Baring Mia

By: Kallista Dane

His manner was warm, his smile disarming. “Forgive me for intruding. I’m alone this time. May I speak with you privately for a few moments? It’s quite important.”

He didn’t wait for an answer, coming to the desk and settling down in a chair.

“Miss Thorne…may I call you Mia?” Once again, he continued, taking her silence for assent. “Mia, I want to apologize for my behavior earlier. You’re an intelligent woman. I’m sure you understand there’s a certain format we’re required to follow when we’re investigating a crime. That’s why the Bureau sends several people to each interview – to make sure rules are followed. But we’re alone now, and I can speak frankly.

“I’ve looked over this case,” he went on, “and between you and me, I’m convinced that you’re an innocent victim here. A woman as attractive as yourself, with the brains to run the finances of a large international company and no record of any previous wrongdoing – you don’t fit the profile of our usual criminal.”

Mia stared at him. Was this another one of his tactics? The good cop, bad cop act with him playing both roles? He was surprisingly attractive when he smiled. If she wasn’t so terrified about her immediate future, Patterson was the type of man she might have fantasized about later, when she was alone.

As though sensing her distrust, Patterson leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, and opened his arms expansively. “I’m not here to trick you into anything. I’m here to offer my help. What I said earlier was the truth. We don’t want you. We want the person or persons who masterminded this theft. A lot of influential people invested in this corporation, and they’re looking for someone’s head on a platter – along with their money. Personally, I don’t think Alejandro Cabrera had the brains to pull off a heist on this scale.”

Afraid her voice would quaver, Mia settled for nodding her head. She agreed with him. Alejandro’s brand of intelligence was more of an innate cunning. She’d been shocked when she discovered the complexity of his theft. He’d moved the money around quickly then made it disappear, leaving no trace except for the one leading to her involvement. But in their time together, he’d never struck her as being that competent.

Patterson went on, lowering his voice. “Mia, let’s work together. I think I can get my bosses to hold off on any formal charges against you if you’ll agree to assist us in our investigation. If we nab the person behind this, I guarantee you’ll never be charged with any crime.”

“Assist you?” The man was throwing her a lifeline. But she’d learned if something seemed too good to be true, it probably was. “How exactly would I be assisting you?”

Patterson leaned forward. “Have you heard of Jake Harmon?”

“The tech billionaire? Who hasn’t?”

“As you know, Harmon invested millions in International Technology Consultants. He got a few of his buddies to dump big money into the company as well. And once somebody discreetly leaked the word that Jake Harmon was buying into a company poised to take over the tech business in the booming South American market, investors jumped on board.”

Mia nodded. All it took was one big name to start a river of money flowing in Miami. And Alejandro achieved that when he got Jake Harmon to back him. Mia had been introduced to Harmon once, at a formal event Alejandro hosted at Vizcaya, the Coral Gables bayfront mansion turned museum.

Always looking to impress people, Alejandro had rented the palatial house and grounds for an evening, inviting a handful of local celebrities along with his biggest investors and plenty of potential new ones. Harmon made a rare public appearance, shook a few hands, posed for photo ops – doing just enough to give Alejandro the leverage he needed to attract more money to his start-up. She remembered thinking Harmon was too hot to fit the image of the geeky tech genius described in the articles she’d read about him.

“I think Harmon is behind this,” Patterson was saying. “He’s lost millions recently, but to him that’s like losing a handful of change in the couch. He can claim he’s a victim of fraud, like the others. But I believe he’s the one who’s been pulling the strings behind the scenes. He has the know-how to make all that money disappear into thin air. He’ll give Alejandro his cut and walk away with the lion’s share of the money.”

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