The door opened and a tall, striking woman in her mid-thirties walked in. Her dark hair was pulled back in a sleek ponytail at the nape of her neck. Her makeup accentuated her dark almond shaped eyes and olive toned skin. Her suit was cut along the same lines as Taylor’s only black instead of gray. Her tailored silk blouse was melon colored.
The men rose to greet her. She shook hands with Remington and the others, stopping when she got to Jason. She didn’t extend her hand right away, merely eyed him appraisingly.
“You must be Jason Banes,” she said, her voice deep and dusky.
“I am.” He looked cool and calm, but Taylor sensed wariness in him. He was prepared for an attack and wasn’t surprised when it happened.
“I have a bone to pick with you, Banes. Because of you, I’ve had to turn my security plan upside down and inside out—all at the last minute. Do you know how long I’ve been doing security?” She advanced on him rapidly, like a viper.
Jason smiled, not backing down like she expected him to. “If you say longer than I’ve been alive, I might just believe you. Though I doubt it.”
She stopped talking, mouth open. She almost tripped, but he caught her arm, righting her.
“I’m older than I look,” she said, snapping her lips together. “And you’re a cocky little bastard. I had this whole thing worked out perfectly, then I get a call from Gene telling me I needed to redo it and put two of his men into my lineup. I don’t like working with someone breathing over my shoulder. I run a tight ship, Mr. Banes.”
“Yes, and you’ve never dealt with a woman like Orchid, have you? I rather doubt it, or we wouldn’t be having this conversation—she’d have killed you as she tried to kill me. When she sees me, there are several possible reactions. One, she’ll bolt—in which case, she must be apprehended. Two, she’ll attack. I’m fond of my life, Ms. Mitchell. I’d rather not be killed. Three, she’ll do both. You get the idea.
“There are, of course, other permutations. I shan’t bore you. Orchid is as unpredictable as a tornado and just as deadly. She doesn’t play by the rules. I’m sure your security would have been adequate for a normal fashion show. This is not a normal show.”
“What makes you say that?” She didn’t want to listen, but couldn’t stop herself.
He took a step toward her, extending his hand with a tight smile. “Are you in the habit of inviting dangerously unbalanced psychopaths for cocktails, Ms. Mitchell?”
Her expression softened and she started to laugh. “You’re right, Gene,” she said over her shoulder to Director Remington without taking her eyes off Jason. “He’s an infuriating tick, but he knows his shit.”
“You called me an infuriating tick?” Jason didn’t know whether to laugh or have his feelings hurt.
“Not exactly. I said you could be infuriating like a tick that gets under your sack.”
Jason burst out laughing. The other men chuckled, hands dropping protectively to their groins.
“That’s true enough.”
“Good one, boss,” Tim said, offering his knuckles for Remington to tap.
The older man did so with a smart assed grin.
They took their seats and for the next half hour, Ms. Mitchell went over the security plan. It was quite thorough. Jason quizzed her with dozens of questions about this or that eventuality. Some of his scenarios were quite far fetched, which Bitsy Mitchell questioned. For each of her questions, he had a good answer. Not always so when the shoe was on her foot.
“You’re getting ridiculous,” she snapped after the fifth question.
“Ever worked with someone like Orchid before?”
“No. Have you ever been indicted by a grand jury before?”
“Are they merciless psychotics?”
Bitsy raised an eyebrow. “Not usually. Gene, this boy is wasting my time.”
“It’s not a waste of time if you go back and look for the flaws in your plan,” Jason said quietly. “Which I bet you do the second you leave this room. You won’t ever say so, of course, but you know I’m right. You haven’t planned for every contingency, just the most obvious ones.”
“It’s the not so obvious we need to take into account, Bitsy,” Director Remington added.
“You’re letting this kid dictate my job?” Bitsy sputtered.
“I’m letting this security expert give you some damn good advice. Quit looking at how young he is and listen to what he’s saying.”
“I don’t believe he knows what he’s talking about. What assurance do I have that he’s qualified?”
“Ms. Mitchell, I don’t have a resume, I’m a thief. I can, however, tell you a job I pulled. You can check it out. If you don’t believe me after that, fine. I’ll shut my mouth and be on my merry. But if you believe me, then you do this my way.”
“Very well.” She crossed her arms over her ample chest.
“Director Remington, I don’t want this coming back to bite me in the ass. I need your assurance that I won’t be prosecuted for what I’m about to say.”
Remington frowned slightly, bit his lower lip and nodded. “You have my word and the assurance of this group, that you won’t take any extra heat for this.”
Jason nodded. “The Harper Star Diamond.” Jason said politely, eyeing the others. “Moscow, 21st April, 2008. Five minutes before midnight, you received an anonymous tip….”
© Dellani Oakes
To Purchase Dellani’s Books:
Under the Western Sky http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Oakes_Dellani/under-the-western-sky.htm