A Cat Among the Stool-pigeons. Episode 2.
Note: Dafydd is the Welsh equivalent of “David” and is pronounced “Davith”
The rain was letting up. I made good time back to my office. As I walked in the front door and hung up my coat I looked over to my secretary.
“Left room, Mr. Owen. She's in a bit of a state.”
Once more I gave thanks to the powers that be for sending me Liz Jackson. She looked like simply eye-candy but she was a genius when it came to reading people. I almost never let clients into my back office, my inner sanctum. I had two side offices set up with slightly different ambiance to suit different clients. Liz had never once put a client in the wrong one and she had never failed to alert me to when a client might have been a little fragile.
“Are there any issues with the paperwork?”
“None, Mr. Owen. Everything prepared and ready to sign.” A code phrase. She was telling me that the recorders and cameras in the side office were online and feeding the server in the basement. If she wasn't on my payroll I could so fall in love with this vixen.
I breezed into the office like a feline tornado. I wanted this girl to see me as in control of everything so I made a point of hanging up my jacket so that she could see I was carrying. Cheap, but it tends to work on folks that are feeling vulnerable. I threw myself into the chair behind the desk and looked over at her. Hannah Mitchell had inherited the leggy build common to most deer, but she was not skinny like her mom. She'd inherited her dads bulk in all the right places and the punk/grunge outfit didn't conceal nearly enough of it. She was a client. I didn't feel a thing.
“So, Miss Mitchell. How can I assist you?”
“I think my boyfriend is trying to kill me.”
Wait a second. Her mom has just gotten thrown out a 15th floor window, her dad is in the wind and she comes to me for this? Something does not compute. Oh crap. She doesn't know about the other stuff.
“Ok, so what makes you think that?”
“He txted me to meet him somewhere, I went there and somebody tried to run me over with a SUV. Then he swore he never sent the message.”
“Hmmm. Can I see your phone?”
She passed it over and I immediately popped the back, pulled the battery and set the pieces down on the desk.
“If anyone was trying to trace your phone, to keep an eye on where you went, they just lost track of you. Later I'll take it on a little road trip and any tracker will think you lit out to St Cloud or Brainerd.”
“Can I call my mom or dad?”
Shit. She definitely doesn't know. Get her signed up, get her safe and only then let the police at her.
“You're off the grid until I get you to somewhere safe. After that we'll see about you contacting folks. For now, you're going to vanish. First, though, we need to sort out the terms of our engagement. I can be your bodyguard, your lawyer, both or neither. You need to choose.”
“Can we do both?”
“Yes, we can. One caveat.. do you have your own finances independent of your folks? I know you're 17 but that still makes you a minor. This is going to cost about 200 a week. Can you cover that on your own from an account your folks don't have access to? If not I'm going to need their consent.”
“I've my own account, I've been working a while”
I mashed the intercom button on the desk. I'd a hunch that this little doe would shortly be getting a bonus as an inheritance but that wasn't a factor..
“Lawyer and PI contract, bodyguard options. Fee level three.”
“On the printer in your room, Sir.”
I grabbed the pages as they spilled from the laser printer. Before I walked out of here I needed her to sign these, for her protection as much as for my purposes.
“Ok, signing these papers engages me as your bodyguard. It also engages me as your attorney in the event that this episode involves any encounter with the law. It has an obedience clause whee it comes to your personal safety, so if I tell you to get down behind cover and you don't you can't sue me if you get shot.. Are you ok with that?”
“OK, your signature on here and a check for 200 and we're good.” She couldn't drag the pen over the paper fast enough.
“As of a few seconds ago, I'm your attorney, so everything you tell me in order to help me do my job is safe, it's called privileged information. Worst thing that can happen as a result of anything you tell me is that I resign as your attorney and even then I can't be forced to tell the police any of it, you can tell me anything.”
“My boyfriend is a dealer, works for the gang in frogtown.”
Fuck. That would be the hmong gang headed by one Koob, aka “Mr Needle” I hadn't butted heads with these guys before but I guessed I was about to step on his toes with my heavy boots on, and these guys played for keeps. Only two options available, to tread really carefully or convince them that I was too much hassle to deal with, and option one wasn't really a long-term viable solution. I was going to need some help.
“So, have these guys ever made any threats against you or your family?”
“No.... but Jason and I were talking about getting married..I told him I didn't want that life for my kids and he'd have to get out.”
Quietly.. “Hannah, are you pregnant?”
“Yes.... My dad's gonna kill me.”
“No he's not, and nor are Jason's crew. I'm going to make you vanish for a while, like I said before. Is that OK?”
“Alright.” I had the picture and I didn't like it. It was time to make some confusion. I mashed the intercom button again, although it was redundant with the mics and cameras in here. “Three airport hotels. Use the 'Jane Archer' identity and book them for a week. We'll pick one at random when I get back. Marko will be calling you about security on all three. Contact Phil for a rush on supporting documentation. Lock down the office, nothing in or out apart from Phil. Insist he delivers in person. I'm going to try and draw off the hounds.”
“Yes, Mr. Owen.”
“OK, Hannah, you're staying here for a couple hours. My secretary, call her 'Liz' or 'Miss Jackson' as you like, can deal with most stuff. There's food in the office fridge and that couch you're sitting on folds out into a bed if you need to get some sleep. I need to get out of here and convince the bad guys you're somewhere else and then we'll get you someplace safe. OK?”
I grabbed a couple of burner phones from my desk drawer and headed back to the car.
I turned Hannah's phone back on as i94 hit the outskirts of Brooklyn Park. I'd already disabled the GPS on it, and in case that software switch was compromised had a highly illegal homemade GPS jammer on the seat beside me. The phone could still be tracked, of course, by the cell towers it connected to. I was hoping that anyone tracking it would think they had outsmarted me. A couple of minutes later my phone started ringing. Caller id on the dash display said it was Lt. Anderson. I hit the button to answer the call.
“We need to talk to Hannah Mitchell.”
“I know you do and as her attorney I won't stand in your way. She has no clue what's happened to her mom. She turned up in my office while I was out at the scene. I can give you a little more information but I need to get her someplace safe first. Please stop leaving breadcrumbs for the bad guys.”
“That bad, huh? You have a six hour window, Dafydd.”
“Noted.” I hung up and switched the cars bluetooth to the first burner phone and hit speed-dial 1.
“Marko. Dafydd Owen. The woods are dark.”
“Yes, Mr Owen.”
I replied with a string of numbers that the voice on the other end of the phone read back to me and then hung up. I switched the bluetooth to the second burner phone and continued to drive as I waited. It was ringing in a couple of minutes.
“Marko, Dafydd. Miles to go before you sleep, I see?”
I relaxed. If Marko had been under duress he'd have anglicized my name to 'Dave', if there was any reason to suspect anyone else listening in he'd have got the Frost quote correct and it would have been “Miles to go before I sleep.” If he'd followed 'correct' radio protocol and said my name before his then that would have been a panic signal for me to shut down and go to ground. We were good.
“I need full security on a Jane Archer at three locations. Liz has the details.”
“I also need the sniper crew. I might have to scare down an entire street gang and I will need an insurance policy”
“OK, done, but be careful picking this kind of fight Dafydd. Severable commo?”
“Yes on this number”
“OK. I'll set it up. Two days. Keep your ass unshot until then.”
“Doing my best, Marko. Out.”
The next exit led to my favorite cellular dead-zone. I took it and as soon as I lost all connectivity, turned off all the phones in the car and turned around. I was back at the office with three hours left on the deadline Lt. Anderson had given me. Liz (who was due some serious overtime pay) looked up as I walked in, taking her hand off the taser in her desk drawer.
“You made good time.”
“No reason to hang around. How's she doing?”
“OK, we need to move. Hotel details?”
“Here.” She handed me a trio of 3x5 cards and a fake Colorado drivers license in the name of 'Jane Archer' that bore Hannah Mitchell's picture. I nodded as I took them and went into the side office.
She looked so innocent on my rollaway. The way she was hugging the spare pillow made me almost want to tuck a bear under her arm, probably a flashback to my own daughters, now who-the-hell-knows-where with my ex. Yeah, I'm a sucker for damsels in distress. Sue me. I'll take you for punitive damages and costs.
“Hannah, wake up. We have to move.”
“One of these places. Pick one at random.”
she picked a card and I looked at it. The airport Marriott.
“OK, we're going to a hotel. You check in as 'Jane Archer' and show them this id. You're from Applewood, Colorado – it's a suburb of Denver – and you're here for the “Punk as social commentary” symposium at the Walker Arts Center. Can you remember that?”
“The cops are going to visit us a few minutes after we arrive there. You need to talk to them. OK?”
“Fuck, no. I don't want the cops in this.”
“These are cops I trust and they really need to talk to you. We'll switch locations after they are gone and they wont find you. Besides,” I grinned, “Your lawyer will be present and they wont get away with shit.”
“I guess I can do that.”
“OK, let's move.”
A straight shot down i35W took us to the airport hotels. I dropped her off out front and pulled around the back to park, somewhere under the trees where my car wouldn't be noticeable. I met her in the elevator lobby.
“Room 302. Apparently I booked a double?”
“You don't lose your bodyguard that easy. I have security on this place but I'm staying with you until this is sorted out.” I pulled out my phone and dialed Lt. Anderson.
“Paul, Airport Marriott, 302. If I see anyone but you or Mike you'll find the room empty. She doesn't know so take it easy.... Yeah. Right. See you soon.”
“I don't know what?”
“Not my place to say.”
We settled into room 302 and waited for all hell to break loose.
….to be continued.