Robyn Gigl’s unique protagonist, transgender attorney Erin McCabe, returns in a fascinating and timely legal thriller that delves into the dark world of human trafficking by the rich and powerful …
At first, the death of millionaire businessman Charles Parsons seems like a straightforward suicide. There’s no sign of forced entry or struggle in his lavish New Jersey mansion—just a single gunshot wound from his own weapon. But
days later, a different story emerges. Computer techs pick up a voice recording that incriminates Parsons’ adoptive daughter, Ann, who duly confesses and pleads guilty.
Erin McCabe has little interest in reviewing such a slam-dunk case—even after she has a mysterious meeting with one of the investigating detectives, who reveals that Ann, like Erin, is a trans woman. Yet despite their misgivings, Erin and her law
partner, Duane Swisher, ultimately can’t ignore the pieces that don’t fit.
As their investigation deepens, Erin and Swish convince Ann to withdraw her guilty plea. But Ann clearly knows more than she’s willing to share, even if it means a life sentence. Who is she protecting, and why?
Fighting against time and a prosecutor hell-bent on notching another conviction, the two work tirelessly—Erin inside the courtroom, Swish in the field—to clear Ann’s name. But despite Parsons’ former associates’ determination to keep his—
and their own—illegal activities buried, a horrifying truth emerges—a web of human exploitation, unchecked greed, and murder. Soon, a quest to see justice served becomes a desperate struggle to survive …
Release date: January 25, 2022
Publisher: Kensington Books
Print pages: 352
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“HEY, STRANGER,” DUANE SWISHER SAID, STANDING IN THE DOORWAY of her office. “How you doing?”
Erin McCabe looked up; brushed her long, copper-colored hair back from her face; and smiled. She and Duane had been partners in the law firm of McCabe & Swisher for the last five years, specializing in representing defendants in criminal cases.
“Oh, living the dream—one nightmare at a time,” she responded, gesturing to the piles of papers stacked haphazardly on her desk among the empty Dunkin’ Donuts cups.
“So has Judge Fowler incorporated casual Friday into his trial calendar?” he asked jokingly.
She smiled at his reference to the fact that she was wearing jeans and a Dixie Chicks T-shirt. “No. No trial today. Judge Fowler schedules his sentencing hearings for every other Friday, so I get to come to the office in jeans and see your smiling face.” She reached down and picked up a brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss an indictment that she had filed in one of their cases. “And try to catch up on all the shit that’s been accumulating while I’m on trial.”
After pulling back one of the chairs in front of her desk, Duane plopped down. He stretched his legs out in front of the chair as he uncurled his six-foot-two-inch frame. Unlike Erin’s casual Friday attire, Swish wore a charcoal-gray suit, with a light pink shirt, neither of which did anything to disguise that at thirty-seven he was still in great shape and only a few pounds heavier from when he was All Ivy at Brown. Swish, as everyone called him, both because of his last name and his prowess from three-point range on the basketball court, was not only her law partner, he was probably her best friend too. They made an interesting pair. Even though Erin was only six months younger, Swish, with his chiseled physique, dark brown skin, and well-trimmed goatee, made a commanding appearance. Whereas Erin, with her girl-next-door looks, dusting of freckles that ran across the bridge of her nose, and slim athletic figure, was often mistaken for being younger and less experienced, a perception that she wasn’t afraid to use to her advantage in the courtroom.
“How’s the trial going?”
“Remind me again why we agreed to take this case?” she asked.
He chuckled. “We got a big retainer.”
“Right.” She shook her head and inhaled. “Swish, these guys are definitely the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. They set up an offshore gambling operation in Costa Rica, installed sophisticated encryption software to protect the website . . . and then talked about what they were doing on the phone like they were making dinner plans.”
“So what’s the defense?”
“The three guys at the top are arguing that they thought it was legal,” she said, gesturing with her hands that she had little faith in the merits of their argument. “Our guy, Justin Mackey, claims that all he did was design and sell encryption software, and that he had no idea what anyone was using it for.”
Swish shrugged. “Sounds like a plausible defense.”
“He seems to think so, but I’m a little less sanguine. Unfortunately, even though he claims he didn’t know what anyone was using the software for, he did a lot of talking on the phone and the wiretaps picked up some pretty damning conversations between him and one of the top guys. Plus, he liked to bet—a lot. Gonna be tough to sell that he didn’t know what they were using his software for. And for someone who was supposedly into all this encryption shit to keep everything secret, he certainly didn’t seem too concerned about talking about things openly on the phone.”
“Any chance of a plea?” Swish asked.
“The State offered some decent deals early on, but no takers,” she said. “My sense is these guys are protecting someone else.”
“Even our guy?”
“Yeah. He clearly knows more than what he’s letting on to me. That said, I’m not sure he even knows who he’s protecting.” She shook her head, allowing her frustration to show. She liked Justin. He was young, twenty-eight, lived with his mom, and seemed like a decent guy. As they prepared for trial and she had gotten to know him, her take was that he had just gotten in over his head, probably because not only did he bet a lot, but from what she had heard listening to the wiretap recordings, he also lost—a lot.
“How much longer do you have to go?” he asked.
“I expect the State is going to wrap up early next week. So we’re in the home stretch.”
“Any defense case?”
She cringed. “Not from me. I can’t put him on the stand, they’d kill him on cross with the wiretaps.”
“Sorry,” he said. “Anything I can help you with?”
“No. I don’t think so. If there’s any silver lining it’s that we’re in front of Judge Fowler. Assuming Mackey gets convicted, I’m pretty sure Fowler won’t revoke his bail prior to sentencing and, since it’s Justin’s first offense, I’m hoping he doesn’t get more than eighteen months.”
“Here if you need anything,” he offered.
“Thanks. Anything new here?”
“I had the motion to suppress in the Creswell case in front of Judge Anita Reynolds down in Ocean County.”
Erin smiled. Judge Reynolds had briefly presided over the case involving their client Sharise Barnes. Sharise’s case had made Erin famous, or, more accurately, infamous, at least in much of New Jersey. Then again, defending a transgender woman of color accused of murdering the son of a now gubernatorial candidate had a tendency to generate publicity, especially when Erin’s own status as a transgender woman figured prominently in the coverage. “I liked Reynolds. I wish she had continued to handle Sharise’s case,” Erin said. “How’d the motion go?” she asked.
“She reserved, but I think she’s going to grant it. I mean she should. They came into the guy’s house without a warrant, after he refused to let them in, and then claimed they saw drug paraphernalia in plain view—in his bedroom on the second floor.”
She laughed. “Yeah, you’re right. I like your chances on that one.”
He stared at her for several seconds. “I was with Mark at our game on Wednesday night and he asked how you were doing.”
Erin flinched at the mention of Mark’s name. She and Mark Simpson had dated for over a year, but she had recently ended their relationship and the wounds left behind were still open and painful. He had been the first man she had ever fallen in love with. And somehow, after a few false starts, he had gotten beyond the fact that she was a trans woman, and he had loved her for who she was—something that after she transitioned she assumed she’d never experience with a man or a woman. She knew Swish still saw Mark every week because they played on the same team in a men’s basketball league. Trying to avoid where she knew this conversation was headed, she gave Swish her best “please don’t go there” look, but she could tell from his expression that either her look didn’t convey the intended message or even if he got it he was going to ignore it.
“Tell Mark I said hello,” she finally said.
“Come on, E,” he fired back. “I know it’s none of my business, but Mark’s a big boy—he can make his own decisions. If the roles were reversed, you’d be mad as hell that he was making decisions for you.”
She closed her eyes and slowly drew in a deep breath. Even now, a month later, the look on Mark’s face when she told him she was ending things was still vivid—it was not unlike how she felt years earlier when her wife had told her they needed to separate—a mixture of pain and disbelief. She opened her eyes. “Swish, you’re right,” she said. “It’s none of your business.”
Swish cocked his head to one side, his eyes widened, taking her in, then rose from his chair, his eyes never leaving hers. “Got it,” he said brusquely before making his way out of her office.
Shit. She got up from behind her desk and walked over to one of the windows. Her office was on the outskirts of the business district in Cranford, perched in one of the second-floor turrets of a former Victorian home that had been converted into an office building twenty years ago. She loved Swish like a brother—not surprising given how much they’d been through together. Before they became partners, Swish had been an FBI agent, and probably still would be if he hadn’t been forced to resign when he was set up to be the fall guy for a leak of classified materials involving the illegal surveillance of Muslim Americans after 9/11. When he left the Bureau he seemed to have a lot of options open to him, but to Erin’s surprise when she had asked him to partner with her, he agreed and the firm of McCabe & Swisher was born. Of course, at the time, Erin was still living as Ian McCabe. It was only a year after they became partners that Erin had come out as a transgender woman, and the resulting fallout had almost crushed her. Some losses had been harder than others, none more so than her former wife, Lauren; her dad, Patrick; and her brother, Sean. The only ones who never wavered in their support were her mom, Swish, and his wife, Corrinne. Without them, she wouldn’t have made it.
Still, as close as they were, it was too painful for her to talk to Swish about Mark right now. She needed to stay focused on the trial and find some way to separate her client from the other defendants, some way to convince the jury that Justin wasn’t responsible for the huge offshore operations the prosecution had meticulously laid out over the last three weeks. Then, and only then, could she focus on her life again.
She grabbed her coffee off her desk and headed down the hallway to Swish’s office. His office occupied one of the former bedrooms to the original home and, unlike the clutter and chaos of her office, his was always neat and orderly with everything in its place. There was never so much as a stray paper clip lying out on his glass desk.
“You got a minute?” she asked, standing in the doorway.
He looked up and nodded.
She took a few tentative steps into his office and stopped. “Swish, I’m sorry. I truly am,” she said, biting her lower lip. “I know you’re trying to be a good friend to Mark—and to me—but I’m just not in a good place right now. You know how I get when I’m on trial. I can’t focus on anything else, and honestly, Swish, talking about Mark right now just hurts too much.”
She could tell by his expression he wanted to say more, but it was a sign of how deep their friendship ran that he didn’t. “You’re right. Focus on what you need to do. We’ll talk when the trial’s over.”
“Thanks,” she replied, trying to paste a smile on her face. “I appreciate it.”
ARON TINSLEY STUDIED HIS CLIENT’S COMPUTER. HE MISSED HIS days as a hacker, something he had started doing when he was fifteen. While the prospect of five years in prison for hacking into the NRA’s e-mails had been a convincing enticement to get on the straight and narrow, it was still hard for him to wrap his head around the fact that at twenty-two he was now a white hat doing IT security. While his boss was a decent guy, a former hacker himself, and it did have the advantage of a regular paycheck, it meant his days were mostly filled with boring stuff.
Still, every once in a while, he came across something that provided him with the same thrill as hacking. Today was one of those days.
Up until about 6:00 p.m. last night, Aaron hadn’t even known where Westfield, New Jersey was. But his boss had called him with what he said was a “special assignment” for a guy by the name of Charles Parsons who was having computer problems. Must be real special, Aaron had thought if they were willing to pay him double time to go out on a Sunday. Surveying his surroundings, Aaron had no idea how much Parsons’s house was worth, but it was easily the biggest house he had ever been in. The home office he was working in probably had more square footage than Aaron’s entire one-bedroom apartment in Queens.
As he searched deeper through the mostly unseen files on his client’s laptop, he had to admit that he was enjoying the hunt. He examined the computer’s registry, trying to find the hidden program he had begun to suspect was buried in the software code. Whoever had done this was a real pro. He was almost envious.
“I need to get on my computer. Are you almost done?” Charles Parsons asked, startling Aaron.
Aaron had been so engrossed in his search he was surprised to see Parsons standing in the middle of the room. Parsons, who was well tanned even though it was early April, appeared to be around six feet, with broad shoulders. Aaron couldn’t even hazard a guess at his age, but his wrinkle-free face, contrasted with a shock of wavy gray hair, left the impression that Parsons was well acquainted with a plastic surgeon. Catching Parsons’s annoyed stare, Aaron realized that he was still grinning in admiration for the cleverness of the hacker.
“What are you smiling at?” Parsons snapped.
Aaron willed his face into seriousness. “Sorry. Um, can we go talk in another room?” he said.
“What the fuck are you babbling about?” Parsons shot back.
Aaron powered down the laptop, closed it, and took Parsons by the arm, escorting him out of the office. “Mr. Parsons, please let’s go into your kitchen.”
“What the hell is going on?” Parsons said, yanking his arm from Aaron’s grasp as they left the room. “I asked you to check to see if I have a virus, and you’re acting like my computer has the bubonic plague.”
Aaron sat on one of the stools in front of the marble island in Parsons’s massive, well-appointed kitchen. “That’s actually not a bad analogy,” he offered, nodding his head. “Yeah, you have a virus, which it looks like you picked up from some porn website. That’s easy enough to fix. Unfortunately, you have a much bigger problem. How long have you been running the encryption software?”
“Why? What’s that got to do with anything?” Parsons asked, his eyes narrowing as he gazed suspiciously at Aaron.
“I’m not sure yet, but I think that may have a rootkit embedded in it. Which means your laptop, and probably any other computers you use that are running the same software on them, are infected with the same rootkit.”
“What the fuck is a rootkit?”
Aaron shook his head from side to side. “In layman’s terms, it’s a program that allows whoever installed it to monitor everything you do on your computer.”
“Wait, are you saying someone can see what websites I visited?” Parsons said, cocking his head to the side and rubbing his forefinger across his lips, his tone suddenly less defiant.
“Yes, but . . .” Aaron hesitated. “Well, it’s much worse than that. It means that whoever is watching can record every keystroke you make. So that if you go to a website where you have a password, they can steal your password and lock you out. I think they’ve also taken over the microphone and camera to watch and listen to you. That’s why I wanted to speak to you in here.”
Parsons’s stare conveyed disbelief. “Watch me? From my computer? You can’t be fucking serious?”
“Yeah,” Aaron nodded. “Unfortunately, I am.”
“What’s that got to do with my encryption software?”
“As best I can tell, the rootkit is embedded in it. So if you have the same software on your desktop, or any other computers, you probably have it on those as well.”
Parsons’s blank stare conveyed his failure to grasp the full impact of what Aaron was telling him.
“Look,” Aaron said, speaking slowly now, “if this is what I think it is, it means that as long as you’ve had this software on your computer, whoever’s responsible for it has seen everything you’ve done. Every e-mail, every transaction, every download—everything.”
“But everything’s encrypted. That’s the whole purpose of the software. So only people with . . .” He stopped midsentence, panic spreading across his face with the realization that the encryption software was compromised. “Whoever this is, they can see everything?”
“Yeah, most likely,” Aaron repeated.
“No. No, that can’t be possible,” Parsons said, his face suddenly ashen.
“When did you have it installed?” Aaron asked, enjoying the sudden shift in power as he watched Parsons’s desperation grow. Who knows, he thought. Maybe if I play this right and fix the problem, Parsons might pay me something extra under the table.
“Um, I don’t know—about a year and a half ago, I guess,” he replied.
“And where did you get it?” Aaron said. “I mean, it’s not something you bought at Staples.”
“Some friends recommended it.” When he saw Aaron’s skeptical look, he got defensive. “I trust these guys. We do some business together and the business they’re in requires secrecy, like mine. They said this software was the best.”
“Any changes to it since then?”
“I got a new laptop about a year ago.”
“Anything else?” Aaron asked.
“Yeah, about six months or so ago the guy who designed and installed the software came back and installed an update saying they needed to patch some potential security issue.”
“Bingo,” Aaron said, the final piece of the puzzle finally dropping into place. “It looks like whoever designed it built in a little something extra when they installed the update, because as good as it is as encryption software, it’s even a better rootkit.”
“I need this fixed now,” Parsons said, growing angry. “I need access to my data. If someone has been watching me for six months, I need to secure things before someone steals my information.”
Aaron didn’t feel like incurring Parsons’s wrath by telling him it was probably too late. The hacker had access for six months. Plus, they either already knew Aaron had been reviewing the computer’s registry and that he had likely uncovered the rootkit, or they’d know soon enough. Not to mention that the only way to retrieve the encrypted data was to use the infected software. As Aaron weighed the options, he couldn’t help but admire how thoroughly this mystery designer had fucked his client.
“You understand,” Aaron started cautiously, “there are basically two pieces to the encryption software: One encrypts any e-mails you send and receive, the second encrypts any data that you’re storing so no one can read it unless they have the same software.”
“Here’s the problem,” Aaron said slowly. “I’m assuming you encrypted and downloaded a lot of data you don’t want anyone else to see.” Aaron didn’t wait for Parsons’s response—his face told him the answer. “Assuming that’s true, you can’t access the information without unencrypting it, which requires you to use the program. So what we need to do is get you off the Internet so whoever is running this thing will lose access to your computer. Then we need to unencrypt all your data and get a brand-new laptop.”
Parsons’s head was bouncing like a bobblehead toy. “This can’t be happening! Motherfucker!” he spat out, then started grabbing things and throwing them against the blue tiled walls. He started with the fruit in a ceramic bowl on the island, then the bowl, then anything he could get his hands on—a glass, a coffee mug. He finally stopped, his breath coming in short staccato bursts as he wrapped his hands behind his head, holding it as if trying to keep it from exploding. He looked at Aaron with the look of a cornered wild animal. “I need that data. I have to make sure . . .” He stopped. “There’s a lot of important financial information that I’ve downloaded. I can’t let that fall into the wrong hands.”
Aaron scratched his head. “Where’s the data now?”
“I have it on four external hard drives.”
Aaron took a deep breath. “As I said, the easiest thing to do is get you offline, connect your hard drives, open and unencrypt the data on them, move it unencrypted to a new computer or hard drive, and then resave it using new encryption software.”
“Can I do that on my own?”
“How good are you on a computer?”
He shook his head in disgust. “Can you show me how to do it? There’s a lot of sensitive data, so once you show me, hopefully I can handle it from there.”
“Sure. But in the meantime, whoever installed the rootkit has access to your data. So time is of the essence.”
Parsons mumbled under his breath. “There may be another solution,” he said. “I have an idea. I’ll call you later. But in the meantime, go get me a new laptop and do whatever you have to do to get some new encryption software, so you’re ready to show me how to do it as soon I need you.”
Aaron let himself out through the front door and headed out to his car, happy to be getting out of the house. Any thoughts of making Parsons happy and getting a few extra bucks under the table had evaporated as he’d watched Parsons explode. This was not a guy he wanted to deal with any more than he had to. Get the job done and get out of town. He wasn’t sure what Parsons was thinking when he said he might have another solution, but, by the look on Parsons’s face, Aaron was sure he didn’t want to know.
Parsons walked into his bedroom and pulled out the four hard drives, stared at them, now aware that someone else might know everything that was on them. Who the fuck would do this to him? He didn’t trust his partners, but he couldn’t imagine any of them would risk incurring his wrath by hacking him. He tried to remember the name of the guy who had installed the software and who had recommended him. He needed answers and he needed them now. He picked up the phone and dialed her number. Of all of them, she was the one who had always been loyal to him.
“Cass, it’s me. I . . . we have a major problem. I just had an IT guy in here and he tells me our encryption software has some fucking rootworm or something in it.”
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
Parsons hesitated, weighing what he wanted to tell her to avoid giving her too much information. “It allows someone to see what I’m doing on my computer,” he replied.
“Charles, are you serious? This could be devastating.”
“Listen to me. I don’t need you to tell me how fucking bad this could be; I just need you to find the guy who installed this. Do you remember the little shit’s name—McKay or something?”
“Mackey,” she said.
“Yes, that’s it. Justin Mackey. Tell Max and Carl to find him and bring him to the warehouse in Elizabeth. We need to have a little chat with him.”
I DON’T NEED THIS ON A MONDAY MORNING, ERIN THOUGHT, STANDING at the entrance and scanning the nearly empty diner. This being New Jersey, the diner capital of the world, there hadn’t been a problem finding an open one even at the ungodly hour of four thirty in the morning. After spotting Justin in the far corner, she slowly made her way over and slid into the booth opposite him.
Mackey had called in a panic forty-five minutes earlier, telling her that he had to talk to her. Although Mackey might not have been the brightest bulb in the luminary, he had never been an alarmist, so she managed to drag herself out of bed, splash some water on her face, throw on some clothes, and make her way to the Lido Diner.
She ordered coffee, too tired to be angry. He looked like hell, his eyes bloodshot and puffy, an indication that he had gotten less sleep than her. His stained T-shirt and jeans looked like he had grabbed them off his bedroom floor.
“I’m sorry,” he said before she could ask him anything. “I would never have bothered you at this hour if it wasn’t important,” he said, running his hands through his uncombed hair. “I needed to see you to let you know that I have to disappear for a while.”
“Disappear for a while? Justin, what are you talking about?”
“I’m not coming to court today, or probably for the rest of the trial. I have to get out of town.”
Erin wasn’t sure if it was the coffee kicking in or her client telling her that he was jumping bail, but she was suddenly awake. “Justin, you understand you’re on bail. If you don’t show up not only will the judge revoke your bail, but you’ll be committing a separate crime: bail jumping. I know the trial isn’t going the way you hoped, but even if you’re convicted, I don’t think Judge Fowler will give you more than two or three years tops. And because it’s your first offense, you’ll probably serve less than a year before you get parole. But if you run, you’re really going to piss off the prosecutor and the judge, and assuming at some point you get caught, there’s no telling what sentence you’ll get.”
“You don’t understand, Erin. It’s got nothing to do with this case,” he said, nervously looking around the diner. “Despite what I’m charged with, I didn’t design this software. Some guy named Luke, who I’ve never even met, designed all of it. He hired me and I just did what I was told.”
Erin motioned for him to lower his voice. Between his emotions and the empty diner, it sounded like he was using a megaphone.
“It’s Luke who did this, not me. It’s not my fault.”
“Stop! Justin, you’ve got to slow down. You’re not making any sense. Who’s Luke? What does any of this have to do with your case or with you disappearing?”
“I’m sorry. I’m just a little rattled.”
As he took a sip of his coffee, Erin noticed that his hand was shaking.
“About a year and a half ago, I was a programmer at a start-up in the city. I was also betting and losing big-time. I owed my bookie a ton of money, like twenty-five grand, when he suddenly offered me a way out. They wanted to move their operations offshore and were looking for software to encrypt everything. It couldn’t be anything off the shelf; it had to be unique. He told me if I could design or find encryption software that worked and install it, he’d write off my debt. So that’s how I found Luke. He was looking for someone to handle installation of his own encryption software. He gave me the names and contact info for about a dozen of his customers in New York and New Jersey, and then paid me two hundred dollars a pop to go to their houses and install it. Truth is, I didn’t care what he paid me—I just wanted access to the software so I could get out of debt to my bookie.”
Justin paused, shaking his head. “About a year ago when I got indicted, Luke found out that I had used his software without his permission. He sent me a text and he was pissed. He told me if I ever used his software without permission again, he’d sue me. I told him I had screwed up and that I’d never do it again. Then about six months ago he contacted me and said I could make things right with him if I went out to the same people and installed an update he had developed. So I did. He even paid me to do it.”
Maybe it was the early morning hour, but Erin was having trouble following this. “Okay,” she said, “but what Luke is doing sounds perfectly legal. Why do you have to disappear?”
He looked up from his coffee at Erin and bit his lip. “Around midnight, I got a text from Luke. It said that one of the people I had installed the software for had discovered a hidden feature and Luke was worried I’d get blamed for it. He said they were going to come looking for me and suggested that since some of the people involved could be dangerous I should lay low for a while until he could take care of it for me. His message said that it might take a few months, but he’d straighten it out and I’d be okay.”
“Do you know what he’s talking about—a ‘hidden feature’ in the software?”
Justin cupped his hands on the sides of his neck and looked like he was on the verge of tears. “I’m not sure. But my guess is there was a virus or something in the update he had me install. Generally updates take a couple of minutes to install, but it took as long to download and install the update as it did to do the original software.”
“Justin, this is crazy. Let’s just call Luke and find out exactly what’s going on.”
“I can’t. I have no way to contact him.”
“You just told me you got a text message from him.”
“It was from an unknown number; he always blocks his number and uses burner phones. But he puts enough info in the text so I know it’s legitimate.”
“How’s he pay you?”
“You have any idea where he is?”
“Not a clue. If I had to guess, I’d say somewhere on the West Coast because he’s a software designer and his texts are always at weird times.”
He slid his phone across the table to her with Luke’s text open. She scrolled through it, trying to make sense of everything. It’s too early in the morning for this, she thought.
“Okay,” she said, “you said you only installed the software and updates on about twelve computers. Let’s go to the prosecutor with this and, assuming there was some kind of virus in the software update, let the prosecutor’s office figure out what is going on between Luke and these people. If you skip out now, it’ll just be worse for you when the police find you. And, if these people are truly dangerous, you’ll be protected.”
He inhaled, appearing to weigh his options.
“No,” he said with a sigh. “Some of these people have big bucks and they’re pretty fucking scary—um, sorry, excuse my French.” He stammered, seemingly embarrassed at having used the F-word in front of her. “I don’t wa
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