Shades of Gray

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The Cascade Lakes are one of the most beautiful and peaceful places in the Adirondack Park. Carved by glaciers, the lake sits framed by the high cliffs of Cascade, Pitch Off and Giant Mountains, the area is a favorite destination for hiking, rock climbing, canoeing and picnics. The day use area at Cascade Lake offers a quiet, calm that makes it a perfect place to get in tuned with nature, perfect for relaxation and regrouping. Cal Montgomery watched the late afternoon sun reflect off the waters as he turned onto the access road to the day use area. He backed into a space at the far end of the picnic area that gave him a clear view of the access road but shielded his vehicle from immediate notice of anyone driving into the parking area. The last of the day’s visitors gave him little notice as they wrapped up their activities. He watched from his truck as a family of tourists finished packing their belongings into their mini van and pulled out of the parking lot while across at the boat launch a couple secured their kayak to the top of their SUV.

As the SUV disappeared up the access road to Route 9N, Cal got out of his truck and walked toward the small dock that jutted out over the pond. The sun was cradled between the rock cliffs and its bright rays danced over the surface of the water. While her phone call had been a surprise, the choice of meeting place was not; the day use area by Cascade Lake was private enough to avoid anyone happening by and public enough not to arouse suspicion. But Cal knew that wasn’t why Taylor had chosen this particular place. Cascade Lake had been one of their favorite destinations when they were together. They had swum in and canoed on the lake and climbed and camped in the Cascades that surrounded it. Cal leaned up against one of the two ancient trees that stood witness to the beauty of Cascade Lake. As he waited, he tried to relax, looking out at the setting sun between the mountains, a flood of memories washed over Cal. He smiled as he remembered that climbing and camping near Giant Mountain had been their last outing as a couple. He turned at the sound of a vehicle coming down access road and watched as Taylor pulled her Jeep next to his truck and made her way to where he waited.

On some level, Cal had allowed himself some hope that Taylor would call and although he wasn’t expecting her to, he was a little surprised that he felt a strange kind of confusion and exhilaration when she did that afternoon. She had barely acknowledged his presence in the room that night in Michael’s office and neither he nor Michael had been in contact with her since. Against his better judgment, he had kept her movements under surveillance since then. He knew that it wasn’t necessary, that she wasn’t in danger, but he couldn’t help himself. If Michael knew about the surveillance, he said nothing about it. It wouldn’t have made any difference, once he’d seen her in the Commander’s office that night, nothing would have stopped him.

Perhaps that was the reason that after their initial meeting, over a week ago, Michael had called Special Agent Carson and requested that, in the best interests of the investigation, it would be better to limit contact between Taylor and the State Police investigators. Carson had acceded quickly and agreed that it was the best way to protect Taylor’s position inside the Gallo’s organization. Since that time the BCI had heard from Carson twice, simply confirming what they already knew; Gallo had in fact ordered the hit on Andrew Simpson and that the contractor would be meeting with Gallo before the conclusion of his business dealings here.

“Thanks for coming,” she said. Her voice was soft, almost shy, her eyes obscured by dark sunglasses. “I wasn’t sure you would speak with me.”

Cal laughed as he nervously picked some bark off the tree trunk. “What’s that supposed to mean? What makes you think that I wouldn’t speak to you?”

Oh, I don’t know,” she smiled. “I really thought that after my last visit here it would be easier for us to have a conversation but when you skulked off to the furthest corner of my father’s office when I first got here with out as much as a hello? Or maybe because you’ve been content to lurk behind trees and around corners like some sort of teen-aged stalker for the past week!” Her voice was light and musical. “I thought that maybe we weren’t on speaking terms anymore.”

“You knew?” Cal felt his cheeks redden. “How do you know that I wasn’t keeping an eye on your client’s activities?”

“Because Mathew is staying at the Heritage House on the lake and you were watching my balcony across the street, in the Terrace building.” She flipped her hair over her ears and looking at him with her hands on her hips. “I almost invited you to lunch that afternoon I saw you by the Cottage.”

“Ok so you caught me.” He laughed raising his hands in a mock surrender. “I don’t go on many stakeouts anymore. Remember where you are. Current events not withstanding; we don’t usually get a lot of high profile crime in this neck of the woods.”

“Really Cal,” Taylor laughed and playfully shoved him. “That’s no excuse to let your surveillance skills go. You might miss something really important. But now that I think about it, you were never really good at deception were you?”

“Is that why you called T, to critique my surveillance skills?”

Taylor smiled shyly at Cal’s use of the nickname he’d given her. Her reaction pleased Cal; he thought that her recognized the silver chain around her neck as the one he had give her long ago and he started to relax as they fell into a familiar rhythm. It was as if time was slipping away and things were easy between them again.

“It’s not like you had a lot to say to me the last time I saw you.” He was trying to keep the conversation light and casual; but as hard as he tried not to, he knew that there was a trace of hurt in what he said.

Taylor read the hurt in his words. She turned away from him and walked past him and climbed down the split log steps toward the boat landing.

“It was hard enough to be ordered to my father’s office, like a kid being sent to the principal for misbehavior.” Taylor turned and looked back up at Cal, who had stayed where he was, her tone became defensive.

“You know how hard things are for Michael and me. I knew I could deal with him because it was part of my job. Michael and I have never had to push emotions a side, we just deal with each other. I just wasn’t prepared to have to deal with seeing you too.”

“Deal with me?” Cal was surprised that he was suddenly beginning to feel angry at the implication that he was some petty annoyance. He scowled down at Taylor who had moved to stand on a large rock that jutted out into the water.

“Come on T. You dealt with me that night the same way you always have.”

He turned abruptly and stalked off towards the parking lot before he turned back to face her. “You just turned and walked away.”

Taylor made no move to follow him. She stood where she was and took in the hurt, angry expression on Cal’s face. She knew that she deserved that and more for how she had hurt him long ago. Taylor knew he wanted to fight, to put all the unresolved issues and all the unspoken truths from their last encounter out in the open, but she wasn’t going to do it. After a moment, she turned her back on him and running her fingers over her necklace, she stood watching the setting sun dance over the water.

“Shit,” Cal hissed under his breath.

He cursed himself for allowing her to manipulate him like this; by not fighting back, she was forcing his hand, making him go to her. He knew it; she knew it and yet he couldn’t stop himself. He climbed down the log steps toward the sandy boat landing and stared at Taylor standing on the little island of rock. The early shadows creeping across the water seemed to be coming to claim her and she looked as if she might vanish with the setting sun. He walked slowly back on the sand and stopped about three feet from where she stood.

“I’m sorry,” she said. The tone of her voice was hard to read; it was almost as if she were speaking to the lake in front of her. “Maybe I should have called Michael instead.”

“Why did you call T?”

Taylor turned to face him. For a moment, he could see her resolve seemed to falter, that his seemingly innocuous question had rattled her and she quickly looked away towards the water. Safely obscured from his gaze, Taylor fought to put her thoughts in order; as she did, she took a deep breath and slipped into her Special Agent FBI persona. Satisfied that she had everything locked into its proper place she turned again to face Cal.

“Something happened today that set Mathew off. He got a phone call at the show grounds. I think it was from your killer.”

Cal marveled at the transformation; it unnerved him how she could change from one person to another so easily. Her demeanor, her voice, everything about the woman before him now had changed. It was almost like the debriefing with Harmon and Carson. He knew that she would only divulge information she thought the BCI would need. That was standard FBI operating procedure. If he wanted the whole truth, he was going to have to work for it.

“How can you be sure?”

Taylor moved past him and took a seat on the split log steps.

“Because who ever called Mathew had information about the Simpson/Cane murders that only the killer would have.”

“How do you know what the caller told Gallo?”

Taylor pushed her sunglasses up onto the top of her head, pushing the hair from her face. She narrowed her eyes and stared straight into Cal’s face.

“Have you ever heard of the process of ‘cloning’ a cell phone?”

Cal shook his head.

“It’s a process where you can network two cell phones so that one phone can be used to monitor the calls and activity of another phone; it’s the same concept as having an extension line on a house land line.”

Cal nodded understanding. “You mean like being able to listen in on calls on the same line from another room.”

“Exactly,” said Taylor. “I cloned my cell to Mathew’s personal cell phone so I can monitor his movements and his business dealings without arousing suspicion. It also allows me to identify the numbers of his incoming callers, numbers that only the Bureau has the authorization to identify. I wasn’t able to trace the number of the caller. Who ever called Mathew this afternoon has a government secured cell phone.”

“Ok,” said Cal as he began to pace in front of where Taylor sat. “I think I’ve got the whole ‘cloning’ thing.” He stopped in front of her again and looked directly into her eyes. He could tell that she was taking extra care to choose her words carefully, almost as if she was rehearsing what she said before saying it. “Now, tell me the rest. What did you mean when you said ‘your killer? Don’t you mean our killer?”

“For starters, the person who killed Andrew Simpson didn’t kill the woman. Harmon had additional tests run on the samples your coroner took from the body. Ms. Cane’s time of death was about two hours before Simpson was killed.” Taylor let the information sink in then she continued. “The person who killed Simpson didn’t kill Ms. Cane. In fact, the test results indicate that Cane was already on her way down the Au Sable River when your witnesses thought they saw her kill Simpson. It would appear that we are looking for two different killers who may or may not be working together.”

Cal started to pace again. “Two killers? You’re sure?”

“Positive,” Taylor nodded. “Who ever called Mathew told him that he had nothing to do with Simpson’s death. The caller also indicated that there was more going on than Mathew knew.”

“Such as,” Cal narrowed his eyes concentrating on what she was saying and how she was saying it. He didn’t like they way she referred to Gallo by his first name. There was something about it that stuck in his gut. He continued pacing in front of her. “Just because the caller said he had nothing to do with Simpson doesn’t necessarily mean that he killed the woman.”

“We know that she was killed before Simpson. The tests confirm that.” Taylor seemed annoyed that Cal would question her. “He as much told him that the dead man was an informant. Then, from the sound of it, the caller threatened Mathew.”

He stopped and looked up where Taylor was sitting. “Harmon told us that he thought that someone within the Bureau’s investigations might be involved in the murders of undercover agents and operatives.”

“It would appear that we can assume that who ever called Mathew is confirming that possibility,” said Taylor.

Cal didn’t like the tenor of her voice. It made him feel like she was holding out on him. “What am I missing here T?’ He started towards where she was sitting as the threads of information started to converge in his mind. “If there are two killers, you don’t think they’re working together do you?” Saying the words out loud confirmed his feeling that she was indeed holding something back. “You know they aren’t working together. What do you know about Andrew Simpson’s murder?”

She looked away from him quickly and put her sunglasses back before she answered. “I know that whoever killed the Cane woman didn’t kill Simpson.” She got up and climbed back toward the parking area.

Cal took the steps two at a time and followed after her. He caught up to her just as she reached her Jeep and spun her around by the arm to face him. Taylor recoiled from his grasp like she’d been shocked, yanking her arm from his hand.

“How do you know that T,” Cal demanded. “What do you know about Simpson’s murder?”

Both Cal and Taylor’s cell phones began to ring furiously.

“Taylor! Taylor! Where are you?” Megan Gallo was hysterical on the phone. “Daddy’s been in an accident! You’ve got to get here! I’m so scared Taylor! Please come quickly!”

“Calm down. Megan, tell me what’s going on.” Taylor, her eyes panicked, spun around, and ripped open the door to her Jeep.

Megan’s voice was breaking up in to little sobs. “We went up to Grandpa’s camp Daddy was going down to get the boat out so we could go for a ride before the party, like he promised. I forgot to bring my life jacket and he made me get off the boat to go get it.” Megan started to cry hard again. “Then I heard a loud ‘BOOM” and there was fire and stuff!! Taylor, please,” the little girl’s voice pleaded in Taylor’s ear. “Please you’ve got to come. I think daddy’s hurt.”

“Megan, Honey, where’s Margie?” Taylor began to plan and prioritize what would transpire in the next few moments. She could hear the sounds of sirens in the background.

“She’s here with me,” wailed the little voice.

“That’s good sweet heart,” Taylor said trying to keep her voice even and reassuring. “You stay with Margie I’ll be right there.” Taylor snapped her phone shut and turned to Cal, who was still on his phone for the rest of the story. “What the hell is going on?”

Cal put his hand over the mouthpiece of his phone. “There was some sort of explosion at Gallo’s camp. Fire and rescue teams are arriving on the scene now.”

“I’ve got to go,” Taylor climbed into her Jeep. She slammed the door and backed quickly away from where Cal stood. “You have to make sure that we don’t get there at the same time.”

“Cal where are you?” Michael’s voice demanded. “Did you hear what I said? There’s been an explosion at Gallo’s camp. I need you to get there ASAP!”

“I’m on my way Boss.” Cal got into his truck and quickly followed Taylor’s jeep back onto the highway.

He followed close behind her until she veered left up Old Military Road, while he made the slight right past the Horse Show grounds. He knew she was taking this route to ensure that they wouldn’t arrive at the scene together. As soon as her Jeep turned up the hill, Cal hit his truck’s low profile police lights and sped through the outskirts of Lake Placid towards the Peninsula Road that lead to the private camps on Lake Placid.

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