STAR FINDER

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Chapter 6: The Tower

The medical facilities on the seventh and eighth floors flew by. They included a state-of-the-art surgery and the diagnostics labs.

Nine was pure science fiction, top of the technology curve, and vibrated with surveillance equipment twenty-four seven. There was not a word spoken, a cell phone call made, or a person who walked the streets of D. C. without a piece of equipment in this room having tapped in, captured, and analyzed the event for keywords. One of Nautilus’s tentacles gave them access to their very own satellite. They listened in on the world.

As the elevator jerked to a halt on level ten, Fields’s belly rebounded. This time when he stepped out his scuffed loaves disappeared into the plush pile of royal blue carpeting. Carved mahogany, steel reinforced, double doors faced him at the end of a long hall. Two guards—a man and a woman in full SWAT gear—blocked the way, weapons drawn.

Fields smirked. He could command these people to shoot their spouses, parents, or even each other and they would obey. He was the puppeteer. Yet they still had the balls to stop him. He liked that about their conditioning. Were they testing a similar drug on those kids?

“Weapons, sir.”

A Sig Sauer P229 slid from Fields’ shoulder holster. He bent low and withdrew the knife concealed in his boot.

“Place them in the tray on your right. Remove your clothes. No pens, cell phones, belts, metals, or plastic. No jewelry.”

“When have you seen chains hanging around this neck?” A hand sliced under his double chins. He emptied his pockets, included the nerd report, and then stripped. They let him keep his socks. He had set up these protocols.

“Please step into the body scanner.”

Naked, except for his pink and navy striped socks, he walked in and stood as directed while pale violet lights snaked over his body. His damp jowls glistened. He snagged a tissue.

“Scanning for explosives, chemicals, and biologics,” a nasal computer-generated voice stated. “Clear.”

The female guard edged forward. “Sir please step to the side and stand behind the Low Exposure X-Ray panel.”

After the previous CEO had died when a rival concealed a poison capsule under their skin and served it up during a dinner meeting Fields added the LEXR.

He held his hands above his head, spread his legs, and stood behind the LEXR glass. Declared clean, he wrapped the offered terry robe around his generous body and returned to the hall.

A light over the fancy double doors blinked green and the lock clicked open.

“You may enter, sir.”

“Finally.” Fields dressed more appropriately for a slumber party than a meeting, walked into his boss’s office.

The silk drapes were drawn. He heard them rustle. A barrel-backed brown leather chair sat in a halo of light. Far right the outline of a desk. No other furniture was visible.

Fields sat in the appointed chair.

He heard a rhythmic click-clack on the parquet flood—high heels approaching from across the vast room. All this cloak-and-dagger crap was overkill. He tolerated it for the money, big money. He was more of a smash-and-grab guy.

Eager to deliver his news he uncrossed his legs and leaned forward. The front of his robe fell open.

“Cover that!” Snapped the guard, whose job it was to watch the person occupying the chair.

Quickly, he pulled the edges of his robe in between his hairy thighs and locked his knees together.

“Where are you?” Fields called out.

“Audio off,” ordered the CEO. “Mr. Fields you may speak.”

“We got him! Cosmo. On a routine internet sweep, we intercepted his communications and found his location. He’s living in the U Street corridor east. Between Ninth and Eighteen. I knew he would slip one of these times. Can’t function in this world without the web. The fool was on an open line.”

“I don’t see him in this room.” Words made of ice. “Your announcement is premature.”

“Sorry. I have the general location. He’s close, right here in D. C. Fifty of my men are infiltrating the area as we speak. We have also discovered who and why he is here.”

The CEO repositioned her feet.

“At last a pressure point. It’s one of Cosmo’s friends, Terry Corbett an old army buddy. The guy worked for us briefly in our early years. Wanda is interrogating him.”

“How does he get us closer to Cosmo and the girl?”

“Cosmo needs an electronic component and Corbett is going to tell him he has it.”

“What is it?”

“A revolutionary neuro-nano chip. A gadget that can be implanted. The description was incomplete. Cosmo came to Washington especially for it. He won’t leave without it and it’s vital to his research. There’s some kind of time-sensitive issue.”

“He’s close to a solution then.” This last bit was the CEO thinking aloud. “Continue, Mr. Fields. How have they been communicating without your knowledge?”

“Our cryptologist discovered that they have been sending each other messages hidden in crossword puzzles. The report right is available for your review.”

“Continue.”

“Cosmo’s friend Terry is a cruciverbalist. Several newspapers pay him to write their puzzles. He works a message into the answers to the crossword and Cosmo answers by telling the paper there was a mistake in the puzzle. The paper is obliged to post the corrections. And the correction is his response to his friend. I intend to use the chip as bait. Corbett will tell Cosmo he has the chip and set up a meeting to make the delivery.”

“When?”

“Tonight, at midnight. We’ll track Corbett, set our trap, and spring it when Cosmo arrives.”

“I need the girl. She’s the key to finding the diamond and your primary target. I need her to advance my research. Has anyone seen her? Is she still alive?” The click of shoes moved closer.

“No verified sightings. Terry confessed the chip is for Cosmo’s girl so we can assume she’s still breathing.” Fields dabbed his rubbery rosebud lips. He heard the boss sighed with relief and wondered what’s so damn special about this kid? “Cosmo never leaves the girl alone. We find Cosmo and the daughter will be close by. I had a composite sketch made of what she’d look like at thirteen another of Cosmo to refresh the team’s memory. Each agent has a copy. We’ll hit them from multiple directions. Either my guys covering the streets or the warehouse trap will bag them. They are surrounded. This plan is a sure thing, boss.”

“Remember, the child must not be harmed. Bring her to me damaged and you’ll join her in the dentist’s chair.” There was a sliding sound—a drawer opening and closing. Then a rattle, like a bottle of pills.

“No mistakes. The girl is the key to finding the diamond and Skye. Unimaginable power is within our grasp. Find Lillian Randall!

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