Authors: Alyse Zaftig
ndreas got back
into his car and only ran one loop to throw off any tails that he might've picked up before he headed for his hacker's domain. Andreas and Phoebe lived in Springfield, well within the DC metro area but close-ish to her parents who lived near Quantico. Mr. Kaine was an old dog and didn't do much active case work on the ground anymore. He got pulled to teach unarmed defense tactics; Andreas knew that in a fair fight, he'd want Mr. Kaine at his back, even if the man hated his guts. They both loved Phoebe, and they knew that if either of them did anything to the other, they'd pay for it a hundred times over.
Andreas knocked on the door of a small one-story house. The house was unassuming, but the magic happened downstairs. He didn't know how his hacker explained the enormous power use of all of the super computers that they had plugged in here, but nobody had come to shut them down yet.
Andreas saw a camera swivel towards him.
Dimitri buzzed him in without another word.
Andreas went into the door and made sure that it was closed and locked behind him. Dimitri's house was as safe as you could get in the suburbs, but it would be stupid to get shut down because you forgot to close a door. Andreas didn't make stupid mistakes. He only made ones of huge magnitude, like falling in love with the daughter of an FBI agent who totally hated him.
"Why are you here?"
"I need you to trace some bank transactions."
"Yeah? Over $10,000?"
"Safely over $10,000." Banks were required to report any transactions over $10,000 to the FDIC to help it keep an eye on money laundering. If you had access to their database, then you could see the movement of money throughout the American economy. Andreas took his cell phone out of his pocket and switched to images.
"You have exact dollar amounts and dates? And the bank?" Dimitri looked like Christmas had come early. "Piece of cake."
"I certainly hope so."
Dimitri took the phone from Andreas and set it in front of him as his hands moved over his keyboard so fast that they blurred. Andreas knew that Dimitri liked his Dvorak keyboard because of the 50% increased efficiency, but it was definitely weird and ergonomic.
Dimitri pretended to dust off his knuckles. "I'm fast."
"You're the best, Dimitri."
Andreas watched Dimitri preen a little bit. He knew that it wasn't the easiest thing to be a computer genius who spent most of his time in the basement, and Andreas also knew that Dimitri didn't hang around the kind of people who praised him for his work. Andreas made a mental note to try to do it more often.
Andreas looked at the windows that Dimitri had pulled up on his six-screen array.
"They aren't just guns. They're much more than that. They can take out small cities or very large urban neighborhoods. They could take out L'Enfant Plaza if they wanted to. The Pentagon is a little better protected, but shutting down L'Enfant Plaza would definitely be within their power."
"And one of the weapons in question is missing."
"The worst one. It has five times the power of the closest one."
Andreas whistled. "That's a lot of firepower."
"The FBI has no clue how it lost track of that particular weapon."
Andreas wondered if Mr. Kaine had taken the weapon and hidden it, but no, that didn't add up. Mr. Kaine was so squeaky clean that he practically glowed with lemony freshness. He wasn't the sort of guy — Harold Kaine wasn't going to hide the transmitter for a series of bombs planted across the Southern US for kicks, a price, or any other reason. Mr. Kaine was definitely in danger, though, that much was for certain. The people who lost an absolute ton of money during his raid would want the weapon back.
"Is that everything?"
"That's what I can get with the information that isn't redacted. Whoever you pulled that file from didn't want us to be able to find much.
"Yeah, I know." He couldn't help but wonder what exactly Harold Kaine had hidden from him when his daughter's life was at stake.
"I've got to go to Chung's. Thanks, man." Andreas slapped Dimitri on the back. It was useful to keep him on retainer. Andreas didn't need a superb hacker all the time, but when he did, he wanted the best.
"Anytime, Andreas." One of the reasons why Dimitri was so fantastic was because he didn't ask questions. Andreas didn't know if Dimitri's real name was Dimitri or not, and he didn't care. Andreas still went by his birth name, but he'd had so many that he'd lost track. Once he fulfilled his contract for the Agency, he was going to stick to being Andreas.
Andreas went upstairs and got into his car to head straight for the restaurant. Chung didn't normally get his hands too dirty, but Andreas knew that he had a good touch with any kind of paperwork. There were rumors that Chung was involved with some white collar stuff, and Andreas was about to find out whether or not that was true.
hen Andreas got
to the restaurant, he parked his car into his normal spot around the back.
"Andreas? What are you doing here? I wasn't expecting you today." Chung was wearing an apron.
"I need your help with something. Tracing some transactions..."
"Do you know which bank it's through."
"Some bank that has Cayman at the beginning."
"I didn't know that you were involved in that kind of thing. I thought you just did some...ah...wet work." They both knew that Andreas was a gun man, primarily, but it wouldn't do to openly discuss it out in the back of the restaurant.
"We should get inside."
Chung and Andreas walked into the restaurant's kitchen before going into a backroom.
"Give me a minute." Andreas watched as Chung used his thumbprint to boot up a huge computer that was connected to a gigantic monitor.
Andreas fought the urge to bite his nails, a habit that had been beaten out of him at a young age. His eyes flicked to the clock on the wall. Time was ticking fast. He needed to find Phoebe as soon as he possibly could. He didn't want to think about the worst case scenario. If her kidnapper meant to hurt Phoebe, it was already done and Andreas was powerless to stop it. He thought that whomever had made that phone call could have given a violent incentive during the phone call, but that didn't mean that it wouldn't be escalated to that level if they didn't follow through with the missing weapon.
Andreas watched as Chung's screen filled with the big word BLOCKED in red letters.
Something had to give. Andreas banged his fist on the table enough to make him bite a curse. He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms, fuming. Drawing in a breath, he pulled his photo out of his pocket and opened the photo gallery.
Passing the phone over to Chung, he asked, "Can you replicate this?"
Chung's brows drew together. "Have we met?" Chung's reputation, the shadowy one that Andreas wasn't sure of, was confirmed. He knew that Chung did any paperwork…
"One hour. Two, tops."
"I need a meeting with Ezra, too."
Chung drew in a breath.
“I’m pretty reasonable, but you know what Ezra costs." It wasn't quite his firstborn, but it was pretty close.
"It's fine. I can handle it."
a knock on her door.
"I was wondering if you'd like to take a stroll in the garden?"
"Yes." Phoebe would handle his presence if she didn't have to stare at the wall of her bedroom.
She heard the door being unlocked. The slick, elegant man was standing outside of her bedroom. "Excellent."
He took her arm again, and Phoebe wondered if he was trying to prevent her from running away by keeping in basically constant contact with her. They went down the stairs until they got out of the house. Phoebe looked at the big wall that ran all the way around the property and groaned. Escaping wouldn't be very easy. There was barbed wire across the top, which definitely spoiled the look but would prevent her from climbing a wall and going over.
Now they were outside of a greenhouse. Odhran opened it up by twisting the doorknob. "I have a special affinity for carnivorous plants. They smell very sweet."
Phoebe walked with him through the greenhouse that contained dozens upon dozens of carnivorous plants. She almost gagged from the sickly sweet smell of decay. Carnivorous plants didn't smell good at all. They screamed of blood money spent with the ego of a self-made king who cut his way through the competition.
"You know, some carnivorous plants are large enough to eat rodents. Or pieces of meat. Would you like to feed one?"
Phoebe suppressed a shudder. "No, thank you."
"A shame." She watched him turn to a small bloody bowl and toss a piece of meat into a big carnivorous plant. "This is a pitcher plant with a capacity of approximately 2 liters."
"Fascinating." Phoebe's skin was crawling. She didn't want to be in a greenhouse full of plants that could eat her. The message that he was sending was unmistakable. He could afford expensive plants and he was powerful enough to keep them all going.
She didn't know where her impulse control was when she asked, "When can I go home?"
His eyes changed shade from a pale green to a dark grey, as if he had a thunderstorm inside. He locked eyes with her.
"Will you indulge me in some of your dancing? I know that you've done ballet and modern. I've been told that you're quite something to see. I'll have a costume delivered to your room."
He hadn't answered her question at all, and now her stomach felt weird because he'd asked her to dance.
"Do I really have a choice here?"
He laughed and his eyes switched back to green. "It's polite to ask. Let's go back to your room. I'll tell my staff to put a costume in your room." She watched as he tapped on his smart watch. "It should be there by the time that we get back."
Phoebe understood now how much menace lay beneath the surface. His tone about the costume being there soon was very mild, but it was just too mild. Whatever Odhran Garin wanted, he would get.
Phoebe fought the urge to put a protective hand on her little baby. It was better if he didn't know about the baby.
Odhran walked her slowly and courteously back into the house. They walked all the way back up the stairs to Phoebe's bedroom.
"I'll expect you downstairs in ten minutes." Odhran closed her door but didn't lock it. For a short time, she had some privacy.
As he had told her, there was a costume laying on the bed. It was a purple and black dress. The inner panel was purple with some kind of flowers all over it and the black parts were on the outer thirds of the garment to create a silhouette like that knockout Stella McCartney color contour dress that Kate Winslet had caused a sensation in.
She took off the clothes that he had given to her before and put on the dress. She gasped when she looked in the mirror and saw how sheer the purple fabric was when it was on her body. It was nearly transparent. She had tulle on her dance outfits, of course, but always with something beneath it.
She looked around her room for hidden passages or covered vents. Anything at all would help. If she could hide herself somewhere on the compound, she was pretty sure that she could find a way out...or at least she'd be able to figure something out when night fell. Maybe she'd be able to hitchhike her way out.
She really wished that she had taken self defense classes. Her father had taught her the bare basics, but it had bored her.
She looked back into the mirror and touched her slightly rounded stomach. But she had to quickly move her hand, because she didn't know if there were cameras in her room. She had to get the baby out of here.
hen Phoebe got downstairs
, the door to the dining room was open. She could smell oregano wafting out.
"Come in, come in," Odhran said, standing up as she approached. "Eat something before your dance."
"What is here?"
"A filet mignon with mashed sweet potatoes. You deserve the best." Like the day before, he pulled her chair out before she sat down. Having him so close to her made her flesh crawl.
He sat across from her.
"Dig in." He seemed a little less polite than he had been before, and Phoebe didn't know whether or not that was a good sign or not. Ever since she asked when she could leave, he'd been just a little colder, as if she had disrespected him by reminding him that she wasn't at his home of her own accord. Maybe Odhran was one of those types who needed to think that his presence was awesome and overrode the fact that he kidnapped people and held them against their will.
She looked at the steak knife next to her plate and then at Odhran. Odhran immediately rang a bell by pressing a button under the table.
"Please cut Ms. Phoebe's meat for her, Eric, then take away the knife."
"Of course, sir." Eric was wearing a chef's whites. He pulled the plate away from Phoebe and cut everything into small pieces before giving it back to her.
"I hope you enjoy, miss." Phoebe couldn't be mad at him for doing what his employer asked.
Odhran was smiling. Phoebe totally hated him in that moment. He was toying with her. He'd probably asked for steak just to torment her with a tiny bit of hope.
Phoebe stabbed each piece of food as if she totally hated it, but she had to admit that his chef was phenomenal. The filet mignon wasn't anything like any steak she'd had before, even at the fancier restaurants in DC.
When her plate was empty, her stomach was groaning.
"Done, my dear?"
She wasn't his dear, but she responded anyway. "Yes, thank you."
"So now it's time for a performance."
Phoebe's hackles rose. Who was he to casually command her to give a performance. She wasn't on his payroll, and she didn't take anything from him. She opened her mouth to speak, but seeing the smile on his lips, she closed her mouth.
Something told her that refusing him would be extremely unwise. She couldn't reveal that she was pregnant and a little bit delicate at the moment. Phoebe closed her eyes for a minute as her panic rose. She knew several low-impact routines. She'd stick to those, and the baby would be fine.
Dancing for a private audience was demeaning and made her feel like a stripper — and she was sure that Odhran wanted to make her uncomfortable. But she was between a rock and a hard place. If she weren't pregnant, she'd take some bigger risks and just run for it. But she was pregnant. She wouldn't ever do anything that would endanger her baby.
Something told her that he was five steps ahead of her, anyway. She was brought to a banquet room full of ornate decor that reminded her of her first visit to Versailles. The rich detailing was overly ornate.
"On the center platform, please."