Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 14
“Then that’s perfect,” Victor said. “Tell them you made a deal with your parents just to shut them up. Tell them they lied to you that someone was sick to trick you into going, but then they told you the truth, but you’d already taken the days off from work.”
She seemed to consider it. “How am I supposed to get home and get my stuff? I don’t even know where I am right now.”
“She’s your package, gentlemen,” Omega said to him and Uni. “You guys get to drive her and stay with her to guard her.”
Victor was trying to figure out a ruse that would explain the presence of two strange men in her life when she solved it for them.
“They won’t be home before six at the earliest. If you can get me there and out before then, I won’t have to explain you.”
“Then let’s go,” Uni said, starting to rise.
She didn’t move. “I do have a lot of cousins they’ve never met,” she said, apparently still stuck in strategy mode.
Oh, boy. She was pretty, and obviously book-smart if she had a business degree and was a head teller at a bank, but she wasn’t exactly a tactical weapon in terms of on-the-fly planning.
I hope Uni likes her. And that maybe she’ll come to like us.
* * * *
Donna hadn’t moved, apparently still lost in trying to figure out her story.
Uni fought the urge to sit there and shake his head in disbelief.
She really is going to out-snowflake our original snowflake.
He hoped like hell that shit didn’t go south while trying to flush out their real target. He wasn’t sure this one had enough common sense to come in out of the rain.
Granted, she had to be relatively smart to do what she did for a living. They didn’t hire idiots to work in a bank.
Having book-smarts did not necessarily mean a person had street-smarts.
Why couldn’t Victor have cozied up to Panda before Foxtrot and Kilo won her heart?
What the hell was he thinking? This was a woman, a person. This wasn’t a candy shop.
“I could always tell them you’re my cousins,” Donna said. “They haven’t met all of them. And I have a lot of them. Maybe that I’m spending time with my cousins?”
“Then shouldn’t we get moving before they get home?” Uni asked.
He realized belatedly how snarky that came out sounding.
She glared at him. “Listen, dude. I didn’t ask to be pulled into this mess in the first place. Okay? I’m the one who has to live with and deal with the fallout of all these secrets that I didn’t want anything to do with. You dumped a shitload of…well, shit into my lap that I’ll have to figure out. So give me two seconds to figure it out.”
Well, she’s ballsy. I’ll give her that much.
He once again relaxed into his chair, realizing they weren’t going anywhere until she was satisfied she knew what to say.
Or finished venting her spleen at them.
“All I wanted to do was eat my lunch and relax. I didn’t ask for any of this! So you can damn well give me a couple of minutes.” Her tone verged on upset again. Now that Lima—and therefore the rest of them—were convinced she was innocent, he felt badly her life had been upended like this.
“I know the world is going to shit, okay? I know I can’t do anything about it. You think I like seeing videos of what’s going on around the world? Hearing about people dying all over the place? No! I don’t. Now it’s great you guys have a chance to get the upper hand here, but I think I deserve five fucking minutes to get my head around it!”
Uh oh. She was close to breaking down.
He immediately backed up and readjusted his approach. “I’m sorry,” he said as Chief shot him a reproachful glare from across the table. “You’re right. I’m sorry. You didn’t ask for this.”
“Damn right I didn’t!” Now she was crying again and when Chief quietly got up to walk around the counter for more paper towels for her, he realized Donna didn’t even realize she was crying.
“I know people pick on me for not wanting to know what’s going on, but you know what? Is knowing what’s going on going to fix things? No. Not for me, it’s not. Do you think I like living with the knowledge that maybe we’re all going to die because of some fucktard in North Korea who had delusions of grandeur and decided he wanted to play God? Fuck, no! Do you know how fucking long it’s been since I’ve had a boyfriend? My parents—I love them, but they’re a joke. They’re completely irresponsible. It’s been me and Lisa and Ginny, and they’re like family to me. They’re smart, and we’re doing okay. Do you think I like the idea that maybe even though we’ve worked hard, worked our asses off, and maybe phhtp tomorrow it’s all gone just because someone sneezed on me and gave me this zombie flu crap? No!”
She’d screamed the last word as tears rolled down her cheeks. He realized she wasn’t wearing makeup, and despite the red eyes and puffy nose, she was still pretty.
He also knew she probably hadn’t realized she’d stuck that little tidbit about a lack of a boyfriend into her rant.
Chief silently handed Donna the whole roll of paper towels before she retook her seat, this time firing a deadly glare in Uni’s direction that could only be interpreted in one way—Fix. This. Now. Asshole.
“I’m sorry, Donna,” Uni softly said, refusing to look in the direction of his partner.
From the feel of the hot holes being burned into his shoulder blades by Victor’s gaze, he didn’t need to look to see the man’s irritated expression.
Donna ripped off a sheet from the roll and blew her nose. “Didn’t you say your guy hacked into the church’s computer system?”
“Yeah,” Lima said, also angrily glaring across the table at Uni. “The guy who helped us find you.”
“And you said that the preacher’s wife, she left with money, right?”
He let Lima do the talking, since Lima seemed to not be pissing her off more or getting her upset. “Transferred money out of an account that was in her name, yes.”
“Over twenty million dollars.”
She looked at Lima like he was an idiot but Uni didn’t understand why. “The cops couldn’t track it?”
“Whoever’s helping her—we assume that’s who did it for her—is skilled at moving money overseas. Probably into a MacCoin account. Those things can be a bitch to figure out and untangle. And we think Silo might not have said anything to the cops about the money because it’s never been talked about in the media.”
“Did they move it all out of the original account at once, or several transfers?”
“All at once. Why? Why is that important?”
She blew her nose again. “Then the Federal Reserve’s NSA classified branch will have a record of where it went. Any one-time transfers outside of the US of over ten million dollars, any of the countries that are part of the EU, or signees of the UN’s 2109 Finance Security Reform treaty, they have to database it in secret and hold onto that data for five years in case any of the signor countries need to subpoena it for international criminal investigations. The personal info might be hard to get hold of, but the exact amount itself, if you have it, will be easy to find, if you’ve got NSA access. That was the condition the safe-harbor countries agreed upon to get their safe harbor statuses restored from when it was taken away over a hundred years ago. They wanted the fees to help their ailing economies. Switzerland, the Caymans, all of them.”
Uni blinked, checking to make sure his mouth wasn’t gaping. He looked at Lima. “What?”
“Uh, I don’t know.” He turned back to Donna. “What?”
Now she looked disgusted. “Come on, your super-secret computer guy doesn’t know that? It’s part of the treaty. The data itself is all classified info, supposedly to ‘protect our privacy.’” She used air quotes. “The IRS can’t even get into that info, which m
She ripped off another piece of paper towel to blow her nose.
Lima looked gut-punched. “How many people know about that?”
“In banking? Everyone. Well, maybe not regular counter tellers. It was included as info in the training they put me through when I got promoted to a head teller position. I’m on track for a promotion to a desk job as an account rep in less than six months. I mean, anyone who knows about the treaty and international laws would know about it, too, of course. If someone asks us about their privacy regarding money transfers out of the country, we have to mention IRS rules to them, and that as well, if the transaction dollar amount is high enough. I’ve personally never had to—”
Lima bolted from his chair. “I have to call Bubba.” He ran from the dining room.
She stared after him. “That was rude.” She looked at Uni. “You mean you guys didn’t try tracing the money that way?”
“I’ve never even heard of that before,” Chief said. “And I was involved in some high-level narcotic ring investigations.”
“It doesn’t apply to domestic transfers. That’s all governed by the IRS.”
Uni realized that Donna might not be street-smart, but unless Bubba had already played that thread out, she might have just schooled them.
When Lima returned a few minutes later, Donna thought he looked like someone had punched him in the stomach.
“Bubba said he’d completely missed that. He hadn’t bumped up against that recently and had forgotten all about it. He’s working on a contact now to look into it for him.”
“Not bad for someone who doesn’t have a complex password, huh?” Donna knew it wasn’t polite to be snarky, and she didn’t care.
She was the one whose life had been upended by these guys, no matter how nice of eye candy they were. Yes, realistically, she would absolutely take the monetary payout and run, so to speak. If nothing else, maybe it would help keep her and Lisa and Ginny alive if they had to flee Atlanta.
No way in hell she’d leave the other two women behind. But with that cash cushion, if things got really bad, they could buy a used RV and go hide out in the mountains or something until everyone else died off.
It wasn’t much of a plan, she knew, but at least it was something.
Lima slid back into his chair. “Yes, we missed something. Our job is to be given intel and follow it out. We’re not always at the front line of collecting data. We’re assigned a mission and we go from there. It’s not my job to know about a lot of stuff.”
She glared at Uni and Victor. “Hope your friend is better at finding this guy you’re looking for than he’s been so far. He misses something obvious like that, and he puts you onto me? He’s batting zero.”
Again, rude, but her day had been shot to hell—her whole week. She’d been forcibly evicted from her bubble of denial, dammit.
Someone would pay for that.
These guys were as good a target as any.
Omega chuckled as he slowly shook his head at the men. “You boys are in for a week of hell, I can see it already. Do you want backup, or can you handle getting her to her apartment and back alone?”
“We’ve got it,” Victor said, looking less than pleased, his handsome, rugged face wearing a dark expression.
“Why do you look so miserable?” she shot at him. “This is your job, isn’t it?”
Now that she was no longer in fear of her life or of bodily harm, she’d get the meanness out of her system.
They were forcing her to lie.
To her friends.
“Look, we’re not assholes, okay?” he shot back. “Cut us some slack.”
“Cut you some—are you serious?” She stood, planting her hands on the table as she leaned in and yelled at him. “You scare the everloving crap out of me, mess up my fucking life, tell me my life might be in danger now if these psychos come after me the way you did, and you have your nose out of joint? Unbefuckinglievable!”
Chief, her lips pressed together in a tight line, let out a barely stifled snort.
“Is this funny to you?” she screamed at the other woman.
Chief held her hands up. “Hey, I’m Switzerland,” she said. “A couple of these yahoos scared the crap out of me busting into my station with a hand grenade when this guy here”—she hooked a thumb at Omega—“and Echo and I were already playing on the same team.”
Donna swallowed, feeling slightly ill. “Hand grenade?” she weakly asked.
“That was Annie and you know it,” Lima lightly said. “She got sent in as a diversion. We weren’t really going to blow up the station. We were just trying to rescue Omega and Echo. Cell phones systems were down, and the military had scrambled radio communications in the area ahead of them blowing up Barstow. How were we supposed to know Chief had already talked to General Arliss by then?”
The sick feeling returned. Donna sank into her chair. “The military blew up Barstow? I thought that was an accident? You did that?” They’d left that out of their earlier telling of events.
“No, no no no!” they all said, Omega taking over. “We didn’t have anything to do with it. We were lucky not to get caught up in it.”
Chief’s gaze dropped to the table. When she spoke, she sounded sad. “I was on the phone with my ex’s girlfriend when they…when it happened. She was scared and called me.”
When Chief looked up and met Donna’s gaze, Donna spotted the grief there. “The guy was a slimeball, and he cheated on me, but she was pregnant. I’d called and begged them not to go to Barstow. We didn’t know what was happening, only that it likely wasn’t anything good.” She looked down at her hands where she was picking at her cuticles. “I begged them, and he blew me off. He and others were trying to get a city bus running to leave. Families with them. He worked for the garage. And he blew me off and told me to have a good life.”
“I…I’m sorry,” Donna said.
Chief didn’t look up. She shrugged. “She said when I talked to her that Dave was sick. Probably caught Kite in the evacuation. So they were both likely dead anyway. It’s just…”
When she finally looked up and met Donna’s gaze again, there were tears in her eyes. “Silo is the main reason Kite blew up in LA so big and so fast. Him and his damn ‘research facility.’ The ‘Preachsearch Project,’ as we found out it was called. Yes, Kite was spreading some because of incoming refugees, but they put test rounds of the drug out there, spiked with the virus, and the riots and stuff helped conceal that fact for a while. It was a smaller test run before their big grand finale. New York, too. It was all in the notes the guys recovered from the lab before they blew it. So even though it was the military who pulled the trigger, I blame Silo for Barstow. And there’s a line ahead of me for castrating the guy, but I plan to be standing in it anyway when the time comes in case someone leaves enough for me to stomp on.” A tear rolled down the obviously tough woman’s cheek.
Donna handed Chief the roll of paper towels.
* * * *
Donna took her wallet, keys, and phone with her and quietly rode in the backseat while Victor drove and Uni rode shotgun. Before leaving the safe house, which turned out was near Peachtree City, she’d shown them on a tablet map where her apartment was.
If they hurried, they could beat the rush-hour traffic and get her in and out. Then she’d call Ginny and Lisa later and tell them…something.
Donna still worked on her story. She knew she’d have to know it by heart before she talked to them or she’d trip herself up. Lying was not a skill she excelled at. She believed in telling the truth, unless doing so would hurt someone’s feelings. Then it was better to keep her mouth shut.
Lying wasn’t a practiced or natural thing to her. It was another reason she got along so well with Lisa and Ginny. They trusted her and she trusted them.
“So how long have you guys been…partners?” She’d caught that part during the overview of the events.
Apparently, some of the guys in the unit were partners with each other. Which, she had to imagine, probably made it difficult on them when in tough situations, knowing the guy you loved might die.
“Four years now,” Uni said.
“Longer than that,” Victor corrected. “Been almost five.”
Cute. They even sounded like a married couple. “Can I ask you guys for a favor?”
Uni glanced back at her but without making eye contact. After Omega had taken Chief and led her to one of the bedrooms to comfort her, she’d struck up a tenuous truce with the other three men.
They were trying to do good. Trying to fix this mess.
The least she could do was to not be a bitch to them. Especially these two. Hell, if they were gay, she doubly didn’t have to worry about anything with them.
“I can’t promise you anything until I hear it,” Uni said.
“If…if things get bad in Atlanta. My roommates. Can you please help us get out of the area?”
“I thought you said your uncle had a cabin?”
“He does. My mom already told me I can’t bring anyone with me. Not enough room, according to her. I won’t leave them behind. Neither one of them have any family. It’s just the three of us, as far as I’m concerned, because I won’t leave them.”
“Wow. That’s pretty cold of your family to say that.”
“No shit. My family doesn’t exactly have a great track record for stellar responsible decision-making skills.”
He turned a little farther in his seat, this time to meet her gaze. “You really care about your friends, don’t you?”
“I love them. They’re like sisters to me. I’m sorry if I appear to be stupid when it comes to this kind of stuff, but lying to them isn’t easy for me. At all. It doesn’t feel right. Because I normally don’t do it, and they know I don’t like to lie.”
TYMBER DALTON SERIES:
Other author's books:
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