"Settle. Now, that’s the operative word. Why would I settle when I see marriages like yours and Regan’s? No, I don’t have any notions of settling down. Work keeps me moving. Besides, I’m not naive enough to think there’s another perfect woman out there."

He let out a heavy sigh, envisioning the days of travel ahead of him. He was off to Brussels in the morning to consult on a smuggling case; then he was expected in Singapore by the end of the week, and finally back to DC before the end of the month. He knew how important the work he did for the FBI was, and he’d never been one who wanted to stay in one place long enough to put down roots, always on the move, going wherever the need arose, but lately there was a restlessness inside him, a feeling he couldn’t exactly identify.

He took another swig of the Guinness, slouched down in his chair, and stared up at the vast sky. He was interrupted from his thoughts when his phone rang. Glancing at the screen, he said, "It’s the Honolulu office." 

Alec watched as Liam listened to the caller. From the frown that darkened Liam’s face, Alec surmised that whatever he was hearing wasn’t good. At the end of the call, Liam stood and looked around. "We have to find a TV."

Alec followed him into the hotel bar. Liam went directly to the small TV that sat on the back counter, picked up the remote, and turned the channel from the baseball game that was playing. A couple of drinking patrons yelled their protests, but Liam turned up the volume and drowned them out. The news anchor finished telling a story about a local politician’s resignation and then moved on to the next report about a breakthrough in a major drug ring investigation.

"Jennifer Dawson is reporting to us live," he said as the screen switched to a woman with a microphone. She was standing outside an apartment building.

"I’m here at the apartment where Herman Meyer has apparently been living under an assumed name for the past two years," the inordinately enthusiastic young woman said. "A yet-to-be-identified source has told Channel 5 News that Meyer has been questioned by the FBI and is now ready to testify against his former partner and the alleged head of one of the largest drug rings in North America, Dimitri Volkov. Mr. Meyer reportedly disappeared from his home in-"

Liam switched the TV back to the baseball game and came around the bar to Alec. "So much for the element of surprise," he said.

Alec was angry. "Only a handful of people were in on the Meyer investigation. There’s no way one of them made an announcement to the press."

"This has happened before, and it’s no coincidence."

Alec nodded. "Whoever is leaking information . . ."

Liam finished the thought. "It has to be coming from the inside."

THREE

Jordan Clayborne was considered to be one of the most brilliant hackers in the business. Allison Trent was a thousand times better.

Although they shared a lot in common, there was one other big difference between the two friends. Jordan never broke the law. Allison did . . . repeatedly.

They first met at a reception for a professor who had just received a prestigious award for his contribution to the world of computer science. It was a great achievement for him and for Boston College, where Jordan was an alum and Allison still a student. Jordan sat down next to Allison at one of the tables and introduced herself, but an introduction really wasn’t necessary. Allison knew exactly who Jordan Clayborne was. She was a legend at Boston College, a trailblazer, and in Allison’s opinion a genius in the technology field. She had sold her start-up company for millions of dollars and was currently writing a series of programs that would teach beginners basic computer skills and guide them all the way to advanced software engineering. More important to Allison, Jordan had done what many believed impossible. She had put the boys in Silicon Valley on notice. She had done exactly what Allison planned to do as soon as she graduated. How could she not have been a fan?

As soon as Jordan asked Allison what her major focus was, the floodgates opened, and for the next two hours they discussed writing code. They bonded that night, and it didn’t take long at all for them to become good friends. Neither could have imagined, though, that their friendship would begin a chain of events that would ultimately change Allison’s life.

Despite their busy schedules, the two found time to meet often, usually over coffee or lunch. Other patrons of the coffeehouses or restaurants would see the two women talking excitedly and would assume the conversation was about the latest fashions or some new reality show on television. They never suspected the topic of discussion was computer programming.