Do they know about the body in the trunk, Amy Lindsay wonders. Her heart suddenly thunders through her chest.
In the glare of sunlight that slants off the hood of her rented silver Cherokee, Amy squints at a shadowy figure suddenly trudging across the road that separates the U.S. border checkpoint from the Canadian one. Two indistinct shapes detach themselves from the Canadian hut, and the three gather as one.
The American does the talking. Over the purrs of the vehicles around her, Amy can almost hear the discussion, but the glare keeps her from reading lips or expressions.
At one point, the American points out her Cherokee, and the discussion resumes.
Less than a minute later, the three separate and one of the Canadians approaches Amy. He signals for her to roll down her window. As his face emerges out of the shadows, Amy recognizes the same young border guard who saw her through, yesterday afternoon. His name is Edmunds and he smells of Old Spice and tension.
“Hello, Miss Lindsay. Back so soon?”
“Got a call to do some re-shoots,” she replies, reaching toward the glove compartment for her passport.
“No need,” the young man says. “Go right on over to the American shed, there.”
Amy turns on the power of her dazzling, heart-melting smile. “Is there a problem?”
For a brief instant his expression betrays uncertainty, then he forces a smile. “Just trying to speed things up for our American friends. You know, the Conservatives are back in power, so we’re allowed to be nice to Americans, again.” He straightens and waves to “The Shed” a large and windowless aluminum building the size of a two-car garage.
Amy presses the button to roll up the window. Before easing out of line and toward the shed, she lowers the zipper of her snow jacket, arches her spine and forces her shoulders back (making sure to congratulate herself for having the foresight to pack a wonder bra.)
That indistinct shadowy American blob was in the process of pulling open the shed’s rolling door. Out of the harsh light from within the shed forms a second shape, a bit thinner. He signals Amy forward. As Amy approaches the young man she sees his nameplate: Westin. He bends forward, as Amy’s window whirs down, and smells of Brute and uncertainty.
“Park in Stall Two, Miss Lindsay.”
“Sure,” she says brightly with chest out, her heart pounding. Does he know about the body? How?
Portable partition walls seperate the two stalls. As she edges towards Number Two, Amy catches a glimpse of the area beyond. The far wall consists of a similar sliding door, closed at the moment, and probably reinforced to prevent a vehicle from ramming its way out. End of Plan A, if needed.
The young customs inspector walks alongside the Cherokee, as Amy parks. She becomes aware of the bulkier shape of another inspector joining him, escorting her into the inspection stall. She brings the Cherokee to a stop and turns off the ignition. She takes a deep breath, lowers the zipper of her jacket a bit more, and throws her shoulders back.
“You can put those away, Goddess,” says an instantly-recognizable voice. The bulkier inspector kneels by the car and nods towards her chest as he settles his chin on the door’s edge. “You won’t be needing those to get by us.”
“Coop!” Amy calls out feeling the tension drain from her body. “Just when did you become a Custom’s Inspector?”
“About three hours ago,” Cooper Malloy replies. “Someone at HQ started feeling a little antsy about Canadian border efficiency and decided to make things a little easier for you.” He nods towards the back. “Our friend give you any trouble?”
“Sleeping like the dead.”
Westin returns. “Hello, Miss Lindsay. I’m a big fan.”
“Westin’s on loan from the DEA,” Cooper explains. “We figured they deserved to have a hand in this, considering Saeed was smuggling heroin to fund his terrorist training camp in Canada.” He nods towards the steering wheel. “Keys, please.”
Amy hands him the keys. “Need any help?”
“Nope. But you might want to stretch those long, lovely legs. We’ll want to give the other car a nice head start before we have the Canadians over to ‘help’ us inspect the Cherokee.”
Amy takes the advice and steps out. Coop and Westin sparse military stretcher out of the Cherokee and bundle a limp, bound and gagged from out of the tire well. The form moans as he’s strapped to the stretcher.
Coop smiles at the dark eyes staring dully out of a heavily bandaged face. “Welcome to America, Saeed. But don’t get comfortable. You’ll be in Guantanamo before midnight.” He signals for the orderlies to remove him.
In less than a minute the stretcher is secured in a Custom’s Service station wagon, and the two orderlies and its driver roll out of the shed.
“Okay, Westin,” Coop said. “Get the Canadians over to ‘help’ us inspect this suspicious vehicle.” He winks at Amy. “I told them this was a ploy to get your autograph.”
“You could have told me that,” she complains. “I almost had a heart attack.”
“You were the one who wanted a little more excitement in your life,” he reminds her.
The Canadian inspector arrives, and after a shockingly superficial search of the Cherokee, she signs autographs and is on the road again in five minutes.
Westin lingers outside the shed, watching the Cherokee disappear around a tree-lined bend. He asks Cooper, “How does an actress become a member of the Bureau of Anti-terrorism Bounty Enforcement?”
“Oh, we’ve got a lot of actors working for B.A.B.E. Models, actors, writers. They’re frequent travelers, don’t arouse a lot of suspicion. Make great couriers. We use her a lot. She’s a part of H.O.T.”
“Hollywood Operational Team.”
“You mean …?”
Coop nods. “That’s right,” he begins, confirming the obvious with, “Amy Lindsay is one of our H.O.T.B.A.B.E.s.”
With Omar Saeed no longer occupying her spare tire space, Amy drives leisurely through Washington and soon finds a quaint hotel past the Oregon border at Cannon Beach.
In the morning, she calls Headquarters and to learn Saeed has arrived safe and unhappy in Cuba.
Within two hours, she’s checked in the rented Cherokee and on a commuter flight to Medford. A weather delay and a connecting flight later, she peers at the setting sun, her plane touching down at LAX.
Amy tosses her bags into the backseat and slips happily behind the wheel of her Porsche convertible headed for her West Hollywood office to write up a report.
Before she can click on the WORDPERFECT icon, the office phone buzzes. She activates the speaker. “Hello?”
A voice with just a trace of an Oriental accent says, “I have your order.” Before Amy can argue the caller rushes to add, “I have a message for …ah …Goddess? From Dragonfly.”
Amy’s body tightens. On full alert she says, “Where are you?”
“Across the street, corner phone,” whispers the hurried caller.
Amy jumps to her office window and peeks through the blinds. There were only about a dozen pedestrians. Under the street lamp, she sees a tall, thin form at the phone booth.
“Pretend to swat at a bug.”
The figure does, using the correct hand with the proper finger twirling that legitimate agents use in this situation, this time of day, for a month ending with the letter ‘y’.
“Okay,” she tells the man. “I’ll meet you at the door downstairs.”
During the elevator ride down, Amy mentally reviews Dragonfly procedure. Dragonfly was a low-level distress call from an active agent. It means the agent needs to place an important scrambled call to headquarters. Her task is to confirm the agent works for B.A.B.E. or one of her many sister alphabet organizations, then step out of earshot while the agents delivered his message to Headquarters, promptly forgeting anything ever happened.
Outside the building’s door waits a dark-haired Oriental in his mid to late twenties. He wears a plain, black leather jacket and a paper hat with Chinese characters. In one hand he clutches a paper sack with “Woo Fung’s Food Palace” printed in a circle of black letters on the side.
He waited to be buzzed through the glass door and his eyes narrow, then widen in recognition. “I have your order, Miss Lindsay,” he says as he comes through.
“Oh, I forgot my purse,” she replies. “Come on up to my office.”
At the elevator Amy lets the man enter and holds the door open. “How much did you say it would cost?” The man gives her an amount, and Amy makes the necessary mathematical adjustments to come up with the special number that further proves he was legitimate. Only then did she enter the elevator. She punches several numbers, then turns and introduces herself with an extended hand.
“I know,” the man replies while eagerly grabbing her hand. “I recognize you. I’m Bobby Chung.” He shakes his head and grins. “Man, if I had known it was you at this Safe Point I’d have tried to make my reports here more often.”
“Thanks. You an actor?”
“Naw. Screenwriter. But what I really want to do is direct.”
Amy smells something. “That’s an actual order, isn’t it?” Her stomach suddenly reminded her it had missed supper.
“Sweet and sour pork, rice, egg rolls.” He extends the bag toward her. “I’m undercover as a busboy at Woo Fung’s, but I offer to help with deliveries as a cover for my little visits to places like this. A little cold, I’m afraid,” he apologizes, hefting the bag. “I snuck in the order as a prop for a Safe Point; this is the fourth one I’ve tried to make contact with this evening. Seems I kept picking ones were everyone is out.”
“I was absent myself, until just a few minutes ago.”
Bobby grins widely. “Lucky for me.” He nervously clears his throat. “Look, after I check in, can I pitch a few ideas at you?”
“Sure. What kind of stuff do you write?”
“Action adventure. James Bond stuff. What else? Being in this line of work.” He shakes his head. “This has been quite a day. I’ve broken a big case, and then I meet you.” The elevator dings as it stops at Amy’s floor. “This is turning out to be one of the better days I’ve ever had,” he says, as the doors open and he starts to step out.
And then, collapses.
She hears Bobby grunt, and an almost simultaneous whack of flesh on flesh as he slaps his neck. He starts to say something, then his eyes roll in his head and he crumples between the elevator doors.
Amy instinctively drops to her knees and looked up the hallway. The fire door at the end of the hall hisses shut, followed by the muted sounds of squeaking sneakers fleeing. She begins to stand and pursue. Bobby’s hand grips her arm. His face awash in sweat and his eyes wide and glazed.
“Foo,” he gasps. “Foo-foo. Mexican border. Must stop.” With that, he falls limp and his fingers slip away from her arm.
Amy slaps and sprints for the fire door.
Amy hesitates a nanosecond to pinpoint the sound of the fleeing sneakers. She hurtles downward, taking several steps at a time, balancing herself against the rail. She knows her own sneaker’s squeaks reveal her pursuit, but there’s nothing she can do about that.
Her mind leaps ahead. These stairs lead into the alley. Would a car be waiting? Her own Porsche was in the underground parking lot, useless to her in this pursuit. She felt for the cell phone on the waist of her jeans. The make of the car and a quick glance at the license plate should be enough to get them cracking at headquarters.
Just before she reaches the alley door, she hears a car engine rev. She slams through the heavy metal door and stumbles out into the alley. Even as she fights to regain her balance, she was scans the alley. The tail lights of a low-slung sports car winks at her. She tries to focus through the gloom on the license plate, but gets distracted by the sudden glare of the car’s brake lights and the screech of tires gripping pavement.
A large furniture truck partially blocks the end of the alley. Got you! Amy thinks. She begins to trot toward the car, certain she can get close enough to read the plate as the car maneuvers around the delivery truck.
The car’s red brake lights wink off and flash white as it backs up. And continues! The engine guns and the sports car leaps at Amy.
The car isn’t going around the truck. It’s coming backward. Towards her! Planning to go through her.
Amy skids to a stop directly between a pair of dumpsters, leaving her hemmed in-between them … with no room to avoid the speeding car.
Inside the car hurtling towards her, she sees a shaded Oriental face, grotesque and lopsided from a maniacal grin. Gagging on exhaust and the stench of burning rubber, Amy freezes as the car bears down on her!
TO BE CONTINUED!
William G. Jennings can neither confirm nor deny Miss Lindsay’s involvement in any ongoing government operations.