Hired for Secrets

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I have a proposition

The guard took a step forward, imposing his large frame onto Sofie. He smelled of kebab and shoe cream. He likely had multiple jobs, all of which paid too little to deal with a pesky up-shoot wanting to enter the exclusive VIP area at FinTower.

“Ma’am, you need to clear the area. Now.”

The menace in his voice made it plain that he would not yield or let himself be talked into giving her access.

Dammit! Only the financial sector would sell a 10,000 Pound ticket that did not give access to all areas. But Sofie was not done yet. She stepped to the side as told, but did not leave. She pretended to call someone. It was the best excuse she could come up with for hovering around the entrance. She needed to buy herself some time. Sooner or later another VIP guest would turn up. She could pretend to know them, flirt a little and get them to let her tag along.

She could see the guard’s patience run thin when finally a man in his forties approached the entrance. He was wearing a Fat-Elvis costume but his thin physique and lack of hair made it look utterly ridiculous. He either lost a bet or had a terrible temper for his entourage to dare giving him honest advice. Either way, he was the perfect mark. Sofie waved at him as he flashed his VIP ticket. The guard lifted the red corded rope from the entrance to let him pass.

“Hello,” she hurried over, “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

She leaned forward to embrace Elvis and plant a casual kiss on each of his cheeks. She also made sure that her dress fabric strategically slipped to the side to allow him a brief glimpse on her naked breasts. It was an unspoken promise in a language he seemed to be well versed in.

“Yes. Good seeing you,... ah... Monica, was it?”

“Oh you don’t remember my name? That’s hurtful.”

“No, no. I do, I do. You are...”

“Vivien.”

There were thousands of socialites in London. Wealthy people like him would meet new girls every night, making it impossible to remember all their names. It was a believable set up for the guards to fall for, or at least go along with.

“Yes, of course, Vivien,” Elvis said while dipping his cold hand into the open flaps of her dress. He felt up her obliques and moved his thin fingers up to the prize he caught a glimpse of earlier.

“Let’s go in,” she gasped trying to keep her smile in place.

“Oh yes, Vivien, I’m keen too...”

“Sir, I cannot let her in.” The guard interjected. “She does not have a ticket.”

His little black eyes shot to the guard.

“Do you know who I am?” He puffed himself up. “She’s with me. Kapish? My girls come in when I say they do.”

“Sir, you’ll find that there are plenty of girls inside. They are vetted and briefed. Perhaps more suitable for your situation?”

“Oh well, that does sound exciting.” He reluctantly removed his hand from inside her dress and gave Sofie a small slap on the bottom. “Well Vivien. Looks like I cannot take you. How about, I come back out with one of those suitable girls. Then the three of us can go somewhere else. Wait right here. Yes? It won’t be long!”

“Absolutely. Hope to see you soon,” she lied, feeling her stomach role as he went inside.

He was disgustingly keen. The last thing she needed was for him to come back and pester her with a threesome. She needed time to re-group and come up with a new plan to get inside. Preferable, when he was gone.

Sofie sat down at the bar closest to the VIP section. Her frustration grew with every minute that passed and she didn’t have a plan. Every minute made it more likely that Mr. Lee had already left the party and it was too big of an investment to fail. Especially since catching Mr Lee in a social setting like this again would be unlikely. It was her only chance to talk to him while his guards were down. While he would not question being approached by a stranger who asked personal questions during small-talk.

Watching the entrance, she realized that she had seen plenty of people walk in, but so far, no one had come out again. Either the VIP section was packed or there was a separate exit. Maybe out the back?

Sofie was milling over her options of getting in through the back when the door of the VIP entrance opened for the first time. Oh no, was Elvis returning already? Surely his meat inspection of the working ladies inside would have taken longer than that.

Her heart skipped a beat when the Hungarian stepped out instead. His lips were thin lines, the business with Lee seemed to not have been pleasant. His eyes roamed the room and fell onto the bar. He obviously needed a drink. Heading over, he spotted her sitting at the bar and the corner of his mouth lifted into a lopsided smile.

He’s a willing sinner, for sure.

He seated himself next to her at the bar.

“And,” he asked, taking another look at her dress, “how many more men did you have to fend off tonight?”

“Oh… just one or two,” Sofie smiled, feeling this instant attraction again.

“Do you want me to make that three?”

His mouth curved into a smile, leaving no room for interpretation.

“Please do.”

She felt her cheeks flush with excitement, making it all the harder to add, “Maybe, I can fend you off inside the Tower. It would be quite fitting, wouldn’t you say. I’m also curious how the VIP area looks. Do you think you could get me in?”

“Certainly,” he smiled, holding out his hand for her to climb off the bar stool.

Sofie was hoping the guards had changed shifts by now. It’s been at least 45 minutes since she last approached them. But when they came closer, she realized it was still the same two men.

“I’m sorry, sir. I really cannot let her in,” the guard announced angrily, before the Hungarian had even a chance to speak.

“Oh. You know her?”

“Yes, sir. She tried to get in twice already.”

“I see,” the Hungarian muttered, looking Sofie over, probably evaluating whether she was worth the trouble.

“Well, I’ve just been inside and what can I say, it’s the end of the night and there aren’t many left.” Nodding towards Sofie he added, “None like her anyways.”

“Fine,” the guard grumbled and stepped out of Sofie’s way.

As they walked through, the Hungarian leaned in to whisper, “Sorry, that I had to imply you were a prostitute. I hope you aren’t offended.”

“As long as you don’t think I am, I’m good.”

He did not reply, instead he opened a wooden door leading into a little side room.

“There’s something I want to show you”, he said, stepping inside the space.

Oh no, you don’t! Sofie felt adrenaline flood her system, he did think she was a prostitute. Dammit! The Hungarian was smarter than Elvis in getting her inside, but he seemed to be just as callous in taking advantage of her.

Ignoring her hesitation he felt the air with his hand.

“In ancient times, this was the cooling room. They stored beer in here for the Beefeaters on duty during hot summer days.”

“Ok... That’s a bit random?”

The Hungarian laughed.

“I suppose it is. Someone told me this when we were filming here. Apparently, there’s a shoot straight down to the bedrock to draw up cold air. The circulation comes from a room on the opposite side of the corridor, which sucks in hot air from outside. It’s a brilliant piece of 13th century engineering.”

Filming here? So he wasn’t a priest! He was an actor?

He held out his hand to her. “Don’t worry, I’m not that kind of person, and now I know you aren’t either.”

His meaning was crystal clear and Sofie felt silly for having put him in the same category as Elvis.

She stepped inside the room and a cold draft whirled around her. Within the ancient sandstone walls of the Tower of London the temperature was markedly colder than the summer air in the pavilion outside. A slight shiver ran down Sofie’s spine.

With a smirk, the Hungarian took off his jacket and placed it over her shoulders.

“There. I’ve wanted to do this since I first saw you.”

“Is the dress that bad?”

Sofie suddenly felt self-conscious. Maybe she went overboard with it. Maybe Lee would have reacted the same way? What do they say ‘there needs to be something left to the imagination’. She pulled the front of his jacket closed and a whiff of his aftershave filled her nose. Phillip. Sofie shook her head. Those really expensive aftershaves all smell the same.

The Hungarian caught her gesture, misinterpreting its meaning.

“Your dress is fine,” he reassured her, “just a tad... distracting.”

“Distracting for what?”

“A good conversation.”

He was the perfect gentleman and Sofie felt almost guilty for remembering her mission.

“Surely there is more to the VIP area than an after-hour access to a historic castle.”

“Yes, there is,” the Hungarian chuckled. “There’s a bar. Shall we?”

They walked past several other wooden doors and narrow corridors, leading to hidden staircases and oddly shaped rooms. This place was an enormous maze, it was almost no wonder that no one came back out again. They finally arrived in a cellar vault with small seating nooks and a large bar at the end.

“Let’s sit here.” He pointed to a wooden corner bench lined with crimson cushions and iron lanterns surrounding the central table. It looked cosily medieval.

Sofie handed his jacket back. It was warm enough here. She surveyed the room. There were only 10 other guests, sitting at the bar or the small side tables. None of them were Elvis and his impudent orgy. She breathed a sigh of relief. In fact, it looked like a regular tavern at 2 in the morning. Sofie had expected something more extravagant, given how strict the guards were.

“Where are all the other people?”

“Most have left. This ball is a see-and-be-seen affair,” he explained. “Everybody is keen to get it over with as soon as possible so they can disappear to the private parties. That’s where the real fun is.”

“How come you are still here then?”

“I have all the fun I need right here,” he leaned back to watch his compliment land. Sofie’s cheeks flushed and she had to seriously remind herself that she wasn’t here for him.

“What about the man you came in with?”

“What about him?” The Hungarian was taken aback.

“Where is he? I didn’t see him leave.”

“He left a while ago. Out the back.”

The statement hit her like a blow. She’d miss her chance. All this effort was for nothing. She got groped, intimidated and forced to deceive a nice person and now there wasn’t even a payoff. If only she had caught up with them earlier or had forced her way in. It was game over for her. She took a deep breath to steady herself.

“That’s a let down.” The Hungarian straightened himself. “It was him you actually wanted to see, wasn’t it? You were only flirting with me to get in here.”

There was disappointment in his voice, but not surprise. He seemed to have experienced this before. Of course he had. Socializing with Mr. Lee, one of the richest men in London, he was likely passed over as the smaller catch several times before. Even if he probably was fairly wealthy himself. After all, he had a ticket to the VIP section.

At least, Sofie didn’t need to feel conflicted anymore.

“To be honest, yes, I need to speak with Mr. Lee.”

“You should have said so before. I know him well. I would have introduced you.”

“I didn’t know you knew Lee when we first spoke. But now that you offered... Would you know how I could get in touch with him again? It’s an urgent matter.”

This might be even better. Being introduced by a friend should get her to her goal faster. Especially if she could pick the Hungarian’s brain before.

“An urgent matter? About what?”

“I need to ask him a couple of questions about a mutual acquaintance of ours.”

He mustered her. His dark eyes were hooded by the mask, making it impossible to tell what he was thinking. When he spoke again there was a risky edge to his voice.

“Well in that case, I have a proposition for you.”

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