More MAMMON? You want more MAMMON? You greedy bastards. But OK, live to serve. Chapter 26 is good to go. And, if you’re new to the proceedings or just need to catch up, you can download all 26 chapters right here. And hey, thanks for reading.
“Nice place,” Lynch said. He and Bernstein shaking hands with Perez at the new Aurora PD headquarters. Bright, airy, lots of windows, more like some corporate HQ than a cop shop.
“Yeah,” said Perez. “Just moved in a month or so back. You don’t get the nice digs in the city?”
“Asbestos, lead paint, 70s linoleum,” said Bernstein. “All the modern conveniences.”
Perez wound them through the building back to Jenk’s station. The IT guy. Black slacks today, expensive looking white shirt, some kind of linen thing, but without the wrinkles. Jenks walked them through what he had.
“First, you gotta understand we’re going to be pulling this apart for months,” said Jenks. “Didn’t have a ton up on his system, looks like just whatever he had cooking at the time, but he was a bitch for backups. Had a floor safe, pretty high end piece we had to have cut to get into. Backups going back three years. Just scratched the surface on those.” Jenks pulled out a file from a drawer, set it on the desk. “Start of an inventory in there. He had the backups sorted by the name of the subject he was tracking.”
“OK,” said Lynch. “What about these shots of Hardin?”
“He had three Hardin files,” said Jenks, “and pretty much the same stuff in all of them. So he had three customers interested in the guy, and he was just reselling the intel.”
“Can you tell who the customers were?” Lynch asked.
“I can tell where he sent the stuff,” said Jenks. He clicked at his terminal for a minute. “OK, here’s customer number one. G-Mail account in the name of John Smith, so that’s bullshit, right? But I looked at the IP addresses where this account pulled down the info. You got a few outliers, but mostly you get the Starbucks downtown at Wells and Madison and you get another Starbucks up in Highland Park.”
“Ringwald,” said Lynch.
“Sorry?” said Jenks.
“Corsco’s lawyer. His office is on Wacker maybe a block from that Starbucks, and he lives in Highland Park. Any way we can tie it to him more directly?”
Jenks shrugged. “You have to assume it’s a laptop, since he’s moving around. If he still has it, then yeah, I can probably tie it in to his box. If he’s dumped it, then it’ll be tough. I mean unless he’s a dumb fuck, paying his Boingo account with a credit card in his name or something.”
“OK,” said Lynch. “Who else you got?”
“Customer number two, the first few hits were in Juarez, so you have to figure that’s Hernandez. Then those start bouncing around. Picked up mail here in Aurora a couple of times, a couple spots in Chicago, all around here. They’re sticking to public access, too, so I can’t give you an address to hit.”
“Same deal?” asked Lynch. “We catch them with the laptop, we can tie them in?”
“Yeah,” said Jenks. “OK, so, customer number three. This guy’s picking up his mail all over the 19th arrondissement.”
“Where is that?” asked Lynch.
“Paris,” said Bernstein. “The Arab quarter, actually. Where they had the riots back in 2005.”
“So that’s our Husam al whatthefuck, our Al Queda guy.”
“Or his handler,” said Bernstein.
“Or his handler’s cutout,” said Jenks.
“Any of these guys do business with Lee before?” asked Bernstein.
Jenks nodded. “All of them, actually. Something else I wanted to show you.” Jenks clicked away for a minute, opened a file, series of pictures of Stein. Leaving his home, leaving his office, parking at the Stadium. “Those went to your Paris guy two weeks ago.”
Little snort from Lynch. He picked up the file, started running down the list of names, looking for anything he recognized. Wideout for the Bears that just got his ass handed to him in a divorce, real estate developer everybody thought had the Block 35 deal downtown tied up, then he lost the deal to an out-of-town player, and Mike Lewis.
He showed the list to Jenks. “Can you pull up what you got on this Lewis guy?”
“Sure,” said Jenks. “Sounds familiar.”
“County board race last year,” said Bernstein. “Remember, that Kroger guy inherited the seat when his old man keeled over after the primary? Got a little carried away on the patronage shit, even by Cook County standards? Lewis was the good government guy that looked like he was going to win the primary, right up until he dropped out a week before the election.”
“Right,” said Jenks, scrolling down his screen, clicking on this and that. “Real mysterious. Family issues or something.”
“That’s the guy,” said Lynch.
“OK, here we go,” said Jenks. Lee had the file set up as a slide show. Lewis leaving his townhouse in Printer’s Row, hailing a cab. Couple shots of the cab, tracking it through town, Lewis getting out of the cab at Belmont and Broadway, Lewis walking north and west. Lewis ducking into The Steam Room. Maybe an hour later, Lewis coming back out, another guy with him, the two of them walking a bit west before picking up another cab, the cab dropping them off at the Marriott on Michigan.
“What’s that about?” asked Jenks.
“Steam Room’s a gay bath house,” said Lynch. “Lewis is Mr. Family Man, some kind of deacon or whatever at one of the black churches. Looks like he was playing on the down low. Hurley, Kroger, or probably one of their guys, they put the eyes on him, knocked him out of the race.”
Silence for a second, that sinking in.
“How many files does he have?” asked Bernstein.
“Haven’t cataloged everything yet,” said Jenks. “So far, better than three hundred.”
“Fouche has been back in contact,” said Bahram Lafitpour, leaning back in the leather chair in his office. Alex Martin sat across the desk.
“And Hardin has figured out your plan. You were a little early, involving the press. He caught some of the,” Lafitpour paused a moment, as if searching for the right word, “the blather on the radio yesterday. That’s what tipped him off.”
Martin blew out a breath. “I don’t suppose you have any line on his location?”
Lafitpour smiled one of his thin predatory smiles. “Me, a simple businessman and you with the full resources of the United States at your disposal, and you’re wondering if I have found him?”
“No.” said Lafitpour.
“What does Hardin want?”
“He wants in,” said Lafitpour. “But the price has gone up.”
“Gone up to what?”
“Faust says the diamonds are worth one hundred million, but with the United States now as the buyer, and with the buyer’s motives being, I believe “impure” was the exact word, they expect full face value.”
“And,” said Martin, “I don’t suppose that’s something you want to bankroll.”
Lafitpour smiled again. “At ten million, it was a profitable venture. Now, it is a huge risk with no upside. I will stay in for my original ten, provided my agenda is addressed.”
“The Iranians,” said Martin.
“Sticky situation for me,” said Martin. “I can’t exactly go to the State Department and ask for the funds.”
“My network in the circles from which such funds would come is, perhaps, more developed than yours,” said Lafitpour. “I will make some calls.”
“OK,” said Martin. “When do they want to know?”
“Faust said they would be in touch.”
“Cultural attaché?” asked Hardin. When he’d known Foucalt back in his Legion days, the man’s tastes had run to AC/DC and porn. Midday, they were in a dark, mostly empty bar in Sturgeon Bay.
“Have you been observing popular culture?” asked Foucalt. “Even I, sometimes, am aghast.”
“Chicago consultate’s a little tame for you, though, isn’t it?” Foucalt had been a DGES operative for thirty years and had worked with Hardin on a couple African situations that required shooters. Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, he’d always been a sharp-end-of-the-stick guy.
“The passions cool,” said Foucalt. “Retirement beckons. A few years tracking funding sources here in the US, a decent posting with a soft bed, a handsome allowance and good restaurants instead of another shithole. And then I hear and old friend wants to talk. And old friend who’s been causing quite a stir in certain circles.”
“I was wondering if maybe you guys would like in.”
“You’ve slapped a target on your back for Al Queda and a sociopathic Mexican drug lord, and you’re wondering if I want in?”
“Perhaps I should explain,” Hardin said. He filled Foucalt in from the beginning.
Foucalt sat for a long moment, holding Hardin’s gaze. “This mystery shooter, .22s you say?”
“Yeah,” said Lynch.
“And this refugee he shot, he was from around Kanema?”
“Yeah,” said Lynch.
Foucalt paused. “Do you know who this guy is?”
“No,” Hardin said.
“Husam al Din,” said Foucalt.
Hardin’s turn to pause. He knew the name, knew the reputation. “OK,” he said. “That sucks.”
“Maybe. Maybe also good news for you. Him we want,” said Foucalt. Husam al Din had taken down a number of targets in France, and also three DGSE agents that Hardin knew of.
“So?” Hardin said.
Foucalt put his hand across the table. “So a soft bed, good restaurants, and a little excitement. We’re in. Any first steps?”
“I was thinking you could arrange to have some movies taken.”
“Of course,” said Foucalt. “I am, after all, the cultural attache.”
Hardin left Foucalt in the bar, walked across the street to where Wilson was waiting in the Honda.
“And?” she said.
“He’s in,” said Lynch.
“Great. The French cavalry. The Charge of the Light Birgade.”
“That was the English,” said Hardin.
“Or the Maginot Line,” said Wilson.
“That’s French,” said Hardin. “But it’s not cavalry.”
“I was focused more on how well both of those turned out.”
“There’s that,” Hardin said.