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Infiltrate retribution, p.8

Infiltrate_Retribution, page 8

 part  #2 of  Exposed Series

 

Infiltrate_Retribution
 


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  I laughed, maybe a little too loudly.

  Emmett grimaced. “Rotten auto-

  correct. It was supposed to be Doctor

  Heath. Not my fault that’s not a common-

  enough name to make it into my cell

  phone’s dictionary.”

  I snorted. “You shouldn’t be composing

  a press release on your phone…”

  A lineup had started to form behind

  us. The attendant gave a disinterested nod

  and moved us along.

  We were in. The warm lighting danced

  off the flashy sequined dresses worn

  by most of the women in attendance,

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  myself included. Emmett wasn’t the only

  one who was playing dress-up. I held my

  head high. We might not be as rich as these

  people, or as educated, or entitled, but

  at least we were doing what we could to

  protect the little guy. The average person.

  Not people so glossed up with makeup

  and Botox and hair product they didn’t

  look real.

  “Doctor Death?” Emmett said. “Nice

  bit of improv.”

  “You weren’t too bad yourself. Way

  to keep up.” A shiver ran through me as

  our shoulders brushed and I became

  very aware of how tall Emmett was. How

  strong. How much I wanted to lean into

  that strength.

  My heart pounded in my chest.

  “Children, if we can stay focused

  on the task at hand,” Bentley said,

  making both of us jump. “Your target is

  approaching the stage.”

  Showtime.

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  TWENTY

  The room dazzled. Light glinted from

  ornate crystal chandeliers and stained-

  glass windows. The restaurant was a

  converted bank that had been restored

  to its former Victorian glory. They’d

  even kept the impressive brass-and-steel

  vault door. A glance at the lock had my

  fingers itching to give the combination

  a go. Safecracking was a skill I’d always

  wanted to develop further, and these old

  beauties were built to outlast us all.

  “Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues

  and members of the press, welcome

  to the opening keynote address of the

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  Pharmaceutical Development Association’s

  twelfth annual conference.”

  A round of applause from the audience.

  “We’re lucky to have one of the

  country’s foremost minds with us to share

  her insights into the issue of anxiety and

  today’s youth.” The lights dimmed further.

  Emmett and I steadily wove through

  tables and clusters of people until we

  found our table and the two empty chairs

  waiting for us.

  Well done on Jace’s part. We were only

  a few feet from the stage and had a clear

  line of sight to Dr. Millie as she stood at

  the podium.

  “Thank you so much. Let’s dive right

  in, shall we?” A large projection screen

  lowered behind her. “As most of you

  in this room are aware, there’s been a

  marked increase in cases of teen anxiety

  since it was initially noticed in the early

  1980s…” Photographs and infographics

  illustrated the points she made in her

  speech.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  Her words droned on.

  “Half of those statistics are taken out

  of context,” Bentley said in my ear. “The

  way she’s phrasing things, the omissions

  of crucial information…”

  “And they’re eating it up.” Emmett sat

  down and observed the crowd.

  “Ugh, she’s a piece of work.” Bentley’s

  frustration came through the in-ear

  monitors loud and clear.

  “She certainly is.” The words croaked

  out of my mouth. It took everything I had

  to stay seated when I just wanted to get

  up and punch that woman in the throat.

  No wonder Jace had taken up boxing.

  I was beginning to see the appeal.

  “You okay?” Emmett shot me a

  worried glance.

  “I will be once we take her down.”

  “Don’t do anything yet,” Bentley said.

  “We’re having trouble with the live feed

  from Jo’s end.”

  “Get it fixed, Bent, or I can’t make any

  promises.”

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  My rage continued to build. I wanted

  to challenge every smug word leaving

  Dr. Millie’s lips. Muscles in my legs tensed.

  The team had better pull through, or I was

  going to have to confront her on my own.

  “Easy, Raven.” Emmett put his hand

  over mine, making me aware that I’d been

  clutching at him, digging my nails into

  his thigh. “It will happen.”

  “Yeah, ’cause it’s going to happen right

  now.”

  “Wait, Raven,” Bentley and Emmett

  said, but I was already on my feet, waving

  my hands in the air. The crowd took notice.

  Dr. Millie kept her expression open and

  welcoming as she nodded my way.

  “It appears we have excited you all so

  much that some of you can’t wait for the

  Q&A.” She laughed.

  A spotlight shifted in my direction.

  Emmett tugged at my hand, but I was full

  steam ahead.

  “Thanks so much, Dr. Millie,” I gushed.

  “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but this is my

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  first time covering an event for the Health

  and Wellness Network, and I’m just so

  excited to be here.”

  Millie squinted, her expression

  tolerant, but I could tell she was trying to

  see me better through the blinding lights.

  “Such enthusiasm is not to be faulted.

  What’s your question, young lady?”

  “I know our followers will be keen to

  hear more about the recent drug trials

  you’ve been conducting in our area.

  The ones for AL28-9, the drug you’re

  planning to market to the masses under

  the name ALLY?”

  “I’m sorry, my dear, but I’m afraid

  you’re misinformed. I am not aware of

  any registered trials for that particular

  drug.”

  “Of course not. I’m not talking about

  legal trials. I mean the ones you’ve been

  conducting illegally on minors without

  their parents’ informed consent.” I smiled,

  ignoring the grumblings from the people

  around me.

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  Emmett stood at my side, glaring at

  the security guards coming up the side of

  the room. “We’ve got company.”

  “Bentley…” I mumbled under my

  breath.

  “I got you—we’re good from this end.

  Give me a minute to remote-access her

  laptop, but we’re go
ing to have a good

  long talk later about jumping the gun.”

  I tilted my chin down and made a

  show of digging through my clutch for

  a small notebook. “Whatever you say,

  Bentley. Just work your magic, wizard.”

  I held the notebook high and addressed

  the crowd. “I have proof, right here.

  Firsthand accounts from seven test

  subjects. Students who attend public

  schools in this very city.”

  The doctor scoffed. “What is this, some

  sort of prank for your YouTube channel?

  I’ll bet you’re not even a Health and

  Wellness blogger.”

  “It’s go time,” Bentley said.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  I let my smile widen. “Probably the

  first correct diagnosis you’ve made in

  a while.”

  “Where’s security? Get her out of

  here.”

  Just then the screen behind the doctor

  flickered. Feedback squealed through the

  loudspeakers. Everyone faced the screen.

  Millie paled.

  “Do you recognize that café, Dr.

  Millie?” I asked. “What about the girl

  sitting at the corner table?”

  “That’s…that’s my daughter,” the

  doctor sputtered. “What the…?”

  “You’ve said you’re confident in Ally’s

  ability to treat teens with anxiety. And

  that it will easily pass all fda and Health

  Canada testing. You’re so confident you’ve

  been secretly testing teens across the city

  including at least three who have killed

  themselves. Well, why don’t we put your

  faith to the test. If there are no adverse

  side effects, then you wouldn’t mind if

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  your daughter was one of the test subjects,

  would you?”

  The screen blackened, then flickered

  back to life, drawing everyone’s stare.

  I knew it was Jace behind the phone

  camera, filming in real time as Jo entered

  the frame. She was dressed as a barista, the

  café’s apron around her waist, and wore an

  angled-bob wig with the hair strategically

  blocking her face. She expertly prepared a

  latte, flashed a pill at the camera and then

  dropped it into the steaming drink.

  “No, don’t do this—this can’t be

  happening…” Millie said, her mic

  picking up the panic in her voice.

  The camera followed Jo as she glided

  across the café, set the drink on the young

  woman’s table and walked away.

  “No, Katie, don’t drink it, noooo!”

  Millie screamed, her voice echoing in the

  silent ballroom.

  The crowd gasped as the girl took one

  sip, then another. The screen went dark.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  “What have you done?” Millie asked,

  hunched over the podium, barely able to

  stand.

  I felt for her then, but I didn’t want

  to. I looked away to see two forms taking

  shape in my peripheral vision. My

  parents, standing there in the crowd.

  Unlike everyone else, they weren’t

  looking at the screen or the podium, but

  glaring right at me. Like they wanted to

  rip me to pieces.

  A wail of despair from the stage had

  me snapping my head around. Forget

  them— they aren’t here. The real monster

  was up on that stage.

  “No, Doctor. What have you done?”

  I said. The screen came to life once more.

  Two guards suddenly grabbed Emmett

  and brought him under control, snapping

  his arms behind his back and fixing them

  in place with plastic ties.

  Photos of kids flashed across the

  screen, pictures Bentley had copied from

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  their Facebook pages. “These are the

  daughters and sons you’ve killed.”

  I held out my hands for the guard

  to take me in without a fight, but I kept

  yelling out the accusations, knowing the

  crowd was listening. Judging. “They’re

  all test subjects of your illegal trial. All

  of them committed suicide within forty-

  eight hours of your trial dosages. How do

  you think your daughter will handle it?”

  The security guards shoved us from

  the room, and the audience exploded into

  shouts as the double doors slammed shut.

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  TWENTY-ONE

  Officer Daniels met us at the rear entrance.

  He did not look pleased. I took a step closer

  to Emmett, not sure if I was offering him

  my support or needing some myself. The

  guards were having none of it either way,

  jerking us both in opposite directions.

  When I stumbled under the rough

  handling, Officer Daniels’s eyes narrowed

  even more. “I’ll take it from here, boys.”

  The guards handed us over and strode

  back toward the conference room, now

  beginning to empty in a steady stream of

  outraged delegates.

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  “Dad, you came,” Emmett started, but

  his father cut him off with a curt shake of

  his head.

  “Not here.”

  We walked silently across the foyer and

  outside to his police cruiser. Daniels opened

  the back door, and we awkwardly climbed

  in. Even the smallest action is ten times

  harder with your hands tied behind your

  back. He tossed us a pair of wire clippers.

  “Figure that out amongst yourselves.”

  “Here, let me.” Ever the gentleman,

  Emmett worked the clippers, setting

  me free first. It took a bit of contortion

  work from both of us, but he eventually

  sliced through the plastic without slicing

  through me. With my hands free, I took

  a second to remove Emmett’s comm link

  from his ear and pocketed it, ignoring

  the disappointment in his gaze, and then

  snipped the plastic ties around his wrists.

  I rubbed at the itch and irritation already

  starting on my own wrists.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  “Where can I drop you off, Raven?”

  Daniels said.

  I hesitated. Even Emmett didn’t know

  where I lived or anything about Big Daddy.

  “At the corner is fine. I can make my

  way from there.”

  “Raven.” Disappointment rang in

  Emmett’s voice. “We can give you a

  ride home, you know. We don’t care

  where you live—we’re not going to use

  that information against you. We just

  want you home safe.” He sighed. “After

  everything, you really don’t trust us?”

  My mouth opened, but the words

  Emmett wanted refused to leave my lips.

  Did I trust them? Yes, to a certain extent.

  But I didn’t even feel comfortable with

  Jo knowing wh
ere I laid my head, let

  alone a cop who might have a change of

  heart and decide to turn me in if things

  got sticky for him down the road.

  “No, it’s better this way, Emmett.”

  Daniels met my gaze in the rearview mirror.

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  “If my boss asks, I can’t tell him what I

  don’t know. I just have one question. Did

  you really dose that girl?”

  I shook my head hard. “No way.” They

  had to understand. “We’d never hurt

  anyone like that. It was just some mints.

  We were all about shock and awe, not

  actually out to do damage.”

  “That’s good, Raven,” Daniels said.

  “You have to be careful you don’t take

  things too far.”

  “Like the doctor did?”

  “You better hope no one was filming

  that debacle. If you show up on tv screens

  or the Internet, I won’t be able to protect

  you from the repercussions.”

  “Not to worry, Officer Daniels.

  We factored in every contingency.”

  His eyes narrowed. “Your tech guy is

  that good?”

  “Yeah, he is. A true wizard.”

  He shot Emmett a dark look. “This

  isn’t going to end well, son. Eventually this

  team is going to get in over their heads

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  and get caught. I don’t want you involved

  when they do.”

  “I never wanted Emmett to get in

  trouble. I won’t put him at risk. Not

  anymore.” I swallowed hard. “We’re agreed

  on that.”

  “No,” Emmett growled. “We’re not.

  If you need me, Raven, I’m there. No

  questions asked.”

  He was dead serious. I sat there,

  staring at Emmett. He was trying to be so

  strong as he stood up to his dad, taking a

  stance against him—for me. He didn’t get

  how lucky he was to have a dad who had

  his back, someone to keep the monsters

  at bay. Which was why I had to let him

  go. Once and for all.

  Because for me, the monsters were

  closing in. My lungs constricted.It was

  hard to breathe. I couldn’t take it anymore.

  “Pull over,” I said. “Now.”

  Daniels drew to a stop. He got out of

  the car and held my door open, silent,

  letting me decide my next move.

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  “Raven,” Emmett pleaded, “you can’t

  just…”

  But I was out the door and running

  down the darkened street into the night.

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  TWENTY-TWO

  “Are you sure about this?” Bentley’s

  fingers hovered over his keyboard.

  Over the last few days I’d thought

 
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