“Uh, hi, Peter.”
It made sense that Neal’s friend had his phone number, and that Peter had found Neal’s friend; however, this was still the FBI calling. “Hang up,” Bella said as she minimized her browser and software on her laptop and booted up the dialling programme. “Hang up, Neal, we’ll call them back the safe way.”
“My house, my rules. Hang up,” she said as she took the phone from his hands and disconnected the call before dialing the number on her laptop. “I don’t want them to trace you.”
“You’re more paranoid than my friend Mozzie.”
She shrugged as she released the microphone and went back to her cooking. Neal sighed. “Sorry about that, my friend is really careful.”
“Any reason Mozzie has your phone number when you should be dead?”
Neal let out a snort. “Moz came to visit me last month. He knows where I am and, I’m sorry, Peter, but you’re still FBI and I am not sure how big the target on my back is.”
“Non-existent, you’re dead.”
“But what if I’d turn up alive?”
“You might be in big trouble.”
“Not really,” Bella muttered as she stirred the sauce.
Knowing that Bella really didn’t like phone calls, especially one from the FBI, Neal cut to the chase before she’d disconnect them again. “Why are you calling, Peter?”
“Your friend has been lying to you, she knows who the man who shot at her. We did a full check up on the system and she simply kept running his face. It’s… “
“Felix Volturi,” Bella piped up. “Yeah, I know. We’re dealing with it right now.”
“None of your concern, Agent Burke, but it will be handled with no violence on our part.”
“Ever heard of going to the authorities?”
“No thanks,” Bella replied as she switched on the oven to preheat and retrieved chicken from the fridge. She remained alert while Neal and Peter talked, occasionally nudging Neal away from her laptop to see what was going on in the IRC chat on the dark web after her information bomb dropped and was pleased to see that it was spreading well.
It didn’t mean that the immediate threat was going away, but at least it would put pressure on the Volturi to hide or fight back and hopefully withdraw their men from Paris.
In the background of Neal’s conversation with Peter she could hear Neal’s friend ask if ‘the suit’ was done and ‘if he could have his phone back’. The man sounded quite impatient before eventually giving up.
The conversation Neal was having with the agent was something like a father/son conversation, it made her feel uncomfortable, especially as Neal was divulging way too much personal information about himself. What he’d been up to, how Paris was, and whatnot. Peter, in return, did the same and spoke about his family and co-workers.
To Bella, it sounded as if Neal had had everything before he faked his own death. Why would anyone sacrifice a good life? Sure, he may have been the FBI’s bitch, but that was his own fault. It seemed like he had many people who loved him. And to go over a year without talking to them, the sheer joy on his face was beautiful.
She’d never felt jealousy much; she’d always been mostly on her own and after leaving her family, her uncle Garrett had been all that she had, and Liam. Her friends were in her computer, but even then, only when they needed her, so she couldn’t really call them friends, could she? Jealousy was a bitch.
Bella pushed the food in the oven and leaned against the kitchen counter to watch Neal. He looked like a small child happy to be talking to his best friend again, but she wanted her laptop back. It was a good thing that Neal wasn’t touching her laptop though, otherwise she’d have to break his fingers. No one touched her kit but her.
“Can I have my laptop back?” Bella asked eventually after becoming curious why she was getting so many IRC private messages. “You could just go back to New York, you know,” she smiled at Neal. “I’m sure no one will give a shit and your FBI friend will protect you.”
“But Neal Caffrey died, and as talented as my friends are, I can’t just go back and assume someone else’s identity,” Neal replied, a knowing smile on his face. “Besides, Peter knows this was the only option after the biggest con we’ve pulled.”
Suspecting Neal would not stop talking to Peter soon, she kept the connection going while she checked her messages. Pings were coming in from people all over the world saying that they sent the package to authorities in their country, others had already found bank accounts connected to the Volturi, but there was one message that stood out to her.
VitaPedrillo: I‘m looking for a 5’11 brunette with blue eyes and a dazzling smile. Is he with you?
5h1tF4c3: Who is this?
VitaPedrillo: Currently on the phone to a Suit?
5h1tF4c3: Your puppy is about to be neutered.
“I see that,” Neal said playfully, leaning into her to look at the screen.
“What did I tell you about personal space?”
“I just want to know what you’re doing, that’s all.”
“Suit, Neal is in safe hands,” another voice sounded in the background from the call.“I’m completely and utterly in awe of his new friend, who’s a legend, slightly troublesome but a legend.”
“I hope not,” Bella muttered as she looked at Neal. “Can you end the call now? Dinner is almost ready and I want my laptop back, there are more important things to do than to chat with an old friend. Or you know, continue this call in a different district on your own phone.”
With the information bomb about the Volturi still spreading around on the dark web and to law enforcement agencies in countries all over, she needed to go to step two; gathering a small fortune so she and Garrett could continue their life somewhere else.
She would continue down her list of the bad and wealthy, but this time route the money so often that it would become untraceable and then into her own account with pencoin.
First, she needed to adapt her worm to spread as much as possible, targeting specific bank accounts that she had collected over the years with various banks. Her worm was good, but not for the size she had in mind for it to do. Ignoring everyone else, she poured herself a glass of wine. It would have been better if she hadn’t killed the computer, but her laptop would have to make do. Settling into one of the big comfy chairs, she started to work.
“I’ve been looking at the artwork, for fun,” Neal said as he sat down in the other chair, crossing his legs and looked at her. “There are some great forgeries between the real deal. Yours?”
“Yup,” she said, not looking up from her laptop. “The easel and paints are in the room at the back if you’re bored.”
“I’m not bored, I merely wanted a change of scenery.”
“The balcony is nice at this time of night.”
“I wanted to thank you for the two conversations I had with Peter, I haven’t spoken to him in a really long time.”
“That’s okay,” Bella replied as she took a sip of her wine, not looking up from her laptop. “Seeing as we’ve revised our plan because of the Volturi, you don’t have to be here. You can just live your life. Rob the Louvre.”
He barked out a laugh. “Already done! I was the one who worked for them to upgrade their security after I robbed them. Let me tell ya, they paid me really well to make it con-man proof!” He grinned, shaking his head. “And the worst part? I actually liked doing that for the Louvre. The Picasso was my try to see if I still liked stealing things for me, because they’re pretty.”
It wasn’t unheard of that grifters would start working in security or even insurance after their release, their inside knowledge was well-valued. A tool on its own. “Yeah, I never even dreamed of touching the Louvre upon visiting, well done.”
“The thing is, Paris had felt a bit stale until you came along. More fun to be had when you have other people you can have fun with,” Neal took a sip of his own drink. “Don’t you ever relax?”
She looked up from her laptop then, her eyes meeting his. “I am relaxing. I’m upgrading one of my old codes at the moment to do what I want when I send it into the world. This is fun.”
“What will it do?”
She smiled and shrugged before looking back on her screen. “What would you do if you needed to run?”
“Get as much capital as I can.”
She nodded. “Yep.”
“You’re going to infiltrate banks?”
“Nah,” she kept scrolling through her code and occasionally added something. “I have a list of questionable rich people and I will make it appear that the money went to a charity. I’m not taking all, just a small percentage so they won’t alert the authorities. It’s very easy, no fuss, and fun to do, and also very relaxing.”
“What about painting or reading a book or television?”
“Yeah, sure, but I don’t need any of those right now. Safety first.”
“I think you made sure of your safety,” Neal said with half a shrug. “You’re inside a very secure building, there’s more security in here. You have Liam in the room next to the door, there’s Garrett… You can take a breather and do something else after all you did today.”
“But what if I don’t want to?”
“Well,” he said as he got to his feet. “Then I’ll just have to watch Dirty Dancing by myself.”
Bella narrowed her eyes on him. “Garrett put you up to this.”
“Yes, he did. He knows I can’t resist that movie,” she said as she closed her laptop. “And you’re stupid for saying yes to this,” Bella pointed out. “Unless you love a classic romantic movie with a lot of awesome dancing in it.”
Neal’s eyes lit up and a wide smile appeared on his face, giving Bella the feeling as if he could melt everything away, that it was all going to be alright. “Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean I don’t love me some Swayze!” He reached out his hand for her to take and pulled her up. “Come on, let’s have some fun.”
By the time the final dance came on in the movie, Bella was sufficiently drunk, and she had discovered that Neal had a great singing voice as they both sang along to all the songs in the movie, gradually getting worse as the alcohol kept flowing. Even while sober she always cried happy tears with this part of the movie and now would be even worse. She felt like shit. Not happy, but like shit, and she would not break down in front of their guest.
“Are you okay?” Neal asked as he paused the movie. “This is the best part!”
“I fucking hate this movie,” she sniffled as she got to her feet, ready to bolt to her room.
“You said you loved this movie.”
“I do!” Bella blurted before pointing at the paused TV screen. “But I hate it! It gives you these warm and fuzzy feelings and shit! But I’m drunk and feeling like shit so it’ll make me feel even worse!”
Neal laughed as he reached out to grab her hand to stop her from running. “And? So? What’s your problem?”
“Because I’m this close to not to cry happy tears,” she said as her eyes welled up. “Because there’s no use of being happy, or to celebrate when your own fucking family wants you dead. A-and the realization that if I die, I’d die alone. Garrett loves me, he’s my uncle. Liam likes me because he’s loyal to Garrett… but there’s nobody else. I wouldn’t even be fucking missed, and that’s such a strange realization.”
“But what about your hacker buddies? I mean, how Garrett and Liam spoke about your capabilities and my friend’s reaction to realizing who you were…”
“Neal. Nobody knows who I am. That means I’ve done my job well. The hacker community is all about anonymity. Whenever I had to fix the mess of my siblings, I did that from the shadows. Nobody will miss me.”
“That means you’ve done your job well.”
“You don’t get it!” she shot at him as the tears rolled down her cheek. “First, I don’t want to fucking die, I’m far too young and haven’t lived properly. Second, no one will miss me. You, for example, will be missed by your Suit friend and your Moz, and likely a lot more people when you die for real and you will be spoken about because of the stuff you did. You made a name for yourself, you have friends, people who care for you. I don’t.” She rubbed her eyes with her sleeve. “And yes, it sounds perfect not to have anyone with our line of work, with what I do, and you can’t really have it both ways, but I haven’t even begun living my life because of my family and now they want me dead!”
“Hey, I get it,” Neal said as he pulled her into his arms and rubbed her back. “You feel robbed, but what does this have to do with the movie?”
“Because it’s a perfect fucking ending that, I’ll never get as long as my family still walks around!” She couldn’t help but feel safe in his arms. “Disrupting the Volturi works, sure, but my siblings aren’t shy of killing people themselves, and they’re good at what they do. They’ll find me.”
“No, it’s not! I-I’m not supposed to break down like this; it’s not what they taught me. Do not let your emotions control you, if you want to be your best, you will not let your emotions control you. I’m letting them win right now, and that’s not good.”
“But you are your own person, Bella.”
Having his arms around her felt great. “I wasn’t when I was still with my family. Things were a lot easier and sure, they didn’t like me and things like that but I wasn’t alone.”
“So… you’d rather be a mindless drone?”
“No… but in this case… yes.”
“I’m sorry they’ve ruined you, Bella,” he said as he rubbed her back gently. “But it’s okay to be scared, it’s your life that’s on the line here. It’s okay to feel, to be angry, to cry, it’s what makes us feel alive and present. You could tell Peter about all the crimes you’re aware of that your family did and-”
“Neal, I won’t talk to a Suit and I will not rat out my family even though they’re trying to kill me.”
Neal laughed. “You’re infuriatingly stubborn, you know that?” He then grabbed the remote from his pocket, put the volume up and pressed play to continue playing the most epic dance scene of the movie.
“You are so evil!” Bella whined as she tried to reach for the remote. “Neal! I don’t want to hear this song! Stop it!” She was clawing at his shirt trying to pull him down and get the remote he kept in the air. She was trying hard not to fall over or trip over her own feet as the alcohol was definitely still present in her system.
Neal paused the movie again. “So even to save your own skin, you’re not ratting out on your family?”
“Yes. I did, too, but my dad is a corrupt cop and he made me believe otherwise. He killed a senator and framed Peter. So yeah, I falsified my dad’s testimony and Peter went free. No one knows where my dad is now. Don’t want to know, don’t care.”
She looked at him as she was holding herself up against the couch. “Wait… so… you falsified your dad’s testimony for Peter to get out of jail?”
“Yes? Peter didn’t do it.”
“He’s a Suit!”
“Yeah well, I’d rather have Peter out of jail because it’s not a nice experience, and he can do a lot of good as an FBI Agent. My dad was corrupt to begin with and for a while I believed he wasn’t, that he was a hero,” Neal replied. “I hate Suits, I do. But Peter is the one Suit who was smart enough to catch me and he was nice enough to help me get a deal even if it meant I was his responsibility for a few years. He’s a great friend, a sort of like a big brother to me, and most importantly; he’s fair.”
“I’ve never been in contact with law enforcement and I like to keep it that way.”
“Peter can help, Bella. He’ll likely give you immunity for-”
“Look, you had a shitty dad, I have a shitty family. Doesn’t mean we’re the same,” she said as she pushed herself away from the couch and headed to the door. “Thanks for the movie and drinks, I’m going to bed.”
“Bella, wait,” Neal gently grabbed her arm to stop her from walking away from him. “You’re not alone,” he said as he lifted her chin to look in those beautiful, but sad, eyes of hers. “If you don’t want to get your revenge on your family by going to the authorities, then we’ll find another way. You and I.”
It surprised her to hear that. “You have the Suit.”
“We’re not going to involve the Suit, but I would like to involve Mozzie. With your permission, of course. I think with the three of us, we can come up with a plan with a lot of damage and you don’t even have to involve the authorities,” he smiled at her as he dried her tears with his sleeve. “And your family will know that it was you in the end.”
“You really want to do this with me?” She asked in a little voice.
“Yeah, although I think we have to work out of Canada because in the US Neal Caffrey is dead and all.”
“Legally it’s not a problem, to be honest. Loads of people fake their deaths all the time. However, I could try to erase every digital trail of Neal Caffrey, and get you a new identity, like… the good stuff, that goes deep with layers and trails and stuff like that.”
“You can do that?” Neal asked, surprised.
Bella nodded. “It’ll take a few days and I might have to compartmentalize stuff, but yeah, I can do that. With some help. We can turn Neal Flanigan into a real boy.”
“I hate the name Flanigan.”
“Then pick something else,” Bella smiled and kissed his cheek. “Thank you.”