Read Thin Line Online

Authors: L.T. Ryan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Murder, #Spies & Politics, #Assassinations, #Terrorism, #Thriller, #Thrillers, #Mystery & Thrillers

Thin Line (11 page)

BOOK: Thin Line
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"Do we have a deal?" he asked.

"You've made a miscalculation somewhere along the way."

"Oh, have I?"

"You see, you're operating under the assumption that I'm feeling pressure to find a possible target, or uncover a presumably missing corpse. This couldn't
be further from the truth. I came to New York to relax and spend some time with my girlfriend. It's true that in the past I worked for a government agency.
A fact I am only divulging out of respect to you. But since then, my activities have been isolated to legitimate businesses with my partner."

He slowly clapped three times. A laugh preceded his comments. "You'll never make it as an actor, Mr. Jack. With your background, you should realize that
things go much easier when you adhere to honest dealings."

"I'm sure you live your life by those words."

"How I live my life is of no concern to you. The only thing you should be worrying about is your lifespan, Mr. Jack."

I shifted in my seat. The action drew an immediate response from the Old Man. He lifted his hand and let it settle slowly. I eased back again. I could see
in his eyes that he felt he had control over me.

"If you have information about any alleged government targets and possible missing corpses," I said, "then the best thing for you to do would be to phone
in an anonymous tip, because you're doing nothing but wasting time by talking to me about it."

He slid back and pulled a drawer open. I couldn't see the contents as they were blocked by the desktop. My body tensed. In my current position, it would be
difficult to draw my pistol in time. His hands came into view, weapon-free. At least in the direct sense. He set two manila envelopes in front of me.

One was addressed to Detective Reese McSweeney, my new friend who'd accompanied me to the morgue. The other was ready to be sent to Leigh Russo. I
recognized the name: She was a news anchor for a local affiliate.

The other item he withdrew from the drawer remained in his hand. He twirled one hundred eighty degrees in his seat and aimed the remote control at the
wall. Two panels split in the middle and parted in opposite directions, revealing a wide-screen television. He clicked the remote and the screen lit up.

What followed were several scenes from the morning Bear and I had entered the brownstone to terminate Brett Taylor. Other footage had been mixed in. I saw
Neil McLellan facing the window and turn toward the camera. Then he was in the bedroom. The angle made it impossible to tell who else was in there. In a
sequence of shots, his expression changed, became confused, possibly scared. A moment later he was dead. The assailant wasn't caught on film. But next was
a shot of Bear and me standing over the lifeless corpse.

"It's still a work in progress." The Old Man paused the footage. "I have an expert editor working on it right now. He has enough footage of you two in the
building, and in the apartment, to stitch together a compelling time line that all but puts the murder weapon in your hands. But I think when the detective
sees you in the apartment with the corpse, she'll put it all together. A shame you lied to her. I really think she likes you. You could have a chance with
her, if she never sees this footage that is."

I couldn't wait long to respond, but it was key to process the information first. I had searched the building and hadn't found a camera. Bear ran through
it with an RF detector, and we'd found nothing. Where was the surveillance equipment? And how the hell did the Old Man get his hands on it? Was he involved
with Taylor in some way? I could only surmise that they had to be working together. Perhaps that was the reason Bear and I had been sent to dispose of
Taylor.

"I can see you are struggling with this, Mr. Jack." He clicked off the television and twirled back toward me. "I'm not a fan of coercing people to work
with me, but it has and does work effectively."

"You know some of my history, the people I worked for. It should be obvious I have connections that can make things happen. What makes you think that
turning that footage over to the police is going to accomplish anything?"

The Old Man said nothing.

I shifted forward in my seat. Our eyes were level. I placed my forearm along the edge of his desk and continued forward another couple inches. "You flip on
me and I'll do everything in my power to bring your organization down."

His eyes narrowed to slits and his hands clenched into fists. Presumably, not many men entered the Old Man's place of business and threatened him. Then, as
I thought his blood pressure was close to maxing out, the redness left his face and his lips loosened into a smile.

The Old Man laughed.

"I knew I'd like you, Mr. Jack. Balls you have. For a man to come in here, knowing he is outgunned a hundred to one, more than that, and stand up to me
like that…" He leaned back in his chair, throwing his arms up and letting them fall behind his head. "You, Mr. Jack, are my kind of man. Now, let's
make a deal."

I mirrored his posture and positioning. In high stakes negotiation, he who speaks first loses. I wouldn't talk until the Old Man did. And I had no clue how
long that would take. The Old Man didn't get to the position he was in without being a good negotiator.

That's why it surprised me he spoke so soon.

"I can see you need a little more persuading, Mr. Jack. So perhaps you'd like to hear what really happened the morning you were to terminate Brett Taylor?"

 

Chapter 18

I FOUGHT THE urge to jump from my chair. Obviously the Old Man knew more than just about anyone else about the events that morning. He had video footage to
back it up, too. And he had connections with at least one of the men, possibly both. He could have been the one to arrange for the corpse to be switched.
The body I viewed at the morgue could have been an unlucky sap who'd run across the wrong person in the Old Man's organization.

I could picture him issuing the command.
Just bring me a white male in his thirties.

"You'd like to know, wouldn't you?" he said.

I nodded, said nothing.

"Then I'm going to need an assurance from you, Mr. Jack."

I held his gaze for several seconds before speaking. "Go on."

"If you use this information…" He paused, laughed, shook his head. "Scratch that. What I am prepared to tell you will solve your problem. Mostly, at
least. So, before I give it to you, I need your word that you will perform a minimum of one job for me."

The bomb had been dropped. Not that I didn't see it coming.

"What good is my word to you?" I asked. "You feel there is honor among thieves and assassins?"

"I know there is."

I'd justified everything I had done in my adult life by telling myself it was for the good of the country, and for the safety of its citizens and friends
around the world. Now, a potential threat was loose. Brett Taylor had screwed up by getting involved in something he shouldn't have. And now he knew
someone was there to take his life. It wouldn't take the man long to figure out that the government had sanctioned the job. It was likely that he had put
the nation at risk, and would now be in a position to want to do more damage. And to strike as quickly as he could.

Could I live with doing something on the other side of the law in order to protect my country?

"Mr. Jack?"

"I can't give you an answer right now."

He glanced down at the envelopes on the table. "Are you sure about that?"

"I am."

The Old Man pulled open the drawer and slid the envelopes toward him, letting them fall into the awaiting compartment. "I'm a tough man, Mr. Jack, but I am
also fair. I'll give you seventy-two hours to decide. Know that if you decline, or fail to give me an answer within the allotted timeframe, I will be
forwarding the video evidence. I know you have the connections to avoid charges, but the news networks will not be forgiving. Your identity, and likely
that of the people you work for, will be revealed. You know as well as I do that there are individuals in certain organizations that will not take kindly
to this."

I nodded, said nothing.

"I take it you understand the underlying meaning."

"Yes." There was nothing else to say. His offer was take it or leave it, and the "it" was life. I had three days to figure this out on my own. If I did,
then I'd likely have enough dirt on the Old Man that he'd keep my secrets to himself. And if I didn't break it in time, I'd have to join forces with him.
My stomach knotted for the first time since entering the compound. I knew I'd get out alive, but I felt less free than at any other time in my life.

The Old Man reached for his phone and pressed a single digit.

"Sir," a voice said through the speaker.

"Send in Mr. Charles," the Old Man replied.

We sat in silence, waiting for Charles. If something was going to happen, it would be now, although I doubted it would. A rap at the door signaled Charles
had arrived. The Old Man rose and gestured for me to do the same. Then he called out for Charles to enter.

"We good, Boss?" the big man asked.

The Old Man turned toward me. His smile was as fake as the luxury watch on Charles's wrist. "Mr. Jack and I have come close to an agreement. I'd like you
to fill him in on some of the benefits of working with me as you escort him back to Manhattan."

Charles nodded. "Nothing would make me happier." The tone of his voice told me there were several things that would indeed make him happier. I hoped that
pounding Jack Noble's face while my goons hold him down
wasn't one of them.

I extended my hand toward the Old Man. "Good meeting you."

He wrapped his frail hands around mine. "Seventy-two hours starting now. Not a second more."

I felt a card against my palm and wrapped my fingers around it as he withdrew his hands. Without looking at it, I stuffed the card in my pocket.
Undoubtedly, it contained his contact information.

 

Chapter 19

CHARLES HAD ME dropped off on the east side of the 59th Street Bridge. He hadn't come along for the ride, of course. Left the job of being a prick to his
assistants
.

I hailed a taxi to carry me across the bridge and had him drop me off at the southern end of the Park. From there, I'd walk. I figured the air would do me
good, clear my head. Didn't happen. By the time I reached the apartment, things were no clearer than they had been prior to meeting with the Old Man.

Inside, I contacted Bear on a secure line.

He answered and got right to business. "I've picked up a few things on our friend Taylor."

"Such as?"

"Seems he's been pretty busy lately, fulfilling orders that came from outside his normal buyers."

"Who was he regularly working with?"

"Open up a can of alphabet soup and play around with the letters. You'll figure it out that way."

"Gotcha. Same as us, pretty much."

"You could say that."

"What about the extracurricular?" I already knew of one, but didn't want to influence Bear with my knowledge.

"This is where it gets dicey, Jack. I'm hearing he started making himself available to the highest bidder." He paused a few seconds, then added, "And it
didn't matter who they were or where they came from."

I would have pegged the Old Man as one of those bidders up until Bear said
where they came from
. He didn't have to elaborate on that point. Brett
Taylor had started to take jobs from parties with conflicting interests. I had a feeling that a read through recent news might reveal a few accidents that
weren't.

"So are you coming back to D.C.?" he asked.

"I was thinking about it, but considering the place everyone was seen last is New York, I think it's better to remain here. You think you can get up here
today?"

"Yeah, I can. Figure driving or flying or riding, I'll be there by seven tonight."

"Sounds good." And it did. I needed a couple hours of sleep. "Let me know when you're close."

I hung up and grabbed a bite to eat before heading to the bedroom. Blackout shades doused the light. My body was ready to shut down the moment I hit the
bed. But my mind had other plans. There were too many questions to be answered. How had we missed the surveillance equipment? How had the Old Man come into
ownership of the tapes? If he and Taylor had a working relationship, how long had it been established? A closer look at the records on the brownstone would
be in order. We'd assumed that Taylor owned it. Perhaps, like the homeless that scattered like roaches, Taylor stayed there with the Old Man's permission.

Then there was the question of Neil McLellan. I wondered if the Old Man really held the key to McLellan's involvement. I couldn't doubt the tapes, but I
could question how much the crime boss really knew.

Deciding that answers wouldn't come right then, I forced my brain to shut down, and drifted to sleep.

I woke to my cell phone ringing. Only a handful of people had the number, and none of them would call to shoot the breeze with me. The blackout shades made
it difficult to tell how long I'd been out. I reached over for my phone and answered.

"Mr. Golston, this is Detective McSweeney. I'd like to meet with you if you're still in town?"

It took a moment to compose my thoughts. How had I managed to give her this number? The last person I wanted to deal with was a cop. Instantly, I assumed
the Old Man had forwarded a copy of the tape to her.

"Mr. Golston? You there?"

"Yeah, I'm here, and I'm still in town."

"Great. Can I see you this evening?"

She stopped short of mentioning where. I had no desire to spend any part of my night in a police station.

I said, "How about an early dinner?"

She said, "It's six o'clock, Golston. People do eat dinner at this time." She mentioned a restaurant that was eight blocks away. We agreed to meet there in
forty minutes.

After hanging up with McSweeney, I called and left a message for Bear, letting him know I'd be out until eight or nine. Then I showered, changed, and left
the apartment through the back door. Though we had managed to keep the location of the apartment secret, I still felt that the alley was safer, in light of
everything. The government might not know where I lived in New York, but the Old Man probably did. Chances were he'd had someone watching me from the
moment Charles's guys dropped me off on the Queens side of the East River. Maybe they watched the back of the condo building. They definitely kept an eye
on the front. I didn't want word getting back to the crime boss that I'd had dinner with a detective on the same day I met with him.

BOOK: Thin Line
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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