Convicted, стр. 32

Finally, he spoke coherently, “Thank God”—She didn’t know if it was anger or pain; either way, his words were laced with emotion—“How in the hell did you do this? Where are you? And where is my money?”

“It’s nice to hear from you, too. I’m sure you’re confused, but”—her tone mellowed—“I’ve missed you, and I’m glad the reports of your untimely demise were also exaggerated.”

“Claire, what the hell is happening?” He repeated, “Where are you? And where is my money?”

“I’m here, and your money is nicely invested. You’ll be happy to know it’s made some unexpected positive returns—of late. You know, with the recent increase in oil options.”

“I’m thrilled.” He exhaled. “Where is here?”

“Of course, I’m considering a heavier investment in logistics. I’ve read that it’s the wave of the future. Manufacturing has so many variables.”

“Could we forgo the discussion on investment options? I want to know what you’ve done.”

“And I want my life—the one we just had. Can we both get what we want?”

His voice reminded her of the business Anthony Rawlings; assessing the climate and gathering the facts. “Were you taken? Or did you leave me?”

“Tony, do you trust me?”


“Do you trust me?”

“I want to, but you left me—again. You took my money”—His volume, once again, increased—“How? How did you even know about it?”

Her resolve was fading. If he hung up, then it was over. She didn’t want that. “Tony, I made a mistake—many mistakes. I believed someone else—instead of trusting you—and living up to our promise. I’ve learned the truth, and I want you to know that I trust you, and I’m so sorry.”

Tony struggled for words. “Someone else? W—what are you talking about?”

“We’re both children of children...and so is our child...”

Initially, he remained silent. Claire wondered if he was truly processing her meaning. Finally, he asked, “How did you pull this off?”

“Trust me, and we’ll see it through together.”

“I don’t seem to have any other choice.”

“Actually, you do,” Claire said as she looked at the large diamond engagement ring hanging from the gold chain around her neck. Although she hadn’t been wearing it on her finger, she never gave it away, sold it, or let it be far from her. She’d followed his rules; nevertheless, she needed to give him an out. If she didn’t then she’d always wonder if he wanted her or the money.

“Claire, don’t play games. You’re not making any sense.”

“I can assure you, this isn’t a game. I gave you an out, similar to the one you presented to me years ago. You may leave, with your freedom and a new identity. Being the generous person I am, I left you one million dollars—of your money—which is more than you gave me when you divorced me.” Claire heard an exasperated humph on the other end of the line. She waited, but when Tony didn’t speak, she continued, “That’s enough to support you for the rest of your life. You may need to cut a few coupons, but I believe you’ll eat regularly, otherwise, you may agree to be with me, on my terms, and we’ll work together to right some wrongs. The choice is yours.”

“Are you serious?”

“Am I serious? Well, I realize you’ve been removed from your life. I realize your reputation has taken a hit. I also realize your company is suffering. I can’t and won’t take responsibility for most of that, but believe me, I know what it’s like to have your entire world turned upside down.” She waited; he didn’t respond. “I also know who’s done this to both of us. I know that disappearing for a while is our best option, and most importantly, I want to spend my disappearance with you. Do you want to spend yours with me?”

He exhaled. “Claire, I’d give up everything in the world to be with you and our child.”

“Tony, that’s not enough for me. I want you—I want our baby—and I want our life back. Will you help me?”

When he didn’t immediately respond, Claire’s heart dropped. Would he take the out? “Tony?”

“I want it all too. What do you mean, your terms? Who did what to us? And who told you about the money?”

“Really, Tony? How many people knew about it? How many people would consider us both children of children?”

Claire waited as tears, once again, coated her cheeks. He was supposed to understand, forgive and trust—that’s the scenario she’d imagined. That was what she planned. Unable to contain the sound of her cries, Claire took a ragged breath and lay back on the bed. While she waited for Tony to respond, she felt their child moving within her.

When she, once again, heard his voice, she immediately knew it wasn’t the tone she’d hoped for. “Are you and our baby safe?”

She managed to say, “Yes.”

“Claire, if I call this number again, will you answer?”

Her head nodded, but her lips wouldn’t communicate the same message. Damn him! Didn’t he understand she’d been through hell too? “Are you saying you don’t want to be with us?”

“No”—he lowered his voice—“You don’t understand what I’ve been through.”

She clenched the ring on the golden chain. “Tony, it hasn’t been easy for me either. I need you—we need you.” It was more of an admission than she wanted to make, but somehow she wanted to make him understand.

He repeated, “Will you answer?”

Claire knew he didn’t like to repeat himself. Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, she said, “All I wanted from you was a simple yes. Was that so difficult?”

“Will you answer?”

She couldn’t lie; then again, she couldn’t be truthful. At that moment, Claire wasn’t sure of what she’d do. “I don’t know, Tony. Will you call?”

“I don’t know.”

The line went dead...

Convicted - _41.jpg

For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.

—Bo Bennett

Agent Harrison Baldwin settled into his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland. It had been two weeks since Claire and Phillip Roach left Venice. Baldwin wasn’t making points with the bureau. They definitely weren’t happy with his unnecessary trail of the Italian couple from the Hotel Danieli. Although it thankfully went unnoticed by the Italian embassy, SAC Williams didn’t hesitate to lecture Baldwin—at length—on his failed attempt. Maybe Baldwin had been undercover for too long. Without sounding conceited, Baldwin truly believed his tracking device would lead him to Claire’s next destination. Honestly, he’d underestimated Phillip Roach.

The bureau had agents throughout Europe looking for Rawlings. Baldwin truly didn’t know where he’d be. Each time Rawlings answered a call from the bureau, he hung up before his location could be confirmed. The only reason Baldwin was sitting in Switzerland was because of rumors. It wasn’t high tech FBI probing. No, it was hours of research, drinking untold amounts of coffee, and reading article after article. The gossip that brought him to Zurich was actually from Claire’s research. There were rumors that Nathaniel Rawls hid money overseas. Although discounted by people who knew him and never confirmed, Harry reasoned that Rawlings wouldn’t have willingly walked away from his life and agreed to exist on the measly compensation from the FBI if he didn’t have more money to access. Common sense told him that Switzerland was where one would hide money. Of course, there were other options. Currently, more Americans probably used the Cayman Islands or Bahamas; however, Baldwin reminded himself that these funds were originally hidden by Rawls in the 1980’s.

Harry wanted—and needed—to prove to the FBI that Rawlings was ultimately responsible for multiple unsolved crimes. In effect, not only were they concentrating on the murder of an FBI agent, but more than likely a string of murders. Baldwin ran his fingers through his blonde, unruly hair. Why couldn’t Claire understand that Rawlings wasn’t just a monster who abused her, the man was essentially a serial killer? He tried to think about the case and not remember her green eyes. He knew he blew it at their last meeting. Truthfully, he didn’t mean to call her stupid—she was just too willing to trust Rawlings. Baldwin vowed that he’d stop Rawlings—before he could hurt Claire—again.