Cold in the Shadows

By: Toni Anderson


She’d experienced trouble somewhere though and not just his visit last night—he could see the echo of experience in her eyes. Men like him exploited weakness like that.

“You studied these things for long?” He sought to distract her from her memories.

She made direct eye contact this time in a way that told him she didn’t like him very much. Ignoring his question, she checked her watch and called out to the others to begin her demonstration. Four o’clock on the dot.

Killion moved closer, close enough to catch the scent of lavender on her skin and to see her gaze flick warily over him. Her complexion was pale, skin fine-grained. Lips soft and deliciously pink.

She was delicately-boned, petite, but not skinny. Even so, he’d had a hell of a time holding onto her last night and had almost got his balls twisted off. He wouldn’t underestimate her again.

He brought his attention back to the talk.

The teen asked a lot of questions. Maybe the kid was a wannabe frog geek. Or maybe he liked listening to the doc’s voice as much as Killion did. She had a wicked chuckle that seemed to affect a certain part of his anatomy that should know better. He shifted uncomfortably.

If her career in science fell through, she’d make a fortune doing phone sex.

The fact he was thinking about phone sex when she was talking earnestly about chytrid fungus and climate change being the biggest global threat to frog populations, combined with habitat loss and over-harvesting by the pet trade, suggested he was long overdue in the getting laid department. He now knew far more than he’d ever wanted about frogs and the effect of Audrey Lockhart’s voice on his libido.

Talk about torture.

She knew her stuff, but then this was her field. His was finding people who didn’t want to be found and extracting information they didn’t want to reveal. His expertise usually garnered those he captured some quality time in a US institution. The really lucky ones got to travel the world, although it was hard to be a tourist with a bag over your head.

Audrey Lockhart, Ph.D., looked squeaky clean, but she’d been in Kentucky the day Ted Burger had been murdered with batrachotoxin—a deadly alkaloid secreted in the skin of Phyllobates terribilis, the golden poison dart frog. Murdered by a woman pretending to be the maid, of the same general height and weight as the good professor. Eye and hair color were easily altered, but how many women knew how to handle these suckers without dropping dead on the spot? Not many.

Coincidence?

Not likely.

Problem was Audrey Lockhart wasn’t throwing off operator vibes, and that bothered him. It bothered him a lot. Whoever killed the VP had waltzed past security into his fancy house, served high tea, and then walked calmly away as the guy lay frothing at the mouth on his study floor. It took either balls or a sociopathic coolness under pressure. And he wasn’t seeing it. Not last night, not today.

Lockhart looked innocent. Actually she looked almost too innocent, all perky frog geek, which automatically raised red flags for him. How could anyone be that innocent after the last fourteen years? Or maybe he was getting soft. The current shit-storm in the Middle East had him questioning what all those years in the sandbox had been for. Bin Laden was dead, but the situation was more fucked up than ever with extremists trying to initiate Armageddon—and not figuratively. They were literally trying to instigate the end of times, as if the world wasn’t fucked up enough.

What was wrong with these assholes?

People in the US had no idea how lucky they were, and it was his job to make sure they continued to thrive in blessed ignorance. He should be out there, figuring out a way to help moderate people regain control of their countries and reduce the threat to his homeland. That’s what he should be doing.

Instead he eased to the back of the crowd, pulled out his cell phone and snapped a photo of the group. He’d seen enough, but he waited until the professor finished her spiel and he drifted away with the others. No drawing attention to himself. No standing out. He even bought a frog T-shirt from the gift store, and said a warm goodbye to his new friend from Miami and her family.

It was late afternoon and the sun went down fast in this part of the world. It was already getting dark. He started the engine of his rental, but hesitated as a small sedan pulled up in front of the ecological center. Killion took a photograph of a man getting out of the car before he headed quickly through the entrance—a definite player judging from the bulge near his left shoulder. The guy left the engine running, and if that didn’t scream “quick getaway” Killion didn’t know what did. Was this Audrey Lockhart’s ride? Maybe the guy had her new identity tucked into the pockets of his bad boy leather jacket.

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