Chances are I’m really dead this time. I tried to handle this on my own. I didn’t want to come back and screw up the life you’ve built. But I have and for that, I can never apologize enough.
Even though it may seem that way, Yiao isn’t as formidable as we believed. Like most men, he has a weakness. I’m going to find what that is and stop him.
Noelle turned her head to hide her falling tears. She reached back into the envelope and retrieved the coin he’d lifted from her.
The new safe house was small, a studio apartment stuffed in a building that blended in with the skyline. Some of the fixtures were updated for security, including the cameras outside the door and facing all the windows. There were no photos, no signs that anyone lived here, only a fine layer of dust. Kyle had been there; he knew his daughter could be in danger. “Are you ok?” Dorian asked behind her. She shook her head and wiped her face before she faced him. “My dad…he’s dead. I think,” she said, handing him the letter. He skimmed it and felt his heart sink for her. “Hey, I’m sorry,” he said. He reached for her, resisting the urge to swallow her up into his arms. He was familiar with loss so he was familiar with the crushing feeling that had spread through Noelle’s chest.
There was something on the back of the letter. Noelle snatched the paper back from Dorian and flipped it over to see the digits on the back:
“What is that?” Dorian said.
“Let me make a call.”
“Dude! What the fuck?! I’ve been calling you for days! What happened? Did you get the bracelet? Seriously, when that power outage happened, I was—“
“Maverick! Focus!” Noelle barked into the phone.
“Sorry. I was just really worried,” the girl said from the speaker.
“I’m sorry. I just been having a really weird time. But I need your help.”
“Whatever you need.”
“I got this number. I don’t know what it is, maybe a bank account?” Dorian nodded over her shoulder. He’d seen more than enough of them to know it belonged to an offshore account. Noelle read them off to her contact.
“OK, give me a minute,” Maverick said, before disconnecting the call.
“Are you ok?” Dorian asked Noelle again.
“I’m tired,” she said vaguely, folding her hands on top of her head.
“You need to sleep.”
“No, I’m fine,” she said.
“Look, we’re in this, whether you like it or not. You can trust me,” he said, sitting on the bed next to her, his heat radiating on her skin.
She wanted nothing more for this war to end. Focusing on him would be easy, something she didn’t get to experience often. Dorian was beautiful and strong but that only made him a target, another person who would be taken away from her, like everyone else. She stood and walked across the room. She needed space to clear her head. Before Dorian could say something, anything, to bring her back, the phone rang on the desk. Noelle answered on the first ring.
“This is an offshore account number. You got your laptop? I’m sending you all this now.” Noelle sat down and fired up the ancient laptop on the desk. She put the call on speaker.
“The name on the account is Li Wan.”
“A fake last name?” Dorian asked.
“No, Chinese surnames go first, not last. So, a relative?”
“Looks like…his grandmother,” Maverick said.
“What’s the balance?” Dorian stood over her to see what Maverick sent.
“$8 million, give or take.”
“So Yiao has been taking care of his grandmother?” Noelle said, finally opening the file.
“Only if she’s lived to be 116 years old,” Dorian said, pointing at the computer screen. A birth certificate for Li Wan showed that she was born in 1901.
“So he’s using her name for protection?”
“Makes sense, especially if the account was started when she was alive,” Dorian said, rubbing his face.
“There are about 4 other accounts with the same name, different institutions, different countries, about the same or higher balances,” Maverick said. Her fingers could be heard typing furiously.
“Maverick, can you make it look like all of his money is gone?”
“Well, I can transfer it all into a savings bond with an access code…”
“Perfect. Do it,” Noelle said before she flipped the phone closed.
“What are you doing?” Dorian asked, watching as she stripped out of her clothes. “I’m gonna hit this bastard where it hurts. Not with guns or explosions. Good old-fashioned blackmail,” she grinned as she changed into a new pair of pants. “This is dangerous. You don’t know what he’ll do.”
“Well, he can’t kill me. I’m the only one with access to his money. My father’s dead, I have no family…”
“So this is a kamikaze mission?”
“This is a save my life mission. It’s taken me too long to get where I am, just to let some scumbag make me his marionette,” she said, stomping her foot back into her boot. “You can either help me or go home. I’m not going to make that decision for you,” she said, her determination set in stone.
Noelle strode into the restaurant, ready to face the dragon, and was surprised to find him alone. His bald head glistened under the lights, a fine layer of sweat covering his face. He raised his hands and began applauding when he saw her. “Bravissma! Our heroine returns unscathed from the jaws of death!” he mocked. His false grin fell as he swallowed the rice and meat he’d been chewing. He wiped his mouth with his napkin and dropped it on the table. “Where’s the bracelet?” he asked, his voice calm like an impending storm.
“With the agent, I presume?”
Noelle’s heart sank into her shoes. “Yes, I know all about Special Agent Dorian Shaw. I know how close you two have gotten,” he said, his elbows resting on the table, his fingers folded in front of his mouth.
“He has nothing to do with this.”
“How sweet…you truly care for him,” Yiao said, a sickly-sweet smile spreading across his face and vanishing just as fast. “You do know he’s going to turn you in when this is all over? He has a reputation to repair and you?” he pointed his thick, ringed finger at her. “You’re perfect. The perfect high-profile criminal to drag in and resurrect his good name, and as an added bonus, he got to sample the goods.”
His laugh bellowed around Noelle, shaking her to her core. “So what? You strode in here to threaten me with a drunken disgrace and your vengeful daddy issues?” he continued. As if on cue, two of Yiao’s grunts burst into the room, half-dragging a badly beaten, but alive, Kyle. Noelle resisted the urge to run over to him and stood her ground. Fear poured from behind his swollen eyes at the sight of his daughter standing before his enemy.
“Li Wan,” she said, softer than she intended. She pulled her attention from her broken father and back to the villain before her. The smug look that covered Yiao’s face faded.
“Li Wan. I have her. Well, her bank accounts at least.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“So…you don’t have $43 million?” Noelle noticed his fist clenching.
“What do you want?”
“All I want is my freedom. And my father’s. We walk away, you get your money back.”
The advantage Li Yiao seemed to always have was speed. Despite his large stature, he was agile and limber, which proved to be one of his more lethal qualities. It is also the reason Noelle was caught completely off-guard when he wrapped his hands around her neck.