Chapter Eighteen

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Stewart swept his eyes back and forth as he exited the main doors of UCL, mentally scanning his immediate surroundings. The lot was completely devoid of other vehicles, leaving his standing alone beneath the eerie glow of the setting sun. The emptin...

Stewart swept his eyes back and forth as he exited the main doors of UCL, mentally scanning his immediate surroundings. The lot was completely devoid of other vehicles, leaving his standing alone beneath the eerie glow of the setting sun.

The emptiness of the lot encouraged him to quicken his pace towards his vehicle. Cameras capturing his every step had prompted him to be vigilant. And though the space was vacant, he was extremely aware of the Baron’s henchmen and their ability to emerge from thin air to “check in” on him.

He also acknowledged that the crime lord surveilled accomplices within their inner circle accused of alleged wrongdoing, hiring underground technology experts to breach the security of the supposed defector’s phone line.

To Stewart’s knowledge, he managed to avoid grave suspicion thus far, playing his role as the compliant shopkeeper. Even after this recent faux pas, the worst that Stewart received was the accusation of being incompetent. However, that meant nothing. Stewart’s trust in the Baron was altogether nonexistent and it was safe to presume that the feeling was mutual. This fact alone was why he commissioned Andrew Honnis to create a top-of-the-line security shield application for his phone.

The primary reason behind the protection, however, was to make certain that his employer remained oblivious to his dealings with Holline Bennett.

Holline Bennett. To Stewart, her story was an interesting one. According to the press, she was the fortunate American aristocrat who ‘won the heart’ of Christopher Bennett, CEO of Bennett & Co., one of the most successful architecture firms in London. Despite her nationality, she managed to earn the trust of Londoners as she was considered one of the most inspiring women—courtesy of her humanitarianism and local charity work with victims of domestic violence.

Unbeknownst to the paparazzi, however, Holline was also one of the most powerful alien trafficking crime lords in the Red District. The community work was a mere ruse to conceal her illegalities and, so far, she managed to conduct her affairs undetected. Stewart began doing business with Holline after they met at the grand opening of his shop about a year ago. He remembered her entering the store with two of her bodyguards—men in dark designer suits who seemed to intimidate nearly everyone in attendance with their emotionless expressions and icy silence.

Holline walked in front of her protection, a crimson shaded cocktail dress clinging to her long slender body. She stared straight ahead, ignoring everyone as she and her two-man entourage headed towards the front of the shop to shake his hand.

Initially, Stewart was surprised that one the of the most influential women in England secretly mingled with criminals. On the other hand, that was one of the attributes Stewart found attractive. Unlike his current employer, Holline knew how to veil her authentic self in plain sight. And the fact that she was stunning was another reason why he approached her days later with a proposal that resulted in a lucrative business partnership.

Speaking of which, Stewart was requested to ring Holline after his meeting with Dr. Harrison, which ended as quickly as it began—much to his relief. He pulled out his phone the moment the sole of his shoes touched the parking lot, pressing his thumb against the ‘Contact’ icon at the bottom of his phone, prompting his list of numbers to appear on the screen.

Stewart lifted his phone towards his mouth while continuing to walk forward. “Activate the phone security shield,” he spoke into his phone. “And phone Holline Bennett.”

Within seconds, three high-pitched beeps streamed into Stewart’s ears, indicating that the security shield was actuated. The sound was followed by the picture of Holline, a simple head shot he downloaded from one of the online media sites. Beneath the woman’s smiling image was her phone number accompanied by the typical ring tone.

Stewart felt a twinge of relief when the ringing suddenly stopped and was replaced with a cluster of muffled conversations and music by what sounded like a string quartet.

“Thank gods,” a woman’s voice greeted, her American accent apparent. “For once, I was actually looking forward to hearing from you.”

“I blush at the thought, Mrs. Bennett,” Stewart responded calmly.

“Don’t flatter yourself, Wayland,” Holline scoffed. “You’re only saving me from the Prime Minister’s horrendous storytelling—which I have to endure per my husband’s insistence. I don’t have long, so make this quick.”

“Of course,” Stewart agreed. “The woman’s location’s been confirmed—Martin Keating has her as we speak.”

Stewart noticed the sudden quiet on the other end of the line. He wondered what became of his accomplice, pulling the phone away from his ear to determine whether they had become disconnected without his knowledge.

“Holline,” he called as he opened the driver side door to his car. “Are you there?”

“Give me a moment,” he heard her speak, her voice low and hasty. “I have to move to another room.” Holline’s voice soon disappeared once again. Stewart slid into his car and sat behind the wheel while his ears caught the barely audible sound of moving fabric and clicking heels.

“So you found her,” he heard Holline finally speak, her tone reflecting a combination of seriousness and contained anticipation.

Stewart rolled his eyes at the ridiculousness of the statement. “I would not have rung you if my story was fabricated,” he pointed out.

“Where’s the location?”

“935 Leary Street—Flat 7A. He lives alone, but his building has computerized security. So your employees will have to find some way to gain access.”

“And his friend?”

“He’s on 1021 Sycamore Lane in Watford. Based on the information gathered, his residence doesn’t seem as secure. However, there are street cameras nearly, so whomever you employ needs to be aware of that fact.”

“Good to know,” she stated, releasing what sounded to Stewart like a sigh of relief. “I’ll make the call tonight after everything dies down here.”

“Which I hope isn’t too long from now.”

Stewart heard his accomplice sigh with slight annoyance. “Your 15,000 credits were sent to your account as we were having our little chat,” she assured, her courteous tone strained. “I’m sure you received the notification.”

A sly smile decorated Stewart’s lips. “I don’t doubt it,” he assured. “You don’t seem like the type to betray.”

“Unlike some,” Holline said evenly. “I’m being summoned, so I have to go. Keep your phone on in case we need to speak again.”

“As you wish,” he said, ignoring her snide comment. “Good night.”

Stewart glared down at his phone as the call ended and immediately slid his thumb down the touch screen, revealing a series of apps. He swept his gaze across the display until it froze onto the one belonging to his online banking system. After pressing his thumb on the screen, the page of apps was instantly replaced by the One World Bank website.

It didn’t take long for Stewart to locate the notification stating that he had received a new deposit in his account. A smirk edged his lips as his eyes fell onto his reward.

 

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