A Cat Among the Stool-pigeons. Episode 3.
Note: Dafydd is the Welsh equivalent of “David” and is pronounced “Davith”
My phone buzzed. I picked it up and a voice I'd never heard before said “Bulldog and ram heading your way. Both packing heat. Look like cops to me.” Marko never let me down on security. His people were discreet, expert and all completely unknown to me so I couldn't be asked about them under oath. I had a perfectly legal contract with a perfectly respectable company for 'security services' that was Marko's front operation. If they happened to take any actions that I could not possibly condone (they did) and get caught (they didn't) there was no way that could reflect back on me. That was what I paid the higher rate for.
“Confirmed. They are expected.” My caller hung up without another word.
“OK, Hannah. Two cops are going to knock on that door in a few minutes. Listen to what they have to tell you, answer their questions unless I tell you to stop. If I tell you to stop simply do not say another word until they leave, at that point they will be dealing only with me.” She nodded, looking incredibly small and vulnerable on one of the rooms two beds. Even though she was expecting it, she had that typically cervine full-body startle response when the soft knock came at the door. My response was a little more directed, drawing my gun and moving to the door. I looked through the peephole and could see nothing but wool and horns. That would be Paul – Lt. Anderson. Even so, I didn't holster my weapon until they were both inside and the door was locked again. I looked over to the small nervous doe on the bed. Poor kid, her world was about to come apart.
“Miss Mitchell. I'm afraid we have some very bad news for you. Your mother was attacked this morning.”
“Is she OK?”
“No, I'm afraid not. Can you tell me where your father might be?”
“He's in Des Moines for work. He should be back tomorrow night.”
“We haven't been able to locate him, either at his office or his hotel, and his phone is offline. Do you have any alternate means of contacting him?”
“We spoke on skype last night, but not since. What happened to mom?”
Thankfully, nobody volunteered details. “She was attacked as she left your apartment this morning. I'm afraid she was killed. I'm very sorry for your loss.” Hannah's eyes were blank.. She stared right through all three of us in the same total stillness of a feral fawn.
“I do apologize, but we do have one important question. What caused you to seek out Mr. Owen here?”
“Dad's been acting weird, before he left he told us if anything went crazy to come to Mr. Owen.”
“And what went crazy for you, Miss Mitchell?”
“I went to meet my boyfriend and somebody tried to run me down with a car. He said he didn't send the txt asking to meet”
“And your boyfriend's name?”
“Jason... Jason Cameron... his number's in my phone...”
“I will produce my client's phone data for you downtown tomorrow, gentlemen. I don't want to turn it on in her presence in case it gives away her location.”
Paul looked up at me..
“Particularly not after you went to such lengths to make anyone tracking it think she had left town. I can live with that. Drop it by the office.”
“Gentlemen, I will remain in touch and will make my client available to answer any further questions you may have and will share with you any information I discover but she's had a very bad day. Can we be done here for the moment?”
“Keep her safe, Dafydd.”
“I intend to, Mike. My security contractor has this place covered like a blanket. I might end up missing the game on Saturday though.”
“Yeah well, I hardly need to tell you to keep sharp, do I? Since you can't turn it off even if you want to.”
“No, Mike. I can't” I let the two detectives out.
“Get some rest. I don't sleep much but if you need to wake me for any reason, talk to me and don't try shaking me awake.”
“Why not?” I sighed. I hated having to explain this, but I had to if she was going to be in the same room as me overnight.
“I'm a freak. Something of a genetic throwback. I've got predator instincts almost as strong as our feral ancestors. While I can control them, I can't turn them off. That's something of a good thing for you because it means I'm pretty hair-triggered if anyone tries anything, but it could be bad if I'm startled awake and somebody has their paws on me. I don't want to hurt you by accident.”
“That has to make your love life interesting.”
“Huh. I used to take meds to turn them off but they got less effective with time, it got to the point I was a fucking chemical zombie. Not going there again.”
The night passed without incident, but I had a busy day in front of me. My first priority was going to be some serious data work on Hannah's phone, followed by tracking down her boyfriend and asking a few pointed questions. Shaking the tree any higher up would wait until I had the extra insurance policy I wanted in place. I cruised up to the entrance to my parking garage and saw the barrier... either the company that owned the building had finally been leaned on by City Hall and were actually working on the code violations or something was seriously off and somebody didn't want the buildings occupants to have access to a secured garage. I instinctively planned for the latter, parking around back and looking over at Hannah.
“Look, if I yell “down” you plaster yourself to the pavement like it's making love to you, ok? And then you follow my orders promptly and to the letter. I need your promise on this” She nodded and I took that as a yes.
I got my test of it as I rounded the corner to the office, I heard the engine rev and the tires squeal and all my instincts lit off. “Down!” I snapped as I reached for my gun. She obeyed, dropping prone. Everything went into slow motion for me as my fur tried to stand on end and my ears plastered themselves tightly to my skull. I had my weapon out before she hit the pavement and had acquired my target. Driver and a lizard starting to point a tactical shotgun out the window, both wearing gang colors. Bastards weren't planning on taking any chances, were they. Fair enough, nor was I and I wasn't about to give any freebies. The lizard with the shotgun collected a hollow-point through the face before he could get a shot off. He went back against the driver, making the car swerve and his weapon discharged, the shot spending itself high against the brick facade of the building. I was looking for any backup they had brought with them and finding none. The slow motion effect was fading and I had to get us inside before the shakes hit.
I pounded a few 5 hour energy bottles. When I felt the effect all the way to my claws, I knew I'd had enough. I hated this. Huge downside to letting those hunter instincts and high-speed reactions loose was that I was a wreck for hours after, days if anything caused me to maintain it for an extended period. From the office I called the cops and got Mike.
“Attempted drive-by at my office. Beat-up old Ford wagon, red. You'll find one casing from my weapon on the sidewalk and the slug wherever the gang dump the body. I'll be here whenever you're ready for a statement.... OK, thanks.”
Back to the case. I left Hannah in Liz's capable hands and took her phone into my back office and flipped on my cellular jammer so that it couldn’t contact any network before plugging in my debugger and turning the phone on. The jammer was low powered, nobody outside my building should notice it, but right next to the phone that device was completely incommunicado. Sure enough, the phone was screaming it's location, or trying to, as soon as it was turned on. There was another signal too. Shit, was that audio? Yep. Ok.. which app had hijacked the phone?
It was patched into the OS. I had a horrible feeling what was going on at this point, but I had to talk to Hannah to confirm it.
We were back in the same office where I had first met her.
“Hannah, did you know your phone was hijacked, it was reporting your location and and recording audio 24/7?”
“Shit, it was my dad, wasn't it?”
“It was trying to contact a server at his office, yes.”
Things were starting to come together in my head. I turned them over, considering angles and outcomes while I waited for the cops to get here. They were not going to like what I was going to tell them.
“Hannah, does Jason know you're pregnant, and if he does when did he find out?”
“Yes. Same day I did right before this stuff started happening.”
“What day was that?”
The intercom beeped, and Liz informed me Mike was in the outer office. I took him into the back room and used my own recorder to make two copies of our conversation as I recounted the details of what had happened outside. When we'd finished, I gestured to my gun on the table.
“I know you're going to want to take that as evidence too, I haven't done anything with it except clear it since I got inside, so if you could possibly ask your ballistics folks to clean it after they take their comparison shots.”
“Off the record, I don't think anyone will give you a hard time for this, particularly not after we show the DA these..” He held up an evidence bag, with a number of slim projectiles in it, each about two thirds the length of a 12-gauge cartridge.
“Flechette rounds, shredders.. Where the hell did they get their hands on those?”
“No idea, but Paul is drafting a 'watch your ass' memo for the street cops. Regular vest won't stop these.”
“Staying off the record I have some more bad news for you. You almost certainly have Mr. Mitchell's phone records by now. Look for a call made to you guys on Monday and find out who took the call, discreetly. Be very careful who you share this information with. He had bugged Hannah's phone and I think he did something stupid on Monday when he heard his daughter tell Jason she was pregnant and that if he wanted to take proper care of her and their kid, he'd have to get out of the gang life. Like maybe calling in to your folks the info he overheard on the gang. That info and details on where it came from went to a set of ears it shouldn’t have, as did the information that I had her.”
“You're telling me we've got a leak somewhere.”
“Looks like it to me. Nobody else knows how the info got to her father, which explains why some of the gang think Hannah is a snitch.” I wasn't going to mention my plans to get the gang off her back but I had to ask one more thing.
“If you have anyone undercover in the gang, either pull him out or get me his picture so if things turn uglier than they are now I don't take him down by mistake. Preferably both, because if you have a leak he could already be in some very deep shit and if he is I'd like to dig him out of it.”
“If we do have a leak, we owe you one. I'll see what I can do but no promises – at this point I can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any such officer.”
That was not a happy bulldog as he left my office. Even off the record he hadn't called me “Admiral” once.
Shredder rounds, throwing a woman out of a 15th floor window.. This bunch was making statements. Wherever Mr Mitchell was, I was pretty sure the gang were not behind his disappearance, because if they were he'd have already turned up messily dead somewhere. Something had tipped him and he'd bolted. I needed to look into him a little more closely, maybe get a message to him somehow. Well, since the gang was clearly aware that I had one of their targets with me, my deception with Hannah's phone was already blown. It was worth a try. I turned the jammer off and watched the phone connect to the cellular network.
“I know you have this phone bugged, Mr Mitchell, This is Dafydd Owen. If you are still retrieving the data and audio it is recording, please contact me.” and then I pulled the battery again. I grabbed my spare sidearm from the cabinet and went back out to Liz and Hannah. The vixen and doe were sitting down drinking coffee.
“I may have to step out for much of this afternoon, Hannah. Are you OK staying here with Liz?”
“Good. Among other things, I need to get a decoy moved from one of our alternate hotels into the room we spent last night in and pick up the keycards to our next spot. I told you we'd switch locations tonight, remember?”
“If you get bored, Liz can make a userid on our network here for you. You won't be able to access social media because you can't login as yourself from here – we do, however have Netflix, Hulu and a decent game library, all of which the system in this room is more than capable of handling.”
“Already done, in fact, Mr. Owen.”
“Liz, if I wouldn't get in trouble for fooling around with the help, some days I could just kiss you.”
Hannah giggled. The first time she's sounded like the teenager she was since I met her.
First order of business was Marko. We went through the two burner phones routine again and with us both being sure that our conversation was secure, we were able to talk freely.
“Marko, be prepared to move your decoy from the Sheraton into room 302 at the Marriott across the freeway. I'll leave the keycards in the Powderhorn Park dead-drop in about 10 minutes.”
“I'll have their replacements in there before 5pm. Your additional resources will be in town by that time and will contact you directly to arrange a similar location for you to leave their mission dossier and proof of payment.”
“100k for overwatch and demonstration. 500K more if they have to execute. My company will act as escrow agent.”
Just as well I wasn't hurting for funds, although I was hopeful that I'd get the half million back. If I didn't I'd probably be in no state to care anyway.
“600k for security services will be in your company account tonight.”
“A pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Owen.”
Now I needed to build that mission dossier. I already had pics of Koob and Jason (the latter pirated from Hannah's phone). I was hoping I would get the id of any undercover cops in the gang in time to include them. I had a plan to get that gang off this families back and mine.. permanently.
To be continued...