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 (12 page)

BOOK: Thin Line
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Even if it was the same detective he threatened to rat me out to.

I stepped into the frigid night air and passed between two dumpsters spilling over with trash. Six months from now, the combination of stench and heat
would be enough to knock a man out. But in the freezing cold, it wasn't so bad. About the same as a rotten banana.

The narrow alley cut between six more buildings. At the last, I took a right. It was darker here, with figures scattered along the ground huddled up
against the edges of the buildings. I didn't need light to know they watched me as I approached. My size alone was a turn-off to most. And those that
considered me a target likely gave up hopes of taking advantage of me because of the way I carried myself.

Once on 5th Avenue, the crowd thickened and I found a group of locals to merge with. I put my head down and continued on to the restaurant.

It was a small Mediterranean place. Freshly baked pita bread was on every table. Hummus and tabbouli, too. A waiter passed by with two plates - seared lamb
that made my mouth water, took me back to a time I spent a week in Greece.

McSweeney spotted me after I stepped through the door. She waved from a table in the back corner. Her hair was pulled back, same as before. She was wearing
blue jeans and a light pink polo shirt. Her lipstick matched, but other than that, she wore no makeup. Her blue jacket hung on the chair next to her.

I scanned the half-full dining room. This was a local's place. No tourists. Some of the patrons looked as though they might have come from one of the
countries in which the cuisine had originated. None of them posed an immediate threat. A good thing, since McSweeney had planted her stake on the table by
taking a chair that allowed her to lean against the back wall, which meant the only option available to me left me with no way to keep an eye on things.

She rose and met me a few feet in front of the table. I shook her extended hand, then we sat down in the configuration that made me most uneasy.

"You're uncomfortable?" she asked.

"I'll get used to it."

"We can switch."

I glanced over my shoulder back at her, then nodded. Clumsily, we changed places. The awkward dance of two people brushing up against each other in public.
She left her jacket on the chair that was now next to me. I kept mine on for the time being. Her perfume lingered on both.

"The tabbouli here is excellent," she said, sliding a menu across the table.

"I'll keep that in mind."

"So I guess you're wondering why I asked you to meet me."

Before I could answer, a dark-haired waitress walked up and set a tray of bread, hummus, and tabbouli on the table. She took our drink orders, then left.

"Anyway," McSweeney said, "I wanted to let you know of a few key developments."

"OK."

"But first, I need you to level with me."

"OK."

"Who are you?"

 

Chapter 20

I FELT THE coldness of the night air moments after the front door opened. Four uniformed cops stepped in. Two remained close to the door, while the other
two started toward our table. They split apart, and one started in the direction of the kitchen door. He glanced at me about the same time I looked from
the door to him. He placed his hand on his pistol.

"We can do this here, or back at the station," McSweeney said.

I looked at her. She didn't appear to be excited to have placed me in this position. "I should have known you wouldn't give up your seat without reason."

She stared blankly at me and said nothing.

The cops had all frozen in position. They focused on our table and nothing else. I assumed another team was waiting outside. All the patrons of the
restaurant had joined the officers and were staring in our direction.

"What is it you want?" I said.

"For starters, your name."

"I already told you."

"You lied to me."

"Why would I have a government ID that says I'm Lawrence Golston if I'm not him?"

She said nothing.

"I already warned you, take me in and you're going to regret it."

"I have a source."

"What kind of source?"

"One who has access to personnel files and can tell me anything I want to know about anyone."

"NSA."

She shrugged.

"OK," I said. "What did they tell you about me?"

"Nothing."

"Good. That's what they're supposed to say."

"No, he didn't tell me nothing because it's his job. He told me nothing because you don't exist."

"Then I'm breaking some pretty big universal laws by sitting here."

"Plenty of Lawrence Golstons exist, but not one working as a government investigator."

"You don't know what you're getting yourself into, Detective."

"Then why don't you tell me?"

"You shouldn't have involved your source." I glanced around the dining room. The four officers remained in position. Without taking my focus off the
closest one, I said, "Get them out of here."

"Are you going to tell me what I want to hear?"

I nodded.

"OK." She got up, went over, and said something to the man by the kitchen entrance. The guy nodded several times, then left his post. By the time she
returned to the table, the cops had left. "Happy?"

"I'll tell you when we're away from here." The waitress hadn't returned with my drink, so I took a sip of McSweeney's water. "What were you thinking,
bringing them in here like that?"

She said nothing.

"And checking up on me with an NSA contact?"

"I didn't say he was NSA."

"You didn't have to."

"He could be DOD or FBI."

"But he's not." I was ready to bail on her and head back to D.C.

"That's not all," she said.

Just what I needed. More questions. "What?"

"We identified the body."

I'd figured she was lying about there being a few key developments, but an ID on the body was huge. Knowing the name of the dead man might provide a clue
on who else was involved in this mess. Finding McLellan's body would help, too. But I couldn't ask for McSweeney's assistance with that.

"Let's go," she said. "I don't feel comfortable talking about this here. Not after the scene we just made."

"You made."

"You were involved."

"I was led blindly into a trap."

"Your own fault. You're the government agent."

"Investigator."

"Whatever."

She rose. I fished a twenty out of my pocket and left it on the table. Stepping outside, I scanned the street in search of the team she'd assembled to
bring me in. They were nowhere to be seen.

"Don't worry," she said. "I sent them on their way."

I shoved my hands inside my coat pockets. The time in the restaurant had left the deep pockets warm. "Where to?"

"My office?"

I shook my head. "No police stations."

"How about we just walk, then? If you can handle the cold, that is."

"Doesn't bother me."

"Sure about that? You strike me as a southern boy."

"I'm an all-American boy, McSweeney. The country is my home."

I turned and started walking away from her. It didn't take long for McSweeney to catch up. We turned a couple times until we reached a residential street.
Pedestrian traffic was light. If we were being followed, I couldn't tell. My phone buzzed inside my pants pocket a few times. I ignored it. Most likely it
was Bear calling to tell me he'd arrived.

She broke the silence. "Donald Emmings."

"That's the corpse?"

With her bottom lip protruding, McSweeney nodded.

"How'd you tell?"

"The usual ways."

I didn't press for clarification. I was more interested in who Emmings was, and what connection he might have with Taylor.

"What do you know about him?" I asked.

"He's got a rap sheet going back fifteen years or so. Clean up until he hit twenty-four. Then it was like he decided to take it upon himself to get picked
up for every misdemeanor he could. Graduated to felonies before long. None of them stuck, though. Witnesses and judges all bought off. Recently, they were
looking at him for a double homicide. Three witnesses were able to put him at the scene."

"How'd he end up in the morgue instead of a cell?"

"One witness disappeared, and the other two suddenly forgot what they saw."

"Why'd he end up dead? 'Cause of who he took out?"

She shrugged.

"So was this guy Emmings in the mob?"

"Something like that."

"Doesn't sound Italian."

She smiled. "You watch too many movies."

"What's that mean?"

"It means not all members of organized crime are Italians." She grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop. "And not all Italians are criminals. Some of us are
cops."

"Never would have pegged a McSweeney as Italian."

"Who says it's my maiden name?"

"He must be proud of you."

"Not proud enough to stick around."

"Sorry."

"Whatever."

I said nothing.

"What about you?"

"Proud of you?"

"In a relationship?"

"Sort of."

We continued along the sidewalk, weaving our way around others. Our walk had brought us close to my building. I wondered whether she knew where I lived. If
so, she'd know a lot more about me than I wanted her to. That didn't explain the scene at the restaurant, though, unless it was a game aimed at getting me
to confess. I wouldn't put it past McSweeney to have been playing me from the beginning.

"So what connection did Emmings have to the guy who lives in that building?"

"You mean Taylor?" she said, daring me to respond.

I shrugged. "All I know is someone lives there."

"So you were really here for Emmings?"

"Didn't say that."

She shook her head. Her ponytail swayed in opposition. "I wasn't lying about my contact. I know who Taylor is, and what he did. And I still don't buy the
government investigator bit." A deep exhale sent a trail of vaporized breath streaming over her head. "But, you are obviously here because of some agency
or department or politician."

"If what you're saying is true, then it's better for you to keep your distance from me and that brownstone."

"My source says the same thing."

"You should listen to him."

She nodded. "Perhaps I should."

"So why don't you take his advice?"

She stepped out of the flow of traffic and leaned against the glass wall of a corner store. She waited for me to join her. I leaned against the glass
opposite her. A thin sheet of ice lined the window. I traced my fingertips along it like they had ice skates attached.

"I want to know what's going on here," she said. "Call it a wild patriotic hair up my butt, but someone is involved in something they shouldn't have been.
If I can be a part of bringing them to justice, then I want to do it."

"How do you know that someone isn't me?"

She shrugged and glanced down. "Guess I don't."

"Yet you're still standing here."

"Guess I am."

"Jack?"

Christ, I thought. I hadn't realized how close we were to Clarissa's bar. It must've been slow, because it was too early to be closed, and she was standing
behind me. I turned to face her. She could have said nothing else and I would have known exactly how she felt.

"What the hell is going on?" Clarissa said. "Who's this?"

I held my hands up. "Before you get too excited, let me explain what's going on. This is-"

"Save it, Jack. We're done." She turned and merged into a group of Japanese tourists who were heading to or returning from a show. Clarissa failed to blend
in. She was a head taller than most of them.

"Jack, huh?" McSweeney said.

I nodded, turned around.

"Got a last name to go with that?"

"Nope. Just Jack is all you need to know."

"Well, Jack, what now?" Her gaze held mine for several seconds. She was serious about being a part of this. I didn't think she realized the implications it
could have on her life, though.

"What you need now is to go home and get a good night's rest. Then, when you get up, you need to spend some time thinking about how you really don't want
to get involved in this situation. Your contact is right. And so am I. Even if you survive this, you'll never be the same. Your view of the world will
never be the same. And you won't be able to do a thing about it."

"What about you and that woman?" She offered a half-smile. "She's your 'sort of', right? Why didn't you chase after her just now?"

"Remember that first algebra question in middle school? The one about the trains?"

"Train A and Train B both heading the same place? Different speeds, distances. How long does it take each to get there?"

I nodded. "That's our relationship. Only we're on the same track and heading toward one another."

 

Chapter 21

AS I WATCHED McSweeney disappear into the yellow light-haze, I made the decision to return to D.C. the following day. I had contacts there that would only
talk in person. I also wanted to grill Frank on what had happened. I had a feeling he'd been withholding information from me since the beginning.

It felt as though a thousand eyes followed every step I took. The Old Man had a huge reach, and I couldn't discount him having several members of his crew
on the lookout for me. And even though McSweeney had left, she might have someone working undercover, intent on following me home.

So going back to the apartment was out of the question. I couldn't lead either group there. Plus, Clarissa might be waiting for me, and that was an
argument I didn't feel like facing.

I found a bank of three pay phones. Maybe the last three in Manhattan. One was missing its receiver. Another its cord. The one in the middle worked fine. I
dropped some loose change in the slot and called Bear on his local forwarding number. We agreed to meet at a local bar.

The feeling inside the place was calm and relaxed. I found a corner booth with high backs. No one was seated nearby. Most of the barstools were occupied by
what appeared to be two separate groups, seated in different sections of the angled bar. The way they were dressed indicated this was only the beginning of
their night. From here, they'd likely move on to some of the trendier nightspots, filling their gourds with alcohol until at least two of them found
themselves face down in a gutter, vomiting into the snow's runoff.

BOOK: Thin Line
2.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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