“Would it be bad form to admit I’m a little nervous?”
These words had come from a woman sitting in the aisle seat of a private jet. She was attractive, but beautiful in a girl-next-door kind of way, the kind who, as a kid, would have worn overalls and climbed trees. Her strawberry blonde hair, curly and sun-kissed, was pulled back by a simple clip at the back of her head.
Another woman, this one also blonde but radiating chic New York, laughed and shook her head. “Charlie, I’d be more concerned if you weren’t nervous on your first mission.”
Charlie Perkins smiled sheepishly. “Not even a real mission, though, is it? Just a recon.”
Lyndsey Archer shrugged. “It will feel like the real thing. And you’ll do fine.”
“You’ll probably do better than fine,” said a third woman, a scorching, dark-haired beauty with melting brown eyes and flawless olive skin. “I’ve seen some real knock-ups in my day. There’s no way you’ll top those.”
“Adabelle would never admit it,” Lyndsey said, “but she was one of those knock-ups when she first started.”
Adabelle Fox frowned. “We didn’t know each other then. Have you been checking up on me?”
“Oh, I might have done a little research in the case files,” Lyndsey said. “Very interesting reading. I especially liked your first mission, the one where you got lost on the way to a drop point and ended up in an entirely different country.”
Charlie smothered a laugh.
“That’s not as bad as it sounds,” Adabelle interjected. “There are some really tiny countries in Central Europe.”
“And the border crossing meant nothing to you?”
“I was naive and assumed the commies were checking random drivers. This was a long time ago, okay? Besides, I’m sure you’ve had a few ‘memorable’ incidents yourself, Ms. Superspy.”
Lyndsey rolled her eyes. “Oh, let me tell you. I was the worst. I have no idea why Moore kept me on the team after my first six months at SpyCo.”
“You wouldn’t care to regale us with a few of those stories, would you?” Adabelle said. “After all, you were quite happy to relate some of my own history.”
“I will, I will. After I get a couple of drinks inside me. Right now I think we’re getting close to our destination.”
* * *
It was dark by the time the jet landed at the Dublin Airport and the three women made their way into the ultra-modern Terminal 2, scanning the milling crowd for a sign with the word “Venus,” Lyndsey Archer’s codename, written on it. The bearer of that sign would be their handler.
As is the case with many major metropolitan areas, especially those whose city limits were formed long before the advent of commercial flight, the Dublin Airport was not actually in Dublin, but rather situated 6.2 miles to the north in Collinstown. Collinstown would have been a lovely and picturesque Irish hamlet in County Finegal, if not for the huge airport plunked in the middle of it, an airport through which nearly 30 million people passed each year.
“Do any of you know who our contact is?” Adabelle asked.
Lyndsey shook her head. “I don’t, but I’m putting my money on a strapping young Irishman with a heavy brogue and a shirt two sizes small.”
Charlie grinned. “I knew I made the right decision to join you all.”
They continued walking until Lyndsey came to a sudden halt.
“Ladies, I think we’re out of luck in the beefcake department.”
They all looked where Lyndsey was pointing. There, holding a sign reading “Venus,” was an old woman with white hair that was actually in curlers under a gauzy, bright green head scarf.
Both Charlie and Lyndsey began laughing.
“I should have known it would be you, Dot,” Lyndsey said, walking forward to give the old woman a hug.
Dot peered irritably through thick cat’s-eye glasses and wiggled out of Lyndsey’s embrace. “You were expecting maybe Liam Neeson?”
“Expecting is a little too strong a word. Hoping?”
“Well, tough tits, Blondie. You got me and know damn well you should be thankful for it.”
Dot looked next at Adabelle. She extended a wizened hand that ended in short fingernails painted a brilliant crimson. “You must be Fox. They told me you were a looker. Va-va-voom! They weren’t kidding. If anyone could have brought Perry Hall’s sad little pecker back from the dead, you’d be the one.”
“Hello, Dot,” Adabelle said. She’d never worked with the legendary handler before, but no SpyCo agent could hope to avoid hearing the many stories about her. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. And you’ll be pleased to know that Perry’s pecker is neither sad nor little…at least not anymore.”
“Good to know. Maybe one of these days I’ll figure out an excuse to get him in the buff so I can find out for myself. Maybe have him infiltrate a nudist colony or something.” Dot turned to Charlie. “And you. New Girl. So you decided to go through with it and sign on with our little playgroup, eh?”
“Hullo, Dot,” Charlie said warmly.
Dot turned to the other two. “Don’t you just love that Aussie accent? Don’t it just give you a chubbie? Well, we can stand around in the airport all day, or we can dive into Dublin and drink some goddamn Irish whiskey. Up to you.”
“Don’t we need our briefing?” Lyndsey asked.
“It’s a recon job. What could go wrong?” Dot gave a dismissive flip of her hand as she turned and began waddling toward the exit. “Besides, I remember details better when my brain’s a little lubed. Old synapses. You know.”
Once outside, Lyndsey looked toward the cramped carpark trying to guess what sort of vehicle would be bringing them into the capital city. Then she heard Charlie exclaim,
“Oh, crikey. You’re kidding.”
Lyndsey followed her point and saw a hulking, pea-green Chevy Impala that was not only parked in a redzone, but actually had a tire on the sidewalk.
“That’s my baby!” Dot exclaimed proudly. “Ain’t she a beaut?”
“How did you get it here from Sydney?” Charlie asked, referring to the Australian assignment during which she’d first met Burke and Dot.
“What are you talking about?”
“Why that’s the same car you were driving when you picked Burke and me up, and we drove to the coast to stop the North Korean spy.”
“Oh, I hated that bitch. But you must have started drinking without me, Newbie. How could I get a classic like this from Australia to Ireland? The cost would be prohibitive.”
“Prohibitive? You drink ten-thousand-dollar-a-bottle bourbon!”
Dot stopped and faced the curly-haired trainee, casting a stern look her way. Then her face softened, and with a wink, she continued toward the car. She opened the cavernous trunk, inserting a key that was distinct from the ignition key, a phenomenon that belonged as much in the distant past as the woman herself. “There’s enough room for your suitcases full of frilly panties with space left over for Liam Neeson, if we can find him.”
The ride into Dublin was brief, but not without several memorable incidents, all of which had the agents clutching at any available handgrip.
“Dot, it won’t do to get us all arrested before we can even start the assignment,” Lyndsey said after a particularly felonious maneuver.
“Whoever arrested a hot babe for creative driving?” the old woman responded. “And having you three along won’t hurt, I suppose.”
“Where are we headed?” Lyndsey asked, holding simultaneously to the old-style hand-loop above the door and the back of the driver’s seat.
“I told you. I need a drink. Don’t you?”
“I didn’t think so before, but it now seems appropriate.”
“Can we go to the Guinness Storehouse?” asked Charlie.
Dot turned and looked over her shoulder so she could cast her glare of disapproval more effectively. “The only people who go to St. James Gate are bloody tourists. You’re international espionage operatives, dammit! You’ll drink in a dreary pub like a decent spy should.”
To drive the point home, Dot made two more incredibly dangerous turns: a left from Oliver Bond Street onto Sraid San Agaistin, driving the wrong way on the one-way thoroughfare, followed by a right onto Usher’s Quay, also against the flow—and cursing several drivers for driving on the wrong side of the street—before making a somewhat less life-threatening bend onto Upper Bridge. There she capped off the exercise with a screeching U-turn and pulled to a stop near an ancient looking building bearing a sign with gilt lettering over two barred windows declaring it to be The Brazen Head.
Dot was already out of the car as the three younger women attempted to catch their breath and checked to make sure they hadn’t soiled themselves. “This, bitches, is the oldest pub in Ireland. Let’s get started!”
Charlie moved close to Adabelle and whispered, “Can working for SpyCo be any more dangerous than this?”
“Well, surviving the ride wasn’t an item on your training manifest, but I’ll add it to your credit ledger.”
Dot pulled open the primordial pub door and, with a dramatic sweep of her other hand, ushered the women inside. Lyndsey smiled as soon as her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. The interior was as authentic and charming as had been the façade.
“Dot, it’s wonderful!” she exclaimed.
The old woman didn’t hear or at least didn’t respond, as she was already standing at the bar, slapping her open palm repeatedly on its surface to draw the barkeep’s attention. By the time the others caught up, he was pouring four healthy whiskeys. He set them all in front of Dot, to whom he slid a slip of paper which she quickly signed and pushed back.
“Thanks, Seamus,” Dot said.
The barkeep looked confused. “My name’s Daniel.”
“It’s Seamus. You’re all Seamus.” Then Dot turned and handed each of the women a glass. Lifting her own, she said, “Beimid ag ól! That’s how these crazy bastards say ‘We will drink!’ As if there was any doubt.”
The women repeated the toast with varying degrees of success, and they tasted the whiskey, which was delightful.
“It’s called Redbreast,” Dot said. “And it’s about sixty-five bucks a bottle, which is pretty cheap for my taste, but damn it’s good.”
Everyone took a second sip, and Dot hoisted herself onto a barstool. As the three younger women circled around, she pointed toward the door. “In a minute or two a dark-haired fellow with bad acne scars and wearing a red, long-sleeved tee shirt is going to walk through that door. He’s been following us since the airport, and I’d hoped to lose him by driving against the traffic, but he anticipated the move and was already parked on Bridge Street by the time I turned down.”
“I’m guessing this isn’t part of the recon,” Lyndsey said.
Dot shook her head. “Nope. Either this guy’s up to mischief or he thinks he’s going to land all four of us for the best tumble of his life. And both ideas are going to get him a shot in the ding-dong if he doesn’t back the hell off.”
“Have you seen him before this?”
“Not that I recall, so here’s what we’ll do. We have no reason to think he’s gotten a good look at the three of you, so I want New Girl to go to the bathroom and wait a couple of minutes. When you come out, I want you to approach the target and pick him up. Really lay it on him, sweet thing. Make him think you can’t wait to make his dreams come true. Think you can do that?”
“Good. Now get moving before he comes in here and gets a good look at you.”
– Reprinted with permission of the publisher
© 2018 All Rights Reserved