A USA Today Bestseller
What could be better for former CIA agent turned Girl Scout leader Merry Wrath than taking twelve little girls to Washington DC for a bit of summer fun? Almost anything. Unfortunately, between her girls terrorizing the Secret Service and "accidentally" destroying the hotel pool, Merry has her hands full with this troop. And when her former handler, Riley, is kidnapped Merry has to turn to an old friend from her spy days and her parents, Senator and Mrs. Czrgy, to help her wrangle the troop and rescue the man she once briefly called her boyfriend.
Armed only with a perpetually AWOL parent, stalked by a runaway King Vulture, and plagued by a mysterious death from her past, Merry's mayhem weaves a wacky trail from moonshiners in the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the bowels of the Japanese Embassy, to the ductwork of the International Spy Museum. With things heating up with current boyfriend, Detective Rex Ferguson, can Merry decipher clues from her past to find ex-boyfriend Riley and finally solve the murder of Yakuza boss, Midori Ito, before the target on her back is filled with lead?
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"Merry." Riley was breathing heavily—and not in the good way—through my cell phone. "Help me…"
The line went dead, and my world obediently exploded.
Twelve little girls started squealing instantaneously as if they were all rigged to the same C-4 charge, and some idiot had pushed the big, red button.
"Girls!" I shouted in vain as I stared at my phone. But they ignored me because the First Lady was walking toward them.
Yeah, no way I could corral them now. Dammit. I hit the redial button and walked away from the scene of my troop surrounding the most important woman in the country. Oh well, the Secret Service agents could handle this. Maybe.
My heart was pounding as I listened to the endless ringing. Something was very wrong. Riley was in trouble, had asked for my help, and I was in no position to help him. In fact, why was he calling me? If my former handler was on assignment, why didn't he call the CIA?
"Ms. Wrath!" I heard shouting behind me and turned to see a Secret Service agent in his black suit, mirrored sunglasses, and earpiece, holding two of the Kaitlins apart. One of them had a bruise developing on her chin. The other had a smug look on her face.
We had four Kaitlins in the troop. Each one had the same last initial. All four had brown hair and brown eyes. And each girl spelled her name differently than the others. It was just easier to refer to them all as The Kaitlins. Easier mainly because sometimes I had trouble telling who was who. Of course, I was never going to admit something like that. Showing any sort of weakness around little girls was about as dangerous as poking a grizzly with a painful skin rash.
My Girl Scout troop was pretty large. Memorizing last names wasn't something I was good at. Kelly knew their last names and most of the parents—a task nearly impossible since the parents weren't really around much. Getting the first names down was enough for me because I was also in charge of making sure the girls didn't set fire to…well, anything. They really liked starting fires at camp and took up the task with the eagerness of pyromaniacs in a match factory made of wood.
I sighed, pulling the two aside so the First Lady could talk to the girls who weren't fighting. "What are you two doing?"
I was on my own here. My best friend and co-leader, Kelly, was back at home about to have a baby at any moment. Our troop had won a free trip to Washington DC for selling the most Girl Scout Cookies…ever. You can do that when you can blackmail a bunch of CIA agents. And trust me, I had lots of material to work with.
So, I had to bring the girls on this trip without backup. Well, technically that wasn't entirely true. I had a parent with me because the girl-to-adult ratio is very strict in scouting. But Mrs. Meredith Trout was once again AWOL—so I was handling things alone. An idea that was looking more like a bad one with every advancing second.
"She called me a stupid-head!" the smug Kaitlin snapped.
I looked at the bruised Kaitlin. "Why did you do that?"
The agent let go of the two and walked away, foolishly believing I had things under control now. He stormed over to help the other four agents contain the remaining ten girls, who were now mobbing the most important woman in the United States.
"She said the Secret Service carried Brownings, when everyone knows they carry Glocks!" Bruised Kaitlin folded her arms over her chest, and the smug look transferred from one to the other.
I threw my arms up in the air. "I don't care if they carry flamethrowers! You can't fight in front of the First Lady!"
A cry rose up from the group, and I turned to see five very panicked men backing up from an advancing horde of squealing children. The First Lady, Mrs. Benson, simply smiled and raised her hand, fingers in the quiet sign for Girl Scouts everywhere. Immediately, my girls stopped, raised their hands, and went silent. I tried not to laugh. I really did. An unarmed woman succeeded where five armed bodyguards had failed. Classic.
The Secret Service used to be made up of competent, professional men and women. And while I was sure there were still a handful of those dedicated agents out there, recent stories in the news had kind of tarnished that reputation. I could have wondered what happened to make it all go downhill, but that would have meant I had time to care about other federal agents. I didn't.
There wasn't a lot of love between the agencies. In fact, the annual softball tourney usually got a little out of hand. Especially that one time in the 1960s when Team CIA slathered the balls with LSD. I hadn't been born yet, but I wish I'd been there to see the FBI team running in terror from imaginary dragons in the outfield.
"You know, ladies…" the President's wife said to the girls who were now seated on the floor around her. "…I was a Girl Scout."
A chorus of "wow" and "no way" rose up around her before the silence settled in, and the First Lady started telling them about her days as a Brownie.
"Were you ever in any shootouts?" Inez asked through missing front teeth.
"Why don't they have badges for throwing knives?" pretty, plump Hannah asked, her blonde hair in two ponytails.
The First Lady looked a little confused, "Um…no?"
"Girls!" I hissed. "Appropriate questions, please!"
Lauren, a tall, skinny kid with a long, red braid, stuck her chin out. I was a little worried. Lauren wasn't difficult at all. She just had a strange way of looking at things.
"Do you like dogs?" she asked finally.
Mrs. Benson laughed. "I do like dogs. That's one question I can answer. We have two golden retrievers here at the White House."
I relaxed a bit as the First Lady launched into a story about how she and the President had gotten their dogs. The girls were silent. They loved animals. Any animals. This would take a little while.
My name is Merry Wrath, and I used to be an active CIA agent. And I know, if you saw me—with my short, unruly hair and slim frame—you probably wouldn't believe I could have been a field agent. I've heard that before. But it didn't take brawn so much as brains and the ability to improvise to be a good agent.
At that time, my name was Finnoughla Merrygold Czrgy, and Riley, the man who'd just called begging for help, was my handler. I'd worked black ops all over the world for years until the previous Vice President outed me to a journalist to get back at my father, a US Senator, for a vote he didn't like. After several lengthy congressional hearings and some nasty finger-pointing, some random guy went to prison, and I was out of a job. The Agency paid me a very handsome severance package, and I was set for life. But still—I had to leave a job and lifestyle I loved because of political backstabbing.
Since that time, I've changed my name and appearance and moved back to Who's There, Iowa, where I lead a troop of twelve soon-to-be third grade Girl Scouts. Weirdly, my life is far more dangerous now than when I was a spy, complete with the inconvenient appearance of dead terrorists in my house and being stalked by cat assassins. Go figure.