Chapter 20

“I killed Esme,” Grant said as he took a sip of his beer. They were sitting in Bella’s courtyard because he’d wanted to have a chat with her. He’d come clean towards the Michaels about his real name and Bella calling him ‘Grant’ no longer made him wince. “She was keeping up pretenses while Carlisle… uh, anyway, I tortured her for your location and then killed her.”

She wasn’t surprised to hear that. “Why?”

Grant shrugged. “Spur of the moment thing. Angry. For what they did to us. Especially you.”

“I take it you did it before you contacted NCIS?”

“Of course, I made it look like an accident, too.”

“Then I don’t really see an issue, to be honest. She had it coming,” Bella said coldly as she took a sip of her drink. “It’ll make Carlisle feel alone for the rest of his life, he’ll feel what it feels like to miss a part of you.” She hated it that her family wanted to be so violent in their dealings with the rest of the family, but if Grant’s story of a few weeks ago had been true; that Edward had ‘left’ for a year, why wasn’t he dead yet? Was he that special?

“Exactly,” Grant agreed. “And I don’t feel guilty about it whatsoever. Nor contacting NCIS to help and get you.I know I have a friend in the FBI, I only trust a handful of them and they’re not here.”

Bella smirked. “And here I thought you loved the Suits.”

“Hell no! Just Auggie and some others. NCIS agent Dwayne Pride and I go way back, he owed me a favor. He’s an okay guy, and his team follows his orders so… they’re good guys.”

“You think I’m in trouble with them?”

“Nah, you’re protected by the FBI. Neal’s friend Peter made that abundantly clear over the phone, something about you being their star witness in a high profile case.”

She winced.

“Itsy bitsy Bella, the Suits’ star witness,” Grant laughed. “Your worst nightmare!”

“Shut up.”

He took a sip of his beer with a big smile on his face. “Narc.”

“You need to stop, or I’ll hit you over the head with this,” she pointed to her cast. However, seeing as this was one of the best conversations she had with her brother since she realized he was her brother, she was worried. The look on his face kept switching between concerned, fun and regret. “Are you going to stick around in New Orleans? Or is this chat a goodbye chat?”

“I’m leaving for a bit,” Grant admitted as he took another sip of his beer. “I have a few things to clean up for us and then hopefully I can come to live in New Orleans permanently again. Just some loose ends and all.”

“You don’t have to if you like what you’re doing, traveling and stuff.”

“I do, but I can do things that I like here in New Orleans, too. I’d love for us to truly reconnect, maybe I can introduce you to my adoptive parents, I’m sure you’ll like them.”

“Oh, no, that would be a bad idea,” Bella laughed, shaking her head. “Just promise that you’ll come back and that we will get to know each other better.”

“And you promise to get better and allow others to take care of you. You don’t always need to be in the driver’s seat, you know.”

“I’m trying!” She said defensively, taking another sip of her drink. “You know… it doesn’t make any sense.”

“What doesn’t?” Neal asked as he walked into the courtyard. “Him?”

“Ha!” Grant laughed, shaking his head.

“No. Well, yes, but that’s okay,” she smiled at Neal. “No, it doesn’t make sense why they took me instead of straight up killing me as per the rules,” Bella continued. “The whole thing doesn’t make sense as they did kill Peter and Charlotte. They sent the Volturi after me because I left them,” she looked at Grant. “You told me that Edward left and found you.”

“He did.”

“Then why was he allowed to return and why wasn’t I? I mean, leaving is breaking the rules, and I accepted that but Edward’s my brother. Not only did they send the Volturi after me, Emmett came after me as well. Shouldn’t they have killed me after Lucy took me to them?”

Grant and Neal uncomfortably exchanged looks. “They did leave you to die, Bella. If we hadn’t found you, you would have died a slow, agonizing death as they weren’t planning on returning. They got what they needed,” Grant eventually said. “To see you suffer.”

“But why didn’t they do that to Edward?”

“That’s one of the reasons I’m leaving, to answer that question because that never sat right with me and I’ve had Cole do his hacking thing. He didn’t come up with anything so I’m going to try to find every safe house and known house that belonged to the Cullens, even those who aren’t on the FBI’s radar, yet.”

“No digital trail, huh? I could give you a list. I know most of their off grid houses, they’re all under aliases.”

“That’d work.”

“Neal and I could help?” Bella suggested with an innocent look on her face.

“No!” Both Neal and Grant chorused. “Are you insane? You were released from the hospital only days ago!”

~o.O.o~

Bella was laying in Neal’s arms in bed, drawing circles on his chest with her index finger. It had been a few days since Grant had left, and almost two weeks since she was out of the hospital. She hated it that she still felt so slow, but her body was still healing and Neal had to help her a lot. She was so lucky with him.

“How are you feeling?” Bella didn’t stop paying attention to his chest as she looked up at him. “Like… you know… all that has happened lately?”

“Oh, I’m fine now that you’re back,” Neal let out a breath as he played with her hair. “I still don’t regret making the call to have the authorities take care of the Cullen’s network, while the idea was fun, we were way over our heads.”

“Debatable.”

“Still not giving up, huh?” he laughed. “We did a lot of damage, the Suits can do the rest, I mean, if they dig deep enough into that list they’ll find enough stuff.”

“I know… but… giving up control is hard. I’m working on it.”

“Speaking of working on things… I think we both need a change once this is over. I mean, the trial against your family is about to start, but after that… we deserve something different.”

Bella smiled. “Live like artists? Although…” she lifted up her hurt hand. “Not sure if that’s going to happen for me.”

“Early days,” he kept playing with her hair. “You’re still healing. Nerve damage takes months to heal, your bones a few weeks. And until your surgeons say otherwise, we’ll expect a full recovery, deal?”

She should feel some pain in her hand, even though it was in a cast, and the only thing she could feel at the moment was the tip of her index finger, it felt cold. She couldn’t quite move her fingers because they were neatly wrapped up and it felt like a log was attached to her arm. “What about a security firm? You did that before in Paris.”

“One time.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t it be fun to do that again?”

“And how would our new friends like that idea?” Neal smiled at her. “Because between the two of us, we could make a place so secure, nobody would be able to get in or out.”

“Well, they would… for the right price,” Bella smirked. “We can always secure a building like you’d build a jenga tower… but take away one important piece, and the tower collapses.”

“How about a quieter life?”

She smiled up at him. “You’re going to miss the adrenaline. The puzzles.”

“I won’t, I’ve got you.”

“We’ll see,” Bella mused as she slowly got up and kissed him. “I think you’ll get bored, that’s all.”

“And what about you, huh?”

“I have my computer,” she stuck her tongue out to him and left the bed to go and make coffee for them. That was the one thing she could still do one handedly. It sucked not having any feeling in her fingers and she couldn’t wait to start physical therapy or something to try to get some use back.

“Naked coffee,” Neal mused as he followed her. “I like it! Would you want to have pancakes for breakfast?”

“Yes please,” she replied and picked up her phone from the counter as it was flashing with a new message. “Ugh, we need to get dressed. Auggie and Peter are coming by in 30 minutes. Something urgent.”

“Oh, that doesn’t sound good,” Neal said worried. “Everything okay?”

“I don’t know, Mingus left Shitface a message saying that they were stopping by and that it was urgent,” Bella shrugged. “Not sure what could be so urgent unless they have more questions, but how could they be urgent? I mean, I could just call them. Normally he asks for me to call him.”

“We’ll see, at least there’ll be coffee and pancakes waiting for them in the courtyard,” Neal smiled at her as he lifted her into his arms and walked off to the bathroom with her. Bella had somewhat accepted the FBI’s watchdogs outside the house, and he promised her that should someone needed to come in, it would be Peter or one of his team that Neal was acquainted with, but only as far as the courtyard. No further. Surprisingly, Bella had agreed with that.

For Auggie and Peter both making the trip out to New York to come by for a visit, urgent or not, something must have been wrong.

They had only anticipated Auggie and Peter to come and visit, and Bella tensed at the door when she saw that they brought friends. “Oh, hell no.”

“You don’t really get a choice in the matter,” Peter replied as he gently pushed her aside to let everybody in. “Good to see you Bella, you’re looking good.”

“I’m still not too happy with you two in my house and you bring friends?”

“Relax,” Auggie smiled widely. “We’re the good guys!”

“That’s debatable and you brought friends! To my house! Without telling me!”

“I know, I know,” Auggie said as he felt for her arm and then moved up to her shoulder go gently squeeze it for reassurance. “If they break anything in your home, you can break them. But they need to be here and we’ll tell you why in a second when we all sit down.”

Bella sighed and nodded. “Come on in, the courtyard is right ahead, there’s no steps if you keep walking straight,” she eventually said, closing the door behind the group of people. She felt uncomfortable. She watched as Peter helped Auggie to sit down as the other two sat down as well. Neal was offering them coffee and beignets and Bella was leaning somewhat against the wall, her arms crossed over each other. “I’m not going to lie, but this is making me feel really uncomfortable.”

“As it should,” one of the other men said.

Knowing that Bella didn’t like pleasantries at this point, Auggie decided to bite the bullet and just get out with it. “This is Harold Finch, he’s the prosecutor in the case against your family, and—”

“Prosecutor? Auggie, I told you everything and you recorded it, what is a prosecutor doing in my home? Should I have my lawyer present?”

“Do you have a lawyer?”

“No.”

“You don’t need a lawyer, miss Cullen,” Finch replied as a matter of factly. “We have collected enough evidence against your siblings and your father to put them away for a very long time, even without your testimony.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“Your immunity has been approved, however, only if you testify at both trials in the flesh and go into WITSEC.”

“And have everyone and their favourite monkey know where I live? So even after testifying I’ll have a target on my back for the friends of the Cullens that I can’t remember or don’t know about. No. I just bought this house and I have no intention of leaving.”

“We can say that you’ve lived in one of the homes that the Cullens own, it won’t trace back to New Orleans. You’re very cooperative, you can come back here. The only people who know where you truly live is Agent Burke’s team, myself, and this man here, US Marshall John Santini. He’s willing to work with you on your new identity, and Neal’s, if he chooses to come with you.”

“No.”

“Normally someone in WITSEC will be moved away from their home, from their friends,” Santini said. “However, having heard your story from Anderson, and Burke, and knowing the time you’ve been in New Orleans and who your neighbors are, I am willing to keep you here,” he added. “I’ll be here in New Orleans as your contact and Burke and Anderson are swapping New York for New Orleans.”

“My dad knows I’m in New Orleans, he sent Emmett here to kill me,” Bella replied as she looked at Neal, who had a passive look on his face. “What do you think about all this?”

“What’s the alternative?”

“Neal, if you do this, you won’t ever be able to contact Mozzie again,” Peter reminded him. “I don’t know who else you’re still in contact with from your old life, but it’d be no more Mozzie.”

“I’m not worried,” Neal replied with a shrug. “You know Mozzie, he will never tell a soul.”

“If you bend the rules for me because of my story, you can bend the rules for Neal. He deserves it,” Bella said as she finally sat down. “Mozzie is important to Neal, and he may be… an acquired taste, if you want me to keep my new friends because I never had any, Neal should be able to get to keep his old friend who’s this vault that nobody can crack but Neal.”

Peter thought for a moment before looking at Santini. “Mozzie will find him anyway, no matter how deep we’ll put Neal. He should be included in the deal.”

Santini had a faint smile on his lips as he looked through the papers. “Well, I suppose that I have to remove Mr. Theodore Winters off the list of allowed contacts and replace it with that Mozzie…”

“Theordore is fine,” Neal’s face broke out in a huge smile. “Thank you.”

“Another matter to consider is that you’re not allowed to do anything that has to do with your current life, to minimize exposure. No more hacking, no more running cons. For Neal, no more jobs where people can see your face,” Santini continued. “There’ll be more restrictions for you than there will be for her.”

“You’re talking as if I already said yes,” Bella said as she took a sip of her coffee. “As if Neal already said yes.”

“Well,” the prosecutor said as he retrieved a bundle of papers from his pocket. “You’re being summoned by the judge for your testimony as a witness, going against that will not be a good thing as you’ll be arrested and held in contempt of the court.”

“Yeah, the whole WITSEC thing was being used as an incentive,” Auggie grinned. “You have no choice, Bella.”

“You’re having way too much fun with this,” Bella muttered, panic rising in her chest. “I’m not comfortable at all. I’m getting way too much law enforcement time lately. I don’t think I can face them, the idea of being in a courtroom and seeing them, and cops and the jury… I can’t. I-I’m sorry,” she said as she got to her feet. “Have fun talking to each other but I need to get out,” she pushed her chair to the side and quickly made her way out of the door into the tunnel.

Bella made her way into the Michaels’ home and didn’t even realize she was intruding when she walked to the nearest alcohol table and was met by stares from Nick, Myriam, Cole and what looked like John and a woman she hadn’t met before. “Don’t mind me,” she said as she poured her drink and backed away. “I was never here, I’ll return the glass later.”

“That’s alright, we have an open door policy, you know that,” Nick said kindly as he looked at her. “No need to leave, are you alright?”

She stopped walking and nodded as she took a large gulp from her drink. “Currently, there are two suits, a prosecutor and a US Marshall with my con-artist boyfriend in my house right now and I know that sounds like the start of a bad joke, but it isn’t.”

“Sounds to me, you need a lawyer,” John piped up from his seat, he was the fixer for the Michaels, much like she’d been for the Cullens, but he got his hands really dirty. The Irishman kept surprising her. “I am one,” he added. “What? I’m not just a pretty face, y’know.”

“I don’t see why I need a lawyer, they want me to testify against my family in exchange for my immunity and witness protection – to which I don’t agree on but they are somehow lenient and they’ll allow me to stay where I am.” Bella downed the rest of her glass before walking back to the alcohol table and poured herself another, her hand slightly shaking from the anxiety attack that she tried to hold back and from pouring with one hand. “It’s funny how things can change so quickly. At first, I wasn’t afraid of them. I’d happily have them kill me for breaking the rules. But the sheer thought of going into a courtroom with so many people in them and seeing my family…” she rambled before John interrupted her.

“You need a lawyer, lass,” John nodded. “To talk to those assholes in your house right now and serve as a barrier. I’ll happily do that for you.”

“And you’re going to need a doctor’s note,” Myriam replied before looking at the strange woman next to her. “And fortunately for you, Bella, we have a psychiatrist right here. We’ve spoken to her about you, and I think that if you have one or two conversations with her, she can have John arrange a different way of testifying for you, isn’t that right, Camille?”

“That’s the girl?” Camille said surprised as Myriam nodded. Camille got to her feet and approached Bella with an extended hand before realizing Bella was holding her glass and she couldn’t use her other hand. “Hi, Bella, nice to finally meet you. My name is Camille. I met Nick and Myriam through various courses we went to together and I would be honored to help you.”

“I’m not crazy, I don’t need a shrink.”

“Who said that only crazy people needed someone to talk to? No, Myriam’s right, I can help John and you with arranging a different way to testify. If the sheer thought of going through that process is making you shake like a leaf as you are now, I’m afraid what it’ll do when you actually set foot in that courtroom. You’re not weak by accepting help.”

Bella kept her eyes on Camille as she drank her liquid courage. The woman seemed to be telling the truth. She was truthful. She then looked to John, who she heard so many great things about – and not so great things – but she wasn’t surprised that he had passed the bar. She was tired. She just wanted this to be all over. “Yeah, fine.”

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