The Land of the Free (9 page)

BOOK: The Land of the Free
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Chapter 26:  Reaching Limits

The envelope came to Roger Snyder’s
desk marked “confidential,” so he closed his door before opening it.  He was
waiting for Morningstar Security’s financial records to try to learn what Derek
Ellis was involved in.  He zeroed in on the dates where his notes on Ellis
indicated there had been important financial transactions.  He mapped out
payments received by Morningstar on the calendar he had previously developed,
superimposing the payments over his other data on Morningstar.  The dates
invariably coincided with the commencement or resumption of key contracts, with
most amounts in the $1-$3 million range.  But as Snyder reached the date of the
termination of the Afghanistan contract, the numbers jumped out of their
previous proportions.  Unlike previous contract crises, Morningstar did not let
go many of its staff this time.  Additionally, Ellis had advanced the firm $10
He’s either suddenly concerned for his staff’s well being or he
was counting on a big payday,
thought Snyder.  Sure enough, Morningstar had
formed the Nightwatch Security subsidiary, secured a $20 million advance from
Helsing-Tilbury, and returned $15 million to Ellis. 
Nice profit, Derek.
I’d like to know why these guys would pay that kind of money to a pretty boy
like you.
  It was time to have a look into Tilbury.

It turned out that the CIA already
had a dossier on Tilbury.  When a major international shipping company is
acquired by a mysterious holding company, considerable energy is invested into
determining the identities of the new owners.  Snyder knew this would have been
standard practice, so he expected this part of his job to be simple.  He looked
through the dossier again and again.  It was full of background information,
market analysis, and an analysis of strengths and weaknesses, but no
information at all about the acquisition.  This was strange, since the inquiry
was launched following the acquisition and was mentioned in the preamble.  The
absence of information about the acquiring company was conspicuous.  Snyder was
under strict instructions to work alone, but it couldn’t hurt to speak
informally with the Agent who had compiled the dossier without revealing
anything about his mission.  He turned to the summary page and gasped as he
read the name
Colm Rowley
.  He had known Rowley, a devoted father and
husband, and victim of a recent DC area sniper who killed a half dozen people
before he was caught.  The killings were random, or so it seemed until now. 
Rowley was shot and killed at a gas station close to his home.  He looked up
Rowley’s career statistics, and slammed his fist on the table.

Okay, Snyder, does this stink? 
I’m not imagining this, am I
?  He was talking to himself, trying to
straighten out the implications.  “He writes the report.  He’s shot the day he
submits it.   And the acquisition, the whole reason the report was
commissioned, is completely missing from the damn report.  Without that, what’s
the purpose of even writing it?”

Snyder read what he could about the
DC sniper shootings and learned that the FBI had come in and federalized the
case right after the Rowley killing.  So he called the FBI and was put through
to an archivist.  He asked for a comparison of the ballistics reports in the DC
sniper case.  The archivist asked “which victims?”

“All of them, if I can,” replied

“I can get you five, but the Rowley
case is sealed.  You’ll need special authorization from the Director for that
one.  Sorry about that.”

“Thanks, that actually clears
something up,” said Snyder, now certain that Rowley had been assassinated in a
manner meant to look like the DC sniper had murdered him at random.  And the
reason for it had to do with the Tilbury buyout, and what he had discovered. 
The plane crash now also seemed a lot more suspicious than before. 
So what
are you going to do to me if I discover the same information?
thought to himself.  After a while, he concluded that this was as far as he was
taking the investigation.  It was time to report back to Connolly before going
any deeper and endangering himself.

Chapter 27:  Meeting a Stranger

About 10 minutes after John Corson
arrived in the lounge in the Hancock building, an intense man of medium height
walked in.  His eyes were too close together, making it seem he was staring
straight through whoever he was looking at.  His gaze was at odds with his
calm, confident gait.  He walked straight to John’s table and attempted a
strained smile.  “May I join you, John?”

“You know my name.  I thought we
weren’t doing that,” replied John.

“I only know the name John.  I can’t
get meaningful information from the name John after all,” said the stranger,
uncomfortably.  There was something out of place about this man’s manner.  He
had a self-assurance about him that was at odds with that of someone who needed
help with a serious matter.

“What can you tell me about
Smithfield’s operations?”

“I have some papers that I think
blow the lid off things,” answered the stranger.  “It’s arms smuggling of
geopolitical significance.  And your friend was killed over it.”

“I know that and I know he’s dead,”
answered John.  “What do you define as ‘geopolitical significance’?”

“Well, let’s just say the whole
world will wake up and notice this should it come to pass,” answered the man. 
His vagueness was not sitting well with John.  It obviously implied nukes, but
he was unwilling to say so. 

Then came the kicker.  “I don’t
want to say anything more here.”  The stranger leaned forward to John and
whispered, “Too many eyes and ears around.  Let’s take a walk outside and I’ll
give you the details and the paper.”

“So tell me straight up, did you
find Bozak’s folder of papers?”

“I’ll tell you outside,” was the
frustrating reply.

John’s suspicions were boiling
over, but he agreed to the walk.  In order not to be seen leaving together, the
stranger excused himself briefly to the restroom.  John took that opportunity
to reach into his jacket and release the safety from his gun.  He then took the
elevator to the lobby and slowly made his way to the shore, allowing the
stranger time to catch up.

The two men made their way north
along the shoreline, cutting into small talk when others were about.  “What I
have is hot and I think it got your friend killed,” said the stranger
redundantly, further irritating John with his vague and repetitive statements. 
It was now about 5:00 and the late afternoon sun was still strong on their
faces, but the shadows were growing longer.

As they left concrete and walked
along the beach they approached Lincoln Park, where retaining piers held the
sand in place.  There was nobody nearby.  John was walking ahead of the
stranger, aware of his situation.  He asked, “Are you going to give it to me
now?” and reached into his jacket.

The stranger answered a little too
decisively, “

Without any conscious thought on
his part, John Corson was now reacting to the situation as he’d been taught in
his brief SEAL training.  He quickly spun around and ducked, pulling the gun
from his jacket as he did so, just as a bullet sailed past the spot his head
had occupied a split-second earlier.  He squeezed off a single shot as he spun,
hitting the prospective assassin directly in the middle of the chest.  He
walked over as stranger slumped to the ground, dead within seconds.

It was the first time John had
killed a man, and the experience was extremely unsettling.  The revulsion of
taking a life, the shock of having been shot at, the exhilaration of being
unharmed, and the panic of clearing the scene, all merged into one moment that
seemed to happen in slow motion.  John could hear his heart pounding as he
struggled to gather his thoughts.  He checked the body for ID and was not
surprised to find none.  How about markings?  Assassins will go to great
lengths to avoid carrying ID but will think nothing of having a telltale
tattoo.  He rolled up the man’s sleeves and on the inside of the man’s forearm
found a tattoo of two daggers side by side, one slightly higher than the other,
with the crossguards each just touching the other dagger.  The tattoo seemed
somewhat familiar to John, but he could not place it.

John knew he couldn’t linger.  The
shots would have been heard, and the area was extensively patrolled by the
police.  He didn’t need to be hampered again explaining himself to the police,
this time with his finger on the trigger.  They would then find a way to make
him a suspect in Robbie’s murder, and his time and resources would be tied up
defending himself.  He holstered his gun and walked casually through Lincoln
Park back to Michigan Avenue.  Setting a brisk pace, he made his way south. 
Stopping at the Chicago River when he was sure nobody was looking, he
nonchalantly dropped the gun into the river.  He then continued along towards
his rental car.

As John walked along, he wondered
whether he’d learned anything from his interaction with the assassin.  The lure
of “weapons smuggling of geopolitical significance” was probably just bait used
to set the trap.  But the tattoo on the assassin’s arm meant something.  John
was sure of it.  He committed the double dagger design to his memory, expecting
that it would be significant in the future.

The cops would find the dead
assassin with a gun that had been fired, and in him a bullet fired from an
unknown gun.  They would find no ID, but would see that tattoo.  Either the
investigation would conclude that this was some drug related gun fight and
dismiss it as unsolvable, or they would bring in the Feds and the tattoo would
tip off somebody.  That would lead the Feds to the killers or, if the wrong
person stepped in, the investigation would stop dead.  There would be
surveillance tapes in the Hancock building and they would identify the dead man
on the tape because they would be looking for him, but they would not identify
John unless they already suspected him.  He would make a quiet exit from
Chicago and avoid any further complications.  He had to tie up all loose ends
and – “Frank!”  His anxiety level peaked as he realized Frank was likely to be
a “loose end” to the killers.

Chapter 28:  Delivering the Report

Roger Snyder waited some 20 minutes
for Bill Connolly to call him into his office.  He handed Connolly the dossier
he had developed on Ellis and Morningstar, along with the Rowley dossier on
Tilbury.  “I’m done with this crap, Bill!  If you want to push this it’s going
to be without me.”  He pointed to the Rowley dossier and said “Rowley was
killed over something that was in this dossier, and is now missing.”

“Rowley?  He was killed by the DC
sniper,” retorted Connolly.

“Yeah I know the official story. 
But you know what?  The FBI federalized the case right after he was shot.  I
can call up and get the ballistics reports on all the victims except one.  That
would be Rowley.  His report is sealed and you need
approval to
see it.  I’m not sure even
could view it.”

Connolly smiled with amusement at
Snyder’s manner and his invocation of J. Edgar Hoover.  “Walk me through this
Roger,” he said to calm things down.

Roger settled in his chair and
said, “Morningstar has experienced numerous financial crunches over the years,
usually when contracts expired and were not renewed.  Each time, Derek Ellis
did three things.  First, he laid off most of his staff with the promise of
calling them back when work returned.  Second, he wrote a personal check in the
range of $1 to $3 million to keep Morningstar solvent.  Third, he licked every
butt crack on the Hill until he got more work.  This was the story in at least
five previous cases, but not with this most recent one.”

“When Ellis was embargoed by
President Torres, he couldn’t go back to the same people on Capitol Hill for
business, and his revenues were reduced to almost zero.  You’d think he’d shut
the place down.  But instead, he wrote a check for $10 million, far in excess
of what he’d previously done, and he kept all his staff in place.  He knew he
was on the verge of something big, and he was right.  Right around then is when
he formed the Nightwatch Security subsidiary, and right away landed a sweet gig
with Helsing-Tilbury.  Not only that, but Nightwatch hired new staff, so the
old Morningstar staff was still not doing anything I can see, at least
officially.  The new contract was rich, and Ellis paid himself back $15
million.  By my best guess, Tilbury is paying for Nightwatch as well as the
Morningstar staff that Ellis kept on the payroll.  It’s insane from a profit
and loss standpoint, and therefore suspicious.  So I looked up Tilbury and it
turns out we had Rowley develop a dossier on them after they were acquired by a
holding company I can’t learn anything about.  Rowley’s dossier is there on
your desk minus any details about the acquisition, the very reason the dossier
was developed.  And I’m guessing it wasn’t
who pulled the details. 
So since I don’t want to end up like Rowley, I’m not digging any further into
Tilbury.  You may have heard of them in the news recently.  Their management
was wiped out in that plane crash that has not been properly explained.”

“I was afraid it would get
complicated,” lamented Connolly, leaning forward and trying to put Snyder at
ease.  “Roger, what does your gut say here?  Just tell me off the record so
you’re not implicated, where should we be looking to get to the core of what’s
going on?”

“Easy,” replied Snyder.  “Whoever
acquired Tilbury is paying a ton of money for whatever Ellis is offering, and
it’s not simple port security, which could be had for pennies on the dollar. 
Whatever it is involves Morningstar’s battle hardened staff, or he would not
have put $15 million on the line to retain them.  Find out who’s paying the
bills and why they need access to our ports, and something will emerge.”

“Why are the ports so important? 
What should I be looking for here, Roger?”

Snyder was fidgety, knowing he was
going out on a limb he would rather avoid, but he couldn’t bear to be accused
of not having an opinion.  “Ports mean something is being smuggled into the
country.  It could be drugs, weapons, who knows.  A worst case might be nuclear
weapons, though the ports are not how I would imagine someone doing it.  You’d
want to smuggle a nuke using a small operation that can fly under the radar. 
This operation is just too big.  My gut says it’s big because the objective
requires it.”

Connolly was not inclined to push
further and dismissed Snyder with hardly a “thank you.”  Snyder was in any case
all too eager to leave Connolly’s office.


After Snyder left, Connolly lifted
the phone receiver and hit a speed-dial button.

“He found the trail to Tilbury
fairly quickly.”

“No, he knew enough to back off,
just as I thought he would.”

“Yeah I’d be worried too.  Snyder
could connect the dots.  But I don’t think he’d say anything.”

“No, we don’t want another body
tied to the case.  That could spin out of control.”

“I agree.  It’s too late to make
much difference now.”

“I’ll just saddle him with work,
and keep him busy.”

“I’ll tell Torres everything, at
least in summary.  But he won’t hear the important details of course.”

Connolly hung up the phone and
composed a memo to Torres that he would slip into his daily briefing papers.

Derek Ellis: 
Founder and CEO of Morningstar Security Services.  Has a long history of
political contacts that have led to favored contracts.  Following severance of
recent contracts has launched a subsidiary providing security at many port
facilities.  Cash flow from current operation appears sufficient to keep Morningstar
solvent.  Suggest DHS monitor for any illicit activities, but cannot presently
identify any specific concerns, nor evidence of any crimes.

BOOK: The Land of the Free
6.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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