Twenty-three

While Ben Connor was seeing that his financial security wouldn’t suffer because of his boss’s malfeasance, Leo was driving through the Lincoln Tunnel heading for Jersey.

Due to the confidential nature of his upcoming meeting, Leo had dispensed with his driver. He was also using a nondescript sedan for the same reason. Being inconspicuous was essential.

The neighborhood restaurant he walked into some forty minutes later had just opened for the day; the waiters were setting up for lunch. The manager behind the cash register acknowledged him with the merest nod, then pointed to a table at the rear of the room where two men were seated.

When Leo sat down, the younger of the two men silently rose and walked away.

“What can I do for you, Leo? It’s been a while.” The well-dressed, older man with manicured nails, close-cropped gray hair, and a Florida tan smiled faintly. “I was thinking you might have found new facilitators.”

Leo shook his head. “Everything’s been running smoothly-at least up until now. I haven’t needed your services. By the way, thanks for your prompt response. I appreciate it.”

“You sounded as though you needed something in a hurry.”

“I do. The usual terms?”

“The same. Cash. Untraceable. We’ll pick it up.”

“My wife just left with my son. I want him back.”

“Sorry. We don’t mess with women or children.”

“I know, I know. I’ll deal with that myself. What I need from you is a little something she took with her when she left-a flash drive from my personal computer. She copied all my files. I need that flash drive back. And I need it quickly.”

“That’s why I don’t like computers. Nothing’s safe,” the man grumbled. “With all these crazy kid hackers or the feds sticking their noses in everyone’s business, better an accountant or tax attorney you can trust.”

Leo frowned. Far be it for him to argue with a man whose operation was still essentially brown-bagging it; international banking was slightly more complicated. “My computer files are more personal than anything else,” he lied. “But still, I wouldn’t want her to sell them to the highest bidder.”

The gray-haired man grinned. “She got your Bangkok pictures?”

“She has a little bit of everything, I’m afraid.” Another lie, not that it mattered with either one of them. “Can you help me out or not?”

Leo’s facilitator flicked his manicured fingers in a dismissive gesture. “Of course. Where do we pick up this flash drive?”

“In Minnesota. But I don’t want my son frightened. So no rough stuff-just a quick snatch and run.”

“Look, no offense, but I doubt your wife is going to just hand it over.”

“I know. Work it out any way you have to. Just so no one lays a hand on Matt, and I’m fine. Understood?”

“We’re businessmen just like you, Leo. We don’t get physical. People understand they’re better off cooperating with us. It’s that simple.”

Leo nodded. “Good. Perfect. You always come through, Carmine. I appreciate it. Here’s the address. Let me know when you want me to pick up my package and where you want your payment delivered. It’s a pleasure doing business with you.”

“Likewise.”

As Leo left the restaurant, the man at the table watched him, a smirk on his face. Dumb fuck, he thought. Why does the stupid shit keep marrying the broads?

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