Dean Divers finishes the bad cup of coffee made in the small coffee maker in his motel room. He glances at the alarm clock next to the bed. The guy at the front desk said the mail usually arrives by eleven. It’s two minutes after eleven now. He’ll wait three more minutes to not seem overly anxious. Dean is confident the money will be there; Sam is very capable. Sam is more than capable he reminds himself, scrutinizing his face in the mirror. He needs hair dye and different clothes. He needs a rental car but he’s not going to get one — too risky, too easy to trace.
Dean walks into the front office of the motel. The clerk is not visible, but sounds from a small television can be heard coming from a back room. Dean sweeps his eyes across the counter and across the desk behind it. No sign of mail. The clerk appears.
“Morning. What can I do f’you?”
“Any mail come in this morning for me?”
“What’s the name?”
The clerk returns to the back room and Dean’s spirits leap to see a letter-sized brown mailer in his hand.
“Here you go. Will you be checking out today?”
“I’m staying through tomorrow.”
The clerk nods. “I’ll just need you to pay for the room then before twelve. Or we can charge it to your card.”
“I’ll pay you now.” With the envelope secured under his arm, Dean hands over the last of his cash to the clerk.
Sam files paperwork as she focuses on the cell phone in her pocket, vigilant for its motion. It is set to vibrate because she doesn’t want Mary or Evan to be aware of incoming calls to her. Dean agreed to call her at this number from a pay phone when he had the money she sent to him. It’s mid-afternoon Wednesday and Sam is fairly certain he should have it by now. However, pay phones are hard to find nowadays and he doesn’t have a car.
Sam remains on edge from Joel Anderson’s appearance at BubbleTrendz on Monday. Except for Dean’s warning, the available evidence supports Joel’s assertion that Joel is now running the company. Joel has not reappeared at the office since Monday afternoon, only the red-haired guy with the stubbly beard, Rolf, returned yesterday and today. He is using Dean’s office, mostly with the door closed.
Sam suddenly hears an exasperated “Jeeesus!” emitted from Gil’s office and goes down the hall to see what’s up. Gil isn’t normally a shouter. She sees him at his desk, scowling at his screen banging at keys on his keyboard.
“Another DoS at Star!” He nods slightly as a way to acknowledge her presence but continues scrutinizing the information in front of him on the monitor, his expression desperate, incredulous. Evan appears at the doorway and looks sharply at Gil.
“What are you doing, Gil?”
Gil glares at Evan. “Denial of service attack at Star. Again.” Seeing Evan’s accusatory eyes Gil adds, “You don’t know this?”
“Don’t touch another key.” Sam sees Evan’s icy expression and rapidly assesses what is unfolding.
“What?” Gil’s eyes narrow in bewilderment.
“You need to leave your desk. Do it quietly and there won’t be a problem.” Evan is now standing over Gil, his arms folded, his body taut.
“You’re accusing me?” Sudden contempt floods over Gil’s face as he stares at Evan.
“Leave your desk. Leave the office now.”
Gil rises from his chair, still not believing his ears. “This is ridiculous! I’m the one trying to figure-”
“The game’s over, Gilbert. We’ve been tracking you. You’re fired. Security will escort you out. Your personal effects will be sent to you.”
Sam sees the security guard, Tom, from the main lobby desk of the building who has apparently been summoned. He looks somber, unhappy to be doing his duty at the moment. Sam turns to Evan.
“Surely there’s some mistake here! Of all people, Gil would never-”
“I wouldn’t interfere unless you consider yourself an accomplice to this cyber criminal and need to be fired, too,” Evan tells her in a flat tone.
“You condescending toady!” Gil is flushed red, furious, breathing hard as he regards Evan.
“Let’s go, Gil,” Tom says softly, “I’m sorry, but you need to leave here.”
Gil walks with Tom but says with quiet determination, “You won’t get away with this, Evan. It’s a farce and you know that.”
Evan with equal determination rejoins, “I strongly advise against considering legal action. We’ve got you nailed, dude. So, if you leave quietly and never attempt to hack the website of Star Rock Financial Group again, Joel Anderson will not press charges against you. I wouldn’t press my luck if I were in your shoes.”
As if to underscore Evan’s point, red-haired Rolf has approached the group, quietly speaking into his cell phone about what seems to be an important matter. He’s letting Evan handle the situation, just endorsing it with his presence. Sam turns to see that Sandor and Rina are standing in the hall with shocked concern on their faces. Sam catches Sandor’s eye and narrows her pupils rapidly. He’s young, but he understands this classic warning signal that vampires communicate to each other when silence is required.
Evan turns to his team. “Okay, everyone, let’s get back to work!”
Sullenly, Sandor and Rina return to their office.
Back at her own desk, Sam ponders what to tell her cousin — and when. If Sam is to help Dean she needs to learn what Joel Anderson is up to, and she’s going to need the help of at least Sandor, but probably Gil, too. And maybe Rina. As Sam weighs the options of alerting her co-workers to the fact that Dean is now in danger, there’s a sudden vibration in the back pocket of her jeans.
Joel Anderson paces across the expansive floor of his New York office at a slow, deliberate gait. He glances casually at his wristwatch — a sporty, luxurious European chronograph of rose gold. Then he looks at Kurt, the blond guy whose rest pulse Sam had speculated about in the BubbleTrendz conference room.
“This isn’t like him. He’s prompt.” Joel raises an eyebrow at Kurt, inviting a response to his observation.
“Two days. Not like him at all. Shall I call him?”
“Give him another half an hour. I don’t like to micromanage my people.” Joel scans the city skyline, contemplating the dark waters of the East River flowing far below. His cell phone rings. Joel answers and smiles at the familiar voice.
“So, Bernard. What do you have for us? Good news I hope?”
Kurt watches the face of his boss with well-trained acumen. He knows Joel is the master of cool, but that the tiny nuances of his facial expressions must be read accurately or at one’s peril. Joel’s smile remains on his lips, but has moved on from his eyes. He inhales slowly, deliberately before speaking into the phone. “I don’t understand why we’re talking probabilities here. The answer should be 100 percent, right? 100 percent. But you’re telling me 98 percent. That’s a sloppy number, Bernard. If you can’t tell me it’s 100 percent, you can’t tell me it’s 98 percent. It could be 50 percent.”
Joel is pacing across the room and there’s an iron quality to his body language, a ruthless purpose that Kurt has seen many times. Joel listens and then continues, shaking his head. “I need 100 percent, Bernard. Call me back when you have figured this out and have a clean number to report. Okay then!”
Joel pockets the phone and looks Kurt in the eyes. Kurt knows to state the conclusion so his boss won’t have to. “Bernard screwed it up. Wow. This surprises me.”
“He doesn’t work for the Department of Surprises. Playing the odds are for gamblers, not winners. I’m afraid you’ll have to take care of it now, Kurt.”
Kurt nods in acknowledgment and receives a smile in return. Kurt knows it’s as close to a gesture of camaraderie as Joel bestows on anyone.
— to be continued —