By Sam Jarvis
It was a night like any other, all of us sitting around a big table in the middle of PF Changs. We laughed and ate beef and broccoli, flirting with the boys across from us. It had taken me months to infiltrate this group, hundreds of dollars worth of gel manicures to gain these girls’ trust and prove that I wasn’t a rat, I was their friend. I had fooled them.
Roxy chewed on a bite of orange chicken, reaching into her mouth to pull out a piece that was definitely too- something. She set it on her plate and I gagged in my mouth. It was then, under the dim lights of this critically acclaimed restaurant, that Lena made eye contact with us.
“I’m going to go to the bathroom.”
As soon as she said it, the girls looked to each other in understanding, rising from their chairs in unison.
I felt the temperature on my face rise. This was the moment I had waited patiently for, and I wasn’t going to screw it up. Lena looked at me.
“Are you coming?”
I nodded, stood. I took my purse with me but I’m not even sure why. I could feel my heartbeat in my ears, trying my best to ignore it so I could hear the end of Jacqueline’s story about switching eyebrow threading places.
Lena led the girls into the women’s bathroom and I immediately took mental notes of my surroundings. Three stalls, two sinks, automatic paper towel dispenser. This was information they’d need when I reported back to the agency. I’ll be honest, I was in a bit of a daze. Having always been a loner, I had never been asked to go to the bathroom with a group of girls before. I was scared, but elated.
Roxy went into a stall and without shutting it, started peeing. I adjusted my bra to make sure the wire I was wearing was still intact. Deep breaths, I thought to myself. I knew they were picking up my heartbeat in the audio.
Nothing happened for several minutes, as I pondered the possibility that I had gotten a bad lead. But suddenly, Lena and Jacqueline were talking in whispered code. As I leaned in, struggling to make out the words Cote d’Ivoire, and Tuesday is the drop off, I put it together. Holy shit, they’re arms dealers.
Roxy put on her reading glasses and scanned a detailed map she procured out of her bra. Lena asked if anybody had a tampon. I truly couldn’t believe what I was seeing: these women were selling machine guns to African soldiers.
Sudanese militants, secret weapon bases, they were discussing it all in great detail.
And as I watched tens of thousands of dollars pass from one girl’s moisturized hand to the other, I breathed for the first time in several minutes. My palms were sweating so profusely that I needed a paper towel to wipe them. I casually walked over to get one, but of course the machine couldn’t sense my hand motion beneath it.
All of the girls were looking at me. I glanced up nervously, wondering if this paper towel dispenser faux pas had demolished the cover I’d worked so hard to create. Lena saw the terror on my face.
“Something wrong?” She asked, putting a hand on her slender hip.
“Nope.” I said, as convincing as I could. I took Improv 101 a couple years ago and hoped to God it was shining through now.
It had been hours. They’d sketched out twelve drop routes, paid, in cash, for seventy five semiautomatic weapons, and made me try on four different shades of lipstick.
My focus waning, it was thankfully time to go. They rolled up the plans, stuffed them back in their undergarments, and took a last and final look at themselves in the mirror.
“I’m thinking about getting low lights,” Roxy said to both herself and no one. And although I couldn’t believe that millions of innocent people’s blood was on her hands, I did think she would look excellent with some darker pieces near her temple.
We walked back to the table, now completely cleared. All that remained was a small pile of fortune cookies. One of the guys looked up from his phone.
“What took you so long?”
Lena smirked, glancing at the girlfriends who flanked her sides. I was oddly proud to be one of them.
“Oh, you know. Girl stuff.”
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