Working second shift for the past six years meant missing his son’s first soccer goal in a 1-0 victory for the Spartans. His daughter had been taking ballet lessons since the start of summer, and he had yet to attend a single class. Movie Nights with his wife had become a distant memory. A dinner date with his wife was a rare and cherished occurrence. Even falling asleep together on the couch with the television on and the volume almost mute wasn’t something he could recall with recent thoughts.
Working second shift also meant gaining a unique appreciation for seeing the city in the beauty of the moonlight. He had discovered during the countless drives home amidst the eleventh hour that there was a certain bold aura. A mysterious, almost romantic mystique, that took place as the stars flickered and the nighthawks prowled the streets.
As the car pulled off the freeway ramp, the lights of the downtown skyline in the distance grew smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, until eventually they were reduced to a twinkle on the horizon. The rubber tires on his vehicle thudded in unison as he crossed the tracks of the commuter rail station. Right on cue, the darkness and dullness of suburbia surrounded him. Another busy day in chaos had drawn to a conclusion. He drove past the elementary school that both of his children attended. The only lights belonged to the adjacent softball field, where a late-night game was raging between a local tavern and an area dry cleaner. He could see the smiles on the faces of several middle-aged men, beer bellies sagging over homemade uniforms, as they ran about the field like children.
Minutes later, he was pulling into the driveway of his home. He stepped out of his car and into the crisp, clean air as midnight made its rapid approach. The light breeze of the chilly late summer wind gently pushed through his wavy black hair, and playfully batted his tie. He closed the car door and looked around briefly, taking in the hazy sights of the moonlit neighborhood.
Dale Jordan was thirty-eight years old, and had been working at the Van Eyck Agency’s Urban Crime Unit since its inception nearly ten years ago. He had dedicated his entire career to law enforcement, and was currently logging twelve-hour shifts at the station on a nightly basis as part of a new initiative, one that he himself had played a major role in
creating: to eliminate gangs and street crime thus restoring integrity to the more questionable areas of the city. The title was long-winded but the noble task of combating gang related crime was one that had grown steadily over the past two decades. More and more law enforcement agencies were devoting time and precious resources specifically to defend this rising foe.
His goal was to eventually work primarily in the area of street and gang related crime. Dale wanted to focus his efforts just as equally on prevention as well as defense. He accepted a position with the Van Eyck Agency’s central New York office to work exclusively in the Urban Crime Unit, when it was still a new division. He dedicated his efforts to helping the city clean the streets of gang members and thugs.
He worked closely with area Youth Clubs to get inner city kids involved in positive activities like sports and music at an early age, and set up joint efforts to offer skills training programs and peer-to-peer tutoring.
Dale met personally with the area pastors and reverends to secure assistance from the local churches. His diligence was paying off. Gang related crimes had diminished by fifty percent since he had taken charge of the unit, and were continuing in a steady decline.
Arriving home, Dale Jordan strolled casually up the driveway and unlocked the front door. Upon entering the shadowy living room, he quickly turned to his right and punched in the six digit alarm code securing the house again. He instinctively lifted his arm and flicked the lights on.
Rebecca, his spouse of eleven years, had taken their two small children out of state to visit his in-laws, and they weren’t due back until mid-week. Although he loved his family, he was looking forward to unwinding in peace. He never once complained about all the hard work he was doing. For his family, he would do anything.
A few steps into the room, and he nearly jumped from his shoes. He quickly looked down and smiled with relief. His foot had inadvertently kicked a plastic fighter jet his son had left out. He slowly reached down and picked up the toy. It had remained intact. Lucky for me, he thought to himself.
Just last summer, during a rare break from work, he had taken his five-year old son to see the air show. The boy instantly fell in love with jets. He would sit on Dale’s lap on the riding lawn mower every Sunday afternoon, and they would pretend they were flying a stealth fighter on a secret mission. In
fact, his son had already decided he was going to be a fighter pilot when he grew up. Dale smiled and set the plane on the couch.
Entering the kitchen, he further loosened his tie and set his wallet and gun down on the table. He saw an unopened stack of mail addressed to him that had no doubt been sitting there for several days. He had the habit of grabbing it from the mailbox every so often and letting it pile up. He was generally so busy with work that he didn’t have the time to go through it. Bills. Bills. Bills. Nothing good, he mused to himself as he quickly leafed through the stack. Once he thought he had won fifty million dollars, but as it turned out, he lost a forty-cent stamp mailing back the sweepstakes entry form.
Heading downstairs to his game room, it was time to relax. He had spent close to a year remodeling the basement of the family house and had furnished a very slick pad. Complete with a pool table, flat screen television, and fully stocked bar, it was the one place left in the house designed just for him.
He quickly circled the maple finished bar and reached for a bottle of B&B and an Ashton cigar. He sat back on one of the pub style stools and grabbed a tumbler. He poured a glass and took a sip. Smooth and delicious. Spinning the stool around, he now faced the darkness of the connecting laundry room. He swiveled the chair back and faced the bar. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he looked down at the bottle. He had been going through three of these a week since it had all started. It was the only way, he reassured himself, that he could calm his nerves enough to fall asleep.
He glanced over at the old grandfather clock, quietly ticking in the corner of the room. An antique timepiece his father had constructed for him when he was just a toddler. The rhythmic cadence of ticks echoed peacefully in the stillness of the room. It was almost twelve. It was almost September.
His thoughts switched to the account. Just thinking about it sent waves of nausea through him. Soon he would have enough. It would have to be. Six more months. Maybe a year, if he could hold out that long. He would take Rebecca and the children, and leave in the middle of the night. There would be no goodbyes. There would be no turning back.
He sipped the glass and spun the stool back around. He reached for the remote and flicked the TV on, hoping to catch a west coast baseball game. It warmed for a moment before its glowing light illuminated the room. The dull rumblings of Vin Scully and Dodger Stadium began peeping
out. And then, the two figures emerged from the shadows and entered the doorway.
Stunned, Dale slammed his glass down on the bar and jumped off the stool. He instinctively patted his sides in search of his pistol, cursing to himself the realization he had left it upstairs. There was another stashed behind the bar. It was just out of reach.
“Who the hell are you? How did you get in here?” He yelled in shock.
“I’m a police officer! This is private property! What are you doing here?” He demanded an answer.
The two men remained silent, and stepped closer into the room. One was very tall, six-foot plus, and quite lanky. He had thick blonde hair that had gone several days without a wash or a comb, and wore a black parka, unusual for this time of year, with tattered blue jeans.
The other was shorter, a few inches under six-feet, and slender with a muscular build. He wore baggy black pants with a white and black checkered flannel coat. His shaved head was wrapped by a dark bandanna. He had two hoops piercing through each of his earlobes. A dark-brown beard extended the sides of his jaw and covered his chin and upper lip. He wore dark sunglasses despite it being the middle of the night.
The two men crept closer to Jordan.
“Who are you?” He repeated again in a more subdued manner, only this time he knew.
For nine months, he had been living a double life, concealing a vicious secret. He had lived with a terror tucked into the back of his mind. A trepidation he hoped he would never have to face. He lay in bed at night and prayed that this moment would never come. He had acted as carefully and discretely as he could. Apparently not enough so, he thought.
His biggest regret? He wouldn’t get the chance to say goodbye to Rebecca, or his children. At least they were out of the state. It would be much safer for them. He had instructed his wife on precisely what to do should this situation ever arise. He knew what the men wanted, and he knew what they were here for. They weren’t about to leave without it. He knew he was expendable. There was no sense in prolonging the inevitable.
He quietly stood and walked over to the clock. He popped open the front case and reached his hand beneath the golden chimes. He pulled out a small velvet pouch, tied tightly by a drawstring. He began to feel a nagging hatred for his
foolish actions in the pit of his stomach. He had succeeded in throwing his life away, and would have nothing to show for it. All of his hard work. All of his accomplishments. His legacy. It would be gone in an instant.
He closed the panel of the clock and returned to his seat at the bar. He set the object down beside him and gave it a sheepish half grin. It was his own fault, really. He could have used it in a much better way. He could have used it to stop them. He could have used it to save a lot of people. He would have been a hero. Instead, he let money and greed overpower him, and eventually take full control. It was too late now to change anything.
The intruders said nothing. Dale glanced down at the cigar sitting at the bar. A cigar that would never be tasted. He grabbed his glass and swigged a final gulp.
The man with the bandanna pulled out a pistol equipped with a silencer. He calmly fired three shots into Dale Jordan’s chest.
The director of the Urban Crime Unit fell back against the bar in his suburban home and down to the floor without a sound. The taller man quickly swiped the pouch from the bar and stuffed it into his coat pocket. The men ran out, followed by the chiming of the clock.
The city of Verona Beach sat in the central part of New York State, directly on the eastern shore of Oneida Lake. Established in 1802, and borrowing its name from the province in Northern Italy, its modest skyline coupled with breathtaking panoramic views of the water and surrounding beaches gives it the perfect balance of urban and rural living.
Nestled at the base of the Adirondacks, numerous parks and mountains make year-round outdoor activities such as camping, rafting, boating, rock climbing, kayaking, snowmobiling, and skiing an enriching part of life for the city’s 125,000 plus residents.
The meteorological term for the weather of central New York is that of a “humid continental climate,” which translates into hot summers with moderate humidity, pleasant falls with perfectly crisp temperatures and beautiful foliage, and long cold winters with biblical amounts of snow courtesy of the dump-off from Lake Ontario.
With two area colleges; the state school SUNY Verona, and the private liberal arts institute Horace Wheaton University, and half a dozen or so major employers, a healthy mix of youth and age infused itself into the fast growing metropolis. The city boasted a minor league baseball team, the Verona Outlaws, an affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
The suburban town of Willowvale lay some ten miles south of downtown Verona Beach. Its oak tree lined residential streets and white picket fences secured the middle class families from the perils of urban crime and plight. The folks that lived in Willowvale couldn’t be further from the dangers of center city.
This made it especially shocking when news broke in the early morning hours of August 25th that Dale Jordan had been brutally assassinated in his home. Dale Jordan, a
well respected and decorated police officer. Dale Jordan, a husband, father, and neighbor.
Jon Skiles was dressed in blue gym shorts and a white tee shirt. He was leaning over his eighth- floor porch railing, as he did every morning, eating a bowl of cereal and watching the city come to life when he received a text message from a co-worker to ‘turn the news on.’
He stepped inside his apartment and flicked on the television. Taking a seat on the edge of his sofa, he stared in disbelief at the report airing on the local news channel.
He had met Officer Jordan only once, at an agency holiday party, but he’d heard of his accomplishments many times over. Dale Jordan was something of a legend in the community. The loss of a colleague was always tough on everyone, and served as a constant reminder of the dangers belonging to the job they were doing.
He listened intently as the reporter announced that Special Agent Jordan was survived by his wife and two young children. Jon bit his lip. He thought about his family and what they would be enduring together as they tried to pick up the pieces and make sense of what had happened.
He quickly got dressed and headed out. The elevator doors slid open slowly, and he was in and out of the lobby in a matter of seconds. He stepped out into the commotion of
Lakeshore Drive and began his ten block walk through the Marina District to work.
His mind was still on the news. He took special interest in the fact that Dale Jordan had lived in Willowvale. Jon had been dreaming of the time in his life when it would be his turn to call a nice suburban neighborhood like Willowvale home.
His six-hundred square foot apartment was respectable, and often the envy of his friends. What it lacked in size it made up for in character and convenience. Located in the belly of the city’s downtown corridor, he was a stone’s throw from dozens of shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. He was engulfed by entertainment, culture, and history.
But there were often times, especially recently, when he would find himself feeling isolated, and alone. He would take long, leisurely drives through the nicer areas of town, such as South Woods and Willowvale. He thought often about having his own yard to host family cookouts, and attending little league games. He wanted a swimming pool, and a dog, and all the other great things that accompanied having a family. Of course, he would have to start a family first, and that would require meeting someone.
“Dude! We’re in our thirties!” He could hear the voice of his younger brother advising in his head as he always did when the subject of dating came about.
“I say screw em’ and boot em’!” Which wasn’t quite the advice he was ever hoping to hear, nor was it something his brother actually believed. He had long been searching for that one special person he could spend his life with, and settle down, but at times was doubtful it would ever happen. The wisdom his mother had bestowed upon him seemed a bit more encouraging. “When you least expect it, it will happen…trust me!”
However assuring she was, Jon was still skeptical. It had been going on a year since he and April had parted ways for whatever mundane reason it had been. He had seen photos of her and her new beau on a friend of a friend of a friend’s Facebook page. Their smiling faces seemed to be taunting him from the computer screen. They looked so happy. He didn’t go on stupid Facebook for over a month after that. What he did do was try to keep busy by drowning himself in work. Something. Anything to take his mind off what he had termed a “relationship drought.”
Jon Skiles was roughly five-foot ten and weighed a
slight one-hundred-seventy- five pounds. He was athletic and strong, but not overly built, relying more on speed and dexterity than pure strength. He had short brown hair that was just starting to show signs of receding, and a clean-shaven youthful face.
He had wanted to be a cop, like his father, as far back as he could remember. Growing up, he had been infatuated with police work and procedure. His favorite shows were Magnum P.I. and NYPD Blue. He read anything and everything he could get his hands on related to detectives, forensics, and investigation. Spending a great deal of his youth hanging around his father, and his father’s co-workers, Jon was able to learn a plethora of information, unlike any that could be learned in a book or classroom.
After high school, he went to college in his hometown of Detroit, and majored in Criminal Justice. Upon graduating, he enrolled in the Academy, which like his college studies, came to him with terrifically natural ease. He completed the Academy with honors, as his father had done, and went to work for the Motor City’s tough police force.
Having been forced into responsibility at a young age, Jon never had the chance as a teenager to act out. He worked hard in high school and college, and seldom partied or cut loose. Soon after graduation, Jon’s wilder side began to seep through his flawless image. He was selfish and arrogant, and had abused his badge on more than one occasion.
One midsummer night, he had met with some friends on one of the city’s larger streets. Using improperly obtained police barricades, the young men cordoned off a fifteen block section of the road and had a sixty minute round of drag races with hundreds of friends and spectators drinking beer and cheering them on. Jon came in first place for three of his five “Genesee Street Races.”
The following March, while working undercover during the city’s Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, he had been called to a nearby sorority house where dozens of underage girls had been reported drinking and acting lewd. Rather than close down the house and issue citations, Jon joined the women in celebration and stayed drinking with them for the remainder of the afternoon.
Within two years, his superiors had enough. He had been placed on probation three times, and had been fined several thousands of dollars for his childish infractions. His career as a police officer was sinking quickly.
It was early 1984 when former District Attorney, DEA Czar, and philanthropist William Walsh opened the first of six special law enforcement agencies on Van Eyck Boulevard in Detroit. Challenged with assisting the city of Detroit’s police and law enforcement in combating the quickly rising and epidemic rate of crime, the agency was benchmark successful.
Walsh had been keeping a close eye on a local cop named Anthony Skiles, who had been one of the city’s finest for the past decade. He brought Anthony on as a Special Agent, and the two became very close friends. Walsh saw Anthony’s two young sons grow up. He was well aware of young Jon’s desire to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Walsh had taken a personal, vested interest in the life of Jon Skiles, and when the young man’s promising career started to flounder, Walsh immediately took action. A deeply moving and personal conversation between the two was all that Jon needed to straighten up. He had worn out his stay in Detroit, but like it or not he was a great cop, and he would always be the son of Anthony Skiles. Walsh knew Jon needed a change of scenery. The then twenty-six year old Skiles was transferred to Walsh’s latest agency project in Verona Beach, New York. Jon was assigned to work in the agency’s Special Task Unit, reporting directly to the Commissioner.
Almost eight years had passed, and Jon had done a lifetime of growing up. Relieved of the pressure and convenience of having his family name to rely on, he worked his way up solely on his own merit, and had earned a great deal of respect among his fellow colleagues. Every milestone he reached, he thanked his father. Jon thought about his dad every day. The two had been very close.
The city was dawning and the streets were getting busier by the minute. Rush hour traffic clogged the highways with people heading to work in every direction. The newsstands and coffee shops were ready for business as the sidewalks filled with pedestrians on foot, walking and talking on cell phones.
Bicycles weaved in and out of traffic and Jon shook his head with a smile when a middle-aged man in a three piece suit blew past him on rollerblades, his comb-over flying in the wind. Verona Beach had a certain laid back quality that
made it distinct from other north east cities, and its populous found it quite refreshing.
Jon reached the front doors of the agency building a few minutes before eight o’clock. Once inside, he went straight for the Commissioner’s office.
Brian Reynolds was the head of the Van Eyck Agency’s central New York office. He was also Jon Skiles’ best friend.
Reynolds was a dark skinned man, complements of a Nigerian father and an Irish mother. He was just over six feet in height with broad shoulders. He had thick, dark brown and slightly wavy hair, and a casual demeanor that allowed for an uninhibited, yet respectful work environment.
A career in law enforcement wasn’t on Reynolds radar when he graduated from high school and received a fully-funded scholarship to Syracuse University to play football and basketball for The Orange.
His athletic dreams ended however, on the first play of his first game when he tore multiple ligaments in his right knee. The worst part of it, he wasn’t so much as touched by an opposing player; the injury occurred by happenstance when he simply planted his leg and twisted his torso ever so slightly.
Knowing he would never be a professional athlete, he transferred to a smaller academic college down state and his focus quickly turned to his studies of Forensic Science and Criminal Justice. He graduated with honors, and went to work as a New York City cop out of Brooklyn. He received numerous awards, medals, and promotions for his outstanding work, and soon took the notice of all his superiors.
During a shootout with a drug dealer, Reynolds had taken a stray bullet square in the right knee. At the age of twenty-eight, he was forced to go behind the desk. He began an arduous rehabilitation program, determined not to let that knee continue to dictate his life’s path.
While working in an office, he was able to master a different set of police skills, and excelled in that endeavor as well. Three years later, he had been introduced to a one William Walsh. Walsh had long been an admirer of Reynolds and his outstanding integrity and work ethic. He had a proposal.
He was set to begin construction of a new agency to be located in Verona Beach, and wanted Reynolds to assume the role of the station’s Commissioner. He was also asked to assist in the blueprint of the agency.
Reynolds was honored, and immediately accepted the offer. The fourteen-story facility in Downtown Verona Beach was completed and it stood with pride amongst the other businesses. With its shiny gold-domed roof, it was one of the most recognizable figures in the city skyline. Furnished with a swimming pool, weights and exercise area, a fully stocked 24/7 cafeteria, advanced science and computer labs, a medical wing, and a small holding facility (nicknamed The Dungeon) in the underground area, the agency would eventually employ over six-hundred people.
Opening in the spring of 2001, Reynolds had been a fixture for over a decade. The station was his pride and joy. He had grown to love working as the Commissioner, with an office on the top floor. He did however, miss the day-to-day actions of being on the streets. Had it not been for that knee injury, he would no doubt still be on patrol, and any chance he had to get into some action, he took.
A few years after the grand opening, Walsh called upon Reynolds for another favor. He needed him to personally oversee the training of a young cop from Detroit named Jon Skiles, who would be coming aboard. Reynolds took Skiles in and worked closely with him as a mentor. The two became great friends. Each had a mutual respect for one another, and Jon owed Reynolds for giving him and his career a second chance.
The elevator doors opened on the fourteenth floor, and Jon stepped out. He quickly walked down the hallway and with a light rap of his knuckles on the wall, he entered Reynolds’ office.
“Hey Jon,” Reynolds spoke solemnly as he was leafing through some of Dale Jordan’s case files. Jon took a seat across from the desk and watched in silence for a moment before speaking. He could tell Reynolds was exhausted, and had probably been at work for several hours already. A tinted coffee pot sat on the shelf behind the Commissioner’s desk, with a small reserve of strong-scented brew resting in the base.
In the corner of the office, a small television was mounted to the ceiling. The sound was muted as a cable news channel was broadcasting.
“Prendino sent me a text message this morning. I caught the tail end of the story on the news. What happened?”
Reynolds looked up, and although he remained calm and steady, Jon could see the grief and stress in his eyes. Everyone at the agency was like an extended family to him.
“The local police received an anonymous call from one of his neighbors reporting what she thought was a burglary. Suspicious activity, I believe, was the term she used. Anyway, the local police attempted to contact Dale, and when he didn’t answer, they kicked the door down.”
He paused and looked away, pretending for a moment to go back to the file.
“They found him in the basement. He had been shot three times. They contacted us and we sent our team to the house just a few hours ago. The coroner estimated the time of death at around midnight.”
Jon sat on the edge of his seat, his hands cupped under his chin in disbelief. He had been around police work his entire life. He knew very well the dangers that he and his colleagues took each and every day of their lives. But off duty, and in an affluent suburban home?
“I checked the time log this morning, and Dale left here last night at eleven-thirty, like he usually did. Meaning he was murdered almost immediately after he arrived home.”
“A robbery in process?” Jon asked after thinking it over a moment. It seemed like the only plausible explanation.
“We’re unsure at this point. It’s far too early to tell. Our initial reports indicate nothing of value appears to have been taken.”
Jon was now deep in thought. Reynolds continued.
“I can’t even begin to think of a motive. It makes no sense. He had a spotless record. He won several awards for his outstanding behavior, both on and off duty. He was really a stand up guy.” He looked over at Jon again. “Did you ever get the chance to meet him?”
“Just once. Last Christmas. We talked for a few minutes. He seemed like a nice guy.”
There was a brief moment of silence. The stillness of the room was heavy.
“I’m supposed to be meeting with some press people at ten. They’re like vultures. One guy even has his headline
figured out: One of the City’s Finest Taken Too Soon.” He shook his head. “The investigation crew will be going to his house in an hour. Hopefully we’ll get some good leads to go on.”
Jon jumped to his feet, almost like a spring.
“I want to go.” He stated firmly. “I want to be a part of this investigation.” There wasn’t a trace of doubt in his voice.
Brian Reynolds smiled. “I thought you would. This could get dicey. You’re sure?”
“Yes.” Jon spoke confidently. “I’m sure.”
“You know,” Reynolds managed to grin slightly, “Lieutenant Baker is leading the investigation.”
Jon bit his lip and rolled his eyes. “I can handle it.”
“Good. I need my best man on this.”
Jon took the compliment and nodded.
Reynolds hit a button on his phone dialing Baker’s office.
“Yes Commissioner?” Echoed the voice through the speaker.
“Lieutenant, I’m sending Jon Skiles along on the investigation. He’ll be at your office in a few minutes.”
There was a loud silence before Baker forced the response out through a wince.
“Sure.” Was all he could muster.
“Thanks Lieutenant.” Reynolds replied and ended the call.
“Thanks Commissioner.” Jon spoke. “I’ll let you know what we find.”
“See you later Jon, and good luck.” Reynolds responded as Jon left the office.
By this time, the small private jet that had taken off from the rural and long since abandoned airstrip in Westmorland, New York, had landed on an equally desolate runway in East Providence, Rhode Island. The two killers emerged and the fifty-million dollar Gulfstream took back to the air and disappeared into the clouds en route to an undisclosed location. The men made their way across the old airstrip to a ramshackle garage. In the back corner, they located the van they had deposited two days prior. The shooter took
Now in his mid-thirties, Mark McMillian was a career criminal. His shaved head and dark brown beard accompanied a muscular body that was home to half a dozen tattoos. The muscles and ink spoke of a hardened upbringing.
A career criminal, McMillian was born and raised on the tough Irish-American streets of South Boston. His family was dysfunctional to say the very least, with a father and several uncles and cousins long rumored to have ties to the IRA. At fourteen, he stopped going to school and started a street gang called the Celtic Nines.
The Celtic Nines acted as a de facto clan of mercenaries for hire, and were involved in dozens of illegal dealings and rackets throughout the streets of Boston. They quickly gained the reputation of ruthless miscreants, and were fast climbing the ranks of the criminal underworld.
For three years, the rap sheet on the Celtic Nines grew, and McMillian continued to elude the authorities. He spent the next half dozen years becoming an expert at his preferred trade, thuggery. He was able to expand his thick black book of criminal cronies, and eventually met up with Juan Torres, where he went to work as one of his cut-throats.
Now a professional and proficient killer,
McMillian was in charge of security at the resort. Over the years, he had also become one of Torres’ closest friends and confidants. When something dire needed to be done, McMillian was always called upon.
The passenger in the van was Randolph Stone. The twenty-eight year old excelled at computers and electronics, including the deactivation of numerous types of security alarm systems. An amateur hacker, he had been to a white collar prison for stock fraud and lost a high paying tech job with a software company. With a newfound drive for revenge against the establishment, he had gone to work for Torres twelve months ago.
Stone pulled the velvet pouch from his coat pocket and tugged lightly at the drawstrings to open it. He reached inside and carefully pulled out a small iPod. He held it in his fingers, rotating it back and forth as though studying it, with a silly grin plastered on his face. McMillian quickly snatched it from him, and placed it in his own coat pocket. Stone smiled nervously as the van started up and sped out of the garage.
There was just something about Lieutenant Donald Baker that Jon Skiles found downright loathsome. The forty-five year old former Marine had very short, crew cut style brown hair. He stood tall and imposing with a strong, well defined body.
And that wasn’t all.
His hobbies included hunting, shooting, archery, and anything else that had to do with weapons. He was an exceptional marksman and had worked as a sharpshooter earlier in his career.
He had transferred to Verona Beach late last year, and Jon took an instant dislike to him. He was arrogant and powerful. He was also highly intelligent.
The worst thing about him, Jon thought to himself as the car they were riding in pulled down Dale Jordan’s street, is that he always wears a long brown trench coat and dark, trooper style sunglasses. Seriously? What a friggen tool.
The car reached the estate of Dale Jordan shortly after nine a.m. The two men climbed out and entered the front door of the house. There were already a dozen or so officers and a forensics team skulking about, taking notes, and processing the crime scene. Jon followed Baker down the basement stairs where they stopped by the outline of Dale Jordan’s body. There was a brief moment of silence.
Jon glanced around the room at the pool table, and the bar. He began taking mental snapshots of where everything was, and how it was all set up. The shooter could have easily been hiding out in the laundry room. The area had no windows. Even in broad daylight, it was still quite grim and shadowed. It would make an ideal place for an ambush. Whoever it was must have already been hiding there when Dale arrived home.
“Who could have done this?” Jon questioned himself under his breath. His eyes focused on the archaic clock standing in the side corner of the room, softly ticking away the precious seconds of life.
“I have an idea.” Baker coldly answered a moment later. Jon looked at him somewhat surprised and very curious.
Of course you do you friggin know-it-all, you always have the answer. By the way stupid, it was a rhetorical question.
“Who?” He spoke in a forceful tone. At this point there was no sense in pretending to enjoy the company of Baker. Neither was secretive about the simple fact that each man harbored obvious disdain for the other.
“Leroy Grimes.” Baker answered confidently without turning away from the outline on the floor.
“He’s the leader of a local street gang, ESBP. I’d been working with Dale on disbanding them for a couple of years now. They’re the top street gang operating in this city. We’ve done nothing but work at breaking them apart. And we were getting close.”
Jon was listening intently.
“A few years back, Dale busted Grimes on an assault charge. Jordan’s testimony sent Grimes away for three years. He was just released earlier this year.” Baker turned his gaze toward Jon. “That day in court, after he was sentenced, he swore he’d kill Jordan when he got out.” The Lieutenant
paused and looked back to the outline on the floor. “Now it looks like he has.” He clenched his fist and bit his lip.
“You weren’t even here when that happened.”
“I know what goes on.”
Jon looked over at him. He absorbed the information. He frowned. That didn’t seem right to him at all. He remembered the Grimes trial, and he could picture who Leroy was. He remembered the station lore of how he blurted out his threat to Jordan in open court. He was tough for sure, but a cop killer? The magnitude of this crime seemed like something too out of reach for Leroy to have pulled off. It seemed too easy. Much too easy. Questions began running through his mind.
“And you want to know something else?”
Not really asshole. Baker continued, paying no mind to Jon’s facial expression of doubt.
“Grimes was sentenced on August 24th exactly four years ago last night. Shit, I bet he’s been planning this every day since he was locked up.” His face began to turn red with anger.
“When he got released,” Baker continued, “I told Dale to watch his back. They never should have let him out.”
“Lieutenant?” A voice called from upstairs.
“Down here.” Baker yelled.
A lab technician from the Forensics Department came downstairs.
“Sir, we’ve sent the bullets and the information to the lab. They’re going to do a thorough investigation. Top priority. We should have the results before the weekend.”
“We should have something very shortly.”
Baker responded with an air of superiority.
“Yes sir.” The forensic technician agreed.
“I’m going to look around upstairs, you coming?” Baker asked Jon.
“You go ahead. I’ll be up in a minute.”
Baker and the lab tech went upstairs, leaving Jon in the basement alone. He looked down at the outline of Officer Jordan. He closed his eyes and recited a quick but sincere prayer. He thought to himself. Something didn’t add up. He was determined to get to the bottom of this mystery.
The Palacio Diamente Resort
The van cruised to the end of Highland View Road and pulled into the colossal parking lot shortly before eleven a.m. the morning of August 25th. It circled around the edge of the lot before disappearing into a large parking garage. It came to rest in its usual spot. McMillian and Stone got out. They quickly walked through the garage and made it to the outside lot. There it stood.
With a population of just under five-hundred, Diamond Hill, Rhode Island is comprised of a handful of rural streets, farm pastures, and back-wood roads some eleven miles north of Providence. The summers are full of festivals, concerts, hiking, and camping in the vast wilderness of the Diamond Hill State Park, and the winters are known for some of the best skiing on the east coast. If you blinked, you would miss it. In fact, if you asked the residents of Diamond Hill what its best quality is, they would tell you it’s that hardly anyone else in the world knows about it.
The Palacio Diamente Resort in Diamond Hill was a magnificent building that stood twenty stories, some three-hundred feet, making it the tallest building in the state outside of Providence.
Each of the four-hundred rooms came with a patio window that lead outside to a small balcony. In the back of the resort sat two Olympic-sized swimming pools, each with a thirty-foot water slide The roof was equipped with a Tiki bar and whirlpool that could be reserved for private parties. There was a helipad.
Inside the monstrous resort sat two restaurants; a Brazilian Steakhouse known as The Amazon, and a Captain’s Catch that specialized in freshly caught New England seafood. Other amenities included a large banquet hall, sports bar, martini lounge, billiards room, and arcade.
A state of the art fitness center was located off the main lobby, with all kinds of brand new equipment used by guests and staff alike. There was also a smaller indoor pool and a sauna. The suites ranged in price from $250 to $2,500 a night. Out back a smaller, connected building offered discounted and convenient housing to its one-hundred plus employees.
The two men walked under a grand awning and through the glass doors. There were three palm trees in the center of the lobby, their branches reaching above to the forty-foot skylight in the ceiling. Each had a bench circling its base. Beyond them was a large fountain with life-sized statues that depicted a Roman warrior, a Phoenix, and a Mermaid.
The marble floor sparkled under the lights, and the gold fixtures gave it quite a royal façade. Various paintings and decorative pieces were hung about on the walls. A one-hundred gallon saltwater aquarium was mounted behind the desk, with a wide array of brightly colored and vibrant-looking sea creatures dwelling inside. The desk itself shined with undaunted brilliance.
The men made their way to a private elevator in the back corner of the lobby. McMillian produced a key card and inserted it. The two entered the elevator and went up to the twentieth floor.
The top floor of the Palacio Diamente Luxury Resort housed the most costly of the suites. Many high end and well-connected guests stayed on the twentieth floor, conducting various types of business, where supreme luxury and complete privacy were demanded. The secure elevator was the only access to the top floor, with the exception of the fire stairwell, which was monitored closely by security at all times.
McMillian and Stone exited the elevator and walked down a hall, passing the suites along the way. At the end of the vestibule, they came to a locked door. McMillian slid the key card. The small red light by the handle flashed to green, and he opened the door. They climbed a small staircase and reached another locked door.
McMillian raised his fist and lightly knocked. A few moments passed. The deadbolt could be heard sliding, followed by the unlatching of the chain as the door was opened. Behind it stood a flawlessly beautiful young woman with wet blonde hair, wearing nothing but a white towel wrapped around her perfect frame and a frown on her otherwise perfect face.
“It’s like my dream!” Stone mumbled under his breath, not realizing he was clearly audible. “Hi Kayla!” He
babbled like a love-struck groupie. She rolled her eyes. McMillian let his dirty smirk do the talking as they followed her into the room. She reached the hot tub and tossed the towel, submerging herself in the bubble bath up to her neck. Seated next to her in the tub was Juan Torres, owner of the Palacio Diamente Luxury Resort.
Torres was a tanned-skinned Colombian man. He had thick, pitch black hair that was pulled back into a small braid. He had slight black stubble growing on his chin. He was tall and athletic, with a muscular frame and a youthful but experienced face. He wore several thick gold chains around his neck and had a solid gold hoop going through his left ear.
“Mr. McMillian. I see you had a safe flight. I hope you enjoyed the scenery. Did you accomplish your mission?” He spoke with an air of confidence as he raised his right arm and placed it over the shoulder of the woman sitting next to him in the tub. The dark Grim Reaper tattoo that covered his shoulder and bicep glistened under the lights of the room.
McMillian grinned. “Officer Jordan is dead.”
“And the device?”
McMillian produced the object that twelve hours ago had been hidden in a clock 270 miles away.
“Well done. A large bonus for you both.” Torres was pleased. “You of course left no evidence?”
McMillian’s answer was calm and arrogant.
“It’s all taken care of. Relax Torres, I’m a professional.”