With a huff of impatience that crystallized in the cold air, Betty checked her holowatch for the eighth time in four-and-a-half minutes. Only thirty seconds of their pad remained; if the operation went smoothly, Veronica would radio in before that time was up and confirm that she had successfully retrieved the Picasso.
Drumming her fingers nervously on the steering wheel of their Incognito-mobile, Betty fiddled with her whip cord necklace, watching the seconds count down.
Eight . . . seven . . .
Deciding it would be worth the effort to try to contact Veronica, Betty punched in the code on her holowatch.
“Agent V, this is Agent B,” she said. “I’m in position and awaiting your instructions. Do you copy?”
Six . . . five . . .
She started the engine of the Incognito-mobile; it turned over silently as she shifted into drive. If Veronica was incommunicado, she was either taken captive or trapped in a situation where she couldn’t contact Betty. Thus, Plan A: Artwork Retrieval was out, which meant she would have to go with Plan B: Agent Retrieval, instead. But she needed to ensure she got both Veronica and the Picasso to safety, If the United States didn’t return the stolen painting to France with rest of the loaned Picasso exhibit, the result could be an international incident.
Four . . . three . . .
Gripping the steering wheel firmly, Betty kept one foot on the brake and the other on the gas. As soon as the pad expired, she would need to race to the Cabot mansion and find Veronica as quickly as possible.
Two . . . one . . .
Suddenly, a familiar whirring noise resounded from overhead in the night sky. Flipping down her X-ray goggles, Betty looked upward through the roof of the car. There it was — a helicopter with a figure dangling from its landing skids was fleeing from the Cabot mansion.
A figure in Armani boots that had been modified for combat. Veronica.
Immediately, Betty slid her foot off of the brake and stomped on the gas, whipping the car around to follow the trail of the helicopter, and then swiftly flicked the switch to prepare the Incognito-mobile for jet mode. If the Cabots wanted to play this way, Betty could more than meet their challenge.
Despite her concentration,Betty grinned, adrenaline pumping through her veins. The car’s powerful motor thrummed as the speedometer climbed, her excitement rising with it. If there was one hobby from her youth Betty always wanted to continue, it was racecar driving.
Glancing down at the dashboard, Betty scowled at the speedometer. She needed to hit sixty miles per hour before she could switch to jet mode, but the car was now on an incline and approaching a steep hill that would delay her progress. Even as she pressed the gas pedal down as far as it would go, she knew there wouldn’t be enough time. Making a split second decision, she diverted from powering the car with premium gasoline to running on rocket fuel with the turn of a few dials.
Seconds later, a series of shrill beeps indicated the car was ready, and with no hesitation, Betty punched the button. The car launched into the air, and in a fraction of a heartbeat, the vehicle transformed into a fully functional jet. Gunning the throttle, Betty bolted forward until she was right beneath where Veronica was hanging from the helicopter.
“Agent V, this is Agent B. I’m opening my hatch for you right now. Counting to three.” Betty retracted the cover on the cockpit of the Incognito-jet. “One . . . two . . . three! Drop!”
Surrendering her grip on the skids, Veronica plummeted the short distance to the jet’s cockpit. Once she was inside, Betty closed the hatch.
“Nice of you to drop in, Ron,” Betty quipped as she brought the jet to same level as the helicopter, keeping pace alongside it.
“Ha, ha,” Veronica retorted sarcastically. “Alexander and Alexandra have the painting with them. He’s playing pilot while she plays guard, but I disabled all of their weapons earlier. If we can get into the helicopter, we can take the painting back, easy.”
“Got it.” Betty set the jet to autopilot mode. “How’s your gear?”
“Everything’s in working condition but my jetpack boots.” Veronica ruefully glanced at her stylish leather footwear. “They got damaged when I was fighting Alexandra earlier. That’s why I couldn’t contact you — I was too busy grappling with her.”
Betty gave a brief nod. “In that case, I’ll go disable Alexandra, while you take down Alexander to take over as pilot.” Once again, she prepared to open the cockpit’s hatch, programming the system to wait a full ten seconds before it closed again. “Grab onto to me. The moment we’re on the copter, hit the door lock with your acid lipstick.”
“Let’s hope they like the shade,” Veronica commented as the hatch retracted.
Veronica securely looped her arms around Betty’s neck, and Betty leapt into the air. With her jetpack boots propelling them forward, she managed to grab onto the helicopter door. Once she did, Veronica uncapped her lipstick and jammed its bullet against the door lock, which sizzled and then dissolved, letting the two of them scramble inside.
Seated in the passenger seat and clutching the paper-wrapped painting, Alexandra was ready and waiting for a fight. “Back off!” She snarled the second they entered, launching herself towards them.
“Not a chance,” Betty retorted, diving to meet Alexandra with a full body tackle. Likewise, Veronica charged at Alexander, shoving him away from the controls. Knocking Alexandra to the floor, Betty wasted no time in using her whip cord necklace. Rope shot out of the gold pendant and looped around Alexandra’s torso down to her thighs, pinning her arms and preventing her from moving.
“Don’t think I won’t forget this!” Alexandra vowed.
Betty pulled a bandana from her pocket and stuffed it in Alexandra’s mouth. “I will. It’s all in a day’s work for me.” At times like these, Betty was immensely grateful for the hypno-contact lenses that disguised herself and Veronica when they were out in the field — Agent B could say things good girl Betty Cooper would never dream of.
Glancing up at the front, Betty saw that Veronica had incapacitated Alexander in a similar fashion and was now seated in the pilot’s chair. Betty maneuvered around the prone Cabots to join her, keying in the coordinates for the police station.
“Another job well done for Agents B and V,” Betty said with a satisfied smile. “France will be glad to have their painting returned, that’s for sure.”
“Let’s hope they express their gratitude by repaying us with the latest and hottest fashions,” Veronica remarked, causing Betty to playfully roll her eyes.
The next evening, Betty was putting the final touches on the Christmas decorations when Veronica walked in the door.
“Everything looks phenomenal, Betts,” Veronica said, smiling widely as she surveyed the foyer of their large French provincial home. This Christmas would be their first at the residence, and their first Christmas in an actual house since they had married; last year they’d still been living in a Lodge Industries-owned apartment. This home was ideal for both of them: Betty loved it for the large, sunny kitchen that was perfect for trying out new recipes, and Veronica adored the extensive patio and elaborate pool that never failed to impress visitors.
“Good to hear,” Betty replied, climbing down from her stepladder. “I want everything to be ready for our Christmas party tomorrow, with no last minute surprises. I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve already!” She dusted off her hands on her jeans. “Oh, I’m sorry, I should have asked — how was Paris?”
“Oh, fantastic,” Veronica returned without missing a beat. If anyone asked, she was a fashion consultant to European royalty and celebrities, constantly jetting off to exotic locales. “I handed off our package with no problem. How about you? How was your trip to . . . wherever?”
“Tulsa,” Betty supplied patiently. According to all who knew her, she was a hotel critic specializing in bed and breakfasts, whose job required extensive travel. “And it was lovely. Thank you for asking.”
“Hm.” Veronica let the shopping bags she was holding drop to the floor, and walked over to put her arms around Betty. “Don’t worry about the decorations. I really like them.” She cast a glance upward, grinning. “Particularly the mistletoe right above us.”
“Do you really?” Betty arched an eyebrow. “Maybe then you should prove your appreciation of my hard work.”
“Not a problem.” Veronica swept Betty into a long kiss.
“Merry Christmas, Agent V,” Betty told her breathlessly when they broke apart for air.
Veronica smirked. “Here’s to a happy New Year, Agent B.” And with that, she dipped Betty down for another passionate kiss.