Trust No One

By: Diana Layne


To my six children: thanks for putting up with the craziness of a writer and all that entails (including, but not limited to, irregular mealtimes with a lot of frozen pizza).

Additional thanks to these wonderful, supportive people who helped make this book possible.

To Terry Zumwalt: Editor extraordinaire

To Shanel Anderson: Brilliant cover artist

To Detective Sergeant Hank Bailey: Continuing thanks for research help. (mistakes are all my own)

To Beverly, Barb and Karen, best friends a woman could have.

And last, but most important: thanks to you, dear reader, for taking the chance on my book. I sincerely hope you enjoy Trust No One.

Chapter 1

Damn, her feet hurt.

All part of the job.

MJ Thornberg balanced the tray of food on her hand easier than she balanced herself on spindly heels that crushed her toes in an ever-tightening vise. She’d love to meet the guy who invented these torture devices and torment him with a few painful procedures she knew.

Nope, she reminded herself, torturing was not part of the job. Not yet.

Staying in role, she forced a smile and dismissed the desperate need to limp while she delivered the meal to table seven.

And people thought being a spy was tough. Waitressing was way tougher, and she’d shoot anyone who argued.

She delivered three more meals and had taken two new orders when the mark walked into the restaurant.

Alberto Santini, PhD, on time as usual. He took a seat at table ten as usual. People were so predictable, rarely bothering to get out of their routine, unaware habit could spell danger.

MJ glanced to her partner Keith at table three, who looked oh-so-suave with his sandy blond hair and blue eyes darkened by a midnight blue Merino wool sweater. He nodded. Their plans were humming along as smoothly as a well-tuned engine.

Every day Alberto came to Abbondanza on his way home from the ISRT, Istituto Sviluppo e Ricerche Tecnologico, the renowned science research center in Florence, Italy. He sat at the same table, which by five every evening always had a riservato sign on it, his reward for being such a loyal customer.

Tonight, MJ was a variation in his routine. The woman who normally worked this shift suddenly took sick—with help from Keith and a food additive in her Alfredo sauce that mimicked a stomach virus. Fortunately MJ showed up at the right time to help the harried owner. And while she regretted the necessity of making the waitress sick, it was all part of the job.

Sidestepping another friendly slap, more than one man had tried to pinch a chunk out of her ass, MJ stopped at table ten and asked for his order. “Buona sera, signore, che cosa vuoi ordinare?”

Suspicion clouded his dark, bespectacled eyes. “Chi sei?” he said, asking who she was.

“Gabriella is sick tonight.”

With a disgruntled sniff he placed his order for spaghetti alla Bolognese, the same thing he ordered every night.

Dr. Santini didn’t look like the secret-selling type. They rarely did. With his dark hair sticking out at all angles and his dark-rimmed, round glasses framing his eyes he looked every bit the ordinary geeky researcher and not someone willing to sell out his country.

As MJ returned from taking the order to the kitchen, two men entered the restaurant. Her greeting died on her lips when they walked past her and crossed straight to Alberto’s table. Her gaze sharpened. Hang on, new players? One was a tall man with an ill-fitting suit, a hook nose and greased back dark hair. The shorter one with well-trimmed, graying hair and a thin mustache dressed in a nice charcoal colored suit.

She didn’t recognize either one of them. Her heart rate kicked up a notch. This couldn’t be a planned meeting. Alberto had ordered for one, and his look of surprise once they started talking confirmed her hunch.

She made her way back to Alberto’s table. “Signori vorreste ordinare qualcosa?” she said, asking if she could get them anything, hoping to overhear part of their conversation.

The well-dressed one dismissed her with a wave of his hand.

She didn’t argue but grabbed a bottle of wine, and on the pretext of offering Keith a refill, stopped at his table. “Vino, signore?”

As she filled his glass, he said under his breath. “What’s going on?”

“Don’t know,” she answered as quietly.

“They didn’t order?”

She shook her head.

“I’ll keep watch. Take care of them if necessary.”

She nodded, secure in knowing he’d deliver on his promise. She and Keith had been partners for the last year, lovers more than half that time. She trusted him with her life.

Over the next few minutes she kept an eye on Alberto’s table while taking care of her duties. At times, the discussion between Alberto and the men grew heated.