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Authors: Justin Podur

The Demands of the Dead

BOOK: The Demands of the Dead
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The Demands of the Dead

 

By Justin Podur

 

 

 

 

 

The Demands of the Dead

By Justin Podur

 

Copyright
© 2014, Justin Podur

 

Smashwords Edition

 

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike International 4.0 license (CC BY-SA 4.0)

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

 

Some rights reserved.

Podur, Justin, 1977 April 15

 

ISBN [978-0-9938146-1-7]

 

Cover and book design by Suzy Harris-Brandts

 

First Edition

Chapter 1

 

About a year before the two policemen were murdered in Chiapas, the best tracker I know was disappeared off of the streets in Queens like the victim of some Latin American dictatorship and never seen again. And the second best, his older brother, was shot down on the street by four men who happened to be police. They were all acquitted for the crime. I had followed their careers closely for a year. One made patrol sargeant before he died. Two left the city and were state troopers in Albany.

The fourth was the man I awaited.

Victor Salant. Born in Queens, his parents from Valdivia, Chile. Lived in an apartment around the corner in Jackson Heights, divorced, his wife and kid in another apartment in the same neighbourhood. Former Detective with the Street Crimes Unit. He had an indifferent record, was not dirty that I could tell, and had been on a disability pension since his acquittal.

The disability pension was an NYPD method for cleaning up the kind of mess Salant had made. He was never of much value to the department, and after he killed Shawn, he was politically inconvenient. Like I became, for different reasons. Nobody offered me a disability pension after they killed Shawn and Walter, and I had been a rising star. Then again, it would have taken a little bit more than a monthly pension to clean up the mess I was planning to make.

In the forest, animals wrote their whole story in the dirt. I had studied with Shawn and Walter's father since I was a child. A tracker could read what a bear had eaten, where it scratched itself, how fast it was traveling, whether it was injured, all from patterns of prints left in mud and leaves, broken twigs and puddles of water.

In the city, the trails were different – paper records and email files, passwords and receipts, a flash of a face out in the open to be seen and photographed. But Salant was going to tell me his story as surely as any quarry I'd followed in the forest. After our teacher, Walter was the best tracker I had known, Shawn the second best. I was tied for third.

I waited for Salant sitting inside a corner Latin bakery with a view out the window. Before long, he would pass on foot, from his place to the
empanada
place next door. Not an early riser, Salant, not these days anyway. He had brunch there most days, met people there. I had parked my car up the street and set up in the cafe to wait for him to walk past.

I didn't have long to wait. Salant pounded past with determination in his step and more formal attire than I had seen on him in weeks. Gray suit jacket, black slacks, dress shoes, briefcase. When he passed, I waited five minutes, and repositioned in the drugstore across the street to watch him. I had barely got there when he came out of the restaurant, already biting into his
empanada
, and walked briskly to catch a bus downtown.

Good choice
, I thought. Much harder to follow the train in a car.

Twenty minutes later, I saw him walk into a plain storefront private security office. I memorized the firm's name, parked the car, and waited. Salant was looking for a job.

Evidently his disability pension wasn't enough to pay child support.

He came out an hour later, shoulders slumped, suit wrinkled, no more spring in his step. It seemed today was not Salant's day. I drove home.

Maria had left me a cryptic message saying we needed to talk. I called her right away with no luck, and went back to studying Salant.It seemed the firm he'd applied to work at was an international one, with an office in Mexico City. I knew Salant's background was Latin, and he did live in Jackson Heights, but his international connections were a surprise.

And to Mexico?

 

Tracking a predator - including a human - means taking extra care to look up and see where you are, not to get too focused on reading the tracks in the dirt, because while you are tracking it, it may be tracking you. Salant's job search was starting to look like maybe he was circling back on me.

The firm I worked for was like the firm Salant had applied to. It did research for companies, and for the government. It did trainings for foreign police and military forces. It also did investigations and operations, without advertising either. When I quit the police, I didn't imagine I would become a mercenary. But I had never worked undercover for the police. Now, though, Maria and I were infiltrators in this firm of infiltrators.

The name and structure of these firms was always changing. Its employees got on the roster, then would be asked to apply for specific jobs. Mine was currently called Corporate Research and Analysis Resources (CRAR), but each subgroup had its own name and acronym, its own recruiters and business lines. Was Salant's private security company, with its office in Mexico, a subgroup of my firm, or a competitor? Whether it was or not, if he kept searching, and had the right contacts, he would get to us soon.

 

Mr. Manley brought us to the firm's attention with the last job all four of us did. He set us to finding an 8 year old, Brandy Rushing, who had been kidnapped by her father. Rushing was one of the firm's own investigators, who had once come to Mr. Manley's school for training. The mother was a young woman from Jersey whose record of shoplifting as a teenager meant little help from the police, among whom Rushing had plenty of friends. Mr. Manley gave us the same parameters that he claimed the Apache Scouts used, the same ones he had given us on the practice scout missions he made us do as teenagers. No violence, don't be seen, and since Shawn was an officer of the court and I was an officer of the law, we couldn't break the law. And neither of us did. Mostly.

Instead, Walter broke into Rushing's apartment and Maria into his browsing history. She found a lot of searching for cabins in the Catskills. Once we figured out where he had gone into the park, Shawn and I drove there, got ourselves a campsite, and found his cabin easily. He was trained by our teacher, after all, so we found him by thinking like we would if we wanted to stay out of sight. We set up and waited to see if we would get lucky and he would leave the kid alone in the cabin, which he did. Shawn took her back to her mother and I waited for Rushing in the cabin.

We had a short conversation, in which I convinced him to turn himself in.

The whole thing took less than 72 hours, and I didn't even need to take a day off work. Later, when I left my job, I stayed on the firm's talent roster, mostly doing trainings for them.

Walter, I remembered now, had just come back from what he said was an
Intergalactic
meeting in a place called Chiapas, in Mexico. A few days after we returned Brandy Rushing to her mother, Walter went straight back to Chiapas. He was spending more and more time there, never providing us with any details about what, in the years before Salant's unit disappeared him.

I had never thought much about what Walter was doing in Mexico. I thought saying he was at an Intergalactic meeting was his way of telling us to stay out of his business. It never occurred to me that it had anything to do with Shawn's murder or Walter's disappearance. My theory had always been that the killers were into some dirt here in the city, not elsewhere in the world. Dirt Shawn was exposing through his work. Now Salant was looking for a job at a firm like mine, and in Mexico, where Walter had been. So maybe it had been about Walter, and not Shawn. I had missed something in the story, and Salant was going to have to tell me.

 

Maria had my car the rest of that week, so I picked Salant up again a couple of days later underground, on the F and then the C train, then out at Fulton Street and into Lower Manhattan's office towers. It was bright, setting up to be a hot day. Twenty feet behind him with forty people between us, and I could feel the sweat starting to break under my windbreaker. I stopped to take it off and stuff it into my backpack.

I had to take the risk today of getting on the train into town with him even though solo foot surveillance is not recommended. You need two investigators at least. Three is much better. That way, you can switch if your target catches on. On a crowded downtown street, a single investigator can follow someone for a while, but not for very long, not without backup. I was no cop any more. I had no backup.

But I did have time. Progressive surveillance involves watching the same target during different parts of his routine. Watch him at night one day, in the afternoon the next day, in the morning the next, building up a picture of his daily round. By now I knew the Irish pub Salant liked to drink with other cops from his precinct, I knew the apartment his ex-wife lived at where he visited his kid, I knew the Ecuadorian place where he had his
empanadas
at lunch, and now I knew about his job search.

I followed him on Nassau, and Cedar, as he traced a path I had taken more than a few times at the base of these towers. There were a thousand places he could be headed to, from the Holiday Inn to the Marina, but I knew where Salant was going.

He was going to suite 400 in the pyramid-tipped tower that housed, among other clients, Corporate Research and Analysis Resources.

 

I didn't follow when Salant entered the building. I waited, counting out the time for him to get to the banks of elevators, for one to come down, for him to take one up, get to reception, talk to reception, be directed to the waiting area. The office was big enough to get lost in, but the waiting area was right in front, and I did not want to be seen by Salant anywhere, but especially not there.

Still, I wanted to get there before he left and find out what he was applying for. After ten minutes, I went to the fourth floor. There were no visitors in reception. I knew from the demeanor of the two receptionists, and the fact that it was a Saturday morning, that Salant was with his interviewer and that no one else was here. Mr. Manley called that being attuned to a person's energy, but it was really just reading the receptionists' body language.

"Mr. Hoffman is just finishing the last interview," the receptionist told me. "He'll be ready for you in five minutes."

I thanked her and went to the restroom, set up in a cubicle and waited. I planned to wait ten minutes, so Salant would be gone by the time I came out.

Instead, he came into the restroom. When I heard him come in, I moved my feet on to the toilet seat. Detectives were trained to notice shoes, and I didn't want him getting even a casual glance at mine.

Salant flushed and left without washing his hands. I took extra time with mine, enough for him to get an elevator, and went back to reception.

"Which office is Mr. Hoffman in?" I asked. The receptionist pointed down the hall, to a set of fishbowl-style offices used for briefings, with desks and chairs on wheels designed for quick assembly or disassembly. When I appeared outside, Hoffman looked at me through the glass, pushed the glass door open, and met my eyes through his own huge glasses.He clicked his teeth together. “Are you sure you're here at the right time? I don't have anyone else scheduled for today.” He stepped backward, though, like he didn't trust his own scheduling, allowing me to walk in. So I did.

“I'm Mark Brown,” I said. He nodded, and looked me up and down as he walked past me. He sat back at his desk and keyed my name into his laptop, waited for my file to come up. I waited for the usual questions.

The eclectic skill set.
"Mark Brown," he said. "Interesting background - computer science, then law, then detective with the NYPD, a trainer in hand-to-hand combat and outdoor survival... how do you bring all that together?"

I smiled. I'd never read any files on Hoffman, but I looked at him carefully. Married (he wore a ring), played some team sport, probably football (a big build that had gone a bit soft), had a PhD, probably in social science (books authored by him on the desk next to his computer), and interacted with police and lawyers a fair bit (dress style, comfort with me and my file).

"Everybody has a background, Dr. Hoffman," I said.

He raised an eyebrow at the "Dr.", and I pointed to his book, leaning to one side to read the title out loud: "
Paramilitaries and Private Armies at the end of the 20th Century,
by Bradley Hoffman." He returned to his computer screen, which meant the next question would be...

The sudden departure from the NYPD.
"You left the NYPD very suddenly, after making Detective, First-Grade. It seemed your career was progressing very rapidly until then."

BOOK: The Demands of the Dead
5.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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