“I do not want to walk up in that.” Lena shudders, digging her hand into he cap of midnight hair,“Please, dear Goddess, please put that crazy-ass brain of yours to work and come up with something.”
Crazy-ass brain, yep that’s about right. My brain is different. And while I don’t have an IQ in the high 190’s like all three of my sisters, it has its uses. For five years those uses were at the government’s disposal. They used it a lot. That relationship ended badly a little over a year ago. Now, I rarely had to pull it out of moth balls, but if ever there was a need, avoiding that sea of flopping flesh was it.
Closing my eyes, I shift the information in my mind, trying to ignore the sweat trickling down my back. It’s way too hot for the long-sleeve collared shirt I’m wearing, but it hides the dagger strapped under my wrist. Some women suffer for fashion while others of us suffer for the ability to make people bleed. “You think this guy would be using an alias?” I lift my long, stick straight, auburn hair off my neck, hoping to catch a breeze,
“Nah, he’s just an absent-minded hippee.” Lena pulls a hair band out of her jeans pocket and hands it to me, “Pretty harmless, likes to grow his own pot.”
I snap my hair into the semblance of a ponytail as the nebulous turns solid and clicks into place, “You still have that bull-horn in your car?”
“Chester Stubbs, where are you? You cheatin’ bastard. You gave me crabs!”
Crude, but effective. My words, powered by the megaphone easily carry over the fleshy sounds that will haunt my nightmares for years to come. I hear a scream, a shout, and the crack of an open palm. The sea of flopping parts parts like magic.
Nothing is going to freak out a bunch of people communing with their naked like the threat of tiny crawling critters.
My eyes search the newly open space and there, all by his lonesome, is a hairy, pudgy, pasty, sweaty, short, stubby bare-assed man. Figures. The tall, good looking ones with the six-pack abs have better things to do when they get naked.
Lena zips in behind him and grabs him while he’s trying to find the crazy woman with the bull-horn. Within minutes we’re on our way to the parking lot, not one single nudist tried to stop us.
“But I don’t understand….” Chester whines, skipping along between us. Lena had the good sense to cuff his hands in front of him, saving us from going blind.
“You missed your court date Chester.” Lena’s got her eyes focused on the parking lot straight ahead. At 5′ 3″ she’s got a short stride but damn, is she moving, “Maybe you should let up a little on the wacky weed.”
A flabby butt cheek waves at me from my periphery, “Where are your clothes?”
“On the other side of the camp fire.” Chester’s still whiny, “Can’t we go get them.”
At that exact moment we hear a shrill screaming sound coming from behind us. Lena turns, drops, and draws while I’m still wondering what’s going on. It’s a fraction of a second, but that’s what gives Lena an edge over the rest of the human population. Her reaction time is zero.
By the time I spin around and jerk Chester down she’s already ascertained the absence of a threat and lowering her gun, “Oh fuck me.”
I follow her horrified gaze out into the field, “Oh fucking hell…” The giant hand carved penis had hidden talent and is now…. erupting, cause I just can’t bring myself to think the other word, the huge bulbous tip shooting fireworks high into the night in a glorious shower of red and gold.
I decide it’s safe to rise. Lena’s already up. She turns wide disbelieving eyes on me, “Just what the fucking fuck was that shit?”
Chester looks between the two of us like we’re two of the dumbest people alive, “It’s Ejacula…”
“Shut it, Chester.” Lena cuts him off mid-word. Thank the Goddess. Probably due to the gun she swung in his direction.
I meet her eyes, careful to keep my own above flubber-butt level, “Trash bags?”
“In the trunk.” She slips the gun in the holster under her arm and tosses me her keys.
I pop the trunk of her Jeep Cherokee, toss the bull-horn back in, and pull out a roll of heavy duty garbage bags. Yanking off two, I slip the dagger from the sheath under my wrist, and cut out the corners of one. This is a little trick Lena picked up from a cop who got tired of the funk the criminal element left behind stinking up his patrol car. “Here stick your feet through the holes.”
Chester looks at the plastic and degrades to whimpering, “Can’t we just go get my clothes?”
“NO!” Lena and I both shout.
Sullen, he sticks his feet through the holes and pulls the trash bag up. I cut a notch in the center of the second one and two holes in the sides, while Lena removes the cuffs. He slips it over his head and sticks his arms through.
Lena reaches in the back seat, pulls out a bright green bungee cord and wraps it around Chester’s waist. Then stepping back, “I like it.”
I toss her keys back, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
We’re halfway back to Richmond when my phone starts vibrating.
“If that’s Allie tell her hell no I am not stopping to pick up coffee.” Allie and Lena share a townhouse. The one next door and sort of attached to the one Christy and I share. These types of arguments happen a lot.
I can’t make out the number so I just say, “Hello,” and hope it’s something simple.
“Alex? Alex Kane?”
Ah hell, I close my eyes and hit my head on the back of the seat. That greeting never leads to anything good. ‘Hey Mac’ – fine. ‘Sis, don’t be mad’ – sometimes problematic, but manageable. ‘Mckenna, dammit what the hell is going on out there?’ Gavin’s standard and a pain in the ass, but usually just a matter of holding the phone away from my ear until my cousin twenty-three times removed yells himself hoarse. Even Lena’s ‘Mac I need you to bail me out. Bring a shovel.’ I’ll take.
But Alex Kane is the alias I used when I worked for the government. Very few people know that name and even fewer know who’s attached to it. And hearing it like that, that question with a tinge of desperation, this guy is looking for what I do, not who I am.
“Yes.” I acknowledge the question and wave good-bye to my last hope for a quiet Saturday night.
“This is Maurice Thorne. We worked together.”
“Yes, I remember.” That was the mission I got shot by a member of my own team, Luke- one-man-fuck-up-your-plan-Sawyer, “How is that idiot?”
“He healed up.”
“Well, that just warms my heart.” Gavin got a mite upset when I almost bled out and communicated his displeasure in a real and physical way.
“I don’t have a lot of time. I’m on a satellite phone in Afghanistan. Stan told me to call you.” Stan Wyatt – another distant cousin. “It’s about my sister. He says you know people who can help.”
“Hold on.” I reach for the radio and turn down Coldplay.
Lena’s instantly on alert, “What?”
“Friend needs a favor.” It’s a code. We use those words for only one reason. That reason can have many different circumstances, but every single one of them is bad.
“Right.” She pulls out her own phone. Keeping her eyes on the road, and using only one hand, she flicks her thumb over the surface and that quick she’s tapped into my signal and recording. Lena’s a wiz at all things spymaster.
“Okay Maurice, we’re recording. Go.”
“May Rose Thorne, 4216 Willow Rd, Alexandria Va. The guy’s name is Joe Rhodes. Boyfriend. Don’t have an address. Can’t reach her. Mom talked to her two weeks ago. She said something wasn’t right. I’ve got to go. We’re on night maneuvers.”
“How can we reach you?”
“Stan will know. He’s in Europe. He’s taking the next flight out, but I’ve got a bad feeling.”
When men like Maurice Thorne got bad feelings there were good reasons, “We’re already on the road. We have to make one stop to drop off….” A hairy nudist, “something.”
I disconnect and turn to Lena, “It will take three hours by car.”
“Too long?” Her profile is a grim reflection of my own.
“I think so.”
She’s already dialing, “I’ll call Allie.”
Our beautiful sister is a forensic accountant and an expert witness for Eastern District of Virginia. She had all kinds of connections throughout the Justice Department and every one of them worship at her feet. Getting us to Maryland would be nothing.
We dropped off Chester with his children. Neighbors of ours who asked Lena to go pick up their crazy Dad who forgot about his court date. They turned a nasty shade of green when we told them what Daddy’d been up to. There are things children should never know about their parents.
One short private plane ride, courtesy of a friend of Allie’s and a mysterious black SUV left at the private airport, courtesy of a friend of Lena’s, the four of us make it to May’s house in just over two hours. After a brief discussion, we decide to go for broke. It took Lena less than thirty seconds to get us past the security system, “Not bad,” She whispered, stepping silently into the dark house, “If I didn’t know the codes the security company uses to disarm….Shit, goddammit fuck!”
“What? I squint into the dark. What could she possibly see… “Ow..dammit!”
“Coffee Table.” Lena hisses.
“Damn thing is vicious.” I rub my throbbing shin.
“I say we turn the lights on.” Christy bumps me from behind. My hip hits the edge of a sofa or a chair.
“Someone could be watching.” Allie, somewhere to my left and not bumping into a damn thing. Allie’s graceful like that.
“Good,” Lena creeps ahead of me, “If we’re lucky they’ll come in and try to kill us and we can grab them…. Fucking A!”
“Really, Lena.” Allie sniffs, still on my left.
“I hit my funny bone.” Lena hisses between winces, “Damn, this place is an obstacle course…”
A thump on my right and then Christy, high and shrill, “Owowowowowowow!”
I hear a familiar thumping. The floor shakes. More thumping and bumping and Lena cursing, “Dammit Christy, watch where you hop.”
Christy shouts a couple more “ow-eees” intermixed with “toe, toe, pinky toe then “owwee-ow –ow-pinky toe.”
“What the hell you wearing those stupid flip-flops for?” Lena said from somewhere on my right, “Would it kill you to wear shoes like a normal person?”
It might. Christy hates shoes. She’s in flip-flops from March to November.
“It’s July.” Christy jumps to defend her favorite form of footwear, “Flip-flops are way more normal than steel-toe boots and that black leotard thing whatever you’re wearing.”
“They’re leggings and a t-shirt. It’s snug and I can move easily.” Lena jumps right back. This is new. Usually it’s Lena and Allie that bicker like biddies. “For fuck’s sake, we’re breaking and entering. It is not normal to do that in flip-flops, cargo pants, and a tank top.”
Oh dear Goddess, they’re arguing over the “N” word. My left temple starts to throb, “Are you two honestly going to stand there and ague about who’s more normal?” We McGoverns are many things, but never, not even on our best day, is any one of those things anywhere close to normal.
“Uh, right,” I hear the airy whoosh of Lena sliding her fingers through her hair, “Sorry sis, I’m a little punchy.”
“Sorry, Mac.” I hear a plop. Christy’s found a seat.
I take a couple more halting steps and run into what I think might be one of those Tiffany style floor lamps. This is confirmed when it hits the floor with the crash of shattering glass. Enough already, “Okay yes, we need light….”
Be careful what you wish for.
A beam of piercingly bright light assaults my eyes at the same time my eardrums are blown out by what sounds like a herd of raging bulls…
“Freeze! Maryland PD…”
“Hands in the air….”
“Do not FUCKING move…”
“Hands! I want to see hands…”
I raise my hands and curse my luck.
“Damn. Cops.” Lena’s whisper is loaded with disgust, “They won’t know shit.”
“Ow! Hey, that hurts.” Christy’s voice somewhere in the dark. I open my mouth to tell the ass who grabbed her to ease up, but Lena’s already moving.
“Hey, get back here…” One of the bulls bellows, but my sister’s merged with the dark too fast for the beam to follow. Idiots should have turned the lights on. Serves ‘em right if they get a broken arm or two.
Then again, I really would like to get home before dawn, “Lena, don’t break anything.”
Another beam of light swings around the room and stops on Allie.
I hear a “Holy Shit,” a “Sweet Mother Mary,” and an “Oompff.” Lena’s victim.
Three male officers. Unusual. Cops usually move in pairs.
“Hello, officers.” Allie is all smiles and grace, greeting the men as if they’ve just arrived for cocktails, “We’re friends of Maurice Thorne, May’s brother. He’s serving in Afghanistan and he’s so very worried about her. He called and asked us to check on her.”
The sight of Allie’s hourglass curves in skin tight jeans, a black lace bustier, and black stilettos has short circuited their brains.
“Um, do you think we could turn the lights on now?” Christy’s voice.
“Jack, go get the lights.”
It takes more than a few minutes. I cover my eyes and squint at the shadows behind the beam of light, “Why’d you flip the breakers?”
“We didn’t.” The answer came from the large shadow hovering at the front door. My eyes are assaulted with a suddenly fully lit room. Every light in the house is on. If anyone was watching, they’d have no doubt someone was in the house. So whoever had May, he wasn’t stupid. Dammit.
I blink the spots from my eyes and see I’m standing in a furnished living room. May Rose liked the Victorian era. There was enough carved furniture and jewel tone fabrics to fill the room twice over, somehow she had made it work. It looked cozy and feminine, but Lena was right, it was an obstacle course. We’d have been black and blue before we got halfway into the room.
“Miss Kinkaid, is that you?”
Allie turned her head to Lena’s victim rising from the floor. Her eyes lit up, “Oh, Gerald, how are you?” With no thought to the guns pointing at her, Allie rushes over and embraces the large man. He just stands there engulfed in blond hair, black lace, feminine curves and Prada. The other two officers watch in bewildered envy. Well, one of them anyway. The man by the door is watching Lena like she might explode at any minute. Smart.
“How is your mother?” Allie pulls back.
“She’s good.” Gerald sucks in his gut and smooths his thinning hair, “She came through the surgery great. We got the flowers you sent. I planted that Camellia bush for her. It bloomed real pretty this spring.”
“I’m so glad.”
And this is how Allie earned her nickname…Amex. We never leave home without her. She has connections at all levels of law enforcement and they all adore her, even the women. Shocking, I know. Allie’s got the kind of beauty that would normally have women wanting to claw her eyes out simply for existing, but she also has perfect recall. She remembers every day of her life in detail. So if you say your mother is having major surgery – she remembers. If you told her six months ago in passing that that mother loved Camellias – she remembers. That memory paired with her compassionate heart and BAM! Super Goddess everybody loves.
Most law enforcement have heard of me as well, but I don’t have my sister’s appeal. According to one FBI agent I worked with I’m pretty enough, but I’m strange and unsettling and look like I’m waiting for you to turn your back so I can plunge a sharp object in it. It was a surprisingly insightful analysis. Lena always looks like she just dumped a body. And Christy, well you never know with her. She’s a wild card.
While Allie strolls down memory lane, I take the few seconds to assess the men while they’re distracted.
Gerald – older, pot belly, gray hair, and weary eyes. Easy one – Detective. My eyes swing to the other two men. The one who flipped the breakers is younger, messy blond hair, and the wrinkled look of a man operating on no sleep and a lot of caffeine – Gerald’s partner, Detective number two. Then there’s the guy by the door – tall broad and fit, very fit. Standard army issue green t-shirt. Hair cropped short, solid square jaw and a nose that was broken more than once. His face is mid to late twenties, his eyes though, are ancient. I know those eyes. I’ve looked into a pair just like them for over half my life. Eyes made ancient from witnessing too many horrors, too much death. A warrior’s eyes. “Who are you?”
His eyes leave Lena and jerk to me. He’d not taken his eyes off her, but when he turns that gaze on me, I can see him reassessing, “I’m May’s neighbor.”
Uh-huh, and I’m catholic school girl. Time for another party trick.
“Okay, I’m going to save us all some time. You’re former Special Forces, Army Ranger most likely. I know you’re working for some agency, I’m leaning towards Homeland, but could be DEA. You were watching May to get to her boyfriend. I’m not sure what he’s involved in, yet. But from what we’ve put together, he’s some type of enforcer. So he’s a killer. You should have pulled May out. You didn’t, and now you’re scared it’s too late.”
“What the hell?” Old pot belly.
“Who the fuck are you?” Young, good looking, no sleep.
“How did you find all that out?” GI Joe.
It’s Lena who speaks next, “I think you should come clean, sis. We don’t have a lot of time.”
“I’m Alex Kane.”
“You’re shitting me.” GI Joe’s face loses some of its intensity. His eyebrows shoot up. He looks dumbfounded, but on this side of disbelief. That means he knows Alex Kane is a woman. Only two agencies were privy to that, and this guy was not a company man.
“You’re with Homeland. You know Gavin McIntyre.” It’s not a question. Everyone knows of Gavin McIntyre and he’s a legend at Homeland.
“Yeah, he still helps us out once in a….” GI Joe’s words die, his eyes wandering over the four of us like he’s ticking us off in his head. He goes white as chalk, “Shit, you’re the cousins.”
The younger of the other two officers looks from Joe to me and back, “What the hell are you talking about and what’s McIntyre got to do…” Then he starts counting off in his head and turns a really nice shade of green, “Those cousins?”
That’s when I notice the resemblance between GI Joe and young wrinkled cop. Brothers. Brothers who know Gavin McIntyre. And anyone who knows Gavin knows two things. One – he can kill you ten different ways with his pinky finger. Two – if you so much as lay your pinky finger on one of the distant cousins that his mom raised and are more like sisters, sort of, only not really, and that’s a long story I don’t have the time for just now, Gavin’s pinky finger will be the last thing you see before you leave this earth.
“Alright,” GI Joe recovers from his shock first. Standing straight, he sweeps his game face over the four of us, “I don’t know what you girls are doing here, but you are getting your asses back in that car and getting the hell back to wherever you came from.”
“Oh Dear Goddess.” I rub my temples and wonder if I’d get lucky enough to find a bottle of Excedrin in this charming nod to Queen Victoria.
“Fucking A.” Lena flops down on an honest to goodness fainting couch, leans back and throws her arm over her eyes, just like some tragic Victorian heroine, well except for the steel-toe boots and the guns up her sleeve, “Sis, can’t we just shoot ’em.”
“Lena,” Allie’s appalled gasp swirls around the room like cotton-candy, a shocked burst of sweet and fluffy, “We are not shooting Gavin’s friends.”
Lena opens her mouth, but Allie holds up a dainty hand, “No, not even flesh wounds so they can’t follow us around,” Slamming down Lena’s standard before she could voice it, “Honestly, grow up.”
Lena slumped back on the couch. Her chin poking out in a bad-ass sulk. Oh, yes very adult.
“I brought the um stuff…you know.” Christy, ever the peace maker, offers a compromise.
Lena brightens, but I shut that one down, “No, we can’t drug them. We may need them.”
“What for?” Lena glares at the men, her nose in the air clearly communicating her doubt as to what use law enforcement could possibly be. Lena’s a bit of a snob.
“I don’t know yet.” That’s my standard. One of the many problems with my backwards unfortunately brilliant brain – I know things, but don’t know why I know them.
Lena blows her hair out of her face, “Whatever, but I’m not pulling them out of the line of fire. If they tag along, they’re on their own.”
“Well, I’m pleased as punch you girls have decided not to shoot us or drug us. Mighty nice of you.” The young wrinkled cop swings his irritated gaze over the four of us. Damn already? That doesn’t bode well, he’d better learn to pace himself, “Maybe we’ll only charge you with breaking and entering, as opposed to threatening a police officer.”
Dear Goddess, we don’t have time for this. I plop down on a nearby burgundy velvet oval backed chair, close my eyes and rest my head on the roses carved into the dark wood. The Victorians did not sit comfortably, “Okay boys, let’s review. Maurice called us. That is fact one. His sister is running out of time. That is fact two. You don’t have a damn thing. That is fact three. And I’m Alex Kane. That is fact four.” I know it sounds vain, but May doesn’t have time for humble.
“And you’re not.” I can hear Lena’s smirk, “That’s five.”
“Shit,” I open my eyes to see G.I Joe flop down on a spindly carved chair by the front door. It creaks. He jumps back up, running a hand through his non-existent hair, “Alright, there’s no doubt we need the help.”
“Uh-huh,” I close my eyes and rub my pulsing temple, “Allie – closets. Christy – bed, bath, kitchen. Lena – start hacking.”
“Uh, you got anything for us to do?” Sarcasm drips from young wrinkled cops lips.
I open one eye, “Find me some Excedrin.”