CHAPTER FIFTEEN

When Alex and Dustin arrived back at the shop everyone was there. As they entered the shop Alex noticed Anna in one corner talking with her brother.

"How'd it go?" Anna asked as they entered the building.

"Like a Swiss watch," said Dustin. "Cochran took the bait. The baby will be returned and the Sharptons will spend the rest of their lives in prison. And we'll be minus one crooked lawyer."

"I'd like to thank you for your help, Mr. Scarpelli," said Alex.

"Tony, please," said Scarpelli. "Like I told you the other day, anything I can do to help my little sister. I gotta admit it was kind of fun playing the heavy. I can kind of imagine why my grandfather enjoyed it so much."

"Your grandfather wasn't playing a role," said Dustin. "But Alex is right. Without your help they could never have pulled this off."

"A lot of the credit goes to the guys who helped," said Tony. "They work for one of my construction companies. But they were very convincing."

"What about the baby?" Becca asked. "What's going to happen to it when Cochran gets it back?"

"I know a family that can take care of it for a while," said Tony. "I'll check the club and see if anyone knows who Alexandra was seeing. With a little luck we should be able to find the real father. If not I can make sure it gets a good home. I'm not my grandfather but I do have some connections of my own. Having the name Scarpelli does have certain advantages even if you aren't in the family business."

"What happened to Garibaldi?" Alex asked. "The last time I saw him it looked like he had been beaten within an inch of his life."

"Thanks to that makeup artist you knew," said Preston. "I was convinced his bruises were real."

"Mr. Garibaldi is leaving town," said Tony. "Permanently. I suggested he might be happier—and healthier—living somewhere in the Midwest. He's going to close out his bank accounts here and catch a plane to parts unknown. And I made it very clear that he was no welcome in New York any longer."

"You don't think he'll try to come back?" Anna asked.

"Sis," said Tony, "the day you told granddad off and stormed out of the house, I drove you. Now, like you, I've made it imminently clear to the old man that I wanted nothing to do with his businesses or his lifestyle. But Garibaldi is also convinced I'm following in the old man's footsteps. He knows if he ever comes back here I'm going to be upset about it. I don't think he wants to risk upsetting the eldest grandson of Antonio Scarpelli."

"Well, you have a point," said Anna.

"What about Alexandra's killer?" Jim asked. "Do you think Garibaldi was the one who arranged her 'accident'?"

"I don't think so," said Tony. "I asked him about that. He said it wasn't him and he didn't know who the Sharptons got to do it. Sharpton himself may have done it. At any rate, I don't think we will ever know for sure. But at least they're out of the baby selling business."

"Becca, I'm very proud of the way you handled yourself during this whole mess," said Alex. "You did a very good job and I think the rest will agree that Marty couldn't have done any better."

"You got that right, boss," said Brian. "Not to mention she's a whole lot better to look at."

"Be that as it may," said Alex, looking at Dustin, "I know my agreement with you was that you fill in until we find a permanent replacement for Marty. Well, Dustin and I were talking it over on the way here. And unless anyone has any objections, I was wondering if you might be interested in being Marty's replacement?"

"You mean like permanently?" questioned Becca.

"Yes," said Alex. "Dustin has agreed that it might be a good influence on you. The rules are simple. The rest of your sentence will be completed working for me. That means for the next ten years, you do what you've been doing here. Another stipulation is that you go back to school. Get yourself a degree. Of course you still have to keep your nose clean. No unauthorized hacking or anything like that."

"So that means I don't have to go back to prison?" questioned Becca.

"Not as long as you follow the rules," said Dustin. "And I'm even willing to make Alex sort of your parole officer. It will be up to him whether you're following the rules properly. But I don't see that as a problem. You keep going the way you're going and we might even see about expunging your conviction from your record. That will give you a clean slate. You can start over again."

"Well," said Becca, "unless anyone here doesn't want to work with me."

She looked around at the group. It was quite evident that no one felt that way. They were all smiling and nodding their heads in agreement.

"In that case," said Becca, "you've got yourself a deal. But I want the same deal I had when I took this gig. I get two days credit for each day I'm here. That means I only have to stay 5 years instead of 10."

"I don't suppose that's too much to ask," said Alex, looking at Dustin. "I'd say we have an agreement then."

He shook Becca's hand as Anna sidled up to Alex. Before he knew it she had lifted his wallet. She pulled out one of his platinum credit cards and then handed the wallet back to him.

"I think this calls for a new dress," said Anna. "One that Becca can wear to even the fanciest place. And I think it's only fair that the boss pay for it. Got to set a good example, after all."

"Let's just not go overboard too much," said Alex, feigning concern as Anna practically dragged Becca toward the exit.

"Boss," said Brian, "you may have just created a monster there."

"Which one? Anna or Becca?" questioned Alex.

"Off hand," said Preston, "I'd say both."

Alex just groaned as everyone else broke out in a fit of laughter.

The End