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122 Rules(9)

By:Deek Rhew

Anger and annoyance merged, producing a baby so irked, it bordered on irritable bowel syndrome. “So who is Laven slash Joe?” Monica asked.

Jon shook his head. “See, I think you already know that.”

Instead of leaping across the table and throttling the agent, she took a long deep breath. With her last sliver of patience, she said, “For argument’s sake, let’s say I don’t have all the answers.”

Jon sighed. “Fine. Laven Michaels is, among other things, the biggest mover of illegal and controlled substances in the city. We’ve been trying for years to nail him with something that will stand up in court, and until yesterday we didn’t have it. But now we have a witness that places him and Tyron Erebus, a known assassin for hire, having a conversation about a murder that, until yesterday, we didn’t know about but have since uncovered.”

She crossed her arms and sat back. “So you want me to testify?”

“Yes.” Jon smiled. “That’s all we need.” But something sinister lurked right beneath the surface of the man’s knowing grin. “Oh,” he said, as if the thought had just occurred to him, “you will be sequestered until the grand jury renders a verdict.”

She sat forward in her chair. “Ummm, no. See that doesn’t work for me. I have school and a life.”

“Both of those things will be put on hold. You can resume your classes after Laven is locked safely away.”

“No, you don’t understand. If I drop out of school, even for a while, I lose my scholarship.” The first ripples of real panic began to course through her. “Sorry, I can’t do it. You’ll have to find some other way of nabbing this scumbag. It’s not my problem.”

Jon leaned forward until they were almost nose-to-nose. “See, it is you who doesn’t understand. One way or another, you’ve lost your scholarship. You are done with school for now.”

A quiet dread filled her stomach, but she refused to blink as she stared into Jon’s eyes. “What are you talking about? My cooperation is strictly voluntary, and I am no longer volunteering.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. We looked into your scholarship. It’s for academics and ethics.”

“Yeah. So?” She had to change the direction of the conversation—sway it to an alternate course, just a few degrees left or right—because right now it was headed straight toward the rocks, and she would be smashed to bits when it hit. But as frantically as her mind worked, throwing levers and spinning wheels, no ideas materialized to turn the tide in her direction.

“The review board that oversees the funding of the award has been notified that you’ve been brought up on charges, one of them a felony.”

She blinked. She hated herself for giving in, but the room had started to spin as her existence began to spiral out of control. They were trying to rip away everything she’d worked her entire life to achieve. “What? What are you talking about?”

She resisted the urge to smack the satisfied expression off Jon’s smug face. “Obstruction of justice for one. Your little story may sound good at a book club, but it doesn’t wash here.”

“Obstruction of justice? I’m here aren’t I? I came in willingly to help you.”

Crew Cut snorted.

“Okay, maybe not of my own accord, but I’m still here. I recorded the damned conversation and gave you my phone. Have you even bothered to listen to it?” She fought the desperation that clawed at her like a feral cat.

“Oh, yes. Many times. Our techs have pulled it apart and are trying to determine exactly how you altered the recording.”

“I wha…? Ummm…no. That didn’t happen. You’ve got nothing.” Though her words were sharp, the room spun faster, and she had to hold onto the table just to keep from falling over. “There is no obstruction of justice. The recording was in no way modified no matter what your ‘experts’ say. You’ve got nothing. You need to contact the review board and say there has been a mistake, and you need to do it now, or I’ll hire my own lawyer and bring holy hell down around your heads.”

“As for the second charge, assault…”

She reeled back as if she’d been slapped. “What assault?”

“You assaulted a federal officer.” He nodded towards Crew Cut. “That itself is a felony. You claim you came here willingly, but attacking one of our agents hardly seems cooperative.”

“He surprised me. Grabbed me in public like he was some kind of pervert. How was I supposed to know who he worked for?”

“Maybe when he identified himself it should have clued you in.”