Shades of Gray

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An Unexpected Turn of Events

EIGHT

Unexpected Turns of Events

The sun lost its battle with a rather insistent storm front and the sky was threatening rain as Cal and Michael’s vehicles arrived one behind the other at 7:00 sharp. Following the scheduled pre-shift briefing, Cal and Michael hunkered down in the commander’s office and prepared for their meeting with the Feds.

“You look like hell,” said Michael pulling files out of his desk.

“Looks who’s talking. Did you even sleep last night?”

“A little,” Michael laughed and crossed over to the crime board Cal had set up the day before. “I went back to the scene after we left here last night. I want to fly something by you.”

“Let’s hear it,” said Cal turning his chair to face the board. He rubbed his tired eyes and took a long drink of his coffee to set his focus.

Michael began rearranging the information on the board. He effective divided the workspace in to two distinct halves. On one side he put the crime scene photos, photos of Andrew Simpson and the Gallo lieutenant linked to him and on the other he began to arrange photos from the St. Regis case in the same configuration. Cal moved to Michael’s side trying to follow the pattern he was laying out. He knew that the St. Regis case had bothered Michael, bothered was apparently no longer the correct term. Lately Michael had been obsessed. As he looked at the cases, now side by side on the board, Cal could still not see why Michael was pairing the two cases.

“You think these two cases are connected?” Cal was too tired to conceal skepticism.

“I went back to the scene last night. I kept playing the facts over and over in my head. Something about the staging of the scene kept bothering me so I went back to walk through it.” He paused to try and put into words what his gut had been telling him. Turning back to the board, he said more to himself than to Cal, “These have to be contract hits. They have to be. These aren’t random killings; there’s a plan, a purpose here. Everything is too neat, too convenient. Who ever committed these two murders has committed others.”

“About 27 over the past eight years as near as we’ve been able to ascertain.”

Two very official looking FBI agents were standing in the doorway of Michael’s office. Looking like poster boys for the FBI, both men were dressed in the standard Bureau dark suits and ties and armed with government issued Glock 23 pistols, discretely holstered on their hips. Trooper St. Louis was trying to get around them so he could enter the office but they had boxed him out of the doorway. The shorter of the two agents thanked St. Louis for escorting them to the office and effectively dismissed him with a ‘thanks’ and as he shut the door on St. Louis, the agent who had spoken walked towards Cal and Michael extending his hand in greeting.

“Special Agent Alex Harmon; this is Field Agent Steve Carson.”

Michael shook hands and motioned for the agents to sit as he moved behind his desk. He didn’t bother to return the pleasantries; he assumed from their smug entry and dismissive attitudes that Harmon already knew everything he needed to know about the officers he’d be working with on this case. There was no need for introductions; Michael could sense that Harmon knew exactly who he and Cal were, down to the smallest personal detail. Cal elected to remain standing and stationed himself to the right of Michael’s desk.

“Your supposition that the two cases are connected is correct,” Harmon remarked dryly as he settled himself into the chair. “I’m very impressed that you were able to pick out the killer’s signature.” Smiling, he added, almost as if to bait the commander, “It’s not something that tends to jump out at most law enforcement officers.” He looked Michael straight in the eye to gage his reaction.

Michael ignored the challenge. If this guy wanted to engage in a pissing contest to determine who the alpha dog on this hunt was, he was going to have to work harder than that. It would take more than snide comments and an over inflated federal ego to unnerve him.

“So we’re dealing with a serial killer?”

The question came from Cal.

“Professional fixer,” answered Carson as he took his seat next to Harmon.

“An operative commonly referred to as a ‘fixer’ or ‘contractor’ hired to fix problems for anyone who can afford the fee,” qualified Harmon who still had his eyes locked on Michael.

“So why don’t you lay things out for us,” Michael began. “What exactly do we have here and how can we help?”

Carson produced three file folders from the folio he had under his arm, handed two case files to Michael, who took one and handed the other to Cal. The files contained crime scene photos and some abstracted background information on the cases that Harmon had referenced moments before.

“Two years ago,” Harmon began, “We received information from a confidential informant that a hit was being arranged on a federally protected witness. The witness, Mr. Wallace Murphy, was hired muscle, well known in and among the organized crime networks. Murphy got picked up in a routine NYPD vice sweep on the lower east side. One of the lead vice investigators recognized the guy from RICO surveillances he had worked and when they started processing the guy, found out he had outstanding federal warrants and reported it to his captain.” Harmon’s face grew animated as he continued his story.

“Now, the local police knew that the guy had been implicated in a dozen assaults and at least two murders of witnesses against two of the better-known crime families in New York and once NYPD confirmed who they had, they set up a meeting with us. Murphy was looking at consecutive life sentences or a date with the needle. Given the world of shit the guy was in, it was easy to get Murphy to agree to turn state’s evidence. We made arrangements to move the witness and the informant to undisclosed locations for their protection until testimony could be given at trial.”

Carson opened the remaining file and tossed several photographs on Michael’s desk. They were photos of Wallace Murphy, the charred corpse that was later identified as the shooting victim of the St. Regis case. The first few photos of Murphy, very much alive, appeared to be surveillance photos taken outside several different prominent New York City restaurants and apartment buildings; the rest were several different angle shots of Murphy talking to a man in front of the cabin where he was killed.

“Six weeks after that second set of photos was taken, Murphy was dead,” Harmon stated flatly.

“ATF was here,” Michael, said as he paired the photos with the case abstract he was looking at in the file. “They signed off’ said it wasn’t their concern, that the tribal and local police departments could handle it.”

“They didn’t know Murphy was a protected witness,” Carson said. “According to our sources, Murphy was trying to double cross us, using us for protection while he negotiated with some European syndicate types. He was playing a dangerous game; if the Gallo’s or the Calebrieses’ didn’t get him, I’m sure the Russians or the Ukrainians would have.”

Cal looked over Michael’s shoulder at the photos on the desk, specifically the photo taken outside the cabin. “The man Murphy’s talking to is….”

“Your stabbing victim,” Harmon finished Cal’s sentence. “And one of our confidential informants.”

“That’s why the IAFIS request was flagged,” Michael hissed. “Simpson was working for you all along.”

“For quite sometime now,” Harmon nodded.

Michael glared at him. “And this is more than a standard RICO investigation isn’t it?”

Harmon smiled smugly. “You live up to your reputation Commander. About five years ago, a rather unusual pattern began to emerge. Persons of interest in various RICO cases began disappearing. At first we didn’t think too much of it. One thing you can count on Organized Crime families to do is police their own; they are very adept at weeding out anyone who could pose a threat to their operations. Periodically bodies would surface; the crime scenes were always the same: secluded but not too secluded, and forensically spotless. Most of the victims were shot at close range; four were knifed to death by someone who knew how. At first we thought that the families were taking out the trash before we could get to them. But that all changed when we began losing informants and deep cover agents.”

“The file that Trooper Montgomery has there,” Carson indicated the folder that Cal had been looking at, “contains the photos and dossiers of seven federal informants and deep cover agents that have been murdered over the past eight years.”

Cal placed the file on the desk with the other. Michael began to sift through the photos.

“Shortly after we set Murphy up in St. Regis,” Harmon continued, “Homeland Security began intercepting information about suspicious activity near the Canadian Border.”

Recently the BCI had coordinated with the tribal police, RCMP and the Department of Homeland Security on several drug smuggling cases. Two had involved the seizure of over 200 kilos of high-grade hydroponic marijuana and three other investigations uncovered a designer drug manufacturing and distribution operation. The drugs seized in the operations had street values in the millions. The groups involved in these cases not only had ties to American organized crime families but to two particularly vicious Russian crime syndicates. These groups were using the remote rural areas in and around the reservation as transit routes because the border in Northern New York was extremely rural and straddled both Canada and the Indian reservation, making it an easy access point.

“Needless to say, we were more than a little concerned to discover that Mr. Murphy was involved, and before we could confront him, he was dead.”

“You have evidence the same “fixer” who killed Murphy was involved in the other cases,” said Michael cuing the agents to continue.

Michael shifted in his chair was Cal moved toward the case board and began repositioning the photographic flow chart. As Cal pinned one of the photos of Murphy and Simpson talking in front of the cabin, Carson picked up the story.

“We believe Murphy didn’t know that Simpson was working for us. He was using Simpson as a kind of conduit for information from the Gallo’s. We assume that Murphy he knew that his life was in danger once the Gallo’s found out he was turning state’s evidence. Once he was under our supervision, he must have started backtracking, trying to cover his connections to the drug smuggling operation and save his ass by playing all of us against each other. Murphy started feed false information to everyone, trying to figure out who had put the contract out on him.”

“Then we got a strange call from Simpson,” Harmon leaned back in his chair. His face grew sterner and more focused as he looked toward the case board and then back at Michael. He nodded to Carson to continue.

“He said that he’d gotten two really strange phone calls; one from Murphy and one from his Bureau contact inside the Gallo organization. Murphy was freaking out when he called Simpson and told him that he needed to see him right away, that both their lives depended on it. On his way to St. Regis, Simpson’s contact got him on his secured cell and told him to be careful, that the Gallo’s had found out where Murphy was and that they were going to take care of him.”

“Did Simpson’s contact identify the killer,” asked Cal.

“The source knew very little, just that the hit was going down and that the Gallo’s had gone to an independent contractor for the hit,” said Harmon.

“By the time Simpson got to the cabin, Murphy was dead. He took these pictures of the scene.” Carson took the remaining photographs out of the folder he had been holding as he related previous events.

Both Cal and Michael were shocked by what they saw. The photographs did not depict a burned out cabin and a charred corpse. They were the type of photos one would expect a crime scene investigator to have taken at a fresh homicide scene. Simpson had documented the crime with efficiency and clarity.

The first photo was of Murphy’s body, lying face down, blood pooling around his head that was turned toward the camera, a distinct hole in his forehead clearly visible. The other photos were of a blood spattered chair and end table that were positioned just behind the body, almost as if Murphy had been seated moments before he was shot. There were drag marks in the blood trail, indicating that the killer had probably been interrupted by Simpson’s arrival. Both Michael and Cal knew that the coroner had discovered an entry wound to the chest at the autopsy so they assumed that the killer must have shot Murphy in the chest as he sat in the chair then finished him off with the head shot. Michael began to shake his head, visibly upset and confused.

“Why weren’t these disclosed during the initial investigation? How did Simpson get these pictures,” demanded Michael. When we were called to the scene, all that was left was a burned out hulk. We assumed that the fire had been set to conceal the crime. Who set the fire? Simpson?”

“Like I told you,” began Carson. “Murphy was trying to warn Simpson about something. While Simpson was in the cabin, he called in on his secured cell to tell us that Murphy was dead. While he was on the phone, he said that something didn’t add up about the scene. He said he got the feeling that something was missing or out of place from the last time he was there. He knew something was off; he just couldn’t put his finger on it. He had just started to take pictures of the rest of the room, then when he heard the oven timer go off. He had just enough time to dive out the door ahead of the fireball that came out of the kitchen.”

“The plan was to get both in one shot,” concluded Michael. “The signature, neat efficient, no trace evidence left behind. Do you think the Gallo’s knew that Simpson was a plant?”

“It’s possible given the fact that now he’s dead,” commented Harmon flatly.

“Well this “fixer must be losing her touch,” snipped Cal. “She missed Simpson at the cabin and left witnesses behind when she finally did get him.”

“She? What makes you think our contractor is a she,” asked Carson.

Michael allowed a self-satisfied smile to spread across his face. He had sat there patiently and let Harmon and his lackey to treat him like a wet behind the ears rookie. Carson was obviously taken aback by the new information; Harmon betrayed no reaction to the disclosure what so ever. He remained calmly poker faced.

Cal qualified his statement. “We have two eye witnesses to the murder who were able to give as a description of the killer.”

The FBI agents looked at each other as Cal continued.

“Two teenagers decided to ditch school and go fishing. The stumbled upon the murder as it was happening.”

“They actually saw the contractor? They can positively ID the killer?” Carson was incredulous.

Cal crossed the room and retrieved his case file from the work space he had set up by the case board. He opened it and sifted through the documents until he found the interview he had taken at the hospital the previous morning.

“Our killer is described as an attractive white female, mid- thirties, long reddish brown hair, and average height. Oh yeah, she apparently has a really nice ass and big boobs.”

“Is that it,” scoffed Carson. “Sounds like my cousin Alice.”

“Sounds more like the description of the body that just washed over the Flume.”

All present turned towards Trooper St. Louis who had just entered the office. The FBI agents and Michael stood up simultaneously, shock and confusion evident on their faces. Harmon’s cell phone vibrated loudly in his jacket pocket. He turned his back to the others briefly to answer it.

“Dispatch just received a call from some tourist taking pictures of at the Flume by the Hungry Trout in Wilmington,” said St. Louis continuing his report. “Said they had climbed down on the rocks to take a better picture of the fall when something big toppled over the top of the Flume. At first they thought it was a log until the body hit the bottom of the falls. There’s a team from the Wilmington satellite station there now securing the scene.”

“Shit.” hissed Cal.

“Guess our contractor hasn’t lost his edge after all.” Slipping his cell phone back into his pocket, Harmon was smiling like the cat that’d just eaten the canary.

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