Eleanor kept her eyes focused and her breathing steady as she sat across the mahogany desk from the Director of InDIGO, the International Discretionary Intelligence Gathering Organization, for whom she had worked for the last six years.
“Anton Hrevic is a nobody,” Max Fischer said. “He’s a blip on the radar. Every time we try to put him under a microscope, he comes clean in the wash.” He twisted the chunky gold ring on his right index finger and then tapped it heavily on his desk blotter.
Eleanor winced at his mishmash of metaphors. She preferred precision. Liked things neat.
“Wouldn’t you like to finally have something concrete on him?” She sat forward in her chair and raised her eyes to study the original Degas that hung on the wall over his century-old credenza.
The old stone storefront looked like an ordinary boucherie on an ordinary street on the poorer side of Paris. No one would suspect it housed the French offices of an international intelligence agency. The smells of raw and curing meat and sausages from the butcher shop below seeped into the office and tickled her nose. She took a second to clear her mind and refocus. She didn’t want to be distracted and refused to let Fischer intimidate her.
“Only if it’s actionable.” He huffed as if he were tired of the subject already. “I don’t have the budget or manpower to send agents chasing ghosts and rumors.” Fischer tugged at his cufflinks, adjusting his sleeves under his cashmere jacket.
Eleanor raised one eyebrow. She longed to call her boss out whenever he talked about budget restraints. InDIGO’s resources seemed infinite when the job was important to Fischer. Not to mention the man didn’t own a shirt that cost less than two grand. But she could play nice.
“Sir,” she said with a honeyed tone. “I think this is the perfect situation to try out the LBD.” Eleanor had been careful not to bring up her pet project until she had to, hoping he’d suggest it first.
“Of course that’s what this is all about. You don’t care what Hrevic may or may not be doing out here. You just can’t wait to get your hands on that dress.” Fischer pressed his lips into a thin line. His eyes narrowed to match.
“Sir, with all due respect, this is exactly the kind of assignment for which the dress was designed. It’s not as though I’ll be the one wearing it.” Eleanor wished her words back. Of course, she’d have loved to be wearing the Little Black Dress, but her last field assignment prevented that from ever becoming a reality. She swallowed hard and leveled her tone, knowing that Fischer had to sign off to even get this operation off the ground. She offered him facts. She knew he preferred cold hard facts. “Shelby Templeton provided ample information on how to access Anton Hrevic. We have his addresses. His automobile information. His associates. I’ve already got a connection with the French police who can help with anything else we might need.”
“Humph.” Fisher shook his head. He crossed his arms and leaned back in his leather chair. “I suppose. Get your team together. No more than five. You have two weeks. If you want any more than that, I need results. Proof. Real evidence. Not some weasel in rayon crying for protection. Not another Templeton. You can’t accuse a world-renowned fashion designer of espionage and then say ‘oops’ when you find out he’s innocent.”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” She stood. “Evan Tyler and Rowan Kirk are already here in Paris. They’re the ones who brought Templeton in for us.”
“Well, what a coincidence.” Fischer’s voice smacked of sarcasm. “What about Parker?”
“I can have Hedge here with the package in twenty-four hours.” Eleanor’s heart rate quickened.
“I bet you can.” Fischer smirked at Eleanor. He didn’t bother to stand.
Her excitement smothered his snide remark. “And don’t worry. I’ll see who else is nearby to complete the team. I can keep a tight rein on the budget.” Eleanor pursed her lips and allowed them to relax into a contented smile. She felt like purring. She smoothed her skirt and picked up her attaché.
“You don’t ever turn it off, do you?” Fischer said, turning his chair to face the ballerinas on his wall.
“I wouldn’t make a very good agent if I did, would I?”
Eleanor left Fischer’s office with a broad smile on her face. “It’s finally coming off the hanger,” she whispered to herself.