It was nearly five o’clock, and Paul’s stomach grumbled in loud protest to the lunch which had been foregone to assemble Reaper’s team. He opened his desk drawer to the three half-eaten bags of chips and a quarter bottle of 12-year-old Scotch. It took willpower not to grab the bottle. Instead, he closed the drawer and reached for the receiver. Before it could be nestled in his palm, its ringer shattered the quiet of the office. Reaper screamed across the caller ID screen. Paul took a deep breath and straightened up, “Salisbury. Can I help you?” “I told you not to leave before we met.” Paul wondered if maybe Reaper’s bug was planted inside his skull and reading his thoughts of ribs and beer.
“I am still in my office, Reaper,” he fought the urge to put his forehead in his hand.
“This is what I have to have. Send a unit to sit on Tara Miller’s house. I need hourly tabs on who enters and exits. Put a tail on Margo Matthews if she leaves with 30-minute location checks. Find out if Chan is in the cooler. He is not answering his phone.” Salisbury was taking partial notes. Some of this had already been done, and Reaper had been the one to request it. Paul wondered if the pressure was getting to him. “Send me the coordinates for the Crawford airstrip and a list of all traffic for the last two weeks. Nail down every container of guns. Get me the name of the South American arms dealer we grabbed five months ago, and then go pay him a visit. I want to know what he knows of these yahoos.” Paul grabbed his BlackBerry and started texting the name to Stephen.
“I want a list and location of all the children, wives and current girlfriends. All the vitals on them. Send those to Jerry, too. Shut down all of the bank accounts, including the casino. I do not want any of them to be able to make change for a nickel. Send the gambling commission an anonymous tip about explosives in the casino. Tell them you know someone has designs on tomorrow at show time. You getting all of this?”
“Every word, Reaper. I already…”
Paulston cut him off. “I am speaking. You listen and answer only what I want to know. How close are you on the satellites?”
“They are in place and feeding to the database every 15 minutes.” Beads of sweat burst onto Paul’s forehead.
“Com links up?” Reaper’s voice was dropping. He meant to make Paul pay attention.
“Since 1330, sir.” Salisbury was waiting for the other shoe to drop. He was not expecting it to be a steel-toed boot.
“Get your information together. You have just been promoted to Jerry’s backer. I loaded your identity to the server an hour ago. This will be your last chance to get straight with me on this. You clear?” The threat was not lost in the wire.
“Crystal, Reaper.” After he hung up the telephone, he felt like he had déjà vu. Four hours ago he had told Reaper those exact words. As he slid his papers and books into his briefcase, he did not notice he was staring blindly into the middle of the office. He was ticking off what he had in his head. Reaper knows Tara tells me everything. She has since Academy. That is what sponsors are for. Did he think she didn’t talk to me any more? He dropped the case onto the desk and zipped it shut. He froze when the zipper reached the end of its track. “She did not tell him.” Paul forgot to turn off the light in his office before he shuffled down the balcony toward the garage. He kept turning it over in his mind. Why would Tara keep something like that from him? He stopped short. “Oh, hell!”
Jerry settled into his hotel room by leaving the bellhop at the desk, darting into a closing elevator and dropping everything except his laptop directly inside the door. He pulled the computer out of the bag nearly open and stood impatiently in front of it as it warmed to life. Just as he was keying his way past the security gate on the server, a sheepish knock came to the door.
Eyes still trained on the screen, he pulled the door open without looking on the other side. “Just put it down.” He dug in his pocket and held out a five to the young man. When his arm began to weigh, he turned to see what the problem was. The bellhop stood trembling with a tattooed arm draped over his shoulder and a gun trained on his temple.
Jerry opened his hand, and the money floated to the floor. With the left hand still palm down, he bent at the elbow to appear less threatening. “Come on in. Just push the door closed. Tell me what you want.” This was Jerry’s playground. He backed slowly into the room and sat on the bed closer to the window.
Feathers pushed the boy before him and kicked the door shut. “I want you to tell me what you are doing here.” He slowly advanced until he had one of the beds between them.
“Why don’t you let him go? We can sit here and talk, and I will tell you whatever you want to know.” Silent tears streamed down the bellhop’s face.
“You’re damn right you are going to tell me. Did you think you were just going to waltz in here and get what you want?” Jerry instantly knew how to win this one.
“Look, I am willing to work with you, but I don’t want him knowing our business. Let him go. I am sure he is too scared to tell anyone he pissed himself at work.” Feathers pushed the bellhop off him and looked down at his pants. Jerry leapt across the bed and slammed Feathers’ head into the sconce on the wall. When it shattered, it left a huge gash in the back of the inked man’s scalp. He dropped to the floor, unconscious.
Jerry turned to the young man and flashed the badge which seemed to have appeared in his free hand. “Right now. Go to the bathroom and get me some towels. Hurry!” Maxwell applied pressure to the wound with the bedspread and hoped there would not be a huge mess to explain. Only a few seconds passed before the bellhop was back.
The light glinted off of his name tag. “Brent, is there a first aid kit handy?” Still shaking, he nodded. “I need you to go get it. Bring me a sewing kit, too.” He stood there staring at the blood soaking through the towel. “Brent, look at me.” He turned his face, but his eyes did not track. “Brent! He is going to bleed to death if you do not hurry!”
Brent snapped his eyes to Jerry’s face. “Oh, yes. Yes, sir. Towels.” He took a side step and tripped on Jerry’s discarded bag.
“No! I need a first aid kit and a sewing kit. Look at me. First aid kit and sewing kit.” Brent stood up, apologizing to the bag.
“Two kits. I got it. I am getting it.” He tripped once more before he got to the door to go down the hall. The next three minutes crawled by as Jerry tried to stem the bleeding.
When Brent came back, his apologies and excuses fell on very focused ears which were not focused on him. He watched as the big man threaded the needle with ease and began stitching up the back of the gunman’s head. “Do you want me to call the police?”
Jerry recognized the recession of the initial shock. “Son, I am the police. What I want you to do is exactly this. Go get another uniform. Change clothes. Bring me back something to clean this blood off the rug, so my department does not have to pay the hotel for new carpet for the entire floor. Can you do that?”
It only took Brent one second to understand how the hotel would rack up the charges and how he would never see any of that money. “Oh, yes, sir. I know right where that is.”
“Good. There is a bigger tip in it for you the more you help me.” Brent beamed and disappeared back down the hall.
Once Jerry had Feathers sewn up and as clean as he could get him and handcuffed, he grabbed his phone from where it had fallen from his pocket. He heard the customary two rings and standard greeting. “Reaper, we have a problem.”
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