Chapter 07

5h1tF4c3: Anybody seen Mingus?

While she perfected her bot to get her more capital, she and Neal also worked on a new identity for him with a complete background and stories. And it was a fun thing to do. And she could do it herself, mostly, however, Mingus was brilliant at making sure an ID would pass the scrutiny of any government.

Mingus helped her with her Izzy Sheppard cover. The name she adopted after leaving the Cullens. Her first new ID after leaving the Cullens, and one that they didn’t know of so couldn’t trace. It was the same with Mia Robbins, but that one was only shallow. Izzy Sheppard had a good background. Solid. Even when digging. And Neal needed to have the same one.

She could easily get people to help her delete Neal Caffrey from law enforcement systems, apart from the hard copies, but nothing that could be replicated on servers. But a solid ID like that? No. Only government agencies like the Marshalls would be good at this.

“Who’s Mingus?” Neal asked as he sat down across from her at the table with a sketch pad.

“A friend,” Bella replied. “I mean… if you can call other hackers your friend. Never met him in person but we talked a lot. Less now that I’m away from my family but still.”

“He’s connected to them?”

“Oh, no. It’s like he knows I’m doing well now.” She smiled when a private message popped up. “Ah, there he is.”

Mingus: Hey Shitface, long time no talk. And the first time we talk is after you single handedly exposed a crime family. Good job lol.

5h1tF4c3: LMAO. They shouldn‘t have shot me.

Mingus: WTF! Are you okay?

5h1tF4c3: Pissed off and determined.

Mingus: Know who‘s behind it?

5h1tF4c3: Yeah. Anyway, enough about that. I want to wrap them all up in a nice package so I‘m going to travel back to the US with a new friend of mine.

Mingus: … Okay? You sure? Can’t you just let your information dump do that for you?

5h1tF4c3: No, because that doesn‘t account for those who are after the hit and I know who did it.

Mingus: Seriously?

5h1tF4c3: Yeah. With help from my new friend, I‘ll be going after them myself. Speaking of which, he faked his own death and we’re creating a new ID for him, and he and I got far, I even established him somewhat in the US, but I could really use your help to sell it.

Mingus: … You know I don’t do this for strangers.

5h1tF4c3: Okay. Was worth a shot.

Mingus: You‘re good at forging passports. I’ve seen your work remember?

5h1tF4c3: Yes, but

Mingus: No one needs an ID like the one you and I created for you. Trust me on this. Your friend must have been in a lot of trouble to fake his own death.

5h1tF4c3: Maybe a little too big for his shoes. He has a good heart.

Mingus: Okay, but I‘m still not helping you with this. But I am interested in helping you set up whoever wants you dead.

5h1tF4c3: I‘ll be in touch. Thanks.

Bella sighed and shrugged. “The normal way it is, he didn’t want to help establish it properly.”

“That’s okay, would have been nice, but I’ve never had one like that before and they all held up,” Neal replied, still sketching. “Don’t be unsure of yourself or me, it doesn’t have to be perfect.” He put down his pad and smiled at her. “And here you said you didn’t have any friends.”

“Mingus isn’t a friend. I have never seen him or met him in real life. I’m not even sure if I trust him but his stuff is always sound, and we helped each other a few times when we got stuck on a code. We contact each other for our mutual skills when needed.” She grabbed herself something to drink and poured Neal some water. “Are you ready to fully vanish?”

“What?”

“Erase Neal Caffrey for good? It’s the only way to have you travel back into the US the normal way, no facial recognition, etc,” she said as she set the glass down in front of him before sitting back down behind her laptop. Neal was very careful not to show her what he was drawing. “Neal Caffrey will be a ghost. Completely. Poof.”

“Are you a ghost?”

“No, I had Mingus to help me out, but I don’t want to risk you getting detained because there’s a double entry with your face on it. Erasing your information from all the government systems is the only way to go.” She took a sip of her drink as she looked at him. “You already made the first move by faking your death. You’re no longer Neal Caffrey, you’re Neal Flanigan. And you’re not even Irish.”

Neal groaned. “I had to make something quickly, saw the name on a sign.”

Bella let out a snort. “I’m usually against reusing names, but Neal Carter has a good ring to it.”

Neal nodded. “But I like the name I chose for myself, it’s my mother’s maiden name.”

“What’s your dad’s last name?”

He sucked in a breath and shook his head. “Carter is fine. What’s your new name then?”

“Izzy Sheppard,” Bella said as she set up the nuclear option on her laptop. “Close enough to Isabella and I grabbed the name from a TV show that was on when Mingus and I set it up,” she replied before realizing something. “Come to think of it, the name Carter was in that show too, come up with something else if you’re not fully behind it.”

“What TV show?” Neal laughed.

“Stargate Atlantis,” Bella muttered. “Great show. Gone too soon in favor of a new franchise show that terribly sucked.”

“Nerd.”

“Yeah well, this nerd will give you a chance of going back to the US without getting your ass arrested so…” She shrugged as she turned her laptop around. “Hit the enter button if you’re ready to kill every last bit of you.”

~o.O.o~

A few days later, Uncle Garrett and Liam went out to get groceries. Bella had made a list for them while she continued to work on her projects. Neal had set in motion to have his digital trail and his presence deleted on all the law enforcement servers and he was getting antsy too, he wanted to get out, and Bella had never told him he needed to stay. She wasn’t sure if she was safe from the Volturi and didn’t want to risk getting shot again by going outside herself.

She told him to bring her back a coffee while she stayed in the apartment working on her laptop. She had almost fine tuned her money maker. Almost. It was ready, but it wasn’t perfect just yet.

Bella wasn’t sure if Neal was going to come back to the apartment. It was strange, but while she had never fully trusted him – even while working the Picasso Museum, she never really got strange vibes off of him other than her grifter radar dinging like crazy. Yes, Neal was gorgeous, had a bright smile and when he smiled genuinely, it was even brighter. She could only imagine what he looked like underneath his clothes.

She had the feeling that he was looking for something. Something else, something different. Make a change. And for some stupid reason, she believed that maybe she could teach him things. How to make that change. But, if he wouldn’t return, that was okay too. She was fine on her own, and she could likely contact a bunch of grifters in the US to help her out with taking down her family on her own.

But she still wondered what he looked like underneath his clothes.

VitaPedrillo: What did you do?

She scratched her head when that message popped up. If she had guessed well, this was Neal’s friend Moxie. No, Mozzie. Bella had contact with Vita before, years ago, when they all worked together on a big hack that resulted in equally big rewards.

5h1tF4c3: Your puppy is safe.

VitaPedrillo: You‘re nuking him.

5h1tF4c3: It was a mutual decision, I‘m only trying to make things easier for him, he might want to come back one day.

VitaPedrillo: Seriously?

5h1tF4c3: Yes. I explained to him what I could do for him, and what the consequences would be if I did it. Seeing as he‘s already legally dead, it would make him even deader. He pulled the trigger himself.

VitaPedrillo: How is he?

5h1tF4c3: I‘ve only known him for a few months and most of that was his cover. But he looks healthy.

VitaPedrillo: I saw that with my own eyes, but how is he?

5h1tF4c3: He‘s a lost puppy. He misses his family.

VitaPedrillo: He doesn‘t have-

5h1tF4c3: You and the Suit are family. Hey, if you‘re in New York… how about you find all the paper trails on him and destroy that? Make it safe for him to come back?

VitaPedrillo: Already on it, figured it might help. Also gave the Suits your information package; they‘re enjoying themselves.

5h1tF4c3: They‘re Suits. They can’t be trusted.

VitaPedrillo: I said that years ago. Then a certain someone was suddenly on a leash to a Suit and things changed over the years. These Suits are trustworthy.

5h1tF4c3: Yeah, no. I want to stay away from them as much as possible. They don‘t know who I am and I intend on keeping it that way.

VitaPedrillo: Fine. That‘s good. But our friend is all right?

5h1tF4c3: Yes. Stop being a helicopter parent, he‘s fine.

Bella hated pushy friends, and she had better things to do. Bella closed the software and continued to make her final touches on her worm. Once she was satisfied, all she needed to do was to hack one of the men she wanted to steal from or, preferably, a bank, so it could spread.

She thought about her options while she waited for her cup of coffee and went for the fun route; hack a bank. Bella grabbed the last bag of fruit twizzlers and settled at the table with her laptop and started working. Banks weren’t easy, but they were fun, especially the foreign ones.

Uncle Garrett and Liam returned with the groceries about an hour later, and Bella was so absorbed by what she did that she hadn’t even noticed. It was only when Garrett put a plate of food next to her she looked at him with confusion. “When did you come back?”

“Hours ago,” Garrett laughed, shaking his head. “You having fun?”

Bella nodded as she took a bite of her food and continued to look at her work. “Sorry.”

“That’s okay,” Garrett said as he sat down at the table. “Neal not back yet?”

She shook her head. “I’m not sure if he’s coming back, which is fine. I gave him what he wanted, and he’s free to go wherever with his new alias, which is already fully set up. He only has to pick up his passport at Carlo’s. Which he knows so for all we know he’s on his way back to the States.”

“Is it truly fine, lass?” Liam asked as he took a sip of his beer and looked at her. “I’ve seen the way you look at him.”

“And what way is that?”

He had a cocky smile on his face as he took a bite from his food and spoke with food in his mouth. “You fancy the pants off of him.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You’re not as strict with me and y’er uncle with us using our phones.”

“You two aren’t in contact with anyone from any sort of law enforcement agency. Neal’s practically attached at the hip to a bunch of Suits,” Bella countered as she put down her fork. “You know, for someone who faked his own death for a life away from all the Suits and to start over, the look on his face whenever he speaks to that Suit of his is like… happiness. So if he fucked back off to the States to tell his Suit not to take the job in Paris, then that’s fine.”

“He has friends in the States, people he cares about, it’s harder to make clean breaks when you have people who tie you down like that,” Garrett replied with a shrug. “I don’t see why you’re so angry about that.”

She slammed her fist on the table in anger. “Because maybe I want what he has. He lives so carefree and sees the fun in just about anything and here I am, trying to be carefree but I can’t. I never settled properly at the vineyard, I was itching to get away from it. And now I’m fucking hiding because my family wants me dead. Yes, the ability to walk away from crap is great, because nothing is tying me down and I’m not afraid to leave everything behind, but it shouldn’t be this way, should it?”

“It makes for a good con artist.”

“Yeah. It’s great for you, for my family. I am a grifter, but I’m primarily a hacker, that’s what I enjoy. I’m finally enjoying what I well, but I had hoped I would have been more open about shit by now,” she stared at her uncle. “Because, I do think Neal is a great guy, hell, maybe even boyfriend material, but there are issues. I don’t trust him, not like how I trust you two or how I trusted my family. And I am afraid to tell him the deeper stuff, as a friend, because he can use that against me. How is this a life? Neal has proven he’s trustworthy and yet…” She took a deep breath and nodded before looking back at her laptop. “So yeah, if he doesn’t come back, then I don’t have to get angry with myself for pushing him away.”

“Why wouldn’t he come back?”

Bella rolled her eyes at Liam and continued to eat while typing with her other hand in silence. She was almost in. She had hacked this bank once before, and while they had done something about the security of their servers, it wasn’t iron clad just yet and this time she would not alert them to it. It was their own fault that she could hack them twice. Even her old code was still on the server so they had made it a lot easier for her.

Typing ‘execute’ and disconnecting after a few seconds made her feel a lot better. At least in a couple of hours, she’d have capital to go to the US and hire people to help her take down her family creatively and without violence. They wouldn’t see it coming.

She closed her laptop for the night and enjoyed a few beers with Garrett and Liam, Liam giving her and Garrett updates on how the Volturi are scattering away with so much eyes on them, but that he heard that there are still a few in Paris to take care of Bella. She didn’t want to hear that, but it would make it even more important to leave quickly.

“I know you refuse to go back to the States, Liam, but are you coming with me, Uncle Garrett?”

“I figured we’d find someone who looks like you and I’ll take her all over the place.”

“That’s kidnapping, Uncle.”

“But it would give you some breathing space.”

Bella smiled then. “That’s sweet, but don’t you want to have your hand in getting even with my dad?”

Garrett let out a snort. “I’m an old man.”

“You’re not even 50, shut up.” she shook her head. “I could use you.”

“Nah, darling, my grifting days are over. I’m retired. And yes, the vineyard may be gone, but I’ll set up shop somewhere else. I’ve done my job well with getting you to see a different way of doing things, your own way, not being dictated by your family and I’m proud of you. You don’t need me.”

Bella nodded. She had expected him to say ‘yes’, but she understood why he retired. He had seen it all, done it all, and was now retired with a nice nest egg, or at least several from what she understood. She was resourceful to do this on her own, but it would have been nice if at least one of the two people she fully trusted would have been with her.

When the doorbell rang for downstairs, Liam made his way to the door and minutes later returned with Neal in tow. “Ha, told you he’d be back.” Garrett laughed at Bella.

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I?” Neal reacted a little confused before grabbing a glass and the bottle of wine with his name on it before joining Bella and Garrett at the table. Bella thought something looked off about him. Neal looked somewhat haunted, mildly pained. “What?” He asked as his face broke out in sunshine and rainbows. Fake sunshine and rainbows.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You know,” she said as she leaned on the table with her arm and rested her chin in her hand as she looked at him. “For a conman you’re a terrible liar if you know what you’re looking for,” Bella replied with a playful smile on her face. “What’s going on?”

Neal took a large gulp of the wine and exhaled. “Ever heard of Sterling Bosch?”

“Yeah, it’s an insurance company, works globally and their investigators are tough as nails and difficult to fool.” Bella nodded as she took a sip of her beer. “Why?”

“I had some dealings with one of their investigators, even with the company itself, they saved my ass once when the FBI was being dicks. Not Peter, but others,” Neal replied as he refilled his glass of wine. “That investigator I was telling you about, the one with the baton like yours? She didn’t believe I was really dead and spent the last few months trying to find me with her company’s resources.” Neal couldn’t even look at her, which made Bella believe he was telling the truth.

“Why?”

“That investigator’s name is Sara, and she and I were sort of in a relationship? Not when I faked my death but yeah, we’ve dated.”

Bella took another swig of her beer to remain calm as she kept her eyes on Neal. Why wasn’t she surprised? One of his friends was a Suit, why not have a girlfriend who’s an insurance investigator? “What did she want?”

“After she tackled me to the ground with her baton, she wanted to talk. Sara wasn’t angry with me, she understood why I did it, but she had always hoped I would take her with me,” Neal replied, chugging his third glass in a short amount of time. “She even kissed me!” he cried out.

“Lad, a woman kissed you and you make it sound as if it was the most terrible thing that has happened to you,” Liam laughed. “Is she attractive?”

“See, that’s where it gets interesting,” Neal pointed out. “I don’t know if I ever loved her. I think I was in love with the idea of loving someone again, and she was an easy mark.”

“Ew.” Bella visibly shuddered.

“You must have done a bang-up job if that woman travelled around the world to find you,” Garrett shook his head, laughing. “Is she hot?” When Bella narrowed her eyes on him, he realized that Liam had asked it before. “What? I may be old but I’m still fully functional!”

“You’re gross,” Bella replied as she took a sip of her beer. “Sounds terrible, Neal.”

“Right?” Neal agreed with a nod as he poured himself another glass. “I haven’t missed her since I left – and had ended things with her, mind you. Besides, there’s this girl I really want to get to know better and having a complicated ex in town is bad.”

Bella looked at him and shook her head before grabbing her laptop and her bottle of beer. “Guy talk time, I suppose. Good night everyone. Oh, Neal? If you want to come to the States with me, we’re leaving tomorrow after stopping by at Carlo’s for your passport, but you can always stay here, I’m sure Garrett won’t mind you staying here.”

“What time?”

Bella shrugged. “Whenever we’re awake. Good night everyone, this girl is hauling her ass off to bed.”

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