A/N: Sorry for the delay. I had a surgery and life was pretty demanding. But now that I’m recouping, I have lots of time in my hands to write. So updates will be quicker. Thanks for your patience. 🙂
Chapter-17: Dead Leaves
I have no recollection whatsoever of running out of that decrepit place. All I remember is clutching Tony’s hand in a death grip as he led me out of there. I focus on taking as much air as I can in my lungs, needing to keep the panic attack at bay. By the time I’ve got my breathing under control, Tony has me ducking behind a bush as he watches the men surrounding the house look around in apparent confusion.
“Ar-are they looking for us?” I manage to ask in a hoarse voice.
Tony nods in silence from next to me.
Just then, something catches my eyes. With a whoosh, James’s white Ferrari scoots past the men before turning around and rushing in the opposite direction. The stench of burnt rubber fills the air as the car races with its tires squealing.
“Fuuuuck!” From somewhere out of my vision, I hear James cry out in fury. “Whoever the fuck is doing this is going to wish he was dead. I’mma kill that son of a bitch!”
One of his men asks, “Who are you talking about, Boss?”
James curses again. “It must be that fuckwit Virtuoso. He’s yanking my chain. He’s known for his notorious sense of humor.”
Amidst the scene unraveling before our eyes, my mind races. This diversion is our chance, I realize. “Tony?” I call.
He manages an unintelligible mumble under his breath then asks, “Yes, Ms Bella?”
“Get ready,” I instruct him. “The men are busy now. This is our chance to get out of here.”
“I’ll count to three. On three, we’ll both run out of here and make a dash for our car. You’ll take the wheel and I’ll be there to support you.”
When there’s no response from him, I turn my head to face him. He gulps and then asks in a whispered voice, “Can we exchange roles? Maybe you should take the wheel and I should be the backup …”
I spear him with a glare and ask back, “Do you think I’d have asked you to do that if I had a driving license?”
He blinks. “You don’t …?”
“Failed three times,” I answer bitterly. Taking in a deep breath, I ask, “Ready?”
He lets out a sigh and answers, “Ready.”
And then, we’re running like bats out of hell, making a beeline for the car. I just about wrench open the car door and throw myself in the passenger seat. Turning my head, I see that Tony has managed to get there too. “Hurry!” I yell.
He shifts gears and we’re off. A collection of screams tell us that we’ve been noticed. “They’ve seen us,” Tony says, sounding panicked.
“Just drive and get us out of here,” I instruct as he accelerates.
In the mad dash to get away from the mob of men carrying various weapons coming after us, Tony swerves and crashes into an oncoming car. “Shit!” he curses as smoke rises out of the bonnet.
“Let’s get out,” I say, throwing open my door. “We can ask these people for help.”
Without arguing, he follows my suit just as a tall man with straw-colored hair gets out of the car we’ve crashed into. The man adjusts a badge on his hip and marches up to us. He gives us a once-over before asking, “Do you have any idea that you just damaged a federal vehicle?”
“You’re a cop?” I ask back, feeling relieved.
He shakes his head. “FBI.”
Just then, the crowd chasing after us reaches the spot and both Tony and I duck behind the FBI agent. With their weapons flashing in the sunlight, they try to get to us as the agent steps forward and raises a hand to stop them. “May I ask why you gentlemen are running around with firearms in broad daylight?”
“Who’s asking” one of the men bark out.
“FBI special agent Jasper Whitlock.”
The hands holding weapons lower at the sound of his designation and one by one the men disperse. Agent Whitlock stares after them for a few moments before turning around to face me. “May I ask who you are and why they were following you?”
I fish out my id and hand it over to him. “I’m Isabella Barone. I work for Inside Out News. Those men are angry about an article I wrote …”
“Right,” he nods as he hands me back my id. “You’re the one who wrote the article about Jacob Black.”
I’m shocked to find out that even the FBI has read my article. “You’ve read it?”
He grins. “Ma’am, we’re humans. Everybody loves a little gossip.”
I straighten my back and shoot back, “It’s not gossip if it’s true.”
“Point well made,” he says.
“Anyway, you need to hurry,” I tell him. “There’s a girl in there … Royce King was physically abusing her. I witnessed it. We both did, right, Tony?” As I look to my side, I realize that the spot where Tony was is empty. What the fuck? Did the guy just ditch me?
“Who’s Tony?” Agent Whitlock asks.
“My junior journalist …” I answer, smiling in embarrassment. “I think he ran off after seeing the men.”
“In that case,” he pulls open his car door and holds it for me. “I’ll be happy to escort you to the station.”
“But the girl …”
He motions to his men walking up to the house. “My men are on it, Ma’am. You need to come with me and lodge a complaint with the police.”
I nod. “Let’s go then.”
Making my escape from Bella is easy thanks to her one-track mind being focused on the men charging us. I duck into a public restroom and change my clothes before contacting Esme. “Where’s James now?”
“Chasing after his car like a fool,” she answers. “How long should I stall him?”
“Enough stalling,” I tell her. “Take him to the place he took Bella to.”
“NOW, Es!” I yell as I take off in that direction.
As I run, my muscles stretch like a well-oiled machine, and feeling the wind blow against my face is as exhilarating as it always is. “He’s there,” Esme’s voice says in my ear.
“So am I,” I answer as I pull on my mask.
For a second, I watch as Esme makes the Ferrari stall and James gets out of the car he took from his men. He approaches cautiously and starts throwing threats to the air. “Get out now, you bastard. Whoever you are, you’re gonna wish you never touched my car,” he shouts.
I sneak up to him from behind. He presses a remote and the convertible roof of the car retracts, revealing that it’s empty inside.
“What the fuck?” His frown is clear in his voice. “Is this a joke?”
That’s the moment I chose to jump at him from behind, pushing his head to the car’s windshield. He screams and flails his hands. “Who are you?” he yells.
I pull out a cable tie from my pocket and tie his hands to the steering wheel with his face looking away from me.
I take a seat in the back seat of his car and let out a satisfied sigh as I look at my handiwork.
“Who the fuck are you?” he shouts again.
“Take a guess,” I answer, egging him on.
“You’re that Virtuoso dude, aren’t you?” he asks after thinking for a moment.
“Bingo! See you’re not as dumb as you look.”
“Uncle Aro told me that you might come after me,” he says. “So it’s true then. You’re always around that newsgirl.”
I feel anger take hold of me as he addresses Bella so callously. “That newsgirl has a name,” I bite out.
He laughs. “Why are you so interested in her? She’s not even hot.”
She’s fucking beautiful, I want to say, but hold my tongue because he’s blind to that kind of beauty. Instead, I land a kick on his butt that’s facing me and say, “Don’t be an asshole just because you are a jerk. And for your information, I am not interested in her. I used her as a bait.”
“Yes,” I answer. “To lure you out here.”
“If you needed to meet me so badly, you could’ve come to my office.”
“Well, if I did, I wouldn’t be able to do this …” I say as I push his head down and check his jacket pockets. I find two cell phones in there – one with a cracked screen which he obviously uses regularly. The other phone is shinier and newer and I figure that he doesn’t use it regularly … possibly to just contact his special clients.
I drop the first phone and hold the second up to him. “What’s the password for this?”
He has the balls to laugh. “You think I’ll just hand you the password on a platter?”
“Fair point.” shoving the phone in my pocket, I pull my own phone out and switch on the camera. “Say cheese, motherfucker,” I say before rapidly clicking a series of his pictures, all with his tied hands visible.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he demands, blinking at being momentarily blinded by the flash.
I stroke my chin and reply thoughtfully, “Well, I’m wondering what would happen when I hack into your security company’s website and post these images there. Maybe I’ll even add a caption giving myself the photo credit. What do you think?”
“Fucking asshole!” he curses out. “Why are you doing this?”
I hold up his phone to his face. “Give me the password.”
“James1,” he answers begrudgingly.
I nod and put in the password the screen lights up to reveal his ugly mug with an arm around a girl. “Fuckwit,” I can’t help but spit out and then start to search through his contact list. I feel my eyebrows pull together in confusion. “Why’s there only one contact in your list? The Owner.”
“T-that’s mm-my girlfriend,” he stutters, all bravado gone all of a sudden.
This must be what he’s afraid I’ll find, I realize. I start looking for media files in the phone. No images. Weird. That’s when I stumble upon it … a voice recording.
Hitting play, I hold the phone to my ear.
A voice I recognize as James’ says, “We’ve found the reporter who wrote that trash story about Mr. Black.”
An unknown voice retorts, “What have you done about it so far? I need results, James!”
“Yes, Sir,” James says. “We’ve figured out that she’s connected to Virtuoso, the mercenary, somehow. It’s like that son of a bitch is protecting her.”
“Get rid of him then,” the voice commands. “Or do I need to call your uncle Aro to tell him how you’ve been slacking?”
The recording stops and I hold the phone up to James’ face. “Who are you talking to here? Who’s The Owner?”
James cries out in pain as I pull his hair from behind. “Come on, man! You know I can’t tell you. What happened to the business code? We’re both on the same line of work here.”
I yank on his head just a little more and snap at him, “I’m nothing like you! And if you won’t tell me who he is, how about I call him then? Shall I call him and say that his little bitch spilled the beans on him to me?”
At the mention of him, James starts shaking like a dead leaf. “Please, don’t do this,” he pleads. “I’m telling you the truth. I don’t know the man. I’ve only talked to him over phone.”
Narrowing my eyes, I ask, “How did you come across him?”
“A few months back, Uncle Aro told me that this man bought our security company in the stock market. He holds the major shares of Volturi Guards. That’s all I know.”
“And you have no idea who you work for?” I ask incredulously.
He shakes his head. “I’ve only spoken to him twice. He usually communicates with my uncle. Please let me go.”
Judging by the way his knees are shaking, I decide to accept his answers and get out of his car. “Well, James, I’m sure your men will find you here,” I tell him as I drop his phones in the back seat of the car. “Pray you never cross my path again.”
A/N: Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.
Thanks for reading.
See you Friday.