Still got a little Mammon up the ol’ sleeve, but we’re coming up on the end. Chapter 42 follows. If you need to catch up, you can download all the chapters right here. A few more chapters, then I set MAMMON aside for a while, concentrate on some re-write work on my first novel, UNTO CAESAR. Then it’s time to dive in to the MAMMON rewrite. So if you’ve been reading along and you have a question, comment, some stupid mistake you want to point out, I’ll be glad for the help.
Bernstein was on his back now, next to the Crown Vic, some blood on his chest, but not as much as Lynch expected. Lots of weird holes in Bernstein’s shirt. Lynch ripped the shirt open, found maybe a dozen puncture wounds and rips, some pieces of plastic and crap sticking out.
“How you doing?” Lynch said.
“Fucking leg is burning like hell.”
Lynch took a quick look at Bernstein’s thigh. Bullet had fragmented on the cement, pieces blowing up into the leg.
“Yeah, your chest is pretty ripped up, but nothing bad. Just gonna need to get all the shit picked out of you, get you sewn up.”
Bernstein reached up, reaching into the breast pocket of his suit coat, came out with a chunk of plastic, circuits and wires hanging off of it.
“The bitch shot me in my iPhone,” Bernstein said.
“That wasn’t a bitch, it was al Din.”
“You’re shitting me.”
Lynch shook his head. “Disguise, I guess.”
“Pretty good disguise,” Bernstein said. “He looked kind of hot for a dude, I mean aside from the blood and all.”
“Not anymore he doesn’t,” Lynch said.
Lynch, McCord and Starshak sat at one of the tables outside the restaurant between the Bean and Michigan Avenue, all of Millennium Park roped off between them and Randolf, mid-afternoon now.
“Big fucking crime scene,” McCord said. Feds crawling all over it, DEA jackets, FBI jackets, some guys in suits with no ID. Chicago PD had been locked out, Feds bogarting the whole deal. “Bernstein going to be OK?”
“Yeah,” Lynch said. “Little hitch in his get-along for a bit.”
“Phone really save his life?” McCord asked.
Lynch shrugged. “Turns out there’s an ap for that. Kept a bullet out of his chest. Gotta figure out’s better than in.”
Just the other side of the crime scene tape, three suits stood off to the side, all of them smoking, talking in French.
Alex Martin wandered over, raid jacket on over a tactical vest. “We’re gonna be moving down to the Federal building in a few minutes,” he said. “Still got a few things to sort out, so we’ll need you guys available.”
“What’s with the frogs?” Starshak asked.
“The French are cooperating with this operation,” Martin said.
“Operation?” Lynch asked. “That in the dictionary next to cluster fuck somewhere?”
Martin just smiled.
“You don’t need me,” said McCord. “I just came down on account of their being a multiple smack in the middle of downtown, but I’m told you guys got it covered.”
“You can go,” said Martin. McCord gave Lynch and Starshak a little wave, headed south toward Monroe.
“Like being kept after school,” Starshak said.
Lynch looked at his watch. Quarter after six now. Suits had been in and out of the big conference room at the end of the hall all afternoon. Lynch had been called in once, asked to give his account of what went down in the garage. Ran through the story, only got one question. Some guy from Justice, said the initial take from crime scene was al Din got shot sixteen times, seemed to be implying it was a little excessive.
The three French suits Lynch had seen early walked down the hall with another guy, this one with his right leg bandaged up, swinging along on crutches. They walked right past Lynch, into the conference room like they owned the joint.
Long afternoon for Martin, trying to find a way to piece all this together, trying to align everything some way he could spin it right. Felt like Ptolemy, pieces doing orbit within orbits, all the planets and stars trying to wander off, fuck up his play. Fucking Hardin had his own backup, dragged the DGSE into it, French cowboy opening up on al Din, turning what should have been a nice, quiet snatch into a free-fire exercise during the lunch hour in the middle of the nation’s third largest city. He’d already ducked a couple calls from Justice, not wanting to talk to DC until he knew what his story was. At least he clamped Federal jurisdiction on everything, for now anyway, gave him some control on the forensics and such. Had Starshak in now, trying to calm him down, trying to keep some leverage on the locals.
“Look, Captain, I’m sympathetic,” Martin said. “Lynch had a man down, and with this al Din’s rep, he had to play it careful. But you’ve seen the video. He emptied an entire clip into the guy, and he knew this was a high-value suspect. You don’t think maybe some of the three-letter boys wouldn’t have like a chance to take a can opener to al Din’s head, see what came out?”
“Fuck that,” Starshak said. “I haven’t figured out your play here, but it was some sort of self-serving three-rail shot, and now you’re trying to throw shit on anybody in range, get some stink off yourself while you find a back door to duck out of. Lynch comes out of this with anything other than a commendation, then I’m coming after you.”
Martin was about to respond when the conference room door opened. The damn French again, the guys from the consulate he’d already debriefed back at the park. And they had their shooter with them. What was his name again? Hardin’s buddy? Foucalt, that’s right, like the pendulum.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” Martin said, “but I’m conducting an interview here. If you could wait . . .”
Foucalt waved him off. “Actually, it would be best for you if we did not. If your esteemed guest could perhaps step out for a moment?”
Martin sent Starshak back outside.
“You don’t mind if we sit?” Foucalt said, taking a chair and placing his card on the table. “Getting shot takes more out of me at my age than it used to.”
Martin looked at the cared. “Cultural attaché my ass.”
Foucalt smiled. “I regret I was unable to talk with you earlier. I think your afternoon might have gone more smoothly.”
“How’s that?” Martin asked.
“I would have been able to explain your leading role coordinating a long-running investigation into the multi-national conspiracy between the cartel and Al Queda. I could have told you how Hardin is a deep cover DGSE agent, and that he has been working in coordination with American intelligence, your DEA assets and the French government for months to expose the traffic in illegal diamonds and the cartels role as their bag men. I have that right? Bad men? I am learning so many new phrases here in Chicago.”
Martin shook his head. “You quiche eaters may have dreamed up some kind of ass-covering story for your antics today – and don’t think I’m not looking into your diplomatic immunity. I find some way to put your ass in a sling, I’m taking it – but I haven’t heard a peep out of Washington giving you guys any lines in this script.”
“You have now,” said one of the suits.
“I don’t think a wink and a nod from another damn Frenchy is going to get me on board here,” Martin asked.
“You’re a little slow, aren’t you Martin,” the man said. “Just because I can speak French doesn’t mean I am French. I’m the Lafitpour’s DC buddy, the guy he called for the money. Don’t be dense here. It’s a fluid situation, but we play our cards right, then we come out of this with a big win in the war on terror, you get your close up, and we’ve got enough bones to toss to the locals to keep everybody singing out of the same hymnal.”
“Your agency?” Martin asked.
The guy shrugged. “I’m whatever I need to be. Right now I’m the guy following your circus parade around with a shovel and figuring out how to turn pig shit into silk purses. So you want to shut up and listen for a minute?”
A long pause, Martin looking around the table. “OK,” Martin said. “I’m listening.”
Lynch and Starshak waited in the hall, Lynch napping in his chair. The adrenaline from the shooting had cooked off. He was crashing. It was almost an hour before the door to the conference room opened again. Martin walked over. “Look, you guys have had a long day. Why don’t you grab a bite or something? I’ll be ready for you in a couple hours. And Lynch? Al Din? Fuck him if he can’t take a joke. Anybody ever needed to get taken off the board it was that bastard. I may have to twist a few arms, but you’re fine.”
“You’ve always been my moral compass, Martin,” Lynch said. “I feel so much better now.”
Martin just smiled and turned back toward the conference room, holding the door so the man on the crutches could get out, the crutch guy saying something through the door in French. Starshak and Lynch followed him down the hall to the elevator, got on with him.
“So you’re Hardin’s backup?” Starshak asked.
The man shrugged his shoulders. “A simple civil servant caught up in events.”
“Bullshit,” Starshak said. “Martin’s spinning his wheels all afternoon, about ready to shit his pants. You show up, and now he’s his usual glad-handing self again.”
“I was, perhaps, able to ease his mind. Would one of you gentlemen happen to be Lynch?”
“Yeah,” Lynch said.
Foucalt braced the crutch in his right armpit and held out his hand. “Charles Foucalt. Perhaps no one yet has said thank you, so let me be the first.”
Lynch shook his hand. Then Foucalt reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a card and handed it to Lynch. Lynch looked at it.
“Of course,” Foucalt said. “But there is another number, on the back. Let me just tell you this. If the man who killed Husam al Din is ever in Paris, he won’t be able to buy his own drinks, his own meals, or even his own whores.”
“Good to know,” Lynch said.
“If there is anything I can do,” Foucalt said.
“Actually,” said Lynch, “now that you mention it . . .”
Lynch and Starshak talked with Foucalt for a few minutes and agreed to meet him at the French consulate as soon as they were through with Martin. They walked out, flagged down a cab for Foucalt and turned up Adams to find some food.
“I’m gonna tell Johnson,” Starshak said, “about the whores.”