Burn for Me Page 31

“Does he know that?”

“Yes, he does. I told him. This is a purely professional arrangement.”

Grandma Frida shook her head and sipped her tea. “How is the investigation going, Sherlock?”

“Well, we found a weird doohicky made of jewels and almost got ourselves blown up.”

“What does it have to do with Pierce?”

I shook my head. “I have no idea. But they are connected somehow. Where is Mad Rogan?”

“Bern came and got him.”

The less contact Mad Rogan had with my cousins and sisters, the better. “I guess I’ll go find them, then.”

“Guess so,” she said. “Watch your back, Nevada.”


“Because he isn’t Kevin.”

I turned on my foot. “Really, Grandma?”

She waved me on. “Go!”

She was right. Mad Rogan was as far away from Kevin as you could get.

A minute later I climbed the five steps to the Hut of Evil. Bern sat at his workstation. Mad Rogan stood behind him. Three screens in front of Bern showed the inside of Bug’s digital jungle lair in all its glory. Bug himself sat in front of the center monitor, petting Napoleon, who sprawled on his lap. His face was relaxed. Not twitching. No jumpy eyes. He was high as a kite on Equzol.

How in the world had Mad Rogan conned him into linking up to Bern’s system like this? Usually Bug was too paranoid. In the two years I’d known him, he wouldn’t even give me a phone number.

“. . . not bad for a home system,” Bug was saying.

“Is that a Strix T09x server behind you?” Bern asked.

Bug nodded.

“Nice. With Talon-M7?”

“Look again,” Bug said.

“How much Equzol did this cost you?” I murmured to Mad Rogan.

“You don’t want to know,” he said.

Bern zoomed in on a piece of convoluted computer equipment. “Can’t be.”

“See it and weep.” Bug held out a dog biscuit in front of Napoleon. The dog opened his mouth and patiently waited until Bug put a biscuit into it.

Bern frowned. “How did you get this? M8s are scheduled for release in two months. M9s shouldn’t even be in production yet.”

“That’s what they want you to believe. They’re waiting for the Stryker chip to drop. When the M8s go on sale, the price will go through the roof, and then they’ll be worthless in like a month, because the M9s with the new Stryker will flood the market. Dickfuckers.”

“You keep using that word,” Mad Rogan said. “You realize it doesn’t make sense?”

“Why?” Bug startled.

“You can’t f**k a dick,” Mad Rogan said.

“But you can f**k with a dick,” Bug said.

“Then it’s redundant,” Bern said.

This was the kind of argument that could go on for hours. “Bug, did you find something?”

Bug rolled his eyes. “No, I’m sitting here talking to you ass**les, Major excluded, because I’m a social butterfly and I just love y’all so much.” His fingers danced across the keyboard. “Turns out that First National stores two months of their security footage and dumps it to a remote server every night. I’ve gone through it and voila!”

Security footage of the inside of the bank filled the left monitor. A light rectangle slid across the screen and singled out a slim woman walking across the polished floor. Platinum blond hair, well dyed, white blouse with a chunky gold necklace, grey skirt, shockingly bright red belt, pair of red pumps, and designer bag. A banker met her, and the camera caught her face as she turned. She was about thirty, with large grey eyes, framed by long false eyelashes and a thin mouth. Pretty overlaid with a polish of money.

“Meet Harper Larvo,” Bug announced. “Twenty-nine years old, father Phillip Larvo, mother Lynn Larvo, both in real estate. Not affiliated with any House. Attended Phillips Academy Andover, then Dartmouth, where she managed to squeak by with a degree in art history—I’ve seen the transcript, it’s not pretty. Harper’s a harmonizer, like both of her parents and her grandfather.”

Harmonizers in magic terms had nothing to do with music. A talented harmonizer could walk into a room and make it take on an entirely different mood just by rearranging a few objects. As talents went, this one wasn’t that rare. Harmonizers usually worked as interior designers, florists, fashion consultants, any sphere where something had to be coordinated to be esthetically pleasing.

“Harper rates as Notable, but she’s really not far from Average,” Bug said. “Which is something, but not remarkable. Her parents are Notable too, her grandfather was a Significant. Her family banks at Central Bank. All of their accounts are there and have been for fifty years. So what is she doing here? There is no trace of her opening an account. Furthermore, my sweet little chickies, Harper is more or less unemployed. She interned at a fashion magazine, worked on the Black and Red Hotel in Dallas with some Sullivan dude who is supposed to be famous, and she’s affiliated with a couple of charities, but mostly she parties and looks pretty. Like a butterfly. Useless and famous for nothing.”

Half a dozen images popped on the screen. Harper with a champagne flute. Harper lying on a table, prettily kicking her feet. Harper at some sort of photo shoot poised on a couch and pouting at the camera.

“And my favorite,” Bug announced.

An image filled the screen. Harper giggling, her hair, bright yellow blond, pressed against Adam Pierce, who was looking hot and bothered in his trademark leather. He had one arm around her.

“When was this?” Mad Rogan asked.

“Four years ago,” Bug said.

The video resumed and we watched Harper and the bank employee walk to the elevator. They moved slowly, the banker speaking and moving his hands, as if explaining. The doors of the elevator opened, and they disappeared from view.

“And down they go to the safe-deposit box room,” Bug announced.

“She got the grand tour,” I guessed. “All she had to do was tell them she was interested and set up an appointment, and they showed her the bank, including the safe-deposit vault, where she could’ve marked the right box for Gavin.”

“Do you have her number?” Mad Rogan asked.

“Yes, Major. Sent to your phone.”

When Bug said Major, he said it in the way people usually say sir. Until now, I would’ve sworn Bug had no idea what word respect even meant.

Mad Rogan swiped his phone and held it to his ear. “This is Mad Rogan. Meet me in the Galleria by the fountain at Nordstrom in an hour.”

He hung up and looked at me. “Would you like to come?”


“Front door in fifteen minutes.” He turned around and strode out.

I glanced at Bug’s face on the monitor. “When I met you, you told me you’d rather drink sewage than work with a Prime or anyone from the military again.”

Bug bristled. “So?”

I pointed with my thumb over my shoulder. “He’s a Prime and ex-military.”

“You don’t understand,” Bug said. “He’s . . . he’s Mad Rogan.”

“Oh spare me.”

He waved at me and Bern. “Kid, I’ll be moving soon. If you want the M9, you can have it.”

“That’s mighty big of you,” Bern said. “What’s the catch?”

“No catch. I’m getting something better, so don’t go thinking I’m being nice. It just saves me from having to torch all this junk.”

The screens went dark.

“Did Mad Rogan just recruit Bug?” I asked.

“Appears that way,” Berg said.

We stared at each other.

“Did you get anywhere with the ornament?” I asked.

“No. It’s an odd shape. I got a hit on a Japanese dragonfly brooch, but I don’t think that’s it,” he said. “The pattern is slightly wrong.”

“Will you please keep looking? I know it’s like looking for a needle in the haystack, and I really, really appreciate it.”

“Of course,” he said.

“I just don’t trust Mad Rogan. We need to figure this out.”

“Don’t worry,” Bern said. “We’ll get it. Here, I’ve got something for you.”

Bern opened a drawer and pulled out a Ziploc bag containing a metal doohicky. “Found this on your car. A standard GPS transmitter.”

That’s how Mad Rogan had known I’d gone to meet Adam Pierce at the arboretum. I sighed.

“Are you okay?” Bern asked.

“Yes,” I lied. “I’m going to get dressed.” And get my gun.

“Nevada,” he called after me. “That M9 would be really nice! Do you have a problem with it?”

“If you can make a deal with Bug, go for it. Just try not to owe him any favors you can’t repay.”

I stepped out the front door of the warehouse and did a double take. Mad Rogan waited in the driver seat of the perfectly intact Range Rover. It had been a charred wreck only a few hours ago. It couldn’t be the same Range Rover.

I saw him looking at me through the window. His eyes were very blue this morning. A by-now familiar feeling zinged through me, two parts lust, one part alarm, and the rest frustration with myself. The impact of all that masculinity should’ve faded by now. I should’ve become inoculated and immune. Instead he again knocked my socks off.

Chains, I reminded myself, as I got in. “Do you have more than one Range Rover?”

“I have several,” he said, his voice calm.

“So I guess it’s not a big deal that Adam blew it up?”

“I have several because I like them.”

I looked at him. His jaw was set. His mouth was a straight, hard line. His eyes under the dark eyebrows had acquired a cold, steel-like hardness and I saw anger in their depths. Not the loud, ranting kind of anger, but a bone-chilling determined fury. My instincts screamed at me to get out of the car. Get out now and back away with my hands in the air.

“That particular Range Rover was the one I liked best,” Rogan said, his voice and expression still calm and pleasant. “When we find Pierce, I’ll take it out of him.”

Out of him? If this wasn’t personal for him before, it was definitely personal now. “We need Adam Pierce alive,” I reminded him. “You promised me.”

“I remember,” Rogan said. His tone suggested that he really didn’t like it. Maybe I would get lucky and Adam would lay low today, because if Rogan ran across him now, he might murder him and really enjoy it.

I buckled up, and the Range Rover rolled onto the street. It would take us about forty-five minutes to get to the Galleria. “Do you know Harper Larvo?”

“Never met her,” Rogan said.

“Then what makes you think she would even show?”

“I know her type.”

“What type is that?”

“The failed vector.”

I glanced at him.

“Her grandfather was a Significant,” he said. “He had three children. All of them are Notable. And all of their children are either Notable or Average.”

“How do you know?”

“I checked the House database while Bug was talking. I didn’t mention it at the time, because Bug was doing an excellent job, and it was his moment to shine. You have to let your people take pride in a job well accomplished and recognize them for it. You will get better results.”

Everything Rogan did was driven by efficiency, even his treatment of his employees. Happy employees worked hard and were more loyal, so he took the time to recognize them for their achievements. I wonder where I stood on that recognition ladder. He probably considered me his employee. Well, I wasn’t his employee, and the only thing I wanted from him was Adam Pierce, preferably hog-tied.

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