Chapter 3

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Bandages and morphine were all it took for Becky Li to stop thinking about the pain in her arm and start thinking about where she wanted to take some vacation. As the doctor was stitching her up, she formulated her criteria. 

“Sunny, needless to say. But sunny near an ocean, otherwise what’s the point?” 

“Ever been to Cabo?” the doctor asked, pulling surgical thread through a flap of skin pumped with local anesthetic. 

“I’ve never been to those sunny resort places,” she said. “Never wanted to until now. Lay topless on the beach getting drunk off fruity, tropical drinks that taste like sun tan lotion.” 

Becky watched the doctor tighten the suture—the miracles of local anesthetic. 

“You won’t be playing golf or tennis on this vacation,” the doctor said. 

“Golf is for pussies,” Becky yawned. “Besides, ball sports aren’t exactly my thing.” 

The doctor paused mid-stitch before tying a knot to finish off his sewing. 

“You can see your visitor now,” the doctor said, disposing the needle in the biohazard canister and scrubbing his hands in the sink. 

Becky didn’t know she had a visitor. 

Her boss Frank entered with a Get Well floral arrangement that didn’t contain any actual flowers. Cattails, green sprigs, microscopic dried flowers that looked like you could steep them in hot water to make herbal tea. It was the first time Becky had received flowers from a man, so she was oddly touched. 

Frank handed the arrangement to her, which wobbled in her left hand for a moment before he remembered she was injured and placed them on a nearby chair. 

“I was hoping you’d have a cast to sign,” Frank said, grinning. 

“Just a sling,” said Becky. 

Frank nodded, still grinning. Not a good sign. 

“The doctor suggested Cabo,” Becky said. “We were talking about places for me to take a vacation.” 

Becky noticed sweat beading on Frank’s forehead. 

“Come to think of it,” Becky said. “I don’t think I’ve had a vacation in at least two years.” 

“What sounds better?” asked Becky, trying to sound optimistic. “Hawaii, Aruba, the Florida keys?” 

“How about Utah?” Frank said. 

Becky wished the doctor hadn’t thrown the needle away so she could plunge it in Frank’s neck. 

She said, “I’m sure Utah’s a hotbed of Mormon tourism, but the Great Salt Lake doesn’t qualify as an ocean beach.” 

“No ocean, but it’d be relaxing,” Frank said, acting as if she’d already agreed to what he hadn’t yet asked. “They’ve got those stunning red rock formations.” 

“I’ve seen them on the bank calendars.” 

“We’d need you there a few months.” 

“After I get back from vacation?” 

“Immediately.” 

Becky pointed to her shoulder stitched up in two places, one where the bullet entered and one where it exited. 

“What kind of assignment is this?” she asked. 

“The witness.” 

“You’re kidding?” Becky laughed. “You want me to babysit?” 

Frank wiped his brow, finally, taking a serious tone Becky knew was his way of regaining control of the situation. 

“He’s agreed to witness protection,” said Frank. “The trial isn’t for a few more months, conservatively, and we need to keep him far away from Vardanian’s men until then.” 

“As far as I’m concerned, Utah is off the fucking map.” 

“Exactly, which is why it will do.” 

“So why me?” asked Becky. 

“We need a woman to protect him.” 

“What, we’re allowing witnesses to make requests?” she laughed. “I’ll take a female Asian with nice tits and an ass?” 

“You’re actually more on the flat chested side.” 

Becky glanced down, defensively cupping her breasts. 

“I’ll take these apples over melons any day.” 

“Our witness isn’t the one making the request,” Frank stated. “It’s the locale. Very family oriented. A single man moving to a small, family oriented community looks suspicious.” 

“Suspiciously gay?” Becky balked. “So you force the lesbian agent to pose as his straight girlfriend?” 

“Not girlfriend,” Frank mumbled. “Wife.” 

Just like that, eyebrows down, shoulders drooped and Becky began brooding. 

“Listen,” Frank said. “Suspicious is suspicious. If something is amiss, these small town folk pick up the scent like a shark. 

Besides, you’d be out anyway and I can’t send a healthy agent to guard this guy where no one is going to find him.” 

“What happens after the trial? Now he’s a divorcee whose wife left him for another woman?” 

“After the trial we place him somewhere permanently. New identity, clean slate.” 

Becky felt a dull deep pain pounding in her shoulder as the local anesthetic wore off. 

“You’re confident sending me to protect him?” she asked. “Even with my shooting arm in a sling?” 

Frank smiled proudly, like the father figure he imagined himself to be. 

“I’m sending you because I know you won’t screw up.” 

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