Home > The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(15)

The Savior (Black Dagger Brotherhood #17)(15)
Author: J.R. Ward

“How did Darius die?”

Vishous narrowed his eyes. “How do you think.”

Murhder looked away. The war with the Lessening Society was such bullshit. “When?”

“Three and a half years ago. And that’s all I’m going to say.”

“You don’t have to be an asshole about everything.”

“Oh, right. I’m supposed to give a male who has a history of poor impulse control and mental instability details about someone who has nothing to do with his life.”

Murhder leaned forward and bared his fangs. “I fought with him for over a century. I’ve earned the right—”

Vishous shot up out of his chair and slammed his palm down on the letters. “You haven’t earned shit, and if you think we’re wasting one more fucking man hour on this stupid fucking MacGuffin of yours—”

Big bodies entered the room on long strides and the next thing Murhder knew, Phury was pulling him back.

“Get your hands off me,” Murhder snarled as he shoved the Brother away. “I’m not going to do anything.”

“How do we know that?” V taunted as Rhage blocked his flight path.

“Shut the fuck up, V,” someone said. “You’re not helping.”

“The hell I’m not. I’ve found his fucking female.”

Sarah left her house with her sunglasses on. Which was ridiculous. It was cloudy, the overcast sky clearly considering the idea of dumping more snow on the ground, the wintery landscape not that bright, blinding kind, but rather an all over gray. More than all that, however, there was no fooling anybody who was watching her house.

She was about to get in her car and drive off, and a pair of Ray-Bans wasn’t going to disguise that. Although given her line of thinking, maybe she needed to hat-and-dark-glasses her Honda.

Yup, she was straight-up 007 material.

She tried to look casual as she got behind the wheel, backed out, and headed for the main drag. The unmarked nothing-special that had been three houses down two hours ago was gone, but there was another now, in a slightly different position, and her dark lenses were useful as she went by the navy-blue sedan. Keeping her head straight, she shifted her eyes over.

There was a woman with short dark hair in the front seat, staring forward.

Looks like everyone is wearing sunglasses today, Sarah thought.

The local bank she and Gerry had their accounts in, one for household bills, the other for savings, had branches all over town. They’d only ever been to the one at the strip mall a mile and a half away from the house, however, and it took her no time to go over there, find a parking space, and get out.

As she came up to the glass doors of the entrance, she made a show of rummaging through her purse like she was looking for something. Then she took out her checkbook and nodded, as if she were relieved she hadn’t forgotten the thing.

Inside, the bank was warm, and there were two tellers behind the counter, several darkened offices, and a manager talking to a customer.

Sarah went up to the teller who wasn’t helping someone at the drive-thru. “Hi, I’d like to get some cash but I forgot my check card. Have to do it the old-fashioned way.”

The man smiled. He was on the young side, with a name tag that read “Shawn.” “No problem. Do you have your driver’s license?”

“I do, yes.” As she took out her wallet to slide her ID free, she passed the key that had dropped out of the boot across to the guy. “And can you please tell me if this goes with one of your safety deposit boxes?”

Shawn leaned in. “It looks like it.”

Sarah took her sweet time putting her name on the check and writing out “one hundred and no/100.” “My fiancé and I have a joint account here—I mean, he’s passed, so everything came to me. Can I get into the box? I brought with me the power of attorney I got as executor of his estate just in case it’s only in his name.”

Over at the door, there was an electronic bing as someone entered—and she wanted to wheel around to see if it was the brunette with the sunglasses that had been parked on her street. But that seemed like a rookie move for somebody trying to be covert.

“Let me check on your account,” Shawn said as he started entering things into his computer from her driver’s license. “If it was joint, then you’d have right of survivorship, and I believe that would carry over for any safety security box that you got as a service when you both opened the account. Do you remember signing for a box at that time?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Okay, let me see what I can do.” More typing on his keyboard, quick and sure. And then Shawn smiled. “I need to check with my manager, hold on a second.”

“Take your time. I write slow, anyway.”

Or at least she did today, turning the check over and printing “for deposit only” like she was carving the letters in hardwood.

Shifting her position, she looked across at the man who had entered. He was waiting for the other teller to finish up with the drive-thru customer. As with the woman in the unmarked, he was staring straight ahead. Jeans. Buffalo Bills parka. Sneakers that had snow on them.

Impossible to know if he was undercover or not.

Yeah, like she had anything to go by in making that assessment.

“So my manager—oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”

Sarah forced herself to ease up. “It’s okay. Too much coffee this morning.”

“My manager said she’d be happy to help you in her office.”

“Great.” Sarah almost packed up her fake withdrawal. “Oh, here. All made out.”

Five twenties and a no-thanks-I-don’t-need-the-receipt later, she was sitting down across from an early thirties woman who looked about halfway through her pregnancy. Her tag read “Kenisha Thomas, Branch Manager.”

“These are totally sufficient,” she said, after she entered some things in her computer and reviewed, then scanned, the notarized POA. “I’d be happy to let you in. It looks like your fiancé simply signed for the box associated with the savings account by himself. You weren’t billed because it was a free service that came when you started banking with us, and you would have had access if you’d just come in with him and your ID.”

Sarah turned the key over in her hand. “I guess he forgot to tell me about it.”

Bullshit, she thought.

“Happens all the time,” the manager said as she passed the POA back.

Does it really?

“Come with me.”

As Sarah followed the manager back out into the open area, she looked for Buffalo Bills guy. He was gone. Maybe she was just being paranoid.

The safety deposit boxes were way in the back, in a vault that must have weighed as much as the rest of the entire strip mall. After a little manila envelope was taken out of a narrow filing cabinet, Sarah was invited to sign on one of its vacant lines.

She froze with her Bic. The sight of Gerry’s signatures was like those boots with the mud in the treads, but worse: Without her knowing, he’d been in and out of the box seven times over the twelve months before he’d died … seemingly at random as she noted each of the dates.

The last one really got to her.

The Saturday he’d died. As she blinked away a wash of tears, she imagined him coming here as she had just done. Which spot had he parked in? Who had he talked to in the branch? Which of the staff took him over here to sign this little envelope?

What had been on his mind?

And like her … who had been watching him?

“Why wasn’t there a notice when he died?” Sarah asked. “I mean, why didn’t I get a notice that I needed to switch this to my name?”

The branch manager shook her head. “My guess is that because it’s a joint account, there was an assumption that you’d signed as well.”

“Oh.”

“Just right there at the bottom,” the manager pointed out gently. “That’s where you sign.”

“Sorry.” She focused on the initials beside each of Gerry’s John Hancocks. As they were just a squiggle, she couldn’t read them. “Is that you?”

“No, my predecessor. I took over this branch about nine months ago.”

“Oh, okay.” Sarah scribbled her name. “I was just wondering.”

The bank manager initialed and then they were inside the vault, looking for 425 in the rows of rectangular doors. Twin key turns later, and Sarah had a long, narrow metal box in her hands.

It was light. But there was something in it, a shifting weight and soft clink being released as she turned and went into a private room with no windows or glass.

The bank manager hesitated before closing the door. As she put her hand on her round belly, her deep brown eyes were grave. “I am very sorry for your loss.”

Sarah put her palm on the cold metal of the box and focused on the manager’s engagement ring and wedding band set. It was hard not to think that if Gerry hadn’t died, maybe she’d be where the other woman was. Then again, if Gerry had lived, who knows where they would have ended up, given how things had been between them.

God, she hated thinking like that.

“Thank you,” she whispered as she sat down in the chair.

Sarah waited until the door was shut before she lifted the latch and opened the half lid. Her whole body shook as she looked inside.

A USB drive. Black with a white slide.

And a set of BioMed credentials she’d never seen before.

Frowning, she put the USB drive into the zipper pocket of her purse. And then she inspected the credentials. The laminated card had the BioMed logo on it, and the bar code that got scanned by security whenever anyone entered the facility. There was also the strip on the back that you swiped through the door lock readers, a seven-digit phone number written in permanent marker, and the holographic image pattern that ensured authenticity.

But there was no photograph, no name, no rank.

Sarah tilted the box forward to make sure she hadn’t missed anything on the far end. Then she stuck her hand into the cramped space, feeling around.

   
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