“Not one of them. This is not a common occurrence. The FBI seldom strikes deals. Right now, this is an opportunity for a win-win situation. We both benefit. But it’s your choice. It can be a lose-lose, but you’ll have to live with the consequences.”
Cami stared at him, at a loss for words. He’d made her rethink her own principles through his calm logic, pointing out to her that this was in fact her chance to change things. And the reality was that jail would be terrible.
There was no way she would be allowed access to her phone in there. She probably would not be able to complete her studies. Her life as she knew it, as she dreamed and planned it, would be over, and that truth was suddenly scary to her.
As if he sensed her inner turmoil, Fraser continued.
“We’ll organize you a stipend to cover your expenses while you work. We’re not unreasonable, as long as you don’t renege on your side of the deal. When the case is solved, we call it quits. We drop the charges. No record and no jail sentence.”
He steepled his fingers and stared at her again.
“If you help solve a serious crime, you might save more gamers from murder. Families will have closure. You’ll be able to get your degree and graduate. You’ll have your life back.” He paused. “Your choice.”
Cami was stunned. If she’d known her own actions would end up with her sitting here, being offered a choice that actually wasn’t a choice at all, there was no way she would have hacked that homepage. No way.
Fraser was right. It was an offer she couldn’t turn down. Jail aside, from now on she’d have no right to criticize the FBI if she’d refused to help.
She didn’t want to let them bully her, but she realized she had to accept the offer.And deep down, she was surprised how sorry she felt for those two women. Being killed while gaming, being hunted online and then targeted in real life—that was evil. Whoever had done that was truly evil. Not just useless and incompetent, the way she perceived the FBI, Cami admitted reluctantly.
Even though she didn’t think it was fair, and she felt like she’d been trapped and forced into accepting this.
As if he’d read her mind, Fraser continued, reminding her once again of what he’d said earlier, his voice serious. “The only reason I am giving you this chance is that we need IT talent. Our IT specialists are being lured into IT careers by bright, shiny, exciting tech startups that we can’t compete with. I’m putting my cards on the table here. This is our situation, and it’s giving you a chance to negotiate your way out of a definite prison term by providing us these skills.”
She took a deep breath, her mind spinning.
“Okay,” she said. “In that case, I accept your offer.”
Fraser’s nod of approval coincided exactly with Connor’s furious snort.
“Great,” Fraser said. “You’ll be working under Connor’s supervision.” There was more than a hint of sarcasm in his words, but Cami felt her stomach plummet all over again.
“Me?” Connor said incredulously.
“I want her working with our most experienced agent,” Fraser said to Connor. “This case is top priority. You have our highest solve rate, and I need you on it. What you don’t have, in terms of tech knowhow, she can provide.”
Connor sounded the same way she felt. Working together with this guy who actively hated her? She could see her own consternation reflected in his eyes too. This was such a bad idea. It could only spell disaster.
She opened her mouth to object. To say, “No, I don’t want to be partnered with Connor,” but she knew it would be futile.
Fraser, smiling benignly now, seemed oblivious to both their trauma, even though Cami was sure he was fully aware.
“Now that you’ve accepted the deal, I think it’s time for you to get to work. I think we can all agree that catching this killer is of paramount importance to the FBI.”
Connor, who was giving her an angry, unhappy look, nodded.
“I’m going to get the paperwork in order so that we can sign the agreement. A legally binding agreement,” Fraser emphasized to Cami sternly. “And while I’m doing that, here’s the full case file.” He placed a larger manila folder on the table. “This is all the paperwork we have on it. There’s information online too. I need you two to go next door, to the boardroom, and look through everything we have.” Now there was a more intense note in Fraser’s voice. “From this moment, the case is yours. And the clock is ticking. You have to locate, and hunt down, this serial killer before he kills again.”