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Victoria Seacress... a mystery

Chapter 1

Wilbur Hadley smiled at his reflection in the mirror, adjusted the royal blue silk tie, ran his tongue over the front of his teeth one last time. “You shouldn’t have called me.” His reflection glared at the speaker phone on the bedside. “I don’t have time for this shit. This is what I pay you to do.” His voice was deep, calm, confident; he knew it was one of his many assets. Manicured stubby fingers ran through thick salt and pepper hair, adjusting carefully any strays. “Nothing less than perfection today,” he cooed to the man looking back at him.


“Yes, sir. I thought perhaps with the number of calls you would be taking today, no one would notice if I called you. Besides, this couldn’t wait.”


Hadley blew out his cheeks, looked up, rolling his eyes. “It was a stupid thing to do.” He adjusted the red carnation in his lapel, then moved over to the hankie in the breast pocket of the finest Armani suit. He smiled again, then leaned in. “Beth was right; it does bring out the color of my eyes.”


“Sir?”


“For the love of God, what the hell do you think you should do? We’ve come to far now to let this shit happen. Handle it.” He took two steps backwards, turned to the side and glanced at his profile. His voice dropped as he ran a hand over his stomach. “Not quite what it was back in the day, but for a man my age, I am not going to complain.” He frowned, tightened his abs, then released again. “Ah hell, with my height, I can afford to carry a bit more weight than most men.”


“Sir? So I should talk to our friends in the south?”


Hadley was getting bored with the conversation. “Yes, of course you should. Everything is set to start today, so you have about four fucking hours. Do not ruin this day for me. Get the damned job done, and make sure you leave no loose ends.” Hadley strode to the phone, pushed the disconnect button with a sharp jab.


He looked back to the reflection, smiled, then chuckled. “Damn, Wilbur. I never knew you had it in you. There’s no stopping us now.”

#

“There is nothing like the twang of a good country song first thing in the morning, is there?”


Victoria Seacress was perched on a bar, her hands wrapped around a cup of cold coffee. She slowly turned towards her cameraman, her eyes warning him to tread carefully. “I wouldn’t know, Jake. If you can find a ‘good’ one we could give it a try, couldn’t we.” Her shoulders slumped as she looked around the crowded bar. “I went through all those years of university for this? It’s nine in the morning, and here I am doing some stampede fluff-crap at the boss’s friend’s sleazy bar? A damned monkey could do this.”


Jake pressed his lips tight into a sympathetic smile. “Vic, you know how it goes. I wish I could change it for you, but I can’t, so we do the job, blow the doors off the place and move on to the next.”


“The next bit of fluff-crap. Brock will have me doing this shit forever. The political convention of the century is happening three hours from here; that’s where I should be, not here asking some fat sexist asshole what sort of beer he gave the idiot making the pancakes. A stampede breakfast? Yee haw. Nothing like the smell of recycled beer and vomit for breakfast. But wait, Jake, even better, let’s top it off with a two-step.”


Jake rested his hand on her shoulder. “I would Vic, but something tells me you would be stomping on my feet in those shit-kickers you have on.”


She looked at her cowboy boots. “They really aren’t a fashion statement, are they?” Her hand ran down the denim on her hip. “It’s nothing more than a damned costume for a play.” Her eyes refused to look at the breast buttons on her western shirt.


“You can change in the van. Your yellow linen suit is waiting for you, so let’s do this last bit and call it a day.”


Victoria snorted. “Yeah, let’s hurry, because we have to rush to get ready for the damned dog show. There’s nothing I love more than a whole day of this shit.” She pushed away from the bar, ignored the leering eyes from the other side. As she turned, a rough hand caught hers, another grabbed her waist as she was dragged to the dance floor.


“You’re that pretty lady from the news.” The smell of beer already on his breath made Victoria turn away.


“I know who I am, thank you. I am not sure who you are or what you think we’re doing.”


He guffawed. “We’re dancing, pretty lady. You ain’t the brightest, are ya? What you lack in smarts though, you more than make up for with your other fine attributes.” His hand dropped down, cupped her bottom for an instant, then slapped. Victoria jumped. “You certainly do have one fine looking dairy-air there, lady.”


Victoria opened her mouth to reply, intent on putting Farmer Fred in his place. Instead, he disappeared from her arms, his hand pulling her around as Jake lifted him off the ground. A dangerous smile on his face, Jake leaned close to the man. “My job is to protect the talent. No one touches one of my reporters, especially in such an ignorant, rude, disrespectful manner. She is not a hunk of meat you are looking to buy, my friend; you will afford her some respect. Maybe if you tried showing some respect to all the women you meet, you would find you don’t have to assault them on the dance floor just to get the chance to touch one.” Jake dropped the man to the ground. “Oh, and how about a damned shower? You might want to consider that as well, you stinking asshole. We have a job to do.” Jake’s arm was around Victoria’s shoulder, guiding her to where they were set to do the last of her reports for the morning news.


“You shouldn’t do that, Jake.”


“He shouldn’t be so rude.” He held up a finger in her face. “Don’t you dare say it was just the booze talking, or just stampede fever or whatever. There are no excuses. Hold them to account.” He turned her around, adjusted the sound pack on her belt. “They want to mess with you, they can learn they have to go through me to do it.”


Victoria looked at her protector. His shoulders were broad, the result of carrying heavy equipment all day long for many years. “Well, they should be able to tell by looking at you that it’s not smart to get in your face.”


“Nope, not at all. Now, get ready. Your mark is there.” He pointed, she smiled; she knew where the mark was, but he would always tell her anyways. “They will be coming here in thirty seconds.”


Victoria watched the feed on the monitor while she clipped on her ear piece. The current coverage was of an update from the political convention. She sighed, picked up her mike, waited for Jake’s signal. “Good morning, Britney. We’re still downtown here at Foghorn’s Bar and Grill for the stampede breakfast...”

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