1986 Aston Martin Lagonda

Lexi had no idea that there were four cameras riding along in her little Mercedes.  Victor had installed one in the front bumper, one in the rearview mirror with a view of both seats, and one behind the mirror looking forward.  There had been one in the rear bumper as well, but it stopped working mid-day.  It wasn’t crucial.  With his remaining cameras transmitting, Victor was able to follow Lexi’s wanderings through Arram without difficulty. 

The day before, while she followed Rocky back to his place, Victor ran the old Mercury’s plates, and came up with the man’s real name–Henry Marsocci–and his address before they’d even gotten there.  When she’s returned to her hotel alone, he had left the spy-unit in instant-on mode.  It would start recording and transmitting if the SLK’s door was opened, and would continue as long as the car was running.  This allowed Victor the luxury of attending to Dobie’s many bits of business without missing any of what Lexi was up to.  He hadn’t gone back to the cameras at all that night or into the next afternoon.

Dobie currently had his hands full, with Danny Packard in the house.  A call to Becka as to what exactly he was supposed to do with Danny went unanswered, and Victor suspected that Becka didn’t know her son had gone off on his jaunt to Ile du Soleil.  At Dobie’s request, Victor did a little bit of quiet searching and found that Becka was in Marseille, and unlikely to be back within the week.

“In other words, Danny’s AWOL,” Dobie said.

Victor nodded in response.  The two of them were in Dobie’s office under pretext of a business meeting.  Danny was currently in the kitchen, trying to talk one of the maids into a tryst.  Dobie hoped he’d fail; he didn’t particularly want to have to fire the girl for such an indiscretion, especially with the economy the way it was.

Dobie sighed in agitation, crossed his hands behind his head and leaned back in the chair.  “What do you suggest we do?”

“Nothing,” Victor said.  “Let him do what he wants to.  He may go out and get himself into trouble, but if he’s off the farm without permission, that’s not, from a military point of view, our problem.”  Victor hoped feverishly that Dobie wouldn’t make Danny his charge.  He had never liked Danny Packard.  Not many people did.  Getting them to admit this was, of course, a different matter entirely.

“I don’t want to give him that kind of rein.  Chances are, he’ll make a few phone calls, and then get distracted hanging around the house for two weeks.  Plenty of tail to be picked up, you know.”

“So much the better.”

“And what about Lexi?”

“She’s enjoying herself in Arram.  I suspect she’ll be safe cached there for at least a week and a half.”

“Did she open the briefcase?”

“She put it in the car with her, but she hasn’t left the city.  She’s only gone to see one person.”  Victor nodded toward the table where he’d left a short, uninteresting brief on Henry Marsocci.  “They weren’t connected in any way.  He’s just a guy with an old car, and she picked him up.”

“Picked up?”

Victor angled his head and let Dobie fill in the rest for himself. 

“Interesting.”  Dobie’s face was unreadable, and Victor guessed that he felt more than a little bit slighted.  He did not report this assumption, and Dobie made no more comment on it.  “Helen is coming in again this afternoon, so I suspect we’ll be dining together.  She’s been spending a lot of time talking to Wayne Thrall.”

“Should I look into it?”

“I haven’t decided yet.  I know Helen can take care of herself, but I don’t trust her to tell me what she’s up to.  Then again, if she suspects that I’m taking too much interest, that could be a problem as well.”  Dobie drummed his fingers on the desktop.  “No, don’t do anything about it for now.  I’ve got to plan my traveling for this summer, too.  There’s a stack of event invitations as long as my arm on the desk,” he added, placing his hand on the stack.  “Go through them for me, could you?”

Victor nodded.

A knock at the door was Danny Packard.  “May I cut in?” he asked with a smile.

“We’re just finishing up, Danny, come on in.”

Victor stepped aside so Danny could sit in front of Dobie’s desk.  He had always thought that Danny looked like his brother Warren, except with contacts instead of glasses, and completely without the intellectual quality that had given Warren depth.  “Excellent.  You should clear your calendar for the evening, too.  I’ve made dinner reservations for us, downtown.  And I’m having a car delivered, so I don’t need to impose on you.”  Victor had given Danny a contact at the Jaguar dealer in Marjori earlier; presumably that was what the call had been about.  “It would be great if your driver could take us all to that place that Stan Cilpreton owns.”

“It’s called PW these days,” Dobie said.  Danny had been a fan of the little French restaurant since he was a child.  Dobie found the windowless place a bit dank for his taste, but the food was superb.  “And that sounds great.  Will you need a driver to work with you this week, while you’re here?  Someone who knows the area?”

“Yes, definitely, splendid.”  He leaned forward, flipping a lock of blond hair out of his face.  “I’ve had all of the hotels in Marjori checked, and she’s not at any of them.  She must be traveling under an assumed name.”

Now that he’d spent time with Lexi, the scheming, devious creature that the Packards painted her as was utterly unbelievable.  Dobie didn’t argue, though, knowing it was pointless and far too late to change Danny’s opinion of her.  “That complicates things, doesn’t it?” he asked instead.  “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to hit the night spots.  After all, the best way to find a party girl is to go looking for a party, right?”

“That’s a start, I suppose.  I’ll also call Hal Jenoretzke.”

“That old fossil?  He wouldn’t know Lexi Crane if she ran up and sat in his lap!”

“Be that as it may, I find Mr. Jenoretzke’s counsel to be crucial.  Especially when I’m involved in something…unorthodox.”

“No, thank you,” Danny said.  “I can handle her myself.”

“What do you plan to do if you find her, anyway?”

Danny got a cagey, dangerous look on his face.  “After what she’s done to my family?  I’ll leave it up to your imagination.  I’ll be sure to be diplomatic, of course.”

He was already thinking like his mother.  If something did happen to Lexi, and Danny was connected to it–as he certainly would be; he might think like Becka but wasn’t nearly subtle enough to attain her untouchability–any testimony Dobie might be called upon to make would be worthless.  Danny was an idiot, but he was shrewd.  Dobie answered with a nod toward Victor, who understood that as his signal to leave the two of them alone.  It wasn’t so much for Danny’s benefit as for Dobie’s; many people spoke more freely when Victor wasn’t around.

Dismissed for the moment, Victor returned to surveilling Lexi.  The cameras had activated themselves, he saw; she was on the road again.  She was alone in the car, listening to some of her deafening, discordant music, and she was alone.  The car was surrounded by open desert; she definitely wasn’t in Arram any more.

Just great.