So here’s what I’m learning Mammonites. You don’t have to feel like writing to write. You can move the ball every damn day, maybe just a little sometimes, and every chapter is not created equal. But if you make yourself, you can make some progress. I’m out of town, meetings all day long, and then a drinks-and-dinner reception thing, lots of politicing and ass-kissing to do. Got back to my room after 10 pm local time, over-fed, over-boozed, last thing I wanted to do was crank out a chapter. But I said I would, so I did. Long chapter? Nope. Great chapter? Not great, no. You understand this is the rough draft, right? Always know I’m gonna have some work to do, and more after some days than others. But I moved the ball. Because I now understand this. If you can write, then you can always write. It’s not some mystical gift that comes and goes, some Muse or something. It’s a thing you know how to do, and if you sit down and force yourself, then you can do it.
Kind of like one of those PGA guys teeing it up on the Blue Monster at Doral, which is right outside my window tonight. On any given day, one of them might shoot way down in the 60s, really tear it up. Another day, they might throw up a 77. But if I teed it up out there, I’d be lucky to break 150. Because they know how to golf, and I don’t. Well, I know how to write. Now today, today I didn’t break par. Three-putted a few times today, and was hacking my way out of the rough alot. But I got around the course, I got my 75 on the card, and I’m still gonna make the cut. And the nice thing about writing as compared to golf? That drive I yanked into the hazard? That wedge I chunked from 100 yards and left thirty feet from the pin? I can go back and take those shots over and over until I get them right.
So tonight, I moved the ball.
OK, enough preaching. If you need to catch up, you can get all 37 chapters right here. Here’s today’s offering.
“How far back can you rewind the tape on that black Honda?” Lynch, on the phone with the IT guy in the City’s surveillance command center. Perez had called that morning. The Aurora PD had found an old man dead on the East side, a couple of .22s to the head. His car had come up missing, so they’d run his name, got the VIN and the license plate, and sent in information in to Lynch. Lynch sent it down to the IT guy, who ran it through the system. The Honda popped up on the garage off North Michigan.
“That’s a private camera wired in to our net,” the guy said, “so it depends on their storage policy, but this shit’s only been going on for a like a week, right? They still got to have it.”
“I want everything you’ve got in it.”
“Give me an hour,” the guy said.
Husam al Din was spending his second morning watching the consulate. He knew he couldn’t sit all day in the plaza, not without attracting attention. Several shops with a decent view of the consulate lined the street, so he’d move from one to the next. It was almost noon, and he’d spent nearly two hundred dollars on things he would just throw away later. It was going to be an expensive day for his masters. He started south on Michigan again, toward the public bathroom in the Illinois Center concourse. He would relieve himself, change into the Cubs jersey he’d just purchased, put on one of the silly hats, buy his lunch and eat in the plaza again. That would kill another hour.
And then he saw Foucalt walking north up Michigan with two other men, maybe half a block away. Al Din tucked in behind a sign, staying out of view. Foucalt and the two men turned in to the entrance to the consulate.
Foucalt was DGSE. Al Din had seen him before at least twice that he could remember. Accra for sure, maybe two years back. Damascus before that. Foucalt was no clerk. Foucalt was no diplomat. If Hardin was working with the French, Foucalt would be just the sort of man he would be working with. Al Din hurried to the bathroom, changed, bought his sandwich and found a place in the plaza out of earshot of the rest of the lunchtime crowd. He called his contact at MOIS.
Al Din wasn’t the only one on the phone to Terhan.
“When will they know?” Barham Lafitpour asked the man on the other end of the phone.
“I have given the boy’s name and location to people who will surely sell the information to MOIS. They will take him within a hour I am sure.”
“And you are certain he will tell them the story?”
“He is just a boy, and not a strong boy. He will talk. He will try not to because of his honor, but he will talk. It will not take long.”
“Will they believe him?”
“So far as the boy knows, the story is true. So when he speaks, it will be his truth, and they will believe it.”
“And then they will kill him,” said Lafitpour.
“Of course,” the man said.
“When the body is found, pay his family.” Lafitpour hung up the phone.
Hardin and Wilson walked through Millennium Park.
“So you’re thinking here?” she said.
“Yeah,” said Hardin. “It’s got good sight lines. Public enough that Hernandez won’t be a able to show up with an army without us picking it up. Plenty of egress and exit points for al Din, so he oughta feel OK about it.”
“That what you want, al Din being happy with things?”
“This thing hasn’t been about what makes me happy for a while now. Just need to make this work. I need the prick to show if we want to get our payday.”
“Hell of a way to make a living,” said Wilson.
“Yeah,” said Hardin. “But I tell you what. I’ve put my ass in tighter spots than this for a lot less than fifty million.”
Lynch and Bernstein sat at his desk, flipping through the slide show IT had sent up. The Honda parking at the garage a couple nights back, Hardin and Wilson getting out, heading for an exit in the back. IT guy must have figured Lynch would want to follow them as far as he could, so he tracked them in to Water Tower Place, the upscale vertical mall next to the Hancock building. Lost them in there somewhere.
Nothing on the car until the next morning, then a guy walking up to it, trying the door, looking in through the windshield, writing something down. Getting the VIN off the dash maybe? Bernstein pulled up the still of the guy, zoomed in.
“Son of a bitch,” he said. “It’s al Din.”
Lynch called the IT guy back, gave him the frame number with al Din’s pick. “Can you run this guy, see if you get any more hits on him?”
“Run him where?”
“You got any idea how many faces the system looks at every day? And this ain’t like 24. You get a change in angle, change in lighting, the guy lets his beard grow out, any of that shit, and then you get false matches. I dump that photo in the system, let it just run wild, then you’re gonna be looking at thousands of faces. You’ll be chasing shadows. You’re gonna have to narrow it down.”
“Can you track the guy back from that shot?” Lynch asked.
“It’s in what I sent you. Guy leaves the garage, walks a bit, gets in a cab on Erie.”
“And that’s got a time stamp?” Lynch asked.
“Sure,” the guy said.
Might be enough