Appalled, Hope glared at him. “Why on earth would you want to make yourself a target?”
“Because it may be the only feasible way to catch him. I won’t take unnecessary risks. You’ll have to trust me on that.”
Trust him? To do what? Get himself killed? Hope fought the anger that flared in her. Since his plan involved marrying her, she was certain that with her luck, the worst could, and probably would, happen. But she wasn’t about to confide to Quinn that he’d not only jinxed her heart, but every relationship she’d had since. “Trust is a two-way street,” she reminded him. “If you want me to trust you again, then I expect to be fully involved in any decision making that affects our lives as a family. And that includes telling me who you think may have reason to hire someone to kill you. I want to know what we’re up against.”
Quinn didn’t miss her emphasis on the word again. He sipped his coffee, grateful for the hot liquid burning a path to his gut and reluctantly admitted to himself that she was right. The more she knew, the more care she’d take to follow his security precautions.
“At the top of my list is an Asian syndicate operating out of Hong Kong. A financial institution hired me in January to investigate some counterfeit credit cards that had circulated over the holidays. Typically, the phony blank credit cards are manufactured in one location, then sold or passed on to another location where they are personalized with stolen names and information. In this case, the cards were being encoded with customer information passed to them from an employee in the bank. It took me a couple of months to pinpoint the employee. The syndicate had coerced him into cooperating by threatening to harm his family. He died violently before we were able to get any names out of him and I could identify the principals and whether they were manufacturing the cards or had purchased them.”
“Believe me, you don’t want to know what they did to him. The syndicate may have figured out I was heading up the investigation and ordered a hit on me.”
Hope’s golden eyes were wide with alarm. “Go on.”
Quinn rolled his shoulders to ease the tension gathering there. Discussing his cases in Hope’s cozy kitchen, with its windows and refrigerator covered with the artwork of children, somehow seemed sacrilegious. “Hugh Simons ranks pretty high on the list, too,” he continued matter-of-factly. “Simons is the mastermind behind an organized corporate check-counterfeiting ring that I nailed eight weeks ago. A British Columbia pulp mill hired me to find out who was counterfeiting their corporate checks after a local bank refused to honor any more of their checks—legitimate or otherwise. The pulp mill didn’t want to make the situation public out of concern that other banks and businesses would stop honoring their checks, as well. I was able to ascertain that the original check used to make the counterfeit checks had been issued to one secretary—a new employee who claimed she’d been approached in a bar and offered twenty-five hundred dollars for her nine-hundred dollar paycheck and her employee ID. In order to counterfeit something, you need an original to duplicate. And if you know what to look for when you’re examining a counterfeit document, you can always determine the original document that was used in its manufacturing.”
“Why would they buy her employee ID?” Hope asked.
“If you’re going to pass off counterfeit checks as genuine you need ID to prove you’re the person the check is made out to. So they print out X number of checks and corresponding IDs. But Simons was more clever than that. He and his accomplices used the phony ID to open up bank accounts at several different banks. Then they printed up a lot of fake paychecks. On the company’s payday, they used ATMs to deposit the fake checks in the accounts they’d set up and then made the maximum cash withdrawal allowed. They netted a hundred thousand dollars in one night. I nicknamed them the Payday Ring.
“Anyway, getting back to the secretary, I had a feeling she might be more involved than she claimed, but I couldn’t make any connection until I discovered that several other large companies in different areas of the province had fallen victim to the same scam. When I started digging deeper, I found out that one of the other companies had gone to the police, who’d investigated and gotten as far as determining that the counterfeit checks were copied from a female employee’s paycheck—a fairly recent employee who’d quit before the police could question her. The police sent me a picture of the woman. She was the same woman who was employed as a secretary in the pulp mill. She was Simons’s girlfriend, Connie Franklin. It turned out there were three other members of the ring, as well. They were all arrested and charged, but the matter hasn’t gone to trial yet. The preliminary hearing is in a few weeks.” Quinn shook his head. “Simons had more fake IDs than a bar full of underage kids. Boxes full of them.”
“So you think Simons ordered the hit so you won’t testify against him?”
“Possibly. He had a lucrative thing going and I blew him out of the water. If Simons wanted me dead, he’d want it done now before I testify at the hearing. Once I’ve given testimony in a pretrial hearing, my testimony would still stand at the trial if I suddenly departed this earth.”
“Which makes Simons an obvious suspect timing-wise,” Hope said.
“Timing-wise,” Quinn agreed. “But the prison sentences for counterfeiting vary from as little as one year to fourteen years in Canada. It’s a paper crime— and nobody really gets too upset when a corporation loses money—except the owners of the corporation. Now, defraud some elderly people or prove the bad guy used documents to lie to the income tax department and he’d be facing stiffer prison sentences and hefty fines. It’s just as likely that whoever ordered the hit was motivated by revenge rather than by a need to evade criminal prosecution. Some people don’t take kindly to having their reputations damaged and their livelihoods destroyed by the revelation that they’re crooks.”
Hope’s face was white and disapproving. “Boy, you keep good company. Asian syndicates, crime rings, hit men. I can hardly wait to hear about these other suspects. What are they—drug dealers?”
Quinn refrained from reminding her that she was the one who’d insisted on knowing details. And now probably wasn’t the time to confide that more than one drug courier had contacted his company and fabricated a story designed to have him or Oliver check their traveling documents to see if the alterations done to a stolen passport or a counterfeit passport they’d purchased would pass inspection by customs officials. “Actually, one is a wealthy doctor in the Dominican Republic, one is the son of one of Canada’s wealthiest families, and the other was the secretary of a New England coin-collecting society.”
“What was the doctor doing…counterfeiting prescription forms?”
Quinn didn’t miss the caustic bite of her question. This was not the type of conversation Hope would want served up daily around a family meal. But at least she was entering this marriage with her eyes wide open. She wouldn’t expect more than he could give. “Actually, Dr. Chavez had counterfeited the medical diplomas that lined his office walls. Somehow he got his hands on some original diplomas and he fabricated his medical schooling and training. He’d never even been to medical school. There are a lot of phony certificates floating around—especially in undeveloped countries where much of the population is illiterate. The Dominican Republic police asked us to assist them with their investigation after they received a number of complaints from families who’d lost someone under Juan СКАЧАТЬ