sheenianni: (hedgehog)
[personal profile] sheenianni
Title: Dance Around the Flames – Part II
Author’s Name: [livejournal.com profile] sheenianni
Fandom: White Collar
Notes:
See Part I
___________________________________


PART II

The next time everything changes, it starts with a case.

Sometimes, Sara couldn’t care less about her clients. Recovering a priceless purse, spying on a cheating wife for her cheating husband, researching a potential business partner? Whatever, someone had to do it and the money was pretty good. Sometimes though, their stories affect her, and every now and then there’s one that shakes her to the core.

Danielle Clayton is three years older than Sara and has a six-year-old boy. The past four years, Danielle was working as a caretaker for Mr. Normand Stout, a rich elderly gentleman whose only living grandson showed little interest in his life. As a part of her salary and to keep her closer, Mr. Stout rented Danielle a small apartment in the vicinity of his house. Before his death, he willed Danielle the apartment so she and her son could keep living her as a show of gratitude for Danielle’s friendship and care.

Unfortunately, Stout’s grandson and heir had other ideas.

Danielle explains to Sara that Jeremy Stout hid the will and has threatened to have her and her son evicted from the apartment, unless she pays him a rent she simply can’t afford. When Danielle implies what other methods of payment Jeremy Stout proposed, Sara is ready to strangle the man and dump his body in the Hudson.

Still, she has questions before she’s ready to accept the case.

“How do you know Mr. Stout actually willed you the apartment?”

Danielle gives her a bitter smile. “He told me before he died, and then Jeremy showed it to me when he laughed in my face. That little creep has been leering over me ever since I started taking care of his grandfather. I’d take him to court, but he’s got a whole bunch of lawyers and I don’t even have enough evidence to prove my claims.”

“Oh I’ll get you evidence,” snaps Sara impulsively, her mind already set.

After she and Danielle agree on her fees, she gives her a contact for a decent lawyer who actually cares enough for his pro bono work. The good thing is that at least Danielle has found a temporary new job, though the money’s barely enough to provide for her and her son. Unless Sara finds a way to expose Jeremy Stout for the lying asshole he is, Danielle and her boy will soon be homeless.

She’s not going to let that happen.

* * *


She checks out Danielle’s story first. It’s not that she doesn’t believe her, but Sara likes covering all her bases. Unfortunately, as far as she can tell, Danielle has been telling her the truth.

Next, Sara runs her most thorough background check on Jeremy Stout. However, it turns out that the man is clean, or as clean as a rich spoiled kid is likely to be. A couple of parties that got out of hand, covered up by his grandfather’s money; one reported drug incident that has been swept under the rug, no charges filled.

Her blood boils when she speaks to several girls that Jeremy hit on in the past. However, he never turned to violence and on their own, each of these encounters could have arguably been consensual. All in all, Sara gets a picture of an amoral man who knows just how far he can push so he doesn’t get in trouble – and who is well-aware that he has the money and lawyers who will bail him out if it comes to that.

She talks to Agent Hughes from the FBI, but the White Collar division is too busy at the moment to pursue a case that they’re not even sure exists. Sara then suggests that Danielle tries to make Jeremy incriminate herself on tape, but Danielle balks at the idea and Sara reluctantly abandons it.

If only they could get their hands at the will…

After talking to Danielle and doing some research on her own, Sara concludes that there are two places where Jeremy would keep an important document like that – in his office, or in the safe at his house.

The office building Sara can talk her way into, more or less. For the house, she would need to use some pretty advanced B&E and safecracking skills.

Office it is.

She calls a contact who owes her a favor and gets herself a decent excuse for being in the building. She waits until Jeremy’s having his lunch break before pulling out her lockpick set. When the coast is clear, Sara deftly unlocks the door to Jeremy’s office and quickly starts searching the place. No safes, but that’s not unexpected; picking two additional locks, she searches his drawers and then moves on to the nearby cupboard…

According to her information, she should have about half an hour. Yet some instinct warns her when she hears footsteps outside twenty minutes later. She slams the cupboard shut and just barely takes two steps away when the door opens and Jeremy Stout walks into the room.

Damn.

He stills when he sees her. “What are you doing here?”

Sara gives him her brightest smile. “Mr. Stout! I’m so excited to meet you, sir!”

“Excuse me? Who are you and how did you get in my office?”

“My name is Sara Harris. I’ve heard you have an opening in the company and I wanted to talk to you–”

“You what?”

“I want that job. I’d be really good at it, you’ll see–”

“Stay where you are,” Jeremy Stout snaps at her.

Waiting silently, Sara watches him as he goes to check his computer (the screen is still dark, the access protected by password). He checks the drawers (locked, she’s been careful in removing the traces of her search) and seems a bit reassured when he finds everything in order, yet his expression remains angry and highly suspicious.

“How did you get in my office?”

“Oh, there was this man who let me in–”

“Who?”

Sara smiles apologetically. “I think he had dark hair? I’m sorry, I’m terrible with faces–”

“That’s it.” Turning back to his desk, Stout grabs the phone and dials a quick number. “Security? Please send someone to room 623.”

“What? Wait, that’s not–”

“I want to see your ID,” says Stout angrily.

“Um, of course,” Sara stutters and starts fumbling through her purse. Ignoring her real wallet, she pulls out the decoy and takes out her fake ID. “Look, I’m sorry, I just came about the job–”

“Let me see your bag.”

“What? You can’t–”

“You’ll be lucky if I don’t call the police.”

There is some nervous stuttering and more fumbling, but in the end Jeremy is satisfied when he realizes that Sara didn’t steal any of his documents. The security guard then escorts her out of the building – if she ever needs to come back, she’ll have to be smart about it – and finally, when Sara is standing outside on the street, she lets her fearful mask fall and fully feels her anger and embarrassment. Barely keeping her anger in check, she calls a taxi and has it take her to a nearby coffee shop where she can fully ponder the situation.

She let herself get caught. Well, she’d had a backup plan and in the end Jeremy believed her story, but still, she messed up. She is better than that. She has to be better than that.

Fuck her embarrassment. She’s got bigger problems.

She knows now that Jeremy isn’t keeping the will in his office – she’s seen the places he checked, and she has searched them all. Which means it is at his house. And that means breaking into that place after Stout has already seen her face.

She thinks it can’t get worse, until Danielle calls her that night and tells her that Jeremy Stout gave her an ultimatum: a week to pay him one way or another, otherwise she’ll end up on the street.

Sara struggles not to lose her temper as she tries to reassure her. “I swear to you, you’re not going to get evicted and I’m not losing this case. You have to trust me.”

She’s not failing them. To see Danielle and her boy evicted? Over her dead body.

She really needs to get her hands on that will.

* * *


She can’t steal it, not after Jeremy Stout saw her. That means she only has one option.

The next day, Sara arranges a meeting with Caffrey.


Part III
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