Beca eyed the neon blue liquid that was supported by a clouded glass. The plastic was corny, and even worse was tacky lights that flashed at its base. There was a pink flamingo straw, the plastic bird wearing blue sunglasses. This was the most dangerous kind of alcohol- the kind that didn’t’ taste like anything but sugary blue syrup.
She could down about four in college before even beginning to feel its effects, but now she was nursing it. She would take a sip here and there to keep up with appearances. She had a comically large smile on her face and an obnoxiously loud Hawaiian shirt on. It was unbuttoned, halfway tucked into her jeans. Her arm was lazily around her partner’s waist.
Chloe Beale wore the same colors that were on Beca’s shirt. A deep royal blue and a white so bland that it contrasted easily. Her drink was less than half full, but she could always hold her liquor better than Beca. This party stuff came at ease to the woman, even more so when they were thrown into a situation like this.
The party was supposed to be effortless. There was a professional DJ, and beach themed décor scattered around a usually elegant ballroom. High society people had been dumbed down to wearing old swimsuits from the sixties. There were a few captains and a lot of tourists. It seemed like the easiest outfit, and Beca would do anything that required minimum effort for this job.
“And that’s when Beca stepped in,” Chloe was in the middle of telling a story woven by men in suits that ran on coffee and affairs. They had read it in the file this morning at the hotel, Chloe snatching the cigarette from her hand before throwing it into the covered pool and dropping the papers in the lawn chair she lounged it.
Beca wanted to be offended, she did, but Chloe had laid down perfectly fine rules. One of which included not smoking because her partner could deal with having to roll the windows down but refused to kiss her if she tasted like an ashtray.
After vigorously brushing her teeth in a dully lit motel bathroom, she had dawned her corny outfit, and went to the corny party, with even cornier alcohol that made it near impossible to get drunk. To get really honest-to-god drunk. Which was probably best if she wanted to get paid.
“Right,” She let out a laugh, giving Chloe her most dazzling smile. “I know we were technically in the Aspen mountains, and really, we shouldn’t’ have fed the goats. But damn did my wife look adorable.”
“You two are so cute,” The woman waved her hand around. She wore too many rings, they jingled as she spoke. She wore a big floppy hat that shaded her medically constructed cheekbones. “Me and my Cole have been together for six years this fall.”
“Cheers,” Beca took a gulp of the sugary mess of tequila. The man in front of her looked disinterested in everything. He wore a Miami Heat suit, a pastel pink shirt tucked into a black belt. “That’s very impressive.”
“I would like to think so,” Nicki smirked, looping her arm with the man who mumbled something into his drink. He had been introduced to them only moments earlier, but by the look on Chloe’s face, neither of them cared enough to remember it. They weren’t the targets. They were just ways to blend. To seem normal. “How long have the two of you been married?”
“Three years and fifteen days,” Chloe answered, pressing her cold lips against Beca’s cheek. It stirred something in her stomach, or maybe that was the blue food coloring that mixed with the crackers she had eaten that morning. “To many more.”
There was an obnoxious beeping that cut through the conversation. It caused Nicki to roll her eyes painfully as the haircut to her side flipped his phone out of the case and glanced at the two strangers. “Excuse me, but I have to take this, work.”
He was off to the side before anyone could object.
“If you don’t mind me asking, what does your husband do for a living?” Chloe took a long sip from her flamingo straw.
“Oh, Cole is with some international firm. He doesn’t like to talk shop much. Always takes his phone calls outside.” She leaned forward, whispering with her hand held up. “Between us, I don’t ask many questions. I get my Prada bag, and he gets to travel.”
“Mm,” Beca hummed, burying her face in her glass. She shot Chloe a look though. They hadn’t been working together long, in fact, they had only busted up a few stings at home. But that was always behind the comfort of the MPD. Not in some elaborate undercover scheme that pinned them as wives in front of a bunch of snotty rich people. “That’s all that matters, right honey?”
“I know I would be lost without mine,” She scrunched up her nose, holding back a gag. “You said he travels a lot. Where to?”
Nicki rolled her eyes again, this time with a lot less tact. “Oh, you know, here there. A lot of places. What about you, Beca? Where do you work?”
“An insurance firm, hardly anything interesting.”
Nicki raised a pointed brow, and Chloe dug her nails heatedly into her side. If they had been dripping with poison, she would look like one of those old cartoons that had x’s over poorly crafted eyes. Right now, she was close to drawing blood. Her hip was burning, and so was the question on her mind. She fucked up.
“I thought you were a stockbroker?”
Beca stumbled over her words. Of course, she was a stockbroker. It was the only other career the suits knew. It was the most believable too, no one wanted to know about how to handle hedge funds, or the raging policy a woman just assigned to a barn down in Wisconsin. It was simply uninteresting.
“Right, she is.” Chloe tried to backtrack. “Really, she can’t sit still. Hopping from one office job to another.”
Beca scanned Nicki. She had a look of discontent on her face, one that was paired with wandering hands. It was ever so subtle, but it was enough for Beca to stiffen. The blonde in front of them carried her normal smile as she struggled to listen to Chloe’s stumbled explaining of an emitted chunk of knowledge as bit as an occupational change.
The brunette let out a light sigh before she flicked her wrist forward. It didn’t’ only edge the rest of her slushed margarita onto the ground, it completely drenched Nicki and her pretty white dress with royal blue dye. She let out a shocked gasp, blinking rapidly as the alcohol from her tear ridden gaze.
“Beca! Oh my god, Nicki, I am so sorry. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
She rushed to grasp the nearest cloth napkin, instead getting a swift palm to the face. Most of the party had turned to stare, and Beca let the cup drop with an easy clink of plastic. “oops, my bad.”
“It’s fine. Really. I’m going to clean myself up a bit.” Nicki excused herself quickly, shaking out her arms as the blue syrup dripped across her neatly perfected dress. Cole had put his phone call on hold for a few seconds, lips parted before he shook his head and started mumbling into the speaker again.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Chloe whispered through clenched teeth, effectively grasping the collar of Beca’s shirt, stretching the material. “You’re not a fucking Insurance adjuster, Beca. And you’re certainly not privy to dumping a drink on a kind woman.”
“Relax, Red.” Beca shoved her off in the kindest way possible. “Little miss Nicki had a gun.”
“Yeah, her dress wasn’t that tight. Not that I was staring or anything. When I slipped up, she reached for it. It’s strapped to her thigh.”
“That walking carbon copy of a Stepford wife cannot be working for the men housing the flash drive.”
Beca lifted her eyebrows, an annoying smirk on her lips as she shook her head and made eye contact with Cole. He offered up a kind smile himself. Sure, he was an obnoxious businessman, but he wasn’t cunning enough. He was a cover. He was her cover.
“My money is on the necklace, that’s why I saturated it. Though, I’m sure it’s not the only copy.” She turned to glance towards the hotel lobby, the bathrooms. “Say, does the ladies room have high windows?”
Chloe let out an exasperated groan. She had a tendency to clean up Beca’s messes on a daily, even in the office. The brunette had promised to be a little bit more discrete than she usually was, lacking patience and common decency most, if not all, of the time. But this was different. Beca seemed genuinely concerned about a housewife with a shopping addiction.
“Did you even read the file, Beca?”
“Of course, I did, kitten.” The nickname was condescending. It made Chloe’s stomach heat up. “It specifically said that there were two contractors here meeting up to exchange a flash drive. But did it say who exactly we were looking for?”
She pursed her lips. They had dealt with regular cases before, filled with scornful husbands and women that had more evil than they could possibly collect. But this was all about deceit, and Chloe was admittedly out of her depth on this one. “No, I suppose not.”
Beca nodded crisply before she walked towards the bathroom, not much for keeping up appearances anymore. Chloe gave a sparing glance at her surroundings before hiking her shoulders back and following the woman.
The lobby was decked out in the most crimson red they had ever seen, a golden edge to every aspect of its fancy walls. Those were the most expensive colors in Greek mythology, so The Julius lived up to its prestigious name. Beca’s stomach was churning and her fingers were cold. This place smelled too much like cleaning supplies masked. They reached the bathrooms before Beca turned to her partner.
“Alright, Chlo. I need you to make sure no one comes into this bathroom.”
“What are you going to do?”
“There aren’t any camera’s in here. Don’t sweat it.” She patted the woman’s cheek softly, yet with a gruff edge. Again, she carried that annoying smile that made Chloe want to punch her square in the nose. But she was gone before Chloe could choke up an excuse to stop her.
She turned her back towards the door and crossed her arms over her chest, settling. “That doesn’t make me feel any better, but cool.”
Beca thought this bathroom looked nice. Its stalls were a pristine white granite. The soap looked like seashells, chandeliers hanging low and dangerously. She rolled her shoulders back and situated herself in front of the mirror. Even she had to admit, the Hawaiian shirt was doing wonders for her.
The stall creaked open behind her, slow and dramatic. Her midnight eyes flashed up in the mirror. Nicki looked like a drowned rat, blue slush had dried into an unruly pattern against her nice white sundress. She held her floppy hat in one hand, makeup running, the necklace still dangling. That starfish was awfully big. The blonde seemed to grasp at it instinctively.
“You know, it’s considered impolite to stare.”
“Well, I never said I had any manners.” Beca lifted her head and turned to face the woman. “If I did, you wouldn’t look like Papa Smurf right now.”
She was one to talk. She looked like she had stepped off a beach and right into a fancy bathroom. She could practically feel the sand that should be under her nails, see the fire that laced Nicki’s gorgeous grey eyes. Even if they were a little deadened. Nicki let out a rough grunt, the open palm of her hand pressing against Beca’s cheek.
She could taste blood and her ear was ringing, stare trained on the striped floor. “Did you just slap me?” She looked up, running her tongue over the bloodied slit in her bottom lip. “Very unprofessional, Nicki.”
This time she could stop the hand that was coming her way, fingers grasped around a slim wrist. She shoved forward, pressing the woman’s front flush against the nearest stall. She let out a grunt, breath hot. “Give me the flash drive.”
“You think it’s as simple as asking?” Nicki laughed bitterly, quickly slamming her elbow deep into Beca’s ribs. “Get fucked.”
She whipped around, landing a punch along Beca’s right eye. If the woman had more a sense of pain she would have been taken aback. Instead, she bounced quickly, grasping Nicki by the shoulders and shoving her knee into the woman’s stomach. Now her other ear was ringing, and she was running out of patience. Nicki clearly had claws, not afraid to scratch.
An animalistic sound rose from Nicki’s throat as she threw another punch, Beca ducking before her own knuckles made contact with the woman’s jaw. It was hard and given with little forgiveness. She heard a pop, but it didn’t deter Nicki much, the woman throwing yet another edged hit. Her hand hit the drywall easily. It earned a string of profanities.
Beca moved fast, ducking from the direct path as she grasped at the back of Nicki’s neck. It was the weakest spot, the easiest for her to bring the girls head down on the side of the counter with enough force to knock her own cold. She fell to a heap on the floor, Beca out of breath and coated with a brine of sweat.
She squatted down, pulling the only pair of handcuffs she brought from the back of her jeans before attaching them to the pipe under the sink, the other to Nicki’s limp wrist. The detective grasped the starfish around her neck, one of the legs the flash drive that was so damn important.
Beca walked from the bathroom, a bruise forming against her eye and creeping near her cheek. Blood had dripped from her mouth and was staining her shirt, a shirt she had grown quite fond of. She tossed a wide-eyed Chloe the drive. “You should probably call backup.”