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Summary: Amy wants to prove herself as a valuable member of the A-Team, but can she trust their judgement?
Disclaimer: I don’t own the A-Team and I’ve not made a penny from this, I just do it for the jazz!
‘If no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.’
Amy sighed, typing the last words of her article into her word processor and inserted the floppy disk to save it.
It had been a month since returning from Mexico with Al Massey. She thought she’d secured herself on the team. However, all Hannibal had got her to do over the last month was basically dig up dirt on the slimeballs they were chasing. And even that didn’t happen every day.
She always followed up the research she’d done for Hannibal, finding out exactly what had happened. Well, she’d done the background for him, she at least deserved to scoop the story, reporter’s prerogative and all that. It wasn’t as if the A-Team didn’t leave a trail. However, the few stories that she did have still sat on her word processor. There was a part of her that wondered if she should run them by Hannibal first. He had made it pretty clear what she could and couldn’t print and Amy was confident with her own ability and skill that her stories set the A-Team in good light. But would there be something from the stories he’d want excluded? Had she crossed the line he’d set? She didn’t want to put something in the print that might jeopardise her contacts with the team. Hannibal could cut her off totally, and she definitely didn’t want that. However, she wanted a good story.
Amy placed her head in her hands and leaned on her desk. She never intended to blackmail the A-Team. They had saved a very good friend of hers but she couldn’t stop thinking about the jazz. She just wanted that buzz to continue. Maybe if she could convince Hannibal that she could write up the stories of the people they helped in a certain way, he’d let her be more involved, rather than just be the information gofer she’d become. Surely they needed to advertise their specialised help? It would be a great way to generate new clients and to tell the public about the work they do. To help prove their innocence and show their country that they are good men. Even shake up the military. Rattle their cage to look further into the case that was held against them. Give this Colonel Lynch a good run for his money. And wouldn’t she be the perfect resource for doing it?
Amy’s phone rang, breaking her train of thoughts. She sat up and looked at the clock that was on her desk; it was coming up for half past nine in the morning.
“Amy Allen, LA Courier-Express.” She answered the phone.
“Okay, Kid, need you to do some more digging about.” Hannibal’s voice was on the other end of the line.
“What do you need to know?” Amy asked with a slight bored tone in her voice, that luckily Hannibal didn’t pick up on.
“I need you to run a check on a Carlos Flores.”
“Yes, Okay,” Amy responded to Hannibal. Not at all happy, she noted down what Hannibal told her, then she plucked up the courage and asked, “Hannibal, can’t you let me in on this one?”
“Sorry, kid,” Hannibal replied. “You’re doing a great job, with the information you gave us we were able to clear out Ryder and his goons in no time.”
“About that, I need to ask you…”
“Sorry, kid, I haven’t got the time to talk.” Hannibal cut her off.
“Wait, wait. Did you want me to meet you with the information?” Amy hoped she might get a chance to catch up with them again. Just being around the four of them sometimes gave her a buzz and she hadn’t seen them all in a couple of weeks now. They sometimes met over lunch so she could inform them of the information they required, especially if she needed to share photographs or something.
“I’ll call you,” Hannibal said, and then hung up before Amy could ask anything else.
Amy let out a frustrated gasp and put her phone down. This wasn’t the jazz, this was down right boring but she set to work finding out the information Hannibal required. However she could, Amy was going to prove she was needed for the team. But first she required coffee.
“Hannibal, I can’t see how we’re going to get close to this guy.” Murdock spoke as Face looked through the binoculars. “Nothing gets close to him. He’s got bodyguards surrounding him.” That was true, the team had been studying their mark for a couple of days now, and as yet they had failed to find a way to get close to him. Hannibal had donned a couple of good disguises but with no luck. They were running out of options.
“I’ve noticed one thing that does get close to him,” Face smiled at the rest of the team as he spoke, “pretty ladies.”
Murdock smiled back at him. They had both been enjoying the view of the pretty girls surrounding the man they were watching from a distance. They seemed to be the only creatures to go unnoticed by his security.
BA grumbled in the van at Face’s comments.
The guy was Carlos Flores and he was sunbathing on the beaches of Santa Monica, with a few pretty girls dressed in only skimpy bikinis surrounding him for company. So far the team had counted at least seven large bodyguards dotted around him, some standing out more obviously than others. Not allowing anyone but a bikini clad woman near him.
They sat in the black GMC van from a safe distance, carrying out their surveillance on Carlos Flores.
“You know you’re right, Face.” Hannibal grinned. “And I’ve worked out how we’re gonna get close to this guy.”
“How, Hannibal? The only reason those girls are allowed near him, are because he knows they can’t be wired.” Face sighed still watching through his binoculars following the pretty girls in their bikinis. “I mean, where could you hide a wire on something as beautiful as…”
“Lieutenant, I hope you’re watching our man!” Hannibal snapped.
Face quickly moved the binoculars back onto their mark.
“There’s no way we’re getting near this guy unless we’re in a bikini,” Face added.
“Hannibal, I’m not wearing a dress, not this time.” Murdock joked. That mischievous sparkle danced in his eyes.
“Yeah, you’re the ugliest mama I’ve seen,” BA giggled and shook his head at the thought. He was sitting in the driver’s seat of his black van, listening to the banter between the three of them.
“BA!” Murdock replied in an upset tone.
“Guys, guys, I’ve got just the person in mind.” Hannibal puffed at his cigar. “Amy.”
Face turned towards Hannibal, putting the binoculars down.
“Amy?” Murdock asked surprised. “But Colonel, this could be dangerous.”
“She won’t do it.” Face added in a negative tone and went back to peering through the binoculars.
“Ah, man.” BA shook his head.
“Yeah, she will. She keeps asking to be more involved,” Hannibal replied, grinning. “And she’ll be fine. The four of us will be watching her back the whole time.” He added as he saw three concerned faces in front of him.
“I’m still not sure, Colonel,” Murdock replied.
“Me neither. I agree with the fool for a change!” BA added.
“If you can think of another woman, who we can trust,” Hannibal raised an eyebrow as he spoke, “to do it, by all means I’m open for suggestions.” Hannibal sat back in his chair and folded his arms.
All three of them shook their heads. Face almost made a suggestion but closed his mouth and went back to looking through the binoculars.
“Yeah, I didn’t think so,” Hannibal said. “Besides, we’ll get to see what the kid’s really made of.” Hannibal grinned, taking a cigar from his top pocket.
“And what she looks like in a bikini,” Face said looking at Hannibal but he didn’t get the response he was looking for. Hannibal returned a disapproving look back and Face dropped his smile.
“And what if she doesn’t do it, Hannibal, what then?” Murdock asked still with concern.
“She’ll do it.” Hannibal sat back and relaxed in his chair lighting his cigar. “Otherwise I’ll just have to think of a plan B.” And he didn’t have one. Hannibal puffed on his cigar in concentration, putting his plan in place in his head. “Face, I’m gonna need a few things.”
Face opened the side door to the van and Amy got in, perching herself between Face and Murdock. She had come straight from the office as soon as Hannibal had phoned her.
“Afternoon,” she said smiling at them all. “Well, the golden beaches of California huh? Santa Monica. You guys really do get some tough cases.”
“What’d ya find out, kid?” Hannibal asked smiling at her, ignoring her sarcasm.
Amy opened up her notebook, although she didn’t really have to. There wasn’t much to report. She’d out found plenty, but nothing that would interest the team or that they didn’t already know. But she wasn’t going to complain, the guys had asked her to meet them, so she was thrilled to be out of the office. This might be the perfect opportunity to get her scoop.
“Carlos Flores is a shrewd businessman, Hannibal. There wasn’t anything extraordinary about him. His company buys and sells smaller companies. It’s as simple as that really.” Among her research Amy had managed to find an interview Carlos Flores had done for the business pages of the LA Courier a few months back. It had been on the lines of a successful businessman in LA and had given some personal information as well as the business details the section liked to report on. It had been very useful and of interest to her, so she shared what she needed to with the team.
“Usually the company isn’t doing so well. His company comes in, buys it up, turns it around and sells it off making a tidy profit. All legal and above board. Most are slow projects, not something that happens over night. Some companies even get liquidated. Not pleasant, but totally legal. He even made it into the business pages a few months back for how he turns companies around and sells them on,” Amy continued. She raised her eyebrow to the last bit. “The guy is worth a few million by all accounts. But I couldn’t find any dirt. He’s clean.”
“Well, I think he’s the one squeezing those companies so that they don’t do so well,” Hannibal responded.
“Yeah, then he comes in and looks like he’s doing them a favour, ” Face added, “by buying them out.”
“Well if he is, he’s doing it very well. Because there is no dirt. All of his business transactions are legit, gone through the books.” Amy looked at them. “Are you watching him now?”
“Yeah, care to take a peek?” Face smiled handing her the binoculars, and she peered out on to the beach to where Face was pointing. Amy spotted the guy instantly as she recognised him from the pictures she’d dug up. He was in his early forties and had quite dark features and was taller than she imagined. He had short black wavy hair with some flecks of distinguishing grey starting to show and dark olive skin. ‘Not bad,’ she thought to herself, admiring the man’s handsome features.
“So who’s our client, and why do they think Mr Flores is the problem?” Amy asked handing back the binoculars to Face.
“Our client is Mr Joseph Keaton, of Keaton Hardware Supplies, and in the last six months his business has been suffering. Mr Flores’ company has stepped in and isn’t really taking no for an answer in the attempt of a buy out. Our client has been experiencing even more bad luck with his business recently, since Flores has offered to buy out his company but Keaton can’t prove it’s linked to him,” Hannibal explained.
“So you’ve been hired to prove that it is,” Amy replied.
“Something like that. We need to dig up the dirt.” Hannibal puffed at his cigar.
“Can’t the police help?” Amy asked. “If he’s sure Flores is crippling his business?”
“The police aren’t interested in a fall in sales, Amy, they want to see crime,” Face responded. “If they can’t see a crime, then they’re just not interested.”
“But how are we going to help? He looks clean, right, Hannibal?” Amy turned from Face to Hannibal.
“So it seems, so we need someone to go in and get close to Flores, so that we can lay the bait to find that dirt.” Hannibal grinned at her, although she didn’t quite notice its implications.
“So, Face is going to go in, is he?” Amy asked.
“No, kid, we were thinking you might do it.” Hannibal grinned at her.
“Huh? Me?” Amy instantly looked at Hannibal and was unnerved by his smile, and then around to Face and Murdock, who were also both grinning at her. BA was the only one not showing any expression on his face. “What, I’ll go in with Face?”
“Sweetheart, if I could do it, I would.” Face put on his charm, placing his hand on her shoulder and smiled at her. “But apparently, I’m not his type.” He pointed to the bikini-clad women surrounding the man in question.
“Not on my own,” Amy fretted. “Surely?” She gave a nervous laugh; they had to be kidding her.
“We’ll be watching you, Amy, every step of the way.” Murdock placed a hand on her knee as he spoke, trying to reassure her.
They weren’t kidding her.
“I don’t know guys. I wasn’t really expecting this. I know I said I wanted to be more involved, but in the sense that I’d be tagging along for the ride,” Amy replied nervously. “No, no I don’t think I can do it. Not on my own. I’ve never done anything like this before. Surely Face will be with me on this one?”
“I can’t get close to this one, kid. And besides, you’re the only one who’ll suit a bikini.” Face grinned at that thought.
“A bikini!” Amy snapped and looked nervously at the four men. “That’s why you want me here, coz I’m the damn skirt!” Amy’s furious eyes landed on BA last. He looked straight back at her.
“Don’t look at me, little mama, I ain’t getting involved,” BA responded to her disapproving look. “This is your decision. But I’ll watch your back, you be sure of that.”
“Thanks, BA.” She calmed momentarily then turned her attention back to Hannibal.
“I’m still not sure I can do it, Hannibal,” Amy said, scowling at him. She still couldn’t quite believe what they were asking of her.
“Sure you can, kid.”
“Oh, come on, there must be another way,” Amy argued. “A bikini! You want me to go out there like one of those bimbos?”
“Amy, sweetheart,” Murdock was trying a reassuring tone. “If you look closely, he’s not really interested in those girls. But with you, you’ll hook him in. Unfortunately, you just need to be wearing a bikini for the heavies to let you get close.”
In the last month, Amy had wanted to get more involved in the team’s ventures, feel the jazz again like she had in Mexico, but not like this. She hadn’t been expecting this. Surely Hannibal would have another plan? She smiled smugly at them; she knew at least one good reason why she wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Well, I can’t do it,” she grinned. “I haven’t got anything to wear.” Tugging at the collar of her grey suit jacket, implying she didn’t have a bikini.
As soon as she said the words, Face confidently pulled out from behind his chair a pink boutique bag and handed it to her with an equally smug smile on his face. Her own confident expression dropped.
She looked inside the bag. The guys watched her face; it instantly displayed shock at its contents or at least the lack of them. She then looked back at the four faces staring at her.
“It won’t fit,” Amy protested. “You don’t know my size!”
“You’re kidding me, right?” Face replied, a little too confident for Amy’s liking now. “That’s the right size.” He said as he pointed to the bag she was holding.
She still wasn’t sure what to say. Face tried his persuasive charm on her.
“Amy, you’re the only one who can do this for us. We all have to use our assets in ways we dislike from time to time. If I could sweet talk Flores, out there,” Face pointed in the direction of the beach, “then I’d be doing it already.”
“But what if he wants…” Amy wasn’t quite sure how to put it.
“-Hey, all we’re asking for is a couple of dinner dates. You’re a lady. He’ll understand that.” Murdock quickly reassured her by winking at her. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And we’ll be watching out for you the whole time.”
“But I can’t compete with those girls.” Amy pointed out of the side of the van towards Carlos Flores and the women that surrounded him. “What if he doesn’t even notice me?”
“Amy, you’re an intelligent young lady,” Murdock grabbed hold of her hand, “and extremely beautiful. Those girls won’t stand a chance.”
“Thanks, Murdock. You’re really sweet,” Amy responded sarcastically, not believing a word he was saying. “But I thought Face was supposed to be the charmer on the team.” Face just grinned at Murdock as she spoke.
“So you’ll do it then?” Hannibal smiled at her.
“Do I have a choice?”
“Yeah, you have a choice, kid. I’m not going to make you do something you don’t want to do. But you said you wanted to be on the team, so here’s your chance,” Hannibal replied. “You can go back to your office if you want, and I’ll have to find someone else to help us.” Hannibal didn’t know her that well yet, but he knew she was stubborn. He’d seen that when she had insisted on going to Mexico with them.
Amy rolled her eyes. If this was how she was going to have to prove her worthiness to be on the team, then she would. Did she have much of a choice? The stubbornness in her kicked in, as Hannibal had hoped, she would use this opportunity to show them.
“On one condition.” She smiled confidently trying to hide her nerves. “I get to print the story.”
“Right, this is what we’re going to do.” Hannibal relayed his plan to the team. Once he was sure everyone understood he turned to Amy.
“Kid, it’s your show. We’ll be watching your every move.” Hannibal placed his hand on her shoulder. He could see how nervous she was starting to look. “You’ll be just fine.”
Amy nodded in response, although her stomach started to churn with nerves.
“And if at any point you think you are in danger and you need out. Just give the signal and well have you out of there in a flash,” Hannibal said. He’d provided her with a signal that if she needed to escape and quickly, all she had to do was give it. It would go unnoticed by Flores and his men, but his team would know immediately she was in danger.
Amy nodded again and then took a deep breath.
“Right, well if I’m going to do this, I’ve got to get changed. So all of you out of the van.”
Without being asked twice, BA was the first to get out, but Face and Murdock hesitated.
Face smiled. “You sure you won’t need a hand…”
“Out!” Amy said firmly to them pointing to the side door of the van.
“Face, Murdock, let’s leave Amy to get ready,” Hannibal insisted as he opened his door to get out of the van. He really didn’t need her changing her mind. If he was honest with himself, there wasn’t anyone else he’d trust to do this job if Amy changed her mind about being the roper for Flores. Amy had been around the team just over a month now, helping them out by gathering research for cases. She’d never betrayed them by calling the military, so she had at least earned the right to be trusted as a friend of the team.
Once all four men were out of the van, she was about to slide the door closed when she remembered something. “And if I see one head come round the front of this van, I’ll knock it clean off, I swear!”
All four gave their expressions as if they understood and started to walk to the back of the van.
“I’ll go get us all coffee.” Face gestured to a coffee stand near where they were parked.
Amy slid the van door close, held the pink boutique bag in her hands and took a deep breath.
“I can do this,” she said to herself. “And I’ll prove to these guys, I’m not just any old piece of skirt.”
Ten minutes later checking her makeup in the compact mirror she carried in her purse, Amy felt ready to emerge from the van. She was thankful that Face had also purchased a satin robe that went with the red bikini, although personally she would have preferred a beach dress, a long beach dress, come to think of it. The robe was short, just resting on her thighs but did give her some cover. Amy wanted to wrap the robe around her to keep herself completely covered up, but knew this would make her look rather odd walking along the beach. So she left it open at the front, revealing her slender body and a perfectly fitting bikini. It frustrated her that Face had been right about the fitting of the bikini. How does he do that? The cups were padded too, equally adding to her frustration that he’d been cheeky enough to suggest it. But the bikini did suit her.
Luckily the shoes she’d been wearing also went with the outfit, so she would keep them on until she reached the sand. Amy noticed a beach towel and sun cream laid out for her. Did she need anything else? She rummaged through her purse to find her sunglasses.
“Okay, I think I’m ready,” she said to herself as she got the background straight in her head that Hannibal had told her. She felt as nervous as hell, but she wasn’t going to show the guys that. And she certainly wasn’t going to stand around with them and let the anxiety she was feeling grow. Especially considering what she had to wear. She took another deep breath and then slid open the side door to the van.
Amy emerged, a picture of confidence, from the van and walked past the four men waiting patiently for her. Although the sunglasses covered her eyes, she was still too nervous to look any of them truly in the eye but she firmly pushed the empty pink boutique bag into Face’s chest as she walked past him. He grabbed the bag from her, stunned by her actions. She didn’t see the expressions on their faces, she didn’t want to. If she had looked she would have seen that Face and Murdock’s mouths were open with no words coming out and Hannibal had a grin like a Cheshire cat. With the towel slung over her arm and sun cream in her right hand, she headed for the sandy beach in front of her and the mark, Carlos Flores.
Although her nerves were playing with her mind, she made sure that she looked confident. With her head held high and her long brown hair bouncing with every step, she walked towards the beach. If she had been on holiday she would feel fine, she’d blend in but she knew that this was different. This was to get the attention of Flores, this was to use her sexuality and it felt different, she even worried that it felt wrong. She was also conscious that she had four men that would be watching her every move, which made her feel more conscious since she was wearing only a bikini. I’ve only known them a couple of months can I really trust them? She thought to herself as she walked. But then she remembered how they had saved Al Massey and it reminded her that these four men were good men. Maybe this would be a test for them too, for her to see if she could truly trust them. After all, her safety was in their hands.
The four men got back into the van and watched as Amy noticeably walked on to the beach. She confidently walked straight past all of Flores’ bodyguards without them even twitching. They all gave her a look up and down in approval as they had done with most of the pretty girls on the beach. She continued to slowly walk past Flores and the girls that surrounded him. As she did so, she took off her sunglasses and flicked her long brown hair off her shoulders. Momentarily she caught his eye and gave a subtle smile and then turned away, to look for a lounge chair. The guys wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near him as easily as Amy just had.
“That guy will have to be blind not to notice her.” Murdock said pretty much what all four of them were thinking.
“Lieutenant, I think I’ll have those binoculars, now,” Hannibal ordered. Face sighed and reluctantly handed over the binoculars. “Right, everyone knows what they got to do.”
The three men nodded to their Colonel.
“Then, let’s move it. I want to make sure Amy isn’t on her own.”
Amy chose a lounge chair close to Carlos Flores and his ‘groupies’ as Amy was starting to call them to herself. Tucking her sunglasses up into her hair, taking her long brown hair off of her face, she looked back over to the mark.
By looking over at him often enough, she hoped that naturally he would soon catch her eye. Like a sixth sense, turning to find someone looking at him and catching their eye, and indeed Carlos Flores did with Amy. She smiled at him, trying to keep her actions subtle and not too obvious. Luckily he’s rather handsome, she thought to herself. If he’d been anything remotely unattractive Amy would have found this act even harder to perform. The report she had read on him had certainly been of interest to her. She was intrigued to know more about him. It will all aid to a good story, she thought. So maybe this won’t be so hard after all.
Amy placed the towel on her lounge chair and then took off her robe. The next time she looked over to him, he was already looking at her. Amy blushed.
With continuous smiles and flirtatious glances, Flores couldn’t resist anymore. He left his flock of women, the groupies, a couple of which threw Amy disapproving glances as he did so. Flores walked towards Amy who was sat on her lounge chair starting to apply sun cream to her body.
“By jove, I think the ol’ girl may have got him,” Murdock said in an English accent. Murdock was now peering through the binoculars watching Amy who was now in conversation with Flores.
“Let me see!” Face tried grabbing them off of Murdock, but he childishly fought with Face to not hand them over.
“Captain, can I have the binoculars back, please?” Hannibal asked, disapproving of his two friends’ behaviour. Murdock, without hesitation, handed the binoculars to Hannibal. “Right and BA’s in place. Face, you ready?”
“Yeah, I’m ready,” he replied with a reluctant tone. “Why is it always me, huh?”
“I don’t know. You just got this look about you, Faceman, that says hit me.” Murdock grinned.
Face shook his head un-assured by Murdock’s comment and got out of the van and headed for the beach.
“Would you like me to put some cream on your back?” Flores asked, smiling at Amy.
“Would you mind?” Amy smiled sweetly and handed him the sun cream.
“Not at all.” Flores took the cream from her and Amy turned her back to him. “Wouldn’t want you to burn.” He crouched down and brushed her hair off of her shoulders and then massaged some cream into her back. His touch was gentle and sensuous and Amy actually relaxed. He’s good, she thought.
“Your little posse of girls won’t mind will they?” Amy could see a couple of them staring at her and Flores.
“No, they won’t mind,” Flores chuckled. “If I’m honest, they were boring me.”
“Oh.” Amy wasn’t sure how to take that statement and said the first thing that entered her head. “Pretty girls bore you do they?” Amy worried she may have asked the wrong thing, but relaxed when she heard Flores laugh.
“They’re alright, but the conversation tends to dry up after a while.”
“So, you thought you’d come over here, and see what I had to say.”
“Something like that,” Flores said as he continued to apply the sun cream. “You know, I’m standing here rubbing cream into a beautiful woman’s back, and I don’t even know her name.” He gently whispered into her ear from behind, which sent a sensation through her she wasn’t quite expecting.
Amy turned to face him, and smiled. For someone with such dark features, she was stunned by his bright blue eyes that stared back at her. She couldn’t believe how blue they were, similar to Hannibal’s; they carried some kind of jazz in them.
“Amy, Amy Phillips.” She looked him straight in the eye and smiled. “And I suppose I really should know the name of the gentleman massaging cream into my back.”
Flores was just about to respond when a voice called out and grabbed both of their attentions.
“Amy! Amy, is that you?” Face walked towards her, with glasses on and a dorky look to him. He used a different accent and higher tone to his usual voice. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“Oh hell!” Amy cursed.
“And who’s this guy, huh?” Face continued pointing at Flores. “I saw him with his hands all over you.”
“Glenn, will you just get lost?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Amy saw Flores snap his fingers at two of his bodyguards that were already making their way over to the commotion.
“I’m telling your father about this.” Face continued to argue with Amy
“About what? Glenn, we broke up over a month ago now,” Amy said angrily, as she stood between Face and Flores.
Flores’ two large bodyguards quickly had Face in a firm, rough hold, each gripping an arm tightly. Face gave a wince and nervous laugh at the two large men.
“Amy, would you like me to get rid of this pain in the ass?” Flores politely asked her ignoring Face completely and nodding at two of his bodyguards, who started to drag Face away from Amy. Luckily for Face, BA had also arrived.
“No, no, it’s okay, my assistant will take care of him.” Amy said spotting BA arriving. BA was dressed similarly to that of Flores’ bodyguards, wearing a dark suit with a little of his gold showing. He had blended in with them until now. “BA, please can you show Glenn the road.” Her tone was firm and believable.
BA nodded and Flores’ bodyguards let go of Face as he approached. “Yes, Miss Phillips.” And he growled at Face, whose expression changed to fear.
Amy smugly smiled at Face who was now being dragged off the beach by BA. “Goodbye, Glenn,” she said sarcastically waving as she did so.
“Amy! I’m sorry!” Face could be heard protesting in the distance whilst being dragged by BA.
“I’m sorry about that…” Amy said turning to Flores.
“Carlos, my name is Carlos Flores.”
“Carlos,” Amy smiled. “He’s an old boyfriend who just hasn’t got the message yet. My father thought he was an appropriate suitor for me, but, oh.” Amy shook herself as if in disgust. “The man is a creep.”
“Yes, my dearest Papa wants me married off. Never had a son you see. And as Glenn works for my father, he thought he’d set us up,” Amy continued. “Backfired obviously, because I didn’t fall in love with him, but he keeps on hounding me. It was utterly depressing and archaic of my father though. You wouldn’t believe this is the 80’s. You really don’t want to be bored with the half of it.”
“Who’s the heavy?”
“Oh, BA. He also works for my father.” Amy let out a sigh. “My father likes to know I’m safe and as he can’t watch me all the time, he hired a bodyguard to do it for him.” Amy tried to sound frustrated by the lack of independence. “BA, for bad attitude apparently,” she giggled.
“Well, maybe over dinner, you could tell me all your problems.” Carlos smiled at her and gently brushed her hair. “I’m a very good listener.”
Amy smiled. “You know, I would like that, very much.”
“I don’t get it,” Amy said, fiddling with her earrings. She sat in the back of the limousine with Hannibal, wearing a black evening dress that Face had provided for her. “Why would Carlos want me to go to his mansion for dinner, rather than a fancy restaurant?”
“Because when you are worth millions, kid, you can buy your own chef,” Hannibal replied, straightening his tie. “Now you told him I was coming, didn’t you?”
“Yes, Papa,” Amy grinned. She could see by the expression on his face, he wasn’t amused. He’d already had a couple of jibes from Murdock and Face about playing her father. “I told him that you were insistent that I had a chaperone. That you are like this with all of my first dates.”
“He seemed rather pleased, he wants to meet you.”
“Of course he does, he’s probably been digging around. Wants to find out about the Phillips Empire that Face has nicely created.” Hannibal grinned, the jazz starting to twinkle in his eyes. Amy could see it and rolled her own eyes.
“Colonel, we’re nearly there,” Murdock called back, handsomely dressed as a chauffeur.
“You ready, kid?” Hannibal said to Amy, and she nodded. “Got the bug?”
“Yeah, BA put it in my compact, it’s in my purse,” Amy replied double-checking her purse to make sure she had everything she needed.
“Face and BA are in the van, at a safe distance. So if we run into trouble, we have backup. Murdock will be able to give the signal. But you’re gonna be fine, kid.” Hannibal could see the nerves rising in Amy as she fidgeted. “Just fine. You look great.” He smiled at her and she felt reassured by his words.
“So how do I look?” He grinned, the jazz sparkling in his eyes as he checked his cufflinks and smoothed down his dinner jacket. Amy couldn’t help but smile.
“You look great too.”
The black limousine pulled up to the huge iron gates of Flores’ mansion. Murdock pushed a button for the electric window to go down, and spoke to the security guard on the gate.
“Miss Phillips and Mr Phillips to see Mr Flores.” Murdock announced his passengers to the guard, and was waved through.
As he drove in, Murdock grinned in the mirror. “You know, Hannibal, I can’t believe you’re a dad.”
Amy smirked at Murdock’s teasing as Hannibal shook his head. Was he ever going to hear the end of this?
Murdock pulled the limo around to the front of the mansion and got out of the car to open the side door, as a chauffeur would do. Amy and Hannibal emerged from the limo. Hannibal held out his arm, and Amy linked hers into his and together they walked to the front door.
It was a warm summer’s evening, and there were still a couple of hours of daylight left. The mansion was as expected, grand, and surrounded by perfectly tended to gardens. Amy could feel the butterflies in her stomach.
A butler greeted them at the door. “Mr Flores will be with you shortly, if you would like to follow me.”
They arrived in the library, which had two leather couches in the centre, the walls covered with shelves full of books.
A large man in a suit who Amy presumed would be a bodyguard followed them in. Hannibal didn’t seem fazed by the large man’s presence. He just grinned and nodded to seem friendly.
“I’m sorry, but Mr Flores has quite a strict security code,” the butler said as he gestured to the bodyguard.
“There really isn’t any need,” Hannibal objected. He had an idea Flores would have his guests checked, but he wanted his reactions to appear normal.
“I’m afraid he insists on this for all his guests.”
Hannibal hesitated for a moment. “Okay,” he said as he emptied out his pockets and the bodyguard patted him down, finding nothing.
The bodyguard then turned to Amy. She assumed he wasn’t going to pat her down like he’d just done Hannibal. Her dress clung to her figure. She wasn’t able to hide anything under it.
“Your purse please, ma’am.”
Amy handed the purse and smiled at the large man. He emptied the contents of her purse onto a small table, and checked all of the items, which were mainly makeup. He appeared happy with what he saw and put the contents gently back into the purse and handed it back to her.
“Thank you,” she said as she took the purse from him.
“If you would like to make yourself comfortable here, I’ll let Mr Flores know that you are waiting,” the butler confirmed. “Sir, would you like me to take your jacket for you?”
“No thank you. I’ll be fine,” Hannibal confirmed and took a seat on the couch.
Ten minutes later, Carlos Flores entered the library. He was smartly dressed, wearing a dark tailored suit with a coordinating tie. Amy couldn’t help think he looked even sexier than he’d done on the beach.
“I’m so sorry. Business,” Flores shook his head, “there is always business to attend to. But now I must concentrate on pleasure.” He kissed Amy on the cheek and then turned to Hannibal and shook his hand. “Mr Phillips.”
“Please, call me Carlos,” he said smiling. His smile could almost give Face a run for his money, thought Hannibal. I’ll hand it to him, the guy is smooth.
“Then, please call me Harry,” Hannibal smiled back.
Flores escorted his guests to his dining room. Servants were available to assist them at the table, pulling out their chairs for them to sit. Amy tried to take everything in. The grand surroundings were something she had never experienced and it all felt surreal. She noticed that Hannibal, however, was just lapping it up; as if this was something he was accustomed to everyday.
Throughout the five courses of dinner, served in top Nouvelle cuisine, the three of them talked. Amy couldn’t help think as the courses were served, how Face would also have appreciated the sophistication and elegance of it all. All courses were brought out on silver platters with silver domes in perfect tiny portions.
Hannibal was pleased to be able to talk business with Flores. Although he allowed Flores to do most of the talking, hoping it might give him some leads. Hannibal was careful with what he said, not being a true businessman in the sense, he didn’t want to give himself away. But he was able to slip into the conversation the information he needed to about the Phillips business, which Flores certainly seemed interested in. But every now and then, Flores would remember his manners and concentrate his attention on Amy. Flores would make tiny gestures towards her like taking her hand or brushing her cheek and would listen intently to every word she spoke. He was definitely taken by her, thought Hannibal. Even in this short time, Flores seemed hooked. His actions certainly portrayed that of a perfect gentleman but would he show his darker side?
Amy listened intently to Hannibal and Carlos. He came across as quite a gentleman and very polite even when Hannibal would deliberately say something to see what reaction it got. Hannibal was obviously testing Carlos by some of the things he’d say or by the tone he took about a subject but Carlos didn’t bite. In fact Carlos didn’t show any signs of rudeness or cruelty that Hannibal was searching for. Either this guy was good or they were barking up the wrong tree. That Carlos was not behind their client’s problems. But then this was the first date. Maybe time would tell?
As the evening wore on, Hannibal and Amy had perfect family stories all laid out to tell Flores, which aided their pretence of father and daughter relationship.
“Papa would always insist that every year, we go camping and fishing.” Amy laughed at her own story, as she sipped at her champagne, “I’m sure you were disappointed I wasn’t a son.”
Hannibal chuckled. Then Flores also chuckled seeing that the two of them were light hearted in their comments to one another.
“My dear, yes I would have liked a son, but I couldn’t have dreamed of having a better daughter,” Hannibal replied affectionately as he sipped at the coffee, which had been freshly poured for him.
“You have a very beautiful daughter, Harry.” Flores took Amy’s hand and kissed it. She could feel the heat rising in her face.
“She sure is, but I’m biased of course,” Hannibal grinned. “Well, Carlos, that meal was delicious.”
“Glad you enjoyed it,” Flores replied.
“Will you excuse me?” Amy dabbed her lips with her napkin. “Please may I visit your powder room?”
“Of course, just down the hall, follow it around to the left,” Flores replied, pointing in the direction she should head. “And it’s the second door on the right. I’ll get Andrew to show you.” Flores started to summon one of his butlers.
“There’s no need. I’ll find it. Thank you.” Amy smiled sweetly at Flores and rose from the table, taking her purse.
“Psst!” Amy turned around to see Murdock standing in a small gap he’d made, with the door ajar. He signalled for her to come to him.
“How did you get in?” Amy whispered as she joined Murdock and he closed the door behind them. She took in the surroundings quickly and realised it must have been Carlos’ study. To the left of the room was a large built in cabinet. The large dark oak doors to it went from the floor to the ceiling. She half expected them to be a secret entrance to another room.
“Never you mind. How I get out will be the clever part.” He flashed her a smile. His eyes had a mischievous glint in them. Was he really crazy or just hiding behind another persona? “Have you got the bug?”
“If you got in so easily, why didn’t you bring the bug?” Amy asked as she started quickly rummaging through her purse.
“Okay, okay, I’ve been rumbled.” Murdock grinned at her. “I asked to go to the bathroom and so they had to search me.”
“What?” Amy couldn’t hide the tone of panic in her voice. “But I’ve just said I needed to use the bathroom!” She handed him the compact.
“Relax, Amy. A house this big has plenty of bathrooms,” he replied, giving her a wink and then he headed over to the desk. As he started to remove the bug from her compact, they both heard a noise outside in the corridor. Murdock’s instant reaction was to grab Amy and hide them both in the large cabinet. They were able to stand inside one part of it, although squashed tightly together. Murdock put his finger up to his mouth to signal for her to keep quiet and with his other arm pulled her close to him. His eyes flitted from hers to looking through the gap in the cabinet doors. Amy kept her eyes on Murdock the whole time, watching him intently.
Murdock pulled her closer to him and shut the cabinet door as a man entered the room. The man was cussing and swearing and as far as they could tell put something on the desk and then walked out again. Amy’s heart pounded and clung onto Murdock tighter. Was this the jazz? Murdock seemed so calm. Whereas all she could think about was if they were caught, that would be it. Game over.
Murdock realised he now had both arms around her. Being stuck in the VA didn’t allow you to hold pretty young girls often and there was this silly patient and nurses rule that just didn’t make any sense. So he was rather enjoying this brief encounter. He had no doubt that she was pretty. There was just enough light in the cabinet that he could look down into her deep brown eyes that were nervously staring back at him. Without even really thinking about it, he gently placed his lips on hers and kissed her.
Amy momentarily widened her eyes with surprise at Murdock’s gesture but didn’t withdraw from the kiss or push him away. As he pulled her closer she relaxed into the kiss, allowing his tongue to gently stroke hers. Surprisingly, his kiss made her feel safe and he wasn’t bad at kissing either. Finally he broke the embrace.
“Er, shit…” Murdock suddenly let go of her. “Sorry about that.” He glanced into the room and then opened up the large cabinet door when he was sure the coast was clear. “That really wasn’t meant to happen,” he said as he stepped out of the cabinet, finding it hard to look her in the eye. Don’t be so childish.
“Sorry for what?” Amy smiled mischievously at him as she followed. Murdock was handsome, not in the same way Face was with his dashing good looks, but handsome all the same. He had a shining personality of unselfish nature. There was something fun and loveable about him that appealed to her. She was finding it hard to hide the fact that she’d enjoyed the kiss, although he was nervously smiling back at her.
“Amy, you go now. Otherwise they’ll wonder where you are.” Murdock decided it was best to change the subject and get back to what he was supposed to be doing. He walked back over to the desk and starting flicking through the file that had just been left.
“Should you be doing that?”
“I’m about to leave a bug in his office, and you’re worried about me looking through a folder?” Murdock looked at her in disbelief. She rolled her eyes. It did seem rather silly. “Isn’t the reporter in you the slightest bit interested in what’s in this folder?”
“Of course.” She joined him at the desk and they both looked at the paperwork in the folder. “It looks like the next company he’s thinking of buying out,” Amy said as she flicked through the various pieces of paper. “Company figures, that sort of thing. All looks legal and above board from where I’m standing.”
“Damn shame. Our job would have been done, otherwise,” Murdock said, retrieving the compact from his pocket and handed it back to Amy. “Now, you really should go.”
“Okay, but what about you?” She put the compact back in her purse, intently watching him set up the bug.
“Don’t you worry about me, Chica,” he winked. “I’ll be back at that limo, before you can say Jack rabbit.”
“Jack rabbit,” she responded sarcastically and Murdock rolled his eyes, waving his hands to shoo her away.
Amy smiled and listened from behind the door to check the corridor was clear. When she was confident she opened the door and hurried out. As she walked around the corner she bumped into a member of staff who looked at her with interrogation.
“Sorry, I’ve seemed to have got lost. Could you please tell me where the restroom is?” She hoped she didn’t sound too flustered.
Amy hurriedly adjusted herself in the restroom, checking her makeup and her dress. Conscious that she’d taken far too long and Carlos would get suspicious she hurried back to the table. But slowed herself down as she reached the room she knew Carlos and Hannibal were in.
As she approached the table she could hear Hannibal joking with Carlos.
“I was just saying, what do women do in the restroom that takes them so long?”
“Well, you know, Papa, we like to make sure we look our best. Especially when on a date.” She smiled at Carlos. He didn’t seem suspicious of her. He responded with a smile back and a chuckle at Hannibal’s comment.
“Well, I for one don’t disapprove. However, someone as beautiful as you doesn’t need to spend that much time in the restroom.” Amy blushed as Carlos spoke. The compliments she was receiving didn’t seem quite believable. Maybe he was after something?
“Shall we have coffee in the solarium?” Carlos stood from the table and took Amy’s hand to lead her round the table. He didn’t let go either. He gently held it as they walked together.
Hannibal walked the other side of her. His expression didn’t show it, but he was grinning on the inside.
“Here you go, Amy,” Face said as he opened the door to the hotel suite. It was rather late, Amy had just returned with Hannibal from Carlos’ dinner date. She was feeling exhausted and just needed her bed.
As she walked into the suite she was amazed by the size of it. On the way up in the elevator, Face had bragged about it being a penthouse suite but she’d been too tired to pay much attention. Now standing in the suite, luxury wasn’t enough to describe it. It was pristine. Decorated in rich yellows and creams with matching lavish furnishings. She felt like she was going to live like a princess for however long this case took.
“Wow, Face, how do you do it?” Amy shook her head in disbelief. They were standing in the living room and she could see a dining room off of it. Face had a smug expression. She couldn’t help but think that she seemed to be asking him that question a lot lately. “But do you really think it’s necessary for me to be in this suite? I mean it’s only supposed to be a couple of dates with Carlos.” She’d told Carlos that recently moving to the area she and her father were staying at the City Skye, a five star hotel that overlooked Santa Monica’s beaches, until they found something more permanent. Face had procured, as he called it, the other penthouse suite, on Mr Phillip’s behalf, on the same floor for the rest of the team to stay at so they were close to Amy.
“Flores will be checking you out as we speak. He needs to think you’re rich, hence the five star hotel, so that you look as if you are not after him for his money.” Face put his arm around her waist and turned her around so that she took in the whole apartment. Amy looked down at his hand then at him disapprovingly but didn’t make him remove his arm. “Even if it is for just a couple of dates, kid.”
“And he’ll buy it?” Would Carlos really be checking her and Hannibal out to make sure their story stuck? That concerned her. What if he did find out who she really was? This seemed like too much to take in.
“Of course he’ll buy it,” Face reassured her. “By the time Flores works out who you really are, we’ll have him hung out to dry, kid.”
“I hope so.” Amy was rather nervous about dating Carlos and what it could lead to. Tonight he’d seemed the perfect gentleman, so gentle and kind towards her. Very different to what she had expected considering the reasons she was supposed to be getting close to him. But if his behaviour tonight was anything to go by, she just couldn’t quite believe Carlos was capable of being as cruel as implied and that he was behind their client’s misfortunes.
“Hang on.” Amy started to worry. This was a lovely hotel suite, there had to be a catch. “How did you book this place? Can we afford it?”
“Amy, Amy, Amy,” Face continued to hold his arm around her waist, although he could sense she wasn’t happy with it and that her guard was up. He could smell the rich floral scent of her perfume. It suited her and she looked extremely pretty in her black evening dress, all made up for Flores’ benefit. And by the sounds of things from Hannibal it had worked too. “I can’t give away all of my trade secrets now, can I?”
“But Face, I’m a law-abiding citizen. I have a good job and I pay my taxes. I don’t want to wind up in jail if I get caught in this place because I’m not supposed to be here, or the bill hasn’t been paid.”
“You won’t. Trust me. I do this all the time.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit like, well, how shall I put it?” Face was rolling his hands in front of him as he spoke, a habit of his she'd noticed when he was on a con or trying to convince someone that the sky was pink. “A favour for this person, favour for that person. Nobody questions it.”
“No,” Face said confidently and then smiled. Amy was still trying to decipher if she could trust that smile.
Murdock entered the apartment and Face dropped his arm from around Amy’s waist and started to show her about. Murdock had his hands full of various dresses and suits on their hangers covered in clear plastic as if they’d come from the dry cleaners.
“Where do you want these, Amy?” He sounded out of breath.
“Oh, in the bedroom. Where ever that is?” She looked at Face hoping he’d give her the answer.
“The bedroom is this way.” Face took her arm and directed her to the bedroom. It was another luxurious room. She could see there was a bathroom off of it, twice the size of hers at home. “You’ve got the suite with only one bedroom I’m afraid. I needed the two-bedroom suite for us. But nice, don’t you think?” He gestured to the bedroom they’d now entered. Amy didn’t answer him, but just weakly smiled back.
Murdock started to lay the clothes on the enormous king size bed.
“Murdock, hang them straight in the closet, please,” Amy said picking up the clothes he’d already laid on the bed. “I don’t want them to crease.” Amy took them into what she noticed was a walk in closet. She almost wanted to pinch herself. A room just to store her clothes and shoes in.
“Oh, sorry,” Murdock said and left the room, leaving Amy to continue to hang the clothes.
“Face, you sure these clothes will fit me?” She asked as she studied the outfits she was hanging up. Most of the outfits cost at least a month’s salary at the paper. Designer labels she’d only ever dreamed of owning. All for the image Hannibal wanted. Carlos needed to believe she was already well looked after and that she wouldn’t be looking for his money. It needed to look like a mutual attraction. She shook her head, wanting to pinch herself again.
“Amy,” his tone was so sure of itself. “They’ll fit you. Trust me.” He looked her straight in the eye. Convincing blue eyes.
Amy just laughed. “Trust you!” He’s saying it again. He’s a conman by nature, she thought, and expects me to believe every word he says. She was determined not to look as if she was falling for any of his charm. Especially as she’d seen how he’d worked on other women. He’ll just think I’m as gullible as the rest of them.
“Now this,” Face ignored her comments and pulled out a dark blue dress from the closet, “I chose this in a size 4 because the 6 would definitely have been too big.” He looked her up and down as he did so, and then raised an eyebrow. “If you know what I mean?”
“A four!” I’ll never fit in a 4, she thought. “And how’d you know I was a size 6, Face?”
“Let’s just say it’s a talent of mine.” He just continued to grin at her, looking her up and down.
“Faceman is good with all sorts of figures, Amy, not just the numerical kind.” Murdock winked at her. Obviously he had overheard the conversation between the two of them as he came back into the bedroom laden with more outfits and shoes. He was about to place them on the bed, but Amy shot him a look to tell him otherwise.
“Trust me. You’ll find the fabric is quite stretchy, it’ll cling to you beautifully,” he said too smoothly and put the dress up against her again, smiling, too confidently. Her expression showed that she was not amused but Face didn’t seemed to be fazed.
“That’s them all, muchacho.” Murdock confirmed to Face after hanging the last of the outfits in the closet.
Amy couldn’t believe how Face had got hold of all these outfits. Maybe it’s best not to ask about that too, not if she wanted to sleep tonight.
“But will I need all of these outfits?” She’d counted roughly fifteen outfits, which seemed rather a lot for a couple of dates.
“I know how you girls are. I thought you might like to have a choice,” Face replied. “And it’s good to be prepared for every eventuality. There’s an outfit for lunch, brunch, theatre…”
“Oh, right. I suppose.”
“Now if you would like me to stay behind, and, er… let’s say, help you try on some of these dresses.” He held the blue dress back up against her.
“No, Face, I think I’ll be able to try on the dresses quite confidently by myself, thank you.” Amy grinned sarcastically back, snatching the blue dress out of his hand and started to push him out of the bedroom. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’m tired and would really like to go to bed.” Face smiled at her. “On my own!”
“Amy, I wouldn’t…” Face started to hastily walk out of the bedroom. “Right, well, we’ll be down the hall.” Amy followed, ushering him out. “You’ve got the room number if you need it.” Amy nodded still pushing him out towards the front door.
“Yeah, anything you need Amy, you just give us a call.” Murdock smiled. A reassuring smile that you could trust. He put down the gadget he was now playing with and followed Face to the door realising Amy’s mood was not improving.
“I’ll be fine.” And she closed the door behind them as they left.
She walked back into the bedroom and looked at the blue dress. She couldn’t resist trying it on, just to prove Face wrong. A four was never going to fit.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Amy said five minutes later standing in front of a full-length mirror. She was inside the walk in closet, wearing the dark blue dress. It fitted perfectly and clung to her figure as Face had said. A size 6 would have been too big, especially around the bust. Her expression changed to frustration and anger at that thought. “Damn it, he even knows my darn bust size!”
“Penny for your thoughts, Sir.”
Carlos looked up, startled, to see his butler standing in front of his desk and smiled. He raised an eyebrow.
“I did knock, but you were, let’s say, preoccupied.” The butler smiled and placed a large crystal brandy snifter on the desk in front of him. “Your brandy, Sir.”
“Sorry, Andrew. I was looking at this.” Carlos closed the file in front of him and rubbed his eyes, before looking up at the butler. “But my mind was elsewhere. When did Wesley drop the file off?”
“While you were at dinner, Sir.”
“I think I’ll leave it until tomorrow now, it’s getting very late and I can’t concentrate on it at the moment.”
The butler started to leave the study, but hesitated. “Is it because of the girl, Mr Flores?”
Carlos laughed. He’d known his butler long enough to allow him these questions. In fact, he liked it. He took the brandy in his hand and leant back in his leather chair, catching Andrew’s eye so that he would continue.
“She seemed delightful enough.”
“Yes, she did, didn’t she? Yes, I like her. A lot,” Carlos said, breaking the eye contact to watch the brandy swirl in the crystal glass. “She’s not like the rest of them. She’s pretty, but intelligent and for a woman so young she seems to have her head on straight. I just felt like I could be myself around her. And at least I don’t have to worry that she’s just after me for money; seems she has plenty of her own.” Carlos broke his focus on the brandy glass and turned towards his butler, leaning on the desk. “Her father was an interesting man too, although I’m not sure that I like him. But then I’m not thinking about dating him, am I?” Carlos laughed again and his butler smiled in return.
“So does this mean you are seeing her again?” the butler asked as Carlos stood up and walked over to his cabinet to shut the door properly.
“Yes, tomorrow. She’s agreed to meet me for lunch,” Carlos replied, smiling. He sat back down at his desk. “That reminds me, please could you book The Olive Tree for tomorrow lunch time?”
“Certainly, Sir. Anything else before I retire for the evening?”
“No, that will be all.” Carlos leant back in his chair and sipped at his brandy. “Thank you, Andrew. Good night.”
“Good night, Mr Flores.” Carlos waited until his butler left the study before finishing his brandy.
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