“You seeing what I’m seeing?” Garrett covered his lips with his beer.
“I saw him,” Dan sighed. Idiot two tables over pretending to look at his phone had taken no few than a dozen photos of Dan and Garrett in Wyogo’s Bar. “Why are we so fucking fascinating?”
Garrett laughed. “Spoken by a man whose father isn’t the Crown. I keep waiting on them to show up in my shower. Tomorrow’s headlines will have something to do with our plans for Fionna or some shit like that.”
Bile mixed with the beer Dan had just swallowed. It made a return trip to his throat, burning through his chest. Rage set up in his musculature. He refused a response.
“Question is how should we go about losing his sorry ass so we can do what needs to be done?”
“Obviously. He’ll follow you. Your dad is the bigger story right now.”
“I’m on the Agusta. I wish him luck.”
“Text Jeff and tell him we have a little complication. We’ll be a minute or two late.”
Dan fished his phone from his pocket wondering if Jeff had any experience hiding in plain sight.
Suddenly Garrett’s eyes were alight. “Better plan. Phone and boot, man. Now. He’s about to bump into your chair. Trying to get a pic of your screen.”
Dan set his phone face down on the table, leaned back in his chair, and slid his boot out to the side at just the right moment. The idiot in question tripped and landed on the floor. Garrett stood and offered him a hand up while the heel of his own boot sank down onto the guy’s phone.
“Oh, sorry about that. Wouldn’t want you to lose any footage.” Garrett ground his foot against the phone. Lifting it off the ground by two fingertips, he held it up and dropped it once again to ensure every picture on it was gone. “Damn, I’m just clumsy tonight.” Finally, he handed the would-be photographer the remnants of his phone.
“You’re paying for that phone, motherfucker,” the guy snarled.
“I highly doubt that but I’ll let you take it up with Iodex and my father, you know the Crown Governor.”
Sick to death of getting away with shit because of their fathers Dan menaced, “Or we can take it outside and decide on it now.” His shield pulsed out a warning. The deep green light mingled against Garrett’s shield doing the same thing. Beating some douche into an oblivion was be highly satisfying. Fionna would freak that they got into a fist fight, but Garrett could heal him up before he went home should the guy get any shots off, which he wouldn’t.
The scumbag seemed to grow another few brain cells when he noted the fierce glow of Dan and Garrett’s shields and the might of their muscles.
“You haven’t heard the last of me,” the man huffed indignantly.
“Want me to make certain we have?” Garrett threatened.
“There a problem, gentlemen?” The bouncer eyed Dan cautiously.
“Guy dropped his phone then stepped on it. Had too much. You should probably call him a cab,” Garrett ordered.
“I got cabs waiting outside. Get.”
“Make him pay for my phone.”
“Do I look like his mama?” The bouncer shoved the photographer forward and Dan and Garrett sank back into their seats.
“Great, now we have an admiring audience.”
“We’re supposed to meet Jeff in twenty.”
“Let’s just go. We’ll walk around and make sure we’re not being followed.”
Three women approached their table offering Garrett flirtatious smiles.
“Let’s go,” Dan ordered. Women were Garrett Haydenshire’s one weakness. Place a beautiful woman in front of him and he’d have her in his bed before Dan could down one beer. It had never bothered him but they had shit to do.
“Talk to you later, sweetheart.” Garrett held up the napkin where one of the blondes had written her number.
“Crushed paparazzi photo equipment, had some damn good beer, got some chick’s number, so far this is my kind of night,” Garrett commented as they ducked down an alleyway near the Metro station.
“Let’s hope that keeps up. We are breaking into the most secure building in this country.”
“We’re not breaking into the Non-Gifted part. We’re strolling in like we own the place because that’s how this is done.”
They rode the Metro down one stop and then hopped another train back to the Pentagon stop. No one was following them.
Just as planned they ran into Jeff nonchalantly and kept to the shadows as they headed towards the Gifted entrance.
“I have my badge but I don’t really want Portwood knowing that I was up here tonight, since I’m not supposed to be up here tonight.” Jeff’s nerves were clearly getting to him.
“I got you covered, man.” Garrett slapped him on the back. “Little tip if you want to be a kickass Iodex officer – the rules are really just suggestions and when there’s a job to do you get the fuck out of your own head and get it done.”
Jeff eyed Dan. “He’s right,” Dan agreed.
Everything he’d given up racked in his gut as they stalked through the Iodex garage.
“All right, stand back I got this.” When there wasn’t a physical Iodex officer at the guard station, the entrance to Iodex required an energy signature read, a badge, and a key code to be granted access.
“How exactly?” Dan demanded.
“Have I ever let you down?”
“Two words, mixed drinks.”
Garrett laughed. “Okay, have I let you down since we were sixteen?”
“Give me a minute.”
“Just stand back.” When he pulled three badges out of his pocket, Dan shook his head.
“You lifted your father’s entry badge?”
“And Will’s and Logan’s. His was harder though. He had it locked in his truck. I was at Mom and Dad’s for Sunday supper when Dad called you. I’ll get them back before they need them. Here, you can be the Crown.” Garrett handed Jeff his father’s badge.
Jeff scanned it looking skeptical. Garrett immediately supplied his father’s energy pulse signature and his numerical code.
“You memorized your family’s entry codes. That’s either brilliant or disturbing,” Dan sighed as he pretended to be Will. “This should only get me into the banking section though.”
“I might’ve opened his up wide when I was working up here. Now shut it because someone’s coming into the garage.”
Car lights crawled closer to them. Working faster, Garrett got himself in with Logan’s badge and code. “Go, go, go,” he ordered.
Rushing through the doors, Dan slapped his hand over Jeff’s to keep him from summoning and turning on the lights.
“I have to figure this out in the dark?” Jeff demanded.
“If there’s someone else coming into this side of the Senate, you do,” Garrett informed him.
Thankfully, Iodex was completely empty, standard for a Sunday night. Dan spared one quick moment to stare longingly at his old office.
Jeff summoned again but this time only supplied power to the computer sitting on Ramier’s desk. “Don’t guess you know his key code do you?”
“That I do not. How good are you at hacking?”
“Decent. Give me a minute and anything you know about Ramier. His kid’s birthdays, his anniversary, favorite TV shows, anything he might’ve used in a password set.”
“Here.” Dan summoned and sent four quick pulses through the magnetic locks on the filing cabinets. Using the light in his hand, he located Ramier’s file and handed it over. “I should feel bad about this.”
“But you don’t. Moving on,” Garrett pointed to the machine.
“Actually, I don’t need that.” Jeff shook his head.
“This.” Jeff pulled a sticky note off Ramier’s screen with a long intricate combination of letters and numbers written on it. “He should be better than this.”
“Agreed. If I were still his boss I’d have plenty to say about it. Why would he do that?”
“He figures the only people who could ever get in here are Iodex officers. No Ioses pred would ever try to break into one of his machines, unless they’re us,” Garrrett chuckled.
“Right and there’s actually no bigger threat to IT security than the stuff we think is safe. Companies keep making it more and more difficult to use their machines trying to keep from being hacked. The problem is the harder you make it for your users the easier they make it for hackers. Hence the sticky note on the monitor,” Jeff explained. “He can’t remember an encryption code that long so he wrote it down.”
“Let’s save the internet safety lectures for our next meeting and figure out who the hell that woman is with Governor Vindico,” Garrett urged.
“Okay, uh, give me a minute. I have to figure out if I can erase the image we scan in after we scan it. I don’t want to leave a trail back to us.”
“Good thinking.” Dan checked his watch.
“Crap, there’s a secondary code requirement.”
“Meaning what?” Garrett demanded.
“The code to get into the computer is what he had written on the note. There’s a different key code for the digital scanner.”
“Okay, could we do it old school?” Garrett pointed to the paper scanner. “We could print the image off the internet and then scan it in.”
“Maybe, but then you have multiple machines with the image on them. It wouldn’t be hard to prove we were up here.”
“I know how to wipe all of the machines except the one you’re using,” Dan volunteered. “Used to have to do it to erase the porn Tuttle would pull up and print out.” He shuddered.
“Really? I mean I don’t know him all that well yet but he seems to be all about your sister.”
“Don’t remind me.”
“Here,” Garrett settled at Rainer’s desk and flipped on his computer. Since Rainer never handled anything involving internet or digital security there wasn’t a password on the machine. A minute later the image of Dan’s father and the mysterious woman spat out of the nearby printer.
Dan didn’t want to look at it. He never wanted to see it again. He went about erasing the print history from Rainer’s computer and the printer while Garrett summoned and ran the scanner.
“All right, if I can get this scanned in correctly the software should do all of the heavy-lifting.” Jeff’s fingers flew across the keyboard.
A small grey box flashed onto the screen. Low image quality. Re-scan.
“Fuck,” Garrett sighed.
“It’s a forty year old newspaper image. Re-scanning isn’t going to improve the resolution,” Dan pointed out. He hated the relief that flowed through him when the box covered the image.
“I know,” Jeff sighed. “We either need the original image or to find the largest re-print of it online, and we’re going to have to use the digital scanner. We’re losing quality with the paper scan.”
“I’m on it.” Garrett turned Rainer’s computer back on and began searching. Jeff summoned and suddenly Ramier’s computer to a black screen full of colored text.
“What are you doing?” Dan asked.
“Trying to bypass the security code to get to the digital scanner. We’re going to be here all night if we have to guess his password.”
“I could probably help you with that.” Ramier’s voice shocked all three men.
Dan ground his teeth.
“If you needed my help, man, why didn’t you just call me?” Ramier sounded genuinely hurt.
“I didn’t want to get you in trouble.”
“I doubt that was it. I’m betting you didn’t think I’d be game. Just because I play by the rules doesn’t mean I won’t break them for a good cause.”
“How’d you know we were up here?” Garrett asked.
“I get an alert on all of my devices if this computer is ever turned on for any reason. I saw the article and put two and two together. I was trained by Dan Vindico after all. I know how to follow a lead.”
“Sorry, sir,” Jeff choked.
“I won’t say anything to Portwood. I know these two put you up to this. Here, sit down. I’ll teach you how to use the software.”
Five minutes later, images and DNA read outs were flashing on the screen constantly. “Keep in mind, if she’s not in the system, we’re out of luck. And she’s wearing sunglasses which makes this tricky. If for some reason she’s no longer with us, she may never have had any photos in the system for it to compare. This is a long shot, Dan.”
“It’s the only shot I have for the moment.”
“Don’t want to ask your old man?”
“Not in this lifetime or the next.”
“I just can’t see it. Your dad wouldn’t cheat. There has to be some other explanation.”
“I keep telling myself that but I don’t know. People change.”
“Yeah, they do. Still seems out of character for him though.”
The images on the screen slowed. Small boxes outlined the woman’s facial features. Most of them green a few red.
“What does that mean?”
“It’s narrowed it down to ethnicity and approximate age. Give it time.”
“Patience has never been my virtue.”
“Don’t I know that.” Ramier chuckled. A moment later his brow furrowed.
“What?” Dan demanded.
“It thinks it’s found a Gifted familial match.”
“To which family?”
Suddenly, the lights flipped on. Dan blinked quickly and reached for his gun, the gun that wasn’t on him.
“I had a feeling I’d find you all here.”