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“We’ve got the Crightons’ shindig tonight. Then the Simpsons’ on Friday. And from the look of the calendar next week, left?” Jack sounds grumpy.
Can’t say that I blame him. It’s the third night this week that we’ve had a social engagement. Since his quote-unquote return, we’ve been inundated with cocktail and cookout invitations. My neighbors are nosy about “the mysterious Carl Stone.” It’s hard for me to forget all those years in which they ignored me while Carl was supposedly on the road.
But I’ll save my pity for later. Considering our mission, I guess this sudden burst of popularity is a blessing in disguise, since it allows us into their homes in order to plant bugs that sweep the neighbor’s computers and their phones for any evidence that they are fronting for the Quorum. Thus far the bugs we’ve planted have yielded nothing.
We’re having a mission update in the one place I know we won’t be interrupted by the children: my bedroom. I pull open my underwear drawer, where I keep all the tracking devices. It gives new meaning to the brand Agent Provocateur.
I do a quick count. “We’ve got enough for the next six parties. I’ll ask Abu for refills.”
Before I can shut the drawer, Jack grabs a red lace thong and holds it up to the light. “Huh. You mean to tell me that you actually fit into this tiny thing?”
How dare he!
His teasing has become an art form. I’ve learned to ignore it. This time, though, it’s a little too close for comfort. I plant a supreme smile on my face. “But of course, in fact, I’m wearing one now.”
“Really?” His tone is a dare.
What does he expect me to do, strip down to prove a point? As if.
Besides, I’d lose. The briefs I have on aren’t exactly granny panties, but still, they aren’t the come-and-get-me ass floss he’s holding, either.
As if reading my mind, he looks pointedly at the mirror behind me: It shows my backside very clearly.
I feel my face heating up. “Just what in hell do you think you’re looking at?”
He cocks his head to one side. “Well, from this angle, it looks like a VPL.”
“Huh . . .? What does that mean?”
“Code word for ‘visible panty line.’ But it’s not in the official Acme manual, so don’t bother to check.”
I snatch the thong out of his hands. “Okay, so I lied. Those aren’t everyday wear. Only when I have to go . . . you know, undercover.”
Which I haven’t done in a long while. Not since Carl died, literally or figuratively.
Enough of this crap. I shove him toward the door. “Go get dressed, ‘dear,’ or we’ll be late. Remember, we’re looking for the newbies: Some single woman named Vivian Norman, a retired couple with the last name of Neufeld, and that couple who moved in beside Hayley: the Kelseys.”
He stops short of the threshold. “What are you wearing tonight?”
“What’s it to you?”
“My interest is purely professional. Think of yourself as the bait. When they bite, we get our man. Or woman.”
“Yeah, I’ll just bet you like it when they bite.” It’s my turn to smirk. “I’ve got a little black number that will do the trick—”
“Nah. Go for that electric blue one. Skin tight, strapless—”
“Wait! How do you know about that one? Have you been rummaging through my closet?”
“Don’t act so shocked. I had to see what you had in the costume department—”
“My clothes are not costumes!”
“You don’t say?” I’d like to slap the grin off his face. “I’ll keep that in mind. Oh, and by the way, I noticed a Singapore Air flight attendant uniform, a nun’s habit, and a nurse’s uniform in there. I presume none of those are typical carpool attire?”
“No—of course not!” Okay, he’s made his point. I slam the door after him. Then I yank the clingy blue cocktail dress from my closet. And the red thong. Neither gives me any place to hide the bug. Here’s hoping he’s right. Otherwise I’ll be giving the neighbors something to talk about for nothing.
What is the name of the retired couple who are suspected to be terrorists?