Miami – Wednesday, Feb. 19, 8:00 p.m. EST
Anna fumed at Raven’s audacity, but a string of urgent text messages diverted her attention. Apparently, the office tech Jeff had been the person disturbing her call with Raven, and now he had more to say.
“Check your email ASAP,” Jeff texted. Twice more: “URGENT CHECK EMAIL!”
Anna switched over to her email. One of the most recent items was Jeff’s. She clicked. His email stated: “We’ve examined the links. No obvious conclusions. Review them yourself in Cloud Bin, if you want. I’ll keep sifting through this stuff, and alert you to any that seem interesting. BUT. Check this out: You missed a couple of photos, which weren’t in ‘Photos,’ but in a file within a file within a file under ‘Ringtones.’ Diary entries? See jpg, attached.”
Anna opened the attachment and found a photo of some hand-written pages. One glance at the script and Anna felt Jeff’s guess at diary entries seemed on-target. The pages said:
They served cava. Weren’t there rules about procuring American products for embassy events? What was up with sparkling wine from Spain and not California—at the American Embassy? No one under forty. I caught myself yawning and decided to meet Mirale at Bonfire in Sukhumvit. Chugged my margarita and went to slip out when a man bumped right into me. What an ass! I didn’t want to draw attention—I apologized profusely, and put on my best demure act. I wanted to duck out quietly. Then a strange thing happened. “I believe you’re the woman I was looking for.” OMG. Seriously? I told him I was on my way out, though I did think twice, because he was totally hot—well-dressed, fit, thick dark straight hair. Then, “Please don’t go. You are Evy Poole, right?” More bizarre: I asked him how he knew my name. “I was looking for you, Evy. Your reputation for great beauty precedes you.” I laughed straight in his face. What an idiot! “It’s true,” he cooed, smiling. “Let me introduce myself. My name is Giovanni Salazar.” He said Charles de Jeanbourg mentioned me. I squinted at him. He knew my friend from grad school? Charles told him I’d be “the perfect person to hire.” I told him I already have a job—am tired of projects that sound fantastic at first blush, end up with same pathetic pay. He insisted it was a “consulting opportunity.” He said it would be “on the side” and “handsomely remunerated.” Practically begged me to discuss it at the Three Dragons. How did he get a reservation there? “My company’s got a standing reservation.” I relented. Told him if they’re false pretenses, I’d never speak to him or Charles again. Hahahaha.
Giovanni ordered a bottle of champagne. “I hope you don’t mind switching to something French.” Or something like that. “It’s far superior to that imitation they serve at the embassy.” Did he think he was sophisticated? I told him I prefer cava—“the Spanish aren’t as uptight as the French, and their food and wine are better.” He insisted French products are better. I spread on the snark: “I see you feel strongly about that.” He laughed with a twinkle in his eye. Only then did I realize he was aware it was a game. Maybe he wasn’t such a jerk after all. I think he preferred the French champagne, but he also liked my opposition. Something sparked in me. I had assumed he was Italian or Spanish, but the France comments made me wonder. I asked if he was French. “My mother was French, but I’m American. Like you.” Hmmmm. What else did Charles tell him about me? We drank the champagne.
He told me Charles is with the CIA—not surprising, now that I look back. Oh God, one of those infamous meetings, where the suave spook lures in the protégé. I asked him if he thought he would get me, hook, line and sinker. Giovanni laughed. Exact words: “What I’m here to ask you is serious, but it’s not like that. I’m not luring you, and you’re not prey. It’s a side job.” I told him, “What a relief. You were starting to look like the Big Bad Wolf.” He reached across the table, caressed my hand and said, “You would make a delicious Little Red Riding Hood.” So cheesy and inappropriate! Yet, when he touched me, I felt that jolt. “What if I am the wolf?” I asked. “Even better for me,” he said—such an obvious charm offensive, but he had me going. “Sorry to disappoint you,” I told him. “I would never work for the CIA. That’s the whole reason I put up with this research position at the Bank. It’s a stepping stone, but not into intelligence work." I picked up my glass, licked my lower lip and looked him right in the eye. “Fuck the CIA.”
Adrenaline rushing, Anna sent a message back to Jeff: “Can you find more of these?” The waiter delivered another cosmo, which she downed. Fuck the CIA indeed.
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