Home > The Billionaire's Redemption(9)

The Billionaire's Redemption(9)
Author: Olivia Thorne

“He doesn’t live in Brooklyn, that I can assure you. French Polynesia, maybe…”

“Grant!”

“That’s why I need to make the call.”

“Who is this guy, that you need his help so much?”

“He’s the best electronic security systems man in the world.”

I roll my eyes. “Give me a break, I can hack into any system there is.”

“Maybe… although if someone asks you the best possible way to get past a FLIR system with an air-gapped server, would you know?”

I have no idea what a FLIR system is. But ‘air-gapped’ means the computer is not connected to the internet, or networked with any other computers connected to the internet… which means I would be powerless if I’m not standing right there in front of it.

Checkmate.

“I doubt this ‘Jean-Paul’ would know what to do with an AES-encrypted server array, either,” I grump, trying to sidestep Grant’s argument.

“No doubt, but we’ve got you for that, and that’s why we’re going to see JP for the rest. Not to mention he has extensive connections to the French criminal underground, in case we need somebody else with another specialty.”

“You just want to pull an Ocean’s 11, don’t you. Get your con man, your tightrope walker, your explosives guy…”

He grins. “Maybe.”

“Are you absolutely sure there’s no other option?”

“Well, I’m sure you could probably track him down, but to do that you’d need a new computer, and an internet connection, and – ”

“FINE. Make the damn call.”

I’m not very good company for the next few minutes.

We turn off the major thoroughfare and park on a cobblestone street dotted with cute cafés.

“Why here?” I ask.

Grant points at a big red telephone booth across the road.

“Seriously?” I complain. “A public phone? Why don’t you just call your penthouse in New York and announce exactly where you are?”

“What do you want me to do, then?” Grant snaps. “Use the cell in the backpack?”

It’s obvious he’s tired of my snippiness, which pulls me up short a little.

“No…” I say in a less confrontational (though no more optimistic) tone of voice.

He sees I’m trying, and softens. “I could steal somebody’s cell phone instead.”

“No, they’ll run after you and – ”

“Please,” he scoffs. “They’ll never know. I can do a bump and lift with the best of them.”

I frown as the meaning of bump and lift slowly sinks in. “You can pickpocket, too?”

He smirks. “After all you know about me, is that so hard to believe?”

Billionaire, cat burglar, lock picker, car hot-wirer, architect who uses secret passages he designs to aid in his crimes, target of a serial killer –

Okay, no, it’s not that hard to believe at all.

I sigh. “Actually, there’s a good chance they’d have a password on the phone, so… no. Let’s just do the public phone and get it over with.”

“Okay. Hand me the backpack.”

I hand it over, and he pulls out a credit card.

“You can’t use that,” I order.

He sighs, then plucks several damp twenties from one of the blocks of cash.

“Nobody’s going to trade in your cash for euros here,” I say.

“Oh yeah? Watch the Master Negotiator at work, baby.”

Oh my God. Such a cocky bastard.

If my life wasn’t riding on his success, I would love to see him fall on his face, just once.

He takes the backpack with us as we get out of the car and walk across the street to a café. There are a few early bird patrons sitting at the tables outside, but the morning rush doesn’t seem to have started in earnest.

Inside, the smell of fresh pastries sets my stomach gurgling. Up until now, I was too stressed out to realize how hungry I am.

Grant talks to the manager/owner/whatever for a minute in French. I have to say, I’m impressed with how fluent Grant is. He almost sounds like he was born here.

The bald, older guy has a dark cloud of distrust in his eyes, but at the end of the interaction, he forks over a few coins for the two twenties.

Grant seems enormously pleased with himself.

I can’t help myself. “That’s all you got? That was a hell of an exchange rate there, Mr. Master Negotiator.”

“Well, I negotiated a couple of coffees and a handful of croissants, too, but if you don’t want them – ”

“I take it back,” I say immediately, though I think my voice is drowned out by the grumbling of my stomach.

Along with to-go cups of piping hot coffee, we get three pastries in total. Grant lets me have two of them.

I have to admit, they are the best damn croissants I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.

We walk over to the red phone booth eating our food and sipping our coffee. Grant goes inside, plunks in a few coins, dials a number… waits way too long… then starts talking in French. There are no pauses, so I’m assuming he’s leaving a message.

I wonder how voice recognition software works when you’re speaking a different language. Grant doesn’t even sound like himself when he’s speaking French. Maybe, just maybe, we have a shot at escaping Epicurus’s notice.

Although I’m not betting on it, so I scan the streets worriedly as I lick the last few buttery croissant crumbs from my fingers.

It’s not the sudden appearance of a carful of gun-toting mercenaries I’m worried about. To have enough men to cover every possible place we might pop up in Paris would be impossible, even for Epicurus. (Damn that’s a lot of alliteration in that last sentence; say it out loud.)

No, it’s the surveillance cameras I’m concerned with: banks, private businesses, traffic intersections. If Epicurus can identify where we’re calling from, then he can hack the cameras closest to us and confirm our location.

Once that happens, the carful of gun-toting mercenaries follows shortly thereafter.

This is France, not the U.S., so there probably aren’t as many cameras… but it’s a Western country. The fact that I can’t see them makes no difference. They’re there. They’re always there.

When Grant steps out of the phone booth, I say, “He didn’t answer?”

“It’s not that kind of a system.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means it was a number without a recording. I left a message, and he’ll call me back.”

“There wasn’t a message?”

“Nope.”

“Then how do you know it’s the right guy?”

“I know.”

When you’re dealing with somebody who’s constantly and overwhelmingly confident, it can grate on your nerves a bit. Especially when your life hangs in the balance.

Not to mention that it’s seven in the morning. I can’t believe that ‘contacts’ of international art thieves keep early morning hours.

“How long do we have to wait?” I ask in annoyance, imagining us having to stand there for hours on end.

Suddenly the telephone rings.

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