#9 in the third series of Mouse stories. Read the others here.
Mouse in Disguise!
Slowly the catering staff resumes working, while ignoring me, which is just as well since I hear shouting in the hallway outside. What are they saying? It’s all Greek to me, except, well, it’s Norwegian.
I would like to say I’m cool and have this handled, but no. I’m looking around frantically for a place to hide. Again. I am beginning to feel like my namesake running desperately from one dark little corner to another.
The man who helped me from the dumbwaiter is still watching me. He jerks his head to the left. I follow. I have no reason not to trust him, or trust him. Two-way street.
A large plastic rolling bin filled with dirty linens sits out of the way in the appropriately mouse-darkened corner. Not so gracefully I get in and he covers me with the soiled linens. Lovely. It’s a good thing I’ve been in worse situations.
Just seconds later men burst into the kitchen.
“Where is she?” one of the Norwegians yells.
His question is met with silence.
“I demand an answer!”
“A woman in an ugly dress ran out that way,” I hear someone reply.
Yes, that would be me. The woman in the ugly dress. I grin. Maybe someone will listen to me when I ask for a pretty dress. It was probably Tom who chose the dress because of its resemblance to a tent. I really wouldn’t put it past him.
They must believe him because I hear heavy footsteps retreating. I wait. After several minutes, I’d guess five, but I’m sure it was far fewer, my new friend unearths me from the soiled linens.
“Come with me,” he says. Great another bossy man, except at least I think he’s helping me.
He points to a catering uniform that could be about my size: white shirt, black pants, and a clip on bowtie. “No one will notice you in this.”
“Thank you for helping me…”
“Diego. You’re welcome. Everyone can use a little help sometimes.”
I dart into the employee bathroom, change clothes and look at my feet. Maybe no one will notice that a member of the catering staff is wearing strappy sandals. Hopefully I will just blend in. I remove my necklace, keep the tiny studs in my ears, and then yank my hair from its once sophisticated updo and pull it into a pony tail. I wipe away most of the makeup so that I look plain, nondescript, hopefully not recognizable. I pull some wisps of hair down for thin bangs.
When I emerge, Diego nods.
“Thanks so much, Diego. I will find a way to pay you back for your help,” I say.
He grins. He’s a very handsome guy with sparkling brown eyes and a bright white smile. “I’ll hold you to it.”
A big Norwegian guy, which is beginning to feel redundant, stands outside the door to the kitchen. One glimpse tells me it’s the guy I hit. I somehow suspect he might have gotten a good look at me when he was studying me with murderous rage. He glances in the kitchen. His eyes don’t linger on anyone, not even me, but he isn’t in any hurry to go away.
“You, new girl, take the trays from the carousel and put them on the cart,” a man says to me.
I nod then do as he says, all the while keeping my face averted from the door.
“Diego, you and the new girl take the food upstairs,” the man, evidently the boss, says. “They’re asking for more food. I don’t know what in the hell is going on up there. And then these loons at the doors…”
Diego raises an eye at me. “Maybe someone else, Andy? She’s too much of a noob.”
I smile my thanks, but it’s short-lived.
“The only way to stop being a noob is to learn. Get on with it.”
Diego shrugs and then I shrug. What are you doing to do? At least my gun is now in my pocket. Diego goes to the walnut cabinets on the far side, pulls out a drawer he riffles through, and withdraws a pair of thick black glasses. He hands them to me. And, yes, they are prescription, but I can make out enough to walk and push a cart while Diego steers.
Before we start, I pull out my cell and fire off a text to Nick Ryder, although I suspect by now he knows that something’s gone wrong. I turn my cell to vibrate and then semi-voluntarily walk back into the lion’s den while hoping I neither stumble nor am recognized.