Cooper walked slowly to his hotel room and smiled. He ran his fingers through his hair out of habit. If his dad were here he would tell him to get a haircut. Cooper paused at the thought of his dad and shook his head to change his thoughts back to his plan. The night had been what he would consider a success. His plan was working. So far anyway. A week earlier he didn’t touch one thing in the casino. Not even a slot machine. He spent his time observing and making mental notes. It was time well spent. His first night sitting at the tables he won $10,000. Not too much to draw attention. Just enough. Vegas is a big town with plenty of casinos. All he needed was patience and he would leave town a very rich man. Not that becoming rich was his goal. He planned to donate most of his winnings to charity. No, this was a game to him. He was doing it for the simple reason he could. And he was bored.
After his dad died Malone and Cooper spent a couple years traveling. It was fun. At least for Cooper. But Malone tired of it and said he didn’t like the thought of being a mere sidekick to Cooper’s shenanigans. Malone went to college and now worked in a prestigious accounting firm. Cooper thought his friend was crazy to trade a life of travel for a boring desk job. But Malone insisted it wasn’t that bad. It was his job. His life. He enjoyed doing an honest day’s work.
Not that the pair did anything illegal. Or, too terribly illegal. Cooper used his hacking skills to get them what they needed to live and anything they might have received as surplus he donated. So, according to him, he was similar to Robin Hood. And who, besides the Sheriff of Nottingham didn’t care for Robin Hood?
He stopped at his room door and noticed a blond woman making her way down the hall. She was giggling and having trouble walking. This wasn’t his first sighting of her. He noticed her in the casino. She was attractive alright but not his type. Too high maintenance was his summation. Her stumbling down the hall proved him right.
He paused as she passed him. “You okay?” he asked.
“Shh, I’m looking for my broom,” she slurred. “No, not my broom. I’m not a witch. I’m looking for my room.”
He smiled politely.
“Have you seen it?” she asked.
“Do you have your key?” he asked while rolling his eyes.
“Right here,” she said and handed him a lipstick container. “Oops,” she giggled. “Not your shade. Here,” she handed him her key card.
He looked down the hall. “That way,” he pointed. “But let me walk you there to make sure you make it.”
“Oh, thank you,” she said and wrapped her arms around his neck.
He pulled her off and steadied her by holding her elbow. “C’mon, you’re just a few rooms down.”
They walked down the hall together and arrived at her door.
“There you go,” he said.
“Thank you,” she hiccupped. “Say, would you like to come in?”
“Ah,” he smiled. “No, no, that would not be a good idea. You go in and climb straight in bed, okay?”
“Okay,” she smiled and tried opening her door. The door wouldn’t open. “It’s broken. I have a broken door.”
Cooper took the key card and inserted it into the slot. It unlocked and he opened the door for her. “There you go,” he said.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come in?” she asked again.
“No, maybe another time,” he said politely.
She dug into her purse and pulled out a government issued side arm and flashed a badge at him. Suddenly sober, she asked, “How about now?”
He smiled unsure of what just happened.
“I insist,” she pressed and nodded her head with no hint of the drunk awkward act.
“Alright,” he said and went into her room. Just from the tidiness of her room he could tell he had misjudged her. No, he had been fooled. It was all an act. She wasn’t some high-maintenance party girl at all. He wasn’t sure what the opposite of that would be but by all appearances she was that.
“Have a seat,” she said pointing to a chair, “My name is Special Agent Yarrow,” she put her badge away but not before he read her first name: Al.
“Funny, you don’t look like an Al,” he said sitting down. He expected the casino to catch up with him but not until at least tomorrow. Their timing was impressive.
“Ha,” she said a bit annoyed, “you’re the first person to ever tell me that.”
“Look,” he said as smoothly as possible, “I was just having a little fun. You can tell your bosses that.”
“I work for the CIA in a special task force. My partner and I have been watching you for some time Mr. Baldwin.”
This was not the conversation he was expecting.
“You have certain,” she cleared her throat, “talents and abilities that my bosses – as you say – feel could benefit your government.”
He tilted his head to the side. “So wait, you don’t work for the casino?”
“No, I do not. But if it makes you feel any better if you turn down this offer I will turn you over to the casino.”
“How is that supposed to make me feel better?” he asked.
“We have been tracking a certain criminal who is an expert at disappearing. We would like you to help us track him down.”
“I am not a government type person,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I have respect for all of you who put your life on the line every day to protect the likes of me but I am not that person.”
“True,” she said. “That is my assessment of you also. You are definitely no hero.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“But my partner insists you are the right man for this job. I see nothing but a pretty-boy, playboy.”
“You think I’m pretty?” he asked sarcastically.
Her face remained impassive.
“I don’t understand, why me?”
“My partner has been following you since your time in Dubai. It is on his recommendation that we are here.”
“Who is your partner? Have we met?”
“He will be here shortly. He seems to think you have some untapped potential hidden deep, deep inside here,” she tapped a finger on Cooper’s temple.
“You had to exaggerate the deep?” Cooper asked.
“I was being nice,” she said. “I see problem not potential.”
He thought about it. “I’ll have you know, I donate most of what I don’t spend. I typically only spend what I need to live on. Plus, maybe a few extra toys. But I donate most, or a lot, okay some of it to good causes.”
“A regular Robin Hood,” she said dryly.
“Exactly!” Now she was getting it.
“Will you join our task force or not?” she said returning to the topic.
“What? You want to weaponize me?”
She snorted derisively. “You? A weapon? Mr. Baldwin the people we go up against are highly trained with a skill set far above a,” she chose her words specifically, “high school student.”
Her description sunk in. “How do you know about Kendrick?” he asked.
“Mr. Baldwin, we know all about you. We have been watching you a long, long time.”
He listened carefully. All jovialness fled.
“Well,” he said slowly after going through their entire conversation again in his head. “Seems like I don’t have much of a choice now, do I?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I’d be happy if you accepted the consequences of your actions and let me turn you over to the casino.”
“I’m afraid my luck has run out in that department,” he said.
“Ha!” She said. “Your luck is just beginning.”
A knock on the door provided some hope for him. Maybe it was hotel staff and he could use that to his advantage to escape. Al walked to the door and looked out the peephole. “Finally,” she said and opened the door. “Mr. Baldwin meet my partner, Special Agent Luck.”
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