Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening

The following excerpts are Chapters One through Three from Sleeping Dogs: The Awakening, a novel by John Wayne Falbey. If you enjoy them and want to read more of the book, the complete novel can be purchased in print or ebook format from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, CreateSpace, Ingram, Baker & Taylor or in eBook format from Amazon, iBooks, Nook The book also is available for most other eReaders and in HTML or PDF at Smashwords.

Copyright © 2012 John Wayne Falbey

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9855187-1-4 

Library of Congress Control Number:  2012909065



 

“It is nought good a slepying hound to wake”

Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde


1 Georgetown: Coincidence?

Brendan Whelan was a dead man. That’s what his death certificate said—the victim of a plane crash nearly two decades earlier. A plane had crashed, that was true. But Whelan hadn’t been on it. He and five colleagues had been fleeing for their lives from a Presidential Decision Directive. The PDD, a classified document as a matter of national security, had ordered the six men to be terminated with extreme prejudice. The crash had been arranged to provide cover for them. But he assumed that PDD was still active. Yet here he was, almost twenty years later, in the most dangerous place on earth for him to be—the United States.

An old friend and mentor, Clifford Levell, was well aware of the danger to Whelan, yet he all but commanded Whelan to come to him. He didn’t know what Levell wanted. The man wouldn’t say over the phone. But he owed Levell. Owed him a lot. Levell had been his mentor, his creator—in a sense his Dr. Frankenstein. He had made Whelan into the man he was today. He knew Levell wouldn’t expose him to the dangers he faced in the States if the situation wasn’t critical. Still, he was angry at having to leave his family and the comfortable, safe new life he had built in Ireland. And very uneasy being back in the States. Now, after traveling almost twenty-four hours, Levell’s home was only a few blocks away.

It was early morning, a few days into a new year, and cold. Whelan wore thin glove liners, partly to counter the chill and partly to avoid leaving fingerprints in the rented Jeep. A stranger in a strange land, particularly one under a death warrant, takes precautions. A soft rain, not much more than a heavy mist, blurred the landscape, creating halo effects around the streetlights. The only sounds were the hiss of the tires on the wet street and the Grand Cherokee’s wipers wagging slowly across the windshield. The hypnotic rhythm didn't help his struggle to stay awake. Even the odor of stale cigarette smoke from a previous user didn’t seem as annoying now.

Stifling a yawn, Whelan punched the radio’s On button, hoping it would provide some stimulation. Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” was playing. It brought back memories of another era. Some good, some not so good.

He thought about the handful of others like him who also had been trained by Levell. All of them young and gifted in ways most people couldn’t imagine. Whelan remembered every one of them, even the ones they’d lost long the way. Of them all, Whelan knew he had been Levell’s prize student. He wondered what had become of the five other survivors. Each of them was subject to the same Executive Order authorizing their executions.

Levell had stayed in touch with each of them over the years – separately, for their own safety. He wondered whether Levell had summoned any of the others to this meeting. Probably not—it was just too dangerous.

Whelan turned the Jeep into a quiet residential section of Georgetown. It was a shame  the others wouldn’t be present. He’d like to see some of them again: Larsen, the man with no neck; Stensen, the vigilante; Thomas, the philosopher; Kirkland, the Zen master; even Almeida, the weakest link but usually good for comic relief. He remembered them all—each extremely intelligent, superbly athletic, beta models of humans of the future. And stone killers every one.

Headlights caromed out of the mist to his right. Shit. Exhausted and distracted by his thoughts, Whelan hadn’t noticed the vehicle approaching from a side street. It was too late to avoid the collision. Instinctively, he yanked the steering wheel hard left, causing the Jeep to slew on the wet road. Better for the large, black limousine to impact the passenger side of his truck at an angle rather than take its force head-on.

The Jeep was only partially angled to the left when the collision occurred. The limo’s driver had yanked his steering wheel to the right causing his car’s left front fender to slam into the Jeep’s right front fender. The ugly sounds of glass shattering and metal twisting, ripping violated the stillness of the night. The force of the impact spun the Jeep 180 degrees, tires shrieking against the pavement. Its momentum propelled it diagonally across the intersection. It came to a sudden stop as its rear bumper rammed a light pole, knocking it askew.

Whelan’s fatigue vanished with the force of the impact. His senses were fully alive now. The smell of leaking gasoline clashed with the oddly comforting scent of the leather seats. His survival instincts were on high. He couldn’t get involved with police or emergency medical personnel. The urge to climb out of the truck and bolt into the shelter of the night was powerful. And Levell’s house was only two blocks away.

Through the shattered windshield Whelan saw that the limo had stopped in the middle of the intersection. The tilting streetlight acted like a flood light in the mist, focused on the Jeep. The limo driver and another man got out. Both were large men, dressed in badly fitting dark suits and solid color ties. Each wore an earpiece. As they drew closer, he saw that each was wearing a brass nametag pinned to a breast pocket. The limo driver’s said “Borys.” His companion’s said “Vadim.”

Whelan waited calmly in the Jeep as the two men approached. From their facial scars and the way they carried themselves, it was clear they were no strangers to violence. Whelan assumed these were dangerous men. He kept both hands on top of the steering wheel where the men could see them.

As they approached on the driver’s side, Vadim stopped near the rear of the vehicle. Borys leaned his six-foot-five-inch frame down and peered carefully through the driver’s window. Whelan knew what they’d see: Other than a day’s growth of beard, his skin was smooth and unlined. His features were even, with a strong chin and patrician nose. He had light brown hair, parted on the right. Ordinary. Except for his eyes. They were an icy blue, like the color of a deep glacial crevasse, and they were locked onto Borys’s eyes with no sign of emotion. Whelan saw that it unnerved Borys. Men that large and sinister looking were accustomed to intimidating others.

“You are all right, yes?” Borys said, with what Whelan recognized as an Eastern European accent.

“Yes.”

“You are please showing identification.” Borys held out his meaty hand for emphasis.

With his right hand, Whelan reached slowly into his front pocket and pulled out his wallet. He removed a driver’s license and handed it to Borys. As the large man took it, Whelan noticed the back of his hand was heavily tattooed, even his fingers.

Borys squinted at the ID in the poor light and said, “Walter Bailey. From Omaha, Nebraska.” His W sounded more like a V. English was his second language. Barely.

“That’s right.”

Borys glanced briefly at Vadim, then, turning back, said, “You are long way from Omaha, yes? Is late. What you are doing in Georgetown?”

“Attending a college reunion. Haven’t been back here in years. Must have gotten lost.”

Borys spoke a single word in his native tongue and pointed to the ground next to the Jeep. The word was foreign to Whelan but he understood the gesture. Get out of the truck.

He kept his right hand visible on the steering wheel. With his left, he slowly reached down and opened the door. In the process, he nicked his little finger on a piece of glass from the broken windshield. A small trickle of blood began to ooze from the cut.

Whelan swung his legs over the rocker panel and stepped carefully out of the truck. He suspected the situation was about to get worse. He would need just the right moment to act.

Borys motioned Whelan out into the street. The three men stopped directly beneath the tilting streetlight. As they did, Borys suddenly raised a hand to his earpiece. It drew Whelan’s attention to the additional tattoos on Borys’s neck. He glanced quickly at Vadim and saw similar body graffiti. He recognized them as gang symbols—for an especially ruthless Ukrainian crime syndicate.

Borys listened for a few moments to the voice coming through the earpiece then glanced at Vadim. They each took a step backward, swiftly pulling Glock 17s from the waistband of their pants.  Borys said, “We are thinking you are not this man, Bailey, and we are thinking you lie about college reunion.”

Whelan said nothing.

Borys stepped closer and raised the Glock so that it was angled about 45 degrees with the ground and pointing just to the outside of Whelan’s left kneecap.

“I have good nose for bullshit,” said Borys, tapping the side of his thick nose with a meaty forefinger. “I am thinking you are one of Levell’s peoples. And you are on way to see him.” He turned slightly to smirk at Vadim. When he did, the muzzle of the weapon edged away from Whelan’s knee. It was his moment of opportunity.

Whelan moved fast. Faster than Borys’s brain could relay a message from his eyes to his trigger finger. Whelan wrapped his left hand around Borys’s thick right wrist just above the gun in his hand. Half turning to his left, he wrapped his right arm over and around the big man’s right arm. His forearm was just above Borys’s elbow. Borys, like a hound with a flea, tried to shake free of the man who was more than 50 pounds lighter. To his shock, he couldn’t.

Still gripping Borys’s arm, Whelan swiftly brought his right knee up above waist height, then drove the heel of his shoe down and into the outside of Borys’s right knee. The technique was designed to force the tibia out of the knee socket, destroying the tibial collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments and ripping the meniscus. He heard the satisfying pop as Borys’s knee buckled at a grotesque angle. He quickly and smoothly swung Borys’s bulk into Vadim’s line of fire.

Seamlessly, Whelan’s left hand pulled down forcefully on Borys’s wrist while he simultaneously drove his forearm upward against the big man’s upper arm. With another popping sound, Borys’s elbow joint dislocated and the weapon fell from his hand. Its polymer frame made a dull clattering sound as it hit the pavement. As Borys screamed in agony and began to collapse, Whelan literally threw the 300-pound man at Vadim. He sprinted up Borys’s massive falling body like a running back scaling linemen at the goal line. At the top, he launched a flying kick, his right heel smashing Vadim’s nose, nearly ripping it from his face. It snapped his head back. Stunned, Vadim staggered backward and almost fell.

Before Vadim could recover and refocus his weapon, Whelan closed the gap and grabbed his gun hand, thrusting a finger behind the trigger to prevent firing. He drove a knee forcefully into Vadim’s groin. A loud grunt exploded from the injured man’s lips. His knees buckled and he grabbed desperately at his assailant for support. But Whelan was too quick. He had both hands on Vadim’s right wrist and swung it up and around, careful to keep the weapon pointing away from him. He continued to sweep the arm backward and up, a difficult maneuver for ordinary people with a man as large as Vadim. But, genetically, Whelan was far from ordinary.

He tugged Vadim toward him, forcing him to shift his weight to his right foot, which Whelan swept from under him. The big man did a forward somersault and landed on the back of his neck. Before he could recover, Whelan drove the heel of his right shoe deep onto the soft tissue of Vadim’s unprotected throat, destroying his windpipe, larynx, and the scream that tried to rise from it. Unable to breathe, he quickly lost consciousness and would be dead in less than three minutes.

Whelan turned back to Borys, who was writhing in pain on the street. He picked up both men’s Glocks, then bent over Borys for an instant and brought the butt of one of the Glocks down, crushing the man’s forehead and driving bone splinters into his frontal lobes. It may not have been a deathblow, but at the very least it was enough to destroy motor skills, libido, and problem-solving and creative thought processes. Borys, if he survived, would be in a vegetative state for his remaining years.

Whelan shifted his attention to the black limo, knowing that time was running very short. Neighbors would have heard the crash. By now, they would have called the authorities. He walked swiftly, but cautiously, toward the car, keeping one Glock focused on the middle of the windshield and the other on the left rear window. When he was still fifteen feet away, the right rear door opened and another large man climbed out. He was dressed similarly to Borys and Vadim. He brought his weapon up, bracing his arms on the limo’s roof for stability. Whelan opened fire with both of the 9mm Glocks. One hollow-point round pierced the bodyguard’s left eye and exited the back of his skull, taking much of his brain matter with it. His head snapped backward, and his body countered by toppling forward. The corpse slid clumsily down the side of the limo, leaving a bloody streak all the way to the rocker panel.

As Whelan drew close to the limo, the left rear window began to slide down. He aimed both Glocks into the darkness behind it. A face slowly emerged. He kept both weapons trained on it and made a quick scan of the car’s interior. The passenger was alone. He was wearing a dark brown double-breasted Burberry trench coat and clutching a cordovan leather attaché case in his hands. His face had collected more wrinkles and his hair, still parted in the same style, was much grayer and thinner, but the years had been kind to him and Whelan recognized him immediately.

“My God! It is you!” the older man said. “But…you’re dead!” And then it was he who was dead; shot in the middle of the forehead by a slug from one of the Glocks.

2 Georgetown: Reunion

Whelan heard the sounds of sirens in the distance. They were drawing closer. He glanced quickly around the neighborhood. Meticulously restored Georgian townhouses were pleasingly mixed with large homes in the Federal and Classical Revival styles. Lights had come on in some of their upper stories, and a few neighbors were peering out bedroom windows. Whelan squeezed off a couple of rounds, shattering the windows but intentionally not harming the occupants. It had the desired effect. The faces instantly disappeared and didn’t return.

He shoved a Glock into each of his windbreaker’s side pockets, and reached through the limo’s open window. Grabbing the attaché case from the dead man’s hands, he moved swiftly across the intersection, purposely heading away from Levell’s house. At the end of the next block, he turned right and ran swiftly and effortlessly for three blocks before turning right again. Levell’s house was at the end of the block.

Whelan cleared the front steps with a single leap and rang the bell. As he waited, he glanced around to make certain no one was watching. It felt like an eternity passed, so he rang the bell again. By now the police would have deciphered the residents’ excited babble a few blocks away. They would begin fanning out through the neighborhood, knowing the perp couldn’t have gone far on foot.

At last, the door was opened by an Asian man of indeterminate age. He was lean and wiry; about five feet seven inches tall with closely cropped black hair. His flat, finely chiseled features were expressionless. The man wore baggy black trousers, a black tee shirt, and Kung Fu slippers. Whelan guessed him to be Korean, and knowing Levell, assumed the man was a skilled martial artist.

“May I help you?” He had a high-pitched voice and a heavy accent.

“Mr. Levell is expecting me.”

The Asian man eyed him for a moment then said, “You wait”, and started to close the door.

Whelan said, “I need to wait inside.”

The man, aware of the sirens, quickly connected the dots and stepped aside. Whelan was prepared to wait just inside the door until the man returned, but Levell’s voice broke in from somewhere in the house. “Mr. Rhee, has our guest arrived?”

“Yes, he here now.”

Rhee motioned Whelan to follow him, and led the way across a large living room toward a hallway on the other side. There was a slightly musty odor in the air. Not mildew or mold; more like a space that hadn’t been aired in a long time. The living room was dimly lighted by a single Tiffany lamp on a small table in one corner. The dark woods and Victorian-style furnishings added to the gloomy atmosphere. Several paintings, which Whelan took to be Gainsboroughs or excellent imitations, hung on the walls. The windows were clothed with heavy velvet drapes. A tray ceiling created a slight dome effect. It supported a large, cut glass chandelier made of lead crystal. The flooring was a dark hardwood, partially covered by a large rug. Like many of the other furnishings and accessories, it looked old and valuable.

Rhee led Whelan down a wide, dimly lit hallway to a room that obviously was a den. Tall wooden bookshelves lined three walls. A large stone fireplace and mantle were built into the fourth wall. Several logs were burning nicely. Each side of the fireplace was decorated with framed photographs. Whelan recognized some of them from his earlier experiences with Levell. A large paneled, wooden desk sat in the middle of the room, papers strewn across its surface. A small lamp on one corner of the desk provided the only light in the room.

An older man with closely cropped iron gray hair, bushy eyebrows and a strong jaw line sat in a wheelchair in front of the desk, a heavy robe across his lap. The disability had no effect on his military bearing.  Whelan had known Clifford Levell, now in his early seventies, before the automobile accident had robbed him of his mobility. With his size, voice, features and mannerisms, Levell had always reminded Whelan of Clint Eastwood. Even more so now. He remembered Levell as a strong, vigorous, hard-living man—a warrior’s warrior.

Whelan placed the attaché case on the floor and the two men looked at each other for the first time in almost twenty years. Rhee stood silently in the background, like a faithful guardian—prepared for any exigency.

After a moment, Levell spoke. “Brendan Whelan, the Prince of Wolves!” He’d always been intrigued by the Irish Gaelic meaning of Whelan’s names. His voice was clear and strong, retaining its familiar raspiness. “Son, you are a sight for these aging eyes.”

Whelan leaned over and hugged the old man, surprised at how strong Levell seemed despite his handicap. “It’s been a long time. How are you, Cliff?”

“Long? Hell, it’s been an eternity. And I’m doing all right considering I’m confined to this damn baby buggy.”

“I heard about that,” Whelan said. “I’m sorry.”

“Look, son, sooner or later life kicks all of us in the ass.” He smiled as he said it. “But I have no regrets; it’s been a good life. And it remains so.” He motioned for Whelan to sit in one of the overstuffed leather desk chairs.  “I heard sirens. That have anything to do with you?”

Whelan nodded. “On the way here, I literally ran into someone from our past.” Whelan paused for a moment then said, “It was Case.”

Levell sat forward suddenly in his wheelchair. “Harold Case?”

“The same.”

“Given what I know about his recent activities, he may have been on his way here.”

“Why would he do that?”

“To try to persuade or bribe me to help him corroborate certain Agency files that were supposed to have been destroyed nearly twenty years ago.” He shook his head in disgust. “Damn bureaucrats. Nothing ever seems to get destroyed, burned, erased, or deleted as it’s supposed to be.”

Leaning back in his wheelchair, Levell said, “Harold Case, was a miserable sonofabitch. Did he recognize you?”

“Yes. I killed him and his hired muscle.”

“His departure was long overdue. Wish I had done it myself.” Levell rubbed his hands together in satisfaction.  

“Any witnesses to the scene? Anyone who could identify you?”

“None living.”

Levell smiled. “They woke a Sleeping Dog.”

“What was Case up to?” Whelan said.

 “He was working for someone who wants to expose the old Sleeping Dogs operation.”

“Why?”

“To discredit this country, a popular position on the far left.”

“Who was he working for?”

“The senior senator from New York, Howard Morris.”

Whelan nodded in recognition of the name.

“We know Morris is being bankrolled by a certain multibillionaire with a one-world view.”

“Chaim Laski?” Whelan said. He’d been in Ireland nearly two decades, but had tried to follow America’s foreign and domestic issues.

“You still connect the dots well,” Levell said. “The far left’s end game is to fundamentally transform the nation from a constitutional democracy governed by duly elected representatives of the majority to one that better fits their one-world format. Laski’s their money manager.”

“How is that possible? America is supposed to be the home of rugged individualists who like to think for themselves.”

Levell scoffed. “That’s a dying breed, son; replaced by a generation or two of weak-kneed, over-pampered quitters. Looking for a free ride and expecting the government to provide it. Easy pickin’s for socialist candidates looking to merge the U.S. into a global nanny state.”

The older man sat ramrod straight in his wheelchair. His anger was palpable. “They believe that goal can be achieved by ruining the economy, causing widespread panic. Just look at current events. Profligate spending by an ever-expanding government that covers it with borrowed funds. Requiring fiscally unsupportable programs like mandatory universal health care. Running up the price of oil through bans on domestic drilling, all while our enemies are afloat in cheap carbon fuels.

 “Eventually the nation’s creditors will accept that we’re bankrupt. That will collapse the economy. Capitalism will be blamed for the mother of all depressions that follows, and the populace will turn to a ‘savior’ with a different plan. Then the transformation is complete.”

“Sounds like a socialist’s nirvana,” Whelan said.

Levell nodded grimly. “One ruled by a self-styled intellectual elite. People who think they can make better decisions for us than we’re capable of making for ourselves.”

“Ironic,” Whelan said. “And just when European states are beginning to realize socialism isn’t working.”

“It’s worse than you may think,” Levell said. “The administration has reduced our military’s size, funding, and technological superiority. It’s soft-soaped terrorism, calling it man-caused disaster or workplace violence, and avoided combating jihadists on their own turf. It’s apologized all over the globe for the U.S. role as peacekeeper. Now when trouble develops, it brags about ‘leading from behind’, and lets itself be outwitted by the Russians and other dangerous foes.”

“A weakened America is easier to absorb into a one-world order.”

“Bingo,” Levell said. “This political movement isn’t new. It’s been underway for decades in the United States, infiltrating our political system, the news media and entertainment industries, unions, the education system and other institutions, including, I fear, members of our military’s junior officer corps.”

Whelan said, “Who’s behind this, Cliff?”

“It’s supposed to look like it’s the Ruskies. But we believe they’re being gamed by domestic loons and certain greedy members of our own über rich. Sadly, they’re on the verge of realizing the fruits of their long labors. They now control one of the two major political parties in the U.S., as well as the news media. They’re a single appointment away from controlling a majority on the Supreme Court. They’ve twisted reality and molded public perception. And, naïve, self-absorbed fools that we are, most of us paid no attention.”

 “So, you’re saying Case, Morris—they’re part of a long-term strategy,” Whelan said, “to bring the country down from within.”

Levell nodded vigorously. He clearly was worked up. Whelan saw Rhee, who had been standing silently in the background, move a step closer to the old man.

“Bastards thought they’d struck pay dirt back in the seventies with Carter’s election,” Levell said, “only to watch the bumbling fool inflame patriotism. That ushered in Ronald Reagan and a brief retaking of the direction of the country. Probably thought they were back on track with Clinton, but overestimated his dedication to leftist dogma and underestimated the size of the ego that drove him to the center for the popular acceptance he craved.”

Levell’s eyes narrowed and the corners of his mouth turned down as if he had bitten into something rancid. “They must have thought they’d hit the jackpot with the current president. Under this administration, they skirt the Constitution in a number of ways. They run the government by a series of executive orders. Appoint czars who bypass cabinet offices and report only to the administration without the required congressional vetting. They refuse to enforce laws they don’t like; and sue states if they pass such laws on their own. They abuse power through recess appointments even when Congress isn’t in recess. And when the federal courts overturn the appointments, they ignore them. Under Articles I and II, Congress holds all legislative power. Yet they issue a tsunami of regulations that strangle capitalism and entrepreneurship, such as the EPA’s regulations advancing Cap and Trade that Congress specifically voted down.”

Levell smiled. “Ironically, in spite of that, the president has alienated his own far left base because they don’t think he’s ‘progressive’ enough, that he’s too enamored with his rock star status to be manageable. They don’t want him to run for reelection. In fact, they have a replacement puppet in the wings.”

“Howard Morris,” Whelan said.

“Exactly.”

“I understand your concerns, but what does it have to do with me? Has Case’s meddling exposed me and the other members of the old unit? You could have communicated with me in the usual fashion. The situation doesn’t seem to require a face-to-face.”

“Maybe, but it’s more important than that.”

“What’s more important than protecting the anonymity of six men who’ve served this country and were rewarded for it by a PDD calling for their deaths?” 

Levell waived a hand impatiently, as if to cut Whelan off. “It’s far larger than you six surviving members of the Sleeping Dogs.”

“What is? Pax Americana?”

“Yes, that and more. The reason I wanted you front and center is to help us put the unit back together. We need the services of you and your former colleagues, and you’re going to round them up.”

“You’re the point of contact with each of us. Why aren’t you rounding them up?”

Levell looked at his wheelchair. “Travel is a little difficult. And a phone call isn’t going to get it done.” He gave Whelan a squinty-eyed smile. “You were their leader. They respect you. A message from you, delivered in person, will have the most impact.”

“What’s the mission?”

“There’s going to be an attempt to assassinate the president.”

Whelan let that sink in for a moment. “Are you suggesting we’re going to do it? I don’t care for the son-of-a-bitch, but not strongly enough to kill him.”

Levell shook his head impatiently. “No, not us. His own party. We want to stop it.”

“Why? You were clear about the danger his agenda poses. Why not let the effort succeed?”

“Because, inevitably, it will be spun to make it seem that we did it.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Later. There’s something more pressing at the moment.”

3 J. Edgar Hoover Building

FBI headquarters were housed in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, a massive, multistoried structure on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets Northwest. Deep in its bowels, eighteen people were crammed into a small conference facility designed for a maximum of ten. All were beginning to perspire as their collective body heat raised the temperature in a room that was already overheated by the building’s HVAC system. Some sat scrolling through messages on their smart phones; others were engaged in animated conversations or phone calls. A few were watching a very large black man, the district commander of the Metropolitan Police Department’s Second District. He was leaning over the conference table and bellowing at the Bureau’s Supervisory Special Agent, Mitchel Christie.

Ordinarily, Christie was officed in the Bureau’s D.C. Field Office a few blocks away. To compensate for overcrowding there, some agents had recently been relocated to the Hoover Building. In Christie’s case the move had been sudden and very recent. When he had left his office last evening it had been in the Field Office building. The Harold Case affair changed that. He received a call at his home around three thirty that morning. His boss told him he was being assigned to head up the investigation, and would be relocated to the Hoover Building. Christie didn’t like surprises and he didn’t like change. But he was a company man and did as he was told.

The SSA sat calmly at the head of the table, his eyes focused on the district commander’s angry face. The only outward sign of tension was the soft drumbeat of Christie’s fingers slowly tapping in unison on the tabletop. He was working very hard to keep his temper under control despite the steady shower of spittle flying in his direction. It mixed with the perspiration beginning to bead up on his face. Finally, nearing the end of his patience, he held up a hand, palm outward, and said, “Steve.” That didn’t seem to have any effect. He paused for a moment, then raised his voice a notch and said, “District Commander Williams, screaming and shouting won’t accomplish anything. It’s seven o’clock in the morning and the event happened barely four hours ago. Everybody here was yanked out of bed to come in and work on this thing. Let’s not waste any of their time.”

Williams’ eyes seemed to bulge from their sockets as he struggled to control his rage. “This massacre occurred on my turf! You have no idea what my office is like right now. Phones ringin’ off the fuckin’ hooks, frightened citizens crapping their drawers, media hammering away at me for details I don’t have. And my boss calling me every fifteen minutes expecting answers when I’m not even sure what the fuckin’ questions are yet. What I do know is I got three dead people and one vegetable on my hands. This meeting should be happening in my office instead of me having to drive across town to watch you clowns having a circle jerk.” He straightened and took a deep breath.

“Forensics ran the victims’ prints. Three of those men were in this country illegally. They each have extensive police records in Europe.” He looked pointedly at Williams. “We’ll work closely with your people, but the Bureau has been assigned primary jurisdiction of this investigation.”

 The district commander slammed a very large palm down on the table sending a shock wave all the way to its far end. “You better hope you don’t fumble the ball on this.” When he lifted his palm, it left a large wet mark on the tabletop.

All other activities in the room ceased as the SSA rose to his feet. He was a tall, lean man, but at six feet three inches he was a good three inches shorter than the district commander. And almost one hundred pounds lighter. The tense moment was interrupted as a small woman with short blonde hair and wire rim glasses approached the SSA. She whispered to him, “One of our forensics people is on the line, sir. I think you’re going to want to hear this.” She handed her cell phone to Christie.

“Christie,” he said. “What have you got?”

The voice on the other end said, “It’s Billingsley, sir. We’ve found something that could identify one of the perps.”

“Yeah?”

“It’s a very small blood sample, but it doesn’t appear – preliminarily anyway – that it came from any of the victims.”

“Where did you find it?”

“Actually, we found two samples, on the right wrist of each of the two victims who were nearest the Jeep. But their skin wasn’t broken in those areas.”

 “On their wrists?” Christie paused for a moment and thought about what the evidence might mean. “Any theories yet?”

“Not really,” Billingsley said. “Might be that one of the assailants was injured and the blood was transferred in close quarters combat. Judging from the injuries suffered by those two victims, it was hand-to-hand at some point.”

“Has the sample been sent to the lab for DNA testing yet?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good work. Keep me posted.” The SSA pressed the disconnect button and handed the phone back to his assistant. “Charlotte, I wanna know the minute the DNA results are available.” She nodded and returned to her seat near the other end of the table.

Christie turned toward the others gathered around the table and raised his hands, signaling for them to pay attention. “All right, people, let’s get focused.” The room suddenly quieted. Only the district commander remained standing, glaring at Christie, who said, “It’s only been a short while since the event and we still don’t have much to go on, but let’s recap what we do know.”

The SSA sat down, purposely ignoring the smoldering gaze from the district commander, who, with an undisguised snort, finally lowered his massive frame into a chair.

“At approximately three a.m. an event involving fatalities occurred in a residential section of Georgetown. It appears to have involved a collision between a late model rented Jeep Grand Cherokee and a limousine. A man identified as Walter Bailey of Omaha, Nebraska, rented the Jeep earlier this morning at Dulles. The limousine was under lease by a Delaware corporation that’s in that line of business. It was hired for the evening by a senate investigative subcommittee for a retired CIA employee named Harold Case. Mr. Case was seventy-two years old and was working as a private contractor for that subcommittee. There were three fatalities and a potentially fatal injury. The men accompanying Mr. Case all were Ukrainian nationals who were in this country illegally. They apparently were working for a private security firm organized and headquartered in the Cayman Islands.”

The SSA glanced at some sheets of paper on the table in front of him. “Bailey appears to be an assumed name. There’s certainly no trace of such an individual in Omaha. Agents from our Atlanta office are checking into it, but it appears that the real Walter Bailey, on whom the identity is based, died at the age of twenty-eight while undergoing heart surgery in Georgia in 1998.”

A chubby man with glasses and thinning hair, who was sitting next to Charlotte, raised his hand. “Excuse me, sir, but can the car rental people at Dulles identify the man who rented the Jeep?”

“Unfortunately, no, Chuck,” Christie said. “The car was rented from Hertz over the Internet from a public access computer in a library in Palo Alto, California. It was rented under the Walter Bailey name on a Hertz Number One Gold account. That means the car was waiting for him in the company’s lot with no check-in required. He just got in and drove it off. It was late and raining. No one saw him. The Hertz account was bogus; a dead end.”

“Didn’t Hertz’s surveillance cameras pick him up?” Chuck said.

 “Yes, but the conditions were poor. He was wearing a cheap-looking raincoat with the collar turned up and a hat pulled low on his face. All we know is that he had longish hair, wore glasses, and was somewhat pudgy. We’re putting together a sketch of what we think he probably looks like and will get a copy to everyone here.”

“What about ballistics at the crime scene?” Chuck said.

“Nothing. Shell casings match bullets in spare clips carried by the Ukrainians. It appears that one of them was used to kill one of the Ukrainians as well as Mr. Case who, incidentally was shot execution style. Head shot. Close range. There are severe powder burns around the entry wound. The Jeep, being a rental vehicle, had been occupied by dozens of people. So far none of the fingerprints, fibers or other forensic evidence recovered from the Jeep have been identified with anyone in our data banks. There were no credible eyewitnesses. No anything at this point.” He didn’t mention the blood samples Billingsley had told him about—he needed this team focused on what they could make of the evidence on hand.

Williams intervened. “Do we know what Case was working on for that senate subcommittee?”

Christie closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed his temple. He knew from his years of experience with the Bureau that there would be little rest for him in the foreseeable future. “We’re trying to gather that information now, Steve. Apparently it’s a matter of considerable national security. The only person who appears to know much about it is the committee’s chair.”

“And that would be?” Williams said.

“Senator Morris.”

“Howard Morris?”

“Yes.”

Williams snorted loudly. “Shit! That political hack is the biggest self-serving prick in a town full of them. Always grandstanding for his left-wing base by finding ways to embarrass this country in the eyes of the rest of the world.”

Christie nodded. “And generally succeeding.”

“He won’t tell us shit unless he somehow stands to gain from it,” Williams said.

Christie nodded again. If there was anything worse than a turf war, it was a turf war with politicians. The burning sensation in his stomach was turning into something much sharper—he’d had several cups of coffee on an empty stomach since the first call had come through at three thirty that morning. He wondered how much liquid remained in the bottle of antacid in his office, and when he would have an opportunity to get to it.

© John Wayne Falbey 2017 All Rights Reserved