Lenore drove into the city with Stan riding shotgun beside her, his window rolled down to get some air circulating through the car. Vivian and Pauley sandwiched Danela between them in the back seat. The girl, in the throes of an anxiety attack, sat hunched over, her head almost lying in Vivian’s lap.
After driving in silence for several minutes, save for Danela’s intermittent whimpers, Stan pulled down the mirror behind his sun visor. Without turning around, he watched the trio, intrigued by the mother/child/sibling sort of dynamic linking them.
“Where do you want me to leave you and Pauley,” Lenore said, maneuvering through the late morning traffic.
Stan smiled at how she dropped her reliance on Portuguese when talking with him or Pauley. “You three should arrive at the store without us. Drop us off a couple of blocks from there.”
Vivian, not sure what to do with her arms, kept making tsking noises at Danela. Her way of comforting the distraught girl.
“There, there,” she said, awkwardly patting her on the head.
Looking over Danela’s head, Pauley shrugged at Vivian’s mouthed cry for help, then finally came to the rescue.
Picking Danela up from Vivian’s lap, she grabbed both of her shoulders.
“You have to pull yourself together,” Pauley spoke slowly and softly. “Nós ajudá-lo-emos. Nós mantê-lo-emos seguro. Confie-me.”
She put one arm around the girl, to reassure her. Vivian tried to smooth out her silk blouse, rolling her eyes at the overly emotional Danela.
Once inside the city, Lenore pulled to the curb for Stan and Pauley to exit the car. Crossing the street, they walked hand-in-hand, window gazing, trying to look the part of an American couple on holiday.
“There is a bistro down here that Lenore said was a Sampas hangout,” Pauley hoped she wasn’t blushing. “Across the street is a building that is several stories taller. I wanted to check out the vantage point from the roof.”
The two walked into the restaurant, and used their obvious tourist personas to look around at the other patrons. Stan and Pauley kept mental notes of each of the high-ranking Sampas they saw enter the restaurant. Satisfied this would be a good venue to target, after finishing their coffees, they wended their way out of the bistro, and back to the street.
Turning the corner, Pauley saw Tomas walking toward them with several more of his crew. She suddenly grabbed Stan, pulling him into a dark doorway and kissing him hard. She spun him around so he was facing Tomas, her back turned, hoping Tomas didn’t recognize her.
Pauley continued her kiss, watching as Tomas passed them and entered the restaurant. Finally pulling away, she took Stan’s hand and quickly crossed the street, dragging him down a narrow alley to the fire escape stairs leading to the roof of the tallest building on the block.
Taking the lead, she scrambled up the stairs, hoping Stan was keeping pace behind her. Once they reached the roof, Stan stopped their head-long rush.
“Slow down, he didn’t see you,” Stan, panting hard from their climb. “Or are you running away from something else?”
“I don’t have time for this,” Pauley said, yanking her arm out of his grip. “I kissed you to keep Tomas from seeing my face, and maybe recognizing me from Vivian’s shop.”
“Let’s stop tip-toeing around what’s going on here,” Stan took Pauley’s hand again. “You don’t think I understand keeping personal and professional separate? I know how I feel about you, and unless I’m totally off-base, I know how you feel about me. That kiss back there was more than camouflage.”
“I don’t want this to distract me,” Pauley looked at her feet.
“I won’t let it,” Stan lifted her chin, so they were eye to eye. “But, I’m not letting you play games now that I’m here. We are going to do this job together, and we’re going to be together, or I’m headed back to New York.”
A slight nod, and brief smile from Pauley, and Stan knew she agreed to his conditions. “Now, show me where we’re firing from.”
*Photo venue: downtown Chicago, IL