Chapter 44 - The Greatest Threat

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“That police captain’s full of it,” Riggs said “I wouldn’t count on him to tie his own shoelaces. I don’t think the chick likes us, either, even if her boss is trying to kiss up.”

Lowry sighed heavily. “You can’t count on the police. If you want something done right, you got to do it yourself.”

Lowry stood with his two security guards in the parking lot outside the yellow tape that sealed the store entrance due to the robbery earlier the day. The pavement glittered with broken glass.

After they were released from the station, Riggs and Lowry had met Perez and helped him leave the hospital. The injured guard’s face was bandaged.

“That lady and kid are going to pay!” Perez kept grumbling as they walked out to the parking lot.

“Don’t get emotional about it,” Lowry said, patting Perez on the shoulder. “Stella and Johnny Valentine are criminals. But they are different from the criminals we’ve dealt with in the past. We’re up against a different kind of challenge. Heck, look at how our own staff turned on us in the store. That’s never happened before. They risked everything to sympathize with Valentine. Others might also sympathize with a kid and his grandma. My greatest fear is that the story of Stella and Johnny Valentine gets out and the media makes them into some kind of heroes.”

“What are you saying? We’re not going to give them a pass, are we? What happened today was a stain on our honor,” Riggs said. “They have to pay. If you’re worried about the press, tell us how you want it handled. Just promise me we don’t let them get away with this.”

Lowry glanced around the dimly lit lot, confirming they were alone. He edged closer to them and spoke in a lower voice. “No way they’re going to get away with this. They’re going to pay, more than anyone’s ever paid. But we got to do this my way. We’re going off the books now. What I tell you stays between us. If you try to tell anyone else, I’ll deny it. The firm is better off not knowing—that way, they are protected. I have separate accounts, rainy-day funds that I’ve set aside for special projects like this. Carry out this mission effectively and you got the payday of a lifetime coming.”

“What do you want us to do, boss? Say the word.”

Lowry paused again, and then spoke in a voice so low it was barely audible.

“I want you to find Stella and Johnny Valentine. And when you do, I want you to make sure they disappear permanently. No arrest. No trial that might create a window for public sympathy for the Valentines. No chance for the media to paint us the villain and drag our image through the mud. Just find them. I want them to vanish without a trace. Like this whole thing was a bad dream that never happened.”

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