Gracie rushed to the door at the sound of knocking. Only a moment was lost until she and Bailey warmly embraced each other, squealing with delight. She turned toward Keith and smiled.
He raised an eyebrow at the touchy scene. “I’m just a handshake kind of guy, so….”
Gracie made a face of disbelief as she provided an enthusiastic hug. “Nice to meet you, Keith.”
Bailey grinned and embraced Jeff. “You’re right, Gracie, like a brother. Cool.”
“Keith, I’m with you concerning handshakes,” said Jeff. Each smiled, with neither of them doing the macho strong hand thing.
Setting their food on the table on the patio, Keith and Bailey refilled their plates with the remaining meats and salad. Jeff poured wine while their guests attacked their tasty morsels.
Gracie exclaimed, “I’m excited to think we’re going to nail this shark.”
“Bailey, this is your gig and we had the discussion the other night, but how do you envision it?” Jeff asked. “I’d like your thoughts as I’m kind of the new guy and don’t have your background, Keith. I’m happy to get plugged into the right areas. Whatever helps.”
“Great idea,” Gracie agreed. “Bailey, we each want to add value the right way. What’s the current rundown?”
“Gracie,” Bailey said, “you haven’t changed a bit, ideas aplenty. I loved that video clip of Pliant at the airport. We have current photos to work from. Keith pointed out the heavies in Plaint’s entourage. They look similar: tall with broad shoulders, and close-cropped hair. Even their clothing appears almost like a uniform.”
“Likely with shoulder holsters under those jackets,” commented Keith.
“Gracie,” suggested Bailey, “you and I need to look for an opening to get invited as part of his orbit, which hopefully will include his parties and dining.”
Gracie bubbled with excitement to share JJ’s thoughts on the subject. “Call on me, teacher. I have an idea.”
Jeff and Keith assessed each other but remained silent.
Bailey comically surveyed the audience. “Hmm, no swell ideas for getting into his in crowd?”
Gracie, not to be denied, added, “I know something we might try.”
Bailey tapped her pen on the tabletop. “You in the front row, the over-achiever. What’s your idea?”
“My source thinks we might leverage Pliant’s thirst for artificial intelligence in finance. He routinely prowls social media and has a considerable presence across several platforms. If he gets enough photos and comments from my Amsterdam presentation, he might approach me. Then it’s his ballgame.” Gracie, with a look like the cat that swallowed the canary, continued, “I’ll insist my dinner companion and publicist join me. Bailey, we sit at the same table in his private dining area.”
Jeff motioned for Keith to join him at the inside table for a sidebar chat. They recognized that the girls’ conversation was escalating into high-speed exchanges that hovered at two hundred words per minute with gusts exceeding six hundred. They were aware of these women and their vast capabilities. Gracie slightly nodded and wiggled her fingers Jeff’s way at their departure.
Seated with a view of the girls, he lowered his shoulders in resolution and nodded toward Keith. “It’s a shame those two don’t get along better. Anyway, how about I show you some of the support gear we got for operations?”
Keith grinned. “Excellent suggestion, Dr. Wood. I’m no more thrilled than you about the rooming arrangements. I also worry that they may take risks. We need to insist they stick close together.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
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