Pete Cavett had been on the job three years, but this was the first time Sarge was letting him go undercover. He knew why. The mark had a man-killer reputation, and with his broad shoulders and blue eyes, Cavett could Captivate the ladies.

She went by the name of Tatavia. Cavett expected an imposing woman, but when she walked into the Tapa bar, she was Petite, a Pipit of a thing, a knockout. The Pitapat of her stilettos across the hardwood floor might as well have been his heartbeat.

This could be Active trouble. Cavett had been so lonely ever since Vita walked out. Too hard to be married to a cop, especially one who specialized in illegal chemical weapons.

“Are you the contact?” she said, “Sent by Vicpeta Ptavice?”

“That’s me,” he said. “I’m ready to talk about the illegal chemical weapons.”

Good start, Cavett told himself. Nice. Solid.

“Pleasure before business,” she said, removing her Tippet fur stole and slinging it over the opposite chair. “First we eat. I have a big five-points Appetite.”

The waitress brought their Pita bread. Cavett started to doubt himself. He’d been under too much stress lately. His life was falling apart. He had gambling debts, his landlord was about to Evict him and then he’d have to Vacate his apartment. He’d never been so vulnerable.

The waitress brought their first course — potato Pave served with toasted Pepita. As an added flourish, she topped the dish with a mushroom reduction squeezed from a suction tube.

“It’s like a Pipette,” Cavett said.

“Don’t you mean a Pipet?” Tatavia said, her eyes twinkling.

“Yes,” he said nervously. He’d thought they were the same thing.

She was as sharp as Cacti. Cavett was in way over his head. He didn’t know what to say without sounding stupid. But luckily, Tatavia ate wordlessly, as if they’d made a Tacit Pact not to speak.

Abruptly, Tatavia stood up. “Just going to the little girl’s room to Titivate myself.”

Cavett wondered if he should cut and run. He wasn’t up to the assignment. He had to get out before he was in deep Peat. As he reached for his jacket, she returned.

“Why so Cataca?” she said.

“What? Are you sure that’s even a proper wor…”

“Have you seen the bathrooms here? They’re so cute.”

“Yes,” he said, caught off guard and flustered. “They’re designed to look like Tepees.”

“Don’t you mean Teepees?”

“I don’t know what I mean anymore!”

He felt like he was losing his mind.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” she said. “I know you’re a cop, which means you’re overworked and underpaid, and probably divorced. Did I Cite it right?”

She was a genius. Cavett’s undercover training had not been enough to Capacitate him to handle this.

“I want you to work for me now,” Tatavia said. “You need me. But there’s one Caveat. I’m infiltrating your unit. You have to Activate my security clearance.”

He couldn’t believe the words that had come out of her Pate. But even more shocking was his reaction. Cavett wanted to Accept.

“Don’t be so Pecativee,” she said. “Tavicate! Teat! Aticcap! As they say in my country, Cipitavepa!”

She was confusing the hell out of him. He couldn’t tell right from wrong. Could he betray everything he believed?

What kind of Civet weasel am I?

Or maybe, Cavett thought, he could pretend to go along — live as a double agent without somehow getting a Peptic ulcer. He’d have an in and could Vitiate the whole cartel! Make a decision, he told himself. Don’t be such a Captive Appetitive Tevapict.

“Okay,” he said, swallowing down the Acetic taste in his mouth. God help him — he would do it. Tatavia smiled, as if she was reading his mind. Belatedly, he realized she’d always be two steps ahead of him, the real Queen Bee. The waitress brought the veal Piccata.