Major crimes, p.6

Major Crimes, page 6

 

Major Crimes
 


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  Catching the mole at Omega had really just been an excuse to bring him back into her life. If it hadn’t been this, he would’ve found something else.

  Cain had been waiting four years for Hayley to do her time so they could start again. He realized now that that had always been the truth. He had never planned to let her go.

  Whatever secrets she was keeping from him, and he definitely knew they were there, he was going to find out.

  And now it looked like he had brought danger to her door. Did the mole know what Cain was doing? If the fire inspector was correct and the hallway leading to the storage room had burned much quicker than it should have, then it looked like someone was deliberately targeting Hayley.

  Of course, the fire inspector had also mentioned that it was possible that the hallway had traces of some nonsuspicious accelerants given that the storage room with its various chemicals was nearby. Just an unfortunate accident.

  Either way, Cain didn’t plan to be letting Hayley out of his sight. He didn’t care much if Hayley or Ariel or the whole damn town didn’t like that.

  And keeping her safe wasn’t the only reason he was going to be stuck to Hayley.

  He’d received the code and key to release the ankle monitor that forced her to stay away from computers.

  He’d made the decision late last night, especially since whatever she’d been working on had been lost in the fire, that Hayley was going to need access to a computer in order to discover information about the Omega mole. Going through reams of paper, especially if they had to start back at the beginning, would take too long.

  Cain had submitted his request early this morning and it had been expedited to go before a local judge first thing, since a court order was needed to remove Hayley’s ankle monitor.

  He’d received the court order, the code needed to turn it off and the key—delivered by a state trooper—to remove the anklet all together. The condition of the court order was that Cain take responsibility for Hayley’s computer activities. He was expected to know exactly what she was doing on any computer, and if she wasn’t with him she would have the anklet back on.

  That would not be a problem.

  He was making lunch when Hayley finally woke up. She’d obviously taken a shower and slipped on a T-shirt and sweatpants of his that he’d left out for her.

  The sight of her wearing his clothes did something to him. Grease popping from a piece of bacon brought his attention back to what he was doing.

  “I pulled the sheets off the bed. I’m pretty sure they smelled like a flue. You should’ve made me take a shower before letting me sleep there.”

  “Believe it or not, I actually tried to wake you up. Short of dumping you in the cold shower myself, you were out.”

  And so damn exhausted he hadn’t had it in him to force her back awake.

  “I was tired.”

  The smallness of her voice kept him from lighting into her. He was back now. He wasn’t going to let her work herself into the ground.

  “Do you feel better?”

  She reached her hands over her head in a giant stretch, arching her back. Thankfully bacon grease popped him again, or he might’ve started drooling.

  “Oh my gosh, yes. I feel like my brain is working on all cylinders rather than only partial. You were right. I shouldn’t have tried to do both jobs at the same time.”

  He took out the bacon and put on some eggs to fry. “Doesn’t look like the Bluewater is even an option anymore. So let’s say we just concentrate on your consultant work. Sit.”

  She raised an eyebrow but sat down at the table. He set a cup of coffee in front of her along with her much-needed cream and sugar.

  “I was making progress before everything was lost.” She rubbed her forehead as she took a sip of coffee. “I don’t know how long it will take you to get another copy, but I’ll try to remember where I was so I don’t have to read through everything again.”

  When the eggs finished cooking he set a plate in front of her and sat down with his own.

  “I’m going to actually do you one better. We’re not going to use printouts. You’re going to be on the computer.”

  She stuck her leg out from under the table, pointing to her ankle. “What about that?”

  “Got the court order this morning that it can be turned and taken off as long as you’re in my custody.”

  She didn’t look as excited as he thought she would.

  “Don’t you still think this will all go much faster online rather than reading from the paper?” he asked as she nibbled on a piece of bacon.

  “Yes.” She nodded, but with a decided lack of enthusiasm. “Working your case from within the system will move much more quickly and intuitively for me.”

  “Then finish eating and let’s get started.”

  * * *

  HE BROUGHT THE laptop over to the couch where Hayley was sitting.

  “You’re only allowed on this while I’m sitting right next to you. And we’re only going to access the electronic versions of the files I brought, and possibly some outer Omega networks. Nothing else at all. Got it?”

  Amazing how he had no problem trusting her within the Omega network. He didn’t worry for a second that she would do anything damaging to any secrets the law enforcement agency might be protecting.

  But that didn’t mean he trusted her with any other aspect of a computer.

  He knew she was keeping something from him, was in some sort of trouble or heading toward it, and he was handing her the tool to get in even deeper.

  “Yes, I got it.”

  No smart-aleck remark, no teasing at all. He was glad she took this as seriously as he was.

  As a matter fact, she almost looked scared as he handed the computer to her. As scared as she looked ten minutes ago when he turned off and removed her tracking anklet.

  She sat with the computer on her lap, staring down at it for long moments, not touching it.

  “Everything okay?” he finally asked.

  “It’s been a long time. I was in the cybercrimes wing at the correctional center, so there were no computers there. Nothing. Not even closed systems.”

  Computers not hooked to any other system so no damage could be done by viruses or hacks. No way in or out.

  Guilt bubbled inside Cain. He had done this to her. Taking away something that had been a critical part of her.

  Would he do anything differently if he could go back and change it?

  He’d always thought not, because as the pithy saying went, she’d done the crime so she’d done the time. But looking at Hayley now, so awkwardly holding a computer that would’ve once been almost an appendage for her, hurt something inside him.

  He touched her cheek with the back of his fingers. “Hays?”

  She flinched and he dropped his hand. “Sorry. Yeah, let’s get started.”

  Her fingers dropped to the keyboard and she began to work.

  It didn’t take long for her to get back into the flow of her talent. Hayley could write and develop and read computer code the way most people read nursery rhymes.

  Cain wasn’t nearly as good as Hayley, but he knew his way around coding, enough to be able to make sure she was staying within their agreed parameters.

  She began her search scrolling through screen after screen of what would normally look like gibberish, stopping to follow different patterns that caught her eye.

  Every time she found something suspicious she organized it into a separate folder. Once in a while she would take something out of a folder, evidently only after she’d been reassured that wasn’t what she was looking for.

  “Whoever is doing this is good,” she said, standing up for the first time in four hours. She wiggled her fingers out in front of her, those muscles obviously sore after having not been used in that way for a long time.

>   “Better than you?”

  She grinned. A smart-ass smile that he hadn’t even realized had been missing until now. A smile full of confidence.

  “Please. Don’t insult me. I’ll give it twenty-four hours before I find the pattern. If he’s extremely lucky.”

  “Good.” He grinned back at her. “How about if we take a break for a few minutes and I’ll order us some dinner.”

  Her smile faded. “What time is it?”

  “Almost five o’clock. You’re not tired again, are you?” He said it in jest but then realized maybe she was tired. Maybe she did need more rest.

  “No. But I’ve got to go.”

  “Go where?”

  “Home. Just for a few hours. I can come back at around nine if you want. But right now I’ve got to go.”

  “Let’s just stay and keep working. You were starting to get on a roll.”

  Her features became more pinched. “I’ll have to pick it back up later.”

  Damn it. This had to do with whatever she was hiding from him. Was she playing him? Had she somehow gotten a message out to someone while using the computer?

  He looked down at her leg. Or maybe she thought to play him in a different way.

  “That anklet is going right back on if you leave here for any reason.”

  She didn’t get upset like he’d expected. Didn’t try to talk her way out of it.

  “That’s fine.”

  He walked into the kitchen, true irritation kicking in, and snatched up the anklet. He stalked back into the living room.

  “Foot,” he demanded.

  “Cain...” Her voice pleaded for understanding.

  “Don’t start. You were willing to work double shifts at that stupid restaurant and you won’t even put in eight full hours of work to catch a killer?”

  They both flinched as he snapped the monitor back in place around her slim ankle.

  Her brown eyes stared out at him. “I just have something I need to do. I promise I’ll be back in a few hours.”

  “You know this thing has a tracker, right? And now that I have the code, I’ll be able to see where you’re going?”

  “I’m just going home. And yeah, if you feel like you need to track me go right ahead. You don’t know me anymore. Don’t know anything about my life.”

  He grabbed her arms, conscious not to hurt her. “Then tell me. Tell me what’s happening with you.”

  All pleading was gone from her now. “Sorry, Cain, the great football star might be able to waltz back into the hearts of everyone else in town, but not mine. You and I are business, that’s all.”

  She turned and left and he let her go, knowing going after her now would just make things worse.

  But he damn well would use that tracker.

  He grabbed the computer and began looking through the work she’d done today. Even after studying it nearly an hour he couldn’t find anything at all suspicious. The only pattern he could find was the strides Hayley had made toward identifying the mole.

  Maybe she just needed a break like she said. She was right—he didn’t know anything about her life anymore.

  That was an oversight he intended to rectify.

  Chapter Seven

  Hayley knew Cain was mad, and even understood his frustration, but she didn’t care.

  She was going home to see her son. She cursed when she got outside and realized she’d have to take a cab back to the Bluewater, where her car was still parked. But it would be worth it to have dinner with Mason, to read some of his stories he loved, to put him to bed.

  She’d missed it for the last four days trying to work both jobs, but now that she had the time, she wouldn’t miss it again. She’d lost too many “everydays” while she was in prison. She’d spend the rest of her life trying not to lose any more.

  She told Cain she would come back at nine, and she would. She’d work all night if she needed to.

  Although the thought of sitting on that couch with Cain a hair’s breadth away caused heat to pool in her very core.

  Maybe it was all the sleep, maybe it was working in the house that held so many memories for her, maybe it was not having sex for the last four years. But she was so aware of Cain, of the musky scent of him, of his strength and broody intelligence.

  It had been all she could do most of the afternoon to concentrate on the coding and not put the computer aside and crawl on top of him.

  Her mind and her heart wanted to stay far away from him, but her body had much different ideas. She tried to remind her body that he’d used their relationship, their history, to get close to her and then arrest her.

  Still hadn’t seemed to make much difference.

  Good thing Hayley was used to her body not getting what it wanted. She’d had four years of desperately wanting things she couldn’t have. A few days with Cain Bennett shouldn’t be a problem.

  All thoughts of Cain melted away after she made it to her car then drove to her apartment. She let herself in and heard Mason’s sweet voice chattering to Ariel.

  “What’s going on in here?”

  “Mama Hayley! Yay!” Mason ran and launched himself at her. She snatched him up in her arms, swinging him around as she hugged him and he giggled. The sweetest sound she’d ever heard.

  “Guess what?” She tapped him on the nose as she set him back down on the ground. “I got to see some real live fire trucks last night.”

  Mason’s eyes got huge. “You did?”

  The three of them made a pizza together, each of them putting on whatever toppings they wanted, as Hayley told a very tame version of the restaurant fire and the fire trucks. Mason asked all sorts of questions, stating more than once that he was going to be a fireman when he grew up. She could tell Ariel had adult questions, but neither of them would talk about that in front of Mason.

  After dinner they watched an episode of Mason’s favorite show together, then colored a couple of pictures. Mason drew his own version of a fire truck.

  Before Hayley knew it, it was already time to get her little man ready for bed. She gave him a bath, read him his stories—all more than once—before tucking him in.

  “Tomorrow’s Wednesday.” His grin was overpowered by a yawn.

  “Hmmm. Wednesday, Wednesday.” She pursed her lips to the side and tapped them. “There’s something I’m supposed to remember about Wednesday, but I can’t think what it is.”

  “Ice cream Wednesday!” Mason yelled. “We always get ice cream on Wednesday.”

  Hayley smiled and tickled him, but stopped before he could get wound up. “Oh yeah, that’s right. Of course we’re going to get ice cream tomorrow. It’s Wednesday.”

  It had been their tradition every week since Hayley had come home. She wouldn’t be breaking it tomorrow, although getting away from Cain in the middle of the afternoon would require some creative strategizing.

  “I love you, little man. Sweet dreams.”

  “Night, Mama.” His eyes were already drifting closed, which was good—he wouldn’t see the tears flooding hers.

  Mama, not Mama Hayley. One day that would be what he said all the time, not just as he was falling asleep.

  Ariel was washing dishes when Hayley came back out. Hayley took over the drying duties.

  “I’m glad you’re okay. I talked to Cain Bennett twice last night, first time when he came over here looking for you, second when I called you and he finally answered. He said you were so deeply asleep that you weren’t even hearing your phone ring.”

  Hayley winced. She had texted Ariel from the Bluewater, not wanting her to hear about the fire on the news and worry. She’d meant to call later with more details. “Yeah, if you called I didn’t hear it at all.”

  Hayley filled her in. Stuff they hadn’t been able to say in front of Mason. By the end of it, Ariel was staring at Hayl
ey wide-eyed.

  “It’s a damn good thing Cain came by to find you. You could’ve died!”

  Hayley could still feel the heat of the fire, the suffocating smoke. “Believe me, I know.”

  Ariel let the dishwater out of the sink. “He was pretty mad when he found out you were trying to do both jobs.”

  Hayley grimaced. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. Speaking of, I’ve got to get back there. We’re starting to make some actual progress.”

  Hayley dried the baking pan and put it away.

  “You’re going to have to tell him, Hayley,” Ariel said softly.

  Hayley froze midaction, but respected her cousin too much to pretend she didn’t know what Ariel was talking about.

  “How long have you known?”

  “I didn’t realize it until he showed up here yesterday, although I should have. Cain Bennett has always been the one for you.”

  He’d been the only one her whole life. The only man she’d ever been with, the only man she ever loved.

  She gripped the towel in her hand, not looking at Ariel. “I can’t tell him. I’m scared. I’m scared I’ll lose Mason.”

  “Just because you have a criminal record does not mean a judge would give Cain custody of Mason, even if he tried to take him. You have no history of violence, drug abuse or neglect. If anything, we could prove how you very methodically planned for Mason’s future by making me guardian when he was born.”

  Hayley sighed. “It’s not just that. There are some other things that are...complicated. Things that have nothing to do with Cain.”

  She didn’t want to give Ariel too much information about the people who might come after Hayley. The more Ariel knew, the more dangerous it could be for her.

  Hayley’s hacking—selling fake college entrance test scores to rich kids—had been pretty benign compared to what she’d stumbled across when she’d been trying to get out.

  Someone was using the CET exam to commit treason. To sell government state secrets to other countries. Someone with a lot of political power.

 
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