Tangled In a Digital Web Seguir história

iam_mwilliam M William

Bailey appears to be the typical New York girl next door: sweet, unassuming...and dangerous. With her extensive knowledge of technology, she is the city's best and most elusive hacker, until she finds out that there's someone even better than her. It's a race against the clock when her own digital fortress is attacked, and one of her victim's information is compromised. Will she be able to maintain her identity a secret?

Drama Para maiores de 18 apenas.

#romance #fiction #suspense #drama
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The Calm Before the Storm

   See you around… thanks for the great time, the note read. Obviously hastily scribbled and barely legible, Bailey had to read it three times before she understood it. Of course, her tired eyes and caffeine deprivation didn’t help much, either. Pushing the thick duvet aside, she shoved a stray strand of hair out of her eyes, groaning as she forced herself out of the soft bed. At least the Holiday Inn isn’t too ratty, she thought. Rolling her eyes and ripping out the pathetic note, she threw it into the small metal trash can beside the nightstand and shoved the notepad into her purse. Now fully awake, she slid her feet into her jeweled sandals and sauntered into the suite’s bathroom. Turning the hot water on as high as it would go, Bailey pinned her hair up, not wanting to bother to get it wet. She had things to do, and hair care was a waste of time, at best.

   In a nutshell, Bailey Nolan was a hacker, hacktivist, whatever you wanted to call her. Semantics were never a sensitive issue for her. All that mattered was that she was paid, and paid well for her extensive knowledge and services. Wrapping a towel around her still wet body, she searched for some lotion. Finding a tiny bottle of watered down disappointment, she slathered it on her moist skin and hurriedly got dressed. Screw Jay, she thought haughtily, shaking her head at the memory of the thin, nerdy looking guy she’d met at her new favorite bar the night before. The hotel was his idea, or so Bailey made it seem, when she batted her eyelashes and insisted that it would take too long to get all the way uptown to her apartment. Truthfully, she lived less than ten blocks away from the hotel, but there were… questionable items strewn about her place.

   Checking her watch, she saw that it was barely past nine. Perfect. She had

plenty of time to meet with her newest benefactor, as she liked to call them. He’d introduced himself as Charles, and he’d sought Bailey out in order to retrieve some sensitive information that his ex wife still had on her computer. Smirking as she listened to him describe his ugly divorce proceedings, another plan had already begun to form in her mind. Looking over her shoulder as she’d become accustomed over the years, Bailey entered her building and hurried up the four flights of stairs to her apartment. Purposely choosing a small studio, even though she had the money for something bigger, she learned early on that it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Entering her tiny bathroom, she prepped her hair for her long, black wig, then started on her makeup. Thirty minutes later, she was done, effortlessly stepping into her alter ego’s role. Making herself a pot of coffee, she munched on some leftover biscotti that she'd left laying out, wanting to kill time more than anything else. Not bothering with the cream, she knew that she needed her wits about her with this man.

Even though they were supposed to meet at eleven, Bailey always liked to arrive anywhere from fifteen minutes to an entire half hour early scope things out beforehand. Sitting at the Starbucks across the street from the park where they planned to meet, she pretended to be entirely engrossed in her chai tea and smartphone. With her leather satchel on the table in front of her, she could have passed for any typical urban college student. “Blend in, and do not attract attention” was her motto and mantra at all times. All the while, she was casting sidelong glances towards the park until she saw a familiar figure wandering around. Not wanting to jump the gun, she patiently waited for his call, adjusting the hood of her sweatshirt the further cover her face. Within seconds, she felt her phone vibrate in her hand, a blocked number showing up on the screen. Smirking, she let it ring two more times before she answered calmly.


“I'm here. Will this take long?” He asked in a rushed voice.

“I'll be there in a minute, and this will take as long as it will take.” Contrite, she rolled her eyes and continued, “but what you're asking for isn't very complicated. We're both busy people; I'll make this as brief as I can.”

Crossing the street, it was a lucky coincidence that she happened to be stuck in the middle of a small crowd of people. Charlie, with his back turned, didn't see her coming until she was right behind him.

“Oh. You're here.”

“That's right. Why don't we take a walk?” Leading him away from the main flow of traffic, they sat on the nearby bench. As it was a weekday, still relatively early, not very many people time to stop and smell the roses in the middle of their daily rat race. “Talk.”

“What else do you need to know?” Charlie squawked defensively. “I already told you - “

We've only spoken on the phone,” she interrupted. “I remember quite clearly what you told me then, thank you. However, I'm also aware that there are certain things that you couldn't have possibly told me over the phone… so now, I need the full story. That is, if you want me to help you.”

Sighing sharply, Charlie looked away uncomfortably. Crossing her legs, Bailey waited. Technically, she had all day, but she was still in no mood to coddle anyone.

As I mentioned, I’m going through a divorce. My wife… she has some sensitive information. Stuff that can not only screw me in court, but can also land me in jail. Do you follow?”

I’ll need more than that, Charlie.”

Anna!” he bleated, using the alias that she liked to fall back on every so often. “Tax evasion, okay?! She has proof of a few offshore accounts that I keep so that I don’t have to declare everything. I - I’d gotten into some trouble two years ago. Lawsuit. The other guy didn’t get a fraction of what he should have because I’d hidden my assets. There's eight of them in all, and they all have ten grand or just under.”

What countries are we looking at here?”

Two in Germany, Australia, Singapore, Panama, Cayman Islands, Dubai, and Hong Kong,” he rattled off. “Get rid of the proof.”

How do you know where she has it? How are you so sure of that everything's on her computer?”

Smiling devilishly, Charlie’s features hardened, sending a chill up Bailey’s spine. Holding her ground, she kept her own expression neutral. She was a professional, after all.

Just because I’m not currently living at that house anymore doesn't mean that I don't know what's going on,” he replied. “The last thing that I did before that bitch kicked me out was install cameras all over the place. Even though I'm not there, I see everything.” Mildly impressed by this downtrodden looking man, she nodded.

Okay. I’ll be in touch. I’ve already told you my price, and you understand that it’s non negotiable.”



Adjusting her satchel on her shoulder to a more comfortable position, she sashayed off, leaving Charlie sitting by himself. With no time to waste, she went back to the Starbucks and made her way to the bathroom, needing a minute of silence. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, she checked her newfound information. Unbeknownst to Charlie, Bailey’s phone was equipped with software that enabled her to retrieve information via Bluetooth. Due to headsets, Bluetooth enabled cars and speakers, and the like, most people have their devices ready to connect, and forget about turning it off. Relying on this fact, Bailey left her software running during their conversation; a little added leverage and insurance was never a bad thing.

Scrolling through her findings, she grinned from ear to ear. “Charlie” was actually Hector White, who lived around the low eighties on the Upper West Side. Interesting, she thought, as she accessed his text messages, phone calls, and his e-mail accounts which he had foolishly synced to his phone. More importantly, she now had his phone number. Up until then, he’d blocked his number whenever he called, and Bailey only had his wife’s name to go by: Shirley Mason. No phone number, no job address, only a name. Fortunately, she was as resourceful as she was discreet, and she hadn’t hit a brick wall that she couldn’t break through yet.

Not finding much about the wife, the only thing she had to go on so far was the address: 308 West 81st. Hailing a cab, she rode uptown, remotely turning on the GPS on White’s phone. He was still around West 4th, which didn’t tell her too much. Checking his calendar on a hunch, she discovered a lot more. Aside from regular meetings with his lawyer, one Jacob Lee Emerson, presumably due to the pending divorce, he was also meeting with someone aptly named E. Lunch, drinks, coffee, the whole nine. Making a mental note to look into that, she looked up and found herself in gridlocked traffic on 61st.

“Damn,” Bailey muttered while the cabbie hummed along to his music, ignoring her completely. Going through White’s contacts, she found Shirley’s number, using it to locate her. According to the GPS, she was in the general area of the Museum of Natural History, and not moving. Perfect.

Debating whether or not to get out and take the train or sit and wait it out, she bit her lip nervously. I could use the extra time to read up on this guy, she reasoned, settling back into the vinyl seat to wait out the twenty block distance that they had yet to cover. By the time she reached 80th street, Bailey knew everything there was to know about Mr. Hector White. As a plastic surgeon, he had access to plenty of drugs, which he was selling on the side to some of his more high profile patients, as well as performing illegal operations for the right price. No freaking way, she chuckled to herself, screenshotting everything and sending it to her e-mail.

You’re here, miss,” the cabbie said, casting her a significant glance.

Right. Here.” Handing him the money, she waved him away when he tried to give her the change.

Thank you!” he said gratefully, pocketing the five dollars.

Frowning up at the townhouse, she didn’t want to stay in one spot for too long. It looked too suspicious. Fervently wishing she had a car, she bit her bottom lip again, not wanting her trip to have been a waste.

Hey, are you okay?” a voice came from behind her, making Bailey jump. “Sorry… didn’t mean to scare you. But, um, you look lost?” Thinking fast, she hitched a smile onto her face, cocking her head to one side as she looked the handsome stranger in his eye.

No, not lost. I was just taking a walk… I was over at the Children’s Museum.”

Oh? You have kids?”

Tall and lanky with curly red hair, he wasn’t exactly her type, but there was no time to be picky. Spying the car keys in his hand, a lightbulb went off.

No. I’m studying Early Childhood Education. NYU.”

Nice. You must be smart,” he winked. If you only knew, she thought, looking innocently up at him. “What’s your name?”

Janice,” she replied smoothly and without hesitation. “What about yourself?”

Oscar.” Nodding at her satchel, he asked, “What do you have there?”

School stuff. My battery died on me and I live all the way in SoHo, so…”

Yikes. I get it, that sucks. Do you have your charger?” Oscar asked kindly. “I mean, if you have a lot of work to do or something, you can maybe try charging it in my car? Not trying to be a creep or anything, but - “

That sounds really great, actually.” Smiling wider, Bailey took one step towards him. “I’d really appreciate it.”

Following him, she surreptitiously looked around; it was a quiet, tree lined street, a picturesque New York neighborhood that reeked of old money and class.

It’s just right here,” Oscar pointed to a modest black Honda Civic. “I study engineering myself down in Cooper Union,” he added with not a little bit of pride in his voice. “Here, I have one of those adaptors for the car.”

Awesome. You’re awesome,” she breathed, plugging in her laptop. Silently praying that she was still within range to efficiently work, she booted up the laptop, turning slightly under the pretense of wanting to be comfortable. Truthfully, she wanted to turn the screen away from this skinny stranger, lest he see her… questionable activities. He didn’t strike her as a simp, and at any rate, it was best to be cautious.

Watching him get out of the car, then turn his back to light a cigarette, Bailey breathed a sigh of relief. For the next few minutes, at least, she could work in relative peace. Running Reaver, a program that basically forced its way into any WPS internet connection, she jiggled her leg impatiently. The signal wasn’t as strong as it could have been, as they were at least two meters away from the house, but she was used to making do with much less and getting spectacular results. Her hands felt jittery, since she normally worked alone and in the comfort of her own apartment, so she pulled out her cell phone to keep herself occupied while Reaver did its job. On a whim, she tried searching for Oscar’s phone, knowing that it should be well within range, but she found nothing. Hm. A smart one, she thought. Without a phone number, she couldn’t do much, since his Bluetooth was off.

Wishing that her computer would hurry up, she observed him out of the corner of her eye. He looked to be playing with his phone, presumably to give her some privacy while she worked. Unfortunately, it didn’t last very long.

So…” he poked his head in through the open window. “What are you working on there?”

Nothing interesting,” Bailey said nonchalantly, minimizing Reaver. “Nothing as interesting as engineering.”

Right,” he chuckled, offering her a cigarette, which she declined. “No? Huh. Anyway. It’s not as cool as you think. By the way, I study chemical engineering, in case I wasn’t clear?”

Oh ho!” she guffawed. “So you’re the guys who make the giant tomatoes and three headed cows?”

Something like that. Like I said, it’s not as cool as it might sound. Actually, looking back, I wish I would have gone the education route.”

Her heart skipped a beat, but if nothing else, she knew how to keep an impenetrable poker face.

Huh. I always thought it was a soft option.” Her computer trilled, letting her know that her program had done its job, and not a moment too soon. “I’ll be out of your hair in a minute.”

Take your time. I’ll… leave you to your work.” Oscar lit up another cigarette, giving Bailey a chance to get back to her business. Logging into Mrs. White’s internet, she did a quick scan of any other devices currently connected to the network. Finding the usual tablet, Smart Televisions, and cell phone, she bypassed the television and tablet , and went straight for the main dish. Realizing that her time was limited, she quickly jotted down Ms. Shirley Mason's IP address, intending to put it to full use once she got back home, then did a quick snoop around the computer.

Once in there, it took some doing, but she found what she was looking for: account numbers, statements, and most surprising of all, a few dummy companies. In an instant, it was clear that White had been doing a lot more than simply hiding assets for his own protection; he was also laundering money, and it was no small amount.

Fucking amazing,” she murmured to herself.

What’s that?” Oscar asked, turning to face her as he tossed the cigarette butt. “Did you say something?”

Huh? No, just talking to myself,” she laughed thinly. “NYU’s no joke…”

Tell me about it,” he rolled his eyes good naturedly. “How’s it coming?”

Just about done.” Copying all the information from Mrs. White's computer, she downloaded it onto her own, then deleted it from the host computer, making sure that she left no traces. “There we go.” Shutting her laptop, she smiled up at Oscar. “All done.”

Great. Glad to be of help to a fellow student.”

Packing up her things, Bailey was more than ready to leave. Her new friend had already worn out his usefulness, and there was no reason for her to stick around.

I should get out of here,” she said, stepping out of his car. “And while I'm at it, I should get one of these chargers, too.”

Right. Definitely.” An awkward silence followed, and he opened his mouth to speak once more. “I hope I see you again sometime. I hang around Soho once in a while.”

Yeah. Maybe.” Not wanting to prolong the inevitable, she left, heading towards Columbus Ave. If he so happened to decide to follow her, she could always disappear into Central Park.

But when she reached the Museum of Natural History, there was no sign of Oscar or his car. I lucked out, Bailey thought gratefully, jogging down the subway steps to catch the A train back to West 4th. Thanks to the city’s recent new technological advances that provided the subway system with wireless internet connection, she was able to do a bit of work on the ride home. It never ceased to amaze her how many people left their Bluetooth on, and how many people fully trusted public WiFi, to the point that they used it for online banking. Silly rabbits, she chortled, honing in on a few work e-mails being sent and one person nearby who was frantically trying to pay a past due bill online. Bingo, she silently cheered, notating the unsuspecting woman’s banking information. Going back to the e-mails that she’d been reading, she found out, without even looking up from her phone, that there were a few investment bankers and charity junkies in the vicinity, the latter being some of her favorite victims.

Over the years, she’d attended gala affairs, all in the name of some charitable organization or other, enjoying the ambience while simultaneously skimming from their pot. Never afraid of getting caught, she expertly bounced money around all over the country, sometimes even in and out of international accounts, then deposited a carefully measured amount back to an account in Upstate National Bank. Every so often, she’d drive up to Ogdensburg, right at the Canadian border, to make small withdrawals; she made it a point to show her face there, even if only a few times a year. A small city of less than twelve thousand people was a completely different animal than the concrete jungle that was Manhattan.

Of course, the real bulk of her money was handled in a very different manner. Between her two favorite gaming currencies, Second Life lindens and gold from World of Warcraft, she had an entire routine in play. Making several dummy accounts, she spread out her earnings across them all, cashing out on an as needed basis. She'd also recently found out about freelancing websites, all of which link to a paypal account; systematically creating jobs on one account, then “hiring” herself on anonymous accounts. Payments went to PayPal accounts, accessed infrequently and transferred to prepaid cards, which Bailey used to withdraw at small, lesser known ATMs, not minding the fees. In her mind, it was a small price to pay for the bigger picture, as she constantly reminded herself.

In the beginning, it was easier; hacking was a pastime of sorts, not her full time profession. After dropping out of college her sophomore year, she found herself with a bank account that was slowly dwindling into nothing, and drastic measures had to be taken. Lurking on online forums, she learned more tricks of the trade and even found her first benefactor. He'd introduced himself as Trent, which was, shockingly enough, his real name. Maybe it was her newbie status, but he practically told Bailey his life story when they met. The crazy part was, all he wanted her to do was delete a few incriminating e-mails that would have gotten him arrested for embezzlement at the nonprofit company he worked for.

Grateful for her speedy work, Trent gave her twenty grand, cash, and set her up with a small stocks portfolio. “It's always a good idea to have a cover story,” he advised her, something that Bailey took to heart ever since. Also, she'd skimmed an extra five thousand from the law firm where he worked, figuring that nobody would ever miss it. Apparently, she was right, because nothing ever came of it. This was the green light for her to keep the momentum going, and in a few short months, Bailey made well over fifty thousand dollars, all while sitting at her computer. Still, for tax purposes, she kept up her portfolio of investments, which only made her about three thousand monthly, just enough to not raise any suspicions. Never one to live extravagantly, this suited her just fine. Reaching her stop, she got up smoothly, managing to not get jostled too much by the growing crowd. She still had a few things to do at home.

Back in the safety and comfort of her apartment, she kicked off her shoes and took off her wig, reveling in the sight of her “battle station,” as she so affectionately called it. If she spent any large amount, this is where it went to: three separate towers either hardwired or wirelessly connected to two separate internet providers, each of them with two monitors each, a laptop, and two tablets. It was a juggle, but Bailey made it work; while two computers were hardwired, one computer, the laptop, and the tablets were connected via her WiFi. To save on electricity, she cut down in other areas: no television, she cooked on hot plates, and she satisfied herself with a mini fridge. Anything else would have blown a fuse, arousing suspicion with her neighbors, as well as her landlord.

Sitting in her soft office chair, she got down to business, calling White to let him know that everything was done.

Charlie,” she purred, still using the fake name that he’d given her. “I have everything.”

Oh, great,” he sighed, purposely speaking low. “So… I’m good? I’ll be all right now? And how did you even get my number? I...”

That, I cannot say,” she laughed coldly. “You know what business I’m in, and now you’re seeing firsthand what I’m capable of. All I know is that there is no trace of your offshore accounts on your wife’s computer. Nor is she aware that her evidence against you is gone.”

Not wanting to show all her cards, she kept her knowledge of his embezzlement to herself. In the off chance that he decided to screw her, she had a way to screw him harder. Met with silence, Bailey continued.

Now. When can we meet for the rest of my payment?” Using her VPN, she logged into the website of the bank that her earlier victim on the train used, attempting to get into their server through the back door.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow we can meet, and I’ll give you your other half of the money. After that, I won’t have to see you again, right?” he asked anxiously.

For your sake, I hope not.” Hanging up, she removed the sim card from her phone, breaking it and tossing it aside. As a rule, she used disposable phones for work, and only a select few actually had her number.

Frowning at the computer, she was stumped, which rarely happened. The bank, apparently, had set up new and improved security measures, making it difficult for someone to simply worm their way in, even someone as experienced as Bailey. Cursing under her breath, she had to think of a plan B, and fast. Breaking her concentration, her phone vibrated violently next to her on her desk.

Shit,” she muttered. “Hello?”

Hi… Jasmine?” It took her a moment, but she recognized the voice. Jay. “I know I cut out on you this morning but I - “

It’s cool. What do you want?” she asked bluntly, cradling the phone on her shoulder as she set up a DDoS to be sent out first thing in the morning. “I’m a little busy.”

I’m sure you are,” he replied, without a hint of sarcasm. “I just thought you’d maybe have a little time for me?”

You didn’t,” she retorted. “So… why?”

I said I’m sorry! And I’d like to make it up to you. If you let me.”

Turning her chair away from her work station, she considered this for a moment. What could it hurt? She told herself. He did take me to the Holiday Inn, at least.

What did you have in mind?”

Uh, not another bar?” Jay quipped. “Do you like Italian?”

It’s not my favorite, but it’ll do,” she lied. She loved Italian cuisine, but she purposely wanted to give Jay a hard time. “When and where?”

I have a car. I can come get you and we’ll drive out to Manhasset?” Rolling her eyes, Bailey snorted audibly. “No?”

I’m perfectly fine with staying in the city. You’re trying too hard, hon. Where would you like to meet?”

There’s a place on forty fourth, not too far from Times Square… I thought I’d pick you up, and we could take a walk around and see the lights - ”

I’ve seen Times Square. Plenty of times,” she cut him off, not wanting to make things any easier for poor Jay. “But, we can meet up at Times Square and walk over?”

Fine. Sounds… good.”

Smiling to herself, Bailey turned back around and put her feet up on her desk, checking one of her numerous e-mail accounts. One of her latest Trojans was slowly but surely working. Setting up links to supposedly download different PC games on what were generally thought to be trusted sites, she was able to gain access to millions of different computers worldwide. Never mind the fact that most of her victims were kids, she knew that plenty of them were sharing computers with their parents. That way, she was able to get credit card numbers, bank information, and job information. Anything that she didn't use for herself, she sold on the same forums that she frequented from the very beginning.

Well if that's everything, Jay,” she started. “I guess I'll see you whenever it is that you… Wants to make things up to me.”

Tomorrow? Uh, if you're free. If you're not, then that's cool. Whenever you like.”

Laughing raucously, she felt a hint of remorse for the poor fool. He was a jerk for leaving her at the hotel, for sure, but he seemed genuinely sorry. The thing was, even though she was a glutton for punishment, Bailey was used to more of a challenge when it came to men. Shooting fish in a barrel is no fun, she reminded herself.

I’m busy tomorrow, Jay,” she said amiably. “How about… Friday? We’ll make it an actual ‘date.’”

Great. We’ll do that, then.”

Bye!” she sang, ending the call, still giggling at the absurdity of the situation. Still, as much as she laughed, the truth remained: she had a date, an actual date. Sure, it wasn’t exactly conventional, since they’d already slept together, but then again, Bailey wasn’t a conventional person. He doesn’t even know my real name, she mused, focusing on the computers in front of her.

Not inclined to sweat the small stuff, she worked on her latest project: an adult website, complete with an option for membership that was actually spyware. On one of her many lurks, she'd seen the demand and sheer brilliance

of it. There was no need for any downloads, which more and more people were beginning to catch onto, but porn was a different story. It advertised itself, and most people wouldn’t suspect anything until it was too late. Still, creating an entire website doesn’t happen overnight, and with everything else Bailey had going on, she was making slow, albeit steady, progress. By two in the morning, she’d made a little headway, having had to go back and redo half the scripts when she noticed that they were all wrong. Dragging herself to her downy queen sized bed, she took her tablet along with her, ready to settle in to watch Netflix or Hulu Plus, whichever one struck her fancy. Falling asleep halfway through some inane low budget B horror flick, her last conscious thought was of her next trip to the Canadian border.

Waking up the next morning at seven, she immediately got dressed and

ready, expecting White’s call at any time. Brushing her wig carefully, she then put the finishing touches on her makeup. There. She looked like a whole new person. Hearing someone outside her door, she peeked out of the peephole, catching a glimpse of the back of the newspaper delivery man’s head as he left. Always wanting to keep up her facade as a normal, although quiet, neighbor, Bailey kept up a subscription to the New York Times. Opening her door just a crack, she grabbed the papers and threw it onto her minuscule kitchen table while she made herself some coffee. As it gurgled and dripped into the pot, she flipped the heavy newspaper over to the society pages; always on the lookout for new potential victims, one name immediately caught her eye. Dana Haughton.

Bailey saw this name quite frequently; Ms. Haughton was an old school New York socialite. On nearly every board in the city, she was a familiar face to the upscale elite in the Tristate area. That also means that she has access to their money, she thought greedily. At nearly forty and unmarried, she made a name for herself with the slew of lovers that she paraded around town with. Despite her blatant promiscuity, she was grudgingly accepted by her peers, due to her penchant for spending freely. Squinting at the tiny picture of the woman, Bailey racked her brain, trying to think whether or not they had previously met. As it so happened, there was a UNICEF function coming up in ten days, and she had every intention of being there.

Deciding that she'd given White plenty of time, she dialed his number. He picked up on

the second ring, sounding shaky.


When and where? You're wearing my patience down, Mr. White.”

Grinning at the shocked paused that followed, she examined her nails, making a face at them. She needed a manicure, bad, and she knew a place that did early bird specials. But she wasn't going anywhere else before she got her money. Business before pleasure. “So what's it going to be?”

Uh… Um, I c-can meet you around twenty fifth? Twenty fifth and Madison. There's a

park there.”

A park. How quaint. I'll be there in a half hour.”

After one final mirror check, she left. In the hallway, she heard a muffled argument on

one end, and some heavy metal on the other. As long as they leave me alone, she thought wistfully. Hailing a cab as soon as she got out to the sunny street, she was glad that she didn’t have to wait very long for one. Amusing herself during the ride by reading a few forums, she didn’t notice the traffic jam that they ended up in.

“Shit,” she groaned, not wanting to show up late… or even on time. “You know what? You can let me out here. It’s fine.” Handing the driver a twenty, she got out before he could even count her change. No time to waste.

Luckily, the walk wasn’t too bad, and she made it to Madison Square Park with plenty of time to spare. Wishing she had some coffee with her, she briefly considered it, then decided that she’d be cutting it too close. Feeling a bit out of sorts, she tried to swallow the unfamiliar feeling, but she couldn’t. Something was up, but she couldn’t put it into words; brushing it off in her typical brusque and aloof manner, she took in the scenery, a normal New York woman. Five minutes later, she saw the bobbing head of Mr. White, frowning as he approached. Waiting quietly, he was so into his own world and his own thoughts that he nearly walked right past Bailey. Standing up smoothly, she walked straight into his path, blocking him.

“Anna! You’re, uh, here,” he gasped, tripping over his own feet. “I didn’t see you there.”

“That was the point. Come.”

They walked to the other side of the circular park, nobody looking twice at two people seemingly enjoying the afternoon.

“So, you brought it.” It was a statement more so than a question, and she made this fact known.

“Yeah, yeah,” White replied sourly, producing a small bag. “It’s all here.” Smiling, she plucked it out of his hand, opening it brazenly. Experienced as she was, it took her all of thirty seconds to count the cash, and she winked at the sullen man.

Pleasure doing business with you. I would say see you around, but I’d prefer if I didn’t. On that note, I’m almost positive that the feeling is mutual.” Zipping up the small nylon bag, she glided past him, melting into the thickening crowd.

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