by Casie Blevins
“Well, what do you know about the Romans?”
“They’re a crackpot team. Ruthless.”
“They don’t specialize.”
Jon Willis shook his head. “And you want to hire them.” It wasn’t a question.
“They’re our best option, sir.”
“How do we contact them?”
“She likes coffee. At noon. By the Big Ben Tower. Sundays, I believe. If they’re for hire, she’ll be there.”
“Get a man in the air right away.”
Cat Roman sat in her kitchen. She shook out the newspaper and propped one foot up on the chair opposite. “I just love London. I can finally read the morning newspaper in English.”
Cat had just returned the night before from a solo mission in Morocco. She still felt a bit logy from travel but had been well enough recovered to send half the night enthusiastically making love with her husband, Benji.
“I missed our little flat in London.” she said cheerfully. “Oh, and you too, of course.”
He ignored her joke, not as revived as she was after their passionate night. “Cat, are you going to eat the last toast?” he asked instead.
“No, you go ahead.”
He sat silently eating, watching this woman he had married eight years ago wrinkle up her nose about some piece of news. Then she sighed and set down the paper. “They still haven’t found the girl,” she said. “I’d hoped there’d be some movement on her case. Poor kid.” Benji nodded.
She set the newspaper down on the table, stretching her body back in her chair rolling her shoulders and neck. “So, am I to have my coffee today or shall we forego another week and make up for time in bed?” She was teasing, he knew she was teasing. They would always take the next case.
He nodded, refilling her juice and then kissing her on the top of the head. “I’ll meet you at the library, then? I need to do a bit of research before we get started.”
Cat ordered her usual, a coffee in the land of tea, getting the usual remarks which she answered with broad smiles and an indomitable spirit. She sat sipping, eating a scone and watching the traffic go by, looking idle but very alert nonetheless.
She noticed him well before he approached her table.
She yawned when he sat down, absently scratching behind one ear.
“You’re right on time.” she said.
“I could say the same of you, Mrs. Roman.”
She lifted her face to the sun and smiled. “Do you feel those rays? I love it when the sun peeks through the clouds, if only for a moment.”
“I have a job to offer you, Mrs. Roman.”
“Hmmm.” She closed her eyes and took a deep refreshing breath.
“Do you never tire of business?” She pouted, twirling a ring on one finger, irritably.
The man before her paused for a moment before answering. This was the famous Cat Roman? “No. I mean, it’s what I’m here for. In London, I mean.”
“It’s a lovely city, isn’t it? So much history. So much modernity.”
“Would you like a coffee, Mr.–”
“Speare. Ethan Speare. And no, thanks.”
“Alright, Mr. Speare,” she said and her face changed, becoming serious. She was a different woman. “You check out. Continue.”
He nodded in appreciation. “Your ring then? A camera?”
“And microcomputer. My own design. What did you have in mind, Mr. Speare?”
“I come on behalf of Mr. Faust. He needs a couple for a very special…job.”
“Your usual retainer plus 5%.”
“Kansas City, MO.”
“Hmmm. The Midwest. This should be fun. We’ll contact you on Monday through the usual channels. I trust that’s soon enough?”
“Don’t you want to know what the job is before you accept?”
“Don’t worry, Mr. Speare. We can handle anything you’ve got.”
She was curious about the job but she was also confident she could figure it out on her own. With Benji’s help, of course.
“So where are we at then?” he asked her when she arrived at the Library, their code name for home base.
“Kansas City, MO.”
“Midwest, then? This should be easy. Not much out there, right?”
“Besides being the World Series champs, I suppose you’re right.”
“You and your sports teams.”
She laughed. “Sometimes I miss being an American.”
Benji keyed up the information on Kansas City. “Well, let’s see. City of two million people, metro area, of course. Good rating for livability. Ah, here we are.”
“What is it?”
“Federal Reserve. That’s gotta be it.”
It was. They met their team at a Library of their own, the Plaza Library to discuss the job.
Jon Willis began. “It’s located here, on the top of this hill, rock throughout. We know the vault is located under the hill. We need you to get in, penetrate a very specific vault and retrieve something stolen from the Italian government and held there.”
“What are we looking for?”
“We’ll let you know once you’re inside. It’s very sensitive intelligence.”
Cat and Benji looked at each other.
“Alright.” Benji said.
They had six days to prepare.
Benji Bodenkamp on vacation from Council Bluffs, IA, and his loud, spiral-haired, yoga pants wearing overweight wife Cat Bodenkamp joined the tour group at the Federal Reserve. She held a big flamboyant bag on one shoulder, and stylish glasses on her nose. She clapped her hands together, pushing her considerable bulk into the line. “How much do you suppose they have in here? A billion? A trillion? It’s so exciting! She clapped her hand suddenly on her neighbor’s arm. “Have you ever been here before? This is our first time, for me and Benj.”
The woman wrested her arm away from her, glaring at her.
Cat feigned hurt, then anger. “Well, I never–”
Benji pulled her gently away from the line. “Come along, darling. We’re on vacation We’re not here to make best friends.”
“She was so rude–”
“Forget it sweetheart. Go tidy up in the bathroom, dear.”
Cat sidled away fromt the group, heading down a hallway. She used her ring to open the first locked door and tossed the spiral wig into the closest trash can.
She made her way slowly downward shedding clothes, various disguises, growing smaller in stature, shrinking in weight until she stood before the final vault, vault 82.
“You are a master, my love,” he whispered from behind her.
“That’s why you married me. You have it?”
“It’s been squishing around in my pocket all afternoon.” He held up the eye.
The machine scanned the eye, beeping once.
Cat typed in the code, Benji added the fingerprint scan using a false finger, the door swung open and just as they were ready to send out a message to ask what they would be stealing, she stood before them.
“You are here to rescue me?” The young woman whispered.
Collecting some of Cat’s tossed disguises they dressed and prepared Julianna Maggio for escape. She wore the wig, covering all of her dark locks but pulled it into a more classic style. They padded her belly, exchanging her long lithe figure and making her an expectant mom.
“Try not to speak. Your accent will be a dead giveaway. Follow behind in our wake. Don’t look at any cameras directly in case you are flagged by facial recognition. Don’t deviate from the plan.”
“I won’t.” She trembled slightly.
They were exiting through the main level when it happened.
She stumbled, unfamiliar in Cat’s high heeled shoes, brushing against a chair which toddled away from her. A guard stepped forward, and grasped her arm.
“Are you alright, ma’am?”
Julianna looked stricken, unable to speak.
“Ma’am? Ma’am are you okay?”
She shook her head, then changed her mind and nodded, then looked confused.
“Come sit down, ma’am.”
“I, uh,” she tried pulling away but he only held onto her harder.
Suddenly she stiffened.
“Oh!” she cried out, loudly. “Oh! The bayyybe!”
Cat disguised her grin.
“Oh darlin’. Are you having your baby? Let me have her, sir, oh let’s go, sweetie. Over here, just a little bit further. Off to the hospital we go. Here we go…”
“I told you they were good.”
“It was an exceptional job.”
“We’ll have another job for them soon.”
“You should know that their fees have gone up.”
“We’ll meet it.”
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