Got a busy weekend coming up peeps, and I wasn’t sure when I’d have time to post. And yet, I’m now kinda, well COMMITTED to the idea of cranking this book out, one chapter every day, until the bastard shows its ass and taps out, you know? And I know I’ve got HUNDREDS . . . well, OK, not hundreds, but DOZENS . . . eh, maybe not dozens, but, I mean, at least A COUPLE of MAMMONITES out there counting on their daily slice of fresh, hot Mammon. What to do, what to do . . .
Get out in front of the game, that’s what. So today it’s MY MEMORIAL DAY BLOWOUT! I got all four of your Memorial Day weekend chapters ready to rock. Chapter 27 follows. I’ll be posting another chapter every hour or so until you got enough MAMMON to get you through until Tuesday. If you’re new to the game or need to catch up, you can always download all the chapters right here.Now, a little housekeeping. First of all, if you’re a faithful Mammonite, you’re gonna be reading this next chapter, and your gonna think, “Dan, you maybe strip a cog here? You already posted some of this shit about Husam al Din.” Sharp eyes, you Mammonites. You’re right. Some of this was a couple chapters back, but I had a different idea for the guy, which required moving a little timing around. I mean you do get how this works, right? You are literally watching me write a rough draft before your eyes, so the dumb shit I pull (like calling Hardin Lynch a couple times yesterday, don’t worry, I fixed it — and, based on the comment I see from my lovely Daja today, calling Fouche Faust) well, you’re just gonna have to put up with it. I can hear Chuck Wendig now, snickering into his beard that’s still soaked with 14 courses of snail entrails and Lorax testicles. “Wouldn’t happen if you had an outline,” he’s saying to himself.
OK, so without futher ado, here’s Chapter 27. And watch this space — got three more chapters coming at you TODAY.
Ringwald’s office was on the 19th floor, nice main entrance with the big, double glass doors, Ringwald’s name stenciled in, pretty receptionist behind a desk. And another door down the hall, plain brown, door that let out from Ringwald’s office right next to the stairwell. Lynch left Bernstein by the second door and walked up to the receptionist.
“Gerry in?” he asked, flipping his badge case open.
He saw her foot move, some kind of pedal or something on the floor. “I don’t believe so, Detective . . .”
“Lynch,” he said. “Sure he is.” Lynch walked past the desk, toward Ringwald’s office door.
“Hey!” the receptionist said. “You can’t go back there!”
Lynch opened the door to the office. Ringwald was standing in the second doorway, Bernstein blocking his path.
“Gerry,” said Lynch.
“You know you can’t just barge in here, Detective,” said Ringwald.
“Barge?” said Lynch. “Bernstein, were you barging again?”
Bernstein shook his head. “No, just standing in the door way.”
Ringwald sat back down behind his desk.
“That’s one of the new MacBooks, isn’t it?” Bernstein said.
RIngwald smiled. “Yes, just picked it up today.”
“Funny,” Lynch said. “Day after Bobby Lee decides he’s not sending you any more e-mails, you decide you need a new computer.”
“Detective, I’ve been patient. But you are in my office without my permission and without a warrant. If you don’t leave now, I will have to call, well, the police.”
“Tell Corsco I’m through waiting for him to come in. I don’t talk to him in the next 24 hours, then I start visiting every business that he’s got his mitts in. Building inspectors, fire inspectors. Hide and seek time is over, sport.”
Bernstein and Lynch left through Ringwald’s back door.
The DGSE operative found it awkward to focus the camera with the rifle scope attached, but those were his instructions. The woman was attractive , a very brief red bikini, brief even by his French standards. She lay on her stomach on the chaise on the brick patio in front of the expansive pool. When he had thirty seconds, he shut down the camera, removed the scope from its jury-rigged mount, and packed the equipment away. Only forty minutes to get set up at the next location on his list, the school a few miles away. With Mexico City’s traffic, he would just have time.
The old man was frightened. That was good.
“When was this?” Hernandez asked.
“Four days ago,” the man said.
Hernandez had the Aurora LK crew showing Hardin’s picture around. Hardin was from here. Maybe he was hiding here, or had gone to someone for help. The old man recognized the picture. It was the man who had bought his car.
“And the paperwork?”
The man had not yet turned the papers in to the Secretary of State’s office. He gave them to Hernandez. Hernandez handed them to Miko.
“Run the name. Probably nothing, but run it.”
“Did you remove your license plates?” Hernandez asked.
The old man shook his head. “They were rusted on. I’ve been sick. I can’t drive anymore. I didn’t need them. The man said he would take them off.”
A black 2000 Honda Civic, license AHS 3459. It was something.
Hernandez stood to leave. The old man made a noise like he wanted to say something.
“Yes?” Hernandez said.
“The first man, who showed me the picture, he said there would be money.”
Hernandez smiled, a large expansive smile. “Of course,” he said. “We take care of our friends. We remember our friends.”
Hernandez reached into his pocket and pulled out a roll, peeled off ten one hundred dollar bills and held them out to the old man. The old man took hold of the money, but Hernandez did not release it. The old man looked up into Hernandez’s face. The smile was gone.
“We remember our friends,” repeated Hernandez. “We remember everybody. Our friend we pay with cash. Others, well . . . From this moment on, you never had a car. Do you understand?”
The man did. He nodded.
Hernandez released the cash, the smile back on his face.
Husam al Din had heard the tenor of the coverage on the American radio stations. The men at the woman’s condominium were, evidently, drug dealers. Al Din did not know their interest, although the woman was an agent for the American drug police, so it may have been about her and not about Hardin. But the woman and Hardin were together, that was clear.
It was the old woman, though, that had caught the attention of the radio commentators – that, and the fact the shooting had happened in a wealthy area. The woman had been unfortunate, but necessary. One of the men had fired a round into the floor, a piece of concrete blown into his right calf. After he’d killed the two men, he’d wrapped some duct tape tightly around the wound to avoid leaving a blood trail. The old woman in the unit two doors down from Wilson’s had poked her head out her door then. Best shot of his life so far, snatching the .22 up with his left hand, oblique off-handed shot right down the wall with the only round left in the weapon, catching enough of the woman’s head to put her on the floor before she could shut the door. He finished taping his leg and walked over. She was laying on her back, looking up at him, her mouth opening and closing like a fish, trying to say something. Trying to say no, he supposed. He slapped in his spare clip, pulled back the slide and shot her two more times. That’s when he heard the gunfire outside. From the window at the end of the hall, he could see Hardin pulling a dead man from a black SUV and a woman walking over to a black man who was sprawled on the walk. The woman shot the black man in the head, then she and Hardin drove away in the vehicle. The woman was Wilson.
When he’d seen Hardin head north in the black SUV, he knew Hardin wouldn’t keep that vehicle long – witnesses would certainly describe it to the police. And he knew that Hardin could not come back to the condo building for the woman’s vehicle. Which meant that Hardin had another car somewhere nearby. As he had driven around the area the last few days, he’d noticed how the railroad tracks split the towns – only a few of the roads crossed them, and they were often blocked by the trains. So if Hardin headed north, then his car was north, probably parked in one of the lots in front of the series of businesses that lined Main Street.
Al Din had rushed to his own car, driven a few blocks north and parked in the corner of a lot that afforded a good view along Main Street for a few hundred meters. Many police vehicles now, converging to the south. It took almost twenty minutes, but he saw a man and a woman cross a parking lot at a grocery store most of the way up the next block, climb into a small black car and turn north onto Main Street.
Al Din followed, hanging back as they turned west on Ogden and then north onto 294, the major interstate that ran past the northern airport. Al Din had one more full clip for the .22. He had a heavier weapon at his hotel, but could not stop for that or he would lose them. He would have to pick his opportunity carefully. Both Hardin and the woman were capable opponents.
He followed them north past the airport and out of Illinois into Wisconsin. They continued well up into the state, diving for many hours. When they reached Green Bay, they turned northeast. His map showed the peninsula that jutted out into Lake Michigan like a thumb. But past Green Bay, they were no longer on interstates. A smaller highway, and then local roads with many traffic control lights. The chances of their spotting him were too great.
Al Din assumed they would eventually have to head back toward Chicago. So he had driven south until he found what he wanted. A hotel with a clear view of the interstate that would eventually take them back. He found a store and bought supplies for his leg and enough food for several days. At another store, he bought a pair of binoculars. He would limit his sleep to a few hours after midnight each day when he assumed they would not be travelling. Every other moment, ¬¬he would watch the¬¬ southbound traffic through the glasses. He had gone online to identify the model of car – a Honda Civic, a popular model, but the one that Hardin drove was ten years old, which limited the number of cars that matched. And Hardin’s car had some damage in the front end.
Al Din did not know what to make of the mounting media assertions that Al Queda was somehow cooperating with the drug dealers. That was nonsense, of course. But he had heard nonsense before. A lifetime of fantastical assertions from the Mullahs claiming America’s involvement for every misfortune, from bombings to earthquakes. Why wouldn’t the Americans do the same?
So al Din waited, and he watched. It only took discipline. It only took patience. He had both, and, until he either saw the car or received more information from Tehran, he had nothing else to do. If he lost focus, he had only to tense the calf of his right leg. The pain would bring him back.
“Two days in one place is probably long enough,” Hardin said.
He and Wilson were lying on the bed on the top floor of the bed and breakfast. The whole attic had been converted into a suite, two-person hot tub, lots of nice furnishings. They’d come back up after breakfast, fooled around in the tub for while, ended up back on the bed.
“I know,” said Wilson. She rolled on her side, put her arms across his chest. “I just don’t want to leave.”
“Me neither,” said Hardin.
“May be all the honeymoon we ever have,” she said.
“I know,” said Hardin.
They stayed like that for a while, looking up through the skylight where the green leaves on the huge oak fluttered against the blue sky.
She rolled off him. “I’ll pack,” she said. “We have a plan?
“I was thinking, while we have a few days on our hands, maybe I would find out what this Mafia business is all about.”
Wilson snorted a little laugh. “Funny, I’d almost forgot about that.
“Me too,” said Hardin. “Gives you some kind of idea what kind of week I’ve had.”