Garrett wasn’t too happy with Neal Caffrey being inside his home, but as Liam had explained it to him, he was there when Bella got shot. If it were under any other circumstances, he would have hoped that the bullet had been for Neal, and not for Bella, but there had been something he’d been neglecting to tell his niece. And, of course, Liam knew him. Vouched for him.
Garrett knew what was going on, and he would tell Bella all about it, as soon as she had calmed down and had some sleep, he would tell her. But while she was asleep, he would have a chat with Neal Caffrey. Who was supposed to be dead.
“How did you meet my girl?” Garrett asked as he took a sip of his bourbon, looking at the man sitting on the couch, a confident smile on his face.
“Picasso. As it turns out, we both were pulling a con on the museum for different reasons.”
Garrett nodded. “Can’t say I’m too happy about you and Bella running into each other.”
“Can’t say I’m too happy about getting almost shot yesterday.”
“You didn’t. It was meant for Bella.”
“You know who did it,” Neal said knowingly, a hint of fascination in his voice. “And you want to go after them.”
Garrett scrunched his nose. “Not particularly. There’s nothing we can do apart from going into hiding, these guys can’t be stopped without force.”
“What aren’t you telling me?”
He took another sip of his bourbon and sighed as he looked over his shoulder to the closed bedroom doors before looking back at Neal fucking Caffrey. “I just told you that Bella was the intended target, you don’t have to stay.”
“Well, I might not know her as well as I’d like, but I want to help. It keeps me off the streets and aren’t us thieves supposed to help each other?”
“And usually be in each other’s way.”
“Yeah, like that Picasso thing. But Bella and I agreed quickly after she found me.”
“Mr. Caffrey, you’re not known for having honor amongst thieves. Because there usually is none. However, I’ve been teaching my girl that whatever you decide to, use your talents is to be kind and with a purpose. I don’t want her to get hurt.”
“She got shot, and that wasn’t my fault. I made sure she got patched up and didn’t end up in the hospital. If I wanted her to get caught or get into the system, I would have done just that,” Neal countered, slightly offended. “But I didn’t. That would be a waste because she’s talented and there aren’t many con artists like her who steal with a purpose.”
“Well, she would keep some money if she stole money, but that’s an honest fee.”
“I would keep it all to myself. I’m selfish like that,” Neal agreed. “However, I am trying to turn over a new leaf. That’s why Neal Caffrey is dead, and maybe, if she’s willing, Bella can teach me her ways. It’s not like all the time working with an FBI agent hasn’t changed me.” Neal shrugged then as he relaxed onto the couch, one leg over the other, arm on the back of the couch. “I mean, even if it weren’t for her being shot, I would still have sought her out, which I did prior to the shooting.”
“She’s not like you.”
“I know. She seems to be able to do things that I can’t. Like with that Picasso Museum. I was waiting for a job opening. I wasn’t in a hurry to pull a con, but suddenly people went on holidays or got fired. Then, at the night of the heist, I was careful not to trip any alarms, avoid the cameras and she just waltzes in, alarm and cameras shut off. Hackers rarely do the physical cons.”
Garrett nodded, taking another sip of his bourbon, wondering how much he would tell him. “So you’re planning on seeing this through, and once it’s all done, you won’t tell anyone about her?”
“Of course not,” Neal huffed. “That’s the one thing about being free. I don’t have to share stuff anymore with the FBI.”
“Good, because you might reconsider staying once I’ve told you something about Bella.”
“You make it sound like her family is part of the mafia or something,” Neal joked, but when he saw the grim look on Garrett’s face, he was surprised. “Bella’s part of the mafia?”
Garrett remained quiet before he moved to a chair opposite of Neal. “Have you ever heard of the Cullens?”
Neal let out a breath. “Who hasn’t? They’re ruthless. Five siblings working together and doing a lot of damage, even killing, but no one has ever been able to pin stuff on them because they don’t leave a trace. The FBI has been after them for years, and they still can’t figure out how they do what they do.”
“Other than them having some very good friends who are willing to help them even when they screw up?”
“And what if I tell you they have indeed someone who’s good at cleaning up, good at running a con on their own and making sure that nobody gets caught because they can get into most of the systems?”
Neal was surprised as he added up everything that Garrett had said and what he had seen so far. “How did Bella get involved with them?”
“There aren’t five siblings, there are six. She’s the last one.”
“Can’t be,” Neal replied after giving it some thought. Bella being one of the Cullens was foreign to him. She wasn’t anything like them, at all. “I remember one of my friend’s stories about them, he has encountered them several times and warned me about them. After the birth of her youngest, a boy, the mother had to get a hysterectomy. If Bella is a Cullen, she’s half or adopted. From what I understand is that the Cullens are blonde.”
Garret leaned forward in a menacing way, his voice lower. “Are you saying that my niece isn’t my niece by blood, Caffrey?”
“You’re a Cullen?”
Garrett shrugged as he relaxed in his chair again. “If I would be, I would know that the hysterectomy story is true, but I don’t. No, I ran across the Cullens at some point and I was stupid enough to feel sorry for their youngest kid. She seemed to be a mis-match with her siblings, so I started to invite her over for the summer after she turned 18. Under the guise of ‘euro tripping’ she came to visit me without her family knowing. She never had the balls to fully break away from them until almost two years ago. I think something may have happened, but she’s not talking about that.”
“But nobody knows she’s a Cullen?”
“No, they wouldn’t allow her to do anything like them, get on the radar of agencies, she moved in the shadows.”
“That explains why she was saying she was a nobody yesterday,” Neal said surprised. “Because she is.”
“She’s not, she’s Bella. And if I’m right, she’s in a lot of trouble.” He finished his drink and rose to his feet. “But I’ll tell her first when she wakes up again. If you tell anyone about her, I will make you permanently deceased, got that?”
“Yes, sir.” What the hell had he gotten himself into?
By the time Bella was back in the land of the living it was late in the evening. After a quick shower and getting dressed, she walked to the reception area where, much to her surprise, people were still hanging around.
Liam was near the alcohol table, lost in his own thoughts but she knew better, he was in sentry mode even though the apartment was safe.
Garrett looked smug with himself as he was scrolling on his phone and the look on Neal’s face told her that Garrett had told him.
She headed to the kitchen and turned on the oven before getting stuff out to get to bake. Bella was still pissed off at Neal, although she basically set herself up for him to inform the FBI agent, but it still pissed her off. However, if he was still here after Garrett telling him about her, then that was a good thing, too. Liam seemed to trust him, and Garrett had eased up as well.
But even so, she needed to get her mind in order. “Cookies, Cake or Pie?” she called out. “Can’t make muffins as I don’t have a muffin tin!”
“What kind of pie?” Garrett asked as he walked into the kitchen with an empty glass. “Liam did groceries, but he got nothing for pies.”
Bella ducked into one of the cupboards and retrieved her basket. “I don’t have fresh fruit, though, but that’s okay. Cherry or peach,” she said after grabbing the cans.
“Cherry,” Garrett replied as he went into the fridge to get himself something to drink. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine,” Bella replied as she started to work on her pie. “Not too happy you told someone about me, though.”
“We could use him.”
“I don’t want to use people, Garrett. You taught me better than that. Did you even ask him if he wants to stick around and help us or did you give him the run or stay speech?”
“So you know who took a shot at you.”
“I do!” Bella blurted out. “The FBI servers weren’t sluggish, I just kept running the face repeatedly to see if the outcome was any different because the truth is a bitch and not something we can forever run from. They will keep coming. And I really don’t understand why,” she said as she hit the counter-top with her rolling pin. “But I will find out.”
“How? Call Daddy dearest who likely signed off on this?”
“I would never, ever, rat out my family, no matter how much I think they’re idiots or how much they have hurt me. This is stupid! I’m not hurting anyone!”
“And what if Carlisle says something you don’t like to hear, huh?” Garrett leaned against the countertop as he watched Bella throw things in a bowl. “You left, didn’t keep in touch with them…”
“I’m my own person and I am happier without being around my siblings all the time. That should be enough.”
“Maybe,” he let out a sigh. “I just think you’ll make matters worse by calling him. He’ll tell you that was a warning shot and if you don’t want to be dead, you return to the family.”
“He might,” Garrett pointed out. “Look what happened to Peter and Charlotte, Jasper’s best friends. One step out of line and Jasper killed them both.”
“But they weren’t family.”
“Close enough, from the stories you’ve told me.”
Bella was quiet as she kept assembling her pie, thinking things over. After putting it into the oven she looked at Garrett again. “I’ll come back to the vineyard.”
Garrett let put a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “I’m sorry, we can’t. They found the vineyard last week and burned it all to the ground. Some of our friends got killed along the way, I could barely escape myself,” he replied, pain washed over his face. “We can’t stay here, either. They know you’re in Paris.”
“Who did they kill?”
“Almost everyone. Others were badly wounded, and some weren’t around. They came with an army, really. Wasn’t anything we could do. I killed three of them before I escaped.”
She looked at her uncle and nodded. He hated to kill people; he hated guns, but he had to do what he had to do. Too bad he couldn’t save the vineyard. “The Volturi are bloodhounds. They won’t stop. That’s what makes them so good, and so thorough. I’m not sure we can outrun them. They will keep coming.”
“Yeah,” Garrett sighed. “And you’re not going back, either. You’ll only make it easier for them to kill you. If they want you dead this bad by having the Volturi come after you, they will not hesitate to kill you as soon as you walk in the door of your family home.”
“Then what the fuck do we do?”
“Go to the authorities?”
She looked at him with a blank look on her face. “I’m desperate, but not that desperate. Are you willing to give up all the freedom that you have?”
“For your safety? Yes.”
“Well, I’m not. And we both did some shit that could land us in prison because the statute of limitations hasn’t passed yet on certain things that we did,” Bella replied after setting the timer for her pie. “I have an idea though,” she added. “I could just hack whatever law enforcement agency we want after them – or all – and leave them a tip with a file attached to who they will go after. With them being busy with the agencies, we can disappear again.”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on, I can do a lot of damage with just a laptop. I will rally the troops, it’s time for 5h1tF4c3 to collect the debts she owes from everyone,” Bella grinned as she quickly went to retrieve her laptop and settled in the kitchen while her pie was cooking. “Time to take this global.”
Bella went to her online backup that had her dig deeper into the real backup where she had built files against the Volturi for years, all filled with evidence and backing up her claims. Anything that she couldn’t prove wasn’t in there. She had files on her rival hackers too, but she kept it safe for a rainy day.
“I’m going to upload this to the dark web and telling everyone to spread it around. With others looking for the Volturi and hopefully the authorities too, the Volturi leave us alone and they’ll be too busy covering their ass.” Bella said as she pointed at her laptop before getting the pie out of the oven to cool. “This requires no hacking of any kind this is everything I’ve collected over the years without ties to us.”
“Or the Cullens?”
She nodded. “Only if you look deep enough, which I doubt they will,” she replied. “Look through it and see if it’s enough.”
“Oh, I trust it’s enough, you’re always thorough, no matter what you do,” Garrett poured himself another drink before he rejoined Neal and Liam back in the reception area. “She’s fine. We’ll be having cherry pie for dessert later, and I’m not sure what she will cook for us but it will be delicious.”
“She’s fine?” Liam questioned, his brow raised as he took a sip of his beer. “She got shot at.”
“And she’s doing something about it in her own way. You know as much as we do how the Volturi operate. We can’t go to the authorities, so she’s taken matters into her own hands. She’ll be chatting with some of her friends today while she cooks.”
“Yep.” Garrett nodded.
“Oh, don’t want to run into her!”
“That’s her handle?” Neal piped up. “Sounds… unlike her.”
“Shitface does a lot of things,” Garrett replied. “Shitface is for the hit-and-run attacks, she has another nick for shit that’s more delicate and long lasting. In the early days of pencoin, Shitface stole them, hoarded them until they were worth something and cashed them out, slowly. Donating most of it to charities. That was before they put extra security on the coins, of course. She was one of the hackers who also gave the people in charge an idea on how to fix the security flaws.”
“She designed and programmed her own tools, her own toolkit on the tablet to access security systems and what not,” Liam added. “She’s unwilling to share that, but it works like a charm, every single time.”
“You don’t have to impress me. I’m already impressed by her,” Neal replied as he took a sip of his drink. “I’m going to see if I can help her with something,” he got to his feet and headed to the kitchen, finding a maniacal laughing Bella monitoring her laptop while she was cooking. “Everything all right?”
“Everything is all right now,” she smiled at him. “We’re all working together to make sure the Volturi are being dealt with. Safer for all of us. Breathing space. I just unleashed virtual hell.”
Neal sat at the table and just watched her for a moment. She looked so happy and unburdened at the moment, completely ignoring the fact that they had shot her only the day before. She had gone through a lot to bounce back like this. Or, maybe she was putting up a brave face, like he used to do, and it would bite her in the ass later.
Feeling his phone vibrate, he took it out of his pocket and smiled upon seeing the name. “Hey, Moz.”
“Uh, hi, Peter.”