Cursed Good Luck
Amina Patel lounged—as she so often did—in shadow. Her high-backed chair was apart from the various clusters of furniture around the parlor and had its own small table, the lantern on it currently unlit. A tendril of aromatic smoke swirled upwards from her cherry wood pipe as she sat, legs crossed and eyes closed, listening to the ebb and flow of the voices around her as discussion blossomed after the harrowing recounting. Only the graceful motion of her arm bringing the pipe to her lips then resting again on the arm of the chair marred her aura of absolute stillness.
Yet anyone assuming she wasn’t paying attention would be sorely mistaken. Amina enjoyed the wide, wild variety of stories other members of the elite club shared.
“Mr. Bailey, what a fascinating tale.” A wry smile touched her lips as she saw she’d captured the attention of everyone in the room. She fancied that they looked expectant, down to the very last gentleman and lady.
Far be it from her to disappoint.
Amina dodged to her right and three glowing four-point throwing stars embedded themselves with rapid-fire thuds in the door jamb inches from her head.
Except Amina knew it was the right room, just minus the friend she was supposed to meet.
And the elegant weapons didn’t match the Neanderthal hurling them.
The strapping brute of a man with the shaved head and maniacally gleeful, ferocious grin didn’t look anything like her curvaceous scarlet-tressed friend. Filthy and clad in rags, he reeked as if he’d never bathed in his life. The stench hit Amina in the face even at the distance, totally obliterating the fragrance of lavender that dawdled wherever Victoria had been. A stark blue tattoo on his left temple arched up over his eye.
Slamming the door closed behind her—not that would do much good, but Amina would take every second she could get—she sprinted down the hall of what once had been a glorious mansion. One hundred years ago in 1790.
Now it was New London’s only luxury accommodations for travelers with a saloon and bathhouse on the ground floor and finely appointed guest rooms on the two upper levels. Each suite, only eight per story, comprised three rooms. A single long corridor bisected each floor.
She tested the next door as she ran, knowing she’d never make it to the end of the hallway. The sound of splintering wood and a howl of rage barely muffled by the wall told her that he had fallen over the desk chair in his haste to chase after her.
The door opened!
Amina darted in and closed the door silently, which let her clearly hear the other door crash open down the hall. Ever so carefully, she engaged the lock, leaving the key in its hole.
Then she turned halfway around to find a bare-chested man regarding her with a look more puzzled than alarmed. Rapidly dissipating, the sultry scent of soap and steam wafted off his body.
She put a finger to her lips. Heavy footsteps pounded past, then stopped abruptly.
The silence chilled Amina far worse than the breakneck noise had. She kept an ear to the door.
The man was still staring at her. To his credit, he didn’t say a word. He did, however, raise an eyebrow in enquiry.
A floorboard creaked probably at the doors at the other end of the hall.
Afraid the hotel guest would lose patience before it was safe, she held up a hand in a “Please wait!” gesture and tilted her head, straining to hear the tiniest sound.
He folded his arms, eyebrow still quirked, and continued to stare. Something told her the beautiful blue eyes often twinkled with mischief, but now they held intense curiosity and concern.
Those eyes focused behind her and he gave a slight nod in that direction.
She looked over her shoulder and saw a brass coat stand—holding a stylish jacket of the finest dark blue linen and a hat…
…and a holster.
With a revolver securely in place.
Amina favored the man with a look of pure adoration as she eased the weapon from its perch. Then she fixed her gaze on his and mouthed the word, “Loaded?”
He nodded, raising his hand with fingers and thumb splayed. So, five bullets in the six shooter. Good to know.
Again, the sound of the softest footfall in the hallway.
Right outside their door.
Amina tensed and held her breath, then forced every muscle to relax so that—if need be—she could move as swiftly as possible.
The room’s rightful occupant didn’t move.
Making a barely audible rasping sound, the door handle turned. The wooden door rattled slightly but didn’t budge. The doorknob rotated back.
After another minute, her pursuer moved too far away for Amina to hear him. Still she didn’t move.
Just as she heaved a huge sigh and was about to expel it, an furious roar shattered the silence. She jerked in place and—just barely—managed to keep from giving an involuntary shriek herself.
The man also jerked and sucked in his breath, his eyes growing wider as he regarded her.
The door pounded shut at the far end of the hall, and Amina blew out her breath and sagged against the door. The man had gone into the stairwell. She could only guess which direction he took on the stairs. Thank heavens the concierge had told her Mrs. Van der Witten had not yet returned. But now Amina needed to intercept her before anyone else did.
She replaced the Colt in its perch. “Thank you very much, most kind sir,” she said, the whisper not hiding her deep emotion. She couldn’t help it; she kept her voice low. So did he.
“My pleasure, Ma’am,” the man bowed, which should have looked ridiculously silly seeing as he was half naked. It didn’t. And softly as he’d spoken, she still thought he had a lovely deep voice.
He wore trousers and nothing else. Dark hair still glistened with water like he had just come from the bathhouse downstairs, but was now beginning to dry. His bare feet sank in to the deep pile rug.
Tall and broad with the fair skin of a man who did not work outside, he nonetheless made a most magnificent masculine specimen of homo sapiens. Then again, overwhelming relief and gratitude could be coloring Amina’s judgment, she admitted.
Then again, maybe not.
She strode across the room, kissed him soundly on the mouth, then heaved the window open just in case the mysterious murderous attacker lurked in the lobby. She ducked out and onto the roof of the first floor veranda, pausing with one leg still inside. “Thank you again. Safest for you if you don’t mention this to anyone.”
Much as she would have loved to prolong the acquaintance, she needed to find Victoria with the utmost speed.
Amina dropped to the ground and dusted herself off. A few gowned and bejeweled ladies strolled by, completely ignoring the fact that Amina had just landed from off the roof. They did, however, regard her pants, turtleneck and waistcoat with distain. Giving twin audible sniffs of contempt, they looked down their patrician noses at her for just a moment before sweeping past.
Amina laughed. But her mirth was short lived. She had more important things to do. Like finding her friend Victoria before the horrid brigand did.
To her overwhelming joy, the anxiety was equally short lived.
A cheery baby blue parasol fringed with even paler blue lace bobbed above the crowd of pedestrians in the street, some milling about, others walking with purpose. Amidst the swirl of people, it proceeded on a straight line for the hotel.
That was Victoria. Beloved lifelong friend, sister-in-law—’in-law’ in name only as Amina considered her every bit as much a sibling as her own twin brother—and an indomitable force of nature.
Naturally her attire matched the parasol. Impeccably stylish in a long azure skirt and short jacket with white ruffles at her throat and wrists and a rakish hat atop her auburn curls, Victoria spotted Amina immediately and frowned.
Holding her parasol carefully to the side, she stood on tip-toe and stretched to kiss Amina’s cheek. “Dearest, I thought you’d be in the hotel waiting for me. And such a deep scowl. What happened?”
“Someone was already there. And I didn’t have my revolvers with me.” Amina linked arms with her and they ambled away from the hotel.
“Why ever not?”
“I didn’t plan to shoot you,” Amina told her dryly.
Victoria acknowledged that point with a little smirk then listened without comment as Amina recounted the most unfortunate—and potentially lethal—incident.
“Victoria, normally I’d assume I’m the target of any such blackguards, but he was in your room. Any thoughts or theories on why?”
“Not a one, I’m afraid.” They reached the offices of Bartholomew Alan James Van der Witten III, owner and president of Van der Witten Shipping—and of much of New London—and husband of Victoria.
Doormen nodded politely to the ladies as they entered. Now in relative safety, Amina breathed easier and felt comfortable enough to stop scanning her surroundings every second. Deceptively fashionable in their navy uniforms, the two doormen—Amina knew—also protected the premises. Both men—each nearly as strapping as the brute who had accosted her and far more skilled and intelligent—would prevent any unwanted individuals from entering the building. The company stationed similar personnel at all the entrances.
“Hello, my darling,” Victoria glided over the Persian rug and bestowed a kiss on her husband. They shared an embrace and he greeted Amina over his wife’s head.
“Bartholomew,” Amina smiled. Upon first meeting him, over a decade ago, she’d instantly disliked the autocratic aristocrat and thought that—vast wealth not withstanding—Van der Witten was nowhere near good enough for her friend. The loathing had been mutual.
Happily for all concerned, he’d proven Amina wrong and had—equally gradually—changed his opinion of her as well. He looked a fop, average height and every bit as fashionably turned out as his wife. Amina had initially mistaken him for a ne’er do well born to privilege who had fallen into the fortune he was bound to squander.
She soon learned he took the shipping business very seriously, was determined to learn everything possible about it and—the true deciding factor in Amina’s opinion—was absolutely totally and beyond all reason besotted with his wife from the very beginning and grew more so with every passing day. Still, sometimes Amina couldn’t resist tugging his blond ponytail. Bartholomew was nearly as tormentable as her own brother.
Just not now. Her smile vanished and she and Victoria exchanged a look.
“Bartholomew, my darling, any new threats? Anything you haven’t mentioned yet?” Victoria asked after Amina explained what had happened.
Despite the dire circumstances, Amina hid the tiniest of grins as Victoria fixed her husband with that look. The one that told him she loved him terribly but to not be a tiresome bore in a mistaken attempt to protect her.
Undaunted, he returned her look. “Not at present, my Treasure, no.”
Only Bartholomew could use the endearment completely without irony, condescension or loss of dignity to either of them.
Amina snorted, “Well considering it’s the worst kept secret in all of New London—and likely beyond—that you two keep a room there, that means anyone could be after either one of you.”
They both pondered that a moment before Victoria said, “Or you, Dearest. Our association is well known.”
“Possible,” Amina acknowledged, “but not likely. Our plans were spontaneous from this morning. Unless you mentioned it to anyone, no one knew but us, and I was there early. The villain was there earlier still. It seems far more probable that he was lying in wait for either one of you. And since you work all day,” she said to Bartholomew, not needing to finish the sentence.
Victoria looked even more unhappy. “Bartholomew, do you have any particularly important business that you’re about to finalize? Something that a nefarious person would want to disrupt?”
He gave that due consideration before rejecting the theory. “I’m quite certain I don’t. Things are inordinately quiet at the moment. Not slow, mind you, but running quite smoothly. And as that benefits all of New London and New Staffordshire…” he named the only two cities within two hundred miles and let his words trail off.
No doubt some residents envied the Van der Wittens or even regarded them with all-out jealousy, but in addition to being an extraordinarily rich employer, not to mention single minded to an extreme, he was unfailingly fair and unflinchingly honest. Consequently, a miniscule number of his workers qualified as ‘disgruntled’, if any at all did. Business competitors found it difficult to gain any foothold whatsoever.
“Victoria, have you stirred any hornets’ nests lately?” Amina would have laughed at her friend’s affronted expression—quickly hidden—if the situation hadn’t been so serious.
“Indeed I have not!” she stated haughtily.
Not that she realized, at least. Amina shared a knowing look with Bartholomew. Victoria Van der Witten, Force of Nature Extraordinaire, surmounted any obstacle that dared obstruct her path. Sometimes without even realizing it was there to begin with. Normally outstandingly astute with a keen eye and sharp judgment, on rare occasions she could overlook such ramifications.
Victoria saw the wordless exchange and swatted her husband on the arm. “Oh, please. You can both desist with the assumptions. I am not on any missions at the moment.” Her eyes narrowed, her jaw set and her chin jutted out. “Not until this moment, at least. Don’t worry, my darling,” she kissed her husband again and lingered in his arms, “Amina and I will pursue this matter.”
Bartholomew reluctantly acquiesced. “I’ll send some men to the estate to ensure we don’t have any unwanted company. And over to the hotel as well. And I’ll inform the police.”
“But will they be able to help?” Victoria wondered out loud.
The three were well aware that some things were beyond the purview of the police. Shuriken simply did not glow of their own accord. Someone had bespelled them.
Amina would normally have enlisted the aid of her twin. Often enough, she got him out of trouble and—she’d admit, if pressed—he sometimes helped her with some potentially irksome circumstances as well. On the very rarest of occasions, naturally. But Ali and his wife had sailed from New London for London itself a week ago, and they wouldn’t return for months.
So, while the company men could no doubt protect Victoria if she deigned to stay in one place—out of the question, needless to say. Victoria steadfastly refused to be cowed by anyone—Amina needed to uncover who was plotting against her friend and why. As soon as absolutely possible.
She found Victoria’s courage commendable, but common sense was something Amina would have admired equally if not more in this instance.
Sitting at the conference table, her perfectly straight back not touching the chair, Victoria said, “Thank you, Reginald,” to the young man who’d brought the tea. She absently poured herself and Amina each a cup.
That automatic gesture told Amina precisely how upset Victoria actually was. Victoria knew Amina never drank tea.
Amina stood at the window and looked down at the bustling street below. Judging by the purple cloud bank on the horizon, a river of mud would soon replace the dirt street below. Just one of the many reasons Amina preferred pants and boots to long skirts and heels.
“Dearest, you have that look on your lovely face. Do tell, please.”
“It was odd,” Amina spoke slowly, still mulling over her assessment. “The man—and I use the term loosely,” she wrinkled her nose, recalling the stench of her attacker, “could have been any vile miscreant from the street. But the weapons, well frankly they looked like something a ninja would use. Or at least some Asian flavor of assassin or abductor. It doesn’t make any sense.”
At least Amina felt immeasurably better having procured weapons. A revolver rested on either hip, and she’d tucked a knife into each of her boots. And two up each sleeve. She did not intend to be caught unawares a second time. The shotgun propped in the corner belonged to Victoria. Not subtle, but effective.
A knock at the door drew their attention. “Mrs. Van der Witten, Miss Patel,” one of the city’s constables said, “There’s a dead man over in the hotel.”
He stank worse than ever.
Amina and Victoria stood side by side looking down at the corpse sprawled in the main room of the Van der Witten hotel suite. The three throwing stars had vanished, leaving only the three slices in the wood. The man’s tattoo had vanished as well.
Amina stepped closer and knelt by the body, careful not to disturb it. She saw no signs of violence, no bruising, no wounds, open or otherwise. Nothing. But also—no, she wasn’t mistaken—no tattoo.
“This is the man who tried to kill you?” the constable asked.
Amina glanced up at the police man then did a double take. The occupant of the neighboring room stood behind him, looking askance at the decedent but somehow not all that upset. Amina flashed him a wry smile as she stood. He looked wonderfully dapper in the smartly tailored suit. And his holster was now around his waist.
“Yes,” she told the officer. “He was waiting when I came into the room, standing over by the window. He looked startled to see me, but didn’t say a word. Just threw the shuriken. I ran. He chased me.” She shrugged. “He didn’t catch me. I heard him go through to the stairs, but obviously he came back.”
The constable looked incredulous. “You ran?”
She shrugged again. “Didn’t have my gun. Discretion, valor, all that. If I can avoid fighting someone twice my size, I do.” The man had not only had several inches on her, but doubtless twice the pounds. Victoria called her willowy. Amina always figured she was just plain lean. She didn’t mention the magic, which would only garner her the authorities’ disbelief.
The constable nodded his understanding and approval. “We’ll do our best to unravel this mystery, Ma’am,” he said to Victoria, “But so far, no one seems to know who he was.”
“Nasty Nate, newly arrived from Panama City.”
All eyes turned to the tall, dark-haired hotel guest still loitering in the corridor.
“Sir?” the constable prompted.
“Ryan Pike, at your service, Sir,” he bowed to the two ladies then offered the constable a handshake. “Also just arrived from Panama. And I believe he was after me.”
Only the tiniest gasp betrayed Victoria’s shock. “What leads you to that conclusion, Mr. Pike?”
“He and his partner tried to kill me while I was there. I believe that they were attempting to retrieve some winnings of mine from a poker game. It’s highly likely he was looking for my room, not yours. When I arrived, a new employee sent me to your suite. Another caught up with me halfway up the stairs and gave me the correct key. Someone must have told the bloke my room without being aware of the correction.”
“Must be impressive winnings,” Amina noted. “We’re a long way from Panama City.”
“Indeed,” he confirmed, bowing again. He reached out and took her hand, brushing the back of it with his lips. “And if I may, most charming lady, you saved my life this morning. Allow me to thank you now, as I was so dreadfully remiss before.”
She grinned. “Sir, you are most welcome, but don’t you have that reversed?”
“I don’t think so. I had no idea he was here, no reason for stealth or vigilance. Had you not discovered him, no doubt he would have discovered me in short order.”
The constables took their leave, saying they would be in contact with all parties as soon as they learned anything. The mortician and his helper followed with the body on a stretcher between them.
Their departure allowed Amina to finally ask what she really wanted to know.
“Mr. Pike, are any of your winnings especially peculiar?”
He frowned in confusion. “Peculiar?”
“Strange? Unusual? Unique,” Amina suggested. “Perhaps glowing? Warm to the touch? The slightest vibration, or the faintest noise emanating from it?” She supported herself quite nicely as a jungle guide to those who chose to brave the wilderness, either from some need or just a desire for adventure. Her family history, however, intertwined with magic for generations.
Pike didn’t hesitate. “Allow me to show you.”
He led them to his room, where he went to the travel trunk in the corner. Dropping gracefully to his knees, he thumbed the clasps open and threw back the lid.
An unearthly wail burst forth, echoing through the suite.
With a yelp, Pike leapt up and away. Amina and Victoria likewise jumped.
“Oh, my, that couldn’t be good.”
Amina looked askance at her friend and snickered. Victoria—inevitably and invariably—had a talent for understatement.
Pike also looked less than amused. “What the hell was that? I beg your pardon, ladies,” he added, chagrined.
“No need to apologize, Mr. Pike, I’m sure we all agree there was more than ample cause for startlement,” Victoria excused him. Although a tireless advocate of propriety, Victoria was an equally adamant proponent of common sense and acknowledging extenuating circumstances.
Amina stood over the trunk, studying the contents without disturbing them. Then she reached down and passed her hand back and forth over the neatly folded clothes, still without touching them.
In the back left corner of the trunk she detected a little pocket of heat. Peering in, she withdrew a cerulean velvet satchel. The contents felt round and flat in her hand like a single coin. She tugged the drawstring open and peeled back the velvet, using it to hold what was inside: a gold medallion the size of her palm.
This kind of charm, Amina knew.
“It’s a totem. It brings a person luck, but at a price. The more a person uses it, the more dependent he becomes. Nate must not have realized how difficult they are to part with. It takes huge willpower. Losing it is probably what killed him.” Now the vanishing tattoo made sense. The more closely bound to the magical crutch he became, the more the tattoo would spread. The longer he went without it, the more tenuous the link became and the more desperate he grew to recover it. When he died, so did his connection to the medallion, which was now searching for the next person to join with.
“How do I get rid of the infernal thing?”
“I’d suggest melting it down. That will release the magical energy and leave you with plain old gold. I know a local goldsmith. If you like, we can use his forge. I’ll see if he’s available this evening.”
“Greatly appreciated, Ma’am. What about in the meantime?”
“As long as no one touches it directly, it’s harmless.”
Pike looked dubious at that proclamation.
So did Victoria. “Mr. Pike, if you would entrust it to me, I believe this wicked object might be more secure locked in my husband’s office. It’s obvious the hotel is woefully ill equipped to keep out ruffians determined to look for trouble. Not that I blame them, mind you. This is beyond their experience.”
With his permission, and after Amina carefully rewrapped it, she tucked the object into her handbag. He escorted the women the few blocks to the Shipping building then took his leave—after eliciting their promise to join him for dinner back at the hotel.
While he tended to whatever business had brought him to New London, Victoria accompanied Amina to the goldsmith to make their appointment for that night.
“Dearest,” Victoria commented as they strolled away from the goldsmith’s premises, “We’ve failed utterly in our plan to have a relaxing day exploring the public gardens.”
“We still have a few hours.”
The two women gaped in dismay at the hotel room in total, terrifying disarray—furniture overturned and destroyed and in pieces, draperies torn down, vases and other ceramic- or glassware shattered, all other loose items such as lanterns, books or clothing, flung everywhere.
And no sign of Ryan Pike.
Except—maybe—for the smear of blood in the middle of the floor and on the wall by the door to the bedroom. The entire suite looked like a cyclone had roared through.
“How do we find him?” Victoria asked.
Although overall a fine city, New London still had too many dicey sections of town for them to effectively search. “I’ll go see Poundstone. If anyone saw anything, his army of street urchins did. If Mr. Pike escapes, he should come back here.”
“I’ll stay in the lobby and wait for him,” Victoria said, anticipating her friend’s recommendation.
Thirty minutes later—remarkably fast—Amina returned. “Empty building beside the last warehouse over the quay, the deserted one,” she said. “I’ll head over straightaway.”
“And I’ll go borrow some of Bartholomew’s men and meet you there,” Victoria said.
After creeping around the perimeter and ascertaining a complete absence of guards or sentries of any sort, Amina lay flat on the cold hard dirt to look inside the cellar window.
Caught in the fading twilight streaming in through the grime-streaked shards of glass, a brigand who looked remarkably unlike Nasty Nate—more like a weasel than a bear, Amina thought, before she decided that was an insult to both weasels and bears who, after all, were perfectly admirable—sat on a crate and smoked a cigar. Ryan Pike stood lashed to one of the support columns. Blood trickled from a cut in one cheek and his sleeve was torn at the shoulder.
The little man had two black eyes, a smashed in nose, and bloody knuckles on both hands. With a rusty half rumble, half screech, the door across from Amina rolled open. The man who limped in did strongly resemble Nasty Nate aside from swollen, bloody lips, two eyes as black as his friend’s, and his left arm hanging awkwardly and unused at his side. And no tattoo.
His right hand held several coils of rope over his shoulder.
“Oh, you’ll enjoy this, Mate, you will. We don’t need no horses to draw and quarter someone. Unless of course you return my brother’s property. Then we’ll slit your throat and be done with it. Fast and easy,” he drawled to Pike.
When Pike didn’t reply, he turned his back on him and held a discussion with his partner Amina’s couldn’t hear.
Contrary to her reputation—accurate though it was overall—Amina tried to avoid shooting people unless she saw no other options. Victoria should arrive any minute with reinforcements, thus ending the crisis without any more bloodshed. All Amina needed was a delay. Some sort of diversion that would not cause them to kill their prisoner instantly.
Pike didn’t look in her direction, but he turned his head a smidgen. Just enough so that she could better see him and his kidnappers could not.
He winked at her.
Then he slid his one hand free, gave a little underhanded wave without raising his arm, and twisted his wrist back into the ropes.
That helped immeasurably. The cavalry might be superfluous after all, not that Amina would ever turn it down.
Making sure that Pike saw but the two blackguards didn’t, she reached between the jagged glass and set one of her revolvers on the window ledge. Then she crawled back until she could stand without revealing her presence and raced around the building.
She easily found the stairway into the basement and debated between making as much noise as possible or as little.
Amina decided on the latter. On the bottom step, opening the door a crack, she could see that the tableau remained unchanged. The debate on how to best torture their subject continued.
She ran her fingernails ever so lightly across the wooden door.
She tried twice more with the same result. Pike turned his head a smidgen to let her know he’d heard, but the two remained engrossed in their conversation.
Sighing, she drummed her fingers on the wood.
The argument didn’t abate.
Rolling her eyes, she pounded on the door. “Hello!” she called. “Can someone help me please?”
Now the voices fell silent.
The two men whirled to face the door then froze. Fortunately, that put Pike squarely behind them and he wasted no time in slipping his bonds and inching toward the gun she’d left. Wanting to keep their full attention, she pounded again. “Hello! Hello!”
She smelled lavender and wasn’t surprised when a light hand touched her arm.
“Ummm, Dearest…?” Victoria’s voice was barely audible.
Amina didn’t look away and felt a thrill of relief as Pike’s hand closed around her gun. “Pike knows we’re here, and he has one of my revolvers. They don’t seem to be armed.”
Pike melted back into the shadows, making himself invisible.
“Ah. Excellent.” Victoria murmured to Amina, then raised her voice—but not to a degree unseemly for a lady—as she shoved the door open. “Honestly, gentlemen, how long are you going to stand there ignoring a lady’s request for aid?” Her voice rang with reproach.
They looked uncomprehendingly at her.
Then, wide eyed, they looked at the now empty column and looked even more baffled.
Victoria stepped aside to allow a swarm of very angry, very large men to surge into the basement.
Victoria and Bartholomew already waited at the table when Amina and Ryan arrived for their dinner engagement late that evening. Sliding into her chair, Amina extended her wrist to show off a shimmering gold bracelet. Victoria appropriately complimented it as a waiter poured the wine and brought their hors d’oeuvres.
“Mr. Pike, I hope you won’t allow this unfortunate introduction to our city to forever color your view of it,” Victoria said, a trace of apology in her tone. “New London is normally very cordial.”
“Not at all, Mrs. Van der Witten, not at all. I’m finding I quite like it.” His gaze lingered on Amina, then on the jewelry. “Especially now that I don’t have to worry about cursed good luck charms.”
“And what of the two unscrupulous fellows?” one of the gentlemen from the Club demanded.
She tapped out her pipe in an ashtray and went about wrapping it so it wouldn’t soil her jacket pocket. “Still in jail, last I heard. This was by no means their first time to run afoul of the law.” She stood and smoothed out her slacks. “And now if you most esteemed ladies and gentlemen will pardon me, I must not be late for my next assignation.”
Her husband would be waiting, and they intended to enjoy a romantic dinner before duty called.
Amina always trusted her instincts as they so seldom steered her wrong. And her intuition—or some metaphysical connection—was telling her they’d soon be making a trip back to Asia.