Charlie woke up to the smell of eggs, grits and coffee. He was surprised that he hadn’t awakened when Marissa extracted herself from his embrace. He thought about it for a moment, then set it aside; apparently she was no longer in the emotional state she’d been in last night, so his inner alarm hadn’t gone off. Ever since they’d first met, all those years ago, there had been a connection of some kind with her that bordered on psychic. He’d thought that connection was gone, but now it seemed it had only been sleeping, biding its time until … what? He didn’t want to consider that question; too much had happened in the past few years, and it pained him to think about those things, even though he knew that he had to eventually.
He got up off the sofa, stretched each part of his body, then went into the bathroom and splashed some water on his face. He’d shower before the others arrived. Besides, if he knew Marissa, she was cooking for both of them, in spite of the fact that they were divorced now and that, in effect, she worked for him.
He came out of the bathroom and went to the kitchen, put a half-teaspoon of raw finely granulated Jamaican sugar in a cup, then poured the coffee into it. He hated the taste of white sugar and refused to use it. Thankfully, the hotel had stocked the kitchen with his favorite sweetener; otherwise, he’d drink it black.
He sat at the counter and sipped from the cup. Then he turned his attention to Marissa, watching her. When she put a couple slices of bread in the toaster, and laid out two plates, he knew for certain that she was cooking for both of them.
Marissa brought the plates of food over to the counter, then went back to get two tumblers and a pitcher of grapefruit juice. Then she sat across from Charlie, filled the two glasses, and took a bite of her food. Charlie followed suit.
They ate slowly, allowing the digestive process to work properly. Neither spoke at all, but each watched the other, looking for some indication of what they were thinking. Their eyes met a few times, but they each broke the contact quickly. They finished at almost the same instant and took the last sips of juice.
Charlie looked directly at Marissa, waiting for her to look directly at him again. But she beat him to the punch when she said, “I’m sorry for messing up yesterday, Charlie. It won’t happen again.”
Charlie waited a moment before responding. When he did speak, it was in that soft, understanding tone she had loved so much before their troubles began. “I know you didn’t mean to break down, Mari,” he said. He only called her that when they were alone; otherwise he always used her proper name. “Nobody ever does. I’m just glad it happened after the fight, so it didn’t interfere with our task. And you got yourself back together pretty fast, too. But the question is why it happened. Are you ready to talk about it?”
She smiled shyly, much as she did the morning after they’d first met all those years ago. She’d fixed him breakfast then too, he remembered fondly. “I never killed anyone before; you know that, Charlie. I don’t know how to deal with it.” She looked down, breaking eye contact for a quick moment. When she looked back up, she continued. “I know you trained me for that, but to actually do it is different somehow.”
Charlie reached across the counter and took her hands in his. “I know, Mari. The same thing happened to me in ’Nam. But you didn’t kill him; it was an accident. He lost his balance and fell on his blade. It could have happened to anyone in the same situation. I know you remember that was part of your training too. I made sure of that.”
“I remember. Just as I remember you going against the Agency to do it that way.”
He finally smiled back at her. “Yes, because I didn’t want you to go through the same thing I did, because the military doesn’t teach how to handle that first kill. Some people don’t do well at all.”
“I know. You told me about some that you knew before. But that doesn’t make it any easier.”
“You’re right, Mari. But it will make it easier to spring back, just as you did last night. I hope you know that.”
“Yes, I do know that.”
“Good for you. Do you think you’ll be okay?”
She took one of her hands back from Charlie’s and wiped a tear from her cheek. “I think so. Does it get any easier?”
“No, it doesn’t normally. Not for people like us. We just learn to deal with it is all. If you want to back out of this mission, I’ll understand.”
Her expression grew fierce as she said, “No fucking way. I want to put those cabrons away for what they do. For what they did. I’m staying in.”
Charlie gave her hand a quick squeeze to let her know he agreed. He’d read her right, and it gave him a momentary pleasure. But it also saddened him to think that their lives together had come down to this. “Me too,” he replied with a hard look on his face. Then he let go of her hand and stood up, swallowed the last bit of coffee, and started taking their dishes to the sink. He rinsed them off and handed them to her to put in the dishwasher.
They both knew that they could leave the cleanup for the hotel maid, but that wasn’t their way. They’d both been raised to clean up after themselves, so that’s just what they did. After the dishwasher was running, they took turns in the shower, then put on clean clothes. When they were satisfied that the suite was in order, they went together to Tracy’s suite. It was a sure bet that the twins were already on the job back down in Jersey City.
Raphael and Robert Boulware were indeed on the job. They’d just finished speaking with the lead investigator, a Jersey City police detective with over twenty years of service. He was a gruff, tired-looking man with a craggy face who didn’t like interfering federal agents but gave them the minimum required courtesy. He watched closely as the two walked briskly over to the white Chevy Lumina with the government plates and drove off.
Half a minute later, another white Lumina pulled in, and a somewhat swarthy man got out and approached the detective. “Who was that that just left, Dave?” he asked.
Detective David Forsberg answered, “A couple guys from your agency, Gus. They wanted to search the vic’s car over there,” he pointed vaguely toward the bright red sedan. “Some crap about some satellite tracking thing.”
“Global Positioning Satellite. GPS for short.”
“Yeah, that’s what it was. Newfangled space shit.”
“Yeah. They’re really pretty good at tracking, the military’s been using them for years. Word is, they might soon be in all the cars.” Gustavo Rivera looked at the sedan, then back at the detective. “What were their names, Dave?”
“Ah, hell, Gus, I didn’t pay that much attention. The cards were the real thing, so I just dealt with them as fast as possible to get them out of my hair.”
Gus looked thoughtful as he asked, “Did they say which office they were with?”
“Nah. I didn’t ask either. Like I said, the cards looked good. They checked the car over, came back and thanked me for my time, then left.”
“Okay, let me check in with the Agency and see who they sent out here and why. They really need to keep us guys in the field informed better, you know?” Agent Rivera looked back at the car as he asked, “Did they take anything out of the vehicle?”
“Not that I could tell. They looked under the dash, the seats, in the glove compartment, in the trunk, everywhere we’re gonna look when we get her towed back to the garage downtown. But they wouldn’t tell me anything about what else they were looking for. Typical Washington types.”
“Okay, thanks, Dave.” He looked at his watch. “I gotta go. Catch ya later. Why don’t we have a drink later, like old times?”
“Sure, Gus. It’s been a while since we just kicked back and relaxed. You shoulda stayed with the Department. You woulda been one of the good cops.”
“Yeah, but the pay isn’t that great, and I get to travel sometimes.” He stuck out his hand. “I’ll call you later, let you know when I’m off duty.”
Detective Forsberg took the agent’s hand, shook it, then looked around. He saw that the Coroner’s vehicle was pulling out, then turned to the nearest officer. “Find out what the hold-up is on the tow truck, Gardner.”
* * *
As Robert and Raphael were getting on the George Washington Bridge headed back to the hotel, Tracy Williams was showing Charlie and Marissa the readout on her modified Zenith Mini-Sport portable computer screen. There was a list of phone numbers from the mobile phone Charlie had pocketed the night before.
Her long, dark fingers tapped a few keys, and a list of names came up next to the numbers. She tapped another key, and the dates and times of the calls, plus whether they were incoming or outgoing, also came up on the screen. Another tap, and the computer correlated the calls, grouping them according to who was calling or receiving.
When the final result was on the screen, she said, “One of these days, I’ll be able to do all of this with one tap of a key.” She looked around and up at Charlie, then continued. “Now we have to figure out which of these calls to look into first. Any ideas?”
Charlie studied the list as he said, “It’s going to take some time to go through these numbers. But we can eliminate any we find out are his family members.”
Marissa spoke up. “I disagree, Charlie. Family members could be involved too.”
“It’s not likely, Marissa. People who do these things usually don’t involve those close to them. And it’ll take more time to go through the numbers. But you’re right; as long as there’s the possibility, we have to check them out too.” He sighed. “And while we’re at it, we should also match these numbers up with people on our suspect list. That might give us a lead on who our next target should be.”
Tracy brought up the dialing program on the computer, scrolled down a little to the number she needed, and hit the “enter” key. A rapid dialing sequence came from the U.S. Robotics modem she’d hooked up, followed by the multitone sound of the initial connection as her computer “shook hands” with the computer she’d dialed into.
When the next screen came up, she entered a password. After she pressed the “Enter” key again, another screen came up, asking what she wanted to do next. She scrolled down with the mouse until she found a link that said simply, “Phone Book”. She double-clicked, then sat back to wait for the next page to load.
After a few minutes, she was able to cross-reference the phone numbers she had to numbers she had previously entered the last few times she’d connected. One correlation came up; it was a number in upstate New York, in a small city called Poughkeepsie, about halfway between their present location and the state capital, Albany. It was right on the Hudson River, serviced by the Metro-North trains.
Now all they had to do was wait for the rest of their team to return. It was already a certainty that they were going to Poughkeepsie next. Where they went after that would depend largely on what the twins found out and how it fit in with the information Tracy had just tapped into.
Charlie turned to go make a call, and noticed that Marissa seemed a bit stiff. Concerned, he asked, “What’s wrong, Marissa?”
Tracy turned to look at them as Marissa answered, “Nothing. I spent some time in that place, and never wanted to go back. That’s all.”
“If you want to sit this one out, let me know now.”
She looked up at him, a look of both resignation and determination on her face and fire in her eyes. “No, I’m going. I’ll be okay.”
“All right.” Charlie turned and walked over to the phone. He dialed a number, identified himself and asked for his boss, Martin Rothman. He made his report, rattling off the names and numbers from the mobile phone. Then he told Rothman what he needed, listened for a minute, and hung up. “Now we wait. It’s going to be a little while. Let’s go for a walk, Marissa.”
“Okay. I need to get some fresh air anyway.” She turned toward the Tracy. “you coming, Trace?”
Tracy replied, “Nah, you two go on. I’m gonna fine tune this data and see what else comes up.” She turned back to her computer, and Marissa followed Charlie out the door.
About half an hour or so after Charlie and Marissa left the hotel, they came to a small coffee shop. They went in, sat at a small table and ordered two cups of java. Marissa added cream and sugar; Charlie didn’t sweeten or lighten his.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, just looking at each other and sipping their coffee, Marissa also eating a cheese Danish. Then Charlie said, “I remember you telling me once that your family lives here. Do you want to go and see them? We have time; it’ll take a while to set up the safe house in Poughkeepsie.”
Marissa chewed the last bite of her pastry slowly and swallowed. “No. There’s no need for that. You know the trouble I had with them.”
“That was a long time ago, Mari. Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. I don’t want to see them. Just being here, in this city brings back all the bad memories. Seeing them would only make it worse.”
“All right. We won’t do that.”
They both lapsed back into silence, each to their own thoughts. Marissa’s were anything but pleasant.
When they returned to the hotel, the twins were in Stacy’s suite. They were waiting for the computer to finish processing the data from the GPS system. Roberto let them in after they’d identified themselves, then went back over to the computer and resumed watching the screen.
They followed him over and looked at the computer themselves. Almost immediately, Charlie asked, “What’s up?”
Tracy replied, “Just hang on a minute and we’ll all see.”
A moment later, the screen flashed through a list so quickly that they couldn’t follow it. When it stopped, it read,
*Telephone data Poughkeepsie New York Bella Ciccone multiple contacts*
*GPS location data Poughkeepsie New York Bella Ciccone home address begins Apr 29 1991 ends Apr 30 1991*
*Bella Ciccone heads Dutchess County Department Social Services Child Protection Services*
*Telephone data Los Angeles California Lee Yang home address multiple contacts*
*Lee Yang heads Family Services Los Angeles County*
*Telephone data Tulsa Oklahoma Robert Davies multiple contacts*
*Robert Davies heads Tulsa Child Development Council non-profit organization*
*Telephone data contact Bella Ciccone Lee Yang Robert Davies
April 27 1991*
*Contact minimum five instances within thirty days*
*End data correlation*
Every head turned to look at the team leader. Charlie had on his mission face, showing no emotion whatsoever. After a moment he said, “I guess we won’t know where we go until we finish with Poughkeepsie.” Then he glanced at each of his team members in turn, stopping finally on Marissa. He knew, looking at her, that she was not happy to be going to that mid-Hudson town. She was not happy at all. Especially after being here in New York City.