Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One
There was a knock just as Alex was pulling her boots on. David opened the door to greet Agent Rick Price, one half of the partnership from the Philadelphia office.
"Rick, what's up? Where's Keller?"
"Getting some sleep. He still gets headaches." Chad Keller, who'd been an FBI agent for nearly fifteen years, was the partner of Rick Price, one of the youngest FBI agents. Price, at 24, had only been with the Bureau for a year. After getting stellar marks at the Academy, he'd been sent to Philadelphia to play sidekick to the veteran Keller, who'd lost his partner to early retirement. Keller had taken a bullet to the head in the line of duty, and everyone knew it still affected him. He would be retiring later that year.
"Did everything get to headquarters allright?"
"Got a message that everything was received, and they started on the photos already. We should have them in hand before you leave tonight."
"Oh, Alex, something from Lieutenant Wister." He held out a folder. Alex flipped through it, finding several artists renderings of two different men.
"What are these?"
"Wister had Sargeant Leonard work with a sketch artist. These are the guys that presented themselves with the false IDs. This one," he pointed at one of the pictures, "was the shooter. The other was the driver. Since none of the cameras picked up the driver, this is all we have to go on. Unless something comes up at the autopsy."
"That's what we were hoping. " Alex stared at the faces of the two men, then handed them to David for his assessment.
"Yeah, that's a good likeness of the guy I saw. Couldn't see the driver, so I can't tell." He handed them back, and Alex slipped them into her briefcase.
"Wister is circulating these, right?"
"Yeah, at least among the police. Anyone who interacted with either guy, ever, is supposed to report to him immediately. They decided to wait until the pictures come in from Washington to release them to the press. Davies said he'd rather do it all at the same press conference than have to go through two of them."
Alex groaned. "Great. He's gonna be getting bad publicity from the start."
"What do you mean?"
David answered. "Someone is going to talk. They'll tell the press that the police had these sketches within twelve hours of Dabir's death, and they didn't release them. The press will immediately start questioning why they weren't released, and you can bet the charge will be that there was a cover-up."
"Or racism. Or that the FBI killed Dabir. Or some other such garbage. And unfortunately, even though Davies will be the one getting most of the dirt flung at him, some of it will miss --"
"-- and hit us," David finished for his partner. "Jeez, I'm really glad we're leaving tonight."
Alex looked up at Price. "Did you get any sleep yet, Rick?"
The young man shook his head. "No. I figured I'd stay on it until Chad's up. Then I'll get a nap."
"How long do you think you can go?"
"I don't know. But as long as they keep the coffee coming, I should make it till I have to drive you guys to the airport."
"Yeah, and fall asleep on the way." Alex kept her eyes on his. "As SAIC on this case, you are hereby ordered to get some sleep. Hell, if you want you can even crash here; David and I will be gone for several hours."
"That's okay --"
"Uh, Price?" Rick turned to David, who was waiting next to the door. "I wouldn't argue with her. You'll lose." He chuckled at the young man's indecision. "Besides, you think better with sleep. Isn't that right, Agent Reis?"
Price glanced back at Alex, surprised to find her blushing.
"Don't start, David."
David's grin got wider. "See, our fearless leader over there was going on adrenaline and instinct for most of the night, and we didn't come up with much. But, give her a few hours of sleep, and she's been brainstorming ever since. Even got us our first solid physical lead."
"Really?" Price sat down and faced Alex. "Wanna share? Or is this a Washington secret?"
David could clearly see the sudden lines of tension in Alex. Price noticed it, too, and thought back over his last statement. He groaned.
"Damn, Alex, I'm sorry. Either Keller and the others are wearing off on me, or I have been up for too long. I didn't mean it to sound the way it did."
Alex took a breath, and ordered her voice not to shake. "It's okay, Rick. Sometimes things can get a little strained with a case like this. Everybody's tense, and things get said. It's no big deal." But it was to her. "Anyway, the evidence isn't really that great. I just remembered that the shooter had a coat on when he entered the building, but didn't have it when he left. After a few phone calls, we found it. He had checked it into the coat room. It was still there this morning. We're pretty sure it's his because it matches the one Leonard said he was wearing." She pointed to a package sitting on the bed. "After your nap, you can take it to the lab. David and I would drop it off ourselves, but we're not going near the office, or the lab. We already checked pockets, and wrote down the labels and such. I don't think it will actually amount to much, but it might."
Price got up to look at the sealed package, which was tagged with the initials of both Agent Reis and Agent Wu. He looked up at Alex. "You're not taking it to Washington?"
"You want us to? I thought it should be looked at down here first. Then if you want to send it to Headquarters for further analysis, it wouldn't hurt."
He nodded. "I'll get it to the lab right away."
"No. It will keep until you get some sleep. I want you to get it there safely, and right now, you look like you couldn't drive a shopping cart safely." She grinned at him, pleased to see the sheepish smile on his tired face. "We'll be gone several hours. Make sure your cel-phone is on. And if you and Keller are free about five-thirty or six, meet us back here. We'll all meet one more time before David and I go back to D.C."
"Sounds good." He paused. "Isn't Ken going back with you?"
"No. He's going to stay here, and try to cover any loose ends. He might fly back in a day or so, or he might stay for a couple weeks. Depends on what he finds."
"You think there's that much for him to find?"
"I don't know. But he's the expert, and if he can figure out how the bomb was made, it might get us closer to who made the bomb. Then we'll be half a step closer to who killed Dabir."
Price nodded, and watched as Alex and David left the room. David took one last look back before closing the door.
"Get some sleep, Price. We promise, we won't solve the case before you wake up."
David drove them to the police impound lot. Connected to the lot was a garage that housed the vehicle lab. It wasn't really a lab, but the location where vehicles involved in crimes were examined. They entered through a side door after showing their ID. A technician in blue led them to a blackened shell of a car. He pointed at the legs of a person that were poking out from under the vehicle near the front wheels.
"Hey, Ken, you got a minute?"
Agent Thomas slid out from under the car. He was dressed in coveralls similar to the tech that had just left them. Grease and soot coated most of his front, and he had to pull a pair of rubber gloves off his hands before pulling off the mask that covered of his face.
"Didn't think I'd see you before tonight. Skipping the autopsy?"
"No, we've got a few minutes, and I wanted to check in with you. Anything new you can tell me?"
David, who had disappeared with the tech, reappeared with a bottle of water.
"Here, Ken, I thought you could use this. God, it's hot in here."
"Thanks, Dave. Yeah. Nobody's allowed to wear their regular clothes when working in here. Not that you'd want to; you never know what you might get on them. But since you can only wear your boxers and your overalls, they have to keep it a bit warmer. Then you add in the machines, and the lights. . ."
"And you get a lot of heat."
They all shared a grin, then Ken turned serious. "Well, I'm still waiting for a call about the ballistics on those guns. The only thing I can tell you with any certainty is that both were Sig-Sauers, twenty-two caliber."
"Standard assassin's weapon."
"Yeah. One had a suppresser; I haven't seen the report so I don't know which body that came off of, but I'm betting it's your murder weapon."
"Any possibilites of serial numbers?" David had pulled out his notebook and was quickly jotting notes.
"I haven't heard. It should be in the report when I get it. But somebody said they might have been filed."
"Filed, or removed by acid?"
"Don't know. I'll wait for the report on that one." Ken took a few long swallows from the bottle, then wiped his hand across the back of his mouth. "But there are some other interesting bits here."
Alex waited, patiently, for exactly ten seconds. "And?"
"For one thing, our firefighter was right. The bomb was under the drivers side, in the front. What few components were left I've already sealed and sent to the lab. I don't think it was rigged to the accelerator; I didn't find that any of the internals were messed with. That means it was probably a remote."
"Not a timer?"
Ken shrugged. "Could be a timer, Dave, but then how did they know when they'd get the best shot at Dabir?"
Alex nodded. "If they wanted to make sure that Dabir died, and so did the killer, they would have had to use a remote. Otherwise they wouldn't know the right time to blow the car."
"But that means that someone nearby had to blow it."
The three of them were silent for a moment.
"Okay, Ken, good work. Any other little tidbits to pass on?"
"Oh, yeah. The seat the kid told us about, the baby seat in the back?"
"He was right about that as well."
Alex's eyebrows narrowed. "Car was stolen, huh?"
"Yep. I asked for that report to be sent over along with the lab results."
She smiled. "You ever get told you ask a lot, Ken?"
"No. Just got a lot of complaints 'cause I wanted it all done on Sunday."
They grinned at each other.
David was still writing. "Okay, stolen vehicle, baby seat in back -- wait, baby seat?"
Alex rolled her eyes. "Bout time you caught up, David."
The morgue was chilly, and Alex kept her suit jacket on as she slipped into the small room. She sighed in relief when she realized there was no one there. Choosing a seat, she set her notebook down, then cracked the seal on a can of coke.
The room itself was small, with several school type chairs gathered around a thirty-two inch television screen. There were no windows, and very little in the way of comfort. That wasn't surprising, she thought to herself. After all, this was a theatre for watching the post-mortems performed on dead bodies -- something that serious shouldn't be comfortable.
Leaning forward, Alex turned on the t.v., switching channels until she found one entitled John Doe 7-00. That was her guy, the passenger of the car that had blown up on Society Hill. "John Doe" meant, of course, that the man had yet to be positively identified. The number seven-dash-double-zero referred to this being the seventh unidentified body so far in the year 2000.
Hopefully, they'd be able to remove the John Doe label and put a name to this guy tonight. She had already supplied his badge information to the local police, but until there was definitive proof, he'd remain with the anonymous title. Alex wondered if they'd been able to get any records for Perry Watson.
She raised her head at the sound of the door opening, and immediately tensed when she heard the voice of Captain Davies. She found herself mentally crossing her fingers that he wouldn't come in, and breathed a sigh of relief, when his voice receeded, and the tall, thin Lieutenant Wister entered instead, carrying an oversized and overstuffed notebook.
"Agent Reis, nice to see you again."
"Same here, Lieutenant. Normally, I wouldn't agree with you, seeing as how they're about to cut open a body, but if it was a choice between you and Davies -- well, then, it's really nice to see you, too."
Wister pretended to glance around the room. "Don't tell anyone, but to get away from Davies? I'd sit in on every autopsy."
She gave a short laugh, then motioned him to take a seat. "It seems you and I are the only two interested in this. Unless you know someone else who's intending to show?"
"Nope. Everybody else has found something else to do. Can't think why."
"Me neither." They were silent, watching the screen as the sign was changed, and a covered body was wheeled into the room. Suddenly, the cover was pulled back, and Alex felt her stomach rebel at the sight.
The body was recognizable as primate, but not necessarily human. The bottom half was mostly charred bone; there was no flesh left. The upper body had retained flesh, though the skin was gone. There was the vaguest hint of clothes on the upper torso, blackened layers of what appeared to be cloth. The face was gone, the only flesh left on the skull was at the back of the head, where a small clump of hair still clung to the scalp.
Alex had seen many post mortems in her career. The ones she still shuddered at were those of the victims of the Indiana killer who removed the internal organs, filling their space with potting soil. But even those hadn't turned her stomach the way this did. She closed her eyes, trying to ignore the acrid taste of smoke that filled the back of her throat. After a minute she opened them, glancing over at the Lieutenant. She was gratified to see that his face had gone pale, and he was studiously looking at anything but the television.
A voice brought their attention back to the screen, where the medical examiner was beginning to record the statistics of the body.
"The body is that of an unidentified male, approximate age 35, eye color unknown, hair color --" he paused and looked at his assisstant.
"Are you sure? I thought it was black."
"Hair was dyed. Original color is brown."
The M.E. nodded. "Hair color is brown, dyed black. Length of the body is sixty-six inches, giving an approximate height of five-foot-six to five-foot-nine. Not possible to be exact due to damage from the fire."
The voice droned on, giving statistics, and explaining how the autopsy was going to be handled. Alex filled her notebook with details, watching the screen only when the voice was silent. Wister was doing little of either, clearly uncomfortable with the graphic images before him.
"Oh, hey, I almost forgot." The Lieutenant reached into the back of his notebook and took out a blue folder, handing it to Alex. "We found the guy's badge. It was melted to the inside of the his jacket. But you Federal people must use some special kind of paper, because they actually managed to salvage most of the card inside the plastic."
The pages inside showed several photos of an FBI ID card, ranging from extreme blurriness to progressively clearer images.
"Our photographic experts were able to scan the image digitally, then clean it up. They said it was a bitch to work with; the little chip inside had burned away the picture, and the fingerprint. But the name and ID number was what they were after, and they got 'em."
"This is great. Your computer guys are pretty good."
"Yeah, they do good work. The badge itself has already been sent over to the FBI lab, along with copies of the enhancements. You can have this copy; it'll save you the trouble of requesting it from either office."
"Thanks, Lieutenant. This will really help me out. Between this and the sketches you sent over, we have at least some semblence of who this guy was."
"No problem, Agent Reis."
They were quiet again, Alex taking notes and Wister trying not to watch the t.v. There was a pause in the examining room, and Alex flipped back through her notes.
Suddenly, she stopped and stared at something she'd written down. Then she pulled out the blue folder, flipping to the last page.
Wister froze next to her. "Uh, Agent Reis?"
Alex leaned forward and hit the intercom button. "Excuse me, Doctor?"
The figure shrouded in white turned to face the camera.
"You said earlier that the body measured sixty-six inches?"
"Which corresponds to what approximate height?"
"About five-seven, but possibly shorter or taller."
"Taller? How much taller, five-ten? Six foot?"
The doctor rubbed his chin with his gloved hand. "Well, maybe five-ten, but not six-foot."
"How can you tell?"
"We have enough bone structure left to approximate his height. Of course the calculations may be off by an inch or two, but not by much more than that."
"Thank you, Doctor."
Alex turned off the intercom, and slumped into her chair. "Fuck me."
"Alex? You want to tell me what's wrong? Not that it isn't a nice offer, but . . ."
Alex pulled the last sheet from the blue folder and laid it next to the page in her notebook. She pointed to the height noted in the autopsy, then the height listed on the enhanced badge. The two numbers didn't match.
"Unless your guys pulled the wrong numbers off that badge, this guy isn't Perry Watson."
Special Agent David Wu was going over his notes from the autopsy he'd observed. There wasn't much there, he thought as he sipped his coffee. The driver of the blue Escort had been little more than bone fragments and ash. Only the very back of his coat and the back of his head had survived the fire. The best the medical examiner had been able to do was supply three facts: 1) the person was definitely male, 2) he'd had blonde hair, and 3) he was approximately thirty years of age.
Dropping his notebook on the seat beside him, he leaned his head back against the wall, shifting uncomfortably in the hard plastic chair. The corridor he sat in was outside the medical examiner's office and the staff break room. He'd gone there to wait for Alex to return from her own post-mortem observation. It still wasn't far enough away from the exam rooms for him, and he grimaced at the scent of formaldehyde which hung in the air. David felt like he needed another shower.
"You know, this is getting to be a bad habit."
David looked up as Alex approached. "What is?"
"Meeting in corridors. Hospital corridors, to be precise."
"This ain't no hospital, Alex."
Alex sniffed the air. "You're right. The antiseptic is too strong." She noticed the look on David's face. "I didn't know people of Asian descent could turn that shade of green, Dave."
Her partner stood, dropping his still half-full cup of coffee into the nearby trash can. "You'd be green, too, if you were drinking coffee that tasted of cleansers and chemicals."
"You mean it doesn't normally?"
"Oh, ha. Can we get out of here please?"
"You betcha. Wanna drive?"
"No, I'm gonna let you. But we may have to pull over at some point; my stomach's not too good right now."
"I could tell. Don't worry, green looks good on you." Alex chuckled at David's discomfort. "Besides, I'm not feeling especially confidant in my stomach either."
David studied her for a second. "Yeah, you've got some green, too. I take it Mr. Watson didn't look any prettier than his driver did?"
"Let's get out of here, and I'll explain later. You call Ken, I'll call Rick."
"Who's gonna call Keller?"
"Rick is. I'm not up to his bullshit."
"Think he'll show up?"
Alex gave a sour grin. "On a Sunday night? Not hardly."
They left the building, each pulling out their cellular phones.
Alex had been right in her comment, as it turned out. Price had called Agent Keller just to be told he wasn't feeling well, and that the older Agent would see him at the office the next day. Price, who'd gotten exactly two hours of sleep, kept his comments to himself, but it was obvious the younger man wasn't happy.
"Don't worry about it, Rick. Any time Keller isn't available, or you need someone to go with you, let me know." Ken said as he took a seat across from Alex. "I'm gonna be stuck here for a while, I'll play partner whenever you need me to."
"Thanks, Ken. I like Chad, he's taught me a lot. But to be honest, this summer can't come soon enough for me."
"What's his retirement date?"
"July twelfth. But he's saving vacation time, and his last day of work will be the last day of June. They said they'd give me a new partner then."
David pulled out his own chair, dropping into it with a sigh. "You ever thought of putting in for a transfer?"
"Well, yeah, but the only other place I'd want to be is Washington. And somehow I don't think I'm ready to take your place, Dave."
All four of them laughed, then Alex cleared her throat and opened her notebook, signalling that it was time for the meeting to get under way.
"Okay, gang. You've all got copies of the sketches, and the stills photos, right?" They nodded. "Good. David and I have copies of our notes for you. They cover what we learned from the post-mortem. But before we go over that, I'd like to hear what Rick came up with for us. I understand you were in touch with Washington again?"
"Right. As a matter of fact, I was here when a call came in for you from Cliff Jackson. I think he was kind of confused as to why I was in your room, but as soon as I convinced him I wasn't a bad guy, and I hadn't drowned you in your bathtub, he gave me the messages for you." Rick paused to take a sip of coffee. "First off, the name Perry Watson does come up on the list of government employees. However, everything on him is classified. He's trying to put a little pressure on, but so far no one's got much."
"Damn. What about the CIA, are they cooperating at all?"
"Negative. They will neither deny nor confirm that Perry Watson was their agent. Jackson said he would be looking into some personal contacts of his, and trying to skirt official channels. He hoped to have something for you tomorrow."
Alex nodded. "I expected that. They rarely admit anyone works for them."
"Yeah, you'd think with the end of the cold war they'd be more willing to cooperate, but they mark every little tidbit as 'secret.'"
"But that's not the problem, Dave. The problem is they're so compartmentalized that no one knows what anyone else is doing, or even who anyone else is. It's quite possible for someone to work for the CIA in a completely non-secured position -- yet they won't be acknowledged by anyone outside their department, because no one knows them."
"You mean they have no centralized list of employees?"
"Something like that. I mean, after all, you can't just put the name of a spy on a payroll check, and the secret agents are spread throughout the company. There have to be other ways of keeping track of people. So, if Perry Watson did work for them, I wouldn't be surprised if it takes them a while to realize it. Not because of secrecy, but because of the way things run over there."
"How'd you get so knowledgeable about the Agency, Alex?"
"Part of my studies in grad school. I did an independent study semester looking at their history, and their system. Fascinating. Made me sure I never wanted to work for them."
That brought another laugh out of the group.
"Anything else, Rick?"
"Well, I got word that the police supposedly found one of the fake badges, but I haven't gotten confirmation."
"They did. Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it."
Rick shrugged. "Well, I think that's about it, then. Oh, um, I did try to track down info on the label inside the guy's coat. I found the manufacturer; it's a place down in North Carolina. There office was closed, so I'll be in touch with them tomorrow. I don't think this is a very popular label, and I'm hoping I can get a list of outlets."
"That's good work. Once you've got that list, fax it to David and me, and make sure Ken gets a copy. I'm betting it was bought locally, but maybe we'll catch a break."
David flipped back in his notes. "What was the label?"
"That wasn't the label on the driver's coat. His was a brand called Kittredge. I like good clothes, and I've never heard of either of them."
"Well, the manufacturer for Klaser is Kittredge Clothes Company. Maybe they also have a signature line?"
Alex was tapping her pencil against her notebook. "Good guess. Why don't you ask them when you call tomorrow. If they say no, then we'll have to find the other manufacturer."
There was silence for a moment as everyone wrote, then Alex looked pointedly at Ken.
"You're being awfully quiet over there, bud."
He grinned. "Just waiting my turn."
"Well, now's your chance. Dazzle us with your expertise and brilliance."
He shrugged. "I don't know about that, but maybe I can baffle you instead."
"I'm already baffled, let's leave the bullshit outside, okay?"
There were chuckles all around. Then Ken turned serious again. "All right. Let's start with ballistics. The gun with the silencer was taken from the body of the passenger of the car. There were several unspent rounds in the clip, though most of those exploded due to the heat of the fire. The problem is this: because the bullets exploded there is no way to match them with the slugs taken from Dabir's head. We might be able to match the casings, but that's not even certain. Now, normally that wouldn't be a problem, cause they'd just do a test fire and match the rifle marks. Unfortunately, the gun was so badly damaged, it won't fire. Therefore, . . ."
"No ballistics match. Damn." David shook his head.
Rick leaned back in his chair. "But does this really matter? I mean, we know it's the gun that killed Dabir. We might not have ballistics matches, but it's not like we're gonna try the killer, right?"
Alex stopped playing with her pencil and reached for her soda. "Right, Rick, but it would have been nice to keep a nice clean evidentiary chain. With the guy dead, and nothing to prove his gun killed Dabir, somebody, somewhere is bound to scream conspiracy or cover-up. They'll say the guy was a patsy, and someone else killed Dabir."
"Yeah, and then they'll say we let him."
Alex grimaced at David's statement, then lifted her glass. "What's next, Ken?"
Ken shifted the papers in front of him. "Well, I guess the car is next. Ford Escort LX, 1996. Blue four door. Fifty-eight thousand miles on it. Bomb was placed under the driver's side of the car, just slightly in front of where the driver's seat was located. There was no mechanical damage to the car that could be attributed to anything other than the bomb -- which, according to it's components, was indeed a remote trigger device."
"Are you certain?"
"Yep. But don't ask me where the remote trigger was. I could guess that it was somewhere within a mile, but that's the best I can do."
"Yeah, I kind of thought it would have to be close. Anything else on the car? Did you get the stolen vehicle report?"
Ken nodded, pulling out some sheets of paper. He passed them around. "As you can see, the car was reported stolen just hours before our guys showed up at the scene. The registered owner is a man by the name of Kyle Brogan. He had pulled up at an ATM downtown, locked the car, and entered the building."
"Building?" David asked.
"Yeah, the ATM was in the vestibule of a bank. Anyone with an ATM card can get in the door."
"So, Mr. Brogan entered the bank, and . . ."
"When he came out, the car was gone. He walked to a pay phone down the street and called the police."
Alex leaned forward, her elbow on the table, and her chin on her fist. "Anybody see the car get snatched?"
"Was Mr. Brogan alone when this happened?"
Ken grinned, knowing what Alex was thinking. "As a matter of fact, he had his year old son with him. But since it's not a good idea to leave kids alone in a car at anytime, he took him inside with him."
Dave nodded. "So that explains the baby seat in the back."
"Baby seat?" Rick asked, startled.
"Yeah," David answered absently as he tapped his pencil against his nose, thinking. "Something's missing. Did the report say anything else?"
"No. But Mr. Brogan came to the police station to sign some papers. I got a chance to talk to him. He said he was planning on meeting his wife and daughter for a late lunch, and that they'd been out doing errands, so he was watching the boy."
Alex watched David, who seemed intent on a spot in the middle of the table. "What's wrong, Dave?"
He shook his head. "I don't know, Alex. But something's missing." He sighed. "It'll probably come to me later. Anyway, what else do you have, Ken?"
"Not much. Nothing on the car. But I did request a background check on Mr. Brogan. I met him at the garage when he came in to sign some documents on the car. Something didn't sit right, so I called Research back in Washington to ask them to look at the guy."
"You think maybe the stolen car was a ruse?"
"Maybe. I don't know. Maybe I was just on edge, and there won't be anything. Then again, . . ."
"Yeah. Have Research copy me anything they find, okay?"
"Done. Now, tell us about the autopsies."
Alex nodded. "Dave, you want to go first?"
David tossed his pencil on the table and reached for his soda. "Sure, not that there's anything to tell. The driver of the car was approximately thirty years of age, with blond hair. Eye color, unknown. The lower half of his body was mostly ash, and height could not be determined." He took a drink. "Oh, yeah. Death was caused by fire."
Everyone was silent as David took another drink from his glass. They remained quiet, waiting.
Finally Alex couldn't stand it. "And?"
"And what? That's it. Two hours watching them pry charred bones out of charred flesh, and that's the only thing they could really tell me. The coroner stood there pointing out the way the fire destroyed this but only half destroyed that. He was fascinated. I was nauseous."
"So, basically, the only thing we have to help us identify the driver of the car is the label from his coat."
"Right. And the blond hair. Don't forget the blond hair."
Alex looked around at her team. Ken was smiling into his coffee cup, and Rick wore a half-smile. David just looked exasperated.
"Okay. I know you guys are tired. So am I. There's just a little more, then David and I will take a cab to the airport, and you can both get some sleep."
"I thought I was --"
"No, Rick. I want you to head home. Everyone's on their last legs, and you've had the least sleep. Let's get the rest of this briefing out of the way, and I'll let you go home."
All three men nodded, then waited for Alex to organize her notes.
"Okay. First off, have any of you thought any more about why someone would blow the car up?"
"Well, I think I might have it. Maybe it was to cover up the fact that our killer was not Perry Watson."
"Wait a minute. We've seen the registry number."
"Yeah, and I thought they found the badge?"
"We do, and they did." She handed out some sheets of paper. "Take a look at the estimated height of the body, and the recorded height for Mr. Watson. They don't match. Watson was over six foot, our shooter was between five-six and five- nine. Plus, Mr. Watson's hair is recorded as black. We all saw the black hair on the shooter in the video. But tests on what was left of his hair revealed it was dyed. Real color was brown."
"Damn." David threw his pencil on to the table, watching as it rolled toward his partner. Alex reached up and pushed it back towards David.
"That's not all. And I guarantee this is gonna throw Cliff into all kinds of fits."
David groaned. "Not again, Alex."
"Sorry, Dave." Alex flipped a page in her notebook. "There was some flesh left on the inside of the upper arm. A cursory examination showed a strange mark on the burnt skin. To the naked eye it was just a spot that was a little darker than the surrounding area. Ultraviolet lights showed it was the remains of a tattoo. They took pictures, and when the official report is released, you'll all get copies of the picture."
"What's so important about a tattoo, Alex?"
Alex heard Rick ask the question, but it was David she made eye contact with as she answered. "The tattoo was that of double lightning bolts. Symbol of the SS in Nazi Germany."
David snapped his pencil in half.
David sipped his coffee while glancing at his watch. They would board their plane in ten minutes or so, then it would be only another two hours and he'd be home with Miri. He had to smile at himself. He hated leaving her alone, but she always made the welcome home worth it.
He watched his partner, who was still reading reports and making notes. David knew Alex would go back to that empty apartment, and probably think nothing of being all alone. Hell, there was a time he wouldn't have thought twice about it, either. But now, with Miri waiting for him, he could almost feel sorry for his younger partner.
"Stop it, David. You know I'll be fine."
"What? I didn't say anything."
"You didn't have to. I can tell by that look on your face. No, Alex is not lonely, and no, you and Miri do not have to set her up with some nice lesbian from Miri's women's group. I like living alone."
"That's because it's all you know. If you had someone, you --"
Alex glared up at him. "I had someone, David. It didn't work. I'm fine. And I'd appreciate it if you would stop with this pity-the-single-person stuff."
David sighed. "I just worry about you, Alex. Since you and Sarah broke up, I hate thinking of you all alone."
"I'm not all alone."
"That cat? Please. A person needs more than a pet to --"
"David, I know you worry, but I'm fine. You know that."
"Have you at least tried to go out?"
"Why should I? If it's not you and Miri setting me up, it's Sarah inviting me over to introduce me to other single women. Personally, I think it's a conspiracy."
"Yeah. Everyone in my life is conspiring to find me a mate. I can just see it: you and Miri and Sarah all huddled over a table, examining files on prospective dates for me, then trying to come up with ways to slip them into my life. I tell you, I'm starting to feel like the prize in some kind of spy game."
David stared at her for a moment, then dropped his eyes to the floor. When he glanced back up, she was grinning at him. He had to grin back.
"We love you, Alex."
"And I love you guys, Dave. But if you don't stop, I'm going to have to kill you."
David took a seat beside her. "Tell you what. Promise to come to dinner next Sunday, and I'll even tell Miri not to invite anybody else. No tricks, no hype, no introductions. Just you, and us."
"Sounds like a plan, partner."
The obnoxious loudspeaker voice announced their flight, and Alex closed the folder she'd been working on. As she reached for her briefcase, David asked quietly, "You think this has something to do with white supremacy, Alex?"
Alex placed the file inside her case, closed it, and then stood. "I hope not, Dave. Word from higher up was that they think it's a radical group, but not necessarily anything offiliated to Nazi's or Klan. I hope they're right."
"And if they're not?"
Alex was silent for a moment. "Then I don't think Dabir will be the last one to die. And that scares the hell out of me."
The two looked at each other, then grabbed their coats and headed for their flight.
They were halfway to Washington, and even Alex was starting to doze, when David suddenly realized what had been missing from Ken's report on the car. He sat straight up.
"Alex, you still awake?"
"Barely, what's up?"
"I got it. I know what's missing. Let me see Ken's report, the one on the car."
It took Alex a moment to get her bearings, and another minute to pull the file from her briefcase. "Here. What's the missing link?"
David skimmed through the pages, intent on what he was reading. When he finished the last page, he dropped the papers to his lap and grinned at her in triumph. "I was right, it's not there."
"What's not where?"
"In the car. Remember the baby seat? Brogan was supposedly going to take his son to lunch with his wife and daughter, but he had to stop at the bank. The baby seat was in the back of the car. He didn't leave the kid in the car because that's not a good idea. Right?"
David's grin got wider. "He's lying."
"What? David, you didn't even meet the man, you just have Ken's assessment. What could --"
"He's lying, Alex, and every parent will tell you so."
"What are you blathering about?"
"Look, Alex, when was the last time you saw Miri and Arlea?"
Alex threw her hands up. "I don't know, a couple of weeks ago?"
"Well, do you remember what Miri had with her?"
"God, David, I don't know. She had Arlea, her purse, the diaper bag, --"
David held his hand up. "Right. The diaper bag. Now, think about this. A father with a young son is going to lunch. He has to stop at the bank, so of course he takes his son out of the car. But he's only going to be out of there for a minute, so he leaves everything else in the car. Right?"
Alex began to see what David was saying. "So, he would leave the diaper bag."
"Which Ken didn't find in the car."
Alex was silent for a moment. "The thief could have thrown it away. I mean, why would he keep it?"
"He left the baby seat in the back. Why toss one, and not the other?"
Both agents were very quiet. "I don't know, David. That's not much to go on."
"No. But it confirms Ken's feeling. The guy is lying."
Alex shook her head. "I just don't know. But call Ken tomorrow. Let him know. Maybe he'll have found something to agree with you."
"He's part of it, Alex. I know he is."
"Great. The caper of the missing diaper bag. Cliff's gonna love this."
Continue to Chapter Three
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