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Skin Deep

Skin Deep

Page 22

“Yo, dawg,” Yol said.

“I don’t think that’s a cool phrase any longer, Yol.”

“I’m bringing it back, dawg.”

“I don’t . . . You know what, never mind. I’m pretty sure our bad guys are Exeltec.”

“Hmmm. That’s unfortunate. I was hoping it was one of the other two. Let me step out so we can talk.”

“I wasn’t certain they’d even let you answer while on lockdown.”

“It’s a pain,” he said, and I heard the sound of a door closing, “but I’ve managed a little freedom, since I’m not technically under arrest, I’m just quarantined. The feds let me set up a mobile office here, but nobody can get in or out until we convince them this thing wasn’t contagious.”

“At least you can talk.”

“To an extent. It’s a pain, dawg. How am I going to do press interviews for the new album?”

“Seclusion will just add to your celebrity mystique,” I said. “Can you tell me anything more about Exeltec.”

“It’s all in the documents I sent,” he explained. “They’re . . . well, they’re bad news. I had a hunch it would be them. We’ve caught them trying to slip in spies in the form of engineers seeking employment.”

“Yol, they’ve got a hit man working for them.”

“That one you mentioned before?”

“Yeah. Ambushed me in an alley. Held me at gunpoint.”

“Damn.”

“I’m not going to sit around and let something like that happen again,” I said. “I’m going to email you a list of instructions.”

“Instructions?” Yol asked. “For what?”

“For keeping me from being killed,” I said, taking my laptop from Tobias. “Yol, I have to ask you. What is it you’re not telling me about this case?”

The line was silent.

“Yol . . .”

“We didn’t kill him,” Yol said. “I promise you that.”

“But you were having him watched,” I said. “You had his computer monitored. There’s no other way you’d just naturally have a record of all of the things he’d been doing in the last few months, ready to print out when I arrived.”

“Yeah,” Yol admitted.

“And he was trying to give your information away,” I said. “Post everything about the project online.”

In the front seat, Dion had turned around and was watching me.

“Some of the engineers didn’t like me getting involved,” Yol said. “They saw it as selling out. Panos . . . that guy didn’t believe in consequences. He’d have posted our research for everyone, so that every terrorist out there knew about it. I don’t get such people, with their wikileaks and their open sources.”

“You’re making it very hard for me to believe,” I said, “that you didn’t just remove him.”

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Dion paled.

“I don’t do things like that,” Yol snapped. “Do you know how much a murder investigation can cost a company?”

I really wished I could trust him. To an extent, I needed to. Otherwise, I could very easily end this mission as a corpse myself. “Just follow the instructions in my email,” I told him, then hung up.

I ignored Dion and began typing an email while the feed from the security camera continued to play on the other side of my laptop screen. Audrey stood up behind my seat and looked over my shoulder, watching me type.

“You shouldn’t be out of your seat belt,” Ivy said.

“If we wreck, I’m sure Steve-O will imagine some delightfully gruesome scars for me,” Audrey said, then pointed at what I was typing. “Rumors to be spread? About Exeltec? This will make them even more desperate.”

“I’m counting on it,” I said.

“Which will put an even bigger target on our heads!” Audrey said. “What in the world are you planning?”

I didn’t answer her, instead finishing up the instructions and shooting off the email to Yol. “Dion,” I said, still half watching the video on the laptop. “Is your family religious?”

“My mom is,” he said from the front seat. “I’m an atheist.” He said it stubbornly, as if this were something he’d had to defend in the past.

“Panos?”

“Atheist,” Dion said. “Mom refused to accept it, of course.”

“Who’s your family priest?”

“Father Frangos,” he said. “Why?”

“Because I think someone impersonated him last night when visiting your brother’s remains. Either that, or Father Frangos is involved in the theft of the corpse.”

Dion snorted. “He’s, like, ninety years old. He’s so pious, when my mother told him I was taking after my brother, he fasted for thirty-six hours to pray for me. Thirty-six hours. I think the idea of intentionally breaking one of the commandments would kill him on the spot.”

The kid seemed to have gotten over his fear of me. Good.

“Ask him what he thought of his brother,” Ivy said from the back seat.

“Seems he liked the guy,” J.C. said with a grunt.

“Really?” Ivy said to him. “You deduced that all on your own, did you? Steve, I’d like to hear an opinion of Panos that didn’t come through Yol’s channels. Get the kid talking, if you please.”

“Your brother,” I said to Dion. “You seem to really dislike the company he was working for.”

“It used to be all right,” Dion said. “Before it went and got all corporate. That’s when the lies started, the extortion. It became about money.”

“Unlike other jobs,” Audrey said, “which are never, ever about money.”

“Your brother continued working there,” I said to Dion, ignoring Audrey’s commentary. “So he couldn’t have been too torn up about the changes at I3. I expect he wanted in on a little of that cash.”

Dion twisted around in his seat and fixed me with a glare that could have fried an egg. “Panos cared nothing for the money. He only stayed at that place because of their resources.”

“So . . . he needed I3’s equipment,” I said. “And, by extension, their money.”

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