The Gifted Realm: Academy - Volume 1

Chapter 22 - An Inside Man

~ Dan Vindico~

“Can I tell them,” Becca asked Jeff as they walked down the stairs.

“Sure, baby.” He gave her a broad grin, Dan was pleased to see.

“It’s a boy!” Becca was overjoyed.

Congratulations were immediately supplied from all around the room.

“Hey, Mentor Vindico, I was just thinking, if you wouldn’t mind, I could go ahead and get a first coat of paint on the nursery now. It’s still really early and I have to start working next week. I could finish it this weekend after we get moved in,” Jeff strategized.

Fionna’s energy thrilled instantly, but Dan didn’t know how to respond.

“You don’t have to do that tonight,” Fionna insisted politely, but hope played in her tone.

“I’d really like to do something for you, and I’m used to working in the evenings. I can knock it out in no time.”

“He would work around people’s houses doing odd jobs after they got home from work,” Becca explained.

“Why don’t we let Mama and Daddy Vindico relax a little and I’ll help you paint,” Logan volunteered.

An idea had been pulsing in Dan’s mind ever since Fionna had laid out all the many reasons he couldn’t simply put her on a plane and move her to Kauai. His little girl was going to be making her arrival sooner than later. Things like getting the nursery painted and arranged needed his attention. His drive to get things in D.C. squared away pulsed in his shield. Not in any way convinced that he wanted to continue his career at the Academy after this school year, Dan locked his plan into place in his mind.

He brushed a kiss on Fionna’s cheek. “Why don’t we let the girls chill out, and we’ll all work on the nursery. It’s not a huge room. We could finish it in a few hours. And I’d like to ask both of you for just a little help with a few things.”

“Hell yeah, man. I’ve missed doing shit with you. I’d love to hang for a while, if its okay with my phenomenally beautiful wife who’s been working hard all day, delivering kids, and you know sticking her hands up things I don’t want to think about,” Logan teased.

Rolling her eyes, Adeline grinned. “I don’t mind. Fionna has the full box set of Sex in the City and I’m about to recommend as her Medio that she let me watch them while you paint.”

“Oh my gosh, yes, I’ll get them!” Fionna tried to leap off of the couch but Dan halted her.

“I’ll get them. You’ll sit, and I’ll make you popcorn before we head to the hardware store,” Dan commanded.

Rebellious joy seemed to light all of Becca’s features though she was biting one of her fingernails. “My mom did say I could watch that show when I got married, and I did that.”

“You’ve never seen it?” Fionna was thrilled.

“I’m going. I’m going.” Dan took the stairs two at a time and returned with Fionna’s beloved set of all six seasons of Sex in the City in their pink faux leather case. She applauded as she bounced on the sofa.

He loaded up the first season in their DVD player and handed Jeff and Logan bags of microwave popcorn. They all summoned and popped the bags in their hands adding them to the gargantuan bowl that the Vindicos used to hold popcorn for movie nights. The girls settled in as Dan led Logan and Jeff out to Fionna’s SUV.

“You get to sit in the pink flower seat man.” Logan directed Jeff to Aida’s booster seat. Rolling his eyes, Jeff took the seat beside Aida’s car seat while Logan rode shotgun. 

“What’d you need our help with?” Jeff immediately leapt as soon as Dan backed out of the driveway.

Reminding himself that Jeff and Logan both knew about Wilshire’s affair erased a little of Dan’s guilty conscience.

“I could use a little help up at Venton.”

“You know Rainer and I will help you do just about anything, but please for the love of all that is good in this world do not let the next words that come out of your mouth have anything to do with Amative Energies week again. I hated Sex Ed. when I was there, and then you sent us back for it last year,” Logan pled.

Dan shook his head. “This has nothing to do with Amative Energies, and I sure as hell can’t have you and Rainer up there on my behalf. You have to keep this … as a side job of sorts.”

Two beats of his pulse and Logan turned to study him. “That mean Portwood doesn’t know what you’re about to ask me to do?”

“Something like that.”

“Well, I mean, he can’t really fire me I don’t guess, since my dad’s the Crown, but I’d really rather not have him pissed at me.”

“If you don’t want to help, I get it. Believe me.”

“Never said I didn’t want to help. Tell us what’s going on.”

“There’s more going on at Venton besides Wilshire and Bryant’s affair.”

“You mean those drug test cover ups?” Jeff immediately offered.

“How’d you hear about those?”

“How we hear about everything, the internet.”

“My dad asked me to look into the drug test issue and a few other things,” Dan explained.

“And my dad I take it,” Logan assumed.

Dan nodded his agreement.

“Ha!” Logan exalted. “I just got information out of the man.”

“I was just about to inform you of that so don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back, Officer Haydenshire.”

“I was having a moment,” Logan mocked heartbreak.

Dan went on to explain that he needed to figure out if and how Mentor Bryant was still being paid, if Chancellor Wilshire ever used Venton money to fund any aspect of their affair, and what else he may be lying about.

“So, this is a real case, just not an Iodex case, and you want me to help you?” Disbelief perforated Jeff’s tone.

“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t let it slip to Portwood that we’re moonlighting if I were you,” Logan warned.

“I’ll let Portwood know,” Dan sighed, “Eventually.” They pulled into the hardware store parking lot and he continued. “First rule of being an Iodex officer, you zip it up whenever you’re out in public. You never know who might be one aisle over or who they might know.”

“Got it,” Jeff replied instantly still beaming with pride.

Logan chuckled as Dan carried in the floral print fabric that Fionna had created Halia’s bedding from. She’d already sewn the quilt of soft greens, creamy yellows, with touches of varying pinks, blues, and whites.

“You look super manly carrying flower fabric, and don’t let anyone tell you different,” Logan goaded.

Rather enjoying the camaraderie he’d missed, Dan rolled his eyes. “First of all Haydenshire, you can kiss my ass. Secondly, I am incredibly manly because I am here carrying this lovely fabric for my wife who is pregnant with my baby. You know the one I put in there with all of my manliness. And if you don’t shut it, I’ll get my gorgeous wife to tell you just how manly I am.”

“I was kidding,” Logan pretended to gag.

Heading to the paint counter, Dan pointed to the portion of fabric that was a soft creamy yellow ordering a gallon of paint. As the attendant began mixing the paint, they moved to the brushes and rollers. He reached for a package of numerous rolls of blue tape.

“You don’t need that,” Jeff urged adamantly.

Dan shuddered to think of what Fionna would say if paint ended up all over the baseboards and closet doors.

“I can show you how to cut it in so it looks really good. Tape just pulls off the paint. Use this.” He lifted a wide metal spatula type item. “It’s a taping knife. Just trust me, it’s way easier and looks way better. And if we get the nicer brushes and paint pads, it’ll look totally professional.”

Assuming Jeff would know far better than he did, Dan followed his suggestions for painting supplies. He picked up the paint and they headed back to the Vindico’s home.

Dan began again as soon as the car doors were closed. “There has also been a security breach of the exam vault in the admin building. I’m talking lots of leaked tests that are now online. Somebody’s making a fortune selling them.”

Jeff went pale. “Those were stolen out of the vault?” So many confessions came in the form of one simple question.

Logan and Dan shared a quick glance. Dan had a pretty good idea how Becca had gotten a high B on an exam that should have been given at the end of the year.

“I take it you’ve purchased a few,” Dan summoned his best good-cop tenor.

“No. Well, kind of, I guess. I didn’t buy them for myself. I didn’t know they were the actual tests. I thought it was a scam, but we bought some of the cheaper ones for Becca to use to study last night.”

Logan offered him a sympathetic gaze. “Man, that means your credit card is caught up in all of this. Paper trails are the most binding form of evidence outside of DNA.”

“I check the sites extensively. They weren’t stealing credit card numbers. I swear I didn’t know they were the actual exams. I thought somebody was uploading study guides and charging for them or something. Becca said she heard the mentors were putting them up there for extra cash.”

“I honestly don’t know who’s putting them online,” Dan explained. “Never buy another one, and tell me what you mean when you said you checked the sites.”

“He means he used his wicked mad hacker skills to make sure the sites weren’t stealing money,” Logan volunteered.

“You’re a hacker?” Dan demanded.

“No sir. I’m just good with electronics I guess.”

“He’s better than Ramier,” Logan vowed.

“Are you serious?”

Logan nodded vehemently.

John Ramier had been one of Dan’s first hires after he’d taken over Iodex. He was an outstanding detective especially when it came to white collar computer related crimes. He could find out information from anywhere. No password or encrypted code was safe. Dan would often joke that he was glad Ramier played for the good guys.

“Damn.” Dan was deeply impressed, and suddenly this case didn’t seem quite so hard to crack.

Abashed embarrassment colored Jeff’s cheeks. “I’ve been casting electronics since I was eleven. We could never afford game systems or anything, so I would take the broken ones that gaming stores were getting rid of and make them work so I could play them.”

“He juiced the X-Box in Ioses house so eight of us could play at once,” Logan bragged.

“Anyone could’ve done that,” Jeff scoffed.

“No they couldn’t of,” Dan and Logan both stated firmly.

“I guess it just comes easily to me. I knew I needed a computer for school. I didn’t want to tell my mom or ask for one of the free ones from school. Before I started at Venton, I spent a whole summer working with a contracting crew in D.C. I bought a second hand laptop and all of the programs I was supposed to have for the school year then I casted it until it did everything I needed it to do.

“Bec gave me one of Brent’s old cell phones that he was getting rid of. I couldn’t afford the contract so I just keep it casted.” He seemed to want to confess anything he’d ever done that might not have been completely honest.

“I’m impressed, and that doesn’t happen often. The problem with the breach on the vault is three-fold. Who is stealing the exams? Why are they being stolen, and how they’re being stolen?”

“Aren’t they being stolen so whoever has them can make money?” Jeff quizzed.

“It’s never that simple,” Logan sighed. “There’s always more to it. You figure that out pretty quick when you’re an Iodex officer.”

“Can you show me the websites hosting them?” Dan asked Jeff.

“Yes, sir, but no one at school is going to know I’m working with you, right? Bec says, everyone uses those tests. If anyone figures out that I told you, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive to see my kid be born.”

“My dad’s name, reputation, and job, are on the line for all of this. That’s why I want to wait to open this up to a full Iodex investigation. I shouldn’t be asking you to help me, so believe me when I say, being discreet is my top priority,” Dan vowed.

 “And the exams aren’t even my biggest concern. Mentors can come up with new tests and we can monitor the exam vault more closely. My first concern is the money and Wilshire. Dad isn’t even sure how much if any money is missing. From his limited access it seems the books aren’t in order.”

“Wilshire probably skimmed some off the top to keep his wife from finding out he was banging a mentor,” Logan huffed.

“Yeah, and call me biased, but I’d like to take Wilshire down for the disaster he’s in.”

“Agreed.”

“Kids started talking because of Wilshire and Mentor Bryant’s Facebook pages,” Jeff supplied.

“Can you show me those as well?”

“Of course. That’s easy.”

“I’m in as well. Works a little slow lately. Seems our taking down a massive criminal organization might’ve frightened a few criminals straight,” Logan teased.

“Well I’m glad it wasn’t all for naught.” Dan shook his head.

 “You know, as long as we keep this quiet, I can be your inside man. I know all of the kids and hear all of their shit.” Jeff’s eyes lit with excitement.

Dan and Logan tried not to chuckle at his exuberance. He sounded like a little boy playing police detective though no one would ever have called him on it. 

 

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