A Cat Amongst the Stool-Pigeons - Ep7
Note: Dafydd is the Welsh equivalent of “David” and is pronounced “Davith”
Almost everyone had left. They were back in the twin cities. Until I came up with a reliable way to get Jason Cameron out of the gang life so that he and Hannah would both be safe with a child on the way there was nothing more I could do down there on this case. Sarah had stayed up in the cabin and the last three nights she hadn't used her own room.
Don't ask me how it happened because I honestly couldn't tell you. It just did. In a couple of days we'd gone from meeting to being closer than most friends who have known each other for their entire lives. We understood each other in ways that somebody who hasn't had to deal with the kind of shit we'd both been through couldn't. We gave each other silence when it was needed and it was in one of those moments of silence where we just leaned over and kissed each other. I couldn't tell you who moved first. We went from that kiss to making out on the couch and from there to gently making love in my bed and to sleep without either of us uttering a single coherent word. It was like a mutual decision that this was right and it was going to happen and so there wasn't any need to say more, was there?
There wasn't any awkwardness the following morning, either. No "we need to talk about last night" moments, no feeling out of the relationship. We just fitted and it worked and that was that. We walked in the woods or down to the lake-shore, talking about everything or nothing, sometimes talking over possible ways to get Jason extracted in such a way he wouldn't ever want to or be forced to go back, sometimes discussing what Sarah was going to do now that she was completely blown for undercover work. We also spent a truly sappy amount of time just holding paws and looking into each others eyes. When did I fall in love with this beautiful woman? I have no idea, but somewhere along the line I had, and since it was clearly mutual that was fine by me.
"Whatever plan you choose to run, it will have to be one that can wait a month or so. You want Jason's extraction to be totally covert, not connectable in any way to the incident you staged with the gang to get them off Hannah's back." We were strolling by the lake talking about how I was going to close this case out.
"Yeah, minimum delay one month but a maximum delay of two. I want him out and stable before Hannah starts to show too much."
"Thank God we're both too old and cynical to get ourselves into a situation like that."
"Sarah, we've seen each others scars and we both know what kind of damage would have caused 'em. You're talking to a middle-aged vet with one nut, remember?"
She grinned at me. "The left one seems to work just fine, but I know what you mean. That round I took in the pelvis really did a number on the blood vessels down there with bone fragments acting like shrapnel - No kits in this belly, ever. Some of the required pieces are missing."
I returned to the subject we were supposed to be covering. "I'm thinking a relocate, a legal source of income and he quietly vanishes, no explanations. Hannah tells me he's really good with computers and electronics. If he's that good maybe he can work for me? Hannah and he have to finish school, but they are both going to have to transfer. Hannah's excuse is she's transferring to a school that has better facilities for pregnant students and we can make that happen almost immediately."
"I like it. She transfers away before she starts to show and gets set up in their new location. He just vanishes a little while later and ends up in the same place. Should he get a name change?"
"Probably. Last name only. I know they were talking about getting married so once they do anyone looking for 'Mitchell' or 'Cameron' will come up blank. We should probably keep his last initial too - you'd be amazed how many new identities have been blown by a set of initials carved into something that the guy kept."
We'd reached the point where the trees thinned out and steep rocks fell away towards the small lakes surface. We stood there enjoying the late spring sunshine for a while, just leaning on each other then started walking back towards the cabin.
"They are going to stick me on a desk job. I'll be stir-crazy in a month."
"Can't they transfer you to a different division where you can work openly again?"
"No open slots. I asked. Not unless I want to take a job on a different force who knows where. That's no longer an option. I want to stay local." Rather than respond to her words I answered what she didn't say, taking her in my arms and kissing her. After a few long moments, she continued. "Would there be a slot in your organization for an ex-cop?"
"Not exactly in my organization, no. However, if you were to get your PI's license in your own right I could be seen to kick-start your business by referring clients your way, and we could work together when one or the other needed backup. I know PI's don't exactly work regular hours, but it would make it easier not to take work home with us. The offices a floor above mine are available for rent too."
"So pretty much partners but not partners."
"Partners in a practical sense, just not in a legal sense. If I screw up and put my license in jeopardy, it won't impact your business. If I make a loss on a case that's on my books not yours. I draw up a referral agreement between our two businesses that allows for either of us to hand a case file to the other if for any reason we can't handle it and our client contracts reflect that contingency."
"What happens if you're the client's lawyer as well? I don't have a law license."
"I remain the client's attorney, I pass you the investigation and represent your company for the purposes of the case. Since both your company and your client are also my clients, privileged information remains privileged."
"This is sounding like it could work."
"The other thing we were talking about might be a pretty good test run."
"Let's give it a shot."
By unspoken mutual consent, we started packing for the drive back to the twin cities as soon as we got back to the cabin.
A month later I was strolling towards Jason's usual pitch. I'd passed a couple of gang members on the street and while they certainly gave me a second glance, after it they made themselves scarce. They had no way of knowing that the sniper teams were long gone and I'd retrieved my "contingency deposit" from Marko. For all this gang knew, messing with me was a good way to die. It still was, but without the snipers backing me it would get messy. This was a solo mission, it was way too soon for Sarah to show her face anywhere near this crew. Jason saw me and huddled back in the doorway he was standing in. I didn't look like his usual buyers. I paused, handed him an envelope.
"Read this once you're off the street tonight. It's about your kid."
"Don't have any kids, man."
"You will.. Hannah's nearly three months along now and you know it. Read it, and call me on the number in there when you're somewhere safe and alone." I walked away, turned the corner and took a different route back to my car. There was nothing to do at the office so I went home.
Back when I first moved to the twin cities I'd got lucky finding a place. I'd found a nice house by Como lake in St Paul, structurally sound but needing a lot of interior work. I rented an apartment in a duplex not too far away and lived there while I had the house gutted and restored, in the process bringing its old wiring and plumbing up to modern code. I parked my car in the garage next to Sarah's Jeep and wandered indoors.
Sarah moving in with me was another thing that had "just happened", the same way we ended up as lovers. The apartment she was living in with her undercover identity was blown and unsafe, while she was working undercover she'd rented out her house in Minneapolis and most of her stuff was in storage. Some of it was now at my place, although over the last month we'd pretty much switched to thinking of it as "our place" instead. I joined her in the kitchen and was greeted with a smile, a hug and a kiss. We both loved to cook and the kitchen smelled like chili. I grabbed an apron to protect my suit and started making cornbread.
"Any hassle on the drop?"
"Nope. Now it's up to him. He's got my number."
"I heard from Hannah today. She's settled into the apartment and doing ok at the new school. I didn't give her any details on progress with Jason."
I nodded. There would be no more shop talk until my phone rang. With the cornbread in the oven, I washed my paws. "Beer or wine with supper?"
"Wine, I think - it's bison chili. Something red with a decent body to it."
I couldn't disagree with that, and as it happened I had a case of Barolo that was probably ready to drink. No reason why we shouldn't crack one of those bottles tonight and see how the wine had developed. Turns out it had developed pretty well, the classic aroma of the Nebbiolo grape fully developed and complemented perfectly by a heavy tannic body. Sarah knew her californian and south american wines better than I did, my knowledge was mostly european. We had fun teaching each other about them.
We were relaxing after supper with the last of that bottle when my phone rang, just before 8pm.
"Mr Owen, it's Jason Cameron."
"So, before we waste any more of each other's time, are you still in and I leave you alone and let Hannah know you won't be joining her or are you out and I start making it happen?"
"I'm out, Mr Owen. I love her and she's carrying my child."
"By Como Lake is a community pavilion. Meet me between it and the lake, by their dock, in 2 hours. Don't leave behind anything you can't bear to lose. You'll be with Hannah before midnight and you won't be going back where you are now for any reason whatsoever. Can you do that?"
"Yes, I think so..."
"Don't leave any notes or messages, tell nobody where you are going. Don't bring your phone, don't bring any weaponry that isn't legally yours. If it smells of 'gang' I'll throw it in the lake personally, whatever it is. Make sure you have enough cash on your person to survive for 48 hours without leaving any electronic trail. Understand?"
"Uh.. yes... "
"See you there at 10."
"I'll be there, Mr Owen. Thank you for doing this."
"Hannah is still my client. I'm doing this for her."
"So am I, Mr Owen. So am I."
He hung up and I looked across the room at my mate. "Looks like it's a go"
"I would have preferred he hadn't called until tomorrow morning."
"I'll be back before you get to sleep, love. Once we hit the road I'm going to need you to call Hannah and let her know we're on the way."
I saw him park and watched him get out of his car. He locked it up and turned towards where I had told him to meet me. He froze when I spoke behind him. "You might want to grab your bags from the car."
"Thought you were going to meet me out front?"
"Son, if you tell anyone where you're going to be, rule number one is to be elsewhere but to have that place you told them in view."
"I heard what you pulled on Koob to get Hannah out."
"So you know I play for keeps. In certain circles it's how you get respect."
"Yeah, it tends to work that way sometimes."
"Grab your bags, lock up your car and give me the keys. You don't need it any more. Walk with me."
He did as he was told and with a duffel over his shoulder we walked down the path around the lake.
"You're going to vanish. As you might have guessed I'm pretty good at making that happen, but this time I need your help. Tonight, I drive you to the apartment where you and your mate can live and begin to raise your child. Tomorrow, while Hannah is in school you come to my office. By the end of the day 'Jason Cameron' will be off the grid and nobody will know where to find him. You will be safely living with your mate with a new name, registered at the same school as she is and able to dispose of anything and everything that identifies you as Jason Cameron. You've got a lot to do in the next 48 hours. Are you up for that?"
"Do I lose everything?"
"No. In the first place you get to keep your mate and your child. I know you've got enough financial reserves to make their life pretty easy for a few months, one of the things you'll be doing tomorrow is going to downtown branches of your banks - ones you haven't ever used before - and closing your accounts. They'll offer you a cashiers check but you'll refuse and request cash. Then you open whatever accounts you want in your new name. I suggest you take care that no deposit amounts to open the new accounts match the withdrawal amounts from closing the old ones, and take your time doing it."
"I'll still need work."
"I might be able to help you out there, if you're as good as Hannah tells me you are. Anyway.. here's my car. Decision time, kid. Either get in or ask for your car keys back."
He didn't say a word, just opened the door, stowed his bag behind the seats and sat down. We hit the road.
"Damn, Sarah, if you could have seen the look on Hannah's muzzle when she opened the door."
"It's dark in here, you can't see the look on mine."
"I can feel it."