1633 Bond Avenue
"Wow," Amber said. "You really named your teams after War and Peace characters, Elena?" Rose, Elena, and Allison all stared at Amber. "What?" Amber protested. "I'm not allowed to have read War and Peace?"
"I think you missed the point, Amber," Allison said. "Rose and Elena were spies."
"Duh, Allie. I figured that out long ago. Remember?"
Rose and Elena exchanged looks. "Okay, now that you understand, we have to leave," the brunette said. "Figure out what you need. Allie, do you still have your cell phone?"
"Shit, no. They took it away from me."
"They got the photos."
Allison smiled. "No, they didn't. I downloaded them when I got home. They're safe on my home system."
"What do you need to get them?"
"Remote access, really. Any system with network access of any type, though I'd prefer a high-speed connection."
"We'll find something. I want the photos safe with us."
"Rose," Amber started, "how are we going to do all this? If the government is after us, won't they be watching our bank accounts, too?"
Elena smiled. "I have it covered. The Feds can only watch the accounts that they know are ours. I have accounts that even Rose is not aware of."
"And I prefer it that way," Rose said. "Allie, make a list of what you want and give it to Elena. We're also going to have to disguise ourselves."
"I'll add hair dye and bleach to the list. Does anyone have any preferences?"
Allison held her hand up. "Yeah, I do. I can't change my hair."
"Why?" Amber asked.
"What does Thursdays have to do with what's going on now? Other than today being Thursday."
"My other job involves Thursdays, and I can't just up and change my hair on a whim. Let's leave it at that."
Elena stepped between the younger women. "There are other ways. No dye for you. Amber, what about you?"
Amber pondered over her choices. She fingered a lock of her red hair. "How about green? A nice forest green or a dark green."
Allison rolled her eyes. "Can you try to live in this reality?"
"I reject your reality and substitute my own." Amber stuck out her tongue.
"I don't see the problem, Allie," Rose said. "Elena, add clothes to the list. Something that we wouldn't normally wear."
"This should be good." Allison snickered. "Amber in a dress and proper shoes."
St. Louis, Missouri
719 Main Street
Elena opened the door and ushered the rest of the women and their bags into the house. Rose glanced around at the front hall and the living room attached to it. "Elena, is this something I should ask about?"
The blonde shrugged. "Hold over from the Cold War. It got lost in the shuffle of resources after the Soviet break up. I don't think the Federal Security Service even realizes they own this house. If they ask for it, they can have it back."
"Why would the Russians have a house here?" Amber asked.
"Because it's not obvious, both having the safe house here and having military secrets hidden around the city. There was some senior FBI officials travelling from Washington to here from time to time. Turns out, it was just for a football game, but certain analysts wouldn't listen to me." Elena shrugged. "Of course, they lost their jobs. Too hide-bound to realize the changes coming. I think one joined the Mob, can't remember."
Allison set her packages down and flopped on a chair with metal trim. "I like the decor. Your doing?"
"Of course. You should have seen what was here before. The purchaser obviously was stuck in the Fifties. Floral patterns all over."
"This is all very nice, ladies," Rose said, "but let's not forget why we're here. Amber, you first. Go do your hair and get changed. Allie, in the kitchen with me. Elena, well, you know what to do."
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis Metrolink, Westbound, between Union Station and Grand
"You look ridiculous," Allison said.
Amber tried straightening her skirt. "Is this really what they wear in the corporate world?"
"Other than the green hair, yeah," Rose said.
"You look odd, too, Rose. Never saw you as a blonde."
"As long as this grows back brown and not grey, I'll be happy." Rose turned to Elena. "And that is creepy. It's as short as it was in Rome."
Elena brushed away non-existent hair. "It feels odd cutting that much off."
"It looks good on you," Allison complimented. "It's a lot better than this shirt." She plucked at the Star Trek T-shirt she wore. "There had to be something else, Elena."
"Of everything at the store, this was the one item you would not wear if you had a choice," Elena explained. "At least it didn't cost as much as Amber's outfit."
"Trade you, Allie," Amber offered.
"Later, Amber," Rose said. "After we're clear of this mess. Allie, how is the laptop?"
Allison patted the leather bag she carried. "It'll do. I'd prefer something with more oomph to it."
"How many oomphs to a megabyte?" Amber asked.
Pointedly ignoring the green-haired girl, Allison continued, "I just need to get to a hot spot."
"Can you be traced?" Rose asked.
"Please, remember who you're talking to, despite the stupid clothes. If we had a car, we could do some war driving, pick up someone's unprotected wireless network, if I had a wireless card in this anchor."
Rose patted Allison's shoulder. "We'll get through this. First thing I want to do is get a message to Tyler, one that can't be traced. Second is the photos. Third, find out who this Sexton really is."
"Just like Belgrade, 1990," Elena remarked.
"What happened there?" Amber asked. "Another chess game?"
"Nothing like that. Rose and I were working together, trying to find a cell, oh, which group was it, Taliban?"
"I didn't think we cared about them then," Rose said. "I thought it was one of the Palestinian groups."
Elena shook her head. "They weren't part of my responsibilities in 1990. Maybe it was an IRA element?"
"Doesn't matter. What does is that this one cell, whatever organization it belonged to, kept both my team and Elena's hopping, following one false trail after another."
"And we get to be the cell this time," Amber concluded.
Allison adjusted her sunglasses. "I assume this group you chased around escaped?"
"No, we caught them," Elena said.
"There goes any hope I had of living through this."
"It took us a week to corral the cell," Rose said. "Six people managed to tie up a dozen CIA agents and, what was it, another ten FSB agents."
"Not to mention all the resources, computer time, gas, all that, following up a lead. We had to check everything, just in case." Elena allowed herself a small laugh. "It was humourous when we went out to the garbage dump."
"What are we going to do?" Allison asked.
"Like I said, get a message to Tyler and get the photos. We can decide the next steps from there."