Authors: Havan Fellows
Okay, so he didn’t technically run smack dab into Ned Harris. More like into the scene of the man messing with the lock on an office door.
Biting his lip and kicking himself for his audible surprise, he quickly swung back around the corner and pressed against the wall. Because everyone knew if you were pressed against a wall no one would notice you. He rolled his eyes and darted across the hall and into the copier room, closing the door quietly. Wick squatted down and peeped through the door-length window next to it.
Sure enough, Mr. Harris poked his head around the corner. After peering down an empty corridor, he turned and disappeared again.
Wick counted to five then slid out of the copier room and peeked his head around the wall, much like the other man just did.
The corridor appeared empty, but the office door that Harris had fiddled with swung open now.
Wick straightened up and nonchalantly strolled past the office, risking a glance in as he did so. He didn't notice anything except a couple of chairs and the corner of a desk. Damn. Did he want to chance it and discover what Harris was up to?
He really didn’t have a choice;Harris shouldn’t have been here in the best of situations. The fact that he worked for the competition and insider trading of secrets most certainly occurred meant this wasn’t the best of situations by any stretch of the imagination. If this man had something to do with the trumped up charges that hovered over Brad, he had to investigate.
Wick hated attacking without a structured plan. He never enjoyed the spur of the moment moments. They were a nesting ground for shoddy work and real mistakes.
But on the flip side, fun was fun.
He stopped his forward momentum and stepped back two paces. Arching his spine and leaning to the right, he peered into the slightly open doorway. It didn’t benefit him any, though.
Using the tip of his shoe he pushed the door open a fraction more, wide enough for his head so he could peer inside the room.
A blurred shape arced downward toward him and he quickly moved out of its trajectory pattern. Dropping to his knees he instinctively swung upward and his fist made contact with the meaty part of a man’s thigh.
A shock of pain flaring at Wick's temple followed an oomph and thud.
"Son of a bitch!" He gritted his teeth and tried to stand back up. His body had different ideas though. His eye burnt from the blood trickling into it and his legs wobbled under him.
"I didn't actually mean to clock you one, but you tried to make me a eunuch. I lost my grip on the stapler."
Sensing that the danger of the desk accessories had passed, Wick succumbed to his body's demands and fell the rest of the way to the floor, rolling on his side so he could keep Harris, who also was on the ground massaging his inner thigh, in his line of sight.
"There is no way a simple stapler drew first blood. And the hell you didn't mean to hit me; you swung that bad boy tighter than the Babe." He blinked his eyes and fought the pain, "For the record, I was miles away from your family jewels."
Wick nudged the heavy duty stapler that lay on the ground near him and cussed again. The thing was huge, the kind made of thick metal that could staple hundreds of pages in one fell swoop. "You took a swing at me with that monster? Jesus, I could file attempted murder charges on your ass."
"Oh yeah, and while you're at it you can explain why you're here in the first place."
Wick tentatively touched his temple and winced. "Damn that smarts. I'm here on business."
Harris humphed at him, "I don't need to explain to a retired cop how that excuse won't fly at the precinct."
Sitting up and leaning against the wall, Wick elbowed the door shut and crossed his ankles. "Oh pray tell. What do you know about me being a retired cop? You don't even know me."
He smirked when Harris darted his gaze all around.
"I'm waiting…" He let his voice trail off.
"I have no idea what you are inferring to. I have to get going." He climbed to his feet.
Wick also rose to his feet, ignoring the fact that the room suddenly spun and his stomach flipped over. "Ah ah ah…not so fast, my little plant. Why haven't I noticed you at the station? Are you a transfer?I'm there almost every night…"
"No, you're not."
"Ah ha!" Wick pointed to Harris's chest and smirked. "Now that that is cleared up, what's your agenda?"
Harris gave him a droll look, like Wick wasn't accustomed to that. "I don't have to answer any of your questions, Wink." Harris sneered.
Wick couldn't hold in his laughter, "No need to be nasty, just because you've been caught en flagrante delicto. I'm just that much better than you,rookie. Ahh…but don't worry, you have promise."
Harris leaned over and picked up the deadly stapler. "Did you catch me? Or did I catch you?"
"Just because I'm not thirsty for blood like you doesn't mean you've got the upper hand."
Harris rubbed the inner side of his thigh again. "No, you're just thirsty for bruises. This isn't the time or place for our who's-got-the-bigger-pecker dance. Let's get out of here and compare notes."
Snorting, Wick turned and peeked out the door. "I'm not sharing a damn thing with the popo." He slid out of the room and closed the door, whispering through the crack right before it clicked, "And by the way, I'm hung like a fucking horse, dance over."
Slipping passed the guards to exit Lexincorp turned out to be extremely easy. Wick spared no sympathy for idiocy.
Within half an hour he entered his favorite bar, Chances Are. Nodding to Chance, the proprietor, who, as always, sat on the last stool at the bar, Wick picked up the two shots awaiting him. He headed for his table in the far corner, tucked away for privacy but positioned to observe the whole place. Chance seemed to know when he planned to visit and this table always waited for him.
He pulled his netbook out of the messenger bag and booted up the tiny computer. This wasn't his go-to computer by any means, but the size made it a valuable asset at certain times.
When Harris entered the bar, the first shot glass was already empty and the thumb drive already installed and open.
"Son of a bitch." Wick whispered to himself. He knew that man couldn't have followed him here; he'd kept his senses on high alert.
Harris didn't even bother to act subtle. He high-tailed it to Wick's table and sat down, motioning for the waitress to bring another round.
Intercepting the hand that reached for his second shot, Wick scooped it up and slammed it back. "I don't play well with others. What do you want?"
"To keep Brad out of jail, just like you. He's a decent enough guy and doesn't deserve this witch hunt fixated on him."
Wick leaned back in his chair and studied Harris's smooth features. He had to admit the face was sexy as hell, too bad the owner annoyed the shit out of him, and they'd only known each other for an hour or so. "Fine. I'll listen to what you've got to say."
Sierra, Wick's regular waitress, deposited two more shots on the table, one in front of each of them. Then she placed a glass of water and a clean rag next to Wick's netbook. He raised an eyebrow at her.
"Courtesy of Chance. He said something about not wanting to keep the evidence around?" She ran her nail over her temple a couple of times and Wick remembered the drying blood on his head. She knew better than to ask Wick questions, a top reason why she procured a favorite spot in Wick's book.
After she left, Wick and Harris got down to business. Harris's tight-lipped answers proved that he wasn't all for the open sharing, luckily Wick excelled in reading between the lines.
"So we have two companies here that have been at war with each other for the past three years, both of their values slowly deteriorating over that time. Up until the last three months when their stocks have steadily increased."
Wick nodded noncommittally as he maneuvered through the files on his thumb drive and pulled up the company's URL address, quickly accessing their M drive. "Who's the highest up in Lexincorp that might have his hands filthy?"
"Uh?" Harris sniffed his drink and made a face. "Tequila? Where's the limes and salt?" He glanced around the table.
"At Kroger, limes are on sale. I need a full name—first, middle, last." He waved his hand in a come-on gesture.
Harris took out his PDA and used the stylus to tapon the screen. "Um…here, I imagine Alexander Grent might be the ringleader."
"Middle?" Wick wet the tip of the rag and poked at his tender forehead and temple. The cloth tinged from his ministrations. He glared at Harris as he waited.
"I said sorry. I've got a bruise in a very bad spot myself, if that matters." He scrolled down some more. "Here it is…um…Chipper? Alexander Chipper Grent?"
Wick snorted but typed in GRENTAC as the password. The computer blinked red and gave him an error message. He strummed his fingers on the table and contemplated this situation. He tried again, but instead of using the full last name he only entered the first four letters this time. The screen blinked again, then opened to a long list of files.
"What are you doing on that thing? Damn that's tiny."
"Buying shoes. Four inches aren't too slutty, are they?" He quickly perused the list of files until he got to one that only had three allowed viewers. That held appeal.
A spreadsheet opened in front of him with names and dollar amounts. He clicked on the link of one of the corporations accepting payments from Lexincorp with the memo notated as
Wick felt Harris's presence behind him. "Holy shit! That's the CEO of Brad's company. We've got our mole."
Wick ducked through the hole in the chain-link fence and circled around the apparently abandoned warehouse. The noises behind him made him grit his teeth and bite his tongue. It irked Wick that Harris seemed attached to his side, but not like it should've.
He reached the stairway to the second floor and took two steps at a time. "You live here? Um…why?"
Wick inserted his key into the door and glanced down the two steps to where Harris
stood. "I've made a lot of enemies in my line of work, got a few hits on me in the process. Best not to be flashy."
Harris widened his eyes. "Damn, really?"
Wink gave him a droll look. "No, not really. What do you think I am? A gangsta?" He shook his head and unlocked the door, making a beeline for the open kitchen in the far corner. The floor plan of his place was simple and open, split into quarters—kitchen, bedroom in the other, office in the adjacent far corner from the door and the final fourth of the place held a leather couch and some tables with a big flat screen television set mounted on the wall. In the bedroom quarter, out of sight behind a tiled L-shape wall, was the bathroom with an open shower that boasted two shower heads, one on the left tile wall and the other on the right.
Wick didn't appreciate closed in spaces, and that reasoning alone prompted him to buy this warehouse and apartment. A simple bonus was the abandoned vibe it portrayed. He liked his privacy. Of course he didn't plan to give up his luxury to achieve his privacy. The inside design leaned toward the modern side with nice clean lines and all the amenities up-to-date.
"Are you aware that you're a complete asshole?" Harris slammed the door shut and stopped at the couch, leaning on the back of it while crossing his arms over his chest.
Wick snorted, "Yes." He grabbed the fresh ground coffee from the freezer and measured it. "Drinking coffee or no? I've got beer and iced tea also, no soda though. Can't stand that fizzy shit."
"Coffee's fine. So you packed it up awful quick after we discovered the mole, and you took the back way to your place through that fence and all. Are we evading people or what?"
Wick finished pouring the water in and hit the button, turning around and mimicking Harris's stance against the counter. "Can't seem to evade you, now can I? And we went that way because my car isbelow us…" he stomped hard on the floor, "in the warehouse. Through the fence is quicker than taking a nice leisurely stroll all the way around. I'm lazy by nature."
Harris nodded his head, but Wick knew that type of nod. It more or less brushed off an explanation that Harris didn't truly buy.
What Harris didn't realize was that when Wick lied to him, and there was no doubt that he would sooner or later, it wouldn't be over something so trivial as why he took the shortcut home and he damn sure wouldn't be able to pick up on it.
"So, why are you here? You know who the mole is." He tossed a thumb drive on the island counter separating the two men. It skidded across and halted a millimeter or two before it would have slid over the edge. "I saved the incriminating evidence on there for you. It's an open and shut case now."
Harris pushed himself off of the couch and retrieved the drive, leaning his elbows on the counter as he switched it from hand to hand. "This will definitely get convictions on the guilty parties, that's for sure. Too bad I can't use it." He placed it back down and with the tip of his pointer finger pushed it all the way over to the edge of the counter on Wick's side.
Wick froze in mid-stretch for the coffee mugs. "Like hell you can't." He again mimicked Harris's pose with elbows on the countertop and pushed the drive back over. "I'm not a cop. It doesn't matter how I retrieved this info, it's admissible."
"Yes, it is…if you turn it in to the cops. Not if I do."
"I gave it to you; you're a cop. Claim an anonymous informant or something."
"I'm not a cop."
"Yes, you are."
"No, I'm not."
"You admitted you were!"
Harris shook his head and smirked at Wick, "No, you assumed I was. I just didn't correct you at the time. Now, you know what they say about assuming, right, Wink?" And to add insult to injury, he winked.
Wick gaped at him, just before he growled, "Who the hell are you then?" He nonchalantly stood up straight and crossed his arms again, making sure his right hand rested damn close to his piece.
Harris raised both his hands, palms showing to Wick. "Calm down, we aren't drawing on each other." He cocked his head to the side and half-grinned, "At least not today. I'm a special agent. Not a cop."
"Need to know, which you don't. Hey, nothing has changed here. Yeah, I could take this info and say I've got an informant, but a good defense attorney will blow holes in it left and right. I've witnessed it done, it's not pretty."
He picked up the drive and rounded the island so they stood toe to toe. Holding it up under Wick's nose, he continued, "With you sitting in that witness chair, combined with this, we have them."
"No. I work off the radar. Nobody at that place would even be able to eyeball me. I'm not testifying for anything." He plucked the piece of equipment out of the hand in his face and slid it in Harris's pants pocket, patting it for good measure. "Take that and go do the best you boys can do. Without me. Fuck, do I have to wipe your asses for you too?"
He hadn't meant to lean forward—those extra inches—that put him now nose to nose with Harris. As the man's scent hit him, his nostrils flared and his groin thickened. Damn, it'd been a long time since he was attracted to someone. Really seriously attracted to them and not just trying to scratch an itch. Why did it have to be this man? He reeked of complications.
When Harris licked his lips, Wick almost swore out loud. He realized he still had his hand pressed on the other man's pocket. It would be so easy to move it the slight distance to cover his groin, maybe press into it and find out if the close proximity affected Harris also.
So damn easy…