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The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear on my blog, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.

Janice watched through binoculars from the back seat as another car, a dark Ford something-or-other four-door pulled up outside the limousine service. It parked behind a new looking Mazda Miata convertible.

“What are we doing here?” her partner and driver asked. He was FBI, and technically so was she, even though her actual task involved a joint task force that included the Nevada Gaming Commission.

“I’m not sure yet.”

“I thought you said your cover was blown,” he said to her.

“It is, in some places,” she answered. And it was. The last man she’d met with had known her real name. What wasn’t clear was who else knew that Cynthia, serial gambler and card counter, was actually Janice Everett, FBI.

“So, what’s your next move?”

“I don’t know. Now shut up.”

She also knew little about where they were. The limo service was owned by a guy named Simion. He ran it with his family, a group of Romanian immigrants who were engaged in various activities, but primarily legal ones as far as her research told her.

That didn’t mean they didn’t know about illegal activity or weren’t partners in it.

The only reason she was sitting outside this place was a tip she’d gotten that Jack might have left something here and he would be back for it. Burt appeared to be long gone.

While she watched, a couple of limousines came and went from the gated lot behind, but with uniform regularity that didn’t seem unusual. The cars out front didn’t seem to be related at all.

What the hell was going on here, and what had Jack left behind?

Her choice was to watch and wait, assuming Jack would be back at some point. Her gut told her that would get her nowhere. It felt like Jack was gone already too, even though she had no evidence to support that.

She still had her cover I.D., and everything associated with it, but using it at this point was a risk, even with a disguise.

“Face forward,” she told her partner. She pulled her bag of disguises from the floor of the car. Inside were several wigs, a few outfits, and she sorted through them.

Burt knew her as the red head, as did most of her contacts. Her true hair color, a dark brunette, rarely showed through other than her telltale eyebrows, but no one ever questioned her. What woman didn’t dye her hair, and what man who wanted to live dared mention it?

She thought quickly. Blond, heavy makeup, short skirt, loose top so she could still hide a pistol in the small of her back just in case.

“I’m going in,” she said as she changed. She caught her partner’s eyes checking her out in the rearview mirror. “Eyes front.”

He laughed. “Seen it before. What are you thinking?”

“I’m going to try to rent a limo. At least then I’ll know who’s inside.”

She knew that might not work. But she had to try. It was better than nothing.

She slipped from the car after checking herself out in the mirror. As she stood, she put the weapon in the back of her skirt.

The small pistol felt heavy there, and she almost changed her mind and left it behind.

But she kept it. “Good luck,” her partner said as she shut the back door.

“Thanks,” she said, and headed across the street. She walked toward the gate, heels clicking on the pavement as she went.

* * *

“Who is that?” Pick asked. He peered at the tiny monitor. “Are you expecting someone else?”

Burt looked, too. The woman at the gate looked oddly familiar to him, but something was different, and he didn’t think he even knew her name in the first place.

She looked up at the camera and smiled.

“Jesus Christ,” Simion said. He moved to go to the door.

“We’re coming, too,” Pick said, and he gestured to Burt, who followed.

Burt shrugged, and checked his watch. Now 35 minutes until his flight left, the one for Atlantic City, the one that would get him out of Solitaire’s reach for good, or at least long enough that his name would be cleared, and he would be welcome again in Vegas without death threats or any of the other odd stuff going on.

Pick wanted him to stay and help. Burt wanted to convince him of how horrible that idea was, and he wanted to leave anyway. He wanted out and wanted out bad.

Simion buzzed the gate and a moment later the woman walked into the room. Burt recognized her then. Her hair has been red before. From the game of Crazy Eights. She’d been one of the survivors, including him. But she’d been a winner. Cynthia? He was sure that was it.

Jesus, Burt, he told himself. You are losing it. You’re usually so good with names.

Her eyes flickered as she clearly recognized him too and gave him a small nod. He nodded back.

But Pick noticed. That little bastard was getting to be a real pain in the ass.

“You two have met!” he said with enthusiasm.

“We have,” Burt answered for her. “We—gambled at the same table.”

“Who won?” Pick asked.

Burt looked down and smiled.

“She did!” Pick said. “Pleased to meet you, miss—”

“Cynthia,” she said. “Nice to meet you—?” she let her sentence trail off in a question.

“My friends call me Pick,” he said. “The pleasure is mine.”

“How can I help you?” Simion asked.

“I’m looking for someone,” she said.

Burt saw her hesitate. She was hiding something, something important.

“Who would that be?” Simion asked.

She looked from Simion to Pick, to Burt and then back again. “I was told Jack Bardlow might have left something here.”

Burt felt like she’d just made the decision to reveal her true motives. He had a sense for these things. This woman was in trouble. Hell, they all were.

If he was lucky, Pick would take her, not him, and he could leave. Speaking of which, Burt looked as his watch. Twenty-eight minutes. Shit. He’d never make it.

Of course, if he was the only passenger, the plane would have to wait, right?

Pick turned to him. “Are you in a hurry to get somewhere?”

“I was.”

“What do you know about Jack?” Pick asked the woman.

“I—I just heard he left something here.”

“Why do you want to find him?”

Don’t lie, Burt thought. Don’t lie, because this crazy guy will sense it and he’ll kill you.

But the woman was much smarter than he gave her credit for. She either sensed Pick’s perceptiveness too, or she’d just surrendered to telling the truth.

“A—friend—asked me to find him. This is the last lead I have.”

Pick smiled. That smile disturbed Burt down to his bones. The man’s smile got wider, taking up most of his face, making him feel like any moment the top of his head would fall off.

“Well, we all have reasons to find him now, don’t we? We have a team here.”

The rest of this story is now available on Amazon!

I hope you are enjoying reading this series as much as I am. You can the rest of this series on Amazon here! Stay tuned for another FREE story right here next week. I hope to see you then!

Troy Lambert
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.