Chapter 33

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During their teen years, Barlow and Pet made a game of sneaking off together, the goal being to not get caught. They never were. Either that, or Pet's parents looked the other way. Compared to his mother and father—especially his father—the Hennings were fairly liberal minded about such things.

As Barlow slept in the guest room next to Pet's, he thought about sneaking and wondered if she was also thinking about it. The chemistry between the two of them had definitely rekindled, but rebuilding a relationship took time. He had been the bad guy by leaving her and needed to regain her trust. He didn't want to spoil the second chance they had by doing something stupid.

For the moment, he was happy with being Pet's friend, protector, and chauffer. The morning after coming home from the hospital, he had driven Pet in his work van to the PA State Police Troop H headquarters in Harrisburg. She confronted Sergeant Gus Tanzin in the records department, threatened to turn him in over leaking information that resulted in the murder of the retired detective. She demanded he get Uriah Collier on the phone with the purpose of arranging an appointment to see the tycoon.

A bold plan for sure. Pet had made Barlow sit in the lobby while it all went down.

"He knew I had him dead to rights," Pet told him later. "He couldn't take the chance. Even the suspicion of his leaking info would end his career. His colleagues would make his life a living hell."

Tanzin had Collier's private office number and had gotten hold of the man right away. Barlow thought it particularly brazen of Pet to take the phone from Tanzin's hand and speak directly to the powerful mogul. After hearing her tell him the story, Barlow wished he could've been in the same room to witness it.

The day after the meeting with Tanzin, Barlow drove Pet to a four o'clock meeting with Uriah Collier in Philadelphia. Unlike the day before when she had been on her own turf at Troop H headquarters, this time she was entering the lion's den. They were arguing about it.

"Your plan is reckless," Barlow said as he exited the PA turnpike toll booth and merged onto the Schuylkill Expressway toward center city. "I don't like it."

"Acting fast keeps the old man off balance."

"I'm not leaving you alone. It won't be just him. Given his wealth and power, I imagine he has an entire security team, maybe even the guy who tried to kill you. There's no telling what he might do or how he's going to react."

"He won't try anything while I'm a guest in his office. Besides, he knows I have a witness. He's going to want to know your identity. That makes you my insurance, so you need to stay in the van."

Everything about the meeting made him uneasy. "I wish you had backup. Are you sure staying quiet about this to your superiors is a wise move?"

"Until I get a better feel for the situation, I won't know for sure whom I can trust."

Barlow gripped the steering wheel. "I should at least be in the building with you. Maybe down in the lobby."

Pet shook her head. "Too risky. If they get to you, we lose our leverage and the case disappears." She turned to him. "Look, Barlow, you've been my protector ever since we were kids. I'm glad to have you by my side, but I'm not a helpless girl anymore. I'm a law enforcement officer with skills. Trust me to take care of myself."

"You're training doesn't mean diddly squat being only one person against what might turn out to be an army."

"Uriah Collier doesn't know I'm acting alone. For all he knows, my entire department is aware of my visit." She pulled down the sun visor and inspected herself in the mirror. "How do I look?"

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