First Person POV (Kaira)
Being on this team, I learned quite a few things. Honesty is important, love can make you feel alive, family is who you make, and most importantly, don't let Parker consume sugar. That lesson I learned the hard way. Girl was about bouncing off the damn walls when she got her hands on Christmas candy I had stashed. Took her a whole damn day to crash. And I made the mistake of letting Parker go to a chocolate festival that was in town by herself.
It was a day like any other at Leverage HQ. Hardison was pacing, waiting to hear from Parker, as she had yet to show. Eliot and I were sitting at the table, and Sophie and Nate stood next to us. "Where's - are we waiting on Parker?" Eliot asked.
"Oh, man. She's at that damn chocolate festival. It's like sending a crack addict to a cocaine convention. Girl text me about an hour ago, misspelled every damn word." Hardison pulled out his phone. I'm not surprised, cause Parker texted me too, probably trying to ask if I wanted anything, but I couldn't understand it. "Look." Hardison started talking gibberish. "Probably got chocolate all over the buttons." Hardison complained, putting his phone back.
"Well, you were the idiot that let her go." I told Hardison.
"Excuse you, woman? You really think any one of us, especially me, was gonna stop the girl?" Hardison looked at me.
"Fair point." I hummed. See, that Christmas candy incident? Parker may have scratched me when I tried to take the jar away from her.
Nate walked over to the table, coffee cup in hand. "All right, let's get started." Nate said.
Hardison pulled up his briefing. "Well, you picked a good one for us this time, Nate. Real good one. This Greg Sherman - he's not just any old con man. He is a direct descendant of the Yellow Kid." Hardison said.
I could already tell this was gonna be complicated.
"Who's the Yellow Kid?" Eliot asked. I looked at Eliot.
"Quite possibly the greatest grifters of all time." Sophie explained. "
And invented almost all the cons we know." I pointed out.
"Between 1900 and 1940, he swindled people out of more than 10 million dollars." Nate explained.
"Which is like a gazillion in today's market. Look. Some of my people know Sherman. They say the boy works without scruples and without conscience. His new scam is something called the Inverted Pyramid." Hardison explained, pulling up the diagram.
"Inverted Pyramid is where you call 20 people and tell 10 the stock's going up, tell the other 10 it's going down. Whichever one you get right, you call those 10 people back and do it all over again, and you've just convinced five people you can predict the market." Eliot explained the con. I'm honestly surprised Eliot knew that one.
"Yeah, except he's not calling 10 people. In every city, he sets up a broiler room and hires a bunch of hotshots, and they're calling a thousand people at a time." Hardison explained.
"Nathan, we're not gonna be able to con this guy, he's gonna know every con in the book." I pointed out.
"How are we gonna nail him?" Eliot asked.
"I'm thinking the Peruvian Slide." Sophie suggested.
"No, you need two old people and a banana peel for that." Hardison objected.
"Unh-unh. That's the Boca Backlash." Sophie argued.
"Boca Backlash is a roper with a glass eye." Hardison argued.
"That's the Oklahoma Little Chucky, and it's not a glass eye, it's a cue ball." Eliot argued.
I groan put my face in my hands because of all the arguing. I see Nate walking and looking up at the screen.
"The Oklahoma Little Chucky is a rottweiler with some fireworks." Hardison argued.
"No." Eliot objected.
At this point, I'm getting annoyed, and hearing Sophie about to argue causes me to snap. "Guys! Did you not hear me say that he's gonna know all the cons we pull? We can't con this guy." I finally shut them up.
"Kaira's right. You know, of course, you can't con a con artist. We're just gonna have to steal from him." Nate explained.
I smile a bit and we get to work on setting up for this heist. Hardison and I were gonna go undercover as the new hotshots when Sherman came to town, while everyone else was at HQ. At first, certain people didn't like it, but I argued that Hardison needed someone there to back him up, so I figured it was me, cause I at least partially knew what I was talking about. Plus, I have a unique way of, manipulating people. Not that I wanted to manipulate the people I was gonna have to call, but I figured I could manipulate Sherman for the hell of it.
So, there me and Hardison were, wearing our suits, myself being the only female there. Though my suit showed a bit of cleavage, which I knew Sherman would notice, and let's say distract him. I was chewing gum, and Hardison had a toothpick in his mouth. Sherman was there, barely as tall as Hardison, pacing in front of the line of seven of us.
"How many of you have degrees in business or finance?" Sherman asked us.
One guy at the end, and two guys beside me raised their hands.
"Get out of here." Sherman said. They put their hands down. "I mean it. Get out!" Sherman ordered the guys, and they left.
Sherman started pacing again. "I don't want any finance guys. I don't want any business chumps. What I want are the nastiest, hungriest, willing-to-tear-the-flesh-off-a-baby-seal carnivores. How many of you think that applies to you?" Sherman said.
All of us raise our hands.
"Oh, do you?" Sherman asked the guy at the end. "Cause this ain't the kiddie pool. You're swimming with the sharks, and I'm a freaking Mako. That's what they call me, because I'm always moving."
Good lord, this asshole's gonna be fun to manipulate.
"If I stop moving, I die. I'm at the top of the food chain, and every mark is a meal. You read me?" Sherman asked the guy at the end of the line.
During Sherman's whole speech, he didn't think I noticed, but I saw him glancing at my chest. Which, kinda is the point. Sherman looked at the guy at the end.
"So, what if it's your grandma on the line, huh? What are you gonna do?" Sherman asked him.
"Get her to buy." The guy said, a smirk on his face.
"What if it's my grandma?" Sherman asked the guy.
That smirk went right off his face. "I..." The guy stumbled.
"Get out of here! Go on! Get out!" Sherman yelled at the guy, who left.
It was just us three. "He reads people very well. He's thinning the herd. Searching for signs of weakness. You need to show some so he notices you. Blink, then scratch your nose." Sophie tells Hardison.
I have a plan to get Sherman's attention, though I wait. Hardison did just that, and Sherman walked over.
"What about you, Mr., uh..." Sherman said to Hardison.
"Beeshore. Steve Beeshore, from the Bronx. What's good?" Hardison put on a Bronx accent.
"What would you do with my nana?" Sherman asked him.
"I'll take her for every cent she got, and I'll come back next week and take her walker, her depends, her bengay, moth balls - all that." Hardison said. Sherman walked up to him and Hardison stayed calm.
"Don't look away, but keep your eyes soft. You need to project strength but without challenging him." Sophie said. Hardison did that.
Now it was my turn. I chuckled and bit my tongue, acting like I was amused. Sherman walked over. I maintained eye contact with him.
"What's so funny, Ms...?" Sherman tried to keep his eyes up.
"Lilian Devereaux. And get rid of the Ms, I ain't that formal." I use my normal voice, as I don't see the need for an accent. I keep my head up.
"What would you do with my nana?" Sherman asked me.
I chuckle some more. I know my answer can't sound like Hardison's. "I'd get her to trust me, maybe even get her to like me, so when I ask her to buy, she'd buy it. Then, I'd come back in a month when she's forgotten about me and do it all again until she's cleaned out." I said. I can tell he's turned on slightly.
"I like you." Sherman smirked a tad, flirting a tad.
"Thank you. The trick is getting them to like you, to trust you. Then with a little... persuasion." I rub my finger on Sherman's cheek and trace down to his chest. "You can make them do whatever you want." I give a flirty smirk. "Maybe even build up their egos some before you take everything they own." I smirk some more and move my hands.
He looks between me and Hardison. "Grab a desk, Steve and Lilian." Sherman said.
Hardison went to leave and I pat Sherman's face a couple of times before I leave to go to my desk.
"That was quite the performance, Kaira. You're getting as good as me." Sophie said. I smile.
The rest of the day was me and Hardison trying to get people to buy, but when Sherman wasn't looking, we'd transfer the money back to the client.
Third Person POV
Later that night, Hardison and Kaira got to work, getting ready for the cyber heist. Sophie and Nate were sitting at the table, take out containers on the table and coffee. Parker had gotten back from the festival and was hyper. Girl even had chocolate on her shirt. Nate and Sophie were very tired. Parker kept tapping chocolate bars on the table.
"Nate. Nate. Nate!" Parker tried to get his attention as Nate yawned.
"Parker." Nate said.
"What else did I miss in the briefing?" Parker asked.
"Nothing. Nothing at all. I told you." Nate said as Parker was still tapping on the table.
Sophie sat up quickly. "Oh, would you please just stop that hammering?" Sophie exclaimed.
Parker sat down the chocolate bars. "Why'd Eliot go home?" Parker asked.
"Because he doesn't need to be here, just like you don't need to be here." Nate said as Parker looked through the blinds.
"I don't mind. I'm still energized from Le festival du Chocolat! Oh my god! Sophie, you should've been there. Sophie. Sophie. Sophie!" Parker was definitely hyper.
"What?! What?! What?!" Sophie looked at Parker, getting annoyed.
"I tasted like 12 different kinds of chocolates. That had a white chocolate mocha expresso. I could not stop drinking it! So good!" Parker mimed drinking and walked back over to the blinds.
Yeah, they definitely wished Kaira had gone to the festival with Parker.
First Person POV (Kaira)
I was still in the boiler room with Hardison. We got started with our task and I'm glad I'm not at HQ to deal with hyper!Parker. Seriously, it's like dealing with a kid who ate all the birthday candy.
Anyway, Hardison got Nate's attention. "Nate." Hardison said.
"Hardison. Kaira. Okay. Did you find it?" Nate asked.
"No. It's probably offshore. Isle of Man of or one those new joints, like Timor." Hardison explained.
"Look, Nathan, all of this would be easier once he starts moving money around. It's like looking for a needle in the world's largest haystack." I point out. Not gonna lie, I was about fried myself.
"Hi, Hardison, Hi Kaira!" Parker came on comms.
"Hey, Parker." I said, trying to keep my cool.
"Uh... hello?" Hardison said.
"Nate won't tell me what the name of the job is." Parker said.
"Parker, not now. Please?" Nate said.
"Yeah, but what are we stealing? Is it "let's go steal a mountain" or a potato or a funeral or a panda or...?" Parker explained.
Hardison and I silently groaned. "Parker, it's money, and there is no name to the game. Now, would you please not bug Nate. I'm not dealing with his grumpy tired ass when I get back." I said quickly, groaning. I heard Nate stumble a bit.
"I told y'all not to let her go to that festival unsupervised." Hardison said.
Just as we both went to get to work, I heard the door open, so I put up a screen to hide what I was looking at.
"Well." Sherman said, walking towards us with a goon.
"Uh, what's - what's happening, Greg?" Hardison said, back in his cover.
"Oh, hello. Sorry I didn't know you were coming in." I said, putting back on my cover.
"We're just burning the night oil. You know what I mean?" Hardison said.
"I figured you'd be the two I'd find working later than anyone else." Sherman said. His goon walked behind us.
"Yeah, yeah, man. It's all in a day's." Hardison.
"All in a day's work." I said, getting a bad feeling.
"I'd expect nothing less from Alec Hardison, hacker extraordinaire when he's trying to pull a cyber heist with Kaira Newton, hitter for hire." Sherman said.
Well, shit. This was not good.
"Okay, okay. Just - just stay cool. Tell him you're not stealing, first of all." Nate said.
"Look, I'm not stealing." Hardison went to stand up but got shoved down.
"You're kind of strong ain't you?" Hardison looked at the goon behind him.
"Who is it you think you're bumping? I'm Greg Sherman, the Mako." Oh boy, here we go.
"Who?" I antagonize. Which gets my head slammed on the table. Not like it hasn't happened before.
Sherman paced in front of Hardison. "My father was The Springfield Wonder. My grandfather was The Yellow Kid. Titanic Thompson, WIldfire John - I knew them all. My family invented almost every con that you've ever heard of." Sherman got in both of our faces.
Before Nate could say what to do, I take control.
"Look, he was hired to park proxies inside your accounts. I was hired to make sure he got the job done properly." I explained.
"What kind?" Sherman asked Hardison.
"Commodities." He answered.
"What's the angle?" Sherman asked.
"Angle?" Hardison questioned.
"Repeating the question to buy time to think of a lie? I was doing that in the second grade." Sherman said.
"I was hired by a commodities mogul. Her boss." Hardison pointed at me.
"What commodity?" Sherman asked.
Shit, I didn't think this far. "Chocolate!" Parker exclaimed.
I try to control myself.
"Chocolate." Hardison said.
"Cocoa futures. That's a very volatile market." Sherman said, pacing back.
"No, it's crazy, is what it is." Hardison said.
"What's the play?" Sherman asked us, turning around.
Now I can come up with half a thing. "The play is supply and demand." Hardison and I stand up and go to the front of the desk.
"If you control or predict supply and demand, you corner the market." Hardison explained.
"So he's a hedge fund manager? They're a dime a dozen in the commodities world." Sherman explained.
"No, but this guy, he's only focused on one commodity - cocoa. Some people even call him Count Chocula." Hardison explained, and I'm ready to brain him.
"Seriously, Hardison? Count Chocula?" Nate complains on comms.
"Count Chocula? That's a stupid moniker." Sherman chuckled.
"Tell me about it." I snipped, knowing it would rile Sherman up.
"It is stupid - real stupid - but he didn't choose it. He's not one of those guys who gives himself a dumb nickname, you know?" Hardison said, winking at Sherman.
If Hardison doesn't get us killed, I'm killing him when we get back. "I want to meet this count." Sherman said. I chuckle slightly.
"No. He's private. There's a reason for that." I explained.
"No. I meet him, or you two don't leave this building. Do you read me?" Sherman threatened.
The goon was a little shorter than Hardison, but with well placed knee kick and a punch, I could take him out. And I know Hardison knows this.
"I'm... reading you, yeah." Hardison said.
"I could probably set something up this weekend, but it's not like he'll be easy to convince." I explained, yes stalling for time.
Sherman chuckled. "You're trying to run a stall on the Mako? Look, there is no con, no play, no action that you can pull that I haven't done a thousand times. Tomorrow, 9 a.m, his office." Sherman said.
"Okay." Hardison said.
"Okay." I said.
Sherman and his goon left. Luckily, I did have an idea for a con Sherman wouldn't know. And I was already running it since I got to the boiler room.
"Okay, Nate, call Eliot to get his ass over there, secure an office, grab props, signage, anything to do this. Me and Hardison will stay with the keyboard for now. Don't skimp." I said, signaling to the others I was running this one.
Third Person POV
The next day, just before 9 o'clock, Sophie and Nate stalled a guy so they could get his office. Eliot switched the signage. At 9 o'clock, Hardison, Kaira, and Sherman showed up to the office. Nate told Eliot to stall so he and Sophie could get changed. Though, Eliot's version of stalling was pushing his janitor cart in front of them. Sherman definitely got annoyed. Sherman even inspected the cart.
They walked into Nate's office, where he was on the phone. He turned around and saw them standing there, acting not pleased.
"What are you doing here?" Nate asked them.
"I told you, he wanted to meet you." Hardison said.
"And I told you two never to come here!" Nate exclaimed.
"He caught us red handed, and Alec here decided to go along with this, even though I could've easily taken out the one goon he had. And him, come to think of it." Kaira hissed.
"Okay, look - he said the only way to complete the business transaction was for you two to meet." Hardison explained.
"More like it was either that, we weren't getting out." I pointed out.
"Well, look, there are dozens of chop shops I can park my contracts at - I don't need his." Nate said.
"Tell me about your scam." Sherman insisted.
"I am not gonna tell you squat. Now, you get him out of here. She's on her way." Nate said, standing.
"You don't mean -" Hardison questioned like it was a big deal.
"What?" Kaira questioned.
"Yes. Yeah. If she sees you three, she will spook. Go." Nate told then.
Hardison and Kaira got Sherman to leave. They looked over the balcony and saw Sophie wearing a gold dress and gold heels.
"Take th-e back stairs. Hardison, Karia, you're fired." Nate said.
"You still owe me 200k." Hardison said.
"And you still owe me from last time I had to babysit." Kaira hissed, acting like she was pissed.
"You'll both get paid. Go." Nate ordered. Nate and Kaira left.
"He's paying you 200 large just to park proxies?" Sherman questioned Hardison.
Hardison turned back. "Yeah, it must be worth it to him." Hardison said.
"Who is she?" Sherman asked Hardison, pointing to Sophie. "That's the Chocolate Whisperer." Hardison said. He left. Nate met with Sophie.
First Person POV (Kaira)
After Hardison, Nate, and I made it back to the office. Parker was at the chocolate festival. I would've gone to make sure Parker didn't get a sugar rush again, but Sherman would know something was up if he saw me, so I was stuck in HQ, looking at the surveillance feed. We knew Sherman was following Sophie, which was the point.
Hardison, Nate, and I were the ones watching the screen. And Parker had her face turned away, looking like she was eating chocolate. "Okay. Sophie, you're doing great. I want you to head for the Chocolate Festival. Parker, everything ready there?" Nate said.
"Parker?" Nate got Parker to turn around, and her mouth was covered in chocolate.
"I'm working on it." Parker said.
"Good lord." I muttered, knowing Parker has chocolate everywhere probably.
Hardison chuckled. "Okay, Nate. Sophie's good to go for the tasting. You know what, man? I really think she can win this." Hardison said.
"What do you mean? She's gonna have to win this. It's our only way to sell Sherman. Okay, everybody, we're gonna have to be at our absolute best. This guy is looking for a tell, any sign that we might be conning him." Nate said.
Sophie was working her cover. "All right, Sophie, I got all your business on the web, so people should start recognizing you any second." Hardison gave Sophie the heads up.
Sophie was a natural working her cover. Though when Parker was talking to Sophie, acting like Sophie's assistant, Sherman lifted Parker's phone. As soon as Sherman left, Parker went to reach for her bag.
"No, Parker, let it go. We need Sherman to check on us." I warned Parker.
Then Parker started to go after Sherman's goon. Nate and I both kept yelling for her to stop. Parker grabbed a red velvet heart shaped box.
"Dammit, Parker." I muttered.
"Too late, man. It's in her DNA." Hardison said.
Parker went up to the goon and turned around, placing the box behind her and lifting things.
"Put it back, Parker." Nate ordered.
Hardison was amused, and I would be if we weren't dealing with Sherman. Parker scowled at the camera but did put it back, only keeping a credit card. She walked away as Sherman's goon grabbed a small cup and Sherman walked up to him, facing opposite directions.
"Here we go." Nate said.
Sophie, whose cover was Clarissa DuBois (A/N Fun fact, the last name is the same name of the town I live in, and Clarissa is close to my mom's name!) and her opponent, Laverne Webber, got introduced for the tasting competition. Hardison had pulled up a bunch of info on cocoa beans.
"I got all the origins on these chocolates, but there's no way to tell which ones they're tasting." Hardison said.
"That's okay. Now S-Sophie, this is no different than Belgium in '99. Remember that? You did great then. You're gonna do great now." Nate said.
Now I kinda want to know what happened. Either way, I'm confident in Sophie's abilities. The announcer told them to eat the beans, and then Laverne went first. Laverne got it almost correct with that the mean came from Madagascar, but missed how pure it was. Sophie went next. Sophie got the country of origin correct, but then Laverne wanted to quiz her as to why.
"Pulling up all the special characteristics of Trinidad cocoa beans." Hardison said, pulling it up.
"No. She's good. She's fine." Nate assured Hardison.
Sophie schooled Laverne, and I may have smiled a tad, but felt bad for Laverne. Sophie, of course, won the tasting.
"Just from a piece of chocolate?" Hardison questioned.
"That's my gir." Nate said.
"Damn, she's really scary sometimes." I muttered.
Sophie and Parker ignored Sherman as they talked to an Asian man and woman, speaking Chinese, knowing Sherman's goon was listening.
Later that day, we discovered that Sherman kidnapped Nate. Hardison, Parker, Sophie, and I were gathered around the table.
"I gave you the chance to go this easy. You passed. I know about China." Sherman said.
"Nate, Eliot's in position." Sophie said.
"Just say the word, Nate, and I'll come in there and teat their lungs out." Eliot said.
"Not necessary." Nate said.
"Oh, it's necessary, all right. Your whole plan depends on it. 200 Nouveau Richie chocolate cafes where a billion Chinese consume less chocolate than 7 million Swiss? That's like going long on DVDs in 1994." Sherman explained.
"So now you know why I hired Hardison and Newton." Nate said.
"Well, that's what you want me to think." Sherman chuckled.
"You can't run a gift on The Mako." Sherman said.
"Who's The Mako?" Nate asked. I chuckled just a tad.
"I'm the Mako... and I want to know what the action is, or my man here is gonna go Paso Doble on your skull." Sherman threatened.
"The, uh - the crop report is gonna come out on Friday. It's gonna say that supply is normal, average." Nate explained.
"Yes, but demand is gonna jump." Sherman predicted.
"No, no. The crop report is wrong." Nate explained.
"Who told you this, your Chocolate Whisperer?" Sherman questioned.
"No, no. She's legit. She has nothing to do with this." Nate explained.
Sherman chuckled. "That's funny, cause you're sleeping with her." Sherman said.
All our eyes go wide and I let out a gasp.
"I see it. It's in your body language when you're together. It's in your eyes when you look at her. You two have a carnal relationship." Sherman said.
I groan. "Oh, what the hell?" I looked at Sophie.
"See, he - he - he's just trying to rattle Nate." Sophie tried to brush it off.
"You did say he reads people better than anyone you know." Parker pointed out.
"Y'all nasty. Even more than Kaira and Eliot flirting when all of us can hear it." Hardison complained. I hit his arm.
"Damn, woman." Hardison rubbed his arm.
I let it go as Sophie is still stumbling.
"I..." Sophie barely got out.
"Listen to me. It's not her, okay? I have a guy." Nate said.
"A guy in the C.F.T.C?" Sherman questioned.
"No. It's - it's a guy who... knows things. When the crop report comes out, everyone's gonna think it's business as usual. I continue buying Futures. Then, in a month or so, the world finds out supply is in the toilet. That's when I, with controlling interest in nearly all cocoa futures, announce China." Nate explained.
"You're talking 100 million." Sherman pointed out.
Nate talked his way out and Eliot got him home. I still felt like the kid who walked into their parent's bedroom and caught them having sex.
I gave him an ice pack and we gathered at the bar.
"How's that?" Sophie asked Nate, holding the ice pack on the back of his neck.
"Yeah." Nate said quietly.
"Okay." Sophie said.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Parker asked.
"Parker." Nate warned.
"Hey, Nate, she's just saying, man." Hardison said.
"Look, we'll discuss it later. Okay, right now we've got to worry about Sherman. He's clever. He's too clever to fall for the big store." Sophie said.
"He's gonna know everyone in the country." I pointed out, emphasizing "everyone".
"That's why we're gonna use civilians. Trust me. We got the guy on the dangle. He's just about to bite. We just got to keep him off balance and just keep pushing him and pushing him until he's out of his comfort zone." Nate said.
"How far out you trying to push him?" Hardison asked.
Third Person POV
Turns out, pushing Sherman meant Eliot taking Sherman to Equador to set up the idea that Nate's inside guy was in the government. And Sophie interviewed civilians, and Parker and Kaira got the props they needed. When Kaira and Parker returned with a huge pallet on monitors, Nate ended up lugging them into the office they were using. Paid for using the credit card Parker stole. Hardison was at HQ, waiting with a laptop to monitor the accounts. Later that night, Sherman got in for the $10 million buy-in.
First Person POV (Kaira)
The next day, all of us, minus Hardison, was at the fake office we had set up. Sophie was directing our civilians to act as marketers. They weren't really doing good, messing up lines, and crashing into each other. We reset one last time, Eliot and I went out, to retry it. Hardison still hadn't found anything, and was actually sick of orange soda.
"Somehow I doubt that, Hardison." I said.
Nate went to give them all a pep talk, but Eliot burst in, saying Sherman was here. So I ran out with him and Parker as Nate got everybody working. Parker led Sherman and his goon, holding the briefcase, in. Nate asked about the money. Sherman said it was in the briefcase.
"You want to count it?" Sherman asked Nate, laughing.
"I had trouble keep a straight face. Oh! And you... The Chocolate Whisperer. That is rich." Eliot and I came in and everybody stopped moving.
"I was onto you guys the whole time. Which is not to say that you didn't have some nice flourishes. Flying me to Ecuador? Wow!" Sherman sensed me and Eliot behind him. "Oh, hey." Sherman chuckled at Eliot. "There he is. I love this guy. That thing with the snake - oh! And then you decided to run The Big Store on me." Eliot started walking back to the door while I stayed.
"A little historical note - my grandfather invented The Big Store. And with such rank amateurs - I mean, losers - I can't count how many tells I saw walking in. They're wearing trading jackets? What is this, 1990? And this guy - this guy forgot his line." Sherman pointed to a guy and laughed.
Yep, I was gonna be glad to ruin this assholes evening.
"Yeah, okay. So you weren't fooled. I get it. But also, you didn't make any money, did you?" Nate asked.
"Oh, yes I did. Your little Starbucks of China action - that story was so good, I had my boys flood the market with it. Complete B.S and I leaked it to the world. Cocoa prices are going to explode. And then I did what you pretended to do. I committed over 30 million in Cocoa Futures. By the time people realize the China thing is false, I'll have cleared 100 million and be living in a non-extradition country. It will be the greatest con of all time. Better than anything Wildfire John or The Yellow Kid ever did. And you know what? I have you to thank. I watched your every move, every eye twitch, every stretch of your head. I was so focused on you and your team, you couldn't have conned me with 100 of the best shills. You forgot the first rule of the confidence game - can't con a con man." Sherman said.
Now I was definitely ready to ruin this asshole. I started chuckling. "Oh, you poor guppy. We didn't con you." I gave a smile while still chuckling.
"It's the Mako. And yes you did. Well, you tried." Sherman said.
"No. See, I read you the moment I heard of your name and we locked eyes in the line. Your whole personality is wrapped up in your family legacy, and that in turn inflated your ego. So, the only way I could get you to like me was to overwhelm you. Maybe flirt a little. A couple pats on the cheek, a trace of my finger down your face." I mimicked the movements on Sherman.
See, that was my first play when we were just stealing.
"Then you caught Hardison and me. And while these guys were scrambling, I came up with a new plan. That plan involved giving you exactly what you wanted. Because of your ego, you became so convinced we were running a con on you, so focused, you completely missed the moonwalking bear." I explained. Sherman was in my face.
"The what?" Sherman questioned.
"Ah, so much to learn little guppy." I teased.
"It's the Mako!" Sherman exclaimed.
"Whatever." I pushed Sherman forward some to give me some space.
"The moonwalking bear. You became so focused on the idea someone was running a con on you, you missed the moonwalking bear. Don't you remember? Hardison's cyber heist? Remmeber, you said we were running a con on you? Because nobody could possibly con you, because your grandfather was The Yellow Kid, or whatever." I taunted more.
"Bitch!" Sherman went to smack me, but I grabbed his arm and bent it back, making sure I didn't break his arm, but he wasn't exactly comfy either.
"Really? At least be original damn." I taunted more. I gave Sherman a look warning him not to do it again. I let go.
"See what I mean? It was so easy to manipulate you, it wasn't even funny." I taunted more. "It doesn't matter. Because I had my men move all my money today. It's all in Cocoa Futures." Sherman said.
"Yeah, about that, see actually, you didn't. Call your office." I pointed out.
Sherman called his office, where Hardison picked up. "Hello?" Hardison answered.
"This is The Mako. My money get moved yet?" Sherman asked.
"Yes, sir, every cent." Hardison said.
That's when I hear on comms the FBI coming in. Sherman hung up the phone.
"What hurts more? The fact that you got conned by a woman, or that it was so easy to con you?" I taunted more.
Sherman's goon ran towards Eliot. Eliot just had his arms crossed as the goon shoved him. Eliot then dodged a couple of punches, but once caught. The goon chuckled as Eliot stood straighter, rubbing his lip.
"Thanks, man. That's awesome. I hadn't hit anybody in over two weeks." Eliot said.
Yeah, another thing to add to that list of things I learned, is that if Eliot doesn't get to punch somebody at least once a week, he gets grumpy.
Eliot dodged a punch, then punched the goons gut and face. He then grabbed the goon and slammed him on the desk. I looked at Eliot, maybe slightly turned on, as he brushed his hair out of his face.
"Feel better babe?" I asked Eliot.
I walked up to him as Eliot smirked. "Yeah, actually do I do, sweetheart." Eliot said.
Okay, let me back up here some. So, when I heard about Sherman, I knew the only way to get me in to help Hardison steal the money was to overwhelm him. But, when Sherman caught us, I figured the only con we could do that would work was The Moonwalking Bear. Given Sherman's inflated ego and inflated opinion of himself, which I got from how often he referred to his nickname and his family line, I knew it would work. So, yeah, I set up the idea of Sherman thinking we were doing The Big Store. Nate did the little things like the specifics of how to unbalance Sherman, but the con was my idea. Plus I knew the idea of Sherman getting conned by a woman would piss him off more, so that helped. Back to the present.
FBI agents walked in. "Greg Sherman AKA - what is it again?" The guy asked. \
Everyone started shouting random ffish names, which caused me to laugh.
"You're under arrest." The guy told Sherman. \
Just as Sherman was being escorted, he turned back to us.
"Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Who are all these people? They're not shills." Sherman said.
"No. They're your victims. Mr. and Mrs. Wang." I walked over to the Asian man and woman sitting beside us, turning her around. They were the people who talked to Sophie about China.
"You stole 68,000 dollars from Mr. Wangs father. Every cent he owned, you stole. You stole the lives of every single person in this room." I explained.
"No. I don't believe you. This is a con." Sherman said.
"No. It isn't. This is punishment." I said.
The FBI guy walked up to Parker. "Are you Special Agent Hagen?" He asked her.
Parker hummed she was. The FBI guy pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket. "Agent McSweeten sends his best. And he also sends a, uh" He cleared his throat. "Haiku." The guy said.
Parker grabbed it, a smile on her face. I'm not gonna lie, that is really cute. "That's so nice. Say hi back." Parker said.
"I will." The FBI guy said.
"Special agent? Are you kidding me?" Sherman questioned.
I try not to laugh so I don't spoil Parker's cover.
"That's right, genius. She's an undercover FBI agent." The FBI guys argued.
"No, she is not. She's a thief. They're all thieves and - and con men and grifters!" Sherman argued. I try once again to not break.
"Sure, Mr. Limpet. We're all thieves and grifters and conmen." The FBI guy didn't care.
They got Sherman out of there, much to everyone's pleasure.
Later that night, we all met back at the bar. We were gathered around the table, drinks in hand. The schoolmarm who was the original client, Sheila, walked over with a cake with white frosting in hand.
"I can't thank you enough. But..." Sheila said, putting the cake on the table.
"What is it, Sheila?" Sophie asked.
"Well, when I checked the school account, the 72,000 wasn't there. There was over a million in it." Sheila said.
I took a sip of my beer and chuckle. "Call it reparations for emotional damage." I said glad the money went to a good cause.
"I'd say your school's gonna be all right for a while." Nate added.
"Thank you." Sheila said. She left.
Then everything was awkward, cause we all know who never talked about you know what.
"So, w-who's gonna point out the big pink argyle elephant in the room?" Hardison asked.
Nate and Sophie just looked at each other and didn't know what to say.
Eliot leaned forward. "Listen, it's not that you're not two consenting adults." Eliot said.
"But we need to be able to rely on each other." Parker said.
"And we need to be aware of each other's emotional states." Hardison said.
"Our emotional states are - are fine." Nate said.
"It's not like we're having a real relationship. No it's just s-" Sophie explained.
"Friends with benefits?" I question, wondering if they were serious.
"Well, I-I'd say it's, uh..." Nate tried to brush it off.
"Yeah. It's not a bad way of looking at it." Sophie said.
"Okay." Nate accepted.
Eliot's looking at the crowd. "Looks like you aren't the only two." Eliot said.
The guy Sophie called Nugget, from a horse he played in a show, and Ms. Cox, an older woman who was confused about the name Moonwalking Bear, were slow dancing.
"That is at the same time beautiful and very disturbing." Hardison said.
"Guys, to the Big Store." Nate offered a toast.
"The Big Store." We all toast and clunk glasses.
We all take a sip. "I now feel like the kid who walked into their parent's room and caught them having sex." I said, still feeling a bit disturbed, but okay? I got looks from everyone.
Later that night, I got some very interesting information from Hardison. Hardison showed up at my door and knocked. Eliot and I were changing for bed, so I quickly finished to see what Hardison wanted.
I opened the door. "Yeah?" I said.
"Kaira, I got something to show you." Hardison said, showing me the files he had.
I let him in. I get some coffee from the morning and sit down along with Hardison. "What is it?" I asked him.
"I found the guy who bugged Nate's apartment, and phoned him." Hardison revealed.
I looked at the file and saw the image of an older grey haired white man.
"Jack Latimer. Farm boy. Had a scholarship to the University of Chicago. Nice, started his business back in '85 by mortgaging his house, now his investment firm is totaling eight zeros." I read the file.
"I tracked him through his investment in Verd Agra." Hardison said.
"The Hot Potato Job? Wait, you found the bug before that." I said.
"He was also involved in Merced Financial, DuberTech, Earnshaw Pharmaceuticals." Hardison explained.
"Yeah, I remember those jobs. Those are companies we burned." I said, trying to think as to what this guy wants with us.
"Well, obviously, he had stock in these companies, so when we burned them, we cost him money. Simple revenge." I explain, that being the obvious answer.
"He didn't lose money." Hardison said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean, he profited from us taking down those companies." Hardison explained.
"Did you show all this to Nate?" I asked him.
"Yeah, I just left there. I wanted to tell you in case you wanted to go with Nate to have a chat with him." Hardison said. I thanked him and he left. There was no way in Hell I was gonna let Latimer get away with bugging Nate's apartment.
So, the next day me and Nate went up to Latimer's log cabin. Nate leaned against the support pole, and I stood. Latimer came up to us.
"Jack Latimer." Nate said, causing Latimer to stop.
"You run an investment fund worth half a billion dollars. Marla out of town?" Nate said.
"Nate Ford. You run a crew that ruins me like me." Latimer barely chuckled. "Ain't we a pair of high-stakes sons of bitches? And Kaira Spencer, your protege." Latimer looked at me.
I keep stone-faced.
"Want a drink? I could use a drink." Latimer said.
Latimer poured him and Nate a glass of scotch.
"How long?" I asked him.
"Three years ago, my fund had money in Pierson Aviation. I had the CEO, Steve Pierson, under surveillance." Latimer handed Nate the glass. "Just standard background stuff. Then when all this happened with Victor Dubenich screaming his head off about con men, nobody believed a word." Latimer explained, taking a sip.
"Except you had photos of a man and woman handing pierce a bag full of hard drives. You never turned us in." Nate said.
"Bering Aerospace stole that research. Their stock was valued on a lie. That lie devalued other companies. You took them down a peg, but you're - you're not a villain. You were a... market correction." Latimer said.
I scoffed. "Depends on where you stand." I warned Latimer.
"You spent a lot of money chasing that single lead." Nate pointed out.
"That young man, Hardison, he covers your tracks pretty damn well. But after a while, I had enough to figure out what your pattern was, figured out what your next move would be." Latimer explained.
"So you predicted our targets and bet against them." I pointed out.
"You made investments against Wakefield, Verd Agra... DuberTech." Nate said.
"To a one, you rained destruction down upon them, allowing me to profit in the wreckage you left behind." Latimer said.
Nate finished his glass. "You will get out of my business now." Nate said. He threw the glass in the grass as we both walked away.
"But you haven't even heard my offer." Latimer said.
"We don't want anything from you." I hissed.
"And the one's who got away with it?" Larimer said. We both stop.
"The companies that covered it up so well, the people they cheated or killed that had no idea what happened to them. I know secrets, sins it would take you thousands of years to find." Nate and I started pacing back towards Latimer.
"What's the price?" Nate asked, stopping.
"24 hours. But before you descend from Heaven with blood-tipped wings and a flaming sword to wreak havoc on these men, you call... and give me 24 hours to make my move." Latimer offered.
Nate and I turned back around and started to walk away.
"Your pride more important than helping people?" Latimer asked.
I turned back around. "We don't do this to turn a profit, you son of a bitch. You said we weren't villains? But we're not good, either. Good men don't need rules. Today's the day you find out why I have so many. Back the Hell off." I threatened before I left.
I hoped my warning went through.