Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 12
Considering she was listed in the network’s public company contact directory, having her full name wasn’t exactly a shocker.
Just to make sure, he dug out his secure sat-phone and called Papa.
“Is this good news or bad?” Papa said by way of greeting.
“Not sure. Is Pandora handy?”
“Sure. Hold on. Let me track her down.”
A moment later, she was on the line. “Hello?”
“Hey, sweetie. I have a quick question for you.”
“You been using your CMM e-mail account for anything?”
“No. You told me not to.”
“You didn’t send an e-mail a little bit ago to that blog posting videos of Silo?”
Bubba grinned as he pulled up another browser window and sprang into action. “Just wanted to check. No one else using it with your permission, right? Like maybe Lima?”
“No. What’s going on?”
“I’ll call you back and let you know.” His fingers flew over the keyboard. “But I think it’s a lead.”
He hung up and, sure enough, a reply e-mail came arrived from the blog just moments later. The person was good at hiding their location, but not as good as Mike.
He grinned. “Gotcha.”
* * * *
Lima jumped as the sat-phone rang. “Yeah?”
“Write this down.” Bubba rattled off an address about a mile from where they were. “And this is what you’re looking for.” Lima could barely keep up with him as Bubba read off the MAC address of a laptop.
“They there right now?”
“Yep. Move it.”
“This our person?”
“Someone’s trying to chum our fish out of the weeds and into deeper water and got a nibble from them. We need to grab them, now, before anything else can happen.”
“So this is our fish, or the chummer?”
“Roger roger.” Lima ended the call and got the others’ attention. “Let’s move.” He’d been across the street from another coffee shop that Bubba had listed as a potential site.
“How do you want to handle this?” Chief asked from where she was riding shotgun with Omega. Their first day of searching, they hadn’t yet finalized a plan to involve using the helo, so they were on the ground in both SUVs.
Lima was in the SUVs backseat, Omega behind the wheel. “Find the person and wait until they leave to grab them,” Lima said. “We don’t want to scare a bunch of civvies or tip anyone else off.”
* * * *
Ax went ahead and responded to the CMM e-mail after he verified, via a quick tip-toe through CMM’s website, that the person was legit.
It would take him too long to change locations right now just to send the e-mail, and he had to get to work pretty soon. Besides, he was piggy-backing through alonegirl’s laptop again.
Good ole reliable alonegirl.
He did not want to lose out on a possibility of grabbing another hefty payout. His web traffic had gone crazy through the roof this morning, between the network’s interview of Silo yesterday morning, the release of the new clips, and following the President’s announcement last night about a possible Kite vaccine.
Yay, they might not all die, but he didn’t want Silo’s story eclipsed by the salvation of the human race at the hands of scientists, either. He needed to keep the pressure on Silo for now and couldn’t let an opportunity slip through his fingers.
Finishing up, he broke the connection and shut down, heading out. He’d have to swing by home later to grab his other laptop in case CMM had paid out. He definitely didn’t want to send the clips from his usual laptop, or from that particular coffee shop.
I’m going to be rich, and Silo is going to be disgraced. Perfect.
* * * *
Donna was about to reboot her computer because it was running so slow, until it finally started acting right again.
If she had more money she’d buy a new one but it wasn’t in the budget. Not when she had her future to think of. Saving up for retirement wasn’t something most people could claim to do anymore.
She wanted to blow the bell curve.
Relaxing in her seat, she skipped past news stories about an ongoing sex scandal with a preacher, and the President’s speech last night, to find a story about a little blind girl who had learned how to juggle.
All morning at work, coworkers and customers had tried to engage her in conversation about current events. As always, she smiled and deflected, staying professional and friendly, but on topic.
She was there to handle banking transactions, and that’s what she was getting paid to do. Not gossip about politics or anything else.
If someone wanted to tell her about their dog nailing a best-in-show ribbon, sure, she’d be happy to hear that. Or that their kid won a spelling bee.
Anything but current events.
Depressing as hell current events.
At their morning meeting before they opened, there were no new public health alerts for them to be aware of. Donna had her surgical mask firmly in place, was using copious amounts of hand sanitizer after each transaction, and she was going to do the job she was being fairly compensated for.
In other words, she wasn’t going to give anyone a reason to possibly discipline or fire her for not doing her job.
She wasn’t even minding the long days and split shifts. It was relaxing to come sit at the coffee shop every day. The staff changed fairly frequently, but a couple of the baristas had been there long enough to know her by name and actually get her name right on her order.
In her mind, Donna pretended she was an executive able to take long, leisurely lunches. It was kind of fun.
A couple of different guys, and a woman, none of whom she’d seen there before, came in while she was eating her lunch. They ordered and then left after hanging around for a little while. One of the guys even sat down at a table next to her usual comfy chair for a few minutes, working on his tablet.
Whatever. It wasn’t unusual to see people in there around lunch time making use of the free Wi-Fi. He made no move to talk to her, and she didn’t give him any body language to think she was looking for company, either. Sometimes guys would sit down close to her and eventually strike up a conversation. Keeping her earbuds in and focused on her laptop usually shut down ninety percent of those attempts.
When she finished her lunch, she shut down her laptop and packed up, heading to the bathroom first. After using the facilities and thoroughly washing her hands, she made sure her surgical mask was in place before heading out the front door.
That’s when her day went sideways.
She realized the woman she’d seen inside, a short, sturdy woman, was waiting outside. Next to her stood one of the men, the guy on the tablet.
Then they fell in step with Donna as she headed toward the corner to cross. “Hi, I have a quick question for you,” the woman asked.
Donna didn’t recognize her from the bank, either. “Yes?”
An SUV screeched up to the corner. Before Donna could react, two guys jumped out, grabbed her, and pulled her into the backseat with them.
She barely had time to scream before someone grabbed her hand and she felt her finger get pricked.
“What the hell?”
“Clear,” one of the men said.
The SUV, driven by a large black guy she also now recognized as one of the strangers she’d seen earlier, careened around a corner and sped south.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” Fear had tried to chip away at her.
One of the two men in the backseat threw a pillowcase over her head. “No questions. We’re not going to hurt you.”
They shoved her over on her side and pulled her hands behind her, her wrists bound with something hard and flexible, before they sat her up again.
“Chief and Lima behind us?” one of the guys ask
The man driving answered. “They’re behind us, catching up.”
“That was easier than I thought,” the second backseat guy said.
“Who the hell are you? Let me go!”
“Lady, your questions will all get answered once you answer ours, but that’s going to happen once we’re someplace quiet where we can talk.”
“I have to get to my job!” she cried. “I can’t get fired!”
The driver snorted. “Getting fired from your job is the least of your worries.”
Fear had definitely settled in. “Please don’t hurt me. I don’t have any money.”
“We’re not going to hurt you. And we don’t want money.” She wasn’t sure which one of the backseat men had spoken. They certainly sounded calm. And other than the hood and the handcuffs, or whatever they were, they hadn’t hurt her.
A phone rang, and one of them answered. “Package intercepted. Going to the safe house now.”
“Help!” she screamed.
“And here we go,” the driver said. “Lady, believe me. If we were going to hurt you, you’d be dead already.”
She cringed, trying to get away from the men, who were only holding her upper arms.
“Yeah,” one of the other guys said, apparently still on the phone. “She’s got a set of lungs on her.”
“That’s the truth,” the other guy muttered.
Guy on the phone appeared to be on her right, while the other guy was on her left.
“Please, let me go!”
“We’ll call you back when we’re secure,” Phone Guy said. “Bye.”
She’d lived a relatively charmed life. She’d never been mugged, always careful to use common sense. And she’d never had a problem in the middle of the day.
“Sit back and relax,” the guy on her left said. “It’ll take us about forty minutes to get there this time of day.”
“Why are you doing this to me?”
“You can sit there and behave, or we can give you something to knock you out that will likely leave you with a headache when you wake up.”
She cringed from him, shaking her head.
“I’m not your girl!” she screamed, her anger finally flashing over from fear. She started struggling, trying to head-butt the guy.
Phone Guy started laughing and slung an arm around her shoulders, pulling her back and immobilizing her. “Hey, she’s feisty.”
“Don’t let her talk to Clara,” Left Guy said. “She’ll teach her castrations.”
“Hold the fuck still,” Phone Guy said, his serious tone now brooking no resistance. “We’re not going to hurt you, but if you don’t settle down, you will take an involuntary nap.”
Trembling, she decided whatever was going to happen, maybe she’d better listen to them. Yanking herself free, she sat up in the middle of the seat, trying not to touch either of them.
“There you go,” the driver said, sounding decidedly amused.
Donna still couldn’t process that she’d gone from spending her lunch break watching really cute and relaxing videos to…
Whatever this was.
And if they weren’t going to hurt her, she was going to hurt them. If she got fired because of…this, she was going to be really pissed off.
* * * *
When Uni put the phone away, he finally had time to contemplate their captured target. He had honestly expected a guy, not a woman. Stupid, he knew, because sure there were plenty of very skilled female hackers in the world. Dressed liked she worked in an office, too.
She wasn’t a bad-looking woman, either. Brown hair down to her shoulders, and greenish hazel eyes he’d gotten a glimpse of before they’d pulled the pillowcase over her head. Didn’t want her knowing where the safe house was, and really didn’t want to use a blindfold on her that she might be able to rub down and see around. She was a couple of inches taller than Chief, and built slimmer with curves in all the right places.
Definitely wasn’t someone he’d mind getting to know better.
Of course, that was if they could overcome the initial meeting-slash-kidnapping first impression she had of them. To her credit, she’d settled down. He didn’t know what that would mean later, if she had a few tricks up her sleeve or not, but the fact that she was totally unprepared to be taken into custody like that, caught completely unaware, meant she wasn’t used to watching over her shoulder.
That niggled at his brain. Someone taking that great of pains to keep their identity a secret, shouldn’t she have at least been paying attention to her surroundings?
* * * *
Victor couldn’t help but let his mind wander as they sped back to the safe house. Maybe this was their chance, finally. Yeah, he’d gotten a pretty decent look at her before they’d hooded her, and she was cute.
He stared over her head and across the seat at Uni, whose blue gaze met his. Yes, he knew Uni’s feelings and fears. Couldn’t blame the guy, but dammit, this woman, whoever she was, was going to have to stay with them for a while.
For her own protection, if nothing else. Bubba said it looked like someone else was on her trail now, trying to chum her out of hiding. Bubba didn’t know for sure who yet, but they were very likely whoever was behind hacking into Pandora’s account back in March when she went to Australia.
Once this woman got done being pissed off at them and got to know them and realized they were trying to help her, maybe they could have a shot with her.
If she was single. At least none of the other guys were around for her to meet yet.
Single guys, that was.
Okay, I’ve lost it.
This was a mission, not a date.
Still, he couldn’t help but let the word dibs roll through his brain.
As Donna’s anger gave way to fear again, she realized she did, indeed, have far larger worries than whether or not she was going to lose her job.
Now, despite what the men had said, the fact that she might be about to lose her life was starting to sink in.
Of course they’d lie and say they weren’t going to hurt her. They wouldn’t want her to get upset and fight them. Keeping her calm was to their benefit.
What, kidnappers couldn’t be liars?
That would be a massive logic flaw.
Donna had no clue where they were taking her, only that based on what they’d said, it was likely outside of the city. Maybe if she could get away from them, she could run and get help.
Getting kidnapped is a legitimate reason for being late to work, right?
Wouldn’t someone miss her? She was supposed to be back…well, now. And she was the head teller on duty for the afternoon shift.
Hopefully someone would miss her. Lisa and Ginny wouldn’t be expecting her home until nearly ten that night. And they’d already be in bed, most likely, so they might not miss her until the next morning when she wasn’t getting ready with the rest of them.
Shouldn’t I be worried more about the fact that I’m being kidnapped than about the fact that my job might be on the line?
Maybe that’s why they were kidnapping her, because of her job at the bank.
“Look,” she said, hoping this wasn’t a mistake. “I’m just a head teller. I don’t have access to the vault or anything. If you took me because you think I can help you rob the bank, I can’t.”
The guy to her left sounded irritated. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“What? Isn’t that why you’ve kidnapped me? Because I work at the bank?”
“Lady, I don’t care where you work. That’s not why we’ve got you. And just sit tight until we get to where we’re going. We’ll explain it all then.”
“We’re not going to hurt you,” Phone Guy said on her right. “And it’ll be a mutually advantageous arrangement, I’m sure.”
“What? I…” Horror struck her. “Please don’
Now it sounded like all three men made disgusted sounding snorts. Guy on her left spoke up. “The last thing we’d ever do is rape you. Quit assuming the worst about people. Just…shut up. We’ll be there soon.”
She couldn’t explain it, but it almost sounded like she’d hurt his feelings.
And she was even more confused to realize she wasn’t sure if that made her mad…or made her feel vaguely guilty.
* * * *
Donna felt it when they slowed and turned into what she guessed was a driveway. The SUV stopped for a moment before pulling forward again, and she realized they’d driven into a garage and the door was being rolled down.
Once the garage door had closed behind them and the driver had shut off the engine, the men got her out, holding her arms and helping her, not roughly, she realized. Patiently, not yanking or dragging her. They waited for her to get her footing under her before leading her through the garage.
“Step up one step,” Phone Guy said.
She did, now feeling tile under her shoes instead of concrete.
Then they pulled the hood off her head.
She blinked, startled. They were in a house.
A very nice house.
Not exactly the kind of grimy lair she would have expected for kidnappers.
Somewhere in the house, the sound of the front door opening and closing sounded and she heard two people talking, a man and a woman.
They got her seated on the couch, her hands still bound behind her. She realized Phone Guy was blond and had gorgeous, dark blue eyes a totally different shade than Ginny’s. The other guy had curly brown hair and hazel eyes. He was a couple of inches taller than Phone Guy’s six feet, and was holding her computer bag.
The driver, the large black man, settled into an easy chair. And now the woman she’d seen, and the man with the tablet, entered through another doorway to join them.
Brown Hair handed the man with the tablet her bag.
Donna protested, even though she couldn’t do anything with her hands still bound. “Hey, that’s mine!”
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
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