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Authors: Pro Se Press

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BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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That depends how
economically responsible I get to be,” Monroe said.


What do you mean?” Winter
asked.


I mean,” Monroe answered,
“that we’d be saving the hotel a handful of money if we used one
room tonight instead of two. We wouldn’t want to bankrupt the Crown
before it’s even officially open, now would we, Winter?”


No, Richard, I suppose we
wouldn’t.” Winter smiled. “You’re lucky it’s free, since you seem
to have chosen the lady over the money.”

 

***

 

They put in another
appearance at the ballroom. They separated for a while and Monroe
had another scotch. The reporter he had sat with at dinner came
scurrying over like a curious puppy.


Where did you two run off
to?”


Never mind where I went,”
Monroe said. “Suffice it to say that I’m having an excellent
evening.”


But I smell a story,” the
press rat said. “I think you’ve picked up more information on that
little vanilla-frosted cupcake of a woman than I have in several
years of trying. Come on, Monroe, just give me
something.”


Give me your card,” Monroe
said, “and maybe I’ll call you. Now get out of here. I have a
woman
to get back to, not a cupcake.”

While the conversation with
the media man had been going on, Monroe had watched Winter
peripherally, seeing her stop by the mayor’s dais and say a few
words to the city’s leader and to Cyril Benson. He had tried to
read the lips, but had not quite caught what was being said. The
hotel owner stood up then and made the announcement that Winter had
predicted.


As a courtesy to any of our
guests who are too tired or too…otherwise affected by this
wonderful gathering, the Boston Crown Hotel is pleased to offer
rooms tonight to any of you who wish to stay. Please see any of the
clerks who will now be making the rounds of the ballroom and giving
out room numbers and the pass cards needed to get into those rooms.
And thank you all for coming and making this night such a
success.”

Moments later, Winter had
started back in Monroe’s direction. She reached him, gently took
the glass, almost empty now, from his hand and placed it on the
bar. She slipped her hand into his and they walked out of the
ballroom together.


Room 707,” she said as they
reached the corridor. “One of the first-class suites, they tell
me.”

As they rose in the
elevator, Monroe was hit by a sharp realization. He was about to
spend the night with a woman, and she would be the first since
Genevieve. He was not quite sure how he felt about that. He
reminded himself that only the mission mattered now, and he willed
his emotions to crawl back into their closet just as firmly as he
had told the reporter to get out of his way.

 

***

 

Winter’s information was
accurate: 707 was indeed a first-rate suite and it lived up to its
classification. The pair took full advantage of the privacy. Monroe
pushed away thoughts of Genevieve and acted as though Winter
Willows was the only beautiful woman in the world. He satisfied her
and she did the same for him and they finally fell asleep in the
afterglow of much pleasure.

In the morning, they
showered together and parted ways with another long
kiss.


We really must do this
again…and soon,” Monroe said in the lobby of the Boston
Crown.

They programmed each others’
numbers into their phones and parted. Monroe went outside and had
the valet on morning duty bring the Lexus around. He got in and
drove away, but he stopped six blocks from the hotel and pulled
over to the side of the street. He reached under the seat and found
the Glock still where he had concealed it. Then he searched for
something else.


Amateurs,” he muttered. The
bug was exactly where he expected it to be. So he knew he was being
listened to and would not communicate with Mr. Nine while driving.
No big deal, he decided, and no reason to let them know that he
knew. He turned the radio up loud, thankful for the Bee Gees, for
the listeners might find them annoying.

When he arrived home, he
checked the apartment thoroughly but found nothing to indicate that
the place had been broken into or bugged while he had been away.
Good. That meant that someone in the Boston food chain was curious
enough to do the car but he was not yet considered to be a serious
threat worthy of home surveillance.

He spent the remainder of
the day at rest, reading, eating a light lunch and a filling
supper, and thought about how to proceed now that he had made
contact, in so many interesting ways, with the woman who he
suspected held the key to the information he needed. He still was
not sure exactly where Winter Willows connected to the Boston
underworld and to the bigger ocean where swam the shark, Garrett
Khan, but he thought he was well on the way to finding
out.

 

Chapter 11: Slip
of the Tongue

 

 

Monroe waited three days
before calling Winter Willows. Over-eager chasing had never been
his way, not with woman he was after for informational purposes and
not for woman he wanted otherwise. Even with Genevieve he had
proceeded cautiously at first. But now it was time to get on with
it.

She answered on the fourth
ring. “Hello, Richard.”


How are you,
Winter?”


Tired, to be honest; it’s
been a busy few days.”


Why? What’s been
happening?”


Just business and I don’t
want to bore you with the details.”


You sound like you need
some down time, Winter. Why don’t you come over tonight? My place
is no Boston Crown, but I like to think it’s quite adequate. I’ll
make us dinner.”


You cook?”


On my better days,” Monroe
said. “How’s eight thirty sound?”


I suppose so,” Winter
answered, “if you don’t mind a more casual version of me. I won’t
be dressed like I was for the Crown event.”


It’s quite all right,”
Monroe said, hoping his next line would not be too much, “I liked
what you didn’t wear for our post-Crown event just as
well.”


Eight thirty then,” Winter
agreed. “Send the address by text.”

 

***

 

The call ended and the
promise made, Monroe hurried out to shop. It had been a long time
since he had made dinner and he had to do it right. An hour at the
market should do it, he thought, and was on his way.

He decided on Italian: not
too exotic since he was not quite sure of Winter’s food
preferences, and not too difficult to prepare but could look
impressive if done artistically. He arrived home with bags full of
veal, pasta, vegetables, capers, sauces, and the best bottle of
wine he could find on short notice. Feeling a bit silly about the
whole thing, he reminded himself that it was all part of the job.
Monroe tied on his apron and started humming the
Mission:
Impossible
theme as he diced the tomatoes.

Several hours later, just as
Monroe had emerged from the bathroom, freshly shaved and dressed
and long since finished with his culinary mission, the doorbell
rang. It was precisely eight-thirty. Winter Willows was a punctual
creature.

 

***

 


Richard, you outdid
yourself. That was excellent,” Winter said as she finished her meal
and poured more wine. “Maybe you missed your calling, marketing
consultant who could have been a chef!”


Flattery won’t work on me,”
Monroe said as he got up, walked around to Winter’s side of the
table, and leaned down to kiss her. “I prefer action over mere
words.”


Then give me a minute,”
Winter said, standing up too, “and let me freshen up.”

Monroe watched her walk into
the bathroom and shut the door behind her. She had shown up, as
promised on the phone, in attire that was much more casual than the
dress from the Boston Crown. Knee-high winter boots came up over
jeans that were just tight enough to accent all the right places. A
purple sweater that matched the color of the other night’s evening
gown was just as suitably tight as the jeans. The unique hair in
all its snowy glory was tied back in a ponytail that made her look
even younger than she had at the Crown, which made the contrast
between face and hair color all the more striking.

While Winter was in the
bathroom, Monroe went into the bedroom, took his gun out of the
drawer where he kept it hidden, and slipped it under one of the
bed’s pillows, just in case. Finished with his one little bit of
cautious preparation, he strolled back into the living room with a
relaxed smile on his face just in time for his companion to emerge
from her freshening.

The door opened and Winter
walked out, heap of boots and jeans and sweater held up in front of
her body with long legs ending in bare feet showing below. She
smiled, giggled, and tossed the empty clothes aside, standing there
in just a red bra and panties.

Monroe very much liked what
he saw, and he smiled back at her. They approached each other,
kissed again, and he led her into the bedroom. But even as they
walked, something nagged at his instincts. It felt too easy and the
way she had laughed, like a flirty schoolgirl, seemed out of
character for the woman who had shown herself to be capable of such
guarded coldness when first they had met.

In the bedroom, the lamp
still lit, Winter jumped onto the bed, laughing again, gesturing
with a finger for Monroe to come and get her. Monroe stood there
for a moment admiring her and took off his shirt, casting it away.
He stepped out of his shoes, unbuckled his belt, opened the button
of his pants, and approached her. He knelt at the edge of the bed
as she unhooked her bra and tossed it away. He crawled to her,
grabbed onto the edge of her one remaining piece of clothing, and
slid the red silk away from her body, down along her legs, and over
her feet and off, letting it fall to the floor beside the bed. His
hands landed on her legs and began to work up, passing the knees,
running up the thighs. Their eyes met and they smiled at each
other. Winter’s breathing grew louder, more intense, and Monroe
could feel his arousal deepening. He dropped his head down between
her thighs, intending to bring her pleasure up to the highest level
he could manage before he sought to satisfy his own desires. His
body over hers made shadows on the pale surface of her thighs, but
he could see enough to navigate his way to where she seemed to want
him to go.

That was when he saw it. He
stopped moving for a second and then raised his head to let in just
a bit more light. He stared down at Winter’s right thigh for an
instant, making certain he was correct, and then moved quickly and
decisively.

He straightened his back,
balanced on his knees, leaned forward, and slapped Winter hard
across the face with his open palm. Her head swung to the side and
she cried out. Monroe rolled over the side of the bed, gained his
footing, fished the Glock out from under the pillow, and backed up
against the bedroom wall.

By the time Winter had
recovered her senses and sat there with a hand held up to her
aching cheek and a shocked, frightened look on her face, Monroe had
his gun trained on her and a cold look in his blue eyes.


You stupid bitch,” Monroe
said, “did you really think it would be that easy? I have eyes, you
know, and they connect very well to my brain. That birthmark on
your leg wasn’t there when I first explored the territory the other
night, and I can see—as any man who knows how to look would—that
the skin around it isn’t quite the same as the rest of that lovely
thigh of yours. A patch of false flesh with a spot of something
hidden in the dark part, isn’t it? What’s it rigged with, Winter,
cyanide maybe, or something equally deadly? Set to be released by
the touch of a moist tongue, I suppose? Did you just put that on
while you were freshening up?”


Do you intend to shoot me,
Richard?” Winter asked. There were no tears now, no frightened
little girl eyes, just the cold tone she had used on him when they
had first flirted at the Boston Crown.


Get up!” Monroe growled,
and Winter did as she was told.


Walk,” Monroe said, and he
followed two feet behind her. “Try anything and I’ll blow a hole in
your spine. Walk into the living room. Good. Now grab a tissue from
that box on the coffee table and use it to peel that silly thing
off your leg. Good girl. Now drop it on the floor and get
dressed.”

Winter was fully clothed in
a minute. Monroe never let the gun drop during the whole
process.


Now turn toward me and sit
down on the couch. Keep your hands where I can see
them.”

She did. Monroe sat too, in
his favorite chair, angled to the left of Winter’s position, the
Glock still locked on target.


Now you’re going to tell me
exactly what it is that you do for the mayor and others, Ms.
Willows.”

Winter saw no use in
resisting now. She understood the ice in Monroe’s eyes. There was
no pity there and he
would
kill her if she gave him a good
enough excuse.

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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