Brad was at home watching television with Venus, when his phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket, and recognized the number. He had to take the call.
“Excuse me babe, I have to get this.” Brad excused himself and went to another room.
“How are things going Brad?” an unidentified man on the other end asked.
“Very good so far. I only have to hire two more people, and we will be ready to go.”
“Good. With Johnny G gone, and his collection left unprotected, this will be easy.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“Of course, don’t you?”
“I don’t want her to get hurt.”
The man on the other end of the phone laughed loudly. “Seriously? She was the one who messed up our plans in the first place. But whatever you want. I promise she will remain unscathed. It’s the collection I want.”
“Thanks, I think.”
“If you’re not sure about this Brad, I can have you taken care of and find another collector with the balls to handle this.”
Brad shook his head. “No, no. I just don’t want her hurt.”
“Fine. Get me those other two bodies, let me know when you do, and we will go from there.”
“Okay. Talk to you soon.”
The phone went dead, and Brad sighed heavily. Now worried about what he may have gotten himself into. He made his way back to the living room and sat back down.
“Who was that on the phone?” Venus asked.
“A potential buyer.”
Brad nodded. “Yeah.”
Venus smiled deviously and quickly moved to straddle Brad’s lap. She kissed him about the ears and neck. “Fuck me,” she said softly in his ear sucking on it.
He could never refuse her. He was a slave to her bedroom antics, and she knew it. He looked her in her eyes and kissed her passionately. Moments later, he laid her on the couch and went at her ferociously. For a change, Venus found it hard to keep up. But she knew something was on his mind. Something bothered him. Though she knew he wouldn’t tell her, she wondered what it was. However, she wasn’t about to spoil the moment.
The man on the other end of Brad’s phone sat amongst his collection of many things and grinned. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on one of the most expensive jewelry collections in the U.S. He didn’t mind if a few lives were lost in the process. He would do anything to get his hands on it.
Apollo sat in his office and ran his hands through his hair. Sateria was heavy on his mind. From what he witnessed earlier that day, he knew she loved Johnny. He was now one-hundred percent sure that she didn’t kill him personally, nor did she have him killed. But he had to keep that from his team in order for them to continue to trust him.
Jayden called an early morning meeting which usually told everyone invited that it was going to be a long one. It was a rare that he called his own meetings, and usually it was about the companies finances. It was nearing quarter end, and that is what they thought the meeting was about. Apollo entered the room with his pen and notebook waiting to hear if his marketing budget was going to take a dive. He hoped not.
Scheduled to start at nine o’clock sharp, the only ones who showed up were the members of their after work team. Jayden had set up a slide show of particular properties that the company had been looking to buy. This way he could show the slides as he talked about after work business without alerting anyone else in the office. The main conference room’s internal wall was made entirely of glass so anyone passing by could clearly see what was going on.
Pheonix sat next to Apollo with a note pad and her favorite pen in hand. She had jotted down questions to ask during the meeting and couldn’t wait to ask them.
Once everyone arrived, Jayden closed the door.
Apollo was curious. “Where is everyone else?”
“They aren’t coming,” Jayden said plainly.
Apollo’s eyes tightened and he glared at Jayden. “This is a meeting about our quarterly numbers right?” He asked.
Jayden shook his head, started the slide show, and pulled his laser pointer from his breast pocket.
He smiled at his teammates and took control of his meeting. “This meeting is about Sateria Murphy. I know we aren’t supposed to talk about stuff outside of work while we are here, but it couldn’t be helped,” he said pointing at the first property that appeared on the slide.
Pheonix rolled her eyes. “Seriously Jayden? I cancelled two meetings for this one because I thought it was more important.”
Jayden moved across the room and continued to point at the screen. “It is important. This is about us.” He changed the slide and continued to point.
Troya also agitated to be called away from her desk, asked, “So what about her? She hasn’t done anything. I personally find her a rather pleasant person.”
Jayden shook his head and moved to the other side of the screen continuing to point with his pointer. “So what you are saying is that you trust her.”
Troya shook her head. “No. I didn’t say that at all. I just said she was nice.”
Apollo glared at Jayden walking around the conference room, doing a very good job at keeping up his ruse. “Jayden, come on, out with it. Tell us what’s on your mind.”
Jayden changed the slide and pointed at the screen. “Why was she here the other day without any of us knowing about it first?”
“Because I didn’t know she was coming,” Apollo answered quickly.
“Donna told me that you took her to Johnny’s office.”
Apollo shrugged. “So what. She asked to see it.”
Jayden moved to the other side of the screen. “Why?”
“Maybe she wanted to connect with the man she didn’t know. Johnny kept a lot from her.”
Jayden changed the slide. “And you know that how?”
Apollo cocked his head to the side, beginning to get irritated. “It’s obvious. Hell, he kept a lot from us too, but you don’t see me freaking out about it.”
“Well you should be freaking out about it.” Jayden moved to the other side of the screen. “Until we know for sure when that DVD was recorded, I don’t want her up here anymore.”
Pheonix glared at Jayden, surprised. “Jay baby, I know it’s hard for you to trust people, but this is what Johnny wanted. We can’t keep her away. They loved each other, and she’s trying to honor his wishes.”
Jayden switched to the last slide and nodded his head. “Fine. You all trust her if you want. Until I get proof that she had nothing to do with Johnny’s death, I don’t want anything to do with her, and I mean it.”
Apollo, being the senior on their team spoke up. “Jayden Johns. I realize that you are a very important man at AJG. By you being CFO, you have us all by the nuts so to speak. But let me remind you of something. After hours, I am in charge. You have disrupted our schedules with some shit that could have waited until we closed for the day. Don’t do this again. Are you quite finished?”
Jayden smiled for any walking by to see and replied, “As far as I’m concerned she killed him. Until we prove otherwise, that is my opinion. If you want me to trust this woman enough to train her at what we do, you’d better find out when he recorded that DVD.”
Apollo sighed. “Okay, I’ll work on that, but I still have to build up enough trust to get it out of her hands. So you go on ahead and continue not to trust her. That’s on you. But for me it’s a different story.”
Jayden nodded and turned off the slide show. “Fine. If she is gonna be running around here loose can you please have her make appointments so I will know when she’s here?”
All of his team confused by his obsessive behavior, Troya asked, “What has gotten into you Jayden?”
“Me? What has gotten into me? It’s all of you I’m worried about. A perfect stranger is trying to walk right into our territory; and you are all willing to let her. I refuse to be lead by someone who knows nothing about what we do. If you all want to, go ahead. But if you want me to stay on this team, you better be damned sure she didn’t kill Johnny.” Jayden pushed a button on the wall and the screen rose back into the ceiling. “Meeting adjourned.”
Jayden scooped up his notebook and abruptly left the room leaving his other teammates dumbfounded.
Later that day, Apollo decided to give Sateria a call. He wanted to believe what was in his heart now for sure. She didn’t kill Johnny. She couldn’t have killed Johnny. He just had to convince his team of that. Perhaps when everything died down and they found Johnny’s killer, they could be a happy family. Apollo hoped that would be the case. He was having a hard time keeping his feelings in check.
“Hello?” She answered the phone sitting on one of the terraces.
The sound of her voice was like music. “Sateria, it’s me, Apollo.”
“How are you doing, Apollo?”
“Fine. I just wanted to know if you were ready to let me borrow the DVD yet.”
She was beginning to trust the new people around her, and out of the four Apollo was the first. “Are you sure that you will give it back to me?”
Bingo! “Most definitely. I promise no copies. I just want to know when Johnny recorded it, is all.”
Sateria suddenly felt comfortable. “Stop by when you get a minute. I’ll be here.”
“I’ll be by sometime later this evening. Is that okay?”
Elated that he was finally going to know when the DVD’s were recorded. Apollo called an impromptu meeting in his office to alert his team. The grin on his face practically told the story for him.
“So what is it now?” Jayden asked.
“You will all be happy to know that Sateria agreed to let me borrow the DVD. I’m gonna go get it after work.”
Jayden smirked. “That was quick. How did you get her to agree so fast?”
“I just asked.”
“Mmm. Has to be more to it than that.”
Troya spoke up. “Maybe it had something to do with you letting her see Johnny’s office.”
“Possibly,” Apollo replied. “But it doesn’t matter now. I’m gonna take it to Nate and have him work his magic. He’ll be able to tell me within a matter of minutes.”
“Nate?” Troya asked.
“Nate Wilkins. A very brilliant computer programmer and hacker. Johnny used him to help with a lot of the systems we had to break into.”
Jayden sat quite for a moment before he spoke. “We,” he said.
“Excuse me, what?”
“We are all going to go see Nate.”
Apollo rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
The following day, Saturday. They were all sitting in Nate’s work shop. There were computers and monitors everywhere. Stacks of DVD’s and CD’s of varying height lay next to many of the monitors. Evidence of many uneaten meals, were also present.
Troya never meeting Nate before thought his work environment was disgusting. She sat on a stool away from any of the desks. She was afraid she might contract something from all of the leftover food. She however watched him as he moved rapidly from machine to machine. Not having a boyfriend in her life at the time, Troya thought he was a bit dorky. His large framed black glasses and a short sleeved button up, buttoned all the way up, screamed nerd but she looked a bit closer. Troya found something attractive about this man. Ice blue eyes and short, well groomed brunette hair, said sexy. She still couldn’t get past the fact that his workshop told her immediately that he was a pig, but maybe, perhaps she could work on that.
“So, can you do it?” Apollo asked.
“Of course I can,” Nate said confidently. “I’ll just pop it into the de-coder, and we’ll have your answer in a few minutes.”
Nate sat at one of his many desks, started up a program, and typed madly at his keyboard. As he typed, Apollo was curious. “Do you have to look at the content to do this?” worried that Nate might see something he shouldn’t.
Nate shook his head and continued to type. “Nope. The date it was recorded will be somewhere amongst a bunch of binary code. Usually at the beginning.”
Less than two minutes later, Nate bit into a sandwich he had lying next to his keyboard. Troya wondered if it was a fresh sandwich or something left over from the night before. She was disgusted, but she still thought he was attractive.
“April twenty-third,” Nate replied with a mouth full of food.
Apollo’s mouth hung open, and he turned to his team. They sat in silence and shock. It was recorded the day after they returned from Canada. That is where they did their last job, which was their largest job to date. The day after he recorded the DVDs, Johnny was dead.
“Thanks, Nate. You’re a keeper.”
“I appreciate it, Apollo. Now if you will pay me, I’ll give you your DVD back.” Apollo reached in his wallet and handed Nate a crisp one hundred dollar bill. “Thanks,” Nate said, putting the money in his pocket. He retrieved the DVD from the computer and handed it to Apollo. “You know the way out. Try not to trip over anything.”
They left and piled in Apollo’s car. Apollo pulled away from the curb and started in the direction of his house. He had a new suspect. He would be sure to pay Benton Thompson a visit, and very soon.
They rode in silence until it became uncomfortable. The girls sat in the backseat looking out of the windows, watching the scenery go by. Jayden sat in the front seat, staring straight ahead, tight lipped.
“Where are we going?” Pheonix asked.
“My house. We have to talk before we give this DVD back.”
He pulled the car into the garage of his building. He got out without a word, and the rest of them followed. He opened his front door and immediately went to the bar.
“Anyone want anything?” Apollo asked, tossing his keys on his coffee table.
Still in shock about the news, they all shook their heads and sat down in various seats within the living room. Apollo poured a glass of wine and turned to his team.
“So, are all of you thinking what I’m thinking?” Apollo asked.
Jayden nodded. “Benton lied.”
“Oh yeah, Benton lied. How could he not remember that his client came to him the day before he died and recorded his last will and testament?”
“So what do we do?” Pheonix asked.
“I’m gonna go talk to him.”
Jayden shook his head. “Talk? No Apollo. No more talk. Time to take action.”
“Jayden, just because he lied, doesn’t mean he did it.”
“What has happened to you over the last few months? The Apollo I know would already have the job done.”
“Don’t you worry about me, I got this. But my main concern right now is Sateria.”
“What about her?” Troya asked.
“She has to get her real estate license in record time, and I don’t know if she can do it.”
“What does her license have to do with anything?” Pheonix asked, confused by his out of nowhere statement.
“Because as of this moment, I am considering her one of us.”
Jayden stood in protest. “What?”
“You said it yourself that you had to be sure she didn’t kill Johnny. So her training starts as soon as possible. Unless you still think she’s the one who killed him.”
“No. No I don’t,” Jayden lied.
“Well then. We leave here and go see her. Tell her what we know, and embrace her as one of our own.”
They finished up their conversation and made their way to Sateria’s place. When she saw who it was, she stepped back and let them in.
She looked up at Apollo and his blue eyes bore through her like a knife. She had to catch her breath before she spoke. “Hey. I wasn’t expecting you.”
Apollo handed her the DVD. “Here you go. Thanks.”
She was curious. “Well? What did you find out?”
“April twenty-third is when he recorded this, which let’s you off the hook.”
Surprise was on her face. “Off the hook? You mean you thought I killed Johnny?”
Ashamed to admit it, Apollo sighed. “Yes. But never mind that. I promised you that I would tell you about the relationship that we shared with Johnny. And since we’re all here, this would be the perfect time to do just that.”
“Okay,” Sateria said, not knowing what else to say. “Have a seat in the living room. Would you like something to drink?”
Hours later, they were talking and laughing like they’d been friends for years. Jayden of course fell in line with his team, but he didn’t trust her yet. He couldn’t.
Monday morning first thing, Apollo went to see Johnny’s lawyer. Benton tried to cover up the look of fear on his face only moments before grinning like he was happy to see Apollo.
“Ah, Mr. Leonard. It’s a pleasure to see you again.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew why I was here.”
Nervous now, he kept smiling. “Well, why are you here?”
“You are a liar, Mr. Thompson. Oh yeah, you had me for a minute with the, I destroy my calendar thing, but you are a lawyer. There is no way that you would do that. You live by a schedule. So, I want you to tell me when Johnny came in here to record his will, and I want the truth this time.”
Benton sat behind his desk even more afraid than he let on. He remembered the last time Apollo visited his office and decided to comply. “Okay, okay. It was April twenty-third, early morning. In fact he called me out of bed to do it. He said, Benton, get your ass out of bed. Time for an update.”
“When he recorded his will would he usually call you out of bed?”
Benton shook his head. “No. He would call and make an appointment.”
“What did he pay you not to duplicate the second video?”
“Why is that important?” Benton asked suddenly curious.
“Because I’m still not convinced that you didn’t kill him.”
Benton smirked. “Johnny G paid me well over my worth. There is no way that I was gonna kill my gravy train. Honestly Mr. Leonard I would gladly take out the bastard who killed him.”
Apollo glared at Benton wondering if his words were the truth. “You still haven’t answered my question. What did he pay you?”
“Half a million.”
“Don’t go anywhere. Until we find out for sure who killed Johnny, you are still my number one suspect.”
“No worries. I’ll be here waiting, because it wasn’t me.”