CHAPTER 3 – THE SETUP
via rolled over to view the clock. It was after 10:AM. She jolted into a sitting position and looked beside her only to realize Victor was not in the bed.
“You didn’t oversleep,” Victor said as he walked toward the bed, fastening his pants. “I woke up at nine, went downstairs to the menswear shop, bought some clothes and showered.”
Avia stepped out of the bed and stretched. “Is the water hot?”
“Should be,” Victor said.
“Did you find out what room Stephanie and Brian are staying in?” she asked.
“Not yet. I thought you wanted clothes,” Victor said.
“I do,” she said.
“Then shower, I have your favorite car waiting downstairs,” Victor said.
Avia walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower and stepped inside. It did not take her long to wash her body and hair and rinse.
Once she was dressed in her new clothes, she walked out into the sitting room to find Victor lounged across the couch.
“You ready?” he asked.
They both walked out of the suite and down the hall to the elevator not seeing Brian or Stephanie anywhere in the lobby or outside the hotel. The driver already had the back door to the limousine open and waiting for them.
Avia bounced slightly when she saw the black stretch limousine. You did get my favorite car.”
“I told you I did,” Victor said as he helped her inside before joining her.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“There’s a luxury mall up the street,” he said.
Avia sprawled across the backseat during the drive allowing Victor to massage her calves as they talked about the upcoming job.
“Have you actually spoken to Benton?” Victor asked.
“Benton should be in town later today or tomorrow, but I haven’t talked to him, just L and you,” Avia said.
“Well, we’ll meet up with Brian later,” Victor said as the car pulled to a stop in front of the Woodland Mall entrance. A moment later, the driver had the door opened and both Avia and Victor stepped out into the light drizzle.
“Does it ever stop raining here?” Avia asked.
“Springtime,” The chauffeur said. “It gets better closer towards summer.” He closed the door and walked back around to the driver’s door while Victor and Avia headed inside the mall.
“He’s going to wait right?” Avia asked.
Victor nodded as he led her down the large corridor filled with various shops. “Where would you like to go first?”
“They have a Marshall Fields in here, don’t they?” Avia asked.
Victor nodded and walked them over to a mall directory. “Yes, they do. It’s down this corridor.” He pointed out the location of the store and where they were before leading her down the walkway towards the large department store.
Avia was practically hopping along next to him as they walked. She didn’t relish shopping, but she liked new things. “I’m going check out the women’s stuff once we get inside.”
“That’s fine. I need to pick up a few new suits and some casual wear,” Victor said.
Avia headed for the women’s clothing the minute they entered the store and immediately picked up three new pairs of Joe’s jeans before heading over to the racks of shirts. She picked up a couple of black lace cameos, a few Nike fitted tank tops, and a couple of button down dress shirts. She was happy with the boots that were brought to her last night, and she wasn’t big on undergarments, so she didn’t pick up any of those. Instead, she met Victor at the cash register between the women’s and men’s departments. “Shit, we actually have to pay for this.”
Victor laughed. “We do,” he said. It was one of the few times where they actually had to spend their own money.
“Do I owe you for this too?” Avia asked.
“No,” Victor said. “Leave your cards in your pockets.”
Victor whistled and shook his head when the cashier read the final total for his and Avia’s clothes. It was over two grand. He slid his card. “Let’s hope that is the last of the expenses.”
“I hope,” Avia said as she grabbed her bags.
Victor picked his bags up and walked with her back to the limousine. “Me too, but we have to dress the part for this. Do you even own any new clothes?”
“No,” Avia said. “I fly shit from point A to point B and no one gives a shit what I wear.”
“Then, this was a good investment,” Victor said. “Especially if you plan to do this type of work more often.”
“I don’t know that I do, but the flights are few and far between these days,” she said as they stepped into the limousine.
“L’s losing his damned grip on the business,” Victor said. “That’s why Brian is up here. He doesn’t have shit to do either.”
“Hopefully, this will pay off,” Avia said.
“We’ll all walk away with millions,” Victor said.
Once they arrived back at the hotel room, Avia lounged across the couch with a glass of scotch. She fell asleep for a brief nap only to be woken by someone knocking on the door. Opening her eyes, she saw Brian was now standing in the room.
"Hi, how do you like your room?" Brian asked watching Avia sit up on the couch.
"It’s bigger than I thought,” Avia said.
“She rented me a suite, too,” Brian said as he glanced around.
“I thought you’d be in her room,” Victor said.
“Not yet, “Brian said. “But I do spend a lot of time in there.”
“How long have you known her?" Avia asked.
"A couple of years,” Brian said, stepping further into the room and away from Victor who seemed to be looming behind him.
“You’re doing this to a friend?” Avia asked.
“I don’t have friends,” Brian said. “I am a hitman, and we need the damned money.”
“Well, I guess I should thank her for the room,” Avia said, yawning and standing. She had had plenty of sleep. Victor had seen to that by exhausting her right before bed. That thought caused her to grin briefly as it had been quite awhile since she had orgasmed that hard with anyone. Then again, the man was quite skilled, and she caught her gaze traveling Victor’s suit clad body before stopping herself and turning her attention back to Brian. “What room is she in?”
“2003,” he said. “I can show you.”
Avia nodded. “We’ll be right back, Victor.”
They walked out of the room and stepped onto the elevator at the end of the hall, riding it up two floors to the 20th. Stephanie’s room was two doors down from the end of the hall, and Avia knocked gently on the door.
“Oh, hi,” Stephanie said, surprised after she had opened the door to her room.
“I just wanted to thank you for the room again,” Avia said. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t picked us up.”
"It was the least I could do. I saw all those cars slowing down and then passing you.” She paused. “Say, why don’t you come down to the hotel bar with me?”
Avia glanced at Brian then looked at Stephanie. “Sure. How late are they open?” she asked as she glanced at her watch. It was almost 6:PM, and she couldn’t help thinking that the day had gone by really fast.
“They stop serving drinks at two, but they only kick you out of the bar area.” Stephanie glanced backwards and then spoke again. “Let me change shirts real fast. Come on in.”
Avia entered the suite with Brian and looked around. It wasn’t any different from the one she was staying in. Averting her gaze and making idle conversation with Brian, she waited for Stephanie to change. “Double beds in this one.” That was the change with this room. Her and Victor had a King-size bed. Avia inwardly groaned at that realization. She was going to be forced to sleep with the man every night they were here. Of course, part of her mind was wondering if that was actually that bad. He was well endowed.
Once Stephanie was ready, they headed down to the lobby and through the hotel’s massive restaurant to the bar. It was still packed with people, and Avia glanced around looking for anyone she knew. Thankfully, she didn’t recognize anyone.
“Come on. My favorite table is open,” Stephanie said.
Avia and Brian followed Stephanie to a table in the back of the small bar and watched as a waitress greeted them promptly, asking for their drink orders. Avia ordered Vodka as she glanced around the room for the third time. She was wrong. She did know someone at the bar. The bartender.
Avia excused herself and walked over towards the twenty foot solid black oak bar. She sat down on a stool near the end of the bar.
The bartender walked over to her a few minutes later. "Well, if it isn’t my old pal. I thought you were wanted in this state.”
“Not this one,” Avia said. “We miss you.”
“No, do not even try to drag me back into your shit,” the bartender said. “And from the looks of it, you’re still causing a lot of it.”
“I am perfectly clean,” Avia said.
“I saw that police chase down in Florida yesterday morning. Rumor is, you had something to do with it,” he said.
“Wasn’t me,” Avia said. “I saw the same chase. I don’t own any Cameros.”
“They zoomed in pretty close. I thought I saw red hair,” the bartender said.
“It was black hair,” Avia said.
The bartender grabbed a bottle of whiskey and poured it into a tumbler. ““You have to drink.” He slid it to Avia. “What do you want?”
Avia took a long drink from the glass. “I was hoping you could tell me something.”
“For a price,” the bartender said.
Avia slid him a $100 bill.
“Ask away, tiny,” he said.
“What do you know about the woman over their next to the wall?" Avia asked. “Sitting with Brian.”
"Long time resident of the hotel. She’s been here four or five years. Stephanie Hook,” he said with a shrug as if he were simply remembering a name on a credit card. “Rumor is, she’s got a lot of money, and she has a hell of a drinking problem.” He looked at Avia “Why?”
Avia shrugged. “I like to know who’s buying my drinks. You know I don’t want to get stuck with the tab.”
The bartender laughed. “Oh yeah, I know all right. Did you ever pay for a damned drink down in Florida?”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I still don’t pay for them.”
“Who do you have paying for them now? Brian? Benton? Some old dude with a yacht?”
“Any of the above, depending on the night,” Avia said.
“All right. Well, I know your friends. I know your family, and I know what you guys do.” He leaned in close. “And let me give you some advice. You are not the first person to try and woo her from her bank accounts, and every son of a bitch Casanova and Romeo has failed so far. We place bets on that crap back here.”
“Well, if you place your bets on her this time, don’t come crying to me when you lose,” Avia said. She took another long drink from the tumbler in front of her.
"You need to take your friends and go on back to Florida,” the bartender said. “I’m not kidding. No one has ever succeeded, and I’ve seen at least four in the last three years.”
“Is she that smart?” Avia asked.
“No,” the bartender said. “She doesn’t know, but somehow the cops find out.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” Avia said. “Who’s ratting them out?”
The bartender shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s got to be someone in the hotel or close to her.”
“Are you?” Avia said.
“Do I look like I want a new decorative hole in the back of my head?” the bartender asked.
“If she tips well, you might,” Avia said.
“It’s not me. If you ask me, it’s either the dude sitting with her now or the hotel manager,” the bartender said.
Avia finished her drink. “Are you lying to me?”
“On my honor, woman,” the bartender said.
Avia nodded. “All right. Thanks.”
“Be careful or that spotless criminal record you and your family has could be tarnished,” he said.
“If you ever need a job, come back. We’d love to have you again,” Avia said as she stood.
“You’re dad’s fucking crazy. No way in hell,” he said.
“You never know. The offer is always open.” She walked back to the table with Stephanie and Brian.
She wasn’t terribly worried about what the bartender had said. After all, Benton was coming in to town, and she already had Victor and Brian. Turning her attention towards the table, she noticed Brian and Stephanie deep in a conversation. Avia simply sat down and took a sip from her drink. Another drink had already been brought to the table, and she noticed that three glasses were now sitting in front of Stephanie, two of which were empty, the third glass half empty.
"How long was I gone?" Avia asked.
"About a half an hour,” Stephanie said. "When the waitress came back she said you had a phone call."
"Yeah, it was a business call from the investors that stood us up last night. They said they had found a better investment after they had canceled our meeting." Avia said as she took another drink from her glass.
Stephanie glanced at her watch. “They called you this late in the evening? And how did they know you were here?”
"They gave me their home phone number and told me to call if I had any questions. After getting ditched last night, I had questions," Avia said before changing the subject. "What are you drinking?"
"Scotch,” Stephanie said. "I saw you took the hotel limo out today. Do you need a car?"
Avia blinked. “Well, I suppose a car would be nice, but I haven’t gotten around to getting a rental just yet.”
"Do you like Corvettes?" Stephanie asked.
"I guess,” Avia said. She glanced at Brian who shrugged.
"Well, how bout I take you out tomorrow around noon, and we take a look at a few?" Stephanie asked.
“No,” Avia said. “That’s ridiculous. You don’t even know me, and I don’t know you.”
Avia was now concerned. She didn’t think it was the hotel manager. She thought it was Stephanie. No one was this generous. Avia had the strangest feeling Stephanie was trying to reverse con her.
Stephanie started to say something when the bartender walked over to the table.
“Can I bother the red-head for a moment?” he asked.
“Certainly,” Stephanie said.
The bartender helped her out of her seat and walked with her toward the back room. “You looked like you were about to kill someone.”
“She just offered to buy me a car,” Avia said.
“What?” he asked.
“She just offered to buy me a car,” Avia said. “Is she fucking nuts?”
“She may be testing you. What’d you say?” he asked.
“I said no,” Avia said.
“Good. Well, the real reason I pulled you away is that there’s a poker game in the back. I thought you might be interested.”
“Has it started?” Avia asked.
“No, I told them I knew someone else that might want in,” he said.
“I’m in." Avia said.
The bartender led her to the back room to where seven other men were seated around a poker table. “This is the Tasha I was telling you about.”
"Is she any good?” one of the men asked.
“Better than you,” Avia said as she took a seat.
“We’ll see. Hope you brought your money,” the man said.
Another man began shuffling the cards and dealing them. "Five card stud, deuces wild."
"Ten in for the ante," the first man said and waited until everyone had placed their bills in the center of the table.
"I raise ten," the man said sitting to the right of the dealer. The raise was matched and everyone passed except Avia, the dealer and the man to the right of him.
Avia was looking at three Queens, a two and an Ace. “I raise fifty."
"I pass," the dealer said.
"Well, I don’t," the man said and raised it ten more. Avia matched his raise and called. She then waited for everyone to lay down their cards before laying her own on the table face up.
"I have three Aces," the man said confidently.
“I have a Full House,” Avia said and raked in the money... The waitress walked into the back room. "Can I get anybody anything?”
Avia ordered a shot of vodka while the rest ordered whiskey. When the waitress finally brought their drinks they were well into their third hand.
Three hours later the group broke up, and Avia walked out into the front room sitting down at the bar. "What time is it?” Avia asked, noticing that most of the patrons had cleared out of the bar.
"It’s just after midnight,” he said as he began wiping down the bar.
"When did Stephanie and Brian leave?"
"About thirty minutes ago,” he said as he rummaged under the counter. He pulled out a napkin with writing on it. “She said that she’d meet you in the lobby at noon tomorrow.”
Avia laughed, amused, taking the napkin and crumpling it. “Okay. Can I get another drink then, and has Victor been down?”
The bartender handed her a glass of scotch and shook his head. “I haven’t seen him all night.”
Avia sighed. “I swear all he does is hole himself up in the hotel rooms and doesn’t do any work.”
The bartender chuckled. “Perhaps you should go motivate him.”
The grin appearing on Avia’s face was all telling. However, instead of responding to him, she asked. “I’ll be seeing you later?”
“You know it,” the bartender said. “Now go get some sleep.”
She laughed as she exited the bar and walked out into the lobby. Taking the elevator up to the 18th floor, she walked into the suite a few minutes later and saw Victor asleep in the huge bed. He looked exhausted, and Avia wondered how that was possible since he hadn’t done anything all day except take her shopping.
Avia decided to take a quick shower and walked into the bathroom. When she came out Victor was lying on his side on the bed, staring at the bathroom door. "You’re finally back."
Avia nodded. "You were asleep when I in. I didn’t think you’d want to be woken." She paused momentarily. “And Stephanie offered to buy me a Corvette."
Victor sat up on the edge of the bed. “What did you say to that?
"I said no,” Avia said. “I’m not letting her buy me a damned car.”
“Good,” Victor said. “That’s weird.”
“That’s what I thought,” Avia said as she walked over to the mini-bar and poured herself a drink.
“That’s not normal,” Victor said. “Sounds like she’s trying to play you.”
“Exactly what I thought,” Avia said.
“Does Brian know?” Victor asked.
“He was sitting right there,” Avia said.
“Good,” he said. “We’ll have to watch that. If she makes anymore of those offers, we may have to pull the plug.”
“Well, I haven’t seen Benton yet,” Avia said. “He may have some different thoughts.”
“He might,” Victor said. “It’s definitely cause for a team meeting. What are you doing later today?”
“I guess Stephanie wants to meet me in the lobby at noon,” Avia said.
“Keep that appointment,” Victor said.
“I was going to cancel it. I think that’s more of that car shit,” Avia said.
“Keep it. We need her to trust us,” Victor said.
“But I don’t trust her,” Avia said.
“You don’t have to,” Victor said. “You are trying to get her to trust you so you can get paid.”
Avia nodded. “Well, what were you doing all day?”
“Watching,” Victor said as he stood from the bed. “Follow me.”
Avia stood and followed Victor into the second bedroom. “Holy shit. What the hell are all those computer monitors?”
“Cameras,” Victor said. “I spent most of this time hacking into the security system. I can see every floor, the lobby, the bar, the elevators, and I even found the security cameras inside Stephanie’s hotel room.” He pointed.
“No wonder you looked exhausted,” Avia said. She suddenly looked around their suite. “Are there cameras in here?”
“They are just inside hers for some reason,” Victor said. “And the top penthouse on the 21st floor.”
“I didn’t count a twenty-first floor?” Avia said.
“It’s not visible from the ground. It’s located in the center of the roof,” Victor said. “Extremely private.”
Avia laid across the bed. “So what did you see?”
“Not much yet, but I’m also recording,” Victor said.
“That could be useful,” Avia said.
“I think so,” Victor said.
Avia glanced at the clock. “What in the hell did you do to me last night? I am far too exhausted tonight.”
Victor laughed. “I think that’s your body telling you that you can’t stay up for weeks at a time.”
“Bite me,” Avia said as she pulled out the money she had won during the poker games. When she finished organizing and counting, she had ten grand.
"Where did you get all that money?" Victor asked.
"I won it downstairs playing poker,” Avia said.
Victor looked at her. “Playing poker?”
“The bartender was our old informant,” Avia said.
“And we haven’t killed him yet?” Victor asked.
“He’s still useful,” Avia said. “And now we have money.” She handed him a stack of one-hundred dollar bills.
Victor laughed. “All right, but if he blabs, I’m killing him.”
“Fine,” Avia said. “I need another drink.”
“No, you don’t,” Victor said. He placed the stack of money inside a drawer and walked over to her.
“Yes, I do,” Avia said.
Victor lifted her off the bed and carried her into the master bedroom. “You need to sleep. You have to be awake and alert by noon.”
Avia sighed. “I am not interested in sleeping.”
“I know you’re not,” Victor said. “But it’s almost one in the morning. I’m exhausted, and I’m not allowing you to stay up all night.” He sat her on her feet next to the bed. “This is a serious job. You can’t be half asleep or drunk.”
Avia sighed. She undressed, tossing her clothes on the floor. “I’ll sleep in the other room.”
Victor undressed and slid into the bed under the covers. “I don’t care where you sleep just that you do, but you are going to be really cold in that other bed.”
“How am I going to be cold?” she asked.
“Go test that bed and come back here,” Victor said.
Avia rolled her eyes as she walked into the other bedroom. She moved the money to a drawer next to the bed and made herself comfortable under the covers. The sheets were freezing. After 30 seconds, she exited the bed and walked to the one Victor was laying in. She climbed under the covers and wrapped herself around him.
Victor smirked, but said nothing.