The plot thickens, Mammon fans. You can catch up on any chapters you’ve missed here. Got a comment? Always welcome. Got a friend who’d like the story? Send ’em along. And, as always, thanks for reading.
Bobby Lee watched the blonde walk into the lobby of the Deloitte building at Wacker and Monroe through his hack into the Chicago emergency command center. He’d built a facial recognition match into his software after he’d targeted her at the Route 59 Burlington station a couple days back. She looked like that blond chick Tiger Woods was married to, and that was some hot poontang. He’d heard people saying how they didn’t understand how Tiger could step out on that, but he understood. It was the power of strange. World was full of nookie, man. And the nookie you got, that shit don’t never take your mind of the rest of it, the whole buffet of hot nookie that was just wandering around out there in front of your eyes.
Bobby been part of the team that helped set up the Chicago video surveillance system – the most sophisticated in the world. Thousands of cameras – on lightpoles, on buses, private security cameras networked in. It was on the news now and then, but he figured most Chicagoans just didn’t get it – didn’t understand that a lot of them were on camera every time they stepped outside – or inside, for that matter, if they were anyplace public. Bobby understood it – hell that’s why he’d moved out to Naperville. That Big Brother eyes-in-the-sky shit gave him the willies.
But Bobby knew an opportunity when he saw one, and he just might be the best freaking systems guy in the world. The Emergency Center gig had been his last as a wage slave –he’d built a shit load of back doors into the code, gave him run of the goddamn mill. That’s when he’d gone private. He’d figured there’d be people who pay top dollar for access. He’d figured right. And then the City had come calling. Bobby’s Dad had been a Black GI in the waning days in ‘Nam. His Mom had been a Saigon mattress girl with enough sense to understand that the only good thing that was likely to come out of the war was a ticket to the States. So Bobby’d come squalling into the world in the VA hospital in Chicago, and he’d grown up to understand the racial algebra in the City. Fuck that Cabalasian shit Tiger got away with. You got any black in you, then you’re black. And that meant you’re a minority. And that meant minority contracts. So when the Chicago PD needed vendors for maintenance and upgrades for their ever-growing video system, Bobby tossed his hat in the ring and came out with the big prize. Money was decent, work load was minimal, and it kept him wired in to the max.
He checked his database – couldn’t remember whether he’d hacked anything at Deloitte yet. Yep. Took a bit, but he found the file for employee IDs, ran his JPEG of the blond against the images they had for their security cards and up she popped. Courtney Schilst, senior in the tax practice. Fifteen minutes after she’d walked in the door he had her name, salary, home and cell numbers, the townhouse down in White Eagle and her IP address. Ten minutes after that, he was into her Facebook and Twitter feeds, scrolling through, looking for a hook. Courtney didn’t know it yet, but inside a week, two at the outside, she’d be another notch on Bobby’s belt. Boy had to have a hobby, right?
A warning ping from one of his monitors. Search he was running for Tony Corsco. That Nick Hardin guy, some reporter or something who’d flown in from Africa in the last couple days that Tony wanted run down. A little bit of trouble – guy had at least two sets of ID because none of the hotels or car rental places had popped up a Hardin, but the airlines had. So Lee had his arrival time and the photo from Corsco. All he needed. Tracked Hardin from the gate to the Hertz lot, got the license plate on the white Malibu. Some holes in the system between the airport and the downtown, but Lee had fed the plate number into his system about an hour back and now he had a hit. Car was in the Grant Park garage, toward the north end, so this Hardin guy, he could be at a few places down that way – got the Swissotel, got the Fairmont, got the Hyatt maybe. Fuck that shit. He’d give Corsco the car and the location, and if Corsco came back looking for more, then he goes back on the clock. Ca-ching.
Hardin was on the phone, working on plan B. What he needed was somebody with the contacts and ethics of a French arms dealer. So he picked up a throw-away cell at a Loop Radio Shack and called one.
Pierre Fouche was living the good life in the south of France, but Hardin knew him when he was Ivan Sidorov, just another Spetsnaz refugee looking to make his way in the Legion. Hardin had saved Sidorov’s life, twice.
“Pierre, how’s life in Marseilles?”
“Hardin you bastard. Where have you gone? I have been trying to reach you for days. I had sweet deal cooking in Accra, just needed a body on the ground, and nobody could find you. Then I start hearing stories – a couple of dead Hezzbulah couriers, lots of angry camel jockeys looking for you. You’re in beau coup merde, my friend.”
“Why do you think I’m calling you? You wanna make a buck?”
“Euros, Hardin. Dollars worth as much as used toilet paper. I want to make some Euros.”
“Whatever. Look, I’m sitting on a shitload of raw stones. Had a deal with Stein. You hear about Stein?”
“Of course, and after I heard about this Hezzbulah business, I figured they be fishing your body out of the lake up there any day now. Thought for sure it was a two-fer, and they’d just taken you somewhere to ask you politely where the diamonds were.”
“Guess Stein stepped in some other shit. Anyway, I gotta unload these rocks and get out of Dodge. You got any ideas?”
“Russians like diamonds – mostly like to keep them locked up and off the market, prop the prices up. I still got some contacts there, probably find you a middle man. I’ll be taking a million off the top, just so you know.”
“Wouldn’t trust you if you didn’t.”
“Don’t suppose you want to leave me your number?”
“Nope. I’ll be playing musical phones for the duration. How much time you need?”
“Figure two days. Call me then.”
Hardin hung up. Two days. So stay put or switch locations? You stay put, if somebody’s got a line on you, then you’re toast. You move around you increase your exposure. Hardin figured if the Arabs had a line on him, they would have made their play last night, so for now, stay put.
Marco “Beans” Columbo and Ricky “Snakes” DeGetano sat in a stolen Grand Marquis at the north end of the Grant Park garage eyeballing Hardin’s car. They had Hardin’s picture and a cell number. Soon as they saw him heading for the car, they make the call and this guy shuts the camera down for a couple minutes, that’s what Corsco told them.
Snakes was in charge, Beans was the muscle. Beans was a huge man, better than 320 pounds, at lot of it fat.
“Been down here half the fucking day,” said Beans. “I’m starving.”
“Guy rents a car, eventually he’ll come down to his car. So just shut the fuck up and keep your eyes open,” said Snakes.
Snakes heard a low, liquidy rumble, then the smell hit him. Corsco had dubbed Columbo Beans partly on account of what the fuck else you gonna call a guy named Garbanzo, but also because the guy had an issue with gas.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Beans,” said Snake, buzzing down his window.
“Hey, I got a condition.”
“What you got is you’re hauling like a whole extra person around on account of how you’re always shoveling food in your face. You do that again and I’m leaving your body in the trunk.”
Garbanzo farted again, on purpose.