"Oh, that's my invoice. For my cut of the inheritance. Hey, I'm not a candy-striper; this is my job."
-Tara Cole, in The Lost Heir Job
Alec pulled the money from Tara's account right after she deposited the check. Actually, to be precise, since he wasn't crass, he took it from her accounts, plural, after giving her enough time to finish the series of wire transfers and physical check movements that dispersed the sum into nice penny packets across five different accounts. He transferred it via his own wire transfers to a Bill Rhett Ainer, left it in there for twenty-seven hours, then started account-hopping. He indulged his creativity on the maze of names that Tara could try tracking as long as she wanted. She'd better like opera, because the first wire transfer went to a Faustina Bordoni at In Voice Studio, and the rest went downhill from there. The money would make it back around to Nate's account, eventually. In about a week.
Humming slightly to himself, he printed a list of names and account numbers. He'd leave it on Parker's chair in the living room once the money was done making the rounds. Wouldn't want to provide too much temptation, after all. He was just going to restore his WoW window when cold ceramic hit his neck and made him jump about a foot. He spun the chair and glared at Eliot. "Man, how many times have we talked about not sneaking up on people at computers?"
Eliot ignored him, of course. "Business or pleasure?" he nodded at the computer.
Alec grinned and snagged a spicy cheese stick. "Pleasure. Oh, yeah, pleasure." While Eliot stared suspiciously between him and the computer, Alec bit off half of his cheese and reached out his other hand to grab another. "So how many cheesy sticks did you make this time?"
"None," Eliot growled. "They're not cheese sticks."
"What?" Alec shrugged. "If it looks like cheese, tastes like cheese—"
"And has vegetables," Eliot added. "It's not a cheese stick."
Alec stared at his half-eaten snack in consternation. "What vegetable?" Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Eliot leaving the room and jumped up. "Whoa, hold up! What vegetable?" Stopping only to stuff the printout into his desk where no one would accidentally see it too early, he left the room in hot pursuit.
After the next job, Parker lifted the check straight from Tara's purse. Having a resident grifter was supposed to get Parker off the acting hook, not put her in for even more jobs playing someone's adorable daughter. Or not so adorable daughter. If this kept up, Parker was going to start forgetting she was a thief.
It was appallingly easy. Tara was using one of those purses with clipped flaps, zippers, and inner pockets, but they did no one any good if she stopped paying attention while she flirted with the bar tender. Parker had the entire thing opened and closed up again in ten seconds flat under a particularly screechy bit of music.
She kept it framed and on display in her apartment overnight, but no one ever visited except Alec and Eliot, who weren't the point. She reconsidered. "Maybe a little bit the point," she muttered, and took a picture of the framed check in splendid isolation on her bedspread. She'd show it to them at dinner that night.
Before dinner, though, just after dark, she broke into Nate's apartment to leave the check on his kitchen counter, and, after a moment, took a picture of that, too. Then she climbed back onto the roof and headed over to the restaurant.
Eliot was the last to leave the night after their third job since Tara joined them, but before he could escape, Nate slipped out from behind the door and blocked the path. Eliot blinked. No way he'd moved that fast before Sophie left.
"Explain what the hell Parker and Hardison think they're doing." Nate stood, arms crossed, looking for all the world like a pissed off bureaucrat. One of the ones that worked internal and didn't even try to fake politeness.
Eliot just looked at him. "You want me to explain Hardison? And Parker?" He frowned. "Isn't that your job description?" He ignored the account printouts and check photographs that his memory obediently supplied. Not his problem.
Nate made an impatient gesture. "I'm not asking you to explain the world according to either of them. Just tell me why the hell they're stealing from Tara."
"They're thieves, Nate," Tara said, stepping around the corner with a click of her heels. Eliot observed Nate's suppressed twitch with a carefully hidden smirk. Nice to know he could still do a better job keeping track of the people around him than Nate, even if the man had snuck up on him. He was also pretty sure Parker had doubled back up in the ductwork, but he wasn't about to rat her out. Especially not as Tara continued. "It's what we do. I'm more worried about why they keep putting the stolen money back in your loft."
Eliot eyed the door, but he wasn't making it out with Nate in the doorway and Tara in the stairwell. Nate stepped aside to let Tara back into the room, and Eliot edged to right to keep them both in view. Nate tapped his fingers impatiently against the door. "So? I'm sure they've said something to you. You've been spending plenty of time together since the Kerrity job."
Eliot opened his mouth to tell them, what? Aren't you used it it? Then Parker swung out of the ceiling, and Nate jerked around to face her when he heard her hit the floor in his living room. "Spousal privilege," she said.
"What?" Nate asked blankly.
"Spousal privilege, so you can't interrogate Eliot about anything I might have told him."
"Uh, Parker, I'm pretty sure that only applies to married spouses." Nate's eyes darted between them. "And certainly doesn't apply to Hardison."
Eliot cringed a little. This was not how he'd wanted to introduce Nate to the concept that three of his team were seriously mixing business and pleasure. Actually, he'd kind of been looking forward to being an ocean away while someone else told Nate. At the very least, he'd intended to be out of the room.
"Actually," she said, "it does. I have proof."
"What constitutes pr—" Nate's eye's bugged out as he cut himself off, and Eliot could just guess was was going through his head.
Eliot winced. "So help me god, Hardison, if you've taped anything, or taken any photographs, I will—"
Parker grabbed his hand. "We're going now," she informed the room. No one did a thing to stop her.
They made it downstairs to street level, where Hardison sat in a white surveillance van, looking torn between smirking and gaping. "She told Nate we were covered by spousal privilege," Eliot burst out as soon as he was safely in the car.
"So I heard," Hardison replied, something smug in his voice. Looked like smirking was winning out. Then Eliot thought about what he'd said.
"Heard? Wait, you have Nate's place bugged?"
Hardison raised his eyebrows, unimpressed. "Dude, it's our new headquarters. Of course I have it bugged. Not like Nate generally comes up with anything interesting to do there..."
Eliot leaned forward from the back seat, doing his best to loom over Hardison from the confines of a car. "Do you have my apartment bugged?" he demanded. "Or Parker's? Or your house?"
Parker slammed him back into the seat with an oof, just as Hardison started avoiding his eyes in the rearview mirror. When he tried to lunge forward, the seatbelt that Parker's clever fingers strapped him into nearly cut off his air.
"You don't fight with the driver," she warned him.
Eliot glared holes in Hardison's seat. "You are burning those surveillance tapes tonight." Hardison just hummed a little as he drove.