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Betrayal in Blue

By C. R. Downing All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Mystery

Untitled chapter

Chapter 37

There were two pathways for the walk from the prisoner entrance of the Northeastern Division station to the interrogation rooms. One was as direct as possible and was used for prisoners of little importance. It was also for criminals with the potential to cause disruption, civilian or otherwise, during their transport or incarceration.

The alternative route to the interrogation rooms was long. It meandered through several hallways. It was used for prisoners the arresting officers wanted to show off, or for those they wished to ponder their fate.

Sergeant Edward Edwards sat in interrogation room 4. He’d arrived there via the short route. There had been loud, emotional arguing over that decision among the officers charged with his transport from the jail cell to the station. A vocal minority wanted “the longest walk possible to show off his sorry butt to everyone he betrayed.”

Cooler heads prevailed, but it had taken the assurance that Edwards would enter and leave the Federal Courthouse through a ceremonial blue gauntlet for all criminal action against him.

Edwards was not alone in the interrogation room. Three members of the investigation team assigned to the Departmental Leak Task Force, a group convened after the leak was identified, sat across the table from him.

His lawyer occupied the chair beside him. A tape recorder sat in the center of the table.

The door opened and Noemi Herrera, an assistant district attorney, entered the room.

“Gentlemen.”

Four heads nodded. Edwards was the solitary non-responder.

Herrera took the only remaining chair. Opening her briefcase, she pulled out a file folder. She opened the folder, removed one sheet of paper, and began her presentation.

“Sergeant Edwards, I am prepared to offer you certain immunities to prosecution in exchange for information on your part in this sordid affair.”

Two members of the task force frowned at the words. The ADA, well aware of the opinion of making deals with what anyone considered a traitor to the badge, did not fail to notice their grim expressions. Frown all you want, but if you say a word in opposition to this offer, I will see you in court, and not as witnesses for the prosecution!

“Look this over.” She slid the paper across the table. “If you agree to the terms, we will sign this document after your statement is recorded and the information provided in that statement has been verified.”

“I’ll play ball with you,” Edwards announced his decision without looking at his lawyer, who was reading the offer. The disgraced officer knew that with Brewster dead and his four closest associates out of the way, even if he told all that he knew about the drug operation, little would come of it. However, he also knew that the drug traffickers never forgave someone who talked to the police. “I want a guarantee that the time I have to serve will be as part of a witness protection package.”

This time, ADA Herrera frowned. As the most experienced member of the District Attorney’s staff, she had handled such requests before. Her office believed that Edwards’ testimony could lead to dismantling of the city’s drug trafficking infrastructure. Even though she was prepared to go as far as needed to obtain the testimony her office sought, she pretended to consider multiple angles before responding to the request.

“I’ll see what I can do.” Herrera chewed each word before uttering it. “We might be able to work something out, after what you provide is verified.”

Now that was a performance, Ms. Herrera. We both know that you’ve got pretty much carte blanche with this were the thoughts of Jeff Ellerbe, the Assistant Chief of Police, MPD’s highest ranking member of the task force.

“I’m not worried about verification,” Edwards said. He motioned toward the tape recorder. A Task Force member pushed the RECORD button. Eddie began his tale.

“I was first approached by a man. I found out later that he worked for Sidney Brewster. That was about two years ago. He offered me quite a sum of money—”

“Not good enough!” the ADA interrupted with a slap at the tape recorder’s OFF button. “I get specifics: names, dates, places, amounts, or you get squat—nada! If you expect immunity and protection, or either of those gifts, you will deliver far more than the generalities you’ve just tried to pass off as testimony. Is that clear enough for you?”

Edwards looked at his lawyer. At the nod of affirmation from the attorney, Edwards nodded to Herrera and began his revised recitation.

“I was first approached by a Richard Elkhart about two years ago. I later learned that he worked for Sidney Brewster. He offered me twelve hundred dollars per month in exchange for what he called ‘informational favors.’ It soon became obvious that the offer was syndicate-connected.”

You got twelve hundred dollars per month? That’s almost half a uniformed officer’s salary flashed through the mind of more than one task force member.

“How’d you determine that the Syndicate was involved?” was the ADA’s next question.

“It was a hunch,” Edwards admitted. “I guess became obvious is a little strong.”

“Then, what was your hunch based on? You provide proof of syndicate involvement, and that launches a full-scale investigation at several levels,” the Assistant Chief said. “Your deal gets sweeter. Right, Ms. District Attorney?”

“That’s not an uncommon occurrence.”

“Okay. I figured the syndicate was behind the offer mostly because of the kind of information that they were interested in. It was all drug stuff.”

Members of the task force sighed. Their shoulders sagged. Edwards had been a desk jockey for so long he was unaware of the vast number of non-syndicate people that would be willing to pay for information about drug raids and the like. His hunch about Syndicate involvement was just that, a hunch.

“I have one more thing,” Edwards said when he detected lagging interest in his information.

“We will listen, but this had better be more substantial than what you’ve given us so far,” Herrera warned.

“There’s somebody up the admin ladder that gets the copies. Not only that, but I’ve been called with instructions on more than one occasion by someone who’s altering their voice.”

An altered voice could be anyone shot through the ADA’s mind. How’d this character ever make Sergeant?

“Duly noted. Please continue,” Herrera continued in a more respectful tone than she wanted to use.

Fifteen minutes later they switched off the recorder. Two uniformed patrolmen were waived in as prisoner escorts. Two other officers joined them in the hallway. As Edwards was led away, the Sergeant’s lawyer prepared to leave, too.

“Whom should I contact about the new identity?” he asked.

We will contact you after we verify Sergeant Edwards’ information,” the ADA responded with a tap of the tape recorder.

Edwards’ lawyer nodded. He started to make a comment about alacrity in the matter but thought better of it. In the face of the overwhelming evidence against his client, any break Edwards got would be a godsend.

* * *

Another hastily compiled group assembled in interrogation room 4. The agenda was the reinstatement of Sergeant Franklin Stallings. The group was a panel of Stallings’ peers and one MDA administrator. As in the Edwards hearing, the administrator present was Assistant Chief Ellerbe. That fact did not go unnoticed.

“Sergeant, your conduct was both unprofessional and criminal. Under ordinary circumstances, we would have no choice but to recommend prosecution to the District Attorney’s office.” The Assistant Chief delivered his statement as unemotionally as one would order a burger and fries at a drive through window.

I don’t like the way this is starting, Stallings thought. He was hoping for something besides guilt by association.

“However, it has come to the attention of this panel that you have been involved in a significant capacity in the plugging of this department’s information leak. In fact, I have in my possession a passionate plea from a former police officer on behalf of leniency.”

Stallings was about to speak when the Assistant Chief nodded to the patrol officer standing as sentry just inside the door. She returned the nod, opened the door, and motioned to someone in the hallway.

Phil Mamba walked through that door.

In less than half an hour, the former MPD lieutenant described his search for Stallings. He also accepted a significant share of the responsibility for Stallings’ failure to turn himself into the department. The conclusion to his presentation was an admission that he had “knowingly and willingly” harbored Stallings in his own home.

After informing Mamba that charges against him were under consideration, discussion by the panel was brief, although at times heated. The panel’s final recommendation was the reinstatement of Sergeant Stallings with only a letter of reprimand in his file.

Stallings’ suspension for unauthorized absence was itself suspended. The panel’s feeling was that his contribution to the ultimate solving of the problem of the information leak was significant enough to allow for the forgiving of the transgression of going AWOL. The fact that he’d been working on the case during much of that time helped sway the naysayers.

“I’m afraid we have one more agenda item.” The statement by the Assistant Chief shot a huge hole in Stallings’ feeling of relief at the panel’s rulings.

“I have received correspondence from the Chief of Police in—” Ellerbe placed his reading glasses on his nose and peered at the document in the only open file folder before him. “Ah, yes. Illiana, Indiana is the site of origin of this document.

I can’t believe they’re dredging up that faux-drowning incident.

After a snort of impatience, the Assistant Chief removed his glasses and closed the file.

“Here is it in a nutshell. Although a complaint against then Officer Stallings was filed years ago, the witness in Indiana who’d filed the complaint about her testimony being leaked to the press admitted she’d sent that information to the media herself. She wanted to have her fifteen minutes of fame. But, fearing she’d become just another witness in the case, she sent a summary of her testimony to the press anonymously and blamed you. Is that about right, Sergeant?”

“Right on the money, sir.”

“Well, Illiana sent a revised page for insertion into your personnel file.” Ellerbe pulled a single sheet of paper from the folder.

Stallings stiffened.

“Sergeant Franklin Stallings, I am happy to announce that what was the single blemish on your record is on longer on your record. As far as all are concerned, there never was a complaint filed against you.” He handed the page to Stallings.

“Thank you, sir.” Stallings relief was evident. “Is this mine to keep?”

“It is,” the Assistant Chief answered. He added with a wink, “Don’t worry, I made a copy.”

* * *

Mike Mulligan was no longer in any variation of the ICU in Memorial General Hospital. He’d been moved one step down, as Erin Reilly called his new room. There were fewer pieces of equipment. Now the room included a small table and two chairs.

Mamba sat across the table from his former partner. Martinez sat on the foot of the hospital bed. Stallings leaned up against the wall behind the PI.

“I tell you, Mike, you should have seen the look on the Captain’s face. It was priceless.” Mamba included gestures and his impressions of the Abbott’s facial expressions as ended his description of Sergeant Edwards’ demise.

Es seguro. I was particularly glad to see his reaction since I was acting solely on the report of my compadre, Gumshoe Mamba,” Martinez said.

Okay, Serpiente, that’s your weekly allotment of the gumshoe grace flitted through Mamba’s mind. Oblivious to, or intentionally ignoring his verbal faux pas, the Latino continued.

“If there had been no second copy drum, I’d be in the nuthouse as being loco en mi cabeza.”

Mulligan’s confusion was evident.

Lo siento—I’m sorry, Lieutenant. When I’m on a roll, I sometimes speak in what I’ve heard called Spanglish.”

“Yeah, Lieutenant. Most of us can’t follow his conversation half the time. I know I can’t, and I’m his boss.” Stallings ducked as a crumpled paper cup flew past him. He straightened up. “Now, if I might continue—”

“I have an announcement,” Martinez blurted. He swallowed and licked his lips. “I want to invite you all to my wedding.” His next words tumbled out upon each other like spastic acrobats in an unrehearsed routine. “It’ll be next month. Will you be well enough, Lieutenant? Please say you’ll all come.”

“Slow down,” Stallings laughed. “I’m assuming you’re marrying the nurse. Right?”

“Erin Reilly,” Martinez spoke her name in reverential tones. “She’s beautiful, and she works in this hospital.”

He’s really stricken with Erin. Mamba thought as he watched the Latino melt while describing his fiancée.

“We know. And, I think I speak for Mamba and me when I say we’d be honored,” Stallings answered.

“Will go. No, um, come I,” Mulligan promised. “Need I, uh, excuse be out sick place.”

“I think you mean ‘reason,’ not ‘excuse,’” Mamba corrected and immediately berated himself for correcting his friend’s use of words. He knew Mike was giving it his best shot. “On second thought, considering this involves Martinez, maybe excuse is the best choice.”

“In spite of your last comment, Gumshoe, I think you need to finish our story on how we solved the leak.”

“Two Gumshoes in one week. I believe that qualifies me to use my, how’d you put it? Oh, yeah, I get to use mi español de gringo. Sí?

“I forgot,” Martinez admitted. “But you’ve got to cut me some slack here. I’ve just invited you to my wedding. And more than that even, I want you to finish one of your stories.”

“Ask me again.”

“Huh?”

“Will you finish your story about how you and Martinez solved the leak?” Stallings asked, taking pity on his underling.

“I thought you’d never ask,” Mamba said with an enormous grin. “The copy machine was rigged so that every copy made could be copied twice. Holding down the copy button instead of just pushing it activated a series of mirrors. Those mirrors reflected an image of the original onto the second drum in the base of the machine.”

Mulligan nodded before admitting, “I don’t know what say about, but good be in, um, part of, talk.”

“And it’s very good to have you in this conversation,” Stallings said.

“Not to split hairs, here, but, I was supposed to be allowed to finish my story,” Mamba reminded them.

Stallings bowed and gestured for him to continue.

“Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yes. The repairman came at least weekly and removed the extra copies from the second copier. The unknown copies were leaked the same day the repairman harvested them. Edwards simply phoned in a false repair order when desired information was available.”

“The same model copy machine is in all the other divisions in town,” Martinez interrupted. “When the company’s service van was searched following his arrest, our Johnny-on-the-spot repairman had copies from the two other divisions. The repair company worked its scam by offering the copy machines below cost and the service contracts dirt cheap.”

“How could they afford that kind of deal?” Stallings asked.

“We don’t have an answer for that,” Mamba admitted. “It’s a loose end. I don’t like loose ends. I wish I knew what Edwards had to say after his arrest.”

“I think that could be arranged,” Stallings said.

“Just make a copy for him,” Martinez suggested with a billowing laugh. He had no idea he’d stolen Assistant Chief Ellerbe’s punch line.

Mamba rolled his eyes.

Stallings grimaced. He knew he’d be hearing variations on that line for months.

Mulligan smiled crookedly during his thoughts. Those sounds, no, words, words are laugh words.

* * *

“Eddie was in pretty deep,” Stallings stated the obvious.

The trio of visitors to Mulligan’s room had reconvened in Sergeant Stallings’ office after their visit to the hospital. The men were reading a copy of Edwards’ statement by rotating pages between them. Stallings was the first to comment on what he’d read.

“And Brewster was a bigger fish than I thought,” Martinez added.

Mamba continued reading.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to worry whether a copy of this transcript is already out on the street,” Stallings’ said.

Martinez nodded.

Mamba continued reading.

“Okay, Gum—, um, Dancer, what’s stuck in your gizzard now?” Martinez asked.

“There’s got to be someone higher than the division level involved in this whole business,” Mamba said ignoring Martinez’s successful non-use of the term gumshoe. “I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t think I’m beating a dead horse here. Look. According to Edwards, the copy machine service contracts, they’re citywide.”

“You’re on thin ice now,” Stallings warned. “Your implication is collusion from the Chief’s office. Those contracts came from there. Rogers is highly admired around town. Besides, I know what it’s like to be convicted based on implication and innuendo. I’m getting sideways looks from some of the uniforms.”

“I don’t like it any more than you do. But I have to stick with the fact that Chief Rogers, or someone close to him, appears to be implicated. I think his office should be subject to investigation, like you were. And, although this might just be pettiness on my part, where was the Chief at your hearing, Stallings?”

“He is the Chief of Police,” Martinez said. “My guess is that he felt it more important to be seen as impartial in a decision of that magnitude.”

“Could be,” Stallings mused. “Anyway, Phil, we can’t help you with this. If you investigate the Chief, you’ve got to do it without any active police help.”

“I know. The last thing I want is for either of you two to get in trouble, again. Especially if I’m hiking the wrong trail.” Mamba went to the door of Stallings’ office where he turned and faced the others.

“Thanks for the access to Edward’s statement.”

Stallings’ nod of acknowledgement was the only response.

* * *

It was late evening. Hope and Phil Mamba were lounging in their living room. The Stallings were back in their own home. The TV was off. There was no music on the stereo. Jimmy was asleep. Surprisingly, there were no thoughts of the evening becoming a romantic interlude. Taken as a whole, the situation was most uncommon in the Mamba household.

“Tell me again where Chief Rogers went after Detroit,” Phil asked Hope to repeat information he’d had her read to him. He was tilted back in his recliner. His eyes were closed as he visualized his thoughts.

“Detroit for three years; a year in Indianapolis. Then four years in St. Louis. Then here.” She retraced the police official’s route to his current assignment as she read from old newspaper reports her husband had photocopied.

“Wait a minute,” Mamba exclaimed as he sat up. “Where was the Chief just before he came here?”

“Like I said twice already, St. Louis.”

“Stallings’ file was altered coming out of St. Louis.

“You suspect Chief Rogers of involvement with the syndicate just because two men worked in the same city once?”

“I know it sounds like that when you—”

“When I repeat what you say,” Hope finished.

“Okay, it’s possible that’s my reasoning,” Mamba hedged. “Oh, I don’t know. I might be grasping at straws. There seems to be something going on beneath the surface of this whole thing.”

“How early can you be ready in the morning?” she asked as she picked up the phone book and began to flip through it.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m going to book your flight to St. Louis,” she answered without looking up. “You’re already there mentally, anyway.”

“I love you,” he told her and kissed her cheek. “First flight you can get me on Sunday afternoon. I want to go to church as a family.”

* * *

Mamba’s flight from LAX to St. Louis was uneventful. As he’d asked, Hope booked an afternoon flight. He arrived at his destination Sunday night.

He took a cab to a hotel within walking distance of the SLPD central office building. He checked in and called home. After talking to Jimmy and Hope, he flipped on the television and watched a newscast and Johnny Carson before he turned in.

The next morning found the PI in the St. Louis Police records’ tomb. It had taken a call to Sergeant Stallings who’d had the Assistant Chief of MPD clear Mamba before he was granted access to the room. He’d been told, repeatedly, that all documents were eyes only.

“Can I take notes?” he asked.

“We’ll have to read them before you’re allowed to leave with them. We have surveillance cameras in this room, so please don’t try to beat the system or some other stupid maneuver.”

“Understood.”

He spent the morning looking for something that might give him an idea of how to get to the pathway he was sure existed.

Lunch was a welcome break. As he waited on his order of toasted ravioli and salad, he furiously jotted remembered items in his notebook. Before returning to the records tomb, he dropped the notebook off in his hotel room. He asked the front desk to extend his stay. Then he used the house phone to change his departure flight to late Tuesday afternoon.

At 4:30 p.m., Mamba ran his fingers through his hair in an attempt to push the fatigue from his brain. The stuffy interior of the windowless room and the long day he had spent there had taken their toll on his mental alertness, and his confidence. He was less sure than ever of what he was looking for.

He studied the single scribbled note he had jotted down while in the room during the six-hour search. The only irregularity in Rogers’ tenure, if you could even call it an irregularity, was that the St. Louis Police Department had switched special courier services after Rogers had become Assistant Commissioner. Not much to show for a long day.

He sighed and turned to the final page in Rogers’ file. It listed the last day of his service. Also noted was the day and time that a Sergeant Charles Drummond had released the Assistant Commissioner’s file to the Security Express courier service for transport to his new assignment as Chief of Police in Manzanita, California. Handwritten onto that page of the file was the pickup time, 1115 hours.

With a gesture of disgust, he closed the file. He jotted down the time of the transport as his second, and final, notation. It was time to go. Tomorrow he would check out the courier service. I’ve come all the way to St. Louis. I might as well give it my best shot.

He dropped off Rogers’ file at the desk in the records lobby. He showed the single page of his notebook that contained his two notes. The Records Sergeant shrugged at what he considered innocuous notations and handed the notebook back.

“Long day for only that,” he said.

“Don’t I know it! Thanks for your help.”

The PI stepped outside into the late afternoon sunlight and shivered at the chill in the air. He could see the Gateway Arch as he walked to his hotel. While he admired the architecture, he could not understand why anyone would want to go to the top of such a structure.

In his hotel room, he called Hope and told her about his change in flight plans. He could tell she was disappointed, but she did her best to be a trouper. After dinner, he walked the downtown streets while he tried to think of what he might discover at the shipping company. By the time he was ready for bed, he had only a tiny shred of confidence that the additional time he’d booked in The Gateway City would pay off.

* * *

Mamba checked his suitcase into stored luggage at his hotel. He asked the desk clerk for directions to Security Express’s central warehouse. He stood at the front counter of the delivery company trying to explain what had to be considered a most unusual request.

“I am working with the Manzanita, California, police.” That’s true, just not for what I’m going to ask. “What I want is permission to look at the driver’s log for a run that included a stop at a police station here in St. Louis on August 11, two years ago.” Mamba tried to make his lame request sound legitimate.

“Now, that’s interesting. Do you know that we are the exclusive delivery company for the police here in St. Louis?”

“Wow. That is interesting,” Mamba said. It’s also the only reason I’m here, young lady.

“I’m afraid the best I can do is give all the log records for the month of August,” the girl behind the counter apologized. “We consolidate everything by month at the end of each fiscal year.”

“I’ll take it. My plane doesn’t leave until this afternoon anyway. Thank you.” As he carried a stack of oversized binders to the only table in the visitors’ area of the office, a memory of his father past surfaced in his mind. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. He smiled.

The longer he stared at the mass of times, destinations, and initials, the more he thought that maybe a sharp stick in the eye isn’t nearly as bad as Dad made it sound. And, the more convinced he became that he was headed down a dead-end street.

What the counter girl had neglected to include in her explanation was the Security Express definition of consolidate. The records he was perusing consolidated the entire Midwest region’s pick-ups and deliveries—by month. But the daily logs for August were a chaotic stack of days and times stored in four files, one for each week of the month.

He turned another page in the second thickly bound volume and allowed his finger to drift slowly down the columns. He found he now had to force himself to read each line of each page of entries.

“Envelope, 1 Manila – SLPD Main Precinct Station – 3:35 PM.” The entry was initialed, W.K.

That was the only entry from the SLPD’s Main Precinct for August 11. It looked like he had drawn a blank on that date, too. He flipped to the next page.

He sat bolt upright. In his haste, he fumbled his notebook as he pulled it from his shirt pocket, finally trapping it against his stomach.

He took a quick look around to reassure himself that no one had seen his slapstick action. Satisfied that he had no audience, he opened the small, black book. He turned to the last page of entries.

“Records out at 1115 hours – Drummond,” he muttered aloud.

“Bingo!” That line was the notation closed out Roger’s SLPD file. According to official records, the Desk Sergeant had checked the file out of the station in the late morning, but the courier service had no official record of its arrival in their hands until mid-afternoon. I’ve just found over four hours of time for that file that are unaccounted for by either sender or carrier.

He considered possible explanations for the discrepancy.

The courier, W.K., could have neglected to log the package by mistake. Maybe, but couriers can’t afford errors in data entry. Big money depends on accurate records if a client tries to recover losses to an alleged mistimed pick-up or delivery.

Drummond, the Desk Sergeant, could have logged the time incorrectly. Not a chance. The Desk Sergeants at MPD are notoriously accurate people. Accurate to a degree that dismays those working with them.

I think I just found the smoking gun!

He lugged the four bound files back to the counter.

“Can I get a copy of one page?” he asked.

“I’ll be happy to copy it for you. Which page is it?”

Mamba showed the page he’d marked by stuffing his hand into the binder. She nodded, made the copy, and handed it to him. He thanked the woman and headed back to his hotel.

* * *

After retrieving his suitcase from the luggage storage area, Mamba sat in the hotel lobby ostensibly waiting for a ride to the airport. What he was actually engaged in was completing a mental game. A little steel ball representing Police Chief Rogers was approaching the latest hole in the cardboard clown’s head.

He went to the front desk and changed two one-dollar bills into quarters. Then he entered the phone booth in the lobby.

He pulled open the phone book that was attached to the booth by a snake-like steel cord. He found the Yellow Pages and flipped through to the “C” pages. His eyes followed the tip of his index finger down the page until it touched the heading, “Copy Machine Rental, Leasing, Service.”

He dropped in a quarter and dialed MPD’s Northeastern Division number.

“The rate for this call is thirty cents per minute. Please deposit coins to cover the expected length of your call.”

Mamba pushed his remaining seven quarters into the slot on the payphone.

It took over one minute to connect to Franklin Stallings. After explaining what he wanted, he calculated he had, at best, a little more than a minute-and-a-half left, and Stallings was stalling!

“Frank, will you just please do what I ask?”

“You know I shouldn’t be even talking to you about this,” the Sergeant said. But, he put down the phone and scattered papers all across his desk as he searched. He located the page with the information Mamba had requested and picked the phone up.

“Frank, you still there?” That’s the fifth time I’ve asked that question. Come on. Come on! “I’ve only got maybe half a minute left on my quarters!”

“Patience is a virtue, one which you are severely lacking.”

“Did you find the company name or not?”

“Gar-Mar, Incorporated,” Stallings read off the paper.

Mamba scanned the listed service providers in the still-open phone book. He saw that name on the page.

“Bullseye!”

“Not that I’m all that interested, but when are you going to tell me why the company that owns the copy machine distributorship is so important?”

“As soon as I get back there. Remember this is long distance call. If I were you, I’d write up a file cover for Chief Rogers. I’ll be shocked if IAD isn’t interested in what I’ve got.”

“Please deposit an additional thirty-five cents for one additional minute of time,” the mechanical operator’s voice intoned.

Dancer hung up.

“What are—” Stallings stopped. He was talking to the dial tone.

* * *

Guillermo Arcenas spoke slowly and distinctly into his office phone. It wasn’t that he was fearful of being misunderstood. He wanted to be certain that the recipient of his call was aware of the significance of his words.

“It is my understanding that a Rick Elkhart has assumed control over Brewster’s remaining assets. I want that verified and a plan for his elimination in my possession within the week.”

“I think that’s doable.”

“You’d better do more than think about it.”

You pompous, manipulating egomaniac. I’ll be glad when you’re out of my hair! In spite of her mental berating of the man, the following words were the ones Petula Jacobs spoke to Arcenas.

“You’ll have what you want.”

“See. That wasn’t so hard, was it? What’s the status of our disposable asset?”

“All they’re waiting for is a time to finish him when the widest net of suspicion will be cast.”

“I like that strategy, but remind them that they have a deadline.”

I’ll bet you’re pretty proud of that play on words. Don’t quit your day job. “I’ll get a hurry-up order to them today via the prisoner delivery driver.”

“Whatever it takes. You have until the end of the week.”

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