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Chapter 32

 

As they climbed back into her car, Chloe leaned across and gave Paul a kiss on the cheek. She lingered long enough to whisper, "Remember, they probably bugged the car." Paul nodded that he understood.

"I'm really sorry about this," she said at normal conversational volume.

"I'm sure you are," Paul said, his voice dripping venom. "You know what? This is all bullshit."

Chloe pulled out of the parking space and started to navigate back towards the highway. "I don't see that we have a lot of options here."

"I could take the money and fucking run. I could leave all you crazy bastards behind and go away somewhere. Eight hundred and fifty thousand will last me a good long time in Costa Rica."

"Do you even have your passport, Paul? Do you have any idea how to make yourself disappear? The police, the FBI, they'll be monitoring your parents' house. We need the Crew if we're going to get you out of this."

"So everyone keeps telling me."

They drove on in silence for a while; Paul irritably scanning the radio stations looking for some news about himself. Eventually, Chloe grabbed his hand and pulled it away from the controls and shut the radio off.

"Listen to me, Paul," she said in a stern voice. "It's fucking decision time. If you're going to let us help you then fine, let us. If not then tell me where to drop you off and you can run if you want to. Just fucking decide, ok?"

Paul sighed in resignation. As he did it, he thought maybe he was overplaying it a bit, acting too dramatic. But Chloe had told him that the sound quality on whatever bug Raff's accomplices might have planted in the car would be poor, so they had to ham it up a bit. "Fine!" he practically shouted. "I've trusted you guys this far. In for a penny, in for a fucking pound."

Chloe patted him on the knee. "You've made the right decision Paul. You really have." She paused for just a beat of dramatic tension. "Now tell me, where did you hide the money?"

"It's in a storage locker, under my cousin's name. I'll take you there, but can we get something to eat first? I'm starving."

"Of course we can," said Chloe. "How 'bout this place over here?"

Ten minutes later and they were sitting in a booth at a Don Pablo's, munching idly on warm chips and weak salsa. Surprisingly, they were giggling like school kids.

"I don't know why I'm laughing. This isn't funny," chuckled Paul.

"It's just the stress," smiled Chloe. "You did great, by the way. You played the pissed off victim very well - Raff bought, I'm sure."

"It wasn't hard. I just thought back to that time when my whole life got flushed down the toilet. You remember it right? I think it was this morning." He munched another chip and couldn't help but smile. "Still, it did go pretty well, didn't it? He acted exactly like you said he would."

"Yeah, he's trying to keep us close, make us think he's our friend."

"Surely he's got to suspect something though," said Paul. "If he saw what you and Bee were typing, then he's got to be curious."

"Yeah, but I think I threw him a curveball there by pressing you to hand over the money. I think he bought into the idea that I'm still trying to get your cash for the Crew as a whole. If we're lucky, he's betting that we haven't figured out that he's the traitor here."

"And you're now one hundred percent sure that he's the bad guy?"

"I am," Chloe said with dead certainty. "Absolutely."

"What convinced you? It still could've been someone else who snuck into the secure server."

"He asked how we were doing for money," said Chloe. "He even gave me a hundred bucks."

"What does that prove?"

"It's just not like him. He and I never talk money. Never ask each other about it. But he asked because he wanted to know how strapped we were for cash. He wanted to know what kind of resources we had at our disposal." Their waiter passed by at that moment and she flagged him down. "Excuse me, can we get our order to go instead? And bring the check when you get a chance." The waiter nodded no problem.

"We're not eating here?" said Paul.

"I want to test a theory."

"What's that?"

"That Raff's cancelled all our credit cards."

Paul looked shocked. "What? How… ?" Chloe gave him a look that said come on, remember who you're dealing with. "Ok, but why."

"He wants us desperate. He wants to press us full court and make sure we don't have any moves we can make."

"If we had credit," Paul said, as he understood what was happening, "We could run and wait for things to calm down a little. But without any credit cards we can't even put gas in the car, which means the only way to run is for us to go get the money."

"And lead Raff right to it."

The waiter returned with two Styrofoam boxes and the check. Chloe nodded to Paul and he gave the server his debit card. A few minutes later he returned and said that the card had been declined. Chloe gave him one of her cards instead. It came back declined as well, so they ended up paying with Raff's cash.

"Fuck," said Chloe. "He's a sneaky bastard."

"What?"

"That card I used, I didn't think he even knew about it. It's from one of my hidden accounts."

"Jesus… how much does he know?"

"Apparently he knows as much about me as I know about him," said Chloe. "I could empty or freeze a dozen of his accounts if I needed to, but I don't think that'll help us right now. He's probably got the whole Crew behind him on this and I can't beat all of them together."

"So we proceed with Plan A then," said Paul.

"Yep," she said as she stood up to go. "Let's hope Raff doesn't know all of my secrets, or we really are fucked."