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Of all the things that Vincent Wong wanted to do in his life, being in an actual, honest-to-God stakeout van was definitely on the list. So far, the experience did not disappoint.
The inside of the converted UPS van was surprisingly spacious, with enough room for a whole row of monitors at which Agent Kundakar sat. Each monitor would occasionally flick from one video feed to another, showing the perspectives of the law enforcement agents who were positioned within the market. According to Agent Trumaine, they had eight plain-clothes officers stationed throughout the market, including one behind the vendor’s counter at the butcher’s shop where the meeting was to take place.
Vincent and Anna sat behind the two agents on some cold, plastic chairs, waiting with anticipation. His body felt wound up and tired, which was to be expected of someone who had been awake for over 30 hours straight. Mentally, though, he was just doing what he could to stop himself from bouncing up and down out of the chair.
It had been five months since the day that Tom Larsen had tracked him down in that dingy little diner and roped Vincent into this scheme that had led him to protective custody and a dead body at his doorstep. It seemed like another lifetime when he was just dropping fake financials in Charlie Woodcomb’s systems. It seemed like childish pranks by comparison.
Of course, he hadn’t included any of that in his story when he talked to the SEC. He told them about meeting with Tom, who was concerned that some people within Meca were misappropriating client funds and given Vincent’s background with computers he wanted to enlist the young attorney’s help. That they didn’t go to the SEC with the evidence immediately because they wanted to protect the company, and after Tom was set up to take the fall Vincent realized he needed to shut everything down. But then he felt the walls were closing in around him, and realized whoever was behind this was going to start winding up this scheme. So he had to act.
He admitted to being behind the Ransomware, needing to act fast and not wanting them to erase all evidence of what happened. Then he gave the SEC the final link they needed, proving Vincent Wong was their anonymous tipster. He told them how he’d contacted Rob Benson, someone he knew had misappropriated client funds in the past and given him the Ransomware data. Then he reached out to whoever was behind the wind-up and told them both to meet at the Terminal Market to get the decryption key for the locked accounts.
“He’s here,” one of the plainclothes officers said over the radio as the monitor clicked to his perspective. The four inside the van leaned in and watched as a surprisingly clear video of Rob Benson walking through the crowd played.
After a few steps, he stopped in front of Beiler’s Doughnuts, just a few windows down from where the officer was standing. Nervously, Benson tugged at his bright red scarf as he looked around.
“Looks like his friend hasn’t arrived yet.”
Rob Benson could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and it wasn’t just from his nasal problem that he had treated just before he’d walked in. This whole thing made him want to vomit, from the moment that he’d watched Annabelle leave the table after their talk.
How did she know about the money?
He kept going back to that thought. She clearly hadn’t found out about his gambling problems alone, but maybe Charlie or Dino or Wes had mentioned something to her when they were partying. But how had she found out about how he’d paid off those debts. No one, not even his closest friends, knew that he had borrowed some money from a client’s fund in order to pay off some bad people. No one knew it was ever missing, he’d replaced it just a month later, but somehow she knew.
That dumb bitch. There’s no way she didn’t find out about that without some help. And he knew exactly who it was.
Vincent Wong, that nerdy little prick. He saw the way that Jap would glower and stare at him and Charlie while they were enjoying life. That miserable asshole probably spent all his free time either playing video games or monitoring the activity of those cooler than him. And since he clearly wasn’t spending a lot of time outside the office on grooming or learning how to socialize properly, he probably had a lot of time to plot against him.
Benson took a deep breath and a step back. It’s gonna be okay. All you have to do is go to Terminal Market wearing a red tie, someone will meet you and ask for something. Give them the flash drive and you’re done.
He’d plugged in the drive the night before and tried to see what it was that he was supposed to be giving away, but it was all encrypted. Again, all pointing to Wong in his mind. The fat Asian fuck is obviously good with computers. In any case, he didn’t spend too much time worrying about what it was he was giving away. He really just wanted to do this for Annabelle so she would forget his little problem.
Who knows, maybe she’ll even give you a reward for good behavior like old times.
As the memories drifted through his mind, he began to smirk. But not even five seconds later, he heard the booming, coarse voice of the last person he expected to meet here today.
“Goddamn. I really didn’t think it would be you.”
Benson turned to find his boss, Paul Volek, standing behind him, looking more frantic than usual. His chest puffed out, as usual, Benson was struck seeing his almost sixty-year-old boss wearing a stylish bomber jacket, tight-fitting jeans, and chukka boots. Usually, older folks who dressed younger looked ridiculous, like a bad spy trying to blend in; Volek, he had to admit, looked good.
Volek laughed and shook his head, and Benson took a step back in response as if fearing that Paul was able to read his mind. “You have caused me a lot of problems you little shit.”
Benson didn’t respond. He just kept gulping little gulps, feeling like there was some object in his mouth that he wanted to swallow but couldn’t. Before his heart was beating in his chest, now it was beating all around his head, like he was surrounded by a bunch of drummers.
Volek sighed when he realized that Benson wasn’t going to speak. “Do you have it?”
Finally able to make his brain work clearly, Benson nodded and pulled the flash drive out of his pocket. He held it up in front of him blankly, as if offering it to a god. Without hesitation, Volek snatched the drive out of his hand and started walking past him, muttering “if you’re smart you’ll never show your fucking face in our offices again.”
Benson stood there, frozen with fear. Then the clouds in his mind cleared and he began to move his feet forward. He made it around the corner before the police officer wearing joggers and a Patagonia vest tackled him to the ground.
Agent Trumaine chuckled as he stood in the hallway of the local precinct. Philly PD had been kind enough to loan them their interview rooms for the evening as they questioned these two suspects. Of course, calling them “suspects” was just a mere formality at this point.
They caught Paul Volek as he was walking out the Terminal Marketplace to his car. He recognized the tail almost immediately and didn’t try to run. He simply followed the officers’ orders and said nothing other than the name of his lawyer, a prominent private criminal lawyer in New York City. She was driving down and would be there in another hour or so, so Volek hadn’t said another word, not even to ask for a glass of water.
On the other side of the wall from him, Robert Benson III was throwing one of the worst temper tantrums Trumaine had ever seen. From the moment the police officer tackled him, Benson hadn’t shut up. He swore at them the whole drive over, cursing and spitting at the officers. When they revealed that they had found a vial of a white powder in his car, Benson first insisted that he’d never seen the vial in his life, then that someone must have broken into his car and planted it. No doubt, the kid was about to lose his law license. Trumaine had a sneaking suspicion the Pennsylvania Bar wouldn’t lose much sleep over not having him as a member.
Once they’d finally gotten him into the room, Benson began to hyperventilate and scream, demanding to be let out of there. He began crying that he had severe anxiety and claustrophobia, but wouldn’t tell the agents if he was under the care of a psychiatrist or not. When they wouldn’t let him leave the room, he began punching the table so hard the wood splintered and bloodied his knuckles. Clearly, the kid was unhinged so the officers left him in there alone, waiting to question him later when he came to his senses.
Two hours later Benson was calmer but no saner. He kept insisting that he had been set up, that this whole thing was a conspiracy to make it look like he was involved. Even after Trumaine showed Benson the purchase orders of all those expensive toys, the Venmo accounts to a known drug dealer, and the documentation of money being moved out of some of his clients’ funds, he still maintained his innocence.
“It’s Wong! Vincent Wong! And Annabelle DeSoto! She’s the one who gave me the drive! And he helped her, I know it!”
“Vincent Wong and Annabelle DeSoto? You’re sure?” Trumaine asked him.
“Yes, absolutely!” Benson yelped. “Whatever this is that’s going on, they’re the ones behind it!”
“Well that’s interesting,” Trumaine had replied. “Because last night Vincent Wong and Annabelle DeSoto were nearly killed by a hitman named Dennis Farrell. He’s a known associate of your boss, Paul Volek. And I believe he met Farrell through your father. Robert Benson.”
Then Trumaine walked out of the room, leaving the young lawyer sitting in silence and disbelief.
* * *
On the other side of the wall, not five feet away from Benson, Volek sat in silence as he looked at his hands, clasped neatly in front of him. His lawyer would be there soon, he knew, and he was going to do the smart thing by not talking. Unfortunately, he knew the situation he was in. There was no good outcome for him here, not even a favorable plea deal.
But he wasn’t focused on the impending jail time, the damage that could be done to his company, friends, or even family. All he could think about was that hard drive that he’d taken from Benson. How valuable that little piece of plastic and circuitry could be. And how a few months ago he had given an even more valuable drive to his secretary. All he could think about was where she had put it, and how much was at stake for him to get it back. .
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