Conspiracy of Swords
Disclaimers for Conspiracy of Swords: Please see Chapter One.
Alex had retired to her cubicle when her phone rang.
"How much do you love me, Alex?" Alex recognized Jenny's voice.
"Well, that'll depend on what you've done for me lately."
"I'm hurt. Did you think I wouldn't come through for you?"
"No, Jen, it wasn't that; I knew you'd come through. The only question was whether or not it would really help. I guess I'm waiting."
"Well, I hope it'll help. Remember, if it does, you owe the gang over here lunch."
"Right, I remember. Tell me what you found."
"Most everything is on its way to your fax number. I'll try to make it short and sweet if you want."
"Nothing much on Teren Mylos. A checking account, savings, and a few investments here and there. There's no record, of course, and her tax records are sealed. It appears her family is dead. She had a brother, but he died as a child. There's a driver's license on file for her, and she owns a '98 Nissan Sentra, and a motorcycle."
"Okay, I thought we were just going over the basics, here, Jen."
"Sorry. There's just one other thing on Mylos. A hospital record. Seems she was severely injured a few months ago. While the report lists gun shot wounds, there's no mention of how she received them."
"Yeah, I knew she'd been shot. Anything on Mather or Wilford?"
"Well, Wilford, yes. There are two bank accounts in his name. One, in Baltimore, shows normal activity over the past six years. The one in New York, however, is only five months old, and has been the recipient of several cash deposits. Each deposit has been in excess of five thousand dollars."
"Good job, Jen. But if they were cash deposits, we'll have a devil of a time finding where the money came from."
"It sure didn't come from any job, the guy hasn't had one in six months. But he's sure been spending like he did."
"Well, since I was having a hard time getting anything on Watson or Mather, I did a general search of any and all records, all along the east coast, for all four names. I'm still waiting on a few bots to come back, but I did get lots of large purchases by Darryl. Seems he just loves guns."
"Yeah. Bought several classic M-16's at a gun show in Atlanta, along with --"
"Yeah. He stayed at a luxury hotel down there. And not just there, but Florida, New York, Philadelphia --"
Alex almost yelled into the phone. "PHILLY?"
"Yes. And get this -- he never checked out of that one. Checked in two weeks ago, and paid cash for three weeks. He's still listed as a registered guest."
"Holy shit -- Jen, is this in the report you faxed to me?"
"Yes, of course."
"Good. I want you to fax it to Ken Thomas in Philadelphia."
"Everything, or just the stuff about Wilford?"
"Hell, send him the whole damned thing, but make sure you underline the part about the hotel."
"I'll call and let him know it's coming. Thanks, Jen."
"No problem, Alex. Glad I could help. I'll let you know when those other bots come back."
"Thanks again. And Jen?"
"I love you lots. I owe you guys lunch."
"I'll hold you to that."
"Next week. I promise. Bye, Jen."
Alex hung up and shouted, "Yes!"
David poked his head in. "Alex? What's wrong?"
"Nothing." She picked up the phone, dialing and talking to him. "When did you get back?"
"Just a few minutes ago. I can't stay long, Ben and I have Ricky Wilford downstairs. When we told him his brother was dead, he freaked."
"Is Ben with him?"
"Yeah. We thought it was best, though, if we have Cliff observe, and I thought I'd ask you as well."
"Hang on, Dave." She shifted her attention to the phone. "Ken? Alex. You're about to get a fax to the Philadelphia office. It's from Jenny in research. She found Darryl Wilford's hotel room."
"Nope. And he never checked out. He paid cash for three weeks, and it's been two and a half. The hotel probably hasn't touched his stuff."
"Tell Jenny I love her."
"Will do. How'd you guys do with Brogan?"
"I think we scared him. He looked nervous from the beginning, and I think we made it a lot worse. But I'll tell you, I wish you and David were here. Interrogation was never my strong suit."
"Maybe later. Right now, I have to go read Jen's report, and David has to interrogate Ricky Wilford."
"Yeah. Darryl's younger brother. He works at the store the Colt was stolen from."
"No shit. Well, good, tell Dave I said to jump all over his ass."
She grinned at her partner, who was still standing in the doorway, a shocked look on his face.
"I'll pass along the message, Ken. Go find your fax."
"I'm on my way."
Alex hung up and turned toward David.
"Yeah, the Doubletree. Who knows, maybe there'll be fingerprints from the guys who hired them, eh?"
"With the luck you and Mark had today, I wouldn't doubt it."
Ricky Wilford was just twenty three years old. He'd been working at Riley's Sporting Goods in Baltimore for four years. From a salesman, he'd advanced to assistant manager. Riley's was planning on opening a second store, close to Annapolis. Wilford was being groomed to be that manager.
Now, however, it appeared he may never get that promotion. In fact, he'd probably lose his job.
It took two hours, but after constant questioning, Wilford broke down crying. He admitted giving his brother his set of keys to the store, and had explained how the alarm system worked. The plan, he said, was that Darryl and his friends would enter the store, steal the weapons and clean out what money they could find. After resetting the alarm and locking the door, they would then back the truck into the front door, so as not to leave the idea that they had used any keys.
Ricky's part, besides loaning the keys, was to disable the security cameras.
The members of the task force who were still at the office had gathered in the control center once again. Ben and David were relating the results of their interrogation to the rest of the team.
"We asked him who all was involved, and he said it was his brother, and his brothers friends." Ben leaned back drinking a cup of coffee. "I asked him if it was George Mather, and he said no, George was out of town."
Alex nodded. "Yeah, right about then he was probably in eastern Europe, getting his buddies shot up."
"Well, Tom and I are planning to go to the hotel Wilford stayed at, right after we check in with NYPD. Maybe someone will remember him, and whether or not he met with anyone else." Rudy and his partner Tom Jorgen would be leaving for New York City that evening. Tom had gone home to pick up his bag. He'd meet Rudy at the airport.
"You might also check with the NGA office up there, Rudy. They call this one in Washington the national office, but it's mainly a lobbying center. The one in New York is supposed to be member support."
"Oh, I'm sure they'll be happy to show an FBI agent around, Alex."
"You never know. Besides, if you tell them you're investigating the murder of one of their members, they might even be nice."
"Good point. I guess in a way we are doing that, aren't we?"
The agents shared a grin at that.
Cliff was tapping his fingers on the table. "David, Ben, couldn't your suspect give you any names at all?"
"Nope," Ben replied. "He said he never liked the guys, and only met 'em once or twice."
"Damn. That means we really didn't get new information from him, did we?"
"We did get one thin'. We got an address. As soon as Mark's done, he and I are gonna go see what Mr. Wilford's apartment can tell us."
"Good going. Call the Nightwatch here if you need back up or the lab boys."
Cliff looked over the notes he'd made during the day. "By the way, Alex, I understand you got a call from ballistics?"
"Yeah, Mike Clarin confirmed a seventy-five percent probability that the rifle used to kill Steven Fletcher was a Romanian Dremov 39 millimeter."
"Why'd it take him so long?"
"Dremovs are illegal in the states, and they don't see many used because they're so expensive. He had to dig to find the pattern in the database, but once he compared them, he said they were a good match. Without the gun, he can't go higher than seventy-five percent in his report. He personally thinks it's more like ninety, but he won't say that officially."
Cliff nodded and leaned back in his chair. "Well, I'd say we got a lot accomplished today, folks. I don't think we'll have any trouble convincing the Justice Department that Mather and Wilford killed our east coast victims."
Alex nodded. "Now we just need to find who hired them to do it."
"You still think it was something from the Klan, or some Nazi's, Alex?"
She shrugged. "I don't know. These two seem to have some kind of ties to hate groups, but nothing that's concrete. There's only the tattoo on Mather's arm. Now, we can tie Kyle Brogan to Derek White and Mallory Gerlach through their family, and we can connect Brogan to Mather and Wilford by the car. But the car was reported stolen, and Brogan was never seen or identified at any of the other scenes. Ken faxed me a copy of his notes from the Brogan interview, and he, of course, denied being in any of those places."
"Nothing else in the report from Jenny?"
"Sorry, Cliff. Lots of interesting facts. Nothing that connects. We've got people heading to all the known locations that Wilford stayed, including Atlanta and Florida, with Rudy and Tom covering New York. We've talked to his past employers, and his former associates. Nothing."
"His father died ten years ago, his mother retired and lives in Florida. His older sister married George Mather, and died two years ago. He's got a younger brother, Ricky, who's now facing charges, thanks to our efforts. There's a younger sister, Cynthia, who's in college in California. She, however, is estranged from the family."
"So we can't connect his family with hate groups like we can Brogan's." Cliff sounded disappointed.
"No. I'd love to tell you that Derek White and Mallory Gerlach were our culprits, and that Brogan was the middle man. But as of right this minute, there's no proof whatsoever."
"Hell," David's voice was full of frustration, "we can't find a connection between Brogan and the killers, how are we gonna connect Mather and Wilford to Derek White?"
Alex's mind flashed to the picture she'd seen earlier in the day. There was something she remembered, but then she lost it. "Can you repeat what you just said, David?"
He looked at her. "What, about not being able to connect Brogan and the killers?"
"No, about Mather and Wilford, and Derek White."
"We can't connect them?"
She nodded. "We can't connect them." There was still something about the picture . . .
Alex moved to the computer she'd been working on earlier, and brought up the enhanced area of the photograph. She just stared at it.
Ben looked at it over her shoulder. "Looks like two guys shakin' hands, Alex."
"Exactly. But who are they?"
Cliff sighed. "All right. Maybe we're going about this the wrong way. Instead of chasing Wilford and Mather, maybe we should find out what White and Gerlach have been doing. If we go through the surveillance files on their groups, maybe we can--"
"That's it!" Alex was on her feet, and running towards her office. They could hear a crash of some kind from the hallway, and Alex yelling, "Sorry, Jodi!"
David put his hand over his eyes. "Okay, I'll admit it. My partner's crazy."
Cliff shook his head.
Ben just chuckled. "She's been right so often this week, I think I'll wait 'til she gets back to say she's crazy."
It was a moment more, and then they could hear Alex's running footsteps coming back down the corridor. She appeared in the doorway, out of breath, and grinning like a lunatic.
"Alex, get your breath back, then tell us what you knocked Jodi down for."
Alex raised a folder in her hands and pointed to the photograph on the screen. She dropped back into her chair, and began looking at the programs listed on the computer menu. Finding the one she wanted, she started it, and opened the enlarged photo again. First she outlined the two men, then had the computer create a three dimensional image from it. After that, she turned it around so that the two men would have been facing her. It was impossible to make out any detail on the faces, but the general image of two men shaking hands was obvious.
Cliff was beginning to lose patience. Even Ben had his eyebrows raised at Alex's behavior. David sat shaking his head, while Rudy sat and watched with a puzzled look.
Alex turned to the men, still grinning.
"It's the same picture."
No one spoke.
Finally Cliff said, "Okay, I'll bite. Same as what picture, Alex?"
Alex reached into the folder and brought out a photograph. She held it next to the computer screen.
"Same as this one, Cliff."
She was right. The men in the screen, though indistinct, were in the exact same position as the men in the photograph Alex held. A silver cup was held in the left hand of one of the men in the photo. The computer image showed a similar silver item. The feet were the same width apart, and the heads were tilted at the same angle.
"Well, I'll be goddamned." Ben's exclamation finally broke the silence.
Rudy came over and looked at the two images. "Yep, I think you're right, it's the same picture." He waited a moment. "So what?"
Alex and Ben turned to stare at Rudy, while Cliff and David still focused on the screen.
"Rudy, don't you recognize one of the men in this photo?"
"No. Should I?"
Cliff finally blinked. "Not necessarily."
"So who is it?"
Alex pointed at the man holding the silver cup. "I have no idea who he is." She pointed to the other man. "But that's Derek White."
Rudy's eyes went wide, and he looked from the screen to the picture and back. "Well, Cliff, I think we found a connection."
Cliff had to find a chair before he sat down. "Yeah, Rudy. I think we have."
David could only shake his head.
Alex had just closed and locked her file drawer when David stepped into her doorway.
"Hey, partner. You going home?"
"Yeah. Cliff told me if he caught me staying past six tonight he'd ground me for another day. I have four minutes to make it out of the building."
He nodded, and handed her jacket to her. "Alex, I just spoke to Miri, to let her know I was on my way. She told me she wanted me to pick up a few things."
"Yeah?" She slipped her jacket on. "And that's important because?"
"Well, you're one of those things."
Alex smiled. "That's sweet of her, David. But I'm really okay, and I can go home by myself like a big girl."
David looked uncomfortable. "I know, I know, but she said it had been a long time, and she wanted to see you."
"Well, maybe this weekend we can get together."
"Damn it, Alex, she said if I didn't have you with me, I wasn't to come home tonight."
Alex had to laugh. David looked like a little boy about to lose his best friend. She couldn't resist.
"Well, it looks like I'll just have to go home with you then. Don't worry, Davie, I'll protect you from that big meanie."
David brightened. "You will?"
"Good. Will you protect me from the little meanie as well?"
"David, are you calling your daughter mean?"
"Me? No, no, never." He paused. "But you will protect me, right?"
Alex pushed him out door.
It had started to snow by the time they left the downtown area. The light frosting looked beautiful as it lay across the lawns near the capitol and monuments, but it had already turned to ice on the roads. What normally was a twenty minute drive turned into forty minutes. Both were glad to to see David's house as they turned into the drive.
Miri heard them come in the garage door. "David? Did you bring Alex home with you?"
"Yes, Miri, he did. I'm here."
"Good. Now he doesn't have to sleep in the garage."
Miri came out of the kitchen, and pulled Alex into an embrace. Alex hugged her back, glad she'd decided to accept the offer from her partner and his wife. It had been quite a while since she'd spent an evening with the two of them, and their infant daughter.
"It's good to see you, Alex."
"Same here." Alex pulled back and looked at the shorter woman. "You look good, Miri."
"Thank you." She paused and met Alex's eyes. "But you look tired."
"Yeah, I have been. But I made it an early night last night, and I'm doing much better today."
"Good. Tonight, you'll have a good dinner, you'll play with Arlea, and if I hear you and David talking about anything to do with the office or the case, I'll beat you both with a wet noodle."
Alex laughed. "You're on, Miri. Not a word about work." She watched as David gave his wife a kiss. "Speaking of Arlea, where is the munchkin?"
"Oh, she's in the playpen in the living room." Miri lead the way into the kitchen.
"Cool. I promised to protect David from her tonight." Alex punched David lightly on the arm, grinning.
"You're laughing about it, but that's not far from the truth."
"When he comes home in the evening she won't leave him alone. She climbs on his lap, and pulls on his nose. The other night she grabbed his ear and wouldn't let it go for five minutes."
"Oh, I see."
"Yeah, Alex, I told you I needed protection."
"Fine, I'll protect you, David. But I'm reminding both of you, I don't do diapers."
Miri laughed. "I remember. I remember you bringing her into our room, holding her at arms length, on Christmas morning, telling us we needed to wake up and deal with our daughter." Alex's face went red."David said he thought you were going to watch her, and you said watch, yes, change, no."
David and Miri laughed at the expression on Alex's face.
"Yeah, well, you two just laugh, I'm gonna go find my pal. Looks like I'm the one that needs protecting."
She turned towards the living room, and heard David call, "Just don't let her near your ears, Alex."
Alex loved playing with Arlea, who likewise loved her blond playmate. During the holidays David and Miri, along with Sarah and Maggie, had gotten Alex to split Christmas eve and Christmas day between the two households. They had been determined she wouldn't spend it alone in her apartment like she had Thanksgiving. Alex had immediately decided that, if they were insisting she be there, she would enjoy herself her way. At David's, she had immediately abducted her hosts' daughter, and together they had played with every toy the one year old had. Christmas morning, after Miri had changed her daughter's diaper, Alex had helped Arlea tear into the pile of presents. Arlea, like most children her age, paid more attention to the paper than the presents. Alex had joined her, covering her self in left over wrappings so Arlea could unbury her. Then, it would be Arlea's turn to get wrapped up, and Alex would hunt through the paper to find the giggling child.
In short, David thought, his daughter brought out the kid in Alex. He knew that his mostly serious partner needed the release that playing with Arlea often gave her. Alex, the youngest member of the task force, was young for the position she held. She was just twenty-eight, and had seen more in her time with the Bureau than most people did in their entire lives. Each case had taken away a little more of Alex's natural spirit, and David knew that if she didn't find something to ground, and soon, Alex would slowly become dead inside. He'd seen it with other agents, like Ben Cleves, who no longer felt sadness or sorrow at the deaths they investigated. They could be concerned for the living, especially their partners and fellow agents. But they could also stand over a corpse and discuss how death had occurred, without even remembering that the body had once been a living person. David hoped desperately that he never saw Alex's eyes become as dead as those in the faces of other long time agents.
In order to keep that from happening, David tried to bring Alex home with him at least a few times a month, letting her spend time playing with his daughter. It always brightened Alex's smile for days afterwards.
Right now, David was watching his daughter wrap her fingers in his partner's hair.
"Hey, pal. Don't pull the hair, okay? Yeah, I know, you don't get to see blond very often, so I'm just too good to play with, huh?"
Arlea gurgled, and yanked on her fists full of hair. Alex patiently pried one hand loose. That hand reached for her face.
"Why don't we sit down and talk. You can tell me about what you've been doing all day with Mommy, and I'll tell you how funny your Daddy is, okay?"
At dinner, Alex was given the chore of feeding Arlea. They started with a jar of mashed carrots, and mixed in some mashed peas. The two of them appeared to have a great deal of fun, and even Miri had to admit that her daughter ate more than she normally did. Of course Alex and Arlea ended up wearing the same amount on their clothes.
"I think that's enough, Alex."
"Okay. You want me to give her a bath?"
"Ah, no, I don't think so."
"Aw, why not?"
"Well, two reasons. Number one, the last time we tried that the bathroom ended up looking like a hurricane had blown through."
"Not our fault. I told you, we got attacked by aliens, and had to fight back."
"Right. Second reason is, as much as I wish you could stay, I know you want to get home. It stopped snowing, and the salt trucks have been around, but who knows how bad the roads are?"
"You're right." She wiped her hands on her napkin, and watched as David picked up his daughter. Arlea squealed, upset at being taken away from her playmate, but once she caught sight of her father, she quieted, reaching for his nose. He managed to avoid the little hands as he carried her from the table.
"I'll get her bath started. Come get me when you're ready, and I'll run Alex home."
"Thank you, sweetheart."
David was still trying carry his daughter and escape her inquisitive hands.
Miri handed a wet cloth to Alex."Here. You look like you could use a bath yourself."
"Thanks. I think." She cleaned her hands better, then swiped at the stains on her shirt. "I look like I've been in a food fight."
"Oh, hush. Just because Arlea doesn't like peas --"
"No, " Miri cut her off. "Arlea doesn't have any problem with peas. You don't like them. So, in sympathy, you ended up spilling most of them on her bib."
Alex gave her a bashful grin. "You noticed, huh?"
Miri just smiled at her.
"Miri, if you're worried about David driving in this stuff, I can take a taxi to the Metro station."
"No way. You know better than to even ask that."
"But I know you worry --"
"Look, I don't worry about him driving, really. He's excellent on roads like these, and besides, I'd be more worried about you in that subway."
"The Metro is nothing like the New York subway."
"Fine. He's still driving you home." She put her hand on Alex's shoulder. "And I worry more about you and him at work, then I do about his driving."
Alex slowly nodded. "I understand that."
"He said you were having a rough time of it."
"Yeah, I was. I've never held someone while they died before. It kind of messed me up."
"You know, if you need someone to talk to, I'm always here. I realize I may not be the perfect earpiece since I'm married to your partner, but," Miri shrugged, "if there's no one else, I'm always here."
Alex pulled the smaller woman into her arms. "I know, Miri." They stood in a hug for a minute, then separated. "You know, you guys are my family out here. You three, and Sarah and Maggie."
"I know. What do you say we get the two halves of the family together in a couple weeks? Maybe have a potluck here?"
"That sounds great. I'll call Sarah and ask her if she wants to do that."
"Oh, don't bother, I'll call her. She and I will arrange things, and then tell you and David when you need to show up."
Alex looked warily at her friend. "You guys are friends?"
"Sure. We have been since before the two of you broke up."
"Oh really? And why wasn't I ever aware of this?"
"Because you, my friend, can be as thickheaded as my husband."
Alex shrugged. "Who do you think I learned it from?"
They laughed, and headed up to rescue David from his daughter.
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