She wasn’t clear how, or when, but Bella realized they were in a car now, and George was driving them to someplace. “Someone shot me?”
“You’ve never been shot before?”
She looked down at her arm and it wasn’t hurting; instead, blood was coming out of it and there was a tie around her arm. “No.”
“Don’t remove that tie. If you do, I have to take you to the emergency room, but I doubt you’d want that.”
“No, no hospital,” she replied before realizing that she really didn’t appreciate blood. “I need to throw up,” she added as she stopped looking at her arm. She hadn’t felt pain at first, but now it was hurting like a motherfucker. George didn’t stop the car, and she didn’t fancy rolling out of it, so instead, she threw up on the seat next to her. “Maybe it’s a good idea to point out I don’t like blood?”
“We’re practically there, I promise. Any idea who prefers you dead?”
“Me dead? What makes you say this bullet wasn’t for you?!” Bella shot at him as she wiped her mouth with her sleeve. She recognized the area of being Montmartre, where George lived, and he was taking her further away from her own home, and that wasn’t the plan.
“Because I’m dead already,” George replied grim. “Only two people know I’m still alive and I trust them with my life.”
Bella felt the color drain from her face. “Stop the car.” She had the feeling she needed to create as much distance between herself and George as possible. If someone faked their own death, it meant that they were trouble. “Stop the car, George!”
“We’re almost there. My friend will patch you up.”
“Stop the car!” Bella reached into her bag, grabbed her baton, and smashed the side window. “If you don’t stop the car, it will be your head next.”
George sighed as he stopped the car in front of a traffic light, reached back and grabbed her baton before he started driving again. “Nice baton, I used to know someone who used it a lot, she was an insurance investigator,” he noted with a fond smile on his face, almost as if was remembering something. “So, who wants you dead?”
“No one!” She shot at him, hissing as a wave of heat shot through her arm. “I’m no one and I didn’t piss anyone off enough to kill me.”
“Because you see, I’m thinking that was a warning shot,” George replied as he looked in the rear-view mirror to check on Mia who was looking awfully pale. “It was obviously done with a silencer as we didn’t hear a gunshot, and maybe the next time you’re dead.”
“And who’s saying it wasn’t you who shot me?”
“I would never. I hate guns. And in Europe it’s not allowed to carry a weapon like it is in the States,” he replied calmly as he parked the car in a bay at the sidewalk and pulled out of the car. George then helped her out and pulled her along to his friend Luc. “My friend used to be a doctor, he still is, but for our kind of individuals. You can trust him.”
“I don’t even trust you!”
“You don’t have to trust me, just trust that I’m trying to help you get your arm fixed up and have you stay out of a hospital. You’re safe here.” George opened a door and dragged her through. “Luc! Mon ami a été blessé par balle!”
“Je ne sais pas votre ami!” Bella hissed. Fuck that. She wasn’t his friend, but yes, she was shot.
“Neal Flanigan, always bringing trouble to my doorstep,” a man looking like a doctor appeared out of one of the rooms. He spoke with a French accent, but his English was brilliant.
“That’s your name? Neal Flanigan?”
George, Neal, sighed. “One of them. You know me by George, he knows me by Neal.”
“You look like a Neal, not much of a George.” Bella winced as Luc gently grabbed her arm. “Careful!”
Luc hummed as he guided her into a fully kitted medical room. “Have a seat. I’ll fix you right up. What’s your name?” He asked as he took a syringe and jabbed Bella’s arm.
“I doubt that,” Luc laughed. “But I love your sense of humor. I’m going to jab you some more,” he said as he pushed the syringe in her arm again. “How about some pain relief?”
“What’s your name?”
Bella winced as he jabbed her arm again. She needed to focus. “Mia.”
“Nice to meet you, Mia, my name is Luc and you’re going to be alright.”
With a few stitches in her arm and it all bandaged up, she and Neal or George or whatever his name was were standing outside Luc’s office. The first time was free. She was still woozy from the pain medication Luc had given her, but she just wanted to go home.
“Drive you home?”
“Not in that car,” Bella said as she pointed at the car she had vomited in. “And what’s your name, truly?”
George sighed and hung his head in defeat. “Neal. It’s Neal. George is an alias of mine.”
“Nice to meet you, Neal. I’m Bella.” Bella smiled at him. “And if you could accompany me to Trocadéro, that would be lovely. I’ll have a friend pick me up.”
“The 16th? Wow, I thought you lived in Bondy!”
“I could just take you home?”
Sighing, Bella leaned against the wall and looked at him. “Neal, if you can get us a car that doesn’t smell like vomit, you can take me home. I just want to go home and figure out what the hell is going on, and if it’s not me, it’s definitely you.” Her house was secure enough for Neal not to be able to break in and she was sure to change the codes, just in case.
“I can help you figure it out.”
“You’ve done enough,” she smiled at him. “You helped me get patched up! Go get us a car.”
“I’m not leaving you, you’re still woozy and your life might be in danger.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! Fine, I’ll call my friend, then YOU can deal with him,” she said as she fished her phone out of her bag and dialed Liam’s number.
“Hey Liam,” she replied. “Can you come and pick me up in Montmartre? Rue Gabrielle.”
It was quiet for a minute before the questions started. “What are you doing there? Is everything all right? Why can’t you travel home on your own?”
“I wouldn’t call if it weren’t necessary.”
“For fuck’s sake, lass! I’m on my way.”
Bella put her phone away and glanced at Neal. “What?”
“You have a friend called Liam?”
She shrugged. “He’s cool. He’s my contact while I’m in Paris if I need him.”
“All right,” Neal said as he took place leaning against the wall next to Bella, while keeping his eyes on her. “How are you holding up?”
“That’s the adrenaline talking, it’s not easy getting shot at and potentially having someone wanting to kill you.”
“Have you been shot before?”
“Yeah,” he smiled at her. “It’s no fun, but I also know that you shouldn’t be alone, at least not until tomorrow.”
“That’s fine. I have Liam.”
“Is he your boyfriend?”
“Ew, no,” she scrunched up her nose in disgust. “Could you please stop trying to take advantage of the fact that my walls are slightly dented and interrogate me?”
Neal shrugged. “It’s fun.”
“No, it’s not. I’m asking you nicely.”
“It’s not like you want to go back in that car and retrieve your baton, is it?” He laughed. “And don’t worry. Luc knows people who can get rid of the car without a trace of any one of us ever having been in it. Especially after what just happened.”
Bella remained quiet and closed her eyes for just a second before she could hear a car speed into the street and slam on the breaks upon seeing them.
“Fuck me sideways,” Liam said as he got out of the car. “Looking good for a dead guy, Neal.”
Neal let out a groan. “Out of all the Liams in the world, it had to be you.”
“You two know each other?” Bella said confused as Liam lifted her up. “I got shot.”
“She got shot.” Neal nodded. “Don’t worry, Luc stitched her up, and she has some antibiotics in her purse.”
Liam helped Bella into the car and looked at Neal. “How did you two meet?”
“We both were working a con at the museum,” Neal chuckled. “And she has no clue who I am, which is weirdly refreshing.”
Liam grumbled. “Of course you’d be the idiot to steal a Picasso for himself… Who was the bullet meant for?”
“Not me, at least not that I know of.”
“And not for me!” Bella called from the car, making herself comfortable on the backseat. “I’m the invisible girl, nobody of importance knows about me!”
“Yeah, she’s high,” Liam sighed. “Look, it’s best if you come back with us, Neal, at least until we figure out she’s safe… and you. Seeing as you’re here and all.”
“Oh, I’m safe.” Neal put up his hands. “I don’t have any enemies, haven’t made new ones…”
“Until we’re sure about that, you’re coming with me. Bella’s home is big enough for the two of you and it’s as secure as a vault,” Liam pointed at the station wagon. “Get in, Caffrey. Once you’re safe, you can leave. And don’t try to fight me, I’ve had to forcefully take you with me before.”
Neal pouted as he was being stared down by Liam and reluctantly got into the passenger seat. “Well, some things never change…”
“I don’t want him in my house,” Bella muttered, using her bag as a pillow. “I don’t trust him.”
“You have nothing to say about this, Bella. I do,” Liam replied as he started the car and drove off. “I’ll explain later.”
“Okay,” she sighed.
There was food in her dream. She couldn’t quite figure out what kind of food, but the smell was delicious. She followed the scent of the food as it lured her through her house until she turned a corner and a sharp pain appeared in her arm. Looking at it, it was bleeding, and it kept on bleeding. There was no way to stop it and eventually, her arm fell off.
“Bella, wake up,” Liam gently shook her. “It’s all right, lass, you’re safe, just wake up.”
“My arm,” she whined.
“I know, just wake up, you’re having a bad dream.”
Bella’s eyes shot open, and she sat up with a jolt, her head slightly more clear than what it had been previously and she was so hungry, she could eat a horse. She rubbed her eyes and looked at Liam for a moment, before cocking her head in confusion. “You don’t cook, so who’s cooking?”
“You brought him into my home?!” she exclaimed loudly. “I don’t know him and you invited him over? Have you lost your mind?!”
“Bella, breathe.” Liam sat down on the coffee table in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “I know the rules Garrett gave you. I wouldn’t invite anyone in here if that person wasn’t safe. I know Neal. I’ve worked with him before, kept him safe during one of his cons, and he’s a good guy,” he said calmly. “I promise you, he’s not here to hurt you, nor will he steal anything from this house, because if he does, he knows I will come after him and he doesn’t want that to happen.”
“There is a complete stranger in my house. Cooking.”
“And he will stay until we found out who’s trying to kill who. It’s not as if you don’t have the space, Bella.”
“He faked his own death.”
“For a fresh start, which he deserved. 2.1 million people in Paris and you happen to run into the famous Neal Caffrey, who goes by the name Neal Flanigan now. He’s not even Irish. I’m offended.”
Bella scratched her head as she tried to think. “I’ve never heard of him.”
“Really? He’s one of the best con artists of all time. I figured he was part of your teachings.”
Bella said nothing as she got to her feet and walked to her office to get her laptop, her mind racing with everything that had happened that day, and also wondering if she put her stuff away now that she would entertain ‘one of the best con artists of all time’ for a while.
“What are you doing?” Liam asked as she walked back into the room and sat back down on the couch. “Going to google him?”
Bella huffed. “No, I’m going to see if I can get the CCTV of that bridge.”
Liam took her laptop and shook his head. “What you will do is have some orange juice and food.”
“I don’t see why she can’t do both.” Neal appeared out of nowhere with a glass of orange juice and handed Bella her laptop back. “Food’s ready in twenty minutes, how are you feeling?”
“Thanks,” Bella replied as she drank her orange juice in one go as she kept looking at Neal.
“Don’t worry, Liam already warned me he’ll break every bone in my body should I do something stupid,” Neal assured her, a beam on his face, his eyes sparkling. “Nice digs, though!”
She nodded as she opened her laptop and got to work. Bella was still working on getting access when Neal came to get her for food, but encouraged her to bring the laptop to the dinner table. The plates on the table surprised her, all looking restaurant ready. “Wow, who are you trying to impress?” Bella said as she sat down and carefully maneuvered her laptop on the dinner table, then remembering her nightmare as she had another whiff of the food. “Let’s hope my arm doesn’t fall off,” she muttered to herself.
“You didn’t have that many supplies, so I winged it. I sauteed the chicken in a port reduction and I sauteed onions and mushrooms with some garlic in butter for on the side. There’s pasta or French fries to choose from as your starch. As vegetables I grilled some asparagus.”
“It looks fancy,” Bella nodded. “Thank you for the food.”
“Neal was pretending to be a chef when we first met,” Liam said as he grabbed a chair and sat at the table. “Preparing food for a wealthy family who had something he wanted.”
“Allegedly,” Neal pointed out. “They never proved that I was the one who stole their 17th century bronze statue of a woman kneeling.”
“It wasn’t even worth that much,” Liam laughed. “Their chandelier cost more than that!”
“Sometimes stealing something for fun is fun, I just liked the statue,” he sighed as he, too, sat down at the table.. “It’s all gone now,” he lamented. “Maybe I should steal back everything I lost…”
“You’re dead, maybe it’s a terrible plan,” Liam replied as he took a bite from his food. “Shouldn’t you be retired, anyway?”
“Ah, but this is so much more fun,” Neal laughed. “Getting in trouble occasionally… meeting new people… enjoying life.”
“Don’t you miss your old life?” Bella asked as she immediately took a bite and was surprised that it tasted incredible, too. She didn’t draw her eyes off of her laptop as she was very close to getting onto the CCTV system and once that happened, she’d drop even eating. She would prove that someone was after Neal, and not her.
“Sometimes, it’s just people that you miss,” Neal replied. “I’m actually quite enjoying myself, keeping busy and such. Paris is such a remarkable city where everything is possible. If I get bored with this place, which I doubt, but I might go to Rome next.”
“Italy is overrated,” Bella replied as she took another bite of her food.
“You need to inform Garrett about what happened, Bella.” Liam took a sip of his wine. He knew Bella was likely going to crash later that evening, she still looked like she could do with a nap.
“Oh, hell no. Not until we’re sure.” She shook her head. “If I call him and tell him what happened, he’ll be on the first plane here or demand I return immediately.” When she saw Neal’s questionable look on his face, she continued. “My uncle.”
She finished her plate and with one last keystroke; she was into the CCTV system. It was easy to find the bridge she was shot at, rewound the time and hit record once she had found her and Neal on the bridge. “Hmm,” she hummed as she pushed her empty plate to the side and positioned her laptop better.
“What? You see anything?” Neal got up from his chair and positioned himself behind her, leaning in close to look at the screen. Bella moved her head so she could look at him. “Have you ever heard of personal space?”
“But your laptop doesn’t have that big of a screen.”
“It’s a 17 inch screen! And with the quality of CCTV cameras these days, it’ll be crystal clear, so take a step back or sit down next to me,” she didn’t take her eyes off of him, forcing him to sit down before she disconnected to the CCTV and opened her recording in one of her special programs dedicated to make things sharper, clearer. And, most importantly, she could zoom into a still of the video to hopefully see who took a shot at her.
And then prove the bullet hadn’t been meant for her.
“There,” Neal said as he pointed at the screen.
Bella took a screenshot and zoomed in on the picture. “He didn’t even put a mask on or whatever,” she muttered. The man had come close, very close, on that bridge and he was in full view of the camera. “Recognize him, Neal?”
Liam moved over and looked over her shoulder. Scratching his head he let out a sigh. “Doesn’t look too familiar to me… Maybe Garrett knows.”
“Or, I could use facial recognition software.”
“You have that?” Neal’s eyes widened in surprise.
Bella shrugged. “I have access to more things you can imagine. The only downside is that I can only do it like ten minutes at a time so I’d have to narrow it down, or keep switching VPNs in case they catch me,” she added. “I may be good, but not blocking the FBI kinda good. Their intrusion specialists are a bitch. Not to mention following the rotating incoming IP through a VPN, but also once she was in the system, they would work hard to kick her out.
“Or CIA, Interpol… Local government and law enforcement is easy but…”
“It’s good to have limitations.”
“It’s not a limitation, it’s just a bitch to hack into them and stay connected, and unless you know someone who works for one of those agencies and owes you a favor, we must do this slowly and hope that his face pings.”
“They shot you and the shooter didn’t show hesitation at all,” Neal said, looking at her. “He looks like a pro and professionals don’t miss. He’ll come after you again. You really must have pissed someone off.”
Bella closed her laptop and started to clear the table. “See, that’s where you’re wrong. I’m nobody and have done nothing to piss someone off. Stop saying that I have, this is getting annoying.” She was happy that the two men shut up and after she cleared the table, she grabbed her laptop and headed to her bedroom.
She wanted to be alone. She could feel how the gravity of the shooting was sinking in, and she was worried that the person who shot her was a cleaner from Italy who worked for the family. Even her uncle Garrett was afraid of them as there was no hiding from them.
Yes, Bella was nobody. She was the youngest of the Cullens and she had fixed their shit, drawing the line at the dead bodies as she couldn’t stand the sight of blood. She was invisible. Even in the circuit, nobody knew that the Cullens had another child. She was invisible.
She was Bella Swan to her friends, and Bella Swan didn’t have enemies.
Bella locked the door of her bedroom and took a shower first. She was still wearing her bloodied clothes, and she felt icky. She would worry about other things later, she wanted to shake the bad feeling that she had about the shooting.
When Bella left to live with Uncle Garrett, being an adult and all, her siblings told her that nobody left the family and got away with it. Nobody. They didn’t appreciate her wanting a life outside the family, they never had.
She didn’t want her life and freedom to be fucked.