The cell phone vibrated in Elle’s pocket. Dammit, she’d forgotten to turn it off. Elle checked the text.
Whatever’s in the stacks 2nite will still b there 2morrow. Come play with me.
Lyle. There was no way that was gonna happen. Elle was a little over six hundred miles away from Norfolk in Bermuda. She didn’t have time to send any kind of reply, so she just powered off her phone. She’d have to tell him she hadn’t gotten his message: no reception in the stacks or something like that. For a fleeting moment she felt badly about the lie but didn’t have time to dwell on it. It was part of the job. Right now, she had to focus.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Elle leaned into the heavy cleaning cart and pushed it out. The waiting hotel guests were forced to step back to accommodate the cart, but not one of them looked at her. She was careful not to look them in the eye, either, instead focusing straight ahead. As Mason had told her, “The help doesn’t look guests in the eye.”
Elle tried not to twitch. The starched uniform was itchy. Surely this resort could afford fabric softener? Not for the staff, apparently. She tightened her grip on the cart, determined not to scratch. Being a housekeeper truly was the idea cover, even if it didn’t fit in with her fantasies of herself in a sleek black leather outfit, sprinting through hallways.
Fourteen-oh-one on the right.
Fourteen-oh-two on the left.
“Suite fourteen-fourteen will be on your left, Bookworm. Stay focused.”
The blast of Mason’s voice in her ear caused Elle to jump, despite her training, as she gritted her teeth. Like he needed to rupture her eardrum with that intel. She should’ve checked the volume on her earpiece while assembling her gear. It was one more thing she’d have to remember for the next op.
It was the codename “Bookworm” that had her gritting her teeth, however. Mason was still pissed about her becoming field rated. He’d spent her entire year of field training predicting her imminent failure.
Elle stopped at fourteen-fourteen. She took out her programmed key card and slid it into the lock, pushing the handle down when the light flashed green and the lock clicked. The door was unlocked. She remembered to push down with her wrist, rather than her hand, to avoid leaving fingerprints before pushing the door open.
“Housekeeping,” she murmured as she pushed the door open wider and pulled the cart in behind her. Like anyone was going to hear that. “Housekeeping!” Her voice was louder this time. Even someone in the bedroom would hear that.
“Target is still having drinks in the first floor lounge,” Mason said, “as noted thirteen minutes ago.”
Elle rolled her eyes. Yeah, he was pissed. She couldn’t come back with a retort because she had to stay in the habit of not responding verbally unless absolutely necessary. There was always a possibility someone was still in the hotel suite. The lights were on, but the TV wasn’t. The sound of the door shutting seemed unnaturally loud. She walked through the sitting room; the plush carpet swallowed her footsteps.
The door to the bedroom was partway open. Elle reached to open it further, again being careful not to touch anything, only to find a messy- but empty- bed and an open suitcase.
Noiseless steps through the bedroom to check out the bathroom.
Time to get to work. Elle got out her latex gloves and pulled them on, snapping the latex against her skin to make sure the fit was snug.
“Remember your gloves, Bookworm. No prints.”
Elle again jumped at the unexpected direction but bit back a response. She couldn’t resist holding up her gloved hands, however, waving her fingers, making sure the tiny cameras in her stud earrings could pick them up for him to see.
“Keep moving, Bookworm. Get to the suitcase.”
Like she was just going to stand there wiggling her fingers. Elle slid open the door to the closet and moved another suitcase. Below that, on the floor, was a third suitcase. She crouched down, unzipped it and lifted the top, revealing neatly folded clothes. She lifted the clothes out, taking care to keep them folded, and set them down on the floor. Underneath the clothes were two stacks of folders. She lifted those out, careful to keep them in their stacks, and set those down on the floor besides the clothes.
“There’s the false bottom,” Mason said.
Geez, really? Elle gripped the sides of the suitcase and lifted, revealing a hidden compartment. She felt around the back side of the suitcase until her fingers pressed on something that clicked. She pushed what looked like a button, and it came out with a dime-sized disc attached. She held it up to ensure the cameras caught it.
“Bookworm has acquired the disc.”
Elle reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a palm-sized disc scanner. She fit the disc into the circular indented space: perfect fit. The tech guys at Langley were good. A tiny green dot lit up, indicating the scanning was occurring successfully.
“Data transmitting,” Mason said.
Despite its size, this disc contained a lot of information. Elle knew she would be there for a few minutes.
“Target has wrapped up his drinks and is leaving the lounge. Stay in position, Bookworm.”
What? He had only just gone down there. Elle forced herself to inhale and then exhale, forcing her shoulders down. No panicking with Mason listening in. She would be damned if she gave him any justification to pull her out of the field now.
“Target is at the elevators. Forty percent of the data has transmitted.” He was in a truck across the street and had “eyes” (which meant cameras) set up throughout the hotel, so he could watch their target pretty much anywhere in the building. He didn’t have eyes in the suite due to a last-minute room switch.
He was right downstairs, and they didn’t have half of what they needed yet. Shit, shit, shit. Elle resisted the urge to stand up and pace. She realized she had left her cleaning cart in the living room of the suite. If they got in here, how would she explain being in here with her cart in the other room? She should’ve brought the cart back into the bedroom with her. Quadruple shit.
“Target is getting into the elevator. He’s going to floor fourteen.”
Elle could feel a trickle of sweat drip down her lower back.
“Sixty-five percent of the data is transmitted.”
This disc scanner needed to start scanning faster than the blink of an eye, dammit.