Pimpernel: Chapter 2

Jack rolled an 1801 silver dollar across the back of his fingers, making it disappear and reappear on each side before rolling it back and repeating.

“How are you doing it, Claire?” he muttered, bringing up a surveillance image that caught one of her rare smiles. He quietly studied the pint-sized PhD student who had been the focus of his professional life for the past month. “Why are you doing it?”

At this point, those were the only two questions that mattered.

Claire’s predecessor in the scam, Professor Ryan Eastman, had been fairly sloppy and easy to read. The original plan had been to get Eastman arrested and to see who he reached out to for help, allowing Jack’s team to uncover the other players in the fraud.

The kink in the plan was that Eastman hadn’t reached out to anyone at all after his arrest. There had been no visits and no calls to anyone other than his parents since the day of his incarceration.

However, within 24 hours of his arrest, two men in suits had grabbed Claire Ramsey off the street and pulled her into a blind corner where she had stayed for six minutes before reappearing.

What happened in those six minutes Jack still didn’t know. What he did know was, ever since that day, Claire had become Ryan Eastman 2.0, raising more money for the scheme in a month than Eastman had in a full year. She was beyond good. After a month of tracking her every move, Jack’s team was no closer to finding out who she was working with than they had been on day one with Eastman.

Jack shouldn’t have gotten Eastman arrested. Hindsight was 20/20 on that one. Jack and his team would be done with everything by now if they’d just waited Eastman out and tracked him a bit longer. Instead, Jack was now playing chess with a literal genius.

Claire Ramsey.

IQ: 176.

Eyes: Brown.

Hair: Somewhere between honey and auburn.

Height: Five-ish feet tall with the build of a ballerina.

The average man, and most women, could probably pick Claire Ramsey up and carry her around without much trouble, but engaging the woman in a battle of wits and strategy was like trying to lift Thor’s hammer. No matter what angle Jack used or however much force and finesse he tried, the woman didn’t budge. Entrapping her was proving to be impossible.

As a magician, Jack knew that pulling off the impossible required creating certain assumptions in your audience. A month ago, he would have said that his only assumption was that the sun would come up the next morning. But if the stone wall he kept hitting himself against with Claire Ramsey was any indicator, he had at least two assumptions in life he couldn’t see past…and probably a whole lot more.

He zoomed in on Claire’s face in the photo. She wasn’t necessarily beautiful. Her look was too shy for that, but she did have the innocent wide-eyed look that got men—Jack included, apparently—to want to step in and act as a human shield on her behalf. It was her tiny size and big eyes that triggered the protective instinct, Jack decided before forcing himself to view Claire Ramsey more objectively.

Claire’s looks were pleasant without being alluring, and her attire was classically fashionable without demanding attention. Those were the facts of the matter. From head to toe, Claire Ramsey sent the visual message that she was not a girl looking for distractions or a free drink. She was looking to accomplish something and be respected for it.

But had she used her intelligence to create the investment scheme she was currently involved in? Or had her credentials and intelligence gotten her pulled into the scheme against her will?

Jack was still pondering those questions when his phone lit up with a text from Margot.

She’s leaving the meeting. Move now. He’d ponder more on the little PhD student later. Hopefully, after she incriminated herself.

CHAPTER 3 ->>>>