FILE HB007/002

The Grey Mansion. Puerto Rico.

The real mission's not even started and already a minor hiccup.

"Relax, sugah." I tell them, as I rummage through my handbag. "Invite's in here... somewhere."

Finally locating the trigger device, handily disguised as a cigarette lighter, I activate it and the mother of all distractions kicks off. The device I planted under the car earlier Q refers to as a 'Sub Wave Micro Transmitter', which is geek-speak for 'sets off car alarms using high frequency vibrations'.

The collective noise of the alarms is nothing short of deafening and within seconds the two heavies have high tailed it towards the parking lot to investigate, leaving me a clear path into the premises, as two more heavies brush past me en route to assist them.

And what a premises.

A vast open area funnels into the entrance to the main hall, Itself framed either side with two huge ascending staircases steeped in gold varnish, snaking upwards along the wall to meet at a neutral point four floors up. Strange abstract workings of high value art, immaculately positioned, adorn every wall space. All in all, a palace fit for a king. Or is that, King-pin? I'm on a roll, here.

I smile at a passing waiter before casually swiping a glass of champagne from his tray. He responds peculiarly with a wink and heads into the main hall where the party rages in full swing. Every guest appears to be somebody important, with live music courtesy of someone who looks suspiciously like Linda Magdalena Lampenius on solo violinist duties. Politicians, media reps, military personnel, all are present, not to mention the dozen or so 'bevy of beauties' dotted amongst them.

My entrance manages to turn a few selective heads, including one in particular, a brunette, european, who tries to give me 'harsh eyes', like I was a puzzle piece that didn't quite fit the puzzle. Which, of course, I am. But how would she know that?

I squint my eyes back at her so hard I nearly cry blood, before she eventually looks away, turning her attention back to the large impatient bloke standing beside her, who's no doubt trying desperately hard to convince her to accompany him to one of the many guest rooms.

Amazing what money can buy some people.

That's when I spot 'him', the grande host of the show, still as old as stale bread, with a complexion to match, in full entertainment mode among some of the guests.

I slip into standard 'flirt mode' every guy's a sucker for and wait for the inevitable.

He spots me and stares. I look away. He turns away. I look at him. He catches me looking in the corner of his eye. He turns... you get the point.

Then I stroll over to another waiter in the corner of the room, grab my second glass of champagne and play the waiting game. With time for a quick check-in with Q, I discreetly tap my earpiece to open up communications.

"Nerd, I'm in!" I announce,

Silence.

"Nerd, do you read me?"

At first I'm thinking 'malfunction', but then I get it. "Oh grow up, will you?"

"Oh, so now you want to talk?" comes the eventual reply.

"Well, 'want' is a tad exaggerated... but I'm in. And I've already made visual contact with the secondary target."

"Alright then, so all's going smoothly." he comments.

"Sure, like sandpaper, syrup-dipped in broken glass!" I reply.

"Good! Wait, I'm sorry, was that sarcasm? I couldn't quite-"

"I need an audio confirmation on the 'mark' before I can make my play."

"You'll need to get in close, for the audio-scan to get a clear pick-up. Then you'll need a set of clean prints to crack the safe, which'll presumably be a class 5, so 'pretty good' won't cut it."

"Ok, I'm on it, already. Just give me the-"

"You too, huh?" comes a voice behind me, leaving me startled. I turn to see the rat has clearly taken to the bait.

"I'm sorry?" I ask, absentmindedly.

"I regularly have moments, where I can only be intellectually stimulated by having lenthy conversations with myself." he explains with a smarmy smile.

The guy's so full of himself, its a wonder he isn't suffering from obesity. I respond with a sheepish smile of my own.

"Your face. It doesn't seem... familiar." he notes rather sceptically. Time to think quick on my feet and pray Q will bring a rabbit out of the hat.

"Really? You mean... you really don't recognise me?" I ask, laying the 'Brit' nice and thick. The conviction throws him off guard, as does the accent.

"No, I'd definitely remember a face like that. It's difficult to fathom how one could forget such an exquisitely beautiful visage. You're a long way from England, Miss...?"

"Pendant. Indie Pendant. And flattery will get you everywhere money can't!" I laugh, rather nervously.

"Well, its a good thing I have a healthy supply of both!" he smiles back. Where the heck is Q?

"So..." continues Grey. "Are you going to tell me what your doing here? Or must I ask you one last time?" his eyes slightly narrowing, voice dropping an octave or two. This isn't good.

"Got it!" screams Q into my ear. "Pittsburg, Red Iron nightclub. He attends once a year for an overnight session of... okay, probably better you don't know."

"Red Iron, Pittsburg...?" I tell him, as I watch him shift uncomfortably, adjusting his necktie. "I know we had a great time and all, but I really thought I'd at least left you a lasting impression?"

"Right, right!" he tells me in hushed tones. "My apologies! So many girls, so many white lines... It's difficult to recollect the details... albeit those as exquisitely packaged as yourself. Probably just as well too, kind of stuff that goes on in that crazy place...!"

There's half a moment of silence, before we both burst into harmoniously awkward laughter.

"Well I specifically remember you promising me I could drop by anytime, whenever I was in town, so here I am! Figured, if a girl needed a decent job around here, you'd be the best port of call. I'd be... extremely... grateful."

"I've... no doubt you would, my dear. Although, a phone call would've probably helped."

"Helped with what?" I ask, innocently.

"My wife not being jealous!" he explains. "I can feel the witch's eyes burning into back of my scalp as we speak!"

I glance over his shoulder, and sure enough, she's watching. And to his descriptive credit, she does in fact look like a witch. But she's not my immediate concern. Nope, that'll be the two mad-as-hell doormen, briskly making their way through the guests to our very location.

"Mr Grey, sir!" the smaller one calls out.

"I'm busy." he replies, abruptly.

"I know sir, but this girl, she's-"

"I'm busy!"

"Forgive me, sir, it's just..."

"Why are you both not at your post?"

"...Trying to explain that to you, sir. This woman..."

"Is my guest!" he tells them, with a look that would turn Medusa into stone. "And she has more right to be here, in this very hall, than either of you. Do you know why? Because she was not hired to man the front door! You both were! 'Were' being the operative word, because as of this instant, you are both relieved of that duty. Permanently! Do I make myself clear?"

Ouch. Kind of feel it for these guys. Nah, they deserve it.

As the two exchange hapless looks with one other and silently exit, the smaller one shoots me a glare no polarised filter could ever block.

"Forgive their... rudeness." pleads Grey.

"Nothing to forgive." I tell him. "they were only doing their job."

"Speaking of which." he tells me. "Allow me to introduce you to my-"

Suddenly, an unnerving scream rings out throughout the entire hall as we both turn to see a small group of guest gathered in a circle.

I sneak a peek, and catch a glimpse of a man on the floor, convulsing uncontrollably, foam trickling out of the corners of his mouth. I recognise him. The rotund guy who was hitting on the brunette earlier on. The same brunette who is now, conspicuously, nowhere to be seen.

Grey excuses himself abruptly, places his glass on a nearby table and makes his way over to give the matter his full attention. Time for another check-in with Q.

"You still there, Nerd?" I whisper.

"Barely! That whole scenario was... intense! I think I may have soiled myself."

"Just another day in the 'orifice' for you, right nerd?"

"Oh, aren't we just full of zingers today, .H?"

"Nope. Just me. Do we have confirmation or not?"

"Yes. Voice-recog is a match, transmitting to your receiver now. Did you get the prints?"

I stroll over to the deserted glass, left by the man himself. "That's a positive. And we also have ourselves a bona fide distraction, but we'll need to move fast."

"Well, alrighty then!" says Q. "Time to go to work!"

To be continued...