Jack and Ben revealed their true natures.After eating Ben's pork and sautéed onion stir fry, accompanied by a garden salad, the angel excused himself to let Ione and Karen catch each other up on the weekend happenings. Ben also was the one who sensed someone approaching and was several steps away when a knock came from the door. He opened it. "Ah, Mara, we were expecting you." The smile on the angel's face had no warmth behind it.
"Jack told me you'd be here. Is Ione still here?" Mara walked past Ben. She wore a bright yellow bodysuit that she had unzipped to her navel, giving everyone in the room a good view of her cleavage.
Ione got up from the couch. "I'm here, Mara."
Karen followed her friend. "You're Mara?" She appraised the newcomer. "Ione, this is Mara?"
"Mara, my friend, Karen."
Karen waved her hand in front of her face. "Did it just get warm in here?"
Ben glared at the succubus. "Mara, enough."
"Not now, Mara." Ione pulled Karen back. "Down, girl. She's not your type."
"I know, I know!" Karen dropped on to a chair. "Damn."
"Jack's waiting for us." Mara smiled at Ben. "That was meant for you."
"I am well aware, Mara."
Mara shrugged. "Someday, my angel." She traced a finger along his arm. "Someday."
Ione grabbed her black leather jacket and walked towards the door. "Jack doesn't like waiting."
"Right. Follow me." Mara turned on her booted heel and left.
Ione paused at the door. "Sorry, Ben. I didn't know."
"It's fine." Ben patted the woman's shoulder. "Go deal with Jack. I'll see if I can cool Karen down."
"No, no, I know what I need." Karen got to her feet, her legs shaky. "Cold shower. A nice, long cold shower."
"I'll see you when I get back." Ione exited the hotel suite.
Following Mara was easy enough. The red haired demon stood above most people and left a trail of gawkers, men and women alike, in her wake. Outside, Mara stopped beside a pair of almost identical motorcycles; the only difference that Ione could see were the colours. One, the motorcycle Mara mounted, was a matte grey, almost matching the asphalt. The other bike was red and white with a matching helmet sitting on the seat. "Ta-daa!" Mara beamed.
"Mara, what's this?"
"It's a motorcycle, Ione. A Yamaha sport bike. Duh."
Ione ran her hand across the red and white bike's handlebars. "I know it's a motorcycle. Why is it here?"
"For you to ride."
"I can't ride this!"
"You said you owned a motorcycle. Jack saw you on it."
Ione floundered as she tried to put together the pieces. "Mara, I own a cruiser. I get to sit upright on it. This?" She patted the Yamaha's seat. "I don't know if I can handle it. And, well," she brushed at her cream skirt, "how do I get on without mooning someone?"
Mara dismounted from her grey motorcycle. "I could lift you on if you want. Or you could ride with me."
"While I appreciate both ideas," Ione nodded at Mara, "I'm a little uncomfortable with holding on to you right now."
"It's the whole succubus thing, isn't it?"
"I saw what happened with Karen."
"That wasn't supposed to happen." Mara sighed.
Ione laughed, surprising the red haired woman. "It's Ben, isn't it?"
Mara put her helmet on. "I don't know what you mean."
"After today, I'm ready to believe in anything. I saw you beside Ben. Either you've been working a long time to tempt him or you have a crush on him."
Mara turned away to get back on her motorcycle. "That obvious?"
"Nothing can surprise me right now." Ione picked up her own helmet. "Your secret's safe with me. For what it's worth, Mara? You and Ben would make a cute couple if you two could make it work."
"Really?" Mara zipped up her bodysuit. "Thanks." She kickstarted the bike. The engine roared to life.
Ione got on her motorcycle, adjusting her skirt so it would't fly in the wind. "Invite me to the wedding." Ione brought her engine to life. "Lead on!"
Mara eased her bike out of the hotel's parking lot and on to the road. She checked to make sure Ione was still behind her before opening the throttle. Ione fell back, but she urged herself to try to keep up with the succubus. The two women wound through the streets of Beausoliel, crossing the border into Monte Carlo and back several times. Ione kept an eye on her rear view mirrors, hoping that Gemma hadn't picked up her trail. At a traffic light, Ione pulled up beside Mara. "Is it much farther?"
"Not much, maybe five minutes away." Mara signalled with her head to the road in front of them. "Recognize the area?"
Ione looked around. "Should I?"
"Ever watch the Gran Prix of Monaco? The road ahead of us is part of the race course. You should see it here. Lively."
"Great! Does that mean you're going to be speeding?"
Mara laughed. "I wish. Maybe later, assuming, you know."
"I know." Ione reached out and rubbed Mara's shoulder. "I know."
The light changed to green. Mara took off, leaving a short streak of black rubber on the road. Ione followed, building her speed slowly to keep control of the sport bike. She could tell the difference between the Yamaha and her Vulcan back home. The Vulcan was content to stay at the speed limit. The Yamaha wanted to go faster, to be first. Ione kept the Yamaha under control, though. It was hard to be first to a location if she didn't know where it was.
Mara rolled to a stop outside a beach-side bar. She waited for Ione to catch up before shutting off her engine. Ione stopped beside her and removed her helmet. After a quick look around and not seeing any other vehicle in the parking lot, the brunette removed her helmet. "Is anyone else here yet?"
Mara dismounted. "Jack said to be here for this time. He didn't mention anything else."
"Maybe he's inside?" Ione dismounted. She laid her helmet on her seat. "Coming?"
"Just waiting for you." Mara removed her helmet. She shook out her long red tresses.
Ione let Mara enter the bar first, then followed a few steps behind. The lighting inside was dim, forcing the brunette to blink several times to adjust her eyes. Deep inside, she heard Jack's voice. "Ah, good, she arrives."
With Mara still leading the way, Ione wound her way past tables with chairs stacked upon them. In the low light, she recognized Jack but not the four other men with him at his table. "Apologies for the delay, gentlemen." Ione unzipped her jacket. "I trust I haven't held anything up?" As she got closer, she recognized Marco.
"Now that we're all here," Jack began.
"Not so fast." One of the men Ione didn't recognize got to his feet. He pointed at Mara. "Who is this?" Ione couldn't place the man's accent.
"She is with me." Jack pulled a chair out from the table. "As such, she will be treated with all due courtesy. Now, if I may continue, now that we're all here, we can begin. Do I need to say the role Ada has played so far in our endeavor?"
The man on his feet sat back down. "What about the Amazon there?"
Ione sat in the chair Jack offered. "She's my bodyguard. I've already had someone kill one deal and several of my people." She looked over at Marco. "I've had assurances that no one here was involved, but I believe in insurance." Ione felt Mara come up to stand behind her.
Jack leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "I believe some introductions are in order. Ada, I believe you know Marco. His superior is Alessandro. They are providing the pharmaceuticals." Jack nodded his head at the man who protested Mara's presence. "Over here, we have Emil and his somewhat overly concerned employer--"
"Call me Ted."
Jack finished, "Ted, who will provide the fireworks. If we can now begin?"
"I believe we're coming to a working agreement. Alessandro wants some loud toys, Ted wants cold, hard cash, and I am looking to provide my clientèle with a new flavour of party favours. However, none of us are willing to wait. The solution, and please correct me if I'm wrong, Ted, Alessandro, is to set up a three-way drop. I have the cash, in Euros. Are you two ready to fulfill your ends of the bargain?"
"I have three hundred kilos of coke, one hundred of hash, and another hundred of krokodil." Alessandro leaned back in his chair. "That should keep your clients happy for at least a year, Jack."
Jack held up a hand. "No krokodil. I like having return customers. Make it two hundred kilos of hash."
Alessandro placed his hands behind his head. "It's prime stuff. Hot and new."
"And eats away my customer. No krokodil."
"I'll need more time for the extra hash."
Ione elbowed Jack. "Take it."
Jack shot a look at the woman. "I'm sorry?"
Ione leaned in to speak in a softer voice. "Take the krokodil. It's not going to reach anyone, right? Trust me here."
Jack sat up. "My associate just informed me that we do have a potential buyer. I'll take the krokodil."
Alessandro smiled. "Good, good. Now, Ted, about the guns."
"I have five cases of Glock 38s, five of M-16s, ten with AK-74s, ten--"
"No." Alessandro cut Ted off. "No AKs. No quality control."
"This isn't Silk Road," Ted said. "My inventory took a hit."
"No AKs. The cheap ones fall apart and I get the blame. Ever have an angry drug cartel commander angry with you?" Alessandro thumped the table. "No."
Ted held his hands up in surrender. "Fine, no AKs. I can add three crates of TEC-9s instead."
"You're killing me here."
"What are you looking for, Uzis? My supply line dried up with Silk Road."
Ione cleared her throat. "Gentlemen. Silk Road was out of all of our hands. The FBI must have had someone on the inside. But this arguing isn't getting us anywhere."
Both Ted and Alessandro glared at the woman. "Jack, are you going to let her speak like that?" Ted asked.
"While she might be impertinent, she does have a point." Jack stood up. "Now, Alessandro, you must understand the problems of supply lately." He paced counter clockwise around the table, each step measured. "Ted, what do you have? Perhaps Alessandro might hear something that piques his interest."
Ted kept an eye on Jack. "I have some MP5s. Not many. I can put together a crate, maybe two. I have some Steyr AUGs, easily five crates. I have Dragunovs, three cases. Plus, ammunition for all the weapons. A thousand rounds, minimum, per weapon."
Jack passed behind Alessandro and Marco. "How does that sound?"
"Make it two thousand rounds and five hundred magazines for each weapon."
"Except the Dragunovs," Ted countered. "Five magazines per rifle. That's all I have."
Alessandro thought over the offer. "I can live with it."
"Good. Ted, I will have the money, as agreed upon." Jack returned to his chair. "Can you both deliver tonight?"
"Tonight? That is short notice, Jack." Ted shook his head. "My supplies are scattered."|
"Pity. I may have to look elsewhere."
"Wait!" Alessandro got to his feet. "I need those weapons, Jack."
Jack smiled, a cold expression on his face. "I can find other suppliers, Alessandro."
"I have the drugs. I can have them brought in tonight."
Jack looked over to Ted. "Well? Everything hinges on you now. Can you deliver? Or will I have to find someone else?"
Ted let his head drop. "Tonight. Where?"
"Here." Jack reached into his pocket and brought out two slips of paper. He tossed one each to Alessandro and Ted. "The details are there. Midnight tonight. If either of you don't show, the deal is off." He got to his feet. "Ada, I believe we have some details to finalize. Good day, gentlemen. It has been a pleasure working with you."
Ione stood up and followed Jack out of the bar. She heard Mara behind her. Outside, Jack continued to his sky blue Maserati. "I wish you hadn't contradicted me in there, my dear."
Jack sighed. "What's done is done. Why the krokodil?"
"This deal is being set up to fail. Why not?"
"You're thinking, my dear Ione. What do you have in mind?"
Ione shrugged. "If I fail, the shipments are destroyed. That's several hundred kilograms of drugs out of circulation, plus all the weapons."
"And if you succeed?"
"I haven't thought that far ahead."
"Jack, I can't let the drugs go."
Jack patted Ione's shoulder. "Can I tempt you?"
Ione glared at the devil. "Don't. Really, don't. I want some shred of dignity."
"Dignity is overrated. You should go rest. We'll meet at the casino tonight. Dress appropriately. Mara, please escort Miss Ione back to her friend's hotel, then come see me." Jack stepped into his Maserati. "Take care, ladies." He waved, then drove off.
Ione watched the sky blue sports car disappear around a corner. "Mara, tell me he has a plan."
"'He has a plan'." Mara put on her helmet. "We better go, Ione. You need to rest for tonight."
"I know." Ione mounted her red and white motorcycle. "I'd feel a lot better about tonight if I knew what was expected of me."
"I don't know." Mara shrugged her shoulders. "I don't think anyone knows. You're taking on an angel. You know that bit in the Bible where an angel appears before Mary and says, 'Fear not'?"
Ione nodded. "I'm familiar with it."
"There's a reason why the angel had to say those words."
"You're not filling me with hope, Mara." Ione slipped on her helmet.
Mara straddled her sports bike. "Angels are frightening, Ione. Even Ben in his natural form. Part of it is just how they look. Then there's the power within them." The redhead shuddered.
"But you're a demon. Shouldn't an angel be frightening to you?"
"Maybe. I don't know." Mara started her bike's motor. "I just don't want to lose you. It's been a while since I could just talk to a human like a friend."
To Be Announced