The Baby Contract(6)

By: Barbara Dunlop



 “She’s working.” Which he imagined was pretty much the same thing for Kassidy.

 Troy had protected a lot of celebrities over the years. With a few notable exceptions, sports stars and film personalities were mostly professional. The lion’s share of what made it into the tabloids was a part of their carefully crafted public image. Musicians, however, were a breed unto themselves. They kept late hours, drank and partied, and a lot of them truly lived the rock-and-roll lifestyle.

 Vegas eyed Drake up and down. “I don’t get it,” he said. “It would be one thing if she got knocked up.”

 “You do remember you’re talking about my sister.” Troy wasn’t sure why he felt compelled to defend her at this late date.

 Vegas’s brow went up. “Well, excuse me, but isn’t this the baby sister who trashed three rooms at the Poco Hollywood Hotel?”

 “She had help.”

 To keep the whole thing out of court, Troy had paid the bill.

 “She’s not exactly mother material,” said Vegas.

 Troy couldn’t disagree with that. He briefly tightened his hold on Drake. Poor kid. This was likely to be a rocky ride.

 “I’m thinking a full-time nanny,” said Troy.

 Vegas coughed out a chopped laugh. “One for each of them?”

 Troy opened his mouth to defend her again, but he had nothing to say. There was no point in pretending Kassidy was in any position to raise a child. Why a terminally ill single mom had made his sister promise to take guardianship of an innocent baby was a mystery to him.

 “I saw Mila leave with Kassidy.” Vegas let the sentence hang.

 “I didn’t hire her,” said Troy.

 “Does she know that?”

 “Yes.”

 Vegas gave a crooked smirk.

 “She may not have accepted it yet,” said Troy.

 “But she’s not equipped.” It wasn’t a question. If Mila had a company camera or communications device, Vegas would see it on his monitors.

 “It’s not an op,” said Troy. “It’s a performance.”

 “So you’ve analyzed the data.”

 “Not all of it. Not yet. It’s fan letters. If Kassidy wants to flail around onstage in lingerie while she belts out pop tunes, guys are going to make comments.”

 “You think there’s no danger?”

 “Do you think there is?”

 Vegas shrugged. “I doubt it.”

 “There. Good.” Troy sat down on one of the rolling desk chairs. “What’s going on in the Middle East?”

 Vegas zoomed in on a camera. “Prince Matin had a late night, but he’s up and around, and the car is out front of the hotel.”

 “Gotta love the partying spirit of the reformers,” said Troy.

 Vegas grinned. “He had a supermodel on his arm when he finally left the reception.”

 Prince Matin was in his early thirties, had plenty of money and was a genuine supporter of capitalism and an improved regulatory regime. He had the respect of his countrymen and an understanding of the West. That was a rare enough combination that nobody seemed to care what he did in his private life.

 “Any new chatter about the protest?” Troy asked.

 “It’s been quiet enough. John’s got five guys going undercover in the crowd. They’re liaising with the city police.”

 “The minute the speech is over tonight, we put him behind the glass.”

 “That’s the plan,” said Vegas.

 There were sensitivities around the podium being behind bulletproof glass, but they’d erected a barrier on each side of the stage, so only one dignitary would be exposed at any given time.

 “The snipers?” Troy asked.

 “Two of ours and five will be from the police department. Matin agreed to the bulletproof vest.”

 “That’s a first.”

 Drake wriggled on Troy’s shoulder, moving his head back and forth, and Troy readjusted his hold.

 “What are you going to do if he gets hungry?” asked Vegas.

 “The nanny should be here any minute.” Troy extracted his cell phone and pressed the speed dial for the front reception.

 “Yes, boss?” came Edison’s voice.

 “Any sign down there of Alice Miller from Total Tykes?”

 “Nothing so far. Problem, boss?”

 “Not yet.”

 But Vegas did have a point. Eventually Drake was going to get hungry.

 “Shall I track her down?” asked Edison.

 “Sure. See what you can do.” Troy assumed Edison would start with the agency’s phone number rather than a city-wide traffic cam search.

 “Did Kassidy leave you a bottle?” asked Vegas as he double-checked a set of GPS markers in France.

 Troy wasn’t sure he’d understood the question. “Say again?”

 “I take it the nanny is MIA. Check your refrigerator. I bet you find bottles of formula.”

 “She’s a nanny, not a fugitive. She’ll be here any second.”

 “Just giving you a contingency.”

 Drake wiggled again.

 “Since when do you care about babies?” asked Troy.

 “He seems a little restless.”

 “He’s supposed to sleep for hours.”

 “Whatever you say.” Then Vegas zoomed in on a screen. He went still and flicked a switch on his headset. “Boomer’s on that job in Rio, remember? He’s on the run.”

 Troy’s focus was instant. “What happened?”

 Vegas reached for the intercom to put the feed on the speakers, but Troy grabbed his arm. “You’ll wake him.”

 Vegas nodded, withdrawing his hand to leave the sound coming to his headset. “Shots were fired.”

 “At the band?” Troy could barely believe it.

 Vegas paused. “Nobody hit. They’re in the bus headed for the hotel.”

 Boomer was at a Rio de Janeiro jazz festival with a California band. The festival attracted thousands, but it didn’t have a history of violence. It had been considered a routine operation.

 “They think it was probably celebratory gunfire,” said Vegas. “But Boomer wasn’t taking any chances.”

 “Good decision,” said Troy.

 “Roger that,” Vegas said into his microphone. He flicked a smile. “No longer headed for the hotel. They happened onto a beach party. Boomer will pull in a couple of reinforcements.”

 “Gotta be a hundred parties there tonight,” said Troy.

 “I wouldn’t mind an assignment in Rio,” said Vegas.

 “I’d take anything with palm trees right about now.”

 There were no windows in the DC control room, but the day had been cloudy and gray, October drizzle turning into November cold.

 Troy’s phone buzzed.

 He could only hope it was Edison with good news.

 “Yeah?”

 “Troy? It’s Mila.”

 Her voice took him by surprise. For some reason it seemed to resonate right down to his bones.

 “What are you doing with my direct line?” he asked.

 “Kassidy gave it to me.”

 Drake wriggled against his shoulder, and Troy lowered his voice. “Next time, call the switchboard.”

 “Sure.” She went silent.

 “Is something wrong?”

 “I thought you’d like an update.”

 “What I’d like is a nanny.”

 “The nanny’s not there yet?”

 “No,” he said.

 “Where is she?”

 “I have no idea. You want to come back and take over?”

 “Kassidy is onstage. The crowd’s going nuts. You know, Troy, she really is good.”

 “I know she’s good.”

 “I mean good, good. There’s something in the crowd. It’s an energy, almost a fervor. This is about to go big-time, and you really do need to think about formalizing her security.”

 “Let me guess, you want to head the task force?”

 “Sure.”

 “That was a joke, Mila.”

 “I’m not joking.”

 “You’re angling for a job.” He wasn’t buying what she was selling.

 “Is that deductive reasoning 101?”

 “Ha-ha.”

 “Gotta go. We’ll talk later.” The line went dead.

 Troy heaved a sigh and pocketed his phone while Drake kicked his little legs and whimpered in his sleep. Anybody could see this babysitting thing was all about to go south.

 Vegas turned from the monitor screens to gaze at the baby. “You ready to talk about the formula contingency plan?”





                       Three

 Mila and Kassidy crept into Troy’s apartment at three a.m. after a fantastic performance. Kassidy had come back onstage for two encores, and the club manager had already contacted Eileen Renard looking to set up future gigs. The social media buzz that had started during the evening continued even now.

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