Each morning of her first week, he appeared at her door to take her to the cyber unit. Allison had protested that she was perfectly capable of driving there herself, but he insisted on accompanying her, claiming their time in the car would give them a chance to discuss the progress of the case. During the long drive, Liam was all business. Once they reached the cyber unit, he walked her to her office and then disappeared until it was time for her to leave. Their journey back to her house was usually quiet. He would drop her off at her door with a casual good-bye, and each time he drove away she would remind herself that she was simply doing a job. Liam called her an asset, and she had to accept that fact. Once her usefulness to him in solving this case was over, he would be gone without a backward glance. This was a business proposition, nothing more.

Just as Liam had promised, Will had been given probation, but that didn’t stop his mother and father from trying to get hold of Allison. One or both had driven to her house several times now. They took turns banging on the front door, demanding to be let in. There were also a good number of crude threats thrown in, and after the first confrontation her roommates decided not to answer the door. On their third assault, Mark timed the banging just for fun. Allison’s aunt didn’t let up for five full minutes. He claimed he was actually impressed anyone could pound on a door for that long without stopping.

Allison knew what they wanted. She was their cash cow, and they weren’t going to let her go without a fight. Luckily she was away much of the time, either working at the cyber unit or attending a class. Mark and Dan would text her to warn her whenever they showed up. Just the possibility that she might have to see them again and speak to them made her sick to her stomach, and every time she thought about the five-hundred-thousand-dollar insurance policy, the anger inside her grew. The only reason those hateful relatives had taken Charlotte and her into their home was the money. They’d spent years shaming them and accusing them of being a financial burden.

She couldn’t believe they were driving the long distance almost every single day just to harass her. They must have been confident they could bring her back into the fold, she thought. Their tactics had worked in the past, but no more. Unlike Charlotte and Oliver, Allison had no desire to confront her aunt and uncle. Her goal was to put them out of her life. In time she hoped she could forget their very existence.

Though Dan and Mark never complained, Allison knew the constant disruption was wearing on them. They both were carrying a full load at school and had a heap of other responsibilities on their plates as well. It wasn’t fair to make them deal with her crazy relatives, too. Since she was planning to move out of the house after graduation at the end of May anyway, she decided to push up the date and find an apartment to rent for six months while she worked for Agent Phillips. Mark and Dan tried to convince her to stay, but in the end they agreed the move was a good idea, especially if Allison’s aunt and uncle never learned her new address. 

Dan came through for her. He knew a guy who knew a guy who was moving to New Orleans and had just packed up all his possessions but hadn’t yet found a tenant to sublease his place. Allison pounced on the one-bedroom apartment even though the rent was knee-buckling. Fortunately she was going to be making a very good salary, so she could afford it.

Her new home was on the second floor of an apartment building overlooking the river. There was a doorman and assigned underground parking, which was almost unheard-of in such a sought-after area of Boston proper. Over a weekend she purchased a camel-colored sofa on sale, a matching easy chair and ottoman, and a desk. She also bought a king-size bed with the money from Giovanni. She left her single bed at the house for the next student.

It didn’t take any time at all to move in. Dan and Mark brought over her books and clothes while she packed her car with the rest of her meager possessions. One trip to a superstore, and by Sunday night she had everything she needed.

Her final task was to call Liam. At first he seemed concerned that she would make such an abrupt decision, but after she explained her reasons, he agreed she’d done the right thing and told her he would be downstairs at the entrance to her building early the next morning to pick her up.

Without the added distraction of her relatives, the next week fell into a predictable routine. When she wasn’t in class, she was working long hours at cyber headquarters. It was taking her longer than she had anticipated to find the source of the original e-mails, and that was a real smack to her ego. Yet the puzzle so fascinated her that she hated stopping each night. Liam had to all but drag her out of the building.