The next evening, Beatrice set out for Arthur’s apartment. Beatrice’s mother had been less than pleased to hear that she’d be left alone with the cousins, but Beatrice assured her she’d be fine, and, as an extra measure, had Arthur put some of his coworkers on patrol outside of her apartment. Before leaving, Beatrice had debated what to wear on her “date.” She had to look nice enough to convince her cousins the date was real, but practical enough to scale the sides of buildings or crawl through air conditioning vents. She knew both events were unlikely, but still wasn’t entirely clear what all this spy stuff entailed.
Ultimately, Beatrice opted for pants and flats. She wore her hair in a sleek ponytail, and, feeling adventurous, put on red lipstick. When she walked into the living room, she got a few surprised stares from her cousins and an excited gasp from Janelle. As she walked out the front door, Beatrice said a silent prayer that her apartment building would still be standing by the time she got back.
Arthur’s apartment was nearly as chaotic as Beatrice’s. There were people everywhere, bustling about, making notes, watching screens, writing complicated formulas on white boards. Arthur seemed to be commandeering it all, signing off on documents, answering questions, giving orders. It seemed to Beatrice that no one so much as sneezed without Arthur’s permission- signed, dated, and notarized. He was completely in his element, and didn’t even notice Beatrice until a few minutes after she’d walked into the apartment.
“Beatrice!” he beamed with a peck to her cheek. He steered her all around the apartment, introducing her to the obviously very busy people hurrying around everywhere.
“That’s Jamie, my second in command, he takes care of everything when I’m unavailable,” Arthur said, pointing to a large man who looked like he’d spent the past twenty years as a Navy SEAL. “And these lovely people right here are Eleanor, Connor, and Sydney, they run all the tech we use,” he continued, as they passed a group of people who didn’t bother to look up from their very complex computer set ups. “Over there is Terry, she runs communications, and next to her is Bobby, he keeps track of all the footage we have of the cousins.” He pointed out a few more people, but Beatrice could no longer keep everyone’s names straight.
Finally, Arthur led Beatrice out of the main room and into a small kitchen. They sat down at a table wedged in between the refrigerator and a large pile of carefully stacked cereal boxes.
“You are not going to believe what I found,” Arthur blurted out excitedly. But as he began to speak, Beatrice had that dreaded feeling she’d felt when at the bakery with Janelle. It was as if space and time was folding in on itself. When Beatrice regained her senses, Arthur had just finished speaking and was looking eagerly at Beatrice.
“Um, Arthur, I think we have a problem.”