By Shelley Burbank
In her line of work, Olivia Lively often found it easiest to hide in plain sight.
Tonight she chose a shoulder-length, ash-blond wig to cover her midnight black pixie cut, lightened her skin a couple tones with foundation, and slicked on some sheer pink gloss rather than her signature classic red lipstick. A patterned J. Crew mini skirt and striped Miu Miu sweater dropped her age at least ten years, from thirty to twenty. Just before heading out the door, Liv slid into the bright pink jacket she’d picked up at an Old Port boutique last week.
Anyone looking at her would see the coat, not the drab girl inside it.
A short cab ride later, Liv sat at a bar next to a group of animated art-school students and nursed a strawberry margarita. She smiled when the kids laughed. Anyone glancing her way would think she was part of the crowd.
At 7:13, he entered the restaurant. Robert Mickleson. Her target.
Also, unfortunately, her lover.
His wife, Gina, had given Liv his schedule, including a “business” dinner at his favorite Mexican restaurant. “He’s cheating on me. I know he is,” Gina told Liv. “I need proof.”
“I’ll get the proof,” Liv told her. “Don’t worry.”
It was the same thing she’d told Robert two months ago when he’d hired Liv to investigate Gina.
At the bar, Liv sipped her disgusting, syrupy drink and grimaced. She had delivered the proof to Rob as promised–digital photos of Gina and her yoga instructor in some very compromising positions in the studio locker room.
“You do good work,” Robert complimented her as he wrote out a sizeable check and slid it across his desk toward her the following week. He allowed his fingers to brush hers when she reached for the check. Then he took her out for a few drinks at one of Portland’s nicer hotels, got them a room.
When Gina called, needing an investigator, Liv almost turned her down. Ethically, the situation was sticky. However, Rob had just that morning canceled his standing Wednesday-night date with Liv, surprising her instead with a gift. “I made reservations for you,” he said, running a hand up and down her arm outside their favorite coffee shop where he’d asked to meet. “An overnight stay at a spa in Ogunquit. You deserve the pampering, babe,” he told her. “And I have some unexpected complications at work. I’ll be swamped all evening.”
“No problem,” she told him, leaning in and leaving a bright-red lipstick stain on his cheek. “Thank you so much for mini-vacay, Rob. Sounds perfect.”
So, she drove to Ogunquit along Route 1, enjoying some Mozart and the light February snow falling gently from the sky. After registering at the spa in case he called to check, she hung the Do Not Disturb sign on the door and drove back to Portland. Now, disguised, she watched Robert guide a well-dressed blonde to a table.
Liv pulled out her phone, snapped a few photos of the couple holding hands, giving each other tidbits of food from their forks. Later, in the lobby of the hotel where she and Rob had spent many boisterous evening hours before he showered and went home to Gina, Liv got a few more shots of the couple embracing, kissing, waiting for the elevator. The light stopped at the third floor. THEIR floor. Who wanted to bet that he took her to the same damn room?
Liv stalked to the front desk. “I’d like a bottle of Veuve Clicquot sent to room 312, please,” she said, holding out a credit card. “And a note. Have it say, ‘Surprise. Came back early.’ Okay?”
The girl behind the desk nodded, ran the card, handed it back. “There you are, Ms. Lively.”
“Thank you.” Liv nodded. She stepped out onto the sidewalk, decided to walk home. The air would help clear her head. God knew, she needed it.
Halfway down the block, her phone began to ring. Rob. She reached up to adjust her wig and let the call go to voicemail with its generic, computer-generated message.
He’d never see her again.
February 6, 2014