“You look beautiful, Kate,” Dan heard the Chancellor vow as the video played on the laptop in Fionna’s lap. The Chancellor’s tone was low and hungry, certainly not an intonation Dan had ever heard him use. “I wish I was there to take it off of you.”
Fionna stuck her finger in her mouth pretending to gag herself. Dan nodded his adamant agreement.
“Well, maybe I could do that for you, or we could just wait until tomorrow night in Chicago.” Mentor Bryant attempted to flirt but Fionna was right, she was uncomfortable. Dan could hear it in her voice. He didn’t have to see it on the screen.
“I get tired of waiting to be with you, sweetheart,” the chancellor urged.
“Gross, gross, gross. Someone should castrate him,” Fionna seethed. “No,” she went on vengefully. “We should cut it off and staple it to his forehead so everyone knows what a dickhead he is.”
Dan didn’t know whether to laugh or shut the fucking laptop and set it on fire. He hated everything about this.
“I am serious,” Fionna huffed.
“I’ll hold him down for you, baby doll, but I really think Ellen should get to do the removal and the stapling,” Dan pointed out.
Suddenly, they both seemed to realize that what they were watching wasn’t in anyway funny. It was an example of an inflicting and horrible pain. At the end of the evening, Dan could turn off the computer and place it in his briefcase. But the Wilshire’s and the Bryant’s couldn’t put it away. They couldn’t gawk, and shake their heads spout, their judgement, and then go to bed with their spouses. They’d taken that simple act for granted and it had cost them a lifetime.
“Why now?” fell from Dan’s lips. Fionna’s brow furrowed as she paused the video. “Why is he posting all of this now? Why is he over at the Wilshire’s tonight? The timestamp on this video means he walked in on the two of them the week before school started so why is he doing this now?” He jerked the laptop out of Fionna’s hands and went back to the emails. “Something pushed him this far. I need to know what.”
“I still say the emails aren’t personal enough.” Fionna went back to the phone and began reading the hundreds of shared text messages. Dan stared at the last email sent before Jeff had cloned the laptop.
“What are these?” Fionna pointed to the phone screen. “Every couple dozen texts are just numbers.”
Dan gave it a cursory glance and sighed. “They’re room numbers.”
Giving a slight shudder, Fionna went back to work. “Dan, look.” She elbowed him a few minutes later and showed him a text from Wilshire to Bryant.
I’m so sorry, sweetheart. I promise we’ll get this taken care of. No one will have to know. It pains me to see you cry. Just let me take care of everything. Tell Terry you’re going to a convention Friday. We’ll go to New York. Ellen’s visiting her sister. Just two more days. I love you so.
“What’s the date on that text, Fi?”
“December fourth of last year.”
Dan opened every email near that date and began reading. “Look at this. She tried to get out of it.”
Dean, I just really think this is more than I can handle. We’v let this get completely out of hand. I don’t know what to do. I think we should go back to being employer and employee. I should tell Terry. He suspects something anyway. I need to talk to you ~Kate
“What made her do that?” Fionna asked. “What changed so abruptly? I’m telling you the texts are hot and heavy right up until the first of December.
Dan opened the Chancellor’s reply. Katie, baby, no. I can’t make it without you. You’re everything to me. We’ll take care of this. It will be like it never happened. Your beauty and your wisdom have become my life’s blood and without them I’m certain I will perish. Love, Dean
“What are they talking about? What happened? What is he going to fix?” Fionna demanded. Dan certainly had his guesses but knew neither of them wanted to hear the plaguing murmurs of their minds telling them precisely what he was going to take away.
Clenching his jaw, he picked up his phone and touched Jeff’s name on his contact list.
“Mentor Vindico?” Jeff yawned out an answer.
“Sorry I woke you. You do need to get used to being woken up in the middle of the night for calls though. I know it’s late, but I need a big favor. This one is Governor Haydenshire approved. I swear.”
“Sure. Anything I can do, I’m glad to.”
“Can you to come over here? I need to break a heavy duty, encrypted code. I need don’t think I can do it by myself,”
“Sure thing,” Jeff sounded thrilled. “That’s right up my alley.”
“Becca’s welcome to come with you.” Dan heard Becca asking who it was in the background.
“We’ll be there in just a few,” Jeff promised.
“What do you want him to do?” Fionna quizzed as Dan ended the call. “Break into the Venton accounts via Chancellor Wilshire’s passcode without leaving a trace.”
“What do you know? What are you reading in these messages?” Fionna tapped into his emotion instantly.
Giving her a pained smile, he set the laptop and cell phone on the table and wrapped his arms around her. “You know, between you being the most incredible Receiver on the planet and my mediocre Visium predilection, we make a damn good team.”
Fionna pulled away. “We’d make a damn good team even if we weren’t Gifted. And your Visium predilection is just as strong as your shield. I, of all people, know that. Now, what do you know?”
“I don’t know anything yet. I just have a suspicion.”
A quiet knock sounded on the front door several minutes later. Jeff guided Becca inside. Nervous energy swam in the air around them.
Jeff settled with the computer and then casted his energy into it. Dan explaine what he needed. “Can you do that? It’s going to be heavily encrypted.”
“I can do it. Just give me a minute. I have to work my way through about a dozen firewalls.” Shaking his head, Jeff sighed. “They’re still using ACL’s.” He clearly thought that was a poor choice although Dan had no idea what that even meant.
“Is it awful that I’m a little bit happy about all of this because no one is talking about me being pregnant anymore?” Becca asked Fionna.
Fionna chuckled. “Guess there’s a silver lining to every cloud if you look hard enough.”
Dan fixed everyone drinks and began pacing.
“I’m trying. It’ll just be a few more minutes,” Jeff promised.
“It’s fine. Take all the time you need between now and eight tomorrow morning,” Dan ordered.
Fionna was visibly exhausted. “Fi, go on to bed,” Dan coaxed. “This might take a while.”
“No, I’m fine. I’ll just lay here.” She curled up under her favorite quilt on the couch. Dan settled beside her, rubbed her side and her belly, and tried to soothe her on to sleep.
“I’m in,” Jeff whispered almost two hours later. Becca and Fionna were both asleep on the couch and love seat. “They’re broken up into quarters.”
Dan drew a deep breath not certain he wanted to see what he somehow knew was going to be there. “The last quarter of last year.”
With a single nod, Jeff slid the laptop to Dan. “September through December.”
Every withdrawal and deposit made by Wilshire was there. Every charge to his company credit card along with salary and stock displays.
“Nice work.” Dan offered wryly.
“Thank you, sir. What are we looking for exactly?”
Glancing at the girls, Dan scrolled to the date indicated on the text message on Wilshire’s Venton credit card statement. Vile revulsion washed through him. He shook his head in effort to make the recorded payment disappear.
“This.” Dan turned the screen back to Jeff. He studied it as Dan shot a quick cast from the laptop to his printer. The evidence he’d been avoiding for the last two weeks printed in black and white to be turned over to the Crown Governor the next morning.