The driver took a sharp left that would have made me cringe if he hadn’t been driving like he knew every alleyway. His precision and assurance went beyond what a baseline navigation chip could do. He must have one specially programmed for Dubai and optimized to get me from the Lotus Arts and Technology Centre to the bunker I’m sure I had somewhere nearby.
Her eyes unfocused, Gail sat in silence, planning, through the communication chip in her head, the next steps in my protection. Her occasional frowns didn’t bode well. It wasn’t like her to retreat to the inside of her head while I might be in shock and no one else was there to take care of me. Then again, the “threat on my life” rodeo happened before. Reports had been written about my post-Saskia behavior and I had no doubt she combed through them a few times to make up for her time sleeping through the event.
The driver made another sharp left. Third in a row. I cocked an eyebrow, wishing Vexx had hacked my music chip to check up on me. Unfortunately, MerriTech clamped down when I got in trouble. Security should loosen in a couple of hours, but in the meantime, I couldn’t subtly ask for a projected destination. Looping around or backtracking might have been an efficient way to lose a tail way back when, but it didn’t do much against today’s tech. Something was up.
When the SUV behind us veered into a side street and the rest of my protection didn’t follow, I worried about Gail’s allegiance again. I didn’t like this at all.
“Gail,” I snapped. My assistant blinked a couple of times fast and focused on my face. “Talk to me.”
“I reached out to a few trusted friends that live in these parts.” Her voice was calm and confident. “Seventy-five percent of the people who knew about your security detail for tonight also know about the bunker. I don’t like these odds.”
I paled. Maybe I shouldn’t have put so much emphasis on our mole infestation. Sure, I agreed with the problem she mentioned, but not with her solution. “So you’re taking me to a stranger’s house?”
Gail pulled her jacket straighter and elongated her spine to look confident and unyielding. “I failed you twice already.” Anger at herself sharpened her words. “Forced you to defend yourself.” That sounded like the worse thing that could happen for her, short of me getting killed. “Emma would have sacked me three times over. You’re kinder.”
Oblivious to the irony of her last statement, Gail pulled a handkerchief out of the interior breast pocket of her jacket and dabbed the corner of her eyes. “I won’t let you down again. We’re going to a friend’s and that’s that.”
Either she was a hell of a manipulative bitch or truly believed she owed me proof of her skills. I couldn’t pick one for sure. “Ditch the guards that may be corrupted and go to ground,” I summed up.
“Yes.” She folded the handkerchief on her knee before putting it back in its place. “I trust a few of them with my life. They’ll secure your belongings and meet us later.”
“What about Vincent?” I hadn’t meant to stun her but realized how odd my request sounded when her eyes widened. Officially, Vincent and I were a rather new couple, which meant that unless I was a lovey-dovey airhead, I should consider him as a potential traitor. Gail knew me better than that and I watched her lips purse and twist as she struggled with the questions she would ask any other people but didn’t want to ask me.
How do you second guess the boss who did your job better than you a mere hour ago?
“You’re right,” she said answering what my question implied and not what I said. “I’ll have him escorted to us so he can’t be used against you.”
On one hand, Vexx would be severely limited in the technological miracles he could pull while under MerriTech’s watch. On the other hand, there was someone out there trying to kill me tonight. More than one someones, actually. And I hadn’t ruled Gail off the list yet. I needed the official affiliation I cared about to be safe and sound, and in a position where he might be able to help.
My jaw dropped when my eyes drifted out the window and I realized we were steadily approaching the Dubai slums.
“I know this isn’t your usual haunts,” she said, misreading my surprise and unaware of how wrong she was. “That’s the point.”
A chill ran down my spine. I had only done a couple of jobs here. Not nearly enough to build a solid network of local contacts, but enough for a few people to know me. Though I wore my Nightshade identity every time, I never bothered altering my voice. The chances of someone recognizing me based on that were too slim to oppose Gail’s plan, but it bugged me nonetheless.
“Don’t worry.” Gail leaned forward to wrap her hands around mine. “We’ll have a nice place.”
“How is a place like this on your list of resources?”
Gail blushed. “I trained with a few different cultures to open my mind to a variety of body languages and attitudes. And I’ve always had a thing for bad boys.”
Oh! Brilliant! What better place to hide out from a killer than my deadly-secretary-and-potential-enemy’s ex?
A thought hit me so square across the neurons, it took me a moment to realize I had it. Her idea was crazy, way more out of the box than I ever considered she could reach. And proposing something like this to me —the almighty Queen who could ruin her life on a whim— took a massive pair of balls.
The same pair someone would need to kill people with a handful of beads.
Or take over a massive corporation in order to terrorize it to ruins.
Not knowing whether it made me feel more secure or deeper in trouble, I grabbed the escaping thought by its tail and dragged it back to my conscious mind.
Gail is my kind of crazy.
Next chapter Tuesday >>