Authors: Alyse Zaftig
!" Phoebe laughed and threw her hands in the air. She grinned at Atana and sat back, folding her arms over her chest with supreme satisfaction. Atana was a worthy opponent, but Phoebe had trained in chess at her father's knee.
Phoebe appreciated the challenge, and honestly she definitely needed to occupy her mind with something besides her mysterious husband and her father's kidnapping. It was like a reverse Beauty and the Beast situation. Odhran had her, but he was much more interested in her father.
She wondered when the Bureau would notice that her father was gone. Maybe Monday when he didn't come in. Should she try to stall them by having her mother call in to say that he was sick?
Her mother...was not going to be happy about any of this. Given a choice between Harold and Phoebe, Sally could easily go either way. Phoebe knew that Sally loved her, but Sally had loved Harold for longer.
Her head and heart were still adjusting to this very strange reality. She tried not to think about what they were doing to her father. She got the impression that they weren't making him dance.
She winced. Atana definitely had the right idea with the cheessboard. She liked Atana a lot. They'd been fast friends from the first minute that they met. Atana was curvy and cheerful, which happened to be exactly what Phoebe needed right now. She was quiet enough to listen and attentive enough to let Phoebe know that she was listening. Phoebe had given Atana the bare details about what was going on. Atana had been suitably sympathetic. Phoebe tried to keep the worst of it out of the story, though. She didn't know much about Atana, and she didn't want to freak her out. She got the impression that Chung's might be much more than a restaurant if her husband had different guns, but she didn't know if she actually wanted to know the details.
"Are you feeling better after our movie marathon, homemade double chocolate gelato, tiramisu, extra butter popcorn, and chess?"
She was feeling as good as she could feel under the circumstances. Andreas had left her. She couldn't help but worry about him getting into trouble. She probably shouldn't worry. He was a professional...whatever...and probably knew a lot more about the clandestine life than she did.
Her stomach turned and she clapped a hand over her mouth. She didn't know if it was morning sickness or fear for Andreas and her father, but that popcorn and all the sweet stuff wanted to come back up.
"Just fine." Phoebe took her hand away from her mouth and breathed in through her nose. "Do you have Monopoly?"
"Yeah, we do."
"Monopoly games last for hours, even if there are only two people."
"Well, I think that sounds like a great idea."
"Let's do it."
Atana knelt by a trunk and opened it up to bring out a Monopoly set.
Phoebe chose the hat while Atana chose the shoe.
She watched as Atana counted out the money for both of them. If she pretended like everything was fine, maybe it would be.
They slapped each other on the back just like old pals, but friends didn't charge as much as Ezra did. He was the top of the top. He made Dimitri look like the kid that he was. Dimitri was brilliant, but Ezra was old.
Ezra had done an enormous heist years ago, when banks were just switching to the digital age. He said that SSL was total shit, whatever that meant. Ezra had more than enough money, but he did a few jobs once in a while...if he was interested enough.
"You want to hack into the FBI?"
"Yup. I got a card."
Andreas winced just a little when he saw Ezra's eyes light up. He recognized that he was basically taunting a cocaine addict with a hit. Ezra was a hacker who was mostly retired, but it was his core. Ezra loved the game.
Andreas would have to keep an eye on the card if he didn't want Ezra to accidentally swipe it. It wasn't that he didn't trust him, exactly, but the ID was Mr. Kaine's. If it ended up in the wrong hand, it could definitely cause him some unnecessary problems.
"I'll leave you to do your work."
Ezra ignored him and typed quickly into his computer. Andreas looked at the keys. They weren't in the standard QWERTY layout, either. What was it with hackers and weird keyboards? Did they build them themselves?
Andreas went to the counter of Chip's. He saw a little blackboard near the register.
"You offer hazelnut, vanilla, caramel, and mocha syrups now?"
"Yup. Fifty cents extra for a flavor shot."
"How about two cups of coffee? One vanilla and the other caramel. That should be enough." Andreas handed over a Chip's gift card, which was basically Monopoly money. When he remembered to use it, the Agency covered his coffee. If he got caught up in the lie that Chip's was actually a coffee shop, then he'd actually pay, but the cost of coffee was negligible considering the kind of contracts he did.
The barista poured out two cups of coffee and pumped a flavor shot into each one. He put on cup covers and coffee collars.
"Here you are."
Andreas held both of them in his hands and brought them back to the table where Ezra was waiting.
"They have flavor shots now."
"I don't want Chip's coffee. I've had it before."
Andreas smiled. Anybody who'd been here and had even one sip would know better than to try it out again.
Andreas drank slowly from the two cups while he waited for Ezra to do his thing. The sugar did masked some of the burnt bitterness that characterized Chip's coffee. Apparently, the Agency sourced fair trade coffee which was roasted and ground somewhere in Africa. He was glad that they cared enough to handle it, but the coffee was also extremely foul. He drank coffee black, which meant that he would always taste the coffee exactly as it was: bitter swill.
He looked at his watch. Harold had been in their hands for too long already.
He hoped that Harold would hold on. He would be there as fast as he could possibly get there. He had a promise to keep.
Ezra turned his computer around.
"We're in. You need to move now before the next system sweep catches us in TS files."
Andreas didn't know much about government acronyms. "TS?"
Ezra rolled his eyes. "Top secret. Don't you watch movies?"
Andreas shook his head. "Nope."
"Speed it up. You don't have much time. The window is pretty small here."
Andreas clicked and typed his away around the files concerning the engineering company, the bank in the Caymans, anything he could find about Odhran Garin, and everything else. He used his phone to take pictures of the computer screen. He knew that Ezra had opened up a remote connection to the computers at the FBI, so he couldn't take any files and save them. He didn't have time to learn how to do it without having the FBI knocking on their door, anyway. Finally, he'd gone through everything that he could think of.
"I'm done. You're good."
Andreas watched as Ezra turned the computer back and began to type at a rapid-fire pace. It seemed that Ezra had been waiting for a chance to hack the FBI's files for a while; he knew what he was doing in there. Ezra had pushed him to get a little more time, but Ezra also knew about the security measures that the FBI used, which meant that he'd done his own recon before getting this job.
Andreas drank the slightly improved version of Chip's coffee while he flipped through the photos on his phone, scanning documents as he waited for Ezra to finish up and give back the card.
Finally, Ezra clicked something and closed his computer.
"That's it. Right now is the next sweep. They'll catch any connections are open right now."
Ezra pulled the security card out of the computer and handed it to Andreas. "Do you have any idea how much something like that would cost on the open market? Enough to set you up for life."
"Not worth it," Andreas said. "Thanks for coming by."
"Thanks for the chance, man. Nothing to get your blood pumping like getting a sneak peek behind closed doors. I could FOIA all this, but it includes detailed security checks..."
"And nobody wants those."
He slapped Ezra's shoulder. "Gotta go."
the slightly less foul coffee into the trashcans by the door. He needed to go back to Chung's. He got into his car and drove back, his mind racing. He needed a second opinion on what he'd found.
Finally, he was back at Chung's. He parked and went inside.
Chung was cutting flank steak into small cubes.
"Need your eyes," Andreas said.
"Oye, Federico," he called to one of his kitchen staff. He pointed at the meat and Federico picked up the knife and finished up the job.
Chung wiped his hands on a blue towel. ”How can I help you?"
"I want you to look over what I found when I got into the database."
"Sounds good. Let's go to my office." Chung threw the towel over his shoulder. He was dressed in a chef's whites, which were a nice shade of grey. You could tell the difference between novices and professionals at a glance. Real chefs got a little dirty.
The two men walked into Chung's office.
"Now, what do you have?"
"I have some images from things that I found when I reached into the Bureau's information."
"Do I look like I give a fuck?" Andreas took in a deep breath. "Sorry, man. I'm just on edge."
"Let me take a look." Chung ignored Andreas' outburst like it hadn't happened at all. He took the phone from Andreas' hand. He sat back in his chair and frowned as he flicked through all of the images.
Andreas fought the urge to squirm in his seat. Every moment that it took him to figure out how to get Mr. Kaine out of there was a moment when Mr. Kaine would be tortured or worse.
"There's a lot of redacted stuff."
"I'm aware, yeah. I looked through it already."
"So, the FBI recovered this weapon and confiscated it, then they moved it around."
"It didn't just sit in an evidence warehouse. I think that they understood just how potentially damaging it could be in the hands of terrorists."
"There are some codes here."
Andreas had only scanned the documents. "Codes? What kind of codes?"
"The fibbies got access to Odhran's surveillance system a long time ago."
"Yeah? Do we know if they're still active?"
"They might be." Chung squinted at the image. He zoomed in on the document. "Well, it looks like this document was updated by some agent just a month ago, so these codes should still be valid."
Andreas smiled for the first time since he'd left Chip's.
"Good to know. That's very helpful."
"The system in question has a remote access feature."
"If they're smart, they would have turned it off."
"Not all criminals are very smart."
"Some are." They shared a grin.
"Some aren't." Chung tapped around on his computer. "He didn't close it off."
"Yeah, I just got in." Chung swung the monitor sideways so that both he and Andreas could see it.
"Nobody's at home."
Chung went through all of the cameras, but there wasn't motion on any of them.
"I'll look through your documents again to see if there could be more surveillance codes, maybe another system."
Chung's face had a look of intense concentration as he looked through the documents on Andreas' phone. Andreas could read at a normal speed, but Chung's ability to scan information and process it very quickly put him to shame.
"There aren't any more."
Andreas felt his smile melt away.
"What am I going to tell my wife?"
"Don't tell her anything yet. We'll keep looking. There has to be a way that we can extract him."
Andreas didn't want to ask, but he had to say, "What if he's already dead?"
"That old man is as tough as nails. He wouldn't give up that easily. Odhran really wants that weapon; I don't think that he'd kill his only connection to it."
Andreas got to his feet. He didn't want to be cooped up in Chung's office anymore. "Your sister is still with Phoebe?"
"I'm going to head over and check on her."
"I'm going to pull the images from your phone and put them on my computer so that I can take a closer look."
Andreas gave a nod to Chung before walking out the door and finding Phoebe in the cozy room where he had left her. She was sitting in a lounge chair with a cup of steaming tea, wrapped up in a soft pink blanket while watching a movie.
She had a look on her face that said that she wasn't paying too much attention to what was going on.
He felt like a failure for not keeping his promise to her, though it wasn't from a lack of trying. He wanted to walk in and take her into his arms, but he didn't want to disturb the moment of peace that they had carved out for themselves.
He backed out of the room without talking to his wife and went back to Chung's office. Maybe Chung could see another way of making progress through a different locations. Andreas would take anything at this point.
When he walked into Chung's office, Chung was still looking through the documents.
Andreas whipped out his phone and went through the images another time. He was missing something. Maybe there was something there that would help them get Harold Kaine back, safe and sound.
Odhran owned a number of companies which were fronts for his criminal empire under a number of names, but he needed to find the most probable spot to stash Harold Kaine. Andreas got the impression that they weren't holding him where they'd held Phoebe. Phoebe didn't require maximum security. He loved her, and she was a smart woman, but she wasn't trained to resist cages.
Harold Kaine was. They'd probably buried him so far underground that it would be nearly impossible to find and rescue him.