The wind whipped above Reaper’s head from over the windscreen. Reaper’s ears heard the chopping of blades through the air. His hands mechanically drove the car while his mind was transported a lifetime into the past to a mosquito-infested rice patty in Vietnam. The road fuzzed out of focus, and the images swirled into clear view.
Gunfire shattered the familiar sounds of the jungle. They were in deep trouble now… The blood splattered all over him. Charlie’s bullet had penetrated the skull of his first officer. He was only marginally aware of the fire in his arm as he grabbed the body before it hit the ankle deep water. Just then, mortar fire blinded him.
The vision intermixed with the beautiful face of the Vietnamese nurse who cared for him while the fever confused his mind. He watched her slowly reach out to brush the wetness off his cheek with her fingertips. Pain shot through his shoulder as he tried to grasp her hand, distrustful. The searing light from the pain blurred his vision enough to give way to more images of gore and despair. A thatch and mud hut exploded, showering them in dirt and burning hay.
Suddenly, he was back in his car, the memories still vivid in his mind. He would never forget the angel who had nursed him back from the brink of death.
Everything inside him hardened, and he gunned the engine. Before the next intersection the telephone was ringing.
Crystal Kalin wasted no time. She ducked into an office three doors down from the conference room already on her Blue Tooth. “No, Byron. I need fresh, vital stats. Not the crap I can get from the Internet. I do not have time to be creeping around cyber space today or any other day. Email me when you have it, okay? Ciao.” She beeped the ear piece into silence as she dropped into the chair behind the desk.
The welcome screen blinked expecting its usual password. Thirty-four keystrokes later, it was navigating to her portal into the security database. One of these days they will settle on a real security system. She craned her neck toward the screen, mumbling, “Or not.”
Her fingers flew over the keyboard for another eight minutes before she pushed away from the credenza, grabbing the papers from the printer. The welcome screen blinked as the door closed behind her. Her secrets were safe with it.
Palfrey’s gruff voice made the telephone vibrate as he growled instructions to his secretary. “Barry, I need you to Shephardize every case he has ever touched. If he has never seen a courtroom, I want every scrap of trash he has ever filed into the record summarized and time lined. Pull every string. I want this marionette so tight I can make him sing.
“Get a hold of Johannes. Tell him what I told you and give him the numbers from the fax I just sent. Tell him I want the serial numbers on every dollar he has ever put in his grandmother’s mattress.”
“What else, boss?” Barry had already flicked on the recorder, but he was feverishly scribbling notes on the legal pad beside his speaker phone. He heard the attorney suck air into his lungs.
“Find Tony. Get his fast fingers to create a dummy. Eight figures. Caribbean heritage. Tax-sheltered accounts. Six years of tax records. No more than 45 employees. Disguise my plane. I need a family and a six-man entourage. I need $18-24 million at my disposal. He needs to deliver the pedigree to me before sunrise. GPS coords when I hang up.” Don ran his hand over his shiny scalp and took the first breath since he began his wish list. “What am I forgetting, Barry?”
“Nothing I have not already written down, BG. Call me when you light so I can report on the tracker.”
“Sarge, as long as I have fire, you have a job. Carry on.” Don knew Barry’s loyalty would never belay that.
Barry smiled, “Yes, sir.” He wheeled away from the desk only after grabbing the headset. He had a lot of work to do before dawn. Time to call in reinforcements.
It took Greg Chan nearly an hour to get to the morgue. When he swept into the cutting room, the temperature dropped seven degrees. All heads averted their eyes, and bodies snapped hands back to task. The job security was better when everyone pretended Cerberus was not in the building. Everyone jumped in unison when the door crashed closed at the far end of the room.
Lorna Majors whipped around to face him, mouth already in motion spraying a string of obscenities. She stopped short when she made eye contact. The color rapidly drained from her face. “What can I do for you, Cerberus?”
“Open it up and clear this floor.” Greg had already doffed his jacket and was unbuttoning his shirt. Lorna glided across to the door. On the other side, he heard her heels click on the chilled tile. Hushed, frantic voices preceded the mass exodus of her staff. As the cutting room doors swung closed behind them, he stepped out of her office.
Jerry Maxwell was on the plane with his computer snuggled on his lap in the extra pillow the flight attendant thought was for his arm. The strap on the sling jiggled as he feverishly typed. The keyboard looked like a toy beneath his enormous hands. His eyes were fixed on the ticker on the right side of his screen. She squinted to see if she could make out what he was working on so intently as she asked for his drink order.
Without looking away, he flatly delivered, “Seltzer, lemon, please. And leave it on the other tray.” The seat beside him on the front row of first class was strewn with papers, all face down. He nodded when she bid him enjoy his flight and retreated to the second row where her charms would be better received.
With the large pad of his index finger, Jerry clicked the navigation pad to stop the ticker. He fumbled in the pockets of his brief case. His cell phone to his ear, he flashed his badge to the flight attendant before she could issue her protest.
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