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Vincent couldn’t hear himself think over the booming techno music. He hated being in clubs like this, a previously abandoned meat packing factory on the waterfront, but somehow this was where his night had led him. He followed his quarry into the club fifteen minutes after they entered. It being a Thursday night, he hoped that he’d be in and out, then back home before midnight. But he’d been searching for almost twenty minutes and he was no closer to finding Benson and Woodcomb.
* * *
When Wong told Larsen that he could code the Trojan program in a couple days, he was being slightly humble. It only took one night of coding before it was ready. Another night of running some diagnostics to make sure that it was operating properly and he was confident that his program, which he coyly named “Exodia,” would give him complete access to Volek’s system once it was deployed. How to deploy it was the only obstacle standing in his way.
For two days after he finished Exodia, he went through scenario after scenario, plan after plan, imagining how he wanted the conversation to go. Larsen had given him options, from asking politely to straight blackmail, none of which seemed very effective or easy to him. If he asked her to help install a program on his boss’s computer and she said no, she’d probably tell and Paul and Vincent’s plan would be over before it started. Ditto if he confronted her about the affair to blackmail. It would just push the pair together as Volek began to counter attack. He had to find a way to convey to Annabelle to do this because of something he knew that would get her in trouble with Paul. If she had a secret to keep from Volek, that would likely be the best way to get her to help.
So he studied her routines, trying to figure out where and when he might have an opening, something from her personal life that could cause friction if Paul were to find out. He felt like a stalker, following her every afternoon, but after a few days he had her routine down. Yoga, happy hour, then home. Nothing too extraordinary that gave him ideas to reach out to her.
Next step was to hack her social media. E-mail, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, Snapchat, whatever. Nothing but the musings and insights of a basic white girl in her mid-twenties. He went deeper.
It felt bad, icky, for him to hack into her financials. Chase app and Venmo were fairly secure, but anything was doable if you were persistent and knew the right people. He called in a few favors to some friends, and he was in her transactions. While most of them checked out against what he had already observed, a few cryptic Venmo transactions stood out. Payments from Annabelle, usually late at night in chunks of $50 or $100, to Rob Benson. And always with the confetti emoji.
It confused him. It was the only piece of information that he could find of hers that didn’t fit in with the rest of her innocuous life. This, he decided, was the key he could use against her. Whatever she was buying, Volek wasn’t giving to her and she was getting it from his younger, far more handsome, subordinate. No way she would want Volek to know about it.
So he kept a program running, alerting him whenever she made a Venmo transaction. Alone in his room on a Thursday night his phone buzzed. His program had picked up something. Another Venmo transaction. $100. To Rob Benson. That night.
* * *
He’d spent the car ride over here frantic, trying to type on his laptop at every red light. Finding Annabelle was tricky since she didn’t have a Find-Your-Friend account and her phone’s GPS wasn’t active on any apps that she was running. He could triangulate her phone’s location based off cell towers, but that would take time. And he had a sneaking suspicion that this was an opportunity that might not be available for long.
Instead, he had done the next best thing and hacked Benson’s phone. Luckily that dipshit had GPS tracking enabled on every app, and he’d downloaded a bunch of sketchy apps that had been mining his data even after he deleted them. He might as well have made his phone’s password “1-2-3-4-5” and left it out on Vincent’s desk.
Once he found Benson’s phone, it only took a few minutes to find the Uber that was carrying it and him. He tailed them for another five minutes before seeing him exit the car along with Charlie Woodcomb. They walked into an old factory that had been converted into a club. Fifteen minutes later, after planning what he would say to the pair when he found them, he followed.
* * *
Still no sign of Woodcomb, Benson, or Annabelle. Stopping at the bar on the second level, trying not to seem too conspicuous, he surveyed the open dance floor below. It was just a mass of indistinguishable faces, bobbing up and down like a wave pool in rhythm to the music.
As he leaned against the wet countertop, he thought he saw Woodcomb and Benson out of the corner of his eye. When he turned, it was just two different generic frat dudes. He thought about ordering a shot to get the nerves out. Wong didn’t know if Annabelle was there, so if he found the two law-bros he was going to have to threaten to call the cops or set Benson up for a drug test failure at work. Something that would scare them into telling him what the Venmo payments were for.
Impossibly, he heard a woman’s laughter cut through the din of the club. Over his shoulder, he knew he would see Annabelle before he even turned around. The instant he did, the mystery surrounding the confetti emoji became clear.
She was stumbling out of the men’s bathroom, one arm over Charlie Woodcomb, and the other hand rubbing against her gums. Charlie didn’t look like he was faring much better, his head swiveling around constantly. Vince could only assume he was looking for Benson and became assured of this when he placed Annabelle against the counter of the bar and took off in a near dead sprint. But before he left, he made sure to leave Anna with a long, passionate kiss, complete with a ton of groping. While she seemed into it as it was happening, after Woodcomb left Vincent could plainly see that she was not all there.
Quickly, he ordered a cup of water and hustled over to her side.
“Drink this,” he said as he pushed the plastic cup that was about 80 percent ice into her hand. Obliging, she gulped all the liquid down in about two seconds, even spilling some of the cubes of ice onto her face and neck. When she was finished, she slammed the cup on the counter, sending what ice was left in the cup everywhere, and looked up at him with bloodshot eyes and a giant grin.
“Ohmygod, ohmygod hiiiiiiiii!” she squealed as she threw her arms around Vincent. “I can’t belieeeeeve you’re actually here, Vincent! You finally came!”
She dropped her voice to a whisper and yanked Wong’s face right next to her. “Do you want to party?”
Alcohol clung to the air in front of Vincent’s nose as she spoke, and she began to pull his hands around her waist before he came to his senses and pulled back. She looked shocked for a second, then offended, and then disinterested as she began to look around, presumably for Woodcomb or Benson.
Wong weighed his options. He could let her go and call her out on it tomorrow, but she might deny it and play it as a he-said-she-said. He had nothing of proof to give to Volek, other than the transactions and her presence there. Anna was nearly compromised, but he didn’t have her in checkmate quite yet.
She pulled her phone out of her purse, he could see the screen was lit up with several text messages. Cursing himself, knowing that it was probably Charlie or Rob trying to find her, perhaps to bring her to another location where he was likely to be denied entrance, he tried to figure out a way to keep her occupied with him.
Swearing, she fumbled with the phone trying to unlock it–a tall task in her mental state–before sending it clattering to the floor. Vince bent down to sweep it up before any of the shuffling feet could damage it. As he brought it up, he saw that the phone was unlocked, and the texts that were prominently displayed had given him his leverage.
As he passed the phone back to Annabelle, he leaned in and spoke into her ear. “Why is Paul Volek texting you to ‘come over right now’ at this time of night?”
She looked confused, as the contact listing for the texts in questions did not say “Paul Volek” but “Dentist.” As she read the messages, which were asking for her to come over, that the dentist’s “wife was gone for the night,” and that he “needed her right now,” the realization dawned on her.
Annabelle’s eyes were filled with tears as she looked up at Vincent, but he wasn’t sure if they were out of fear, shame, or just due to the coke. In any case, she was sputtering to get some words out about “how did he know” and “it’s not what it looks like” and “he’ll be so mad if I’m not there.”
After a few more feeble attempts to explain away the texts, with continued, frantic searching for Woodcomb or Benson, Vincent saw her pull up the Uber app on her phone. When she looked away in dismay, he seized his chance.
“Do you need to give you a lift?”
She gazed back, still tears on her cheeks and nodded. Vincent looked back at her with kind eyes and offered her a hand before leading her out of the club and to his car.
Annabelle sat there in the passenger’s seat, quietly crying the whole way. The only words she spoke were instructions of where to turn as she gave him the directions to Paul Volek’s house. Of course, Vincent could have just asked for the address when they got in the car and put it in his GPS, but he preferred to make her ruminate and feel the shame with each curt sentence she spoke, knowing that he knew everything.
She didn’t thank him when she got out of his car, she just composed herself and scurried out, slamming the door behind her. He made sure to sit there and watch as she stood at the doorstep and waited for Volek to answer and let her in. He was sure Paul wasn’t looking at who had driven his mistress to his house this late at night, but he so desperately wanted to roll down the window and throw out some clever remark. But Vince kept himself in check. And he knew when she turned back to look at him before Volek’s front door closed that this whole night had been worth it. .