Riddle's Penultimate Café & Wine Bar
Amber spotted Elena and Allison before Rose did, and led the older woman to the four-top their co-workers held. They sat down and flagged a waiter to put in their drink orders. "Waiting long?" Amber asked.
"Maybe ten minutes," Elena said. "Interesting findings, though. You?"
"Just as interesting," Rose answered. "Want to go first?"
"I want to save my information for last. Go ahead."
"I've got good news," Rose began.
"We're not wanted!" Amber finished. She leapt out of her seat. "Woot!"
Several sets of eyes turned towards the women's table. Rose pulled the former redhead back into her seat. "I talked to Detective Lipinski. He confirmed that there are no warrants out for our arrest. However, he couldn't find anything on Sexton."
"Which means?" Allison prompted.
"It means that the so-called Federal agents aren't. They had good coaching, though. Elena, what did you find out?"
"It cost a bit, but I think I can fill in your blanks. My source says that Sexton belongs to No Such Agency."
"So, where does he work?" Amber asked.
"National Security Agency," Rose explained. "No Such Agency is what they're known by in the business. Secretive, and not very helpful to other agencies."
Allison nodded. "Now the question is, what does the NSA want with us and with that ship?"
"And how official is the operation?" Rose added. "If we're part of some black ops project, then arrest is the least of our worries." She switched topics without missing a beat suddenly as the waiter returned. "I just wish Maria would take her marks more seriously. She can do far better-- okay, thanks." Rose moved out of the way, letting the waiter set down the drink. The women placed their dinner orders, and waited for the waiter to leave.
"Clear," Elena said.
"Anyway, if this is a black ops, then we're now expendable. We know too much, even before we started looking into this. We need to find Sexton and get the story from him."
"There is some good out of this." Elena slid two boxes on to the table.
"Ooh, chocolate!" Amber squealed.
"Well, Amber can die happy and gorged now," Allison said. "I also have an address."
"We stopped at another Internet café," Elena explained. "Allison's skills and contacts are impressive, even when she's multitasking."
Rose raised a bleached eyebrow. "Multitasking? Allison, what else did you do online?"
Allison grinned. "It involves my Thursday nights. I also left a file that will get sent out to a number of people if anything happens to us."
"I wish you cleared it with me, first. What if Sexton or his people find the file?"
"Very few people can tie me to the website. I don't even host it at home. Trust me, Rose, me and my site are separate."
Rose sighed. "I'd like to see this site of yours someday."
"You agreed to the terms of the contract, Rose. I keep work and not-work separate."
"Alright." Rose raised her hands in surrender.
"What's the address?" Amber asked.
"It's supposed to be his office," Allison said. "I managed to track it down with a bit of work."
"Excellent." Rose turned to Elena. "I think we should pay a visit tonight."
"You're not leaving me behind," Allison said.
"Me, neither," Amber added. "Me and Allie are in as deep as you two are."
"Besides, you'll need a distraction when you make your visit. We'll also need a car."
St. Louis, Missouri
41 2nd Avenue
The rented red Saturn Ion coasted to a stop, all running lights off. The back door opened, letting Rose and Elena, both clad entirely in dark grey, to slip out and creep away into the darkness. Amber started the sedan's engine again, and drove to the next block before parking in front of Sexton's office building. Amber shut the car down again. "Okay, what's your distraction."
"Do you trust me?" Allison asked.
"Um, sure, I guess."
"You don't sound positive."
"I don't know. You don't exactly like me."
"I like you, Amber. You're just . . . too immature at times."
"I'm not immature." Amber faced out the front. "I just like different things than you do."
"How many pairs of normal shoes do you have? Not including the ones you're wearing now and not including any sneakers."
"What does that prove? I'm comfortable, and I have a good job."
Allison shrugged. "Okay, you're comfortable. What about socially? When was the last time you had a date?"
"Aught-Three, I think. What does it matter? I knew girls who had a different guy every week and I wouldn't call them mature."
"See, only you would call 2003 'Aught-Three'. Normal people wouldn't."
"Normal's overrated. Really. If I did what normal people did, I'd be stuck in some dead-end job. Instead, here I am, having fun, even if there's some mad secret agent wanting me disappeared. It's fun. It's exciting. It's far better than working in some office day after day waiting for payday and a weekend. And, deep down, you agree. You have your secret Thursdays."
Allison nodded. "I think I see. However, you are still a geek."
"Never claimed otherwise."
"So, trust me now?" Allison asked.
Amber shrugged. "Yeah. Why not?"
"Good. Play along with me, okay? And undo your seatbelt." Allison unfastened her own restraint.
Amber released her seatbelt. "This isn't going to hurt or anything, is it?"
"Of course not." Allison reached up and caressed Amber's cheek. "Hopefully, it'll be pleasant for you."
"Um, Allie, what are you doing?"
"Relax, Amber." Allison traced a line from Amber's cheek and down her neck. "This is to help Elena and Rose."
"Um, okay." Amber swallowed nervously.
"You have had your first kiss, haven't you?"
"Of . . . of course. Um, Allie, you're not, um, not hitting on me, are you?"
Allison smiled. "What do you think?" Her finger continued its journey, brushing lightly on Amber's shoulder. Allison paused to brush the younger woman's hair out of the way. "Green does suit you."
Amber blushed. "Allie . . .."
Allison hooked her fingers into the collar of Amber's blouse and tugged. "You have nothing to worry about. I know what I'm doing."
"At least one of us does." Amber gave a nervous laugh.
"Trust me." Allison shifted closer and cocked her head. "Besides, normal girls never get to do anything like this." She lifted Amber's chin up and leaned closer. "And just think of what the boys in the security booth are thinking." Allison brought her lips to Amber's and gingerly kissed the younger woman.