew the vehicle didn’t belong to any of my partners but something about it made me think I should recognize it.
The Admiral’s voice continued on as I sorted through my thoughts and tried to place the vehicle.
“No, Admiral. I don’t think force is needed—”
I swiveled my chair around and divided my attention between the Admiral’s voice and the front office. The only place in the building the owner of the vehicle should be coming was to this office. It was true that my partners and I sometimes entertained company in our apartments, but they were almost always late night entertainments.
I smiled as I recalled my latest overnight diversion and considered giving her another call. It had only been three days, maybe she wouldn’t be offended yet that I’d not made that first call.
Less than two minutes later the main office door opened to an attractive young woman. She was far enough away that I couldn’t get a detailed look at her face but her figure and dress were enough to pique my interest. Again, that feeling of familiarity swept over me and I squinted to try and get a better look.
I watched as she walked up to Gabriella’s desk and started talking. Why the hell did she seem so familiar?
I couldn’t make out the words and wondered what kind of job would bring someone like her to our office. We didn’t take on many private clients unless they were high profile people, mainly because our prices were too high for the average person to afford. Maybe that’s why she looked so familiar. Maybe she was famous somehow and could afford to hire us.
“Yes, sir.” I reassured the Admiral I’d been listening.
I turned away from the door. Though I knew the plan was set and so did the Admiral, the last thing I needed was to piss him off because I was distracted.
I tried to give the Admiral my full attention but couldn’t resist a few stolen glances into the front office. Her legs were a welcome distraction. But what I saw her doing out there was even more interesting to me. She was filling out paperwork.
The only people who came in and filled out paperwork were applicants. We only had one ad running in a couple of mercenary magazines right now and she certainly didn’t look the type to be reading that kind of material.
Though we weren’t looking to fill any one position right now we were always hiring. We did have a fairly high turn over and I’d recently interviewed a new applicant that I was running through some extra steps. If he would have applied to the correct department he’d already be hired and undergoing training, but he had to come here instead. He thought coming to the source would give him a better shot, but it didn’t. Following directions gave a person a better shot.
Leonard Budman was ex-Army and could be trainable, but his attitude wasn’t the best. He had an other than honorable discharge and that always flagged our applicants. He’d have to prove himself first and more so, now.
Come to think of it, she shouldn’t be here to apply either. The ads listed our Nevada compound for the address. I’d have to ask Gabriella to call and ask them if they were giving out this address to applicants. I didn’t have time to interview and hire people.
The Admiral’s voice droned on and I eyed her legs again from a distance. I’d have to check out her application after she left. The feeling of recognition alone was worth a little research and her appearance was definitely worth an accidental meeting at a later date.
I was still on the phone when Gabriella brought in a folder filled with paperwork.
“One moment, Admiral.” I put my hand to the mouthpiece of the phone.
“Ms. Stanton,” she gestured to the woman in the front office, “filled out a full application. I checked it and she left nothing unanswered. I told her you’d review it if she filled it out completely.”
I looked past Gabriella into the front office again. Stanton? That’s why I thought I knew her. I actually did know her. Well, not personally, but I’d done my research after the Admiral had suggested I run that ad meant to draw her in.
That had been a long time ago and I only did a brief check of her back then because I didn’t think she’d actually show up – ever.
What the hell do I do now? Her sex appeal sky-rocketed because now that I knew her name, I knew sex was forbidden.
“Admiral, I’m going to have to call you back.” I didn’t even wait for him to acknowledge me before I hung up.
I confirmed the name with Gabriella. “Ms. Stanton?” She nodded.
“I’ll go over it. Please ask her to wait. I shouldn’t be more than half an hour.” I put my hand on the stack of papers.
As soon as Gabriella shut the door I started pouring over the application. I’d gone over all of the pertinent information in less than two minutes and used three more to prepare for what I needed to do.
I moved the comfortable chairs that were in front of my desk to positions that would be inappropriate for an applicant to use. Next, I went to the closet and brought out the one stark chair I used for interviews. It was always best to not let the applicant get comfortable. I needed to see how they performed under pressure and this was just the first step.
This was a special case, requiring extra finesse. If I could persuade her not to take the job, things would be much easier for me.
The Admiral had helped me set up White and Associates with money, jobs and suggestions that were sometimes veiled orders.
Shortly after the company was established he came to me with a help wanted ad he wanted me to place into the local paper.
Person wanted with specialized training.
Exciting and highly paid position.
Inquire at 1324 Plaza Dr. Suite 73
Monday through Saturday
When I pointed out the ambiguity of the ad and how it would probably pull in more unqualified people than qualified ones, he told me it was tailored to bring in a specific person— his daughter. And, he wanted me to make her a partner.
“But, sir,” I objected. “I can’t promise her true partner status. I’ve got my other partners to consider and don’t forget, they don’t know about our agreement.”
“I understand, Malone.” The Admiral replied. His voice was suspect. It wasn’t clear if he really did understand.
“If it comes down to it, you are the sole owner of this company and you can either tell me to go screw myself or ask your partners to get on board. It’ll be up to you. Even the jobs you place her on will be of your discretion. I’ve got bigger plans for her and White and Associates is only a jumping off point. I mostly just need her to continue her training in real world situations. I’d be very appreciative of any consideration you could give me in this matter.” This had been a thinly veiled order. “Maybe she’ll never take the bait.” He smiled and I could see the worry behind the determination.
I knew at that moment I had no choice but to bring her on if she ever showed up to apply for the job.
I pushed the button on the intercom. “Gabriella, send in Ms. Stanton please.”
I heard her enter the room and shut the door before I turned my chair away from the window to face her. This was an interview I’d hoped and thought would never happen.
She stood there, perfectly still. Her application hadn’t listed any military experience but this is exactly what I expected of my applicants. This was not what I expected from her. I took this moment to size her up. Her behavior was a mystery. It made sense that the Admiral wouldn’t send me someone completely green.
After several minutes she still didn’t show any sign that she was at all uncomfortable. I’d have to try and remedy that. I grinned inwardly.
As she stood there, I drank in all of her features and realized I was memorizing her not out of habit but out of pleasure. My appreciation of the opposite sex was a very familiar action but this felt different somehow. It must be the taboo aspect.
“You can take a seat,” I gestured to the hard backed chair in front of my desk.
I hadn’t seen her walk into the office so I watched her movements closely now. A lot could be determined by a way a person moved. Her movements were fluid, resolved and sure. Confidence is very attractive in a woman and I found myself more and more attracted to her as the minutes ticked by.
We sat there, staring at one another for several more minutes. Again she didn’t falter. She intrigued me. I had anticipated her to look around the room nervously at some point or to start speaking before she was given permission.
This interview was strictly for show so between my internal praise of the woman in front of me I was trying to figure out how I was going to sell this to my partners.
“Good. Now, Ms. Stanton, what branch of the military were you in? I didn’t see it listed on your application.” She obviously had some kind of training.
“I’ve never served in the military, sir.” Her chin lifted a little higher with this admission.
“Where did you train at?”
“I was lucky enough to come from a family with means and I received my training at home from Chief Slade, sir.” Her voice was clear and controlled.
This threw me. “Is that so? I served under Chief Slade myself. I didn’t know he’d gone into the practice of servicing the civilian sector.” This admission from her was highly suspect and made me lose my game face for a split second.
I couldn’t imagine Slade training a civilian at any time, for anyone. Not even the Admiral.
“I’m sorry, sir,” she said. “My father is affiliated with the Navy. That’s how and why I was lucky enough to be a student of Chief Slade.”
“Your father would be…?”
“Admiral Robert S. Stanton— sir.” She hesitated before she added the sir. I was finally starting to get to her. But, her bold statement evoked a myriad of emotions.
Deep down I’d been hoping she wasn’t the Admiral’s daughter; that there was some kind of mix up going on, but she was the one. I could only hope that the Admiral had been as thorough with the training of his daughter as he was with everything else. I was going to have to convince my partners to take her on. That was not going to be easy unless I pulled rank. Pulling rank wasn’t something I liked to do because these men were like brothers to me. She’d better live up to the recommendation.
“Admiral Robert S. Stanton? Now that’s very interesting. Didn’t he leave the service before he reached Admiral?” I knew the true answer but I wanted her to explain her lofty claim.
“Yes and no, sir. I’m not sure as to his exact title, but I do know that he is and has been for some time now a commissioned Admiral, sir.” Maybe she didn’t even know what kind of claim she was making by walking in here and announcing she was the Admiral’s daughter. Maybe, to her, it was nothing but the facts and not something she threw around to get her way.
“I see.” I flipped through her paperwork. “Have you ever been employed to work a job like this one?”
“No, sir. I don’t believe so. I’m still a bit unsure as to what this job is though, sir,” Her confidence was waning and I started to feel a little sorry for her. The Admiral had plans for all of us and she was no exception. I wondered what her full plan was.
“You will know what it is when and if you are hired to do the job,” I told her. Who was I trying to kid? She had the job. I couldn’t refuse to hire her. At least she seemed to have most of the basics down. From what I could gather from our first meeting, she had potential to not be a complete disaster. And, if I was going to be completely honest with myself, my first impressions left a strong after taste of temptation in my mouth.
“Thank you, Ms. Stanton,” I said with a tone of dismissal. “I will be in touch within the week one way or the other.” I couldn’t help but give her a genuine smile as she started to stand. My instinct was to stand as well, but I reminded myself that she was a recruit now, not a lady. A smile was all I could allow and probably shouldn’t have given her that much.
As soon as she left my office I called the Admiral back.
“Your ad finally brought in its target.” I informed the Admiral as soon as he answered his phone.
“Good,” but he didn’t sound pleased.
“I’ll present the partner option to my men as soon as I get off the phone with you.”
“White? I don’t want you to put her on the job coming up. I don’t think she’ll be ready for it. Is that clear?”
“Of course.” I was reluctant to continue. “There is one more thing.”
“She has your address listed as her residence. I need to install some surveillance equipment to make the acquisition believable to my partners and give her a taste of what she is up against. I won’t hide the inconvenient parts of the job from her. In fact, I’m going to make this especially hard for her.”
“She’s in the guesthouse out back. If your man has any trouble accessing the place, let me know.”
Calling my partners in took less than two minutes and they all walked in less than a minute later. I was still putting the hard backed chair back into the closet.
There were no greetings, no handshakes. Everyone just got comfortable throughout the office.
“What’s this about?” Red asked as I moved to the front of my desk and took a seat on the edge.
“I’ve decided to take on a new recruit.”
“You’ve accepted Leonard already?” Black asked with some disgust in his voice.
“Not Leonard. A woman.” I watched everyone’s faces closely. We did have a few women scattered through the company but not many. Women just didn’t apply for jobs of this type.
“So,” Brown cut in, “is she hot?”
“That has no bearing on my decision. Her name does, though.”
I gave that a second to sink in and waited for any comments but everyone was quiet.
“It’s Admiral Stanton’s daughter.”
“What?” Red sat forward in his seat. “You’re going to hire the Admiral’s daughter? Do you think this will get us special treatment or something?”
“We already get special treatment and yes, I do think this will help. But,” I stood from the corner of my desk and handed him her application, “she does have a good start.”
Everyone was watching Red flip through the paperwork.
“I don’t like this, White.” Red said after giving the paperwork a quick once over and handing it off to Black.
“Then you’ll like this even less.” I looked around the room to gauge the mood, as if it mattered.
“I’m going to offer her partner status.”
“What?” Now Red was standing, Blue and Brown both became much more alert and Black looked up from the paperwork. Green sighed, slapped his knees to aid himself in rising and moved to stand next to me.
“For whatever reason White wants to offer her partner, I’m behind him,” he announced. Green was usually quiet and sometimes I even forgot he was part of the team until I needed him. But, he was always there when I did need him and today was no exception. His motives were a mystery, but at this point, I didn’t care what they were. At least his move got Red to sit back down.
The rest of the guys were quiet as Black went back to his scrutiny of Ms. Stanton’s application. He was thorough and the office was quiet for almost ten minutes before he handed the paperwork to Blue to take his turn.
He stood and moved toward the desk as a sign that he’d back my call. But, before he took his place next to Green he said, “You will hand her off to me for training.”
“Of course.” I agreed to his terms with relief and he nodded his approval and stood next to Green with his meaty arms folded tightly.
Blue must have gone straight for the pages listing her weapons experience. He frowned. “She’s had basic firearms training. Unless she’s a crack shot, she’ll have to work hard. Do you know her work ethic? We can’t get that kind of info from paper.” He tossed the thick application to Brown who caught it just before it spilled out of the folder and onto the floor.
“I didn’t say I would be putting her out on jobs all by herself immediately and I didn’t say I’d ever put her out on a job of consequence if she doesn’t measure up. She will be hired, given the title and we will go from there. According to her app, she’s pretty good with computers. If we have to, we can let her be in charge of C.I.C. when we need her. The only real issue here is whether or not we are willing to pay her a wage for the opportunity to open more doors.”
“She must be hot for you to want to hire her as a mascot,” Brown said as he poured over her information. “I don’t see a picture and it looks like I’m going to have to spend an excessive amount of time with her, too. She’d better be hot.” He brought the folder up to the desk and handed it to Green, who hadn’t had an opportunity to view it yet.
“Nope.” He held up his hand in refusal. “I already know everything about her.”
This made me look at him quickly.
“So what?” He shrugged. “I make it my business to know as much as I can about people who could affect us. You know that.” He looked around the room. “What?” he repeated. “She’s the Admiral’s daughter. I did my research a long time ago.”
“Oh, Brown,” Green added as an after thought, “she is hot.”
“When we are done here, you and I are going to have a chat,” I said to Green quietly.
“I guess I’m in, then.” Brown moved to the desk leaving Blue and Red in their chairs.
“Blue?” I pressed.
“As long as you make sure she stays out from under foot. I don’t want her up in my business if she has no place there.”
I nodded and Blue took his place next to Brown.
“Red?” He was outnumbered and his and Blue’s votes didn’t really matter since I had the rest of the team standing with me, but I still wanted to give him the chance to give his thoughts.
“I don’t know,” he pointed to the folder on the desk so I handed it to him. “I abstain until I have a chance to go over this completely. I know the decision has been made, but I’d like a better feel for her before I approve or condemn her.”
“Fair enough.” The men all went back to their previous seats before I continued.
“Green, get her address from the folder. She lives in the guesthouse. I want cameras and audio installed right away. I’d like eyes and ears in every room.”
“I know where she lives.” Once again he waved away the folder being handed to him. “Short or long term?”
“Indefinite surveillance, this is the Admiral’s guesthouse and eyes and ears in there could prove useful at some point. It’s a shame she didn’t live in the main house.”
I finished the meeting by letting them know I was going to allow her to do the bank job we had scheduled as her first test and then I promised her to Black as soon as she had either passed or failed that test. Then we took a vote on her color. Grey was mentioned because we didn’t know much about her. She was a bit of a gray area for us.
My leg vibrated and then the sound of the ringing phone reached my ears. I dug in my pocket and checked the incoming number and then the time.
That didn’t last as long as I thought it would, I thought to myself.
“Yes, Leonard?” I answered.
“Yeah, boss?” Wherever he was, it was loud.
“What do you need, Leonard?” I feigned boredom.
“I have a small problem.” He practically yelled into the phone.
“Son of a bitch, Leonard. Did you bother her anyway? I told you not to.” His silence spoke volumes.
Earlier that day I’d told him he had some competition for the job. It wasn’t true. I just wanted to test both of them. I gave Leonard just enough information to make Stanton easy to find. I’d hinted that I didn’t know enough about her and just as I’d hoped, Leonard must have shadowed her. I thought he would have lasted at least twelve hours. This wasn’t a good sign for him. Especially since Stanton was untrained. At least the background noise I heard meant he wasn’t in jail.
“Where are you?”
“The Skylight on 1st and Main.”
“Stay there. I’ll be there in a few.” I didn’t wait for his response before I hung up. It was an order; I didn’t need his confirmation.
I immediately called Black and told him to round up Blue and meet me at The Skylight downtown. Then I gave Green a call to let him know that Stanton was away from her place right now and I’d make sure she was gone for at least an hour. That should give him enough time to install the surveillance.
The drive didn’t take long but I waited for Black and Blue before I went inside to meet with Leonard. When they arrived I had them park and wait for my signal. It was possible I wouldn’t need them, but I liked to be prepared.
About an hour after Leonard called I walked into the Skylight. The building was set up with the bathrooms as the first third or so of the building and a corridor stretched their length to a set of swinging doors.
I stepped through the doors and into a busy bar scene. The bar was full of dancers and drinkers, some of them familiar to me. Colin DeLange was on the dance floor with a leggy blonde. He gave me a nod of recognition and I returned it. He was never going to move up if he spent all his free time in the bars, I thought to myself.
I found Leonard at the bar and gave him a questioning look before I crossed the distance. He indicated the bathrooms back down the hall I had just navigated.
I retraced my steps and relaxed against the wall near the doors to wait for Stanton to appear.
Before long she emerged from the restroom and walked my way. And, again, her body language spoke to me. I left the appreciative smirk on my face even after I noticed it was there. This was the second time she had affected my game face and I enjoyed the challenge.
She was fluid and graceful. She didn’t have any of the jarring movements you see as people’s feet hit the floor and especially with women as their hips move from side to side. None of that determined catwalk swagger for her, but that didn’t mean her stride wasn’t full of determined resolve. It just happened to be a fluid type of resolve, natural and polished.
“Mr. White,” she greeted me coolly. I returned her greeting with a slight nod and followed her through the swinging doors. Her chin lifted a little higher and she put a little more purpose into her walk, removing some of the easy grace. She then nodded to Leonard at the bar. He grimaced and I allowed myself a slight grin before I took a seat next to him at the bar.
I watched until she slid into a booth across from the dance floor. She’d stay put long enough for me to talk with Leonard.
“So, what happened? I’ve guessed that you followed her. What did you want my help with?”
Leonard started to explain but I stopped him because our target was moving again. She moved toward the dance floor, a lot of her confidence gone from her step. Satisfaction started to bubble up until I noticed she went straight for DeLange. This could be a problem, I thought.
The Admiral had recruited both Colin DeLange and me for various parts of his plan. I would head up the outside connection and Colin would take the Admiral’s place and head up the internal one. The arrangement was convenient for all of us. But, Colin having a relationship with the Admiral’s daughter put a new spin on the full picture. I might have to break that up.
I couldn’t have a distant partner that had an inside source. The Admiral had set things up to include a separation of power so we would have to work together. I had always wondered if Colin had the better end of the deal because even if White and Associates needed the Admiral, and someday Colin, they had other sources to utilize. I had built up White and Associates and we could function quite well without the government contracts, but I’d rather have them in my back pocket.
I knew I couldn’t get rid of the distant partner and I couldn’t get rid of the inside source without losing my companies clout. At least with the Admiral in charge I stood a chance of keeping control of White and Associates link to the government. I kicked myself inwardly for having burned that bridge. If only I had kept Colin closer instead of ignoring him. He still had some distance to travel to take the Admiral’s place and still had to prove himself. But, maybe he wouldn’t have to prove anything, just marry into it.
The two of them moved back onto the dance floor and I found myself admiring the way they moved together. They were talking and Colin kept his eyes on us the entire time. He obviously couldn’t resist the urge to flaunt his relationship because he gave me an accomplished smile. Was he trying to burn his own bridges?
I became placid and started planning. I still didn’t know what kind of potential the Admiral’s daughter had. Her application was promising so it was highly possible she could offer the company more than just another in with the Admiral.
When the music turned from the slower set to something with a little more energy I watched as Colin tried to place his hands in places reserved for boyfriends or husbands. Stanton didn’t seem affected by the touches except to make sure his hands stayed in more appropriate places. That made up my mind. I could turn her to my side if I played my cards right.
Finally they stopped dancing. Colin’s body language, as they walked back to the booth, was protective. He had feelings for her, even if she did put him in his place. This could be a tricky situation and I’d have to be careful with each step I took. I wished she’d never found that ad. Things had been perfect right where they were. The Admiral assured me that I’d be able to retain control of the company when Colin took his place, but did that matter if I didn’t get any more government contracts?
Making friends with Colin had been on my to do list and I’d never gotten around to it. I figured I had plenty of time. But, now that another part of the Admiral’s plan had fallen into place, that time might be slipping away from me.
The two sat in the booth and watched us as we watched them. I could do this for hours. It was relaxing to see my enemy sitting still and gave me the opportunity to think. This went on for several minutes but finally, they blinked. Stanton moved to the other side of the high backed booth and I could no longer see her. Colin’s attention diverted to her and the waitress who had come to take their order.
The waitress dropped off their order and I wondered if Stanton was a big drinker.
“How many has she had?” I asked Leonard.
“Four, including this one.” At least he could pay attention.
“What have you found out?” I continued.
“Not much, I think she’s who she says she is. She lives at the Stanton estate. She eats at Sal’s Sandwiches. She is a woman.”
“No shit, I noticed that at the office.” I said this last part more for myself than for Leonard. “How and when did she find out you were tailing her?”
“I don’t know. Her and her friend over there were looking straight at me when I sat down at the bar.”
“What?” Leonard asked.
“Can you see what he’s doing over there?” I gave a nod to the booth and explained because I knew Leonard would have no idea what was going on. “Sign language. She didn’t list that on her app. Let’s go.” I stood from my bar stool.
“Please tell Ms. Stanton thank you for her time and that I will be in touch with her tomorrow.” It was time to move this conversation elsewhere. I didn’t need to impart any more information than I already had.
When Leonard and I reached his vehicle I made him give me the step-by-step play of what he did from the moment he left my office up until the moment I met up with him in the bar.
It took some doing. No one had ever taught him the art of debriefing but I finally got the full story. Stanton had made him the second she saw him. I don’t know how he didn’t pick up on the significance of her returning to her place to change her shoes. She knew and he should have known and held back.
After I’d gotten as much from Leonard as I could I handed him a business card with our Nevada compound information on it.
“Here. Get yourself to this address and you’ll be placed in training.”
“So I got the job?”
“Not yet. You’ve proven you need additional training before I can put you on any jobs, but I’m willing to give that training a shot.”
When he took the card from me his jaw twitched and his lips pinched together. I knew the night wasn’t over yet.
Stanton had plenty to drink before I left and she was still in the bar. I made sure to watch Leonard leave the lot before I went to my own vehicle. Thankfully, I’d found a parking spot that gave me a good view of the front door so I could be semi undercover to make sure she got home okay. It was the least I could do since I’d put Leonard on this path of discovery and now revenge.
I sat watching the doors for less than half an hour before a cab pulled into the parking lot. It could be meant for anyone in the building but I saw Colin stick his head out of the door and hold up a finger to ask the driver to wait.
My night was almost complete, at least I thought so until Leonard drove up, gave the driver some cash and then drove away again.
Stupid, I thought. Leonard was about to get his ass kicked. I still had Blue and Black hiding in the shadows but I’d take care of this one myself. Leonard was a big boy, but his lack of training in other areas probably meant his hand to hand was lacking as well.
I found myself looking forward to this. It had been a while since I’d had the opportunity to put a recruit in his place.
Stanton stepped out of the bar and took in a deep breath. Then she must have noticed that the cab wasn’t waiting as it should be and went right back inside.
Leonard made another lap in his black Crown Victoria. Then, two minutes later, Stanton reappeared and took a seat on the brick planter that surrounded the building.
Leonard pulled up directly across from her and stormed out of his vehicle. I was tempted to jump in right away but thought I’d wait to see how Stanton handled this one. She was the one who’d decided to apply for a job that involved this kind of activity on a daily basis. It wasn’t my fault nor was it my duty to babysit her. Besides, if Slade had trained her, she would have at least a basic knowledge of self-defense.
“Hey!” I heard Leonard yell at her through my closed windows.
Stanton dismissed him with a wave of her hand and bored look. I couldn’t hear what she said but it didn’t deter Leonard. He continued his advance until he was directly in front of her.
I watched as he roared down at her and she looked up at him with a tired expression. Finally, something he said caused her to stand. She was obviously unsteady on her feet and reeled forward. She caught herself on his chest.
Leonard took a step backward and his head bobbed back and forth making him look foolish. She really had him pissed off. This was a much more entertaining evening than I’d planned for.
Then, Leonard grabbed for her and I jumped out of my vehicle. I couldn’t let the Admiral’s daughter get her ass kicked by one of my recruits, even if I wanted to.
I didn’t have to come to her rescue because she dropped to the ground and did a leg sweep. Leonard was down and Stanton was back up, standing as if nothing had just happened.
Leonard finally regained his feet and took a boxing stance and began his footwork. I wondered what kind of a boxer he was. He’d listed boxing as one of his accomplishments but his style remained to be seen. If his style was classic this could last a while. Assuming he didn’t get a hold of Stanton. I leaned back on my vehicle to watch the show.
I glanced to my partners’ vehicle and hiked my head, signaling them to keep an eye on the two contenders.
When I turned my attention back to the fight unfolding in front of us I saw Leonard reach out with a jab. Stanton sidestepped, but not quickly enough. Leonard made contact with her shoulder. Damn, that had to hurt.
She hit the pavement but swept her leg out again without missing a beat. Leonard was down on the pavement once again. At least she didn’t just curl up into a ball and cry.
Both of them were back up in a matter of seconds. Leonard was furious. Stanton’s eyes were more alert and serious even though she was laughing. She was enjoying this. I was thankful my partners were watching this from their vehicle. It looked like she might be able to hold her own more than I thought.
She started talking to him again and he lunged for her. Stanton ducked and did the leg sweep for the third time. I suppressed my laugh. Obviously, Stanton didn’t know much more than the leg sweep but Leonard couldn’t get it through his thick skull to watch for it. Maybe she’d goaded him on purpose to cloud his thoughts. It was working.
My thought about her knowing nothing but the leg sweep was shot down as she climbed on top of his back as he started to rise. She had both of his arms held tightly behind him but his legs weren’t encumbered so he stood straight up with her getting a ride on his back. The satisfied smile on her face gave me chills. She had no fear. She was facing a man more than twice her size who meant to actually hurt her and she was loving it. Sometimes there was such a thing as too much confidence.
There was nothing more entertaining than watching two amateurs go at it. But, it was disappointing that I’d thought she might have a little more to offer and had drawn my partner’s attention to the fight.
That last thought sobered me and just in time. Leonard was turning in circles, trying to throw her from his back and this gave her the opportunity to see me watching the fight. Her expression changed to one of complete seriousness and she released her captive.
Leonard regained some of his composure and resumed his stance and she stood completely still and relaxed. I recognized that stance. It looked like she was just standing there, but I knew better. She was preparing to pounce. I guess she liked to play with her prey first. My nostril’s flared and I smiled at the expected outcome. From someone who hadn’t trained with Slade it would have been imperceptible but now I knew why she seemed so confident. She could take him.
They exchanged some more words and Leonard swung for her head and she was back in place to do the leg sweep.
Please, don’t. I want to see what else you’ve got. I willed the thought at her and wasn’t disappointed. She did a quick turn and was behind him. If she wanted to, she could have struck out and caused significant damage but she just waited for him to turn to face her again.
“You’re dead!” Leonard had completely lost his cool and rushed her. Stanton sidestepped again just in time. Leonard ran straight into the side of his own vehicle and she giggled. I found it hard not to join in her mirth but only allowed a slight smile to show through.
Leonard quickly regained his senses and turned toward her again.
“Are you getting dizzy?” She prodded as she put her hands in her back pockets. “If you persist in this you’re going to end up getting hurt. You know that, don’t you?” Her tone was matter-of-fact and slightly remorseful.
Leonard had descended to the pit of no return and screamed something unintelligible. He could never win this fight now. Even though she was drunk, she had more presence of mind than he did. He was not thinking at all.
He thrust out for her again but this time she caught his punch and broke his wrist.
“You bitch!” he screamed. “You broke my wrist.” He held his broken arm protectively.
“Are you done then?” She asked.
“Fuck you!” But, he didn’t make any moves to reenter the fight.
Since the fight was over I made my entrance.
“Nice job, Ms. Stanton.” I nodded to my partners to join us.
“Please call me Alex.” She smiled. “And, what the hell was that?” Her voice rose several octaves. My partners joined us before I could ask what she meant.
“Let me introduce you to Leonard.” I pointed to Leonard who was now on his knees in the parking lot.
“Nice to meet you.” She greeted him as if they had never had any prior contact. “I don’t appreciate being set up.” Again her demeanor changed from pleasant to pissed between sentences.
“Set up?” I would never admit that I put Leonard up to it. Hell, even he thought it was his own idea.
“Yeah, set up. There was no reason to sic your dog on me.” Her nostrils flared.
“I didn’t sic anything on you. I was waiting to make sure you made it home safely.’
“So you think I can’t take care of myself?” Her voice had no hint of any slur but I could tell the fight hadn’t completely sobered her up. She’d already had all the fun tonight so I reached for her. She was quick and was outside my reach before I could grab her.
We circled each other until she was in front of my car. I moved in again and this time I caught her right where I wanted her. I’d seen the blow Leonard had given her shoulder and knew that the pressure I was applying to it had to hurt.
She went limp in my arms for less than a second but that’s all I needed to have her down on the hood of my car. I released her shoulder but didn’t release the pressure of my body to hold her down.
I caught her eyes and I watch the fight drain out of them and something else fill them up. She was breathing hard so I slowed my own breathing. I don’t know if I can work with this woman. Everything she did had an affect on me.
“You cheated,” she pulled me out of my thoughts.
“No, I took advantage of a situation.”
“Yeah,” her eyes rolled a little and she turned her head some, exposing her neck to me. This was a temptation I almost could not resist so I let her up.
“This is Mr. Black and Mr. Blue,” I couldn’t suppress the sinful thoughts she’d given me as I’d watched her fight so I used this as an excuse to release some of the pressure through my expression.
She gave me an odd look so I continued, “I think it’s fun to put them together on jobs, what with their names.”
Her first genuine smile, other than her villainous grins she had during the battle with Leonard.
“I’m quite impressed. I didn’t expect you to be too proficient in fighting, considering your size.” She had a far off look and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, Mr. White. I’m really drunk and I think I’m going to be sick, please excuse me.”
She turned and hurried back into the building. The cab pulled into the lot and waited for its fare. I watched until the door closed behind her. Then I walked up to the cab and handed him some cash.
“She’s got a ride. Thanks.”
I took a deep breath before I removed my smile and turned to the men behind me.
“White?” He was still holding his arm.
“Where is that business card I gave you?”
“In my pocket.”
“Please, return it to me.” I held out my hand and watched the look of incredulity pass over his face before he retrieved the card.
“After you get healed up you can reapply through the proper channels.” His surprise turned to rage and he was spitting and sputtering when I nodded to Black and Blue. They escorted him to their vehicle to drive him to the hospital. The company would cover his medical bills for this excursion.
“I’ll have your car delivered to the hospital later so you’ll have a ride home.” I said as they slowed the vehicle to pass me in the lot.
I didn’t have long to wait before Stanton reentered the parking lot and looked around for her cab.
“Would you mind giving me a ride? I don’t know what’s up with the cabs tonight. They won’t wait for two minutes.”
“Leonard sent the first one away and I sent the second one away.” I led her to my Mustang and opened my own door. “Get in.”
She practically fell into the vehicle. “You know where I live?”
We drove on in silence and she was asleep before three minutes passed. When we reached her place I tried to wake her but she just slapped at my hands. I dug in her pockets for her keys and didn’t get any resistance. I opened her front door before I went back to remove her from my passenger seat.
I slung her over my shoulder and hauled her to her bed without too much trouble. I watched her sleep for a couple of minutes before I placed her keys on her nightstand and left her to sleep it off. She was an enigma.
Blue and Black were waiting in the parking garage when I got back.
“The office or your place?” Black asked.
The three of us rode the elevator in silence. As soon as I walked in I poured us each a glass of whiskey and took a seat at my kitchen bar.
“Not bad, for a girl.” Blue started.
“Impressive.” Black added.
“Yes she is.” I took a sip of my drink. “Should we give her a day to recover?”
“At least. You should have had me check out her shoulder before we took Leonard to the hospital. She is definitely a priority over him.” Blue was disgusted.
“Nothing’s broken. I felt it. She’ll have a nasty bruise but she applied for this job and we will not be easy on her. Just the opposite.” I eyed Black and he nodded his agreement.
“Green should have had more than enough time to install the cameras and audio.” I made my way to the war room. Each of the apartments had been set up with two bedrooms and each of us had used our spare room for something personal, except me. I’d turned mine into our main headquarters. The official term for the room was C.I.C. or Central Intelligence Center and we affectionately called it the war room.
Black and Blue followed me into the room and watched as I pulled up the feed. Green had done a great job. There wasn’t a square inch in the house that we couldn’t see, except he’d not placed cameras in the bedroom or bathroom. I’d give him this one this time. If she left her doors open I could see everything. Watching her shower might have its appeal but I would be working with her for a while so it might be best to leave some things to the imagination.
“I know you want to leave those cameras in there because it’s the Admirals guesthouse, but if she’s going to be a partner, you will remove them before too long.” Black told me as I zoomed in on the sleeping Stanton.
Blue grinned at me and raised his eyebrows.
“Fine.” I switched off the feed. “When I call her I’ll have her come fill out the required paperwork and then we can assign her the bank job. It’s simple enough and she’s probably more qualified for that job than any of us except maybe Green.”
“When do I take her?” Black asked.
“You can have her as soon as she completes the bank job?”
“Sounds good. I’ll have Brown fly me up in the morning to get things ready. I should be back sometime tomorrow night.”
“When do I get her?” Blue asked.
“I don’t know yet. Let’s wait for Black’s report before we make too many more plans for her. Maybe Black can get her to quit.”
“Why are you hiring her if you just want her to quit?” Blue’s face was confused.
“The Admiral asked me to hire her as a favor to him and I don’t want to jeopardize our standing with him. If she quits that’s on her, not me. I’ve held up my end of the deal and he shouldn’t hold it against us by withholding jobs.”
“I’ll work her hard.” Black said.
“If anyone can, it would be you.” I downed my whiskey and the men followed my lead.
“But, if she measures up, I’m going to back her all the way.” Black placed his glass on a table with conviction.
“Having a woman partner could be beneficial.” Blue added. “Her application, if on the up and up, is better than most we hire already.”
“I guess I’m expecting her to be under trained. But she is the Admiral’s daughter so maybe she won’t be too bad. But what do we do if something happens to her at work? How do I explain that one to the Admiral? Do you think he’d just forgive and forget?”
“I think the Admiral is a realistic man.” Blue set his own glass on the table next to Black’s.
“No need to borrow trouble, White.” Black said and led us out of C.I.C..
“I think I already have.” I grabbed up their glasses and brought them to my dishwasher as the men left.
I made my way back to the war room and double-checked the cameras. I left the feed up on the sleeping Stanton as I started my research.
I’d put it off long enough. Now I had to know what kind of person she really was. I was thirty minutes into my inquiry and my phone rang. A brief look at my watch told me it was still before midnight.
I pulled the phone out of my pocket as it rang again. The caller ID wasn’t familiar so I answered.
“What the hell are you doing Malone?” The man on the other end of the phone was not happy and sounded drunk.
“Who is this?”
“DeLange. Tell me why you’re interviewing Alex.”
A drunken DeLange on the phone could prove to be useful to my studies, if I played it right.
“She applied for the job.”
“You won’t hire her. Do you hear me?”
“Colin,” I used his first name to try to make the phone call more intimate. “I have to hire her.”
“The Admiral gave me an ultimatum.”
“Screw the Admiral. Please, don’t hire her.” His voice became imploring.
“Believe me, I don’t want to. I can’t afford to hire on inexperienced—”
“Don’t you dare underestimate her.” Colin became combative again.
“Maybe you can help me out here, then?” The line was quiet on his end.
“Neither one of us wants her here.” I continued. “What can we do to keep her out?”
“Damn it.” He swore. “I can’t conspire with you. She’d find out and then where does that leave me?”
“Damn it.” He swore again. “She’s my best friend,” he started to let it out. “She can’t work a job like this one.” I could feel his despair through the phone. “Please just promise me that you’ll watch out for her?”
“I have every intention of making her quit.”
“Not going to happen, Malone.”
“I think I can make her quit if I try hard enough.”
“No, you can’t. Trust me. You’ll be putting her out on jobs any day now. You’ll have to. She’ll be your best operative.”
“I’m sure she needs plenty of training. I can’t put untrained operatives out on jobs.” Colin’s desperation had gotten to me.
“She’s not untrained. That’s the problem. I’m sure she’s a bit rusty but she’s got the same training, less the real world experience, as you and I do.”
“The Admiral was that thorough?”
“Do you think the Admiral would plant this seed in his own daughter and not make sure she was prepared?”
“I see your point.” I sighed. “This is not going to be easy.”
“If you let anything happen to her, I’ll kill you.” He became venomous again.
“Whoa, man. Hold on. We are supposed to work together. Remember? We might as well use this as a beginning.”
“I’m not kidding, Malone. She’s my best friend.”
“Calm down, DeLange.” I should have used his first name, but his threat pissed me off. “You should know that she’s in good hands. I have no intentions of putting her out on any significant jobs, ever.”
“You will. Just keep her safe.” He hung up.
Interesting. She’ll be my best operative? We’ll see about that.