The Real Estate Connection Ch. 07bykiwiwolf©
It was a thick file, loaded with papers, photos and even a couple of CDs. It seemed that Carmichael had graduated to the electronic age after all.
"That doesn't leave this office. I trust you gentlemen will excuse me. I have a busy day so I'll leave you to it. You have precisely an hour and just to make sure you don't get up to anything you shouldn't, I'll leave Mr. Grant here to keep you company." I looked up to find one of our escorts from earlier standing by the door looking on with a neutral expression. I hadn't even heard him come in. Throwing another face saving disdainful look our way Carmichael made his exit. Mr. Grant moved over from the door and sat down on the sofa by the window.
"Don't mind me gentlemen. I'm just here to make sure you don't steal Carmichaels coffee machine. Speaking of which would you guys like a cup? I'm buying." Grant got up without waiting for an answer and walked to the credenza where the coffee machine sat.
"Yeah I could do with a cup. Just as it comes thanks." Lee took a cup as well. When we were all settled in sipping rather good coffee and Mr. Grant had returned to his sofa, I opened the file and started to read.
It was like stepping into a "Twilight Zone" episode dedicated to me. As I started to read my unauthorized biography I was hit with a massive sense of weirdness. I was reading about my life from birth through to present day presumably. I couldn't see the point in digging too far through the past to get to the present so to save time I flicked through the file until I found the section dealing with my work in Colombia. That is where things got interesting. Very interesting.
The file was full of action reports dealing with Hunter/Killer and Search and Destroy missions I had run. At first, taking into consideration that Hemi and Sam had been working for the Company while they were with me, this didn't seem strange. Then it hit me. A lot of the missions were before they had joined my unit. There was a third ferret in the hen house. Then there was the amount of detail in these reports. Only someone in the command chain could have had that much information on the missions we ran. Then there were the discrepancies. Body counts were inflated and the amount of drugs destroyed was deflated.
The headers of the reports were heavily edited with the names of the reporting personnel and the person and organization receiving the report thoroughly blacked out. This was going to make things harder... or so I thought. Near the bottom of the file I discovered a report with part of an official seal or insignia intact and mostly visible. It was the seal of the Colombian Police Department. I was starting to see a picture forming here. I was fairly sure I knew the reason why, now all I needed was to know who the players were. And when our man was going to hit again.
But that still didn't explain why Liz Graeme had taken a shot at killing us. There were a lot of unanswered questions that needed to be answered before we could cap this thing off. I passed the relevant documents to Lee so he would know what I was talking about on our way home. Mr. Grant just sat and drank his coffee in silence, watching us while appearing not to. I had a hunch about Mr. Grant that I decided to play out.
"So how long were you down there Mr. Grant? Down in Colombia I mean." He lifted his head and grinned at me. It was actually quite a friendly grin which I wasn't really expecting.
"I'm surprised you haven't recognized my voice Miller. But then those radios do have a tendency to distort your voice don't they?" The connection didn't take long in coming.
"Well hello Gringo Six. I always wanted to meet you, now I'm not sure whether meeting you is a good thing or a bad thing. I owe you more than a few beers for saving my ass a couple of times down there." I turned to Lee who was looking on with an expression of amusement with a dose of suspicion mixed in there. "Lee this is Gringo Six, my radio contact down in Colombia. Info from this man saved our asses on more than one occasion. He was a cross between an Intel officer and a controller. With him based somewhere behind a microphone and me out in the field, we never got a chance to meet." I turned back to Mr. Grant. "So I'm guessing you're not babysitting us by coincidence. What's the deal Six?"
Grant laughed at my use of his call sign. "Miller nothing that happens here at the Puzzle Palace happens by coincidence. I was placed here to watch you and to hopefully evaluate and report any conversation you have about the material you're looking at with Stowers here." His frank confession shocked me. I would have been surprised if Carmichael's office wasn't wired for sound and rigged for video. Mr. Grant saw my obvious shock and laughed.
"Yep, we're being watched and listened to. No... I don't have to worry about my job. I was told I could give out any information that could help you but that I wasn't allowed to volunteer anything. Truth is Miller... we don't have the slightest idea why you're a target or who is coming after you. But we need to know. Obviously this thing is tied into what was and still is going on down there. There are a lot of people watching the outcome of this situation and we have to be on the right side of the result. One thing we can tell you is that Simmons was acting alone when he went back to your place. We think he wanted a little permanent retribution for the beatings you dished out to him in Richmond and in Colombia. I'm also willing to admit that we planted the listening devices in your house. Actually I did that myself, although I'm not proud to admit that. You should never have found those. I must be slipping. I'll come down and remove them."
I smiled at his frankness. It was unusual to find someone so forthright in this business, unusual and refreshing.
"Come down late tomorrow afternoon. You obviously know Hemi and Sam?" He nodded. "They are spending a bit of time with me although I'm sure you already know that. You guys could catch up and compare notes."
"Yeah I might just do that."
Lee spoke for the first time since accepting his cup of coffee. "Okay if this was intended to be the outcome of this trip right from the get go, why all the bullshit from Carmichael? And why hasn't this info been given to the Richmond PD before now?" I answered his questions for him.
"Lee the reason that the PD hasn't been given the info is that I am bait. Nothing has changed since when we thought this was Montoya's play. Actually it would be stupid for us to assume that Montoya isn't behind this whole thing. So everything stays as was. As to why all the bullshit from Carmichael... well that's just his style. He has to be a prick, it's in his nature." Even Grant laughed at that. I stood and closed the file.
"Okay we got what we came for. Thanks for the hospitality Six. Tell Carmichael that he needs to spend a bit more on his coffee selection. It tastes like army coffee. See you tomorrow some time." We shook hands and he walked us out to the elevators.
"Craig, my name actually is Grant. Grant Leonard and it's been a pleasure finally meeting you. See you tomorrow. Pleasure meeting you too Lee... and please do us a favor and destroy those once you've finished with them." With that he turned and walked back down the corridor before disappearing into an office at the end of the hall. I was left puzzled by his last reference and was about to ask Lee about it when the elevator arrived. Grabbing me by the arm Lee hustled me onto the elevator and shook his head silently warning me off opening my mouth. I could take a hint as well as the next man. One thing was for sure... it was going to be an interesting trip back to Richmond.
As expected the car had been searched. The tell tale signs included my gun being put back in the glove compartment with the magazine removed and the driver's seat had been slid forward to a position that would have made it nearly impossible for me to drive. It was evident that Carmichael wanted us to know that he was still lord of his manor. I opened the back door of the Tahoe and grabbed the bag I had stashed there earlier. The bug locator I had bought a few days ago at Radio Shack was still in there. A cursory examination of the gear convinced me that it hadn't been tampered with, nevertheless I wasn't about to trust the results fully. A thorough examination of the Tahoe using the bug locator and a couple of good pairs of eyes revealed two bugs and a tracking device. Removing them was easy and it gave me a lot of satisfaction leaving them in a small pile on the asphalt as we drove out of CIA Headquarters towards home. I knew that it would have been a waste of manpower for Carmichael to have someone tail us but I kept an eye on the rear view mirror for the first 5 or so miles anyway. During that time we discussed unimportant topics. Like me, Lee obviously didn't place complete faith in our little bug locator. Once I was satisfied that we weren't being tailed I turned on the CD player and wound up the volume until it was loud enough to mask a quiet conversation. The gritty strains of Nickleback's Figured You Out snarled out of the speakers as we spoke.
"What did Grant mean when he told you to destroy them after you'd finished with them?" I asked Lee. To my surprise he just grinned and reached into the cargo pocket of his pants and pulled out the two CD's that had been in the file. "Jesus you sneaky bastard! I should take you back there and have you signed up as a spook!" We shared a laugh over that as the miles rolled away. Lee then asked me what I had figured out from the file.
"Listen Lee... I'd rather not talk about it while we're on the road if you know what I mean," I threw a glance at the bug finder on the floor at Lee's feet. "I'll tell you about it when we stop for coffee. Keep an eye out for a Seven-Eleven."
It took another twenty minutes before we found a Seven-Eleven. We grabbed coffees and wandered outside to find a picnic table. The weather had cleared and it was obvious it was going to be a glorious afternoon and evening. Lee lit a cigarette and tossed the pack across to me along with his Zippo. Lee sat expectantly while I lit my smoke and gathered my thoughts.
"Okay... this is what I picked up in Carmichael's office. The action reports that he had in that file on me didn't tally with what actually went down in the badlands. Carmichael's informant was playing a double game, and I think he was in business for himself." That got Lee's attention. He sat forward with an intent look on his face as I continued.
"The figures on those action reports were doctored. And I think they were doctored deliberately. The amount of cocaine we destroyed was shown as being lower than it actually was and the body counts from missions were inflated." I paused to allow this simple statement to sink in before I carried on.
"Someone was doing some creative accounting with my unit's statistics, and I think the same person was also doing a bit of independent commerce on the side."
"What do you mean?" Lee hadn't put it together yet but then he hadn't had the information for as long as I'd had it. It had taken me the whole time from when we pulled out of Langley, right up to when we pulled into the Seven-Eleven to put the facts together and come up with my theory.
"Lee when we hit a lab or dispatch point we cleared out soon after the hit. But not before a unit from the Colombian police relieved us and took over to destroy the drugs and deal with the bodies. The idea was that we would do the dirty work and the Colombians would come in and grab the credit. It made them look good for the voting public I guess. Anyway... none of us really minded. We were there to do a job, not to become famous so we just rucked up and moved off when the Colombians arrived. The thing is... like any commander I wanted to know how successful we had been, so I'd take an informal tally of what was lying around before we left. Cocaine... bodies... prisoners..." My voice trailed off and I had trouble meeting Lee's frank stare. It sounded so cold blooded and brutal, but I knew that I could talk for a month and still never be able to convey what you felt like after the adrenaline fuelled high of battle subsided. It was something you could never explain adequately to someone who had never experienced it. I sat silent for a few moments finishing my cigarette while gathering my thoughts.
"Because we never did the clean up, my after action reports never had to contain any figures like body count or the amount of drugs recovered so I never included them. Just for my own interest I kept a record of all that stuff. I know it must seem morbid but I needed to know for my own peace of mind how effective we were. I've still got the notebook somewhere. My guess is that what is happening to us has something to do with what I recorded down in Colombia. Someone has been making some extra money and now that I'm no longer in a position where they can keep an eye on me, they figure I've become a big threat to their continuing flow of cash... and they need to fix that." Lee nodded as he lit up another smoke.
"Okay Craig. Let's assume you're right. That means we now know the why. All we have to do now is figure out the who, where and when. That will give us a better than even chance of keeping you out of an early grave."
"Yeah and I think that's gonna be the hard part." We sat in silence for a few more minutes contemplating the first positive bit of information we'd been given in days. I finished my coffee and walked over to throw the empty cup in the trash. Lee did the same.
"Craig do you really think the Tahoe is bugged?"
"Yeah I do Lee. It's what I would have done. I've got a couple of fine tame CIA boys back in Richmond. I'll get them to go over the car when we get back and I'm betting dollars to donuts that they find at least one bug. Let's get going... we've got a barbeque to organize." Lee grinned.
"Yup, I reckon we have to get our priorities in order here. And with a S.W.A.T. team turning up expecting to be fed we better get our asses moving. Those boys take their partying seriously."
It was just after 2pm when we arrived back at the house. Hemi and Stevie were still in town so Sam looked over the Tahoe for me. As expected he found two devices. One bug mounted in the headrest of the driver's seat and a tracking device up behind the drive shaft. Both were easily disabled after a short discussion about the merits of leaving them in place.
We still had a few hours to go before our guests turned up for the barbeque so Lee and I headed into the study to find out what was on the CDs he had retrieved from Carmichael's office. We had hit the jackpot. The first disc was basically just a copy of the files I had seen in Carmichael's office. They would be handy in putting the pieces together when I could go over them more thoroughly. The second disc was where the diamonds were located. It was packed with picture and video files, all related to the missions I ran in Colombia. Some were very familiar to me, but others were new perspectives on old memories. In the few I had time to look at, I saw faces that were familiar to me; faces I had seen on a day to day basis. I also saw new faces, and one I never expected to see on an after action report. Christopher Simmons, last seen charred, mutilated and very dead in the burnt out hulk of my car. His presence at the sites of our missions didn't make any sense. Simmons was an office weenie. He very rarely came out into the field, yet here he was featuring in several of the videos and dozens of the pictures, looking as comfortable as if he was at a function at his country club. As I compared the pictures one thing stood out. In all the pictures he was in the company of a man who was familiar to me. I had seen him a few times with the clean up crews that were sent out after our missions. I couldn't for the life of me remember his name although I knew he was Colombian police. It was definitely a promising start. I needed to have a copy of the discs for my own use but writeable discs were one thing I hadn't bought when I bought the computer. I called Stevie on her cell.
"Hello sexy!" Her greeting brought an instant smile to my face. "How did your trip to Langley go baby?"
"I'll tell you all about it when you get home later. How is your day going?"
"Not too bad actually. Hemi and I are just leaving the office now. We should be home as soon as we've picked up KJ. Want me to bring anything extra for the barbeque? I have the basic list of stuff to buy and I'll pick it up from the supermarket on the way."
"Yeah you could do me one favor baby. Could you grab me a spindle of writeable DVDs? I need to do a bit of copying."
"No problem honey. Anything else?"
"Just you sweet lady... just you. See you soon Stevie." I was smiling as I closed my phone and shut down the computer. I had really fallen out of the sewer and into the rose garden when I met Stevie. Sam, Lee and I grabbed beers and headed out to the deck to get the grill ready for tonight's party. It was the first time I had actually looked at the thing and I was impressed with its condition. For the next couple of hours Lee, Sam and I lay around the pool drinking beers and shooting the breeze. It was relaxing and a welcome break from the hectic pace of the last couple of weeks. Stevie, KJ and Hemi arrived just as I was opening my third beer and Becky and Matt turned up shortly after. The ladies retreated inside to catch up on the gossip and get ready for the party, although as it was casual I couldn't for the life of me figure out what there was to do to get ready. The wonder that is woman will never cease to amaze me. Hemi and I dragged the speakers out onto the deck and loaded a selection of CDs into the CD player. Brian Clark, the surgeon who had patched me up after I was shot, arrived just as we were finishing setting up.
"How is my star patient today? You're certainly looking a lot better than the last time I saw you. You're lucky Craig. Your physical condition means that your recovery is a hell of a lot quicker than normal." Brian gave me a quick look over and declared that I would be able to have my stitches removed as planned. Once again he advised me to take things easy until my recovery was complete.
"Just remember Craig, you're not bulletproof or invulnerable buddy. Just take it easy for a while. Now who do I have to kill to get a beer around here?"
It wasn't long before more of our guests started arriving. The S.W.A.T. team guys and girls arrived in two groups, traveling in two separate convoys of SUVs. As they piled out of their trucks it became evident that we were in no danger of running out of alcohol. It was also evident that only a moron with a death wish would crash our little soirée. All of them, without exception, were packing heat. As per the invitation most had brought wives or girlfriends and soon we had a rocking little gathering. Stevie, Becky and KJ joined us as the second part of the S.W.A.T. convoy rolled in, and immediately it was obvious that there was a huge chasm between the male version of casual and the female version. The three of them were definite head turners.
Becky was the least flamboyant of the three wearing a yellow halter top which struggled to contain her gorgeous breasts and the shortest mini skirt I had seen in a long time. Her outfit was topped off with a pair of 4 inch stiletto heels. Matt's smug grin was a thing of beauty as his lady sashayed her way over to him, breasts bouncing tantalizingly and gave him a tonsil swab with her tongue.
KJ was dressed in what could only be described as classy slutty. From the top of her head to the tips of her toes she radiated sex. There was nothing subtle about the tattooed beauty's attire. The rose patterned, sleeveless, black lace top she wore did nothing at all to disguise the fact that she was braless. The pattern of the lace actually accentuated the tattoos decorating her large firm breasts while her areola and nipples were only barely camouflaged by a strategically placed rose. It was unbuttoned to a point just at the bottom of the heavy swell of her large orbs and tied just below, leaving the well muscled expanse of her smooth stomach bare above the waistband of the shortest, tightest pair of cut-offs I had ever seen. The denim garment was almost short enough to be termed obscene; the crotch pulled tight against the lips of her pussy... so tight that it formed a very sexy camel toe. As sexy as the rest of her outfit was, it paled in comparison to her chosen footwear. KJ wore a pair of boots the likes of which I had only ever seen in porno movies and my wettest wildest dreams. Made of soft black calfskin, they rose from 4 inch stiletto heels made of gleaming steel to a point about 6 inches short of the snug crotch of her cut-offs. Like Becky, her breasts seemed to take on a life of their own as she walked across the deck to join me and Brian. I sneaked a sideways glance at the good doctor and immediately knew that if KJ's intent had been to impress Brian, she was succeeding. His mouth hung open and he had a "deer caught in the headlights" look on his face. KJ made a bee line for the awestruck doctor.