Closure

ClosureWhen a prominent lawyer is shot while waiting at a suburban stop sign it sets off a nation-wide manhunt for an elusive killer. Special Agent Jack Randall of the FBI finds himself appointed to track down and stop the shooter. Not by his superiors, but by the killer himself.

As more bodies fall the shooter takes his message to the press, earning the support of the public with his choice of targets and confounding the FBI at every turn. From the desert of Nevadato the urban jungle of New York City, Jack and his team follow the trail of bodies and haunting messages left behind by the killer. With the pressure to find him mounting on Jack, the assassin’s crimes grow bolder, and his message more sinister and closer to home.

It becomes clear to Jack that in order to find the shooter, he may have to look inside his own past, and become the man he was years ago.

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The first two chapters of Closure: 

 

The state of Alabama holds 29,253 inmates in its prisons.
Approximately 20,000 are repeat offenders.

 

 

—One—

 

          The shot was not a difficult one; two hundred meters through some hardwoods according to his rangefinder. He had made others at a much greater range. The wind was blowing left to right at about five mph, everything said this was the lawyer’s last day; if he showed up.

          He marveled at how perfect the spot was. He had selected it during the second week of observing his target. A wooded area of about twenty acres, it was being developed for more urban sprawl. The bulldozers were quiet this morning, but would start at nine a.m. sharp so as not to violate the local noise ordinance. The closest one was still three acres away over a low rise that served to block any view of him. He hoped his target wasn’t early this morning as he was counting on the noise to cover his shot.

          He ignored the sweat running down his face and focused through the scope on a young girl in her BMW. He could clearly see the diamond earrings in her ears; no doubt a gift from daddy. Probably came with the car. She was parked at the same spot where he hoped his target would arrive; first car at the light. Although second, or even third was within his sector of fire. First car was preferred as it provided a safer angle. He didn’t wish to hurt anyone downrange of his target. You never knew when a jogger would run by; they were anywhere and everywhere.

          A cell-phone suddenly blocked his view of her ear. Luckily, his intended target was right-handed. A cell phone would only have a chance to deflect his round after it had done its job.

          The bulldozers rumbled to life. Sounded like at least two, plus the brush-hog they were using yesterday. Time check: 8:55, a little early, but not enough to upset the rich suburbanites in the gated community next door. The high wall around the homes kept most of the noise out anyway. He would have to observe the intersection constantly now; he could no longer hear the approaching vehicles.

          After its twenty-two second wait, the BMW with the teenager moved on, oblivious to the fact that a high powered rifle had been aimed at her head for the last half a minute. No sign of the lawyer. That was ok. His latest time, so far, was 9:32. Another half hour was nothing compared to the days he had waited to get his shot in the past. The lawyer would be along; he never missed a day of golf. He took a drink from the water bottle he had brought and settled back. The Florida sun was rising fast and the day promised to be another scorcher. His camouflage one-piece coverall didn’t help, nor did the face net and wide brimmed hat he had on either. Face-paint was not an option on this shoot. The sweat would only help things later.

          One of Florida’s Cow ants walked across the ground in front of him. The things were huge, a good inch and a half long, orange and black with one nasty bite. Actually some kind of hornet, he remembered. Made him wonder if it was indeed sweat he felt crawling down his back.

          The pain in his gut hit without warning. Not enough to make him move, but enough to distract him from his sight picture. The pains were coming more often now, as if telling him to hurry. It pissed him off. He knew how much time he had; he didn’t need a constant reminder of it. Right now, it was a major distraction he didn’t need. The pain subsided as another group of cars pulled into the intersection. Back to the scope and scan; a Mercedes convertible of the right model, but no sign of his boy. He took another drink to help calm his gut. The ant was gone.

          He made another mental rehearsal of his actions post shot. It’s route was memorized, with two alternates if the need arose. He still wished he had set up a second vehicle, but then it would be left behind, and eventually be found. No, one car was enough, and he had plenty of money on him if he had to make a major change. It was a good plan they had come up with and he would stick to it. After-all, the lawyer was only one of the names they had chosen, but the message would require more than one to be effective. Back to the scope, the envelope would explain it all.

          Another group of cars stopped at the light; a Lexus, a Cadillac, and an H2 Hummer. No shortage of cash in this neighborhood. He did linger on the Hummer for a few extra seconds. A good vehicle, but he still preferred the old model to the new, slicked-up civilian version. A cop joined the group driving a brand-new Crown Victoria with all the bells and whistles; nice to have a good tax base to finance the police. He was impressed with their gear, but not with them. They had all the fancy cars and nice uniforms, but he felt they spent their money on the wrong items. The Chief thought it more important to have a fancy paint job on his car that proclaimed it a “Tactical Response Unit” than it was to properly secure his department’s communications. An item he was currently exploiting at this minute. The radio he had clamped to the small of his back looked like any other radio you might see a person wearing at the gym; but this one he had modified to allow him to listen in on the police in this particular Orlando suburb. This would have been impossible if the Chief had spent a few bucks on a scrambler. There had been no chatter since the morning shift change. He recognized the deputy; he had dubbed him “Number Two”, as his gut was the second biggest of the four. He was about forty minutes early today. Odd, but not a great concern as long as he wasn’t there when the lawyer arrived. The response time to his fake man-with-a-gun 911 call had been over four minutes; more than enough time for his planned getaway. He watched Number Two turn right as always and start his second lap around the suburb. Crazy set-up they had in Orlando, you could drive just a few miles and go through three or four different towns; all with their own police, fire and parks department (another big thing in Orlando). Efficiency suffered because of it, but that was to his advantage today. Too bad really, despite their current lack of professionalism, he liked cops.

          Three more sets of cars, but still no sign of the lawyer. He might just set a new record if he didn’t show soon. The wind had stopped, and the small stake with the pink telltale ribbon on it he had placed at the intersection was also still. He was pleased no one had moved it. It looked just like other survey stakes one would see around developments, and people probably dismissed it as soon as they saw it. Since he would be shooting down a draw at such a close range, he didn’t really need the tells, but he knew his business and took every precaution to ensure it only took one shot. That included adjusting for wind if needed.

          Another Mercedes convertible pulled up to the light; one of four possible cars. The lawyer only used the limo on the weekdays. Top up, but windows down. The man did not like air-conditioning. It was him. Slowing for the yellow light like a good citizen. The teenage boy in the Cadillac suv behind him had to brake hard to stop in time. He could hear the sub-woofers from the kid’s stereo all the way from his hide, probably pissing off the lawyer. Why kids had to have them was beyond him. His neighbor had the same problem with his kid. Only his car was a small Mitsubishi that needed the money on the engine instead of the stereo. The kid made a rude gesture toward the lawyer’s rearview mirror. The lawyer ignored him and stared straight ahead, head cocked to one side to see the signal around his visor.

 

 

          What the hell was wrong with old people? The light was barely yellow and this old fart just stops. We both could have made it! Jimmy was late meeting his girl at the mall. They weren’t going shopping, although she could do that all day. They were meeting to sneak off to the beach for some fun. Daytona was only two hours away and Hilary said she would finally try the fake ID he had gotten her a couple weeks ago. He was hoping that with a few drinks she might be up to getting that hotel room he had hinted at. It was a good plan and this old fart was holding it up! He threw him a finger and cranked up the base on his fifteen-inch subwoofers. He knew it just pissed off anyone over thirty.

 

 

          The lawyer smiled at the kid’s anger. He was used to people being angry with him. Kids were always in a hurry. At least this one was up before noon. The stereo got louder as the kid flipped him off. Screw him, the lawyer thought. He made five million this week on that medical case, and now he was golfing. The divorce will be final in a week, and the girlfriends were trying to outdo each other for a chance to be next. Life was good for T. Carlton Addicot; Tort lawyer.

 

 

          The target was holding agreeably still with his head at a slight angle away from his line of sight. It allowed him to center his sight post just behind the left ear. He did a quick check with his non-dominant eye for anyone beyond his target. One half breath and hold, and then a nice slow squeeze.

 

 

          Jimmy looked up from the CD case he had been reading. The Mercedes was pulling through the light. About time! He was about to move his feet to follow when he noticed the light was still red. The Mercedes moved across the intersection slowly and came to rest against the curb on the opposite corner. But where was the driver?

 

 

          The kick of the rifle had been an expected surprise, just as it was supposed to be. The impact of the round had sent the target’s head violently to the right and the body had dropped below the level of the door. He knew from experience that the shot was on target. He watched the car roll slowly across the intersection and come to rest on the opposite curb. He noticed a lot of blood on the shattered windshield. How did that happen? Good thing traffic was light. He didn’t want to hurt anybody. He began crawling backward away from the draw.

 

 

          Jimmy looked at the car, unsure of what to do. The light turned, so he pulled up alongside and took a look. Maybe the old guy had a heart-attack or something? From his elevated position he was able to look down into the Mercedes and what he saw was right out of his favorite video game. The guy’s head was gone, but his face was remarkably intact and staring back at him. He stared for a good thirty seconds before a honk from behind made him fumble for his cell phone.

 

 

          It was only about fifty meters to the clearing. As he walked, he calmly ejected the spent cartridge and the remaining two from the Remington. The weapon had performed well as usual. He palmed the hot brass in his hand until he reached the fire pit he had made. The live rounds he stuck in the ground under the fire. He then added the hat, sweat band, water bottles and the coveralls. He next picked up the gallon bottle of gasoline he had placed nearby and doused the pile with it; adding the bottle when it was empty.

 

 

          Jimmy talked so fast his father couldn’t understand him. He finally ran out of breath long enough for his father to break in and tell him to calm down. Jim Jr. was somewhat of a disappointment to his father; a typical know-it-all kid. But he had never heard him scared like this. All he could comprehend was that someone was dead, and Jimmy was scared. He swiveled around to his computer and called up OnStar on the screen. Something Jimmy didn’t know was Jim Sr. knew where his car was at all times; only a mile away. He was probably sneaking off to the beach again. He didn’t know who the girl was yet, but he suspected it was the Johnson girl. He really hoped not; her father was a prick. He grabbed his keys and ran for his car, still trying to calm down his son.

 

 

          He hated to do it, but he put the barrel in the crack of the rock and applied all his weight to the stock. The barrel bent just far enough to make it unusable. He had already removed the serial numbers weeks ago, so he now added it to the fire. He took one last look to ensure that the envelope was in its place before pulling the matches from his pocket. The latex gloves followed the match.

 

 

          Jim Sr. pulled to a stop in front of his son’s suv. The boy was sitting on the ground with an elderly Hispanic woman talking to him. First he reached in and turned off the ignition to put a stop to Eminem. He then examined his son. He was white as his Florida tan would allow and just playing with the laces on his shoes. The woman was going on in high-speed Spanish and pointing at the other car. He took a look and recognized Addicot; the man lived in the same gated community as he did. He reached for his cell phone and stared at his son.

 

 

          Now clothed in dark blue running shoes, grey shorts and a black t-shirt he looked like any other runner out for his daily miles. He paused when he approached the sidewalk looking for traffic, both motor and pedestrian. Seeing none, he donned his sunglasses and adjusted his radio. Already soaked in sweat, he looked the part as soon as he stepped into the street and took up a medium pace toward his car. It was an easy three miles to the local strip-mall. Escape and evade.

 

 

          The ambulance crew parked at the strip-mall had just finished breakfast, and were settling into their normal routine of a book and a newspaper when they got the call from dispatch; P.I. (Personal Injury) accident. They recognized the intersection as they knew the area well. Low speed area, probably just a fender bender. But this was America; land of the lawsuit, so dispatch sent them priority-one; lights and sirens, least the injured be a lawyer and sue the city for not responding fast enough. Never mind the risk to them and the public as they raced in. The veteran driver thought all this, but kept it to himself. His new partner still liked to drive fast. They were a mile away when they heard dispatch add the fire department to the call. Maybe he better step it up a little?

 

 

          One mile away and the kinks in his legs were just coming out. He had just turned from looking at the smoke over his shoulder when he saw the ambulance coming. He checked the urge to wave to them as he usually did; force of habit. The crew was an older guy and a young girl. He hoped it wasn’t her first gunshot, but in her chosen career she was going to see it sooner or later. They would have a good response time, but it wouldn’t help any; just a lot of waiting followed by a lot of paperwork. Sorry guys. He liked medics more than he liked cops.

 

 

          Jim Sr. told his story to the deputy as Jim Jr. just sat in his father’s car and stared up at the smoke coming out of the trees. The deputy hoped the Chief got here soon as he was unsure of what to do with this mess. He had used his cell phone or the press would be all over this in minutes. The Chief also spoke Spanish and the deputy couldn’t understand anything this Hispanic woman said. While the boy wasn’t talking, the woman wouldn’t shut up. Looked like a car-jacking gone wrong. He left the three together and started to tape off the area. People were already starting to gather. On top of that, the damn woods were burning. He had just driven through here not twenty minutes ago. What the hell happened?

 

 

          With one mile to go he heard the fire truck. Damn quick of them. He hoped the fire had done its job before they got to it.

 

 

          When they got on-scene the paramedics automatically split up. The veteran didn’t even bother to check for a pulse. He knew a crime scene when he saw one and turned to bring a sheet from the truck. His partner couldn’t get the kid to speak. So she did what she always did and took his vital signs and checked for injuries. Psychosomatic shock. Not much she could do for him. Just what did he see?

 

 

          He had left the car parked outside of a gym. He climbed in and headed for his hotel in Altomonte Springs. His bags were packed and the ticket was in the visor of the car. A quick shower and he was on his way down Interstate 4 to Tampa. Four hours till his flight left.

 

 

          The crew made quick work of the fire. Someone had taken the time to clear an area for a rather large one. A curious thing was the rifle in the fire. Even stranger was the big envelope with FBI and some guys name written on it tacked to the tree. The Lieutenant left it where it was and sent a crewman to get the Chief.

 

 

          What the hell was going on? Sanchez was not pleased. Two years ago he had landed the cake job of Chief in this rich suburb and he planned to stay forever. Nothing like this had ever happened in this part of Orlando, especially on a Saturday. He took his own picture of the envelope on the tree before putting on gloves and opening it. He found several newspaper articles and a typed letter addressed to the FBI. He sighed and pulled out his cell phone.

 

 

          As he drove past Disney World he had the urge to pull out his own cell phone and call Paul. He felt good. They were started. The first job had gone off without a hitch. Then he remembered Timothy McVeigh. He put the cell phone away and slowed to the legal limit. Paul would know soon enough, and he still had a plane to catch.

 

 

          Sanchez marveled at the activity a cell phone could produce. On scene he had the coroner’s office, the county and state police, two or three TV crews, the FBI, and all of his own officers. When he was hired, he had been smart enough to get to know his neighbors in the business, and they had a mutual support agreement for just such a case as this. It was going to be a long day.

 

 

          He settled into a chair at the airport bar and ordered a large soft drink. His stomach couldn’t tolerate alcohol anymore. He could see his gate from his stool, but more important, he could see the TV mounted to the wall over the bar. The story was just being told for the second time but he couldn’t hear it. The bartender saw him watching.

“Some big-shot lawyer up in Orlando just got his head blown off. Can’t imagine who would want to do that!” The crowd at the bar laughed with her.

They called his flight. He drained his drink, smiled at the bartender and left.

 

 

 

The state of Alaska holds 4,527 inmates in its prisons.
Approximately 3,000 are repeat offenders.

 

—Two—

 

          Special Agent Jack Randall already felt the headache coming on. The call from his office had arrived about the same time as the story had aired on CNN. As he packed, his fax machine began cranking out page after page from the Hoover building. He looked at the first page as he brushed his teeth.

          T. Carlton Addicot, huh? Not his favorite guy. Everyone he knew at the bureau had heard of him. Jack recalled what he had read on the man; a big money tort lawyer. Sued big companies for anything he could think of claiming to do so on behalf of the victims. Never mind that he raked in more than all the victims combined. Word was he had a partner in every state and flew around in his own Gulfstream jet litigating. His specialty was medical companies. Last year he’d made sixty-two million on a case involving a male impotency drug that supposedly gave its users heart attacks, often while in the act it was deemed for. No real evidence was available to prove the drug did cause the attacks, but the company chose to settle and pay off the users and their lawyers in the face of greater losses. The drug was quickly pulled from the shelves. The FBI had looked at T. Addicot three times for some shaky tax shelters and possible jury tampering. The man was guilty as hell, but they had been unable to pin anything on him. He also had friends within the bar that defended high profile criminals and had often funded the case when the client’s assets were seized. All for a hefty fee of course.

          The phone rang. Spit. Wipe. He snatched it on the second ring. “Randall” he spat into the receiver.

          “Jack its Deacon; you get the faxes I sent?”

          “Yes sir, still spitting them out.”

          Deputy Director Mark Deacon was Jack’s current boss although they had worked together for a year and a half on the Russian Mafia killings in New York and had become good friends, Jack would always call him sir. He had too much respect for the man.

          “Sorry to ruin your weekend, but this one came addressed to us. Seems our shooter left a note with your name on it. I told you fame had its drawbacks.” He was right. The press had a field day following Jack during the trials. They had plastered his name and face on every rag on the east coast. His mother sent him every newspaper clipping she came across. All it did was make him useless for undercover work.

          “The letter is just coming through now sir, what’s the game plan?” His wife had just entered the doorway and was listening with her disappointed look. It worked better on him than it did on the kids she taught.

          “I want you, Larry, and Dave to fly down and take charge. I’m sending Sydney and her team with you. The press is running a story on it being a car-jacking gone wrong. That sounds fine for now, just don’t make any statements unless the truth gets out. Tell the locals the rules; keep this in the dark. Mel in Orlando isn’t too impressed with the local boys, but he says their Chief knows the game. Read up on this victim on the plane and be ready to dig when you get there. From the letter we have to assume this shooter has an agenda. I want to know how good he is and where you think he may go next. Take all the time you need and be thorough. Just give me reports when you have something new. There’s a plane waiting for you at Andrews. Get a line on this quick Jack, and apologize to Debra for me.”

          “Yes sir.” Jack replied. He was still getting the look from his wife as he pushed the button to end the call. He now regretted using the speaker phone; as it allowed him to pack and talk at the same time. Debra had heard it all and was not pleased.

          “Jack, you’ve only been home a week and now your leaving again? We have guests you know. Can’t the damn FBI do without you for two weeks?”

          He hated that tone, but he knew she had every right to complain. He had promised her some time together after the trials, and here he was, running off not yet half-way into their vacation.

          “Honey, I’m sorry, but the Director calls and I go where he sends me. That’s the job. I have a team waiting for me at the airport. You’ll have to apologize to Mark and Kathy for me.” Jack knew this would only be the beginning.

          “Does this team include Sydney?” Debra asked.

          Jack winced. Having your ex-girlfriend as a colleague was not one of Debra’s favorite things about his job. It had caused some friction in the last year.

          “Yes, it does, the Director is sending her and her team along with me. You know I have no control over that. It’s just work.” Jack confirmed. No use lying, she knew the answer before she had asked the question.

          “Fine, I’ll just go downstairs and tell our friends that you’re running off to Florida with your girlfriend to chase bad-guys again, and won’t be able to join us tonight.” She left before he could reply.

          Damn it, why couldn’t she understand? Jack thought. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I’ve had to do it faster than most due to my delayed start. I’m finally to the point that I’m happy with my job, and now she’s unhappy. It was always something. Sooner or later it will come to a serious talk, but right now I have to get going. Mark and Kathy were her friends anyway. Where the hell were his keys?

 

 

          Sydney Lewis was in her Drill Sergeant mode; barking orders from a list in her head. Her people were jumping accordingly, but after seeing a couple of strange looks from them, she forced herself to stop. Her people knew their jobs, they didn’t need that. It was her first call from the Deputy Director himself, and her crew could tell it had spooked her a little.Sydney just needed to calm down and trust them to do their jobs. This was just another shooting, not like they haven’t seen them before, especially their boss.

          If there was one thing Sydney had seen in her career it was gunshot wounds. After six years as a paramedic, and three more with the FBI as a crime scene investigator, she had become an authority on the subject. She had even studied at the University of Tennessee’s three-acre cadaver farm. People who had donated their bodies to science all thought they’d be heading for medical school anatomy labs when they died. They didn’t know that they might end up on the farm with a few post-mortem gunshot wounds, only to be tossed in the woods and observed while they rot. But the university had been pivotal in the development of forensics. She had not only excelled, but had written several papers on the different ways bullets affected the body, and developed new ways to determine time of death in relation to them. All but one of which had been published. This had caught the eye of the head of the FBI lab. A job had been offered upon graduation, and she had made her first marks working the Russian Mafia cases last year. She was considered a rising star by her peers, and given her own crime scene investigation team.

          “Is Jack heading this case Sydney?” One of her crew asked.

          “Yes, Larry and Dave are coming too. Why?”

          “Just wondering.” The crewman smiled at her. It was no secret that she and Jack had a past, a point that her crew liked to bring up. They had been an item in college, but went their separate ways upon graduation. Both of them were more serious about their late career changes than about each other.

          “You people done packing yet?”Sydney gave them her mock serious look.

          “Yes Ma’am!” They all grinned.

          She grinned too and shook her head as she returned to her equipment. She needed new batteries for her flashlight again, and another box of gloves. Her team wore large gloves, but she had small hands.

          Jack had lasted longer in the business world than she thought he would. He was just not the kind to sit at a desk and crunch numbers. She had seen that right away. But his family had been making money in investments for three generations now, and Jack was destined to take over. That his father had tolerated his stint in the army without disowning him was a miracle. He must have seen the trait in his son, and hoped the army would either work it out of him, or change his mind. His father’s subsequent stroke had ended Jack’s army days prematurely, and Jack found himself both in school, and in charge of the firm. The fact that he minored in criminology should have been a hint to his real goal. But Jack toed the line and married the daughter of a board member. That kept his family happy until his father’s death. Jack then announced his resignation from the chair, and intentions to join the FBI. Family friends had pulled some political strings and he had gotten a shot. From there he made it on his own. Cracking open the Russian Mafia on his second assignment was a stroke of luck, and his actions on the case and subsequent trial marked him as a future star. He was eventually assigned to Mark Deacon’s office.

          Sydney caught herself smiling. Not bad for a guy she had met at a pistol range.

 

 

          Jack pulled the Corvette into one of the bureau slots at the airport. He had been thinking of Sydney on the drive in. He hadn’t seen her for a few weeks. Catching sight of her now, unloading a van in the hanger, brought a smile to his face. It occurred to him that she looked the same as she had in college. Tonight she had on her typical khaki pants and blue bureau shirt, badge and gun on her belt. Her long black hair was pulled back into her at-work ponytail. Jack knew somewhere in her immediate area was a clipboard with several lists. She was a notorious list maker. She remarked once that she didn’t like making lists; she liked crossing things off them. It gave her a sense of detail that was hard to match and had served her well to. When he met her, she’d had a loaded gun in her hand. Most people who are bad shots are often referred to as “Couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”. Well Syd, as he liked to call her, couldn’t hit the barn if she were shooting from the inside. With the doors closed. With a shotgun. He remembered taking her under his wing to get her past her qualifying shoot at the end of class. Now she was, well, a fair shot, he allowed. Some people just never really developed the skill. The one year romance that resulted was just icing on the cake. They’d just had different futures at the time.

          He had to admit, she had come a long way. Born on the lower end of middle class, her father was a factory worker and her mother a part-time waitress. She had decent grades until they divorced in her first year of high school. Her grades suffered as her father was often laid off, and she was forced to work. Just after  graduation she was involved in a car accident, but thanks to a sharp paramedic, was able to walk out of the hospital. When she stopped by the station to thank the crew, she was intrigued by the job. Soon she was waitressing by day and attending the paramedic academy by night. One year later she was on the streets. She had a talent for it, but after a few years found herself hanging out with the medical examiners at the crime scenes. Through them, she discovered that the dead can be just as interesting as the living. Her Medical Control Doctor sponsored her in an accelerated program that lead to her degree. She impressed the right people, and wound up at the FBI, where a big case led to her and Jack working together. They made an even stranger team than they did couple, him, the rich boy who did the job because he hated his former life, and her, the smart, pretty, and poor girl who liked dead people.

          He grabbed his bag out of the trunk and walked toward the hanger. This was going to be interesting.

 

 

          The flight was uneventful. Sam was still getting used to first class. The large seats allowed him to recline almost flat, and that helped take the pressure off his abdomen. His carry-on bag held his lap-top, a few toiletries, some clothes, and of course, his medications. His false papers had worked just fine, and with every use he was beginning to think that the price he had paid was fair. He had a total of eight identities. Three used and five remaining, all expertly done by a gentleman in Toronto who charged $2,500 per set. Each set came complete with a driver’s license, credit cards in both Visa and MasterCard, and U.S.and Canadian passports. They also came with such things as video store cards, gas cards, phone cards, even a couple library cards. The forger also had a lady-friend who was skilled in make-up and hair. Sam smiled as he thought of the wigs they had tried. Quite an operation the couple had, one stop shopping with no questions asked.

          The half-hour layover was short and unavoidable. He watched a harried mother try to control her two toddlers as she waited for their father. She frowned at her checkbook in between calling the kids back into their seats. The bulky winter boots the kids wore made them clumsy as they repeatedly wandered away from mom. One met his gaze and, after a short staring match, Sam smiled at the boy. He smiled back before running back to his mother.

          The twenty-minute flight home on the commuter plane was likewise uneventful. No first class on this one. Sam slept till the wheels hit the ground. Short naps were a skill he had picked up in the army, especially on planes. Paul just nodded at the gate and led him out to the car. Once they were in and heading toward I-94, he turned and gave his brother-in-law a slight punch on the shoulder.

          “Any problems?” Paul asked.

          “Not a one, went off just like I planned it. EMS was quicker than I thought, but good for them. I saw one ambulance and one fire unit on the jog out, but the cops must have come in from the north.” Sam replied.

          “The envelope?”

          “Left it nailed to a tree upwind from the fire. I’m sure they have it.” Sam said. The envelope was clean, as was the letter and printed articles in it. Sam had bought the envelope at a Wal-Mart and had pulled the one he’d used from the middle of the box using gloves. The articles had been printed on a library computer and also handled accordingly. The highlights and circles, as well as the addressed name had been done with markers from the same Wal-Mart. The lettering was in second grade block letters. No, the envelope was clean.

          “The press is saying it was a car-jacking gone bad, how about that?” Paul said.

          Sam thought about that for a minute. That smelled like the FBI, trying to keep this low key as long as they could. The word would get out soon. The wife or the lawyer’s buddies would start making noise, or more likely a reporter would bribe somebody for information. Keeping it quiet was wishful at best. He voiced this to Paul, and they rode in silence for a few miles. He waited for the next question he always got.

          “How’s the pain?”

          “It’s there, but tolerable. The drugs the doc gave me are working as advertised. I guess that’s about all I can expect.” Sam didn’t want to go there right now. “So what’s next? Did you find that stuff I need?”

          “Yeah, I made a run to Chicago last week and picked up almost all of it. Used up an ID, but it was worth it.” Paul replied.

          “Good.”

          Paul looked at Sam. Sam was always full of energy, but right now he looked tired. He’d let him sleep before he asked about the lawyer. Maybe he’d wait till morning? He took the exit ramp to us-131 north. Ten minutes to home.

 

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