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The chronological order of my stories is as follows:
Todd the Media had lost all interest in it. Not even a perfunctory report of Luisa Gomez’s progress in the hospital.
Then the phone rang…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Hi Don, thanks for coming over.” FBI Special Agent in Charge Jack Muscone said as I entered his makeshift office in the FBI offices off Courthouse Square. “I thought it might be better for you to come here rather than for me to cause a sensation by going to your Headquarters.”
“I think you’re getting mighty comfortable in these offices here in Town, instead of your normal City location.” I said, needling Jack. “Or is it really just the double-cheeseburgers at the Cop Bar?”
“Stop that. You’re making me hungry.” said Jack. “By the way, congratulations on your new son. We’re all happy for you and Molly.”
“Thanks.” I said. I took a cigar out of my pocket and presented it to Muscone. “So, what brings me here?”
“Just a commendation for whipping Dick Ferrell’s ass even better than I did that time at the Fairgrounds.” Muscone said, unable to hide his enjoyment of that.
“Funny thing, I thought of you and that incident as I beat him down.” I said. “I had to make sure to keep up the high standard you set.”
“I just wish I could have been there to help.” Muscone said. “I really, really hate that bastard; he’s fucked up so many things in this State, it’s a wonder he’s not dead already, and by that I mean at the hands of Law Enforcement at any given level.”
“If he comes into this County again like he did the last two times,” I said, “I doubt I will restrain myself any further. So, what did you really want to talk to me about?”
“Some serious stuff.” said Muscone, his countenance turning to match the importance of what I was about to hear. “First, Remember that white supremacist Tommy Gunn from your Black Badge gang? I found out this morning that he has been broken out of prison.”
“Hmm, should I tell our morgue to expect a new guest?” I asked, somewhat flippantly I admit.
“Maybe not.” said Muscone. “As you know, we have FBI teams like mine all over the country. Our team in Atlanta has been working on the ‘Superior Bloodlines’ group for a while. They think the group is headquartered somewhere in Tennessee, which is in their, the Atlanta FBI Team’s, region.
Muscone continued: “They also think that the Superior Bloodlines team and the Black Badge gang you broke up are not cut entirely from the same cloth. Tommy Gunn might have been working with the Black Badge gang here, but was also part of the Bloodlines group, and they, meaning the Bloodlines group, might not want to kill him but have him continue to work with them.”
“That’s interesting.” I said. “And Harold Malone moseyed down to Alabama after getting exposed here. I always thought that Gunn was Malone’s ‘boy’. Any chance of a connection there?”
“Our Atlanta team is working on that, too.” Muscone replied. “I’ve had them keeping an eye on Malone since he went down there. So far, nothing out of Malone at all, except that his wife got Auburn football season tickets by pulling some strings that should not be legally pulled.”
“Don’t ask me to investigate that.” I said. “I’ve got enough problems being a Wildcat in this Town. Investigating SEC football is not my idea of fun.” Muscone laughed.
“No, and that would be a waste of FBI resources, as more powerful forces are at work there.” Malone said, the merest hint of sarcasm in his voice. “But I’m waiting for your next question.”
I thought a moment, then it hit me. “Oh, Jack King and the Black Badge gang. Something about them?”
“Yep.” Jack Muscone said. “After we learned of Gunn’s disappearance, some FBI agents up near the Federal Supermax prison where King was incarcerated went up to see him-“
“Was incarcerated?” I asked, catching on to Jack’s slip immediately.
“Not much gets by you.” Jack said drily. “Here’s what went down: our guys went up there, and when the prison guards brought the prisoner into the interrogation room, our agents could see immediately that it was not Jack King. Guy didn’t even look Niğde Escort all that much like King, just enough plastic surgery to bear a resemblance. Fooled the guards at the prison who weren’t paying attention, though.”
“Hoo boy.” I said. “They may have been well paid to not notice. But I’m not surprised. Conrad King wasn’t going to let his son rot in Supermax for too long. I suspect Jack King is no longer within the friendly confines of the United States of America.”
“Probably not. Nor Canada.” Muscone said. “We think he may have slipped out to France on a fake passport. Meanwhile, the guy still in the cell didn’t have a thing to say. Said his name was John Doe and he was from this here Town that we’re sitting in right now. I’m not supposed to mention this, but Homeland Security did some extracurricular interrogation on him, but he did not break. Whatever brainwashing he got, it’s sticking pretty good.”
“Any idea what the guy looked like before being made up to look like King?” I asked as certain ideas formed in my mind.
“Ah, now that is the Iron Crowbar thinking pattern that I’ve been expecting to hear.” Jack said, giving what was for him was a grin. “We had a doctor do some x-rays and thermal imaging. Here’s a computer makeup of what we think he looked like before.”
I took the image that Muscone handed to me across the desk. I found myself looking into the face of a man that looked very much like ‘Gruff’, one of my assailants on the day that the Reverend Jonas Oldeeds was obliterated. And of course that meant that the man bore a striking resemblance to one Dr. P. Harvey Eckhart, founder and leader of ‘The Vision’.
“He looks like Gruff, but he’s not him.” I said. “I can tell a couple of slight differences here and there. It’s not Eckhart either, obviously.”
“So Don,” Jack said, “tell me why we have at least two P. Harvey Eckharts, not to mention the original, showing up around these here parts.” I could tell that Jack was putting the question to me not only to gather information, but to test my loyalties. And I knew how to pass the test both ways.
I said “I know that Eckhart had several guys made up to look like him some years ago, when Eckhart feared being assassinated. I think he was having some trouble with you guys in the FBI, as well. My guess would be that Gruff and this guy are two of those people.”
“So do you think Eckhart’s involved in the prison escapes?” Jack asked, trying to hide that he was peering hard at me, and failing.
“Doesn’t sound like the type of stuff Eckhart likes to get into, but who knows?” I said, truly unsure.
“What does Eckhart like to get into?” Jack asked. Now I knew for sure I was being played.
“Eckhart’s into a much softer game, and for money.” I said, not telling the full truth, but not lying either. “As far as I can tell, Eckhart doesn’t get into criminal enterprises or activities. He runs his worldwide self-help cult, which is a pretty formidable operation in its own right, and leaves the crimes to other folks, like our billionaire buddy, Henry R. Wargrave.” I threw in Wargrave’s name to take this conversation away from P. Harvey Eckhart.
“Yeah, Wargrave.” Jack Muscone said. “You think he’s behind the crap going on in your County these past few days and weeks?”
“To some degree, yes.” I said. “But I’m not sure why. By the way, do you know where he is?”
“He’s in the City.” said Muscone. “We’ve been keeping tabs on him, especially since the night you waxed Corrigan and his cell. But he’s slick. At least four times we think we knew where he was, only to see him on TV in New York City or Los Angeles giving a speech or something. My boss is a patient man, but Wargrave is embarrassing us. I did go see him, though.”
“See who?” I asked, not understanding.
“Mr. Moriarty…” said Muscone. “a.k.a. Wargrave.”
“You what?” I asked, incredulous. “Here in Town, or in the City?”
“In the City.” Muscone said. “In his office, on the 30th floor. Beautiful view.”
“On what pretext did you visit him?” I asked.
“I had a story all ready to go.” Muscone said. “I was going to ask him if he could Niğde Escort Bayan give us any leads on a group of smugglers. It’s not an untrue story; we think some of the ‘Superior Bloodlines’ people are working with the Oldeeds Group to smuggle drugs and maybe arms across the border. Anyway, I asked, and Wargrave said he’d have his people sniff around. He said his shipping businesses are legal, but they sometimes hear things. He was quite cooperative.”
“I’m sure he was.” I said. “Did he have a Greuze painting behind him?”
“Huh?” Jack said, not getting my joke. I was remembering the Conan Doyle story where the police officer went to interview Professor Moriarty. Meanwhile, Jack said “No, the windows were behind him, with the view.”
“Light behind him, in your face, eh?” I asked.
“Yeah, now that you mention it.” Muscone said. Then his beady eyes narrowed. “I think you’re messing with me right now, but I’m not sure how.”
“I’ll make it up to you by buying you a double cheeseburger at the Cop Bar.” I said. “Let’s go. I’m hungry.” Muscone did not have to be persuaded further.
Part 7 – The Ensigns of Detection
“Why hello, Cindy.” said Phyllis. “I’m so glad you came by to visit. Do come in.”
Lieutenant Cindy Ross entered the basement MIL apartment of Don’s mother. “Thanks for seeing me today.” Cindy said.
“I’m always so glad when you come by.” Phyllis said. “And now we’re sort of related. My new grandson is your nephew, yes?”
“That’s true.” Cindy said, with the beginnings of a joking smile. “But I am not going to start calling you Aunt Phyllis.”
“At least not yet.” Phyllis said, and Cindy noted the cryptic tone of the older but lovely woman’s voice. “Here, have a seat. I’ll pour us some coffee.”
As they drank their coffee, Cindy outlined what she wanted to do. “Don is busy as hell. He’s running the entire Police Force as well as watching over us in MCD and Vice on our cases. He’s trying to delegate, but he’s still doing a lot… and that includes his efforts to do research about this industrial espionage group he thinks is based in our County.”
“He’s told me several times that you’re doing very good work with the Detectives, and that it is lightening his load.” Phyllis said in her most complimentary voice.
“Thank you,” said Cindy, “but what I want to do is try to do some independent research work to help Don.”
“And why don’t you want to tell Don you’re doing this?” Phyllis asked, a knowing gleam in her eye, understanding what Cindy was thinking even though Cindy had not yet said it.
“Uh… I could tell you because he’d tell me not to, and it’s easier to get forgiveness than permission.” Cindy said.
“You could, and you’d be very correct.” Phyllis said, her smile getting brighter. “But you could also say you want to show Don that you’re capable of solving things like this even without him..”
“I do want to show him that he can trust me… and our entire Detective Team, of course.” Cindy said.
“Of course.” said Phyllis. “And you can take my word for it that he does trust you and all of the Detectives very much, even if it seems like he doesn’t. He is trying to let all of you work without him, but he’s not going to let perps get away in the process.”
“Yeah, we get that.” Cindy said.
“Of course,” Phyllis said, “you have a special fire in your eyes about this, my dear. You want to find those perps that shot you and also put your friends and colleagues in such great danger, if I don’t miss my guess.”
“I can see that denying it to you would be useless.” Cindy said matter-of-factly. “So, where should I start?”
“I have just the solution for you. You and I are going to go see someone who is at least as brilliant and capable as my son is, and can give us tremendous help.” said Phyllis.
“I’m already talking to you now, Phyllis.” Cindy said in her most complimentary voice.
“Why thank you, dear.” said Phyllis. “But I mean someone who can help with data much more than I possibly can. Let’s go.”
“Are we going very far?” Cindy asked.
“Oh, not too far.” Phyllis said. “Just Escort Niğde upstairs.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Laura could not help but laugh out loud.
“You ladies are going to get me in a lot of trouble.” the lovely CIA Deputy Director said. “Not only with my employer, but with my husband when he finds out about this. Notice that I said ‘when’, not ‘if’.”
“Leave your husband to me.” Phyllis said. “He’ll mind his mother when I tell him to stand down.”
“That is not how he reacted when the two of you kept me, or perhaps my sister, from being assassinated at the hands of Eleanor Burke.” Laura chided. “However, I think this is a good idea; one that I’d been thinking of, as well. And since I do owe you big-time for foiling Eleanor Burke’s plot, I’ll be glad to help as far as I can. Cindy, are you fully aware of who and what I am?”
“Yes, ma’am.” Cindy said. “And I also know who and what my gym business partner, who happens to be your sister, is.”
“Yes, and thank you for keeping quiet about that. Do you have any kind of clearance?” Laura asked.
“I have a Secret clearance, since I’m in the SBI Reserve.” Cindy said. “Don had me apply for it then expedited it through the FBI.”
“Good.” Laura said. “I’m going to have you fill out some paperwork to upgrade that to Top Secret. I can give you interim TS clearance right now, too. Not that you’ll really need it, but by having it I can give you some access to some data.”
Laura added: “By the way, I’m certainly not going to lie to my husband if he finds out about this, but at the same time I don’t intend to just go up to him and tell him, either.”
“That would probably be very wise.” said Phyllis, her eyes twinkling.
“Phyllis, you are having entirely too much fun with this.” Laura noted.
“We are so fired.” Cindy said. Laura couldn’t help but laugh again. Phyllis excused herself to go and make tea for everyone.
“By the way, Cindy,” Laura said once the two women were alone, “bring Jenna here tonight. I have those devices ready for you, and Don is not going to be here…”
Part 8 – Sex On The Mountain, Fire In Our Souls
Cindy Ross and Jenna Stiles arrived at the Mountain Nest that evening, both looking exceptionally hot in the clingy dresses and high heels they were wearing. Laura met them at the door looking radiantly beautiful herself.
As they sipped their drinks, Laura filled them in on what was going on. “Both of you have come by my office and let me make molds of your vaginas. I’ve fashioned my special dildos that will fit inside you exceptionally well, and I’ve also attached the penises for them. You only have to sign these releases, so that if the pleasurable electrical impulses go haywire and burn you, you won’t be able to come after me personally for them. The chances of any damage happening are virtually nil, though.”
After the paperwork was done, Laura brought out her gifts in their boxes. “Cindy, the ‘penis’ on your device is police blue; and Jenna, yours is fiery red like your hair, and from what my husband tells me, your personality.”
“Not much gets by your husband.” Cindy said, getting a cutting look from Jenna before they all started laughing. After more drinking and chatting, Laura suggested they head to the guest bedroom to try out their new toys.
“Only if you come help us test them out.” said Cindy. She’d been longing to sample Don’s sexy older wife for some time; she was not going to let this opportunity pass by.
“Definitely.” said Jenna, though her desire was born more of curiosity at what she’d heard about the hottest sex professor on the local or any other campus…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Such a beautiful view.” Zoe Singer said as she looked out the windows of the greatroom of The Cabin. It was a bit too nippy to go out onto the deck, but the view was still lovely… and so was the view of the Town from the lattice of windows. Zoe was wearing high heel pumps, but I couldn’t tell what her dress looked like. She’d kept a light khaki trenchcoat on all through dinner, as if it were her dress.
“From here it’s hard to believe that the Town is anything but peaceful and good.” she added.
I handed Zoe her drink, which she’d requested to be double-strong, and sipped on my Scotch and Amaretto. “It is good, despite a few bad apples. And the few bad apples keep me employed.”
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