Conspiracy of Swords
(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)
Shadowriter can be reached at Shadowriter@kc.rr.com
The room grew so quiet that Teren could hear the low ticking of the wall clock.
Gerd recovered first and dropped onto the couch beside his friend.
"How the hell did you find this out?"
"I borrowed a computer and checked our hotmail account." She turned back to Alex. "Ken's been trying to get in touch with us for a day and a half -- I sent him a message that we'd had trouble but got the message."
Alex was still standing frozen. Her eyes blinked every few seconds, but other than that, she simply stood where she was staring at Teren.
"Alex? Are you okay?" Gerd asked.
She shook her head to clear it, and sat in the chair opposite Teren and Gerd.
"Tonight. Graves thinks it's a good idea, and so do I."
"Because Stephen Radcliffe was the person killed."
Gerd dropped his head down below his shoulders, and shook it. Alex just leaned back, staring up at the ceiling.
"Do they know who the shooter was?"
"Well, Ken said the evidence was pointing to Derek White. The agents Cliff sent to pick him up, missed him in Alabama."
"Great." Alex ran a hand across her eyes and sat up. "So, Graves thinks we should head back to the States? I don't get it."
Teren shrugged. "That's the good news. He and Cliff Jackson arranged a little meeting for you, with the Director. You'll be allowed to tell your side, and if he agrees, you'll be reinstated." She grinned. "From what he said, you have a good shot of clearing your name. But we need to get there now -- the Director is going on vacation in three days."
Alex waited a few seconds longer, then launched herself off the couch and into Teren's arms. She squeezed her friend, hard, and gave her a loud kiss on the cheek.
Suddenly remembering that Teren was still hurt, she pulled back. "Jeez, I'm sorry, Ter, are you okay? I didn't mean --"
Teren laughed and held up a hand. "I'm fine. You didn't hurt me." She tweaked Alex's nose. "Nice to see that smile again."
Alex hugged her again, more gently this time. She glanced at Gerd to find his amused eyes on them. "I guess we'll be leaving you, then, Gerd. Will you miss us?"
The blonde German laughed. "More than I can tell you. Things are always much quieter when Teren isn't around. But when she's in town --" he rolled his eyes, "everything under the moon happens."
Teren gave him a mock glare. "I can't help it if I'm always having to come to your rescue."
"Rescue? My rescue? Sure, and what about the time --"
Teren put a hand to her head, and feigned a groan. "Suddenly I feel my headache coming back, full force."
"Teren, would you please move those so I can put the plates down?"
The dark head nodded absently, but the papers in front of her didn't move.
Alex sighed and put the plate in front of her friend right on top of the paper she was trying to read.
"Hey, stop that. I'm trying to read." Teren moved the plate to the middle of the table.
"No kidding. And I'm trying to set the table. Gerd's going to be back here with the pizza soon." She shook her head. "I still don't see why we're having pizza, something we can get all the time in the US, while we're in Germany. Shouldn't we be having something with German sausage?"
"It does have German sausage." Teren finally raised her head. "Besides, this is the absolute best pizza place I've ever been to. It's called 'Quo Vadis' and they make a great crust, with loads of toppings." She licked her lips. "You'll love it, wait and see."
"Uh-huh." Alex looked unconvinced. "Would you please at least put those papers away for now? The doctor would shoot me for letting you read."
"Hey, the doctor released me, remember?"
"Yeah, less than an hour ago." There was a knock at the door, and Alex went to open it. She called back over her shoulder, "And he said you still need to take it easy. So, put the papers back in the folder, and rest."
Teren snorted. "I'll get plenty of rest on the plane." But she dutifully put the papers into the folder, and set it aside.
Alex opened the door and let Gerd in. "Mmmm. That smells wonderful."
"It will taste even better." Gerd deposited the pizza box on the table and opened it. Inside was a large pizza, with thick crust, extra cheese, German sausage, onions, peppers, and tomatoes.
Teren grinned and reached for a slice.
"Hey," Gerd slapped her hand, "wait your turn. Alex goes first, then me, then you."
"Why am I last?"
"Because I paid for it, and Alex set the table. We did the work, we get the first rewards."
"How do you know I didn't set the table?"
The German raised an eyebrow. "Because if you tried, Alex would have tied you to the chair to keep you off your feet."
Alex laughed, and Teren grumbled. She glared at each of her friends, but waited until they'd both served themselves.
"Yeah, you just wanted the biggest piece, Gerd, I know you."
"Absolutely. The biggest and the best, Teren, that's me." He bit into his piece and smiled at them. Teren rolled her eyes.
For several minutes there was nothing but the sound of crusts being crunched. Alex noticed that Teren's eyes kept wandering back to the file still sitting next to her on table.
"So, Teren, what's in the file? Gerd looked at a few sheets, but didn't get a chance to really tell me."
Gerd shrugged. "I wasn't sure what I was reading about. Obviously made a lot of connections, but I didn't understand it all. There were names there that we had talked about, and a few reports addressed to Eisenbein."
"There's a lot more there than that."
Teren took another bite, and Alex waited patiently. Finally, she said, "Well, tell us what you read."
The dark haired woman chewed and swallowed, then took a drink.
"The file includes orders from John Treville concerning pieces of the treasure, which means at the very least he could end up in court for trafficking in stolen goods. However, he identifies certain pieces that he wants, and why he wants them. In one letter, with his signature, he says he's going to give George Mather a silver cup and several coins with Hitler's portrait. He says it will be an added payment for the 'service' he's done for the cause."
"But that doesn't actually come out and tie Treville to the killings," observed Alex.
"No, not in his words. But, later on, less than three months ago, he sent another message talking about how Mather was trying to sell the goblet. He was furious, and said he would see Mather burn." She took a bite of her pizza, and chewed quickly. "A report from Stephen Radcliffe said that CJ had approved Treville's plan to kill Mather in return for his betrayal. He also said it had been stupid to think Mather had any honor, quote, the man just likes killing and would have killed Fletcher and Dabir for half the price, unquote."
Alex leaned back. "Well, that ties Treville to the conspiracy, but we no longer have Radcliffe to confirm what he wrote. Therefore, it could be argued as hearsay."
"True. It's not a strong enough connection on it's own. But we do have Jane Brogan's eyewitness account."
Teren frowned. "Yeah, hope." She sighed. "I don't like this with Radcliffe getting killed. I have a bad feeling that someone, possibly White or Treville, or even CJ, are trying to break any possible connections with the plot."
"My bet is CJ."
"Mine, too. That means another string of bodies, unless we can get to him first."
Tapping her fingers, Alex nodded. "Yeah. All we have to do is figure out who he is." She looked up at the ceiling and rotated her neck a few times. "Well, we know he works for either the FBI or the CIA, possibly in a higher than average position."
"Hmm," Teren leaned forward, and picked up the letter to CJ, "no, I don't think he's CIA."
"Why not?" Gerd asked.
"Well, in Eisenbein's letter to CJ, it mentions that both agents were killed by Mather. Now, later in the file, close to the very end, there's a note from Treville saying that there'd been a mistake; one of the agents had survived, and CJ had just found out. If CJ was CIA he would have known almost immediately that I wasn't dead."
"Does it say anything else about you?" Alex asked curiously.
"Not really. Treville said he was glad I didn't know him, and that CJ had decided not to send anyone after me because it would draw more attention." She gave Alex a feral grin. "Besides, they thought I couldn't do any damage without my partner. Who would think that a woman could give them problems?"
Her partner gaped at her. "Treville said that?"
"Yep." She winked. "Bet he thinks differently, now that we cut his lifeline."
"Actually, he cut his own."
"How so, Gerd?" Teren popped the last bite of pizza into her mouth and reached for another slice.
"Well, the money. First off, Eisenbein is dead, and he was one of the two signers. You said that Radcliffe was the second signer, but he's been killed as well. No one can legally touch the Swiss bank account." He nodded to himself, adding, "and with the copies of the bank records, there is a possibility, small though it is, that we can retrieve it through an international court, and put it to good use."
Alex raised an eyebrow. "I think we might have different ideas on what that good use would be, Gerd."
"True," he said quietly. "But perhaps we could agree it would do the least amount of good in the vaults of the Swiss bank."
"Oh, yeah," Alex nodded, "I can definitely agree with that."
Teren wouldn't admit it, but Alex could tell that her head was hurting again. She knew she was right when Teren stumbled as she got up from the table. Gerd grabbed her to keep her from falling. Alex was around in seconds to take her other arm, and they walked her over to the couch.
"That's it, once we get on the plane, you're taking a pill and going to sleep." Alex shook her head. "I knew I shouldn't have let you read those papers. You need to rest, Ter."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Teren leaned back and closed her eyes. "How are you going to get them translated if I don't read them?"
Alex was about to reply when she heard Gerd clear his throat.
"I do read German, Teren."
"Yeah, but you're not coming with us."
"No, but Alex has a tape recorder. I'll read the file into the recorder, and she can type it into her compuer at her leisure."
Raising an eyebrow, Alex considered the offer. "That's really a very good idea. I can type it on the flight. Good thinking, Gerd."
"You fall asleep on planes, Alex." Teren didn't open her eyes. She wanted to give the room a chance to stop spinning first.
"Well, this will keep me awake." She sat beside her partner and patted her leg. "Besides, you'll be the one sleeping this time, pal."
Teren just shrugged. "It's a long flight. I'll sleep for part of it." She cracked an eyelid, fighting not to wince from the light lancing into her eyeball. "But I don't need one of those damn pills."
"Fine." Alex patted her arm. "Tell you what, you open your eyes and look at me when you say that, and I might believe you." She turned and shifted her position, putting the light directly behind her and over her shoulder. Teren opened her eye again, but couldn't stop the wince that time, and she slammed her eyes shut again. "Uh-huh. Now, what was that about the pills?"
Her partner mumbled something, but didn't answer. Alex glanced at Gerd who was smiling.
"Okay, let's get to work," she said as she stood. "I hope we have time to get through all the papers."
"I'm sure we do. We still have almost two hours before we have to leave."
"Are you driving us to the airport, Gerd?"
"Yes. Or, at least I'll be one of the agents with you. There will be a team of us taking you there."
"Cause," they heard Teren say, "I set it up that way. No surprises."
Alex nodded thoughtfully. "You don't think the group here in Munich is finished, do you, Ter?"
"Nope." She shifted a little on the couch. "I think we cut off the Hydra's head."
"But in mythology, the Hydra grew two heads for each one severed."
"In real life, too, Alex."
Gerd had just turned off the recorder for the final time when there was a knock at the door. He handed it to Alex with a grin.
"We cut it very close, I think."
"Yeah, but we did it. Thanks, Gerd. I managed to take some notes as you were reading." She stood and walked towards the door. "There's definitely enough to help us put Treville away, and there are also several clues to CJ's identity."
The German frowned. "I didn't see anything else, other than what we already discussed. Did I miss something?"
Alex grinned back at him. "Yeah, you did." The door opened, and she waved the other two agents in. "Hi, guys. We're ready to go."
Thorsten was among the men, and he smiled at her. "Nice to see you, Alex. You've been keeping Teren out of trouble, yes?"
"Trying," Alex laughed. "Are you heading to the airport with us?"
"Yes. We have a driver, a lookout, and Gerd and I will stay with you until you board your plane."
"It's a regular commercial flight?"
"Yes, three actually. This one will take you to Paris, where you will transfer to a second plane. From there you will go to Heathrow, and finally to Washington. We will have an agent on the first two flights, and from what we understand, there will be an agent from the CIA on the third. So, you shouldn't have any problem getting home."
Alex rolled her eyes. "No problem. Three flights, three take offs, three landings. No problem, he says."
"You don't like to fly, Alex?" Gerd asked.
"It's not the flying she has a problem with, Gerd," volunteered Teren. "It's the take offs and landings."
"Ahhh. I see."
Thorsten didn't seem to understand, as he raised an eyebrow. "Alex, you are afraid of flying? Of the plane taking off? That does not seem logical."
"Why not, Thorsten?" Alex asked.
"Because, in your job you are much more likely to die, moreso than you are in the air."
Teren laughed, and Gerd chuckled. Alex just shook her head.
"Thorsten, I never said I was afraid of the take offs."
"I just don't like them. You can not like something without being afraid of it, can't you? For example, I know Teren doesn't like green peppers, but I'd never consider her afraid of them."
He crossed his arms and looked at her thoughtfully. After a moment he shook his head. "In most cases, yes. But you are afraid of this, I think."
Teren laughed again, and Alex turned to her.
"Keep it up, Teren, and I'll give you enough pills to keep you zonked 'til DC."
Her partner closed her lips tightly, and looked down at the floor in contrition. Seconds later, she started chuckling again, and Alex just glared at her.
The blonde agent grabbed her coat and picked up her briefcase. "Gerd, why don't you walk out with me? We can leave Miss Giggles here."
Thorsten's eyes widened as Gerd almost doubled over in laughter. Teren stood, her arms crossed, an angry expression on her face.
"For your information, I don't giggle."
"Right." Alex's answer was very dry. "And I'm not afraid of airplanes," she said as she walked out the door.
Teren stared after her for a moment, then moved her glare to Gerd, who seemed to be unable to breathe for the moment.
"Laugh it up, fuzzball. Just remember, I was there the night the duck attacked you."
His laughter ceased. Teren smiled evilly, and picked up her own jacket. She followed in the path of her partner, leaving the men to grab the duffel bags.
Teren spotted the German agent as they were boarding the plane. It wasn't hard, since she was the stewardess standing just inside the aircraft.
She gave them the standard "Welcome aboard," and winked at Teren, who smiled back. The tall operative had worked with Helene several times, and had fond memories of several cold nights in an alpine chalet.
Alex saw the wink, and her jaw tightened. Another flirting stewardess? Jeez, aren't there any male flight attendants?
A few minutes later, they were settled into their seats. This time, Alex took the aisle, and Teren sat by the window.
"Ready for a pill, Teren?"
"Not yet, Alex. My head's better, and I promise I won't read. I just don't want to be too groggy right now. Wait until the flight from London, okay? That's the longest, and I"ll be able to sleep better."
Alex bit her lip. She knew Teren was right; why should she go to sleep now if they had to switch planes in less than an hour?
"Alright, we'll wait." Putting the pill bottle away, Alex then leaned back in her seat, keeping a close eye on all the passengers as they went past. A few people glanced at her and Teren, but none of the looks lingered, or were hostile in nature. When it appeared the last of their fellow flyers had boarded, she sighed, and relaxed.
"See anything, Alex?"
"No. Were you watching?"
"No, I trust your judgment. If you don't see anything to worry about, neither do I."
Alex chuckled. "Thanks, Ter, 'preciate that." She frowned. "I also didn't see anyone that I thought could be this agent. Thorsten did say there'd be one, right?"
Her partner snorted. "Yeah. Don't worry, she's here."
"She?" The blonde turned to her. "You saw her, then? How come I didn't?"
"Well, what's the point of being an agent, Alex, if you're going to be noticed?"
True, Alex thought. "How did you know her then?"
"I've worked with her before."
The plane began to move back from the gate, and Alex instinctively grabbed for Teren's hand.
"You sure you don't want the window, Alex?"
"I'm sure. Why, does it bother you?"
"No, but you weren't gripping quite so hard last time."
Alex eased up the pressure of her hand on Teren's.
Teren turned and winked at her. "Don't worry, we're still several minutes from take-off."
"I know. Doesn't make me feel any better, though."
"Well, this won't either." Teren's face turned serious. "I've been thinking about our mysterious friend."
"Yes. You agree with me that he's probably FBI, right?"
"Well, I'm going to throw a possibility at you, and I want you to think about, okay? Don't just reject it."
She took a deep breath. "What if CJ stands for Cliff Jackson?"
Alex's mouth opened, and Teren put a finger up, reminding her she'd agreed to think it over.
"Teren, I realize the initials are the same, but you're going to have to have more than that. I've known Cliff too long to believe he's capable of this."
Teren nodded. "Okay. Who chose the people going to Philly to protect Reginald Dabir?"
"Cliff did, it's part of his duties as head of the task force."
"I thought so, too. But he told me that the order came from higher up. One of his superiors had specifically chosen you and David and Ken. Two people who had great experience in hate crimes, but none in protection. A third who's great with investigations, but again, never served in a security detail."
Alex frowned. "It's possible, I suppose."
"Who chose the task force?"
"Well, Cliff was named to head it up and he was given Tom Jorgen and Rudy Wilkins. He chose everyone else."
"Okay. So, he was given two agents with some experience in assassinations. Then he added the rest of the team, including you and David who had been investigating both hate crimes and serial killings, and several veterans who are very close to retirement. He added to them a few untried field agents, and nobody else who had any first hand knowledge of protection procedures, or assassinations in general. Only the two he was given. Doesn't that sound a little strange to you?"
Alex didn't say anything, merely leaned her head back.
"A third clue: who was it that brought Graves and me into this case? Cliff. He and Graves have known each other for years -- Ron said his family and Cliff's even saw each other socially. He could have found out from Graves that I was alive, and figured it would be a good idea to bring me in where he could keep an eye on me."
"Just wait, I'm not finished. Who did you send word to about the meeting with Brogan?"
Alex bit her lip and whispered the word. "Cliff . . . "
"Right. And who supposedly didn't call the Philadelphia police department, even though the call came from his office?"
"And who made sure that I would know right where to find you, possibly setting me up to walk into the aftermath and either take the blame, or be killed myself?"
Closing her eyes, Alex let out a great sigh. "But he told you at the hospital to get me out of there. He warned you --"
"Yes, and less than 48 hours later he had you declared a rogue."
"You don't know it was him."
"The order must be signed by your immediate supervisor, right?" She got a slight nod from her partner. "I'm sorry, Alex. I know you don't want to hear this. I didn't want to believe it, either. Still don't. But we've got to be very careful about who we talk to and what we tell them. The best bet is to not trust anyone."
"Then why do you trust Graves?"
"I don't. I haven't told him half the stuff we've learned, and I fully intend to keep him in the dark until the very last minute. Which is another reason I don't want to take those pills. The headache I can live with -- it's being killed that I can't."
That got a small smile from Alex, but it didn't last long.
"Want the good news, Alex?"
She sighed. "Sure, Ter, what's the good news?"
"We're off the ground."
Alex looked at her, then peered through the window. There was nothing but clouds and dark skies. "Hey, you're right. How'd that happen?"
"I thought a serious discussion might distract you."Teren shrugged. "Looks like I was right."
"Great, " Alex chuckled. "Now, how are you going to distract me for the other five take-offs and landings?"
"Hmmmmm." Teren's eyes took on an evil glint. "You'd be surprised what you can do under an airline blanket."
Continues in Chapter Thirty-six
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