Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One.
Alex walked off the elevator the next day and immediately headed for Cliff's office.
"Jodi, is he in right now?"
"Morning, Alex. Yes, he's in, but he's in conference. Said if anybody needs him he'll be free about 9:30."
"Gotcha. Would you tell him I need to see him?"
"Can I tell him why?"
"Just let him know I had a discussion last night with the enigmatic Ms. Mylos. Tell him she's willing to share."
"I take it he'll understand."
"Yeah, he will. Tell him I'll be in my office."
"So, our assassin's willing to talk?"
Cliff was in the doorway of Alex's cubicle.
"To a point. She doesn't trust me, yet, and I don't blame her. She's gotten burned before."
"So, what did she say?"
"Follow the money, and study Kittredge."
"That, and she doesn't think Derek White is the one giving the orders. She doesn't doubt his involvement, but he's not the top dog."
"Huh." Cliff scratched his chin as he came into the office and sat down. "You think maybe it's Gerlach?"
"Teren never mentioned his name. And so far, other than being Derek's brother, there's been no connection."
Alex shook her head. "I don't know. I'm just going to follow the money, I guess."
"Okay. " He stood. "So, I take it you'll be speaking to Ms. Mylos again."
He nodded. "Good. At least if you're in contact with her you can keep one eye on her."
"You think she needs watching?"
"I'm not sure. On just what you've said, and what I've seen, no. But, she is a trained killer. I don't think I'd feel safe if we weren't staying in contact."
He pointed to the papers on her desk. "What's all this?"
"Oh. David and I requested some records from the IRS. Tax returns and audit papers on Kittredge. David's looking at people involved in the company, and I'm looking at their tax returns. Something Teren said last night kind of stuck in my mind, and I wanted to check on it."
"What was that?"
"Something about them selling very few clothes for the amount of material they buy."
"Why is that important?"
"I'm not sure. There are some budget reports in here from when they were audited by the IRS. Maybe there will be something there."
"Okay. So, David's looking at the people and you're chasing dollars. Ben and Mark are going to keep grilling Ricky Wilford. They're having him look through pictures from our surveillance file to see if he recognizes any of his brother's friends."
"Good. Maybe he'll see a familiar face, and we'll have another live suspect."
"Speaking of suspects, how long do you want to wait before leaning on Brogan?"
"Is the surveillance in place?"
"As of last night. And the wire tap is in."
"Then I think sometime this week will be good. I want to see if I can find a few more facts about his cousin. Then we'll confront him, and see if he talks to us or White."
"If he chooses White?"
"I'll just have to remind him what happened to his buddies who were driving his car."
Alex couldn't figure out how the Kittredge Clothes Company made any money at all.
First, they had no physical outlet. The only way to get their clothes was to order them by mail, phone, or on-line. While they listed four stores as 'distribution centers,' it was noted that these stores did not sell the merchandise. They simply arranged for individuals to pick up the pre-paid items. Which made absolutely no sense to Alex.
Also, the recorded prices for these items was absolutely outrageous. The Klaser Coat was listed at over five hundred dollars, while the signature Kittedge line was priced close to seven hundred.
Not that the coats weren't made well. The materials purchased by Kittredge were top of the line, best quality. Only the best silk was used in the Kittredge shirts, and the gold buttons on the Kabel blazers were fourteen karat gold. Therefore, if the price Kittredge paid for their materials was any measure, the price of the product was justified.
But something didn't sit right with Alex. She wondered exactly who they were buying their material from. As she looked over their list of suppliers, she noticed a trend. All of the other companies were part of either Atlantic Properties, or its conglomerate The Talcott Companies.
As Alex looked through report after report, she noticed the Kittredge Clothes Company actually made no profit whatsoever. It made enough to cover the price of doing business. Otherwise, the amount spent on material and the amount brought in through sales balanced each other perfectly. As if the amount of materials bought every month were precisely calculated to offset the number of items sold.
Which, Alex decided, was virtually impossible.
David showed up just as she was coming to this conclusion.
"You'll never guess what I just found out."
"At this point, David, I don't think I'd want to try guessing what day it is. What did you find?"
"I got a full list of the shareholders. It reads like the who's who of the far right."
"For one, of course, Gerlach. But there's also Ned Simpson, from North Carolina. Grand Imperial Wizard Jed Miller from Louisiana. Teddy Rushford from Mississippi. Most of the major groups are represented."
"Shit. What is this, the new trend? If you're Klan or Nazi you need to buy a Kittredge coat?"
"I don't know about that, but I do know that, surprise surprise, each of these men also hold positions within at least one other business under Atlantic Properties or the Talcott Companies." He dropped into the chair beside Alex. "I got a bad feeling about this Alex."
"Me, too." She closed the folder she was holding and tapped it against her desk. "This is getting bigger and bigger. And I'm worried."
"This was a total conspiracy from start to finish, Alex."
"Yeah. But that's the problem, Dave. I don't think it's finished."
"I don't see that as the problem."
"No. All we can do is what we've been doing. We're not prophets, and we don't have a clue if, where, or when the next assassination will occur. If it's not finished," he shrugged, "it's not finished. We'll just ride it out 'til it is."
Alex leaned back. "So what does scare you?"
"What scares me is that every day we find that one person is linked to someone else, and that person is linked to another. This thing is getting bigger and bigger. I know conspiracies can be broken, but Alex, all we have is connections, and no proof. How the hell are we going to prove Derek White is involved in this shit? We can prove he knew the guys, but that's not even enough to get a search warrant."
"I know, Dave. I'm frustrated, too."
They were both quiet for a moment. Then Alex reopened the folder again. "Well, while you've been looking at people, I've been looking at dollars. Look at this. There is no way in hell Kittredge can make a profit. They make enough to break even and that's it. There's no way the shareholders are getting rich from this."
David stood and looked over her shoulder. "Jeez, Alex. It looks like their sales are just enough to cover what they've spent on materials."
"That's right. But they buy materials at different rates per month. And I can't see that it's based on the previous months sales. It's almost like they predict what they're going to sell."
"But that's not possible."
"It's not supposed to be." She flipped to another page. "This is the list of suppliers for Kittredge. They're all part of Atlantic or Talcott."
David didn't say anything, but when she tried to flip the page, he stopped her. "Those are the suppliers?"
David picked up his own sheaf of papers and looked through them. When he found the one he wanted, he looked at her.
"Read those off to me, one at a time, would you?"
"Okay. Lerner Enterprises."
"Lerner Enterprises, Louisianna. That's where Jed Miller works."
Alex glanced at him, then looked back at her sheet. "Daisy Fabrics."
"Mississippi. Believe it or not Teddy Rushford manages the plant."
This time the glance became a hard gaze before Alex once again read from her sheet. "Winston Company, Inc."
"Winston, Winston . . ." David ran his finger down the page. "Oh, Winston. Yeah. Boca Raton, Florida. Edward Samuels is the director of sales." He looked up at his partner. "He also is a shareholder in Kittredge."
Alex dropped the sheet. "Okay, so they do business only with people who own shares in the company."
"And that brings us back to the fact that Kittredge makes no money. Why own stock in a company that doesn't make a profit?"
Her exasperation was evident in Alex's face and voice. "First thing Monday morning I'm putting in for a transfer back to the Research department."
"Why? You'll still find stuff like this."
"Yeah, but there I just had to find it. I didn't have to interpret it."
Alex hadn't forgotten that she owed her former co-workers lunch that day, so she and David gathered up a few records, ordered several large pizzas from their favorite pizza parlor, and headed for the Research department.
"David, Alex. Okay, where's lunch?"
Alex laughed and hugged her friend. "It's on its way. I hope Pizza from Mario's is okay."
"Perfect. Most of the gang are in the conference room already. I was just finishing up a few things."
David dropped into a chair near the researcher. "Jen, we were hoping you could help us for just a minute with something."
"What is it?"
"We need you to try to find the corporate finances for a few companies."
"We have a list here." David handed her the sheet of suppliers. "We specifically need to know what dealings they've had with a company named Kittredge."
Jenny looked the list over, and then glanced up at David. "Okay. I might be able to get to it sometime soon."
Alex put a hand on her shoulder. "Jenny, we need this as quick as possible. Any chance you could get to it by the end of the day?"
"Maybe." She grinned at David. "But he's gotta give me a kiss first."
Alex and David exchanged shocked stares. "What?"
"Oh, come on, you two. I'm kidding. Of course I'll get to it today."
Alex noticed a distinctly relieved look on David's face. "Thanks, Jen."
"No problem. I should have a few minutes right after lunch."
"Great. We really appreciate it."
"Sure." She grinned at them. "Besides, it's worth the extra work just to have seen the look on his face."
David stood. "Jen, one of these days someone's gonna take you up on one of your offers. Then where will you be?"
"Probably in the smaller conference room getting screwed." She threw an arm around David's shoulder. "Care to join me?"
Alex had to smile at her friend's antics. Everyone knew she was all bark and no bite.She loved to flirt and play, but she was always careful in who she teased.
"Come on, Jen, don't tease the married man, okay?"
"Oh, all right." She left David's side and went to Alex's instead. "You're not married, Alex. Can I tease you?" She slid an arm around Alex's waist.
"Sure. And if you do a really good job for me on the rest of this case, I'll even give you that kiss."
"Ooooh. Now, that's an incentive."
Alex waited until the lunch party in the conference room was in full swing, and then took her friend aside.
"Jenny, I need to use your computer for a few minutes. It's important."
"Sure thing, Alex. I'll help you."
"No, Jen. This is something I can't share with anyone. It's important."
Jen looked at her friend's serious face. "Okay. There'll be no one in the area now. Why don't I walk you over there? I can be there if you need help with something, but I'll stay away from the computer so I can't see what you're doing."
Alex hesitated. "I don't know."
"Alex, you'll me to get you into the system anyway. Your password won't work anymore."
The agent had to admit that was true. "Alright. Let's go."
A few minutes later, Jenny was reading through a technical manual while Alex used the computer to access the bank records of the Cayman Islands. She input the number Teren gave her, and waited.
The computer told her that no such account currently existed.
She told it to search under closed accounts. The computer replied that it had found the requested account, but access to the information was restricted.
"Problem?" Jenny looked up, but didn't move from her chair.
"The account I need is in a restricted access area, and I need a code to get in."
Jenny bit her lip. "Alex, I don't know exactly what you're looking for, and with the way you're acting, I don't think I want to know. But if you'll let me, I can get you the information."
Alex stared at the blinking light on the computer, knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere on her own. She probably wouldn't have had a problem when she worked in Research, but now, without having full access to codes, and code breaking programs, she could do little.
The decision made, she stood up and motioned for Jenny to take her seat.
After several minutes of typing, and several more of waiting, the computer acknowledged receipt of the access code, and let them into the information. Jenny immediately retreated. Alex grabbed a pad and started writing.
"Jen, is this symbol what I think it is?"
The researcher looked at the character Alex showed her. "It's the symbol for a Swiss Bank Account. Is there an asterisk or an ampersand by it?"
"An asterisk beside this one, and there's a US bank code with an ampersand. If I remember my codes correctly, that means the money in this account was transferred into it from Switzerland, and it went out to a bank here in the states. Correct?"
"Okay. It looks like I'm going to need your help a little more. I hate to do this, but I have to." She looked at her friend. "I'm serious about the secrecy on this, Jen. No one can know about this."
"Not a word, Alex. Show me what you need."
"I need a peek at the Swiss Account."
Jen stared at her. "You don't want much, do you, Alex?"
"Just the answers, Jen. Just the answers."
David and Alex took their results to the control center, joining Mark and Ben, who had just finished their session with the younger Wilford. The four of them tried to piece the puzzle together.
"Okay, let's ignore recent events for a few minutes and concentrate on what we know about this company."
Alex wrote 'Kittredge' in the middle of the paper they had tacked up. "From there, we can connect them, absolutely, to Derek White and the Whites for America. We can also connect them to Gerlach and the Aryan Resistance League." She wrote the names of the groups and the initials of the men on the page, drawing a line from each of them to 'Kittredge.'
"Now, thanks to David's research, we can connect the heads of several other organizations. We know they own stock, and we know they do business with Kittredge through their own companies."
Ben pulled a chair out and swung a leg over the seat. "So, we know there're business links. What else?"
"Well, for one thing, the budgets I've checked for Kittredge don't add up. They make no profit."
"You told us that, Alex. And while I certainly wouldn't want to invest in a company like that, it's not against the law." Mark winced as he brushed a lock of hair away from his still bruised eye.
"No, it's not. But you'd think someone would notice. I mean, there's got to be something going on here."
"I've been studying the corporate structure a little," David interjected. "You'd think there was a department or something in Atlantic Properties that Kittredge had to report to. But there isn't. Almost every other smaller business that Atlantic owns is answerable to the board of Directors. But Kittredge isn't. They report directly to the Chairman of the Board."
"Who's the chairman of the board?"
David grinned. "You ready for this? It's Martin Richmond."
Alex's eyebrows shot up.
"Richmond? The Martin Richmond?" Mark's voice reflected the surprise they were all feeling.
Martin W. Richmond was a leader in the business community of New York City. He had developed his own successful computer company, which involved creating software for database companies. Richmond eventually sold his business to IBM for a reported 8.3 million dollars. Part of that money had helped him start a non-profit organization, the Christian Men's Front.
"David, are ya saying that Martin Richmond is involved in these murders?" Ben asked quietly. "Cause if ya are, ya'll are gonna need a whole lot more proof than that."
"I don't think we're accusing anyone right now, Ben. All we're trying to do is map out the connections."
Ben nodded. "Right. But connections to what? Kittredge? What are ya'll lookin' for, Alex?"
"Damned if I know right now. But Mather, Wilford, and Brogan are all connected to White, and he's close to the top of this company. All I want to do is follow the trail."
"But if you're going to follow every trail that leads out from Kittredge, doesn't that mean we have to trace down all the people who bought a shirt or a coat from the company?" Mark asked. "That's a hell of a lot of people, Alex."
Someone knocked on the door. David opened it and was handed a fax. "This is for you and Agent Reis, Dave. Alex, you have a phone call."
"Can you take a message for me, Jodi, or is it an emergency?"
"It's from someone in the gym, downstairs. She'd said if you were busy, you should either call or come down when you get the chance."
Teren. "Is she still on the line?"
"Tell her I'll be down in twenty minutes."
David shut the door and looked up from the fax he was examining. "What were you saying about people who bought coats, Mark?"
"That we'd have to find them all?"
David shook his head. "I don't think so. There's no record of anyone ever buying one."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
David handed part of the fax to Mark. "These are the bank records for the Kittredge account in Birmingham. It appears that the money Kittredge claims as income from sales actually comes to them in lump sums, mostly cash. They have no dealings with credit card companies and there is no record of them submitting any personal checks to their bank account. In fact, the only thing they ever put into their account is cash. They put it in once a month, at the beginning of the month."
"But in their records they say they make a deposit every week, consisting of all monies received from sales."
"That's not what their bank says, Alex."
Alex took the rest of the fax from David's hand, flipping through the pages. Each page had the name of a company at the top, and a list of businesses they'd dealt with in the last few months, including their sales reports to each one. She noticed immediately that the numbers didn't match.
"Shit. Fucking shit."
The other three looked up at her.
"It's a laundering operation. That's all it is. They're taking in between fifty and sixty thousand in cash every month, disguised as sales, and it goes out to other companies to supposedly buy materials for the company. Only the stuff they buy is priced three times as high as the same companies sell it to their other customers. The whole thing is a goddamned washing machine."
Ben took the papers from her. He looked through them for a moment then nodded.
"I think you're right."
David looked at his partner. "Now what?"
Alex took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. "You guys track the rest of the corporate board for Atlantic." She headed for the door.
"Where are you going?"
"I have an appointment. Call you later."
The basement of the FBI building was actually split into three different areas. The first was the gym area, with weight machines and exercise machines. The second part was made up of a number of classrooms in which martial arts and self-defense skills were taught and practiced. The third section, packed behind sound proof walls, was the pistol range.
Margo's office was set between the gym and the classrooms, and it was there that Alex began her search for Teren.
"She's finishing up her class. So, it was you she called during her last break?" Margo grinned. "I was right, wasn't I? She is family."
"Well, yeah. Or at least I think so. I didn't actually ask."
"Did you ask her out?"
"Look, I don't need you or anyone else prying into my personal life, okay? So, just drop it, Margo."
"Okay. Alright, I'm sorry." Margo's voice had softened considerably. "Look, I was just kidding. Relax, Alex."
Alex cocked her head back and looked at the ceiling. "No, I'm sorry, Margo. I'm just not myself." She looked at her friend. "Forgive me?"
The gym director smiled at her. "Of course. And I really am sorry. I shouldn't have pushed." She stood up. "I'll let Teren know you're here, and the two of you can use my office for whatever little talk you need to have."
"Thanks, Margo. We'll try not to be too long."
"Don't worry. I have a group of secretaries who come down every Friday at this time. They do a circuit on the machines, and think they're hot. I hang around just in case one of them needs to change a weight from ten to fifteen pounds."
Alex chuckled. "Well, have fun."
"Right. You just hang out for a few. I'll catch Teren as she's leaving her class." Margo stood in the doorway watching until Alex took the chair she'd just vacated.
"Thanks again, Margo."
"Forgive me for saying this, but I think you like her." Margo disappeared out the door before Alex could say anything in return.
So she waited. In her mind she went over the information she had for Teren, and wondered if it was truly connected to her case. A few days ago she woul have doubted it. But having just discovered a major money laundering operation, she wasn't so sure.
Teren slipped into the office. She closed the door and turned around, putting her back against the entrance.
"I found it."
"In Towson, Maryland. It's a drive, but not too far. Want to go see it tonight?"
"I'll call it in and get a team out there --"
Alex's hand was already on the phone when Teren spoke.
"No. My sources called with the information this morning, so I haven't had a chance to see it. I want first crack at it. You're welcome to come along, but only you. You can bring your team in tomorrow if you want."
"I thought you trusted me on this, Teren."
"You, I trust a little. The FBI, not at all."
"Point taken." Alex leaned back. "When do you want to leave?"
"This was my last session. I'm through for the day. It would take me a half hour to shower, change, sign out, and bring my car around."
Alex nodded. "Alright. I'll alert my boss, and tell him the team needs to be ready tomorrow morning."
Teren tensed. "I don't see a reason to tell your boss anything."
"Teren, I have to. Not just because it's regulation, which it is, but because I trust him.We have no idea what we might find out there. I trust that if something happens, Cliff'll be ready if I need him." She leaned forward over the desk. "I also want my partner along."
"No fucking way."
"Teren, listen to me. I need him along. He sometimes sees things that I don't, or forces me to think instead of jumping to conclusions. He's important, and I need him." She stood up. "Besides that, he's a good guy. He's my partner. And I know you understand partners."
Alex wasn't sure if Teren was going to cry, or rip her head off.
"Speaking of partners, want to tell me why yours still has a bank account?"
Teren leaned forward and put her hands on the desk. "He doesn't. I cleaned out all of his bank accounts a few days after I left the hospital. I sent the money to his parents who live in Kansas City. The account was closed, and I know it, so what the fuck are you talking about."
Alex tried to ignore the sweat that was beginning to form on her upper lip. "An account at the First Securities Bank of New York was opened in the name of Perry Watson five months ago. It contains over seventy thousand dollars. There have been deposits into it totalling over two hundred thousand, and constant withdrawals of between ten and twenty grand about twice a month for the last five months."
Teren didn't move.
"But what I find most interesting is that the money that opened the account was electronically transferred in from a certain bank account in the Cayman Islands."
Teren dropped her eyes and slammed her hand into the desk. "That son-of-a-bitch. He was using Perry's name and ID."
"That's what we think."
The black head shot up. "You've told them about the account?"
"No. That part nobody knows but you and me, and the person who helped me find it. And she has absolutely no idea what she helped me find."
"When did you get this?"
"Well, I have to admit, we knew about the account's existence in New York for a couple of days. I didn't think of it last night until you'd driven away. But I found the connection with the other account this morning. And I found where the money came from."
"Swiss bank. I can't find the owner at this point because of the way the Swiss protect their secrets. But I have the dates of transmission, and a list of other transactions from this account. I was going to wait until Monday to run the other account numbers."
Teren straightened and turned towards the door. Even with her back to Alex, she could feel the eyes of the shorter woman. "Fucking Swiss. I should have known."
They stayed like that until Alex couldn't stand it. She stood up and came around the desk.
"I wanted to tell you here instead of in the car because you were hesitant to tell me about this in the first place. But David and I discovered a few things about the Kittredge company that I think you should hear. Can I tell him we're going on a road trip?"
Teren's eyes never moved from the spot she'd been staring at. "Yeah. Half an hour. I'll pick the two of you up in front of the building. Don't be late, because I won't wait." She glanced at Alex. "You remember what my car looks like?"
"Good." Teren opened the door and looked back at the agent. "I've been defending for months, Alex. It's time for an attack, don't you think?"
Teren left and Alex stood still for a moment longer. Then she shook her head and reached for the phone.
Alex found Cliff in his office for only the second time all day. His reaction when she told him about the house was predictable.
"That's great, Alex. I can have a forensics team ready in--"
"No, Cliff. No team."
Her boss paused. "What? Why not?"
"Because Teren wants to see it first."
"No, that's not --"
"Cliff, there is no choice. Either we do this her way, or we don't get the location. Who knows when we'd find it if we tried to do it our way."
"But, Alex, you can't --"
"Look, don't worry. She's agreed that David and I can go along. Between the two of us I'm sure we can keep the scene intact. I'll make sure we take a camera, and we'll log everything we do touch."
Cliff's breathing was heavier than normal, and Alex knew he was fuming.
"You know that David and I won't screw this up. If you still want a team out there tonight, then I'll call in the address as soon as Teren's finished with whatever she's looking for. But, Cliff, there is no negotiation on this."
"I don't like it."
"I don't either, but I'm not willing to pass up this opportunity. Are you?"
Cliff snorted. "Not a chance." He took a breath, and held it for a moment. When he let it out, he felt much calmer. "Alright. What do you need me to do from this end?"
"Get the team ready, and sit tight. David and I will call with a location as soon as we can."
"I still don't like it. Are you sure you want to do this? We could use a bug --"
"Cliff, I thought you wanted her to trust us. Do you really think she will if we use bugs for something like this?"
"No. But you be careful."
"We will. I have to meet David at the elevators. Teren will be out front in eight minutes."
"Then get out of here. We'll be waiting for your call."
David was waiting where he said he'd be. He had a 35 mm camera hanging from his neck, and both their briefcases in his hands. At his feet lay a blue bag marked with FBI in bold letters.
"What's in the bag?" Alex asked as she took her briefcase from her partner.
"Tape, gloves, bags, labels --"
"In other words standard scene equipment."
"Yes. Are we on time?"
"We've got six minutes to make it downstairs."
David nodded, and poked at the elevator button.
"You already pushed it, Dave. Pushing the button again won't make it move any faster."
"I know. But it feels like I'm doing something anyway." They shared a smile. "So, I get to meet your assassin."
"Number one, she's not my pet anything. Number two, I think if you refer to her like that in her presence, you're going to be her next victim."
"So how should I refer to her?"
"Well, her name might be nice."
"Her name. Right." David picked up the bag from his feet. "I gotta admit, Alex, I'm a little nervous. I've never met an assassin before."
Alex rolled her eyes. "She's just a person, David. She's intense, and probably the most dangerous person I've ever met, but she's still just a person."
"Still." He looked at her with a twinkle in his eyes. "So, you'll protect me from her, right?"
"Oh, no. I protected you from your wife and daughter the other night. Tonight you're on your own."
"But what if I say something wrong, and she decides to kill me?"
"Then I'll requisition a new partner." The elevator opened, and they stepped inside. "Hey, maybe I'll give Price a call, he wanted to come to Washington."
"Alex . . ."
They made it to the front steps of the building with a minute to spare. Alex kept an eye out for Teren's car, and it wasn't long before she spotted it. Motioning to David she moved to the curb and waited. Teren stopped the car with the passenger door even with Alex. The agent heard the lock pop open, and she reached for the handle.
"What's all that stuff?" Teren asked as Alex and David climbed into the Nissan.
"Our briefcases, and a bag of equipment. Teren, this is my partner, David. Dave, this is Teren Mylos."
"Nice to meet you, Teren." David offered a hand over the seat.
Teren ignored it. "Right. What kind of equipment?"
"Standard stuff. Gloves, plastic bags, and that annoying yellow tape."
"You do realize none of that tape is going up yet?"
"Yeah, I know. But it's part of our normal gear, so it ended up in the bag."
Teren nodded, then glanced sideways at her passenger. "You wouldn't be carrying a bug, would you, Alex?"
"Funny you should ask. Cliff asked if I wanted one, and I told him I trusted you."
Alex couldn't tell if Teren looked more amused, or shocked. "I would like permission, though, to give him a call as soon as we're finished. He wants to get a forensic team out there as soon as possible."
"You're asking permission?" Teren was maneuvering the vehicle through the crowded streets with the talent of a race car driver, and had noticed David reaching quickly for his seat belt.
"Yes. This is your call, Teren. We'll do things your way. All I ask is that you remember we all have an interest in this case."
Teren nodded. "You're right. Tell you what. As soon as I find what I'm looking for, I'll let you know, and you can make your call." She glanced at Alex again. "Deal?"
"Deal. Now, could you do me a favor?"
"Slow down just a little before my partner has a panic attack. He doesn't trust anyone but himself at these speeds."
Teren looked in the mirror to see a sheepish grin on Alex's partner. He saw her watching him, and he shrugged at her.
She slowed down. A little.
It was past six o'clock when they reached the northern side of Baltimore. Teren estimated that Towson was at least another twenty minutes on the highway. They had passed the time bringing Teren up to speed on everything the task force had accomplished, and the information they had dug out of the files on the Kittredge Clothes Company.
"So, the way I see it, Kittredge is nothing more than a money laundering scheme. They're taking in quite a bit of cash, which can't be traced. Then they send it out to companies among the Atlantic Properties Group."
"And you said Martin Richmond is the Chairman of Atlantic?"
"Yes. I don't know yet if he reports to someone else, or if he's the top of the heap. Mark and Ben are going to continue looking at the people in the chain."
David spoke up from the back seat. "Teren, excuse me, but did you know what we'd find?"
She glanced at him in the mirror. "Not really. I knew there was something strange, and I knew some of the money they took in was tainted. But I didn't know how the scheme worked, or who was involved."
"How did you know there was tainted money going into the company?" Alex asked.
Teren sent an amused glance toward the agent. "Sorry. I am not allowed to divulge any information based on past CIA operations."
Alex nodded. "So, it involves the CIA? Or just information uncovered during a mission?"
"I am not allowed to --"
"Yeah, yeah. Got it."
Teren grinned at Alex. "Sorry."
"I know. You're just frustrating."
David decided to bite the bullet and jump into the conversation. "Um, I don't mean to pry, and I don't want you to divulge any priviledged information, but can you tell us who you think is behind the murders?"
Teren was silent so long that Alex didn't think she was going to answer. Then Teren sighed, and looked at David's reflection.
"The same people who were behind the death of my partner."
David looked like he wanted to ask more, but didn't dare. Teren waited for him to say something else, and finally got exasperated when he didn't.
"Any other questions, Agent Wu?"
David was distinctly uncomfortable, but he said, "Yeah. Just one."
"Who killed your partner?"
Alex bit her lip, wondering how the dark woman would react. Teren stared quietly at the road for a few minutes, and then took a deep breath.
"What are you really asking, David? Do you want to know who pulled the trigger, or who set us up?"
"Well, from what I understand, it was Mather that set you up."
"Yes. So, you're asking who I think paid him, right?"
Teren nodded. "I honestly can't say. I think it was a conspiracy, and I think it involves members of the far right in the United States. That's all I can really tell you."
"You can't give us a name of any kind?"
The only sound in the car was the soft background of classical music that came from Teren's speakers. No one spoke until Teren pulled the car over to the curb in the middle of a small residential neighborhood.
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