“You don’t have ID.”“Must have dropped it.” Hardison imagined Eliot trying his charming smile; he couldn’t see with Eliot facing away from the camera. Back to the headset and some very fast keywork, and he was in the security channel just as she said, “I need a check on a Jim Larkin from Lamont Security.”“I’m checking that for you,” Hardison said, affecting a slightly Indian accent. “Jim Larkin, security clearance for confidential files. ”“Thanks.” On the screen, Tripp lowered her wrist and smiled perfunctorily. “I’m heading in.”Sophie said, “Will this security audit pose a problem to our sale? That’s assault, you know.”“You’ll have to take that up with the CEO.”“Or I could just take it up with the officer who used a Taser. In the office, Hardison only had to listen to one comm, since Eliot was ‘auditing’ the meeting between the supervisor and Nate. “That’s going to have to go in my report.”“It’s policy Lamont approved—”“Which is outdated since the use of Tasers can result in death. Sophie, draped in a maroon hijab and wearing a long-sleeved dress whose skirt nearly touched the floor, sat across from the VP.“I’ll have it done tomorrow. ”“Yes, it will be fine.” Sophie stood, offering her hand. “Be safe tonight.”“Eliot can come with me,” she said brightly. I treasure that every day.” Accent slipped, he had to be careful not to let it again. Even when we argue, or when she’s going to trade a bag of gems to get me back, I know we love each other.” (IV) The last thing Hardison knew, he’d switched on WALL-E.“Lamont Security Services, I’m Jim Larkin.” He offered his hand. ”Hardison couldn’t hear the VP’s reply over Eliot’s, “No cameras in here? You might as well shoot them and hope it doesn’t hit anything vital.”“Where is she? “If there are problems, I will call you.”“It’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”She left the office alone; as soon as she cleared the door, she said in a low voice, “Eliot, get back to the security office.”“Sophie—”“You have them on the hook. “Maybe he can be the one tased.” (III) In retrospect, maybe Hardison should stop overselling his parts. He couldn’t have known that the Norwegians Sophie had swindled out of nearly forty-five carats of emeralds would decide the best way to get them back fast was to take Sophie’s dear, devoted, beloved husband. Then a blinding light flashed, jerking him awake, to realize he had his head on Eliot’s shoulder and Parker snuggled into his side.Parker, of course, looked wide awake already, and Eliot always woke up alert.
”“Parker, let the man heal in peace.” Hardison tossed him an icepack, which he caught with his better hand and slapped to his wrist.
She gave Parker a speculative look, but didn’t say anything.“I mean, none of what I’ve seen.
”That left a jumble of Sophie, Nate, and Eliot talking; for his own sanity, Hardison turned down Sophie and Eliot to listen in on Nate, as much as he ached to know if Eliot could see Parker. You can find out all their patterns and habits, and we can find out about their other ethical violations.”Eliot grimaced, but pushed open the door again; as soon as he jumped out, Nate climbed in. Who happened to be played by Hardison, since Nate had to be the middleman because he was a control freak. So he was in a basement, cuffed to a table, two Norwegians—Norwegians, who would have thought they would be hardasses like this? At least he had his earbud still.“She’ll pay,” Hardison said confidently.“You don’t deserve it. And I imagine we’re in a shoddy part of town, aren’t we? Sophie stood in front of them, wielding a camera with a huge flash attached, and he glared ineffectually at her. Hardison began to deny it, then realized he had his head tucked almost under Eliot’s chin, hand on his thigh, and Parker under his other arm.
If he could, he’d keep her safe, Hardison knew, but that didn’t change facts.“She was heading for the vault,” the security guard—no officer about it in Hardison’s mind—was saying. Damn it, Hardison, we told you not to oversell it, and what did you do? ”“That really narrows it down,” Eliot grumbled.“Hardison, keep talking. He cleared his throat and shifted, taking his hand away from Eliot’s leg.
“Her ID didn’t match her prints.”“You have fingerprint scanners, very nice.”He’d warned them.“Where are you holding her? ”“I know.”“You don’t know because you keep doing this. You want to keep them off their guard if you can,” Sophie said. “We just fell asleep like this.”“Damn it, Hardison, stop moving,” Eliot grumbled.“We have a client,” Sophie said, louder this time.
At least they’re not Russians.”Hardison tuned out the rest of Eliot’s muttering and waited for someone else to come on.“Do they have guns? “They’re less likely to hear Eliot taking out everyone upstairs after I offer the emeralds.”“She should be here any minute,” Hardison continued. That got Eliot to sit up straight and pull away from Hardison, and Hardison nudged Parker.
Which isn’t that much except when we have to change for cons, like when we stole the heart. ”“That’s where I last caught her,” Hardison confirmed.“Where are we on the security channel? Except you couldn’t do it, and we wouldn’t ever get that channel.” He kept muttering to himself as he typed, adjusting the band for the computer’s analog receiver, and grinned when he caught it. Larkin, will you help me take her out, since the guards—”“Officers,” the supervisor said.“Guards might feel the need to tase her again?
None of him looked old then.”Eliot gritted his teeth, but he didn’t say anything.“Doesn’t mean he’s not old,” Hardison said.“If he’s old, what does that make me? ”“I’m working on it, Nate, I’m doing like five things at once. “We’re in business.”“Let us know if you hear anything that sounds like they might have her.”“Got it.”“Security audit, at least that’s one thing in our favor,” Eliot muttered. We’ll get a full report once we’re sure the suspect isn’t going to die.
Parker: (Checks her backpack, finds a chute.) Did you do this?