Today's Reading

New Orleans, Louisiana

What had he gotten himself into?

Brandon Marlar leaned back in his chair and chewed his thumbnail. His dad had warned him the last time he'd caught him hacking. "Son, breaking into someone's files you have no business being in is wrong, and it's going to get you in trouble. Just don't come crying to me when it does."

But hacking was as addictive as the heroin he'd been hooked on two years ago, and when he'd found an open port in the Boudreaux Enterprises system, Brandon couldn't help himself, not after he cracked the password in less than two minutes. Didn't make it right, though.

Brandon jiggled his legs, hesitating as the keyboard lured him. Now that he'd found one secret file, he might as well go all in. Sucking in a breath, he hunched over the computer again, his fingers flying across the keys as he unlocked another file. A spreadsheet popped up on the screen, listing banks he'd never seen in his job as bookkeeper for Justin Boudreaux. He straightened his back and massaged his tight muscles.

Just to make sure his assumptions were correct, he copied a number in one of the columns and opened Google. Sure enough, the search engine returned hits for Fidelity Trust in the Cayman Islands. He repeated his search with numbers from another column. Another financial institution, this one in Switzerland. He totaled the accounts. At least thirty.

Brandon pulled up another file that listed dates, locations, and deposits. When he brought up both files side by side on his screen, it all clicked into place. He was looking at a classic case of money laundering. The company he worked for was blending funds and then depositing the laundered money in offshore accounts. Brandon drew in a shaky breath. "Oh, boy."

Maybe all of this was legitimate. And maybe the Golden Gate Bridge was for sale. Justin Boudreaux was a powerful man. Even with these files, who would believe a twenty -two- year-old ex-heroin junkie? And if—he mentally erased the if—when Boudreaux discovered he'd hacked into the company's computer system... Brandon didn't want to think what might happen.

His dad.

He'd take the information to him, and he would know what to do. Brandon removed the flash drive and shut down his computer. He could be in Natchez in three hours.

Natchez, Mississippi
Four Weeks Later

Brooke Danvers checked her watch. Her dad had said six and it was almost that. She quickly twisted her hair into a ponytail and then buckled her Sig Sauer to her waist. While she hadn't been sworn in as a law enforcement ranger yet, Mississippi was an open-carry state, and her dad had okayed her wearing it.

She hadn't stopped smiling since he'd asked if she wanted to ride along with him tonight. It didn't even bother her that he'd chosen Sunday night because there wouldn't be many cars out and about.

Brooke glanced toward the flat -brimmed hat that she'd worn all day at Melrose, the almost two- hundred- year -old mansion where she'd led tours. At times it felt as though the August heat and humidity would cook her head. She wouldn't need the hat tonight, though, and left it sitting on her childhood bed.

Returning home after fifteen years while contractors finished the remodel on her water-damaged apartment was proving to be an experience. She'd always heard grown children shouldn't return to the nest, and now she knew why. At her place, she came and went as she pleased without anyone asking questions. But now it was almost like she'd stepped back into her teenaged years. Not that she wasn't thankful her parents had offered to let her move into her old room, but it would be good to get back in her own apartment in a couple of weeks. The chimes from the grandfather clock sent her hurrying down the hall to her dad's home office.

It was empty. He'd said he had work to do before they left... She quickly walked to her mom's studio.

"Where's Dad?" she asked.

Her mom turned from her easel. "He got a call and left. Said to tell you if you still wanted to do the ride along, text Gary to pick you up."

Disappointment was swift, and Brooke ground her teeth to keep from letting it show.

"He said something about you riding with him tomorrow night."

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