“Sorry to be sending you away again so soon, but I need you on a flight to Key Largo tomorrow.”
Lauren stared at the director. The timing wasn’t an issue, but the location was. “Where?”
“For a white collar assignment?” Lauren looked skeptically at Michael. After three years as her director, he knew working for the white collar division of the FBI was merely a cover for her specialization.
“Your subject,” Michael pushed on, sliding a folder toward her across his desk, “is James MacDonald. Or Geoffrey Miles. Kevin Fischer. William Eberstark. Tyler Schwab. Take your pick. In FBI circles, he’s known as the “Smooth Operator.”
“Smooth Operator? Like the Sade song?” Lauren’s eyebrows shot up.
Michael nodded grimly. “He’s been visiting locations from the song for the past 30 years. Showed up in LA in 1985 using an MO we hadn’t seen before, although I’m guessing he was no rookie even then. Ten years ago agents in Chicago were closing in, but he slipped away. We’ve heard rumors of his activity in several northern cities. Then he headed south along the eastern seaboard. We’ve pinpointed his arrival in northern Florida and need a team in place when he gets to the Keys.”
“But—are you sure?”
Michael nodded again. “A cocky move on his part, but don’t let this one fool you. He’s as likely to slip through your fingers there as anywhere else.”
Lauren picked up the folder and flipped through it. “When do I leave?”
“Your flight departs from Andrews at 6:00a.m.”
Again, Lauren looked quizzically at her director. Had he lost his mind? Sending her on a mission in Florida and planning for her to arrive in broad daylight? At least he wasn’t having her fly out of BWI. Her equipment would never make it through airport security.
The plane touched down at a private airport in Key Largo. Lauren hired a car and drove to Azul del Mar, where the Smooth Operator purportedly had made reservations for the coming week.
At the concierge desk, Lauren introduced herself as a federal agent investigating Medicare fraud. The clerk stalled until Lauren produced her badge, then allowed her access to the guest records.
Within a couple of minutes Lauren located the information she needed—a guest planning to check in tonight with specific request for blackout shades on all windows in the suite.
“Looks like I had the wrong intel,” Lauren commented to the rattled clerk.
On her way back to the car, Lauren encountered a groundskeeper. “You should change into your bikini now.”
“The yellow polka dot one?”
The groundskeeper nodded and escorted her back to the rental car. “Drive over to the Marriot. Leave your car with the valet there and check in. Then walk back to Azul del Mar. I’ll have the cabana ready.” He opened the car door and sent her off with a friendly wave.
At sunset, Lauren returned on foot. She had exchanged her workday attire for beach clothing, including a tropical romper custom designed to conceal her weapons. Crossing to the back of the resort, she located a cabana just outside the Caribe suite. A quick assessment of the entry options revealed that the groundskeeper had left the garden door to the suite unlocked. The Smooth Operator wasn’t likely to arrive before 11:00p.m., and his signature crime always took place at midnight. Lauren settled into the cabana to wait.
About 11:15, Lauren heard a car turn up the drive. As its occupants headed up the front walk to check in, she positioned herself just outside the garden door. A few moments later, the couple entered the suite. The woman was obviously drunk. The man, less inebriated, swatted her bottom playfully. “Slip into something more comfortable, my love.” The woman, a weekender slung over her shoulder, made her unsteady way to the bathroom. The man, his back to the garden door, began flipping through musical selections on the entertainment system. Lauren saw her chance. She slipped into the room, and as the first notes of Sade’s “Smooth Operator” filled the room, the vampire known by the same name succumbed to Lauren’s stake.