Maid for the Mafia Informant by Flora Ferrari

 

Chapter One

Sophie

“You just aren’t what they’re looking for, Sophie. I don’t think I can be much clearer than that.” Cheryl sighs. She closes my prospective job applicant list and pushes it out in front of her like it’s something nasty.

I raise a brow, wanting to screw my face up, to make a judgment call on their inequality, but I also know it’s no use.

My employment agent, Cheryl has got me jobs in the past and when they say I’m ‘not suitable’ I know what they mean.

They mean they want someone thinner. Lighter, petite. All the words I can’t even think, let alone tell myself I might be one day.

I’m only going for private cleaner’s positions, what more do they want? I have experience. But it’s not enough. I know the look.

“Hey?” Cheryl says, calling after me as I look back before turning away, head bowed and shoulders slumped for the fifth time this week.

“We’ll find you something, Soph. I promise,” she adds, smiling like she means it. A strange smile on her face, like she wants to tell me more.

I walk out of the office, my head down, looking at the pavement, wondering how long it’ll be before I call it home.

If I don’t make rent this week, I’m out on the street. I’m already three weeks behind as it is.

I can’t go back home to Dad, I won’t. I’ll never hear the end of it if I do.

Being the only daughter of the local police superintendent isn’t easy, and not something I want to advertise, and sadly neither does my dad.

I feel my lip sting from chewing on it so hard lately, trying not to worry is always the best way for me to worry even more.

The last thing I need is to be reminded of the other bad news, but the newsstand down the street is plastered with the latest big story.

The story has been headline news all week, breaking my heart.

Benjamin Slade, controversial mob lawyer – missing presumed dead.

The glossy close up of his face on magazines, the sultry eyes that are more a question than an answer on the front of the newspapers.

I’ve never met the man, but have had nothing short of the biggest crush on him since I can remember.

He was that tough guy lawyer who always represented the mob kingpins in court. Always got them off and made a name for himself by winning class-action suits against the city for harassment of his clients and their families.

It was dark, murky stuff. And if it was anyone else doing the work it would make the public sick, make me sick.

But Ben Slade… The very thought of him, still makes me stop on the sidewalk and take a moment. Waiting to feel my legs again I relive every nighttime fantasy I’ve ever had of him.

He’s not dead. He can’t be.

I don’t believe-

“Ms. Moore?” A deep voice says from behind me, a sudden lurching of my heart has me expecting to see Ben Slade himself when I turn around.

But it’s not him.

Instead, it’s someone trying hard not to look like a cop, in a suit. My heart leaping against my ribs is replaced with a stomach churning realization I haven’t lodged taxes in a while.

He must be IRS.

“Come with me, please. I’ll explain all on the way,” The man says, stepping to one side and revealing a long, dark car with its back door open. Another guy in a suit and sunglasses holding a finger to his ear.

I open my mouth to say something, to protest, maybe even cry out for help, but there’s an edge of total authority in his voice.

“Let’s not make this difficult than it already is, Ms. Moore,” he adds, sighing with impatience, holding a hand toward the waiting car.

Nobody even notices anyway, and I’m sure if I did scream, nobody would care either.

Nobody ever notices me.

Not for the right reasons anyway.

The man’s short, balding, and a little heavy. I can relate to two out of three of his traits, and once he creases a frowning smile, and I see the butt of his gun and a badge as his jacket moves I guess he is a cop after all.

But what sort of cop?

I haven’t done anything wrong.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, straining another half-smile as he shuts the car door in my face, letting himself in the front passenger side.

I turn to look at the other guy in the back seat, skinny, young, in a suit. Same demeanor, but he looks out the window like he’s checking for something.

Or someone.

I notice a huge stack of papers and magazines next to him, all with the same face that makes me swoon every time I see it or even think about it.

Some have red ink circling words and phrases. Others just have that same handsome face, smiling back at me, making me bite my lip again.

This must have something to do with Ben Slade’s disappearance, but what have I got to do with that?

The driver only glances back before pulling out quickly, so here I am, practically abducted by what I believe to be the police in broad daylight by three, very average looking men. The driver has a slight skeletal appearance, his dark shades hovering over his bony cheeks.

Leaning his arm over the bench seat, I’m formally introduced.

“I’m special agent Partridge, and these… well. These are special agents too, Ms. Moore. The less we tell you about certain things right now the better.”

He tosses a manila folder into my lap.

“Read and sign this, and I’ll give you this,” he says, holding up what looks like a check.

“It’s a cash check for fifteen hundred dollars, all you have to do is some cleaning, make a bed and keep your mouth shut.”

The check has my attention, but the glossy photos of Ben Slade spilling out of the folder arrest my eyes, and certain other parts of my anatomy even more.

Different photos, photos of Ben Slade without his shirt on.

I make an involuntary sound, suddenly feeling like I need to pee, but it’s something else.

I press my legs together hard, flushed at the effect the man’s photographs have on me alone.

“Ah. Shit,” Partridge grumbles. “Gimme, that,” he says gruffly, leaning over to snatch the file.

“This is your employment contract. I understand you need some work, having a hard time of it lately? Well, Uncle Sam has a job for you, Ms. Moore. All you have to do is follow some simple instructions.”

“Does this have anything to do with Ben Slade?” I ask, not meaning to sound like a schoolgirl with a damp crush, but failing.

Partridge rolls his eyes, then chuckles to himself, realizing his own mistake with the files.

“You should maybe apply at the agency, Ms. Moore. You have an eye for details,” he says before turning himself to face the front.

“Rule number one: Don’t ask any questions. Rule number two: Don’t tell anyone anything. Got it?” he says

I flip the pages of the employment contract through my fingers, then notice the check he’s holding up again from the front seat so I can see it.

If this has anything to do with Ben Slade if it means I could maybe even get to meet him or even see him up close I’m in.

“Where do I sign?” I ask dryly, not even thinking about the contract anymore, my eyes hover down next to me, looking at the pictures of Ben staring back up at me, seeming to urge me on.

“You already did,” Partridge replies dryly, and I can see a genuine smile on his face in the rearview mirror.

More of a smirk as his eyes meet mine.

“You signed an agreement at the agency that you’d accept any reasonable offer of work that paid above the going rate?” he asks, and I feel my head pumping in agreement.

The agent next to me slips the papers and magazines into a neat bundle, turning them over so I can’t see Ben anymore, and Partridge himself leans back over, helping himself to the file with my contract, but not showing me the check anymore.

“You’ll get paid once you’ve done the work,” he says, a matter of fact.

Sucking air through his teeth he mumbles something to the driver, and I feel the car pick up speed, the tires almost squealing as we make a few hard turns.

After about an hour of doing what I instinctively feel are circles around the city, we arrive at a high rise building with an exterior of smoked glass.

It could be condos, or it could be offices. I can’t tell. It blends in, almost like a shadow, wedged between two other mirrored glass buildings, which I can’t look at directly. The sun’s reflecting so hard off both.

“We’re here,” Partridge announces, the other agent puffs his cheeks and blows out air, looking bored by now.

The driver’s eyes stay dead ahead behind his shades and I notice Partridge raising his brows in suggestion. Time to get out of the car.

But there’s another set of eyes on me, I can feel it.

Looking up into the strange smoked glass high above, I shiver.

I know instantly that someone’s watching me, someone, dangerous.

I just hope to hell it’s Ben Slade