This was the first test, and if Daniel didn’t pass, she was pulling the plug. Carston had surely seen the photos of Daniel on the news, no matter how separate he and Deavers had kept their operations. She watched Carston from the corner of her eye, assessing his reaction. His face was a blank.
“Who’s this?” he asked.
“Your new aide.”
“Is that necessary?”
“Cut the engine.”
Daniel got up and walked quickly toward them. Alex watched Carston for any change in expression as Daniel approached.
“I can’t watch you every second, Carston,” she said sweetly. “Pop the trunk.”
She and Carston waited in silence as Daniel moved the gear from the back of the sedan into the BMW’s cargo space. When he was done, he stood beside Carston’s door, waiting.
“Get out,” Alex said.
Slowly, always keeping his hands in view, Carston opened the door and stepped out. As Alex got out, she saw the way he was eyeing Daniel. She tried to appraise Daniel impartially. He was a large man and looked able to handle himself, even with the glasses and the extra paunch. It made sense under these circumstances that Carston would be cautious and probably frightened, though he hid it well.
As instructed, Daniel said nothing. He met Alex’s eyes only briefly and kept his expression neutral. His jaw jutted out just a bit, the way it had when he’d intimidated the drunk boys in Oklahoma City. It made him look dangerous, but also slightly more like Kevin. Had Carston seen photos of Kevin?
Daniel stopped beside the driver’s door, his arms loose at his sides, ready.
“Hands on the roof,” Alex ordered Carston. “Don’t move until I get back.”
Carston assumed the position of a suspect braced against a police car. He kept his head down, but Alex could tell he was examining what he could see of Daniel in the window’s reflection. There was no sign of recognition, but Alex couldn’t be sure if Carston was hiding his response. Alex was distracted by the way the parking-lot lights glinted off their bald heads in the same spots.
“This is Mr. Thomas,” she told Carston. “If you try to give me away, or escape, or hurt me, you’ll be dead in approximately two and a half seconds.”
A bead of sweat was forming at Carston’s temple. If he was faking that, she was truly impressed.
“I’m not going to do anything to endanger Livvy,” he snapped.
“Good. I’ll be right back. I’m going to go give myself some injuries.”
Daniel’s bright blue eyes flickered to her when she said the word injuries; he forced them back to Carston.
All her things were neatly stowed in the cargo hold of the BMW. She unzipped the first-aid duffel bag and rummaged around quickly till she found what she needed, then cut off a short section of gauze and tape. She grabbed her handbag and turned away, leaving the trunk open. The public restroom was just on the other side of the little playground. She walked quickly to the ladies’ room and turned on the lights.
There was no counter, and nothing had been cleaned in days, maybe weeks, so she kept the bag on her shoulder. She used the gritty powdered soap to scrub off Val’s lovely makeup job. It was better this way. The makeup was out of character, and the patch of fake skin would have been a red flag to anyone who looked closely. Her bruises and bandages would draw attention, obviously, but they would also make her less recognizable. People would be less likely to examine the face underneath.
She was happy to see the remnants of her black eyes, the yellow shape of the lingering bruise on her cheek. The glue job on her jaw was too amateur, but a normal person would keep it bandaged regardless.
There were no towels, just a broken air dryer. She used her T-shirt to dry her face, then taped the gauze to her jaw and ear, taking the extra seconds to do the job right, so it looked like a doctor had done it. Her black T-shirt and thick leggings worked – comfortable clothes were part of the job, and the lab coat in the trunk would give her the professional appearance she wanted.
As she walked back to the car in the encroaching darkness, she could hear Carston trying to engage Daniel, but Daniel was staring down at the man with his lips tightly closed.
Alex retrieved the lab coat from the trunk and put it on, then ran her palms down the front of it to smooth out the folds. When she was satisfied, she shut the trunk and opened the back door.
“At ease, Lowell,” she told Carston. He straightened up warily. “You’ll ride with me in the back. Mr. Thomas will drive.”
“Taciturn fellow,” Carston commented as he ducked in through the open door.
“He’s not here to entertain you; he’s here to keep you in line.”
Alex shut the door behind him, then walked around the car to climb in the other side. Carston stared at her.
“Your face… that’s very realistic work, Jules. Subtle. It doesn’t look like you’re wearing any makeup at all now.”
“I’ve developed many new skills, and the name is Dr. Jordan Reid. Please direct Mr. Thomas to our destination. When we’re five minutes out, you get your phone back.”
Her eyes met Daniel’s in the mirror. He gave one tiny shake of his head. Carston hadn’t said anything to make Daniel think he’d been recognized during the time they were alone.
Daniel started the engine. Carston gave him the address and a short set of directions. Daniel nodded once.
Carston turned to Alex and asked, “I assume someone is with Livvy now?”