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Seal, Trumpet, and Vial: A Haley and Willi Novel

Seal, Trumpet, and Vial: A Haley and Willi Novel

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Seal, Trumpet, and Vial: A Haley and Willi Novel

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445 pagine
6 ore
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Pubblicato:
Sep 24, 2015
ISBN:
9781329577930
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Haley-database developer, CIA operative, and multiple personality-is engaged to Willi Mayers. A violent act makes her return home, then her father is murdered. Haley’s alter ego emerges, but, when Haley shows an assassin mercy, ends their arrangement. Later, the duo begin work on a Tribulation Tracking System. On the team is Patricia Candor, a born again Christian. Seeing her faith makes agnostic Willi open to Christ, a decision atheist Haley frets about. When the team is attacked, Willi can’t defend herself, so Haley sends her to the CIA’s Farm for training. Later, as women are abducted, Willi deduces the kidnapper is guided by Revelation’s Seal, Trumpet, and Vial judgments. Also, a cryptic message is left at churches - the only way to the Father is through the sunset of Christianity. After Al Qaeda recruits MS-13 to commit terrorist acts, an enraged Willi renounces God and plans to execute all involved. Haley must now deal with two mass murderers and a woman he no longer trusts.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Sep 24, 2015
ISBN:
9781329577930
Formato:
Libro

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Seal, Trumpet, and Vial - Larry M. Rosen

Seal, Trumpet, and Vial: A Haley and Willi Novel

SEAL, TRUMPET, AND VIAL: A HALEY AND WILLI NOVEL

By

Larry M. Rosen

COVER PAGE

COPYRIGHT PAGE

Copyright © 2007 by Larry M. Rosen

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

This Book Is

PUBLISHED BY LULU

(www.lulu.com)

First Edition: June 2007

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, businesses, companies, other organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN 978-1-329-57793-0

The author and publisher do not have any control over, and do not assume any responsibility for, third-party websites or their content.

NOVELS BY LARRY M. ROSEN

The Haley And Willi Novels

Joker In The Deck

The Light In The Garden

A Shadow That Passes Away

Seal, Trumpet, And Vial

Cultural Landscapes

The Maxine Kordell Novels

I, Of Limited Mercy

The Nora Kelly Novels

Maranatha

The Emissary Novels

The Elixir Of Fools

Other Novels

Women Don’t Like Me

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I'd like to acknowledge friends and colleagues whose names I modified and used for several characters — Tom Coker, my first mentor at work and in life, who was best man at my wedding and made me a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan; Ed Urquhart, my neighbor and friend, with whom I bandy about conservative philosophy; Elaine Sussman, a long ago girlfriend, who really did resemble Audrey Hepburn; Larry Klapper, who taught me the fundamentals of relational databases; Canton Cole, who is equally adept at repairing PCs and washing machines, but has been known to struggle with Ford Mustangs; Germana Miner, who showed me how to optimize complex queries; AnnaSara Dahlborg, a talented and rather cool (her word) analyst and black belt in Tae Kwon Do; Cindy Flint, whose Access queries against large Interbase tables on the Hermes server never seemed to run to completion; Michelle Kordell, the most dangerous woman on the planet (though I often risk her wrath by antagonizing her in a weekly e-mail); and especially John Dutcher, a second mentor and my Tae Kwon Do instructor long ago, who broadened my understanding of many things.

As always, a special thanks to my wife, Andrea, and my daughter, Samantha, for their review and suggestions. And as she did for my first novel, Samantha provided invaluable critiques about the dust cover.

DEDICATION

To those Christians who routinely volunteer their time and donate their treasure at shelters, nursing homes, and prisons, making their own lives an exemplar of Jesus' profound wisdom — Love your neighbor as yourself.

And, as always, for the two women who moved me to write — Nora Mayers and Michelle Ingrid Williams II.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

The fictional characters Marion Patterson and Tara Muse are solely the author's creation. Although some of their personal traits and history are loosely based on Pat Robertson and Terry Meeuwsen of The 700 Club, the Patterson and Muse characters are pure fiction. In some instances, the words spoken by Patterson and Muse are portions of direct quotes attributed to Pat Robertson and Terry Meeuwsen by various Internet sources. In other instances, some of these words are the author's paraphrases of reported quotes. In most instances, the words spoken by Patterson and Muse are entirely the author's invention.

PREAMBLE

I walked away from God many years ago, when my father virtually ignored me. I blamed God. After meeting you yesterday, something seemed to kick in again, something I vaguely remember feeling as a child. So I've decided to try to develop a personal relationship with Christ. I'm open to Him now.

Willi Mayers, speaking to Patricia Candor, an evangelical Christian

Then I'm in, I said, hiding my fear that this would end badly for me.

Haley, reflecting on Willi's spiritual rebirth

The final judgment will reveal all secrets — even what people have whispered.

Jesus, Luke 12:2-3

PROLOGUE

THE INTRUDER MOVED SLOWLY, BUT confidently, through the first floor of the darkened two-story colonial. The staircase was worrisome. It would probably creak. Won't matter, the intruder thought, testing the first of fourteen steps. They were all certainly sound asleep at 3:00 a.m. on a cold November morning. Better to worry needlessly than to be careless, though. The intruder started climbing the remaining steps, heard several boards protest mildly, and soon stood in the small upstairs hallway. Silence throughout the large home. Good. The parents sleeping in the master bedroom beyond the closed double doors wouldn't interfere. The intruder gently pushed open the door to the small bedroom at the top of the stairs, stepped inside, then quietly shut it.

The young woman was sleeping, her steady breathing the only sound in the room. The intruder, who had taken the name Majini, neared her bed, which was against the far wall, offset from the room's only window. The woman was posed in an almost fetal position, her back facing the approaching figure. A small yellow duck, wearing a bandanna, sat at an awkward angle, pressed against the wallboard by her left shoulder. A nightlight with a puppy's face illuminated the bandanna, revealing the woman's name was Jaime. Majini looked at her. Such pretty blonde hair, Majini thought, readying the carefully packaged chloroform sponge. Majini reached across the woman's body and firmly placed the sponge over Jaime's nose and mouth. She emitted a muffled moan and her eyes instantly opened, but their confusion and subsequent terror quickly gave way to an unfocused gaze as she lost consciousness.

Majini lifted Jaime in a fireman's carry, opened the bedroom door, and stepped out of the room. Still silence. Majini carried Jaime down the stairs, opened the unlocked front door, and peered out at the other homes in the cul-de-sac. Several of the houses had their outside lights on, but there was no sign of any neighborhood activity. Majini carried Jaime across the front lawn to the part of the street where the cul-de-sac ended. One of the neighbors rented out their basement to two tenants, who parked their vehicles on the street, so no one would notice the black van parked among these cars. Majini reached the van, opened the rear door, placed the unconscious woman in the flat cargo area, removed a hypodermic syringe, gave it a short squirt, then injected Jaime in her upper arm. Majini needed Jaime to remain unconscious for several hours, until preparations for her ritual were complete. Majini covered the unmoving Jaime with an old blanket, closed the rear cargo door, got in the van, and drove away.

*     *     *     *     *

The solitary figure was sitting behind a desk, contemplating the chaos that would soon ensue. The Al-Qaeda sleeper had taken the code name Karbala because Wahhabi warriors had successfully attacked and purged the Islamic shrine there, when the movement was in its infancy. He was amused the Americans still had no idea about the true nature of their enemy. He thought to himself that Nikita Khrushchev had been right when he said, we will bury you. But Khrushchev had been wrong about the identity of we, and he'd been wrong about the method. The United States could never be defeated economically. Though it was theological heresy to say or even think so, capitalism was the greatest economic engine ever conceived. The Soviet Empire had crumbled after Ronald Reagan applied the coup de grace, forcing them to spend themselves into oblivion. And the Americans could not be defeated militarily. Japan had been fatuous to try, believing the isolationists would capitulate to Imperial demands after Pearl Harbor. Then Japan had poured salt on the American wounds, wiping out the Marines on Wake Island, then, later, brutally executing wounded prisoners on the Bataan Death March. The Marines, taking this rather personally, had poured through the lagoon on Tarawa, decimating the Japanese Army there, then neutralized determined enemy combatants in the caves of Guadalcanal, then, later, climbed up the mountain of hell that was Suribachi on Iwo Jima. And when Japanese pride still balked at surrender, Truman had nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Karbala had a fondness for strong, competent American presidents, and Truman was a favorite. Karbala wondered if the bold plan about to be implemented would have even been contemplated with a man like Truman in the Oval Office. Fortunately, the last and current American Presidents were boys, not men. The last President over analyzed each threat, stuck his finger in the political wind, then responded weakly, if at all. The current President was a puffy princeling, whose father's influence and money handed him his Presidency, which was already foundering after little more than a year in office. Karbala smiled at an irony. Truman had suffered low popularity ratings at the end of his tenure, but the objective hindsight of history had restored his luster. The current incumbent was likewise at the bottom end of Presidential popularity, but Karbala was certain history's dispassionate prism would mock and denounce him. So what kind of administration would Karbala prefer in the White House? Karbala smiled again. Any of the last two would do very nicely, thank you.

Karbala's mood suddenly darkened. These enjoyable reveries must stop. A warrior — a real Wahhabi warrior — never indulged in irrelevant humor. And there was nothing amusing about the United States. They must be brought to heel, and in a manner that would make the world tremble. The 1993 Twin Towers operation had been a serious mistake in Karbala's mind. Al Qaeda's footprints had been visible everywhere and, to make matters worse, the explosion had been ineffective, more a nuisance than a disaster. Fortunately, the weak American President, occupied with his libido, had done little to retaliate, so soon his countrymen, complacent in what they believed was their unassailable fortress across the sea, were again content in their decadence, unaware that men — serious, committed, deadly men — were plotting their demise as the world's major power.

Karbala's mood darkened even more. Where was the terror? It had evaporated quickly in the United States. Instead of cowering in fear, the Americans continued their pro-Saudi policies, solidly backed the Zionists in Israel, and immersed themselves in the social decadence of feminism, materialism, and unholy religions.

Karbala slammed a fist onto the top of the desk, the noise amplified by the room's acoustics. The plan — Karbala's plan — would change all that. Soon, Americans would know the same fear felt by the Israelis — a daily, grinding trepidation that hung over every routine trip to a grocery, restaurant, carwash, bank, or movie theatre.

Karbala forced himself to remain calm. Calm was an important precursor to reason, and reason was essential to planning. The terror would come soon enough, but stage management and timing were everything. First would come a warning, reasonably clear in its intent, but far more subtle and insidious. Then more warnings, bringing public curiosity and anger. Then several relatively small acts of terror, to bring public scorn upon law enforcement and government officials, to turn group against group, as motives were bandied about. And then Karbala would unleash hell upon the decadent Americans. But Karbala's hell would not be nuclear, biological, or chemical. No, that would be expected. And what is expected is not to be viscerally feared. No, what Karbala intended was terror — pure and visceral and without precedent. The Americans would tremble before Al Qaeda. They would shudder before the Wahhabi warrior.

DESUETUDE

I PUSHED THE BUTTON ON THE wall-mounted, garage door opener, then heard the door creak to a close behind me. I walked into the kitchen through the mudroom, put the bag of food I had picked up at The China Express on the breakfast room table, then turned on the Jenn-Aire atop the center island and began boiling water. When the water was ready, I poured some of it into a cup holding a Jasmine tea bag, then sat down at the table. I took a barbecued spare rib out of a foil bag, placed the front page of The Washington Post before me, and began gnawing on the rib.

The major stories were depressing — the various Middle East conflicts remained in full sway, hurricanes and tsunamis were wreaking havoc across the globe, and lobbyists were being indicted for offering bribes to Congressmen, while various House members were belatedly giving the money back, resigning, or facing indictment themselves. I turned my attention to the local Washington Metropolitan Area news, but found it equally disheartening. A DUI teenager had smashed into a minivan, killing two toddlers. The teenager's parents were already blaming the accident on the alcoholic beverage industry, and had hired a high profile litigator to represent their son. At a press conference, neither the parents nor the litigator mentioned the two dead toddlers. In another story, a young woman had disappeared from her parents' home in the middle of the night. The police were investigating, but neither a motive nor a suspect had been unearthed. In a third story, an evangelical Christian church in Centreville had been desecrated. I sipped some tea, started on a second rib, then continued reading. The church's pastor had arrived in the morning to find a message spray painted at various points inside and outside the church. The message said, The only way to the Father is through the sunset of Christianity.

I winced as I read the story. Not too long ago, I'd dealt with three skinheads engaged in their own version of religious intolerance at a local synagogue. Church, synagogue, mosque — it made no difference. If you could defile one, you could defile the other — if we let them. I felt a knot form in my stomach as I thought about the parishioners who would witness the desecration and ponder the message. What would they say to each other? What would they say to their children? Anger built inside me, then I felt Him stir. I pushed it aside. My rage had already cost me dearly.

Willi was gone. She had left TGC — the consulting firm where we both worked as database developers, sold her townhouse, and moved back to her parents' home in Kalispell, Montana. She had taken the puppy we named Isis with her, arguing that I wouldn't be home much, and in Kalispell the pointer-terrier would always have company and ample running room.

Ostensibly, Willi was in Montana to have the space she needed to reflect on our relationship. But I knew better. She'd already made her decision the day I'd proposed to her, then left a headless corpse jiggling around on the grass as an engagement present.

Are we okay? I asked.

She turned back, then looked directly into my eyes.

I don't know, Haley. I really no longer know.

But she did know. I could see it in her eyes. It didn't matter if she was lying to me or lying to herself. It was there, in her eyes. So she'd left six weeks ago, driven cross country, telephoned to let me know she'd arrived safely, and asked me not to call until she'd sorted things out. I hadn't.

My appetite was gone, so I put what remained of the Chinese food in the refrigerator, then walked along the rear hallway to my office. I sat down at the computer, opened a Word document, and reread it carefully. It was a letter of resignation I had no intention of submitting, although I planned to resign from TGC very soon. The letter was my attempt to organize my thoughts, so I could clearly explain my reasons to Tom and Linda Coken, not only my best friends, but my surrogate family. Tom was also President of TGC.

I was feeling useless. With Willi gone, it was highly unlikely I'd ever marry again, have children, be part of a real family. And the work at TGC was suffocating me. Even when the technical problems were challenging, too often the database systems I developed were unnecessary or flawed in some fundamental way over which I had no control. This was a common enough feeling among technocrats working in the Federal Government contracting arena. The consulting business had morphed from specialists hired for their expertise, to a generic contractor workforce that did the mundane work government employees were supposed to do. Local myth held that government workers managed these contracts, which I'm sure they did, when they weren't being trained, filing grievances, on vacation, out sick, attending retirement ceremonies, taking a Federal holiday, using comp time, sitting in on management meetings, or being schooled in politically correct sensitivity classes. So I seldom felt I was contributing anything worthwhile, or working with anyone who really cared about results. Was I burned out, at thirty three, or was I just feeling sorry for myself, now that Willi was gone?

The telephone rang, so I picked up the handset.

Haley, I said.

It's me, Willi said.

Kalispell, it's ...

My father is dead, Willi said, in a flat monotone. He's dead. Her lifeless voice unnerved me.

What happened?

Somebody shot him. I need you here ... now.

Have you called the police?

"Yes, I've talked to them. But I don't want the police. I want you. I want you to do what you do. No. I want Him to do what He does."

I'll have to find a flight and ...

I've already booked your flights. The first leaves Dulles for Billings in two hours. The second is a connector that will get you to Kalispell. She gave me the flight numbers. I'll meet you near the gate. So, are you coming? Can I count on you?

Of course.

Good.

She abruptly hung up.

Are we okay?

I don't know, Haley. I really no longer know.

FUNERAL IN KALISPELL

THE CROSS COUNTRY FLIGHT AND THE connector had been on-time, no small feat in the modern era of airline transportation. I'd slept on both flights and, some stiffness aside, felt pretty good. I landed in Kalispell, gathered my carry-on luggage — a small, soft suitcase and a suit bag, exited the plane, and walked up a passageway leading to a lounge. Willi was waiting there, wearing jeans and a parka, her highlighted blonde hair in a half pony. She didn't come running and throw herself into my arms. She didn't try to kiss me. She didn't even offer a handshake.

I don't know what to say, I offered. I'm ...

I didn't ask you here to say anything, Willi interrupted, in that same flat monotone she had used on the phone. I want you to find and kill the people who murdered my father. You can do that, can't you. That is what you do.

I can do that, but I'd ...

My truck's parked outside. Let's go, unless you've got some more luggage to retrieve.

This is all I brought.

Let's go, then.

She turned and began walking. I followed her. It was a short distance to where she'd parked her black, lifted 4x4. We got in and began the drive to her parents' home. She remained silent, and I decided now wasn't the right time to press her with questions about her father's death or our relationship. She drove until we came to a dirt road with a small sign that displayed Mayers and a number. Willi turned right onto the dirt road, driving about a hundred feet to a clapboard house with a front porch. There were several other buildings behind the house — three storage sheds, a detached garage, and a small barn. I carried my luggage into the large, two story great room, which was dominated by a massive, stone wood-burning fireplace, with a blower that spread heat throughout the room. I noticed Glen's homemade furniture — oak tables and chairs, as well as a walnut bookcase. Glen had been proud of his craftsmanship, and rightfully so.

The two other women were waiting for me. Clara Mayers was short and petite, with a weathered face, silver gray hair, and a reserved demeanor that was on full display. Willi's sister, Petey, had blonde hair and a pretty, outdoorsy, girl-next-door face. Both women were wearing loose-fitting polo shirts, jeans, and western boots, the same outfits they'd worn when I'd first met them, several months earlier.

Since Petey was clearly fighting back tears, I went to her first and held her tightly. She began to sob.

I'm sorry, Petey. I liked your dad.

I held Petey for a while until the sobbing stopped, then released her and put my arms around Clara. I was surprised when she squeezed me back and began to cry softly. After a while, she gently pulled away.

If you don't mind my asking, Clara, how are you doing financially?

Okay, Haley. Father had mortgage insurance and life insurance. Also had more money in a savings account than I'd of thought. I'll be fine.

How about you, Petey? You're in your junior year of college as I recall. Is there money set aside for you to finish?

No.

Don't worry about it. It'll be taken care of.

You don't have to do that, Willi said, coldly.

I know I don't. But I like your sister, so I want to.

Willi didn't argue the point further.

Where's Isis? I asked.

Willi walked to one of the bedrooms, opened a door, and Isis came bolting out. The black and white pointer-terrier puppy rubbed herself against Petey, making guttural noises. The dog repeated the same routine with Clara. When Isis saw me, she came over timidly, sniffed me a few times, then, as I reached down to pet her, backed away, ran over to Willi, and plopped down at her feet. I didn't know which hurt more — Willi's coldness or Isis' indifference.

*     *     *     *     *

It was late afternoon. Petey and Clara had gone into town to buy groceries and check on the arrangements for Glen's funeral, which was to be held the following morning at the local Episcopalian church the family attended. Willi hadn't said much to me, and I was becoming decidedly annoyed with her.

Tell me what happened to Glen, I suggested.

He was shot.

What else?

I don't know.

What do you mean you don't know? I snapped. You told me you'd talked to the police.

I did. I just didn't ask them for any details.

But you knew Glen had been shot.

They told me that much without my having to ask.

Her tone remained flat and cold. I composed myself. I didn't want to snap at her again.

What do you want me to do?

"I already told you. Let Him do what He does."

Do you want me to go into town and shoot the first person I think looks suspicious? Even in Montana, the local constabulary frown on that approach.

"I don't want you to do anything. You're a nice guy. Very nice. Let Him do your dirty work. That's the arrangement, isn't it?"

"It doesn't work that way. I can't summon Him. He appears when He wants to."

"I have something for Him, she said, getting up and walking into her bedroom. When she came out, she was carrying a large, heavy, cardboard box. The box had a cover. Here. Open it."

I carried the box over to a sofa, put it down, and removed the cover. Inside was a Colt Python, a Walther PPK, ammunition for both pistols, and a large Bowie knife.

"I couldn't find any of those throwing knives He favors, Willi said. These will have to do, unless you brought some weapons with you."

United Airlines frowns on such antics. Even when I showed them my accrued frequent flyer miles, they still balked.

She ignored my pathetic attempt at humor — no special smile, no pucker, not even a pursing of her lips.

I'll talk to the police tomorrow, I said, right after Glen's funeral. Based on what I learn, I'll snoop around and try to stir things up by asking annoying questions. I learned that technique reading Spenser novels.

"Let Him do what He does," Willi said.

*     *     *     *     *

The Episcopalian church the Mayers clan attended was much larger and ornate than I'd expected in a rural area. Reverend Philip Baum warmly welcomed Clara and Petey, but was more reserved when interacting with Willi, who had rarely attended church since her early teens. I was surprised by the large turnout for the funeral, since Glen, like Willi, had rarely attended services. I surmised the people crowding the pew were largely there out of respect for Clara.

As I looked around, I spotted two men who seemed familiar. It took me several seconds to realize they were the Burras Brothers — Harvey and Pernell — two of Glen's drinking buddies. When I'd last seen the twosome, we were in a bar and they weren't wearing coats and ties. I nodded to them, and they returned my nod.

The service was well done. Reverend Baum clearly knew Glen intimately, even if Glen's attendance record had been spotty. The Reverend's words were meaningful and appropriate. I was glad. I'd attended too many funerals where a pastor or rabbi had been asked to speak about someone they barely knew, using hastily drawn up notes someone prepared only hours earlier. As the Reverend spoke, I could see Petey and Clara choking back tears. Willi, though, remained unmoved, staring blankly at one of the large stained glass windows.

When the service ended, we drove to the cemetery in Clara's weathered van. Glen's sealed coffin was placed in the ground, then the mourners lined up to shovel dirt into the hole. When it was Willi's turn, she looked away as she strew dirt over the coffin. Again, her entire being seemed detached. I wondered if she was numb from grief, or was employing a façade to keep me at an emotional distance. I started to put my arm around her, but she gave me an icy glare that froze me instantly. It was a look I'd never seen from her before. I shoveled some dirt into the hole, then walked back to Clara's van.

As we drove off, I noticed two men, dressed like members of a biker club, leaning on their motorcycles, facing away from us. The backs of their black leather jackets displayed a speckled serpent. They turned to look at us as we drove by, then began laughing. It seemed I'd found some people who looked suspicious after all.

YUP AND NOPE

I PARKED WILLI'S 4X4 IN FRONT OF the building that housed the Kalispell Police Department, walked inside, and asked a policeman drinking coffee to tell me who was in charge of the Glen Mayers murder investigation. He told me who and where to go, so I made my way to the appropriate office, opened the door, and went in.

The office was a decent size, with an executive desk, a computer, filing cabinets, and several chairs. There were two men inside. One of them, the owner of the office, was Phil Bachs. Bachs, sitting behind the desk, was thirty something, tall, wore his hair slightly longer than a crew cut, and looked like a big boned, heavily muscled former athlete, who was starting to show the early signs of middle age spread. The other man, even larger than Bachs, was a member of the Montana Highway Patrol, in his mid-forties, did sport a crew cut, and was as ripped as an NFL running back. The nameplate on his shirt read Brad Hunsecker. He was standing on the other side of the desk, across from Bachs.

My name is Haley. I'm engaged to Glen Mayers' daughter, Willi. I'd like to talk to you about Glen's murder. This a good time?

Sorry about what happened to Glen. I'm Phil Bachs. Bachs got up, walked over to me, and shook my hand. I'm handling the case for Kalispell. Brad here is taking the lead for the Montana Highway Patrol. How can we help you?

Tell me what you know — time of death, cause of death, place of death, weapon used, other evidence, and suspects.

This is an official murder investigation, Mister Haley, Bachs replied. We can't give out that kind of information until much later in the case.

It's Haley, not Mister Haley, I said. Is that your position, too, Mister Hunsecker?

Call me Brad, but I'm afraid it is. Evidence has to stay confidential. Same for suspects. Uh, sorry for your family's loss. He also shook my hand.

Thank you, Brad. Look, I'm not going to be difficult, and I don't want to get in the way of your investigation. I'd just like to know what happened. I have a bit of a background in enforcement myself.

You ever a cop? Hunsecker asked.

Not exactly.

What then? Hunsecker pressed. Security guard, poultry inspector, or movie usher?

Security guard of a sort, I replied.

Like Brad said, Haley, the investigation has to stay confidential, Bachs reminded me.

Okay, I see where this is going, I said. Can I use your phone to make a long distance call?

You gonna pay for the call? Bachs asked.

I'll use my telephone credit card, I said, pulling it out.

Go for it, Bachs replied.

I made the call from a phone in the corner of the office, keeping my back to the men.

Brad, you'll be getting a call from your Chief Administrator in Helena within ten minutes. Mind if I wait?

That'll be the day, Hunsecker replied, smiling, but sure, hang around.

I waited, and it only took five minutes for the phone to ring. Hunsecker picked up, listened, hung up, and his smile was even broader.

Let's go over to the coffee shop and talk, Haley, Hunsecker said. Seems you've got pull, but it's polite pull. Phil, mind the store while we're gone.

*     *     *     *     *

Montana Highway Patrol usually get involved in a local murder? I asked Hunsecker.

We were sitting at a round table, drinking coffee and nibbling on what were excellent doughnuts.

No.

So there has to be a reason for you to be here, I said.

And there is.

Wouldn't have anything to do with biker gangs, would it? I inquired.

How the hell did you know that? a genuinely astonished Hunsecker asked.

My powers of observation and deduction are awe inspiring, but I've sworn to use them only for good. And I now deduce you want another doughnut.

Hunsecker laughed. I walked over to the counter, bought two more doughnuts, then sat down. Hunsecker immediately began nibbling on the second pastry.

How'd you know? Hunsecker managed, between chews.

Two bikers showed up at the cemetery after Glen's funeral. When we left, they were laughing. Not customary behavior when somebody's just been buried.

Arrogant bastards, Hunsecker snarled. They're some offshoot or affiliate of the Crips or Bandidos. It's getting harder to keep them straight. They sell crack across the state, raise hell wherever they go, do some contract killing, and, sometimes, take out a local just for the hell of it. Shows folks they've got the power.

Do you think they took out Glen?

Yeah, I do, although it's still more a hunch than a strong chain of evidence.

What have you got?

Glen took a shotgun blast in his back, but that didn't kill him. The coup de grace was a hollow point .22 behind his right ear. Small hole going in, humongous exit wound. Uh, I'm sorry, Haley. Didn't mean to be so graphic and flip.

That's okay. Tell it in your own way.

Glen had some bruises on his face and arms. Also, his knuckles were bruised and swollen, like he'd been in a fight.

Glen was a brawler. Had lots of fights over the years. Think he had a go with one of these bikers, maybe won, then they killed him to get even?

That's exactly what I think, Haley. Proving it is another matter. I've asked around, but nobody knows anything about a fight between Glen and a biker. They all might be afraid to get involved, or they really might not know.

I'd like to snoop around myself, ask some questions, maybe stir something up. Any objections?

If I had any, would it do any good?

No.

What are you, anyway? You're certainly not a security guard.

Sure I am.

Yeah, the spooky kind of guard.

Why Brad Hunsecker, what an unkind thing to say. You know that spooks can't legally operate within our borders.

But a security guard can. Keep me informed on any evidence you dig up.

I will. Other matters, though, I may keep to myself.

What other matters?

Mounting body count.

We have a deal, Haley.

*     *     *     *     *

Willi and I were walking on a dirt road that passed by the Mayers' home. It was late afternoon, maybe an hour before it would start getting dark.

I think a biker gang murdered your dad. It's not an iron clad case yet, but I know they did it. I may have to intimidate some of the people who live around here to get at the truth. It looks like some of them are afraid of the bikers. They're probably people you know.

"Do whatever it takes. Just have Him kill whoever was involved. That's not too much to ask of my fiancé, is it?" She exaggerated the word fiancé, but the rest of her words were uttered flatly.

This isn't you, Willi. Talk to me. Please.

She turned and slapped me hard on the side of the face. I winced.

You bastard, she screamed at me. This is killing me, and it's your fault.

Willi, I told you about my past and my alter ego. I even tried to break up with you, but you ...

"I don't give a shit fuck about Him or your past, she screamed again. My father's dead, I'm coming apart,

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