Ronny Quinn of Quinn Security Agency stood at the helm of the agency's conference table. Fifteen undercover agents were ready to hear the mornings’ briefings. "Agent Astolfi, hit the lights. Will you?" Ronny picked up the projector remote.
Maverick Astolfi leaned back and pushed the light switch up with the back of his head. The room went dark and then the projector light illuminated the wall beyond the conference table. Ronny pressed a remote button and a photo of a man came up on the wall. "This nice gentleman is Alexander Barringer. Alex for short and Kat Holmes-Barringer's ex-husband. He's thirty-five, stands five feet, eleven inches. Eyes are blue. I've been busy collecting information on him for the last few days. Agent Sanders?" Ronny tossed the remote to her.
Sylvie Sanders’ hand snapped upward and caught the remote. She pressed on a button. "For any of you who are unfamiliar with this case," Sylvie pointed at the screen and the photo changed to a woman with dark hair sitting next to a blonde-haired woman, both looking to be in their thirties. ..."the brunette is our tail - Kat Holmes Barringer. We've been keeping an eye on her since her father came to us and said she'd been attacked by a man posing as a homebuyer. However, three days ago we picked up conversation from our bugging devices in Beechwood Coffee Shoppe. In this conversation, Miss Holmes admitted that she'd lied to her father about the assault and stated that her ex-husband Alexander Barringer had beaten her."
Maverick Astolfi piped up, "Hey Ryan, want to go boxing tonight? We've just located a new candidate for the ring."
Laughter broke out in the room.
"The father passed away several months ago,” Sanders continued.” We are her tail because of the assault. That's what we were hired for. However, we will continue to be her tail even though we now know a homebuyer didn't assault her."
She pressed the remote and a close up of Kat and Lexi appeared. "The blonde, Lexi Meyer, seems to be her best friend for a number of years. This friend knew that Alexander had been abusing Miss Holmes."
The photo on the wall changed. A document appeared. "This is the restraining order she has on the ex. She stated she's not going to block him from her cell phone so that she has a record of him contacting her, thus, evidence of him breaking the restraining order. We've pulled over one hundred and fifty text messages and phone calls combined in the last ten days from her phone, so he's out of control.”
Maverick threw an upper cut into the air with a robust fist. “Ready, Roberts? Let’s go meet up with our boy.”
Kat's lips tightened as she paced back and forth waiting for Lexi to pick her up. Her eyes on the floor, she walked to the kitchen doorway, turned around and walked up to the living room picture window and back to the kitchen again. Her foot hit the door frame and she didn't realize she was squeezing the soggy tissue in her hand. Back and forth she went again not noticing the pain in her foot. A car horn blared.
Quinn Security Agent Sylvie Sanders dropped Kat Holmes - Barringer's file onto the table in front of Agent Ryan Roberts. "Our Kat tail has got problems."
"What's going on?" Ryan asked, gulping down hot black coffee.
"Holmes' car is missing."
"Where's Kat's phone?" Maverick questioned.
"It's at her house, last location." Silvie walked to the back of the table.
"How'd we find out about the car missing?" Ryan asked.
"She called her friend Lexi. No calls to the Lakewood Police. I checked with them," Ronnie folded his arms across his chest.
A couple of grumbles were heard in the room.
"It's odd,” one of the agents commented.
Sylvie signed into wheellocator.com and typed in the vehicle identification number to Kat Holmes’ Mercedes.
"Is our tracking device still working on her car?" Ronnie was looking at the screen from behind Agent Astolfi.
"Yup.” Silvie connected the computer to the projector and it reflected on the wall. She pointed at the red blinking light on the screen that indicated the Mercedes. “It's heading down Pacific Coast Highway towards Laguna Beach.”
"I'm on it." Ryan grabbed his baseball hat and headed out the door, Maverick on his heels.
Lexi scrolled through her phone while Kat climbed into her Lexus LS. "Did you call the police?”
“I started to.” Tears fell from Kat’s eyes. “but I’m so late, I have to get to my appointment. Hurry, Lexi!”
Lexi looked at Kat and put her car in reverse. “You look terrible. You can’t go to an appointment looking like that.”
“I have to. I’ll lose this contract. I have to have the money from it. I’m going to lose my home.” Kat swallowed hard. More tears welled. Kat motioned with her hand. “Over there. Take that street. It’s a ranch house with six garages.”
Lexi turned into the driveway and went up the hill. The house was the width of the yard. "There's riding gear in that bay."
"They have a couple of horses."
Lexi parked in front of the main garage attached to the house. “Fan your eyes or something. Put some lipstick on. Have you had your coffee yet?”
Kat shook her head. “Not enough.”
“Drink some of mine.” Lexi took her Beechwood cup out of the cup holder.
Kat took a few sips and had to stop. She couldn’t breathe. Her nose was stuffy from crying.
“You now have allergies and you just took an anti-histamine a minute ago.”
Kat took a deep breath and fanned her hands near her eyes. “Okay.”
“Go get that contract. I can drop you at a bus stop after, but that’s it.”
Kat was trembling. The thought of taking a bus stressed her. “I don’t know how to use the bus.”
“Deep breaths, Kat. More deep breaths.”
Lexi heard Kat inhale and slowly exhale as she exited her car.
Agent Roberts checked the sigalert app on his phone. “Congested on the 5 Freeway. I’ll have to take backroads through Newport Beach down into Laguna.
The red dot on the laptop in his car stopped moving as he turned off the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna near Main Beach.
“Can’t believe her ex beat her. I’ll have to show him how a punch is really thrown.” Maverick flexed his forearm and tapped on it with his other hand. “Hard as a rock.”
Ryan felt a little insecure because Maverick was built like Arnold Schwarzenegger and had been working out more lately. Maverick’s muscles were harder than the majority of men.
Maverick watched the tracker move on the computer screen.
The red light disappeared. “Damn!” Ryan pressed the gas pedal down further.
Kat got back in Lexi’s car. “Go, Lexi. Leave.” She was embarrassed by her tear-stained complexion.
Minutes later, Lexi stopped at a bus stop. “I’m sorry to do this to you.”
“Bring me with you. I don’t know the bus routes or even how to take a bus. I never have.”
“You’re serious about that?” Lexi’s eyes grew in size.
“Yeah.” Kat bit her lip.
Lexi pulled her car away from the curb. Her phone rang. She spoke briefly and hung up. “I can bring you home. Plans are canceled.”
Kat relaxed a little at the thought and then remembered about her car.
“I need to use your bathroom.” Lexi pulled into Kat’s driveway.
They were only in Kat’s bungalow briefly when they heard a knock on the side door.
“Who’s knocking? That’s weird. They’re at the door near the garage. Why wouldn’t they use the front door?” Lexi straightened her skirt.
Kat looked uncertain.
They walked over to the side door and looked down the steps through the top half of the glass door.
There stood Alex on the other side, his blonde mop un-kept.
Ryan headed up Blue Mountain Road and the red signal appeared back on the computer screen.
“There!” Maverick called out about the white Mercedes a ways up the road in front of them.
Ryan followed the Mercedes around the bend and into a long driveway with a gate. A sign above a small structure read: Tom’s Towing – Ring the Bell for Service.
He pressed the button and listened to a buzzer go off. A minute later, a stout woman with no makeup slid the small window open about six inches. “Yup, what can I help you with?” she said.
“Why is my friend Kat’s Mercedes here?”
The woman turned around and yelled, “Hey Johnny, why’s the Mercedes here?”
A man’s voice could be heard. “I don’t know. It was on my list to pick it up.”
Lexi caught her breath and Kat froze in place. A grin crept across Alex’s face. Then, he started laughing and held up a car key. The Mercedes key chain glistened in the sun.
“You…” Kat said, in a tiny breath.
“Couldn’t get to work this morning, huh?” Alex laughed again, his voice storming through the glass in the door.
Lexi swallowed hard. “Oh my, he’s a sick bastard,” her voice was a whisper.
Kat’s skin crawled.
“I don’t know how you’re going to pay to get your car back. Oops, too bad it’s going to cost you more money that you don’t have. Poor, Kat.” Alex slapped his thigh and was laughing so hard his body shook. “See, you shouldn’t have left me. You would have had a car to get to work, if you’d stayed with me. Ya dumb, bitch. You!” Alex’s fist hit the glass in the door and it came crashing down. He reached inside, his fingers fumbling at the lock.
NEXT: ALEX BREAKS IN - JOE COFFEE CHRONICLES - Segment 6
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R.J. Grand is the author of the Fortier Series Mystery Books - THE PAINTING OF DECEIT and
ON THE INSIDE.