Thought you had me, didn’t you Mammonites? You’re sitting there, watching the clock tick down, and you’re thinking, “Ha! A chapter a day until the book is done my ass. We’ve got that bastard now!” Well guess again. I’m sneaking Chapter 35 in under the wire.
Need to catch up? You can download all 35 chapters right here.
“Would you care for anything, Mr. Hardin?” Lafitpour asked. “Coffee perhaps?”
Hardin and Martin sat in the guest chairs in front of Lafitpour’s desk, Hardin with one of his 9mms in his right hand and with Martin’s pistol tucked into his waistband. Wilson was out in the reception area, keeping an eye on Lafitpour’s receptionist and bodyguard.
“No thanks,” said Hardin. “Think I’ll keep my hands free. You know, in case I have to shoot anyone.”
Lafitpour gave him the same thin smile Hardin remembered from their first meeting.
“So I take it we are no longer operating from a position of mutual trust.”
Hardin smiled back.
“OK,” Martin said. “So maybe this hasn’t gone the way any of us hoped it might. Yet here we all are. I’m assuming we are still hoping to meet our mutual needs.”
“Fouche talk numbers with you?” Hardin asked.
“About that,” Martin said. “One hundred million? Really?”
Hardin had to chuckle a little. “We may have a little wiggle room there.”
“We can do fifty,” Martin said.
“You can do fifty,” Hardin said. He nodded toward Lafitpour. “Mr. Savak here was already in for ten. That makes sixty. The fifty goes to me, the ten goes to Fouche. That way he still gets his end on the one hundred he was looking for. He’s got some pissed Russians to pay off.”
Lafitpour and Martin exchanged looks, little eyebrow wiggles and shit going on between them.
“I think we can do that,” Lafitpour said.
“So I get what I want,” Hardin said. “Now what do you two need? I’m guessing Husam al Din and Hernandez in the same place at the same time, I bring the diamonds and the kilo of blow, you get your bona fides on this Al Queda’s in bed with the cartel crap you’ve been peddling, Martin moves up the ladder another couple of rungs and you get what, Lafitpour?”
“What I get is my affair,” Lafitpour said.
Hardin shrugged. “Fine. I figure some dirt to throw on Terhan, but what do I care?”
Another pause, more eyebrow language back and forth between Martin and Lafitpour.
“For the record,” Martin said, “any assumptions made concerning potential money changing between the cartel and Al Queda were made in good faith and based on the involvement of both al Din and Hernandez in the events of the past several days.”
“I’m not looking to be on the record with anybody,” Hardin said, “so you can save the shit. Just so you know, I’ve put together a little video diary, my own private account of my recent adventures. Things don’t work out for me, then that’s going up on You Tube and it’s getting e-mailed to a couple hundred journalists.”
Lafitpour with the smile again. “Then I suppose we should ensure it works out.”
“So let’s get the plan together,” said Martin. “I’ve got a couple scenarios for the exchange, I was thinking . . .”
“Most dangerous thing you’ve had pointed at you in your career is a camera,” said Hardin. “I’m not really interested in your thinking. I’ll set up the exchange. I’ll let you know where and when.”
“And how do you intend to get the other principals in place?” asked Lafitpour.
“I assume you still have sources in Iran?” Hardin asked.
“And I assume MOIS tries to keep an eye on them?”
Lafitpour nodded again.
“And MOIS is still pulling al Din’s strings?”
“So I’ll get you a time and place, your people leak it to MOIS. Tell them I came to you first, shit happened, I got this Hernandez on my ass. Al Din’s already had a little face time with people that have probably filled him in on my situation there. Story is, I’m pawning the diamonds off to Hernandez at fire sale rates trying to buy my way out of that jam so I can get out of dodge without the cartel on my ass. He’ll show.”
“And Hernandez?” Martin asked.
“I’m assuming you’ve got some way to get in touch with him,” Hardin said.
“I can get a number,” Martin answered.
“You get me that. I’ll get Hernandez to the meet.”
Lafitpour and Martin made eyes at each other again.
“I can make that work from my end,” Lafitpour said.
Martin shook his head. “I don’t like it. I got no control here.”
“I don’t give a fuck,” Hardin said. “You do it my way or I walk out of here and you never see me or the diamonds again.”
“OK,” Martin said. “I’ll get you the number.”
“Do it now,” Hardin said.
Martin pulled out his cell, made a call to his office. “Be a couple minutes,” he said.
They sat, Lafitpour with his hands folded on his desk, unmoving, his eyes locked on Hardin. Martin fidgeting.
Martin’s cell rang. He answered, wrote something down on a piece of paper and passed it to Hardin. A couple of phone numbers. Hardin folded the paper and stuck it in his shirt pocket.
“OK, now we’re all gonna take a little walk downstairs, us three and Wilson. Lafitpour, your people stay here. And leave your phones.”
Lafitpour and Martin set their cells on the desktop.
“Do I get my piece back?” Martin asked.
“No,” said Hardin. “And if I have to shot anybody else, that’s what I’m using. Probably your old FBI piece, right? Keeping up your street cred with the boys, the hard-ass pistol-packing US Attorney? I’m sure you Fed types keep ballistics on all your duty weapons. You’ll get to explain how I ended up with it.”
Husam al Din sat in the plaza on Michigan Avenue at the entrance to Illinois Center, across the street from the building that housed the French Consulate. With Hernandez and Corsco busy, it was time to find Hardin.
Hardin had to be getting help from someone. Al Din had run the VIN on the black Honda that Hardin had used for a few days. It was registered to elderly Hispanic man in Aurora. The man had been reluctant, but al Din was persuasive. Finally, the man admitted selling it to Hardin for cash. So, if Hardin had help, it wasn’t US government help, they would have had a vehicle for him, and he wouldn’t have been hiding out in Wisconsin. In fact, al Din never would have found him at all. Friends, perhaps, but Hardin had been out of the country for twenty years, so that seemed unlikely.
Which left the French. Surely Hardin would have dealt with DGSE during his Foreign Legion service. He didn’t know if the French kept any agents on station in Chicago, it seemed unlikely. But if Hardin had reached out and if the French were involved, then the agents might well be working out of the consulate. It was a reasonable hypothesis, anyway, and until al Din had actionable intelligence, he had nothing else to do. So he bought a sandwich from the Subway franchise in the Illinois Center concourse and ate his lunch on the bench, watching.
Hardin and Wilson walked Lafitpour and Martin to the EL stop at Van Buren and LaSalle and made them wait on the platform until the train pulled in. As the train turned the corner at Wells and headed toward them, Hardin pulled a small digital recorder from his pocket.
“Remember my movie, boys? Now I have a sound track to go with it. So let’s all behave, shall we?”
Lafitpour’s face didn’t change. Martin looked like somebody had shot his puppy.
The train pulled in, Wilson and Hardin got on, Lafitpour and Martin stayed behind.
“How’d it go?” Wilson asked as the train pulled out.
“As well as can be expected,” Hardin said.
“How the hell do I know?” Hardin said.