Viking bay, p.15

Viking Bay, page 15

 

Viking Bay
 



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  Barb rose from the pew and patted Kay on the shoulder. “Maybe you should stick around after I leave, and light a candle. Say a prayer to the patron saint of lost causes.”

  23 | Kay knew it was going to take Barb several days to pry into the financial lives of all the people she was interested in, and all she could do was wait. In the meantime, she’d continue to be a faithful employee of the Callahan Group.

  Callahan had told her he wanted her back in the training program. “I want you back in the Farsi class,” Callahan said. “You can never tell when we might have to jump into Iran.”

  Kay didn’t know if he meant jump into Iran literally—like out of an airplane—or if that was just an expression for doing something related to Iran, most likely with their nuclear weapons program. She also wondered if Callahan wanted her back in training just to keep her busy. But if he thought she was going to be a good soldier and follow orders blindly and give up on finding who’d killed Ara and why . . . Well, he obviously didn’t know her at all.

  As for Dolan, she had only talked to him once since the last time she saw him, which was on the flight from Afghanistan to the military hospital in Ramstein, Germany. He called her the day after she got back to the States and asked her how she was doing insofar as recovering from her injuries. He’d sounded genuinely concerned for her—which meant nothing.

  “I’m fine,” Kay said—and that’s all she said. She could have pretended that nothing had changed between them, but she wasn’t able to do that.

  Sensing her coldness, Dolan said, “I’ve heard from Callahan that you have doubts about me.” Now, that really pissed her off, that Callahan would tell the most logical suspect that she thought he might be guilty. Dolan paused long enough to give her an opportunity to deny that she thought he might be a murderer, and when she didn’t, he said, “All I can tell you, Kay, is that I didn’t have anything to do with Ara’s death, and I’m hurt—very hurt—that you’d even think so.”

  Kay rolled her eyes—a gesture Dolan couldn’t see over the phone.

  “Then what do you think happened, Eli? I mean, if we put aside the lucky coincidence of you leaving the room right before the bomb went off, how do you explain what happened?”

  “It wasn’t a lucky coincidence, goddamnit! The power went off and Sterling asked me to find the old man. If Sterling hadn’t called, I would have been sitting there when the bomb exploded.”

  “You didn’t answer my question, Eli. What do you think happened?”

  “I think somebody over in Afghanistan found out about the meeting. Callahan told you the CIA had a spy in Khan’s government, and I think it’s pretty damn likely that the Taliban or somebody else had spies, too. Whatever the case, somebody told the Taliban or some corrupt son of a bitch in Kabul about the meeting, and that’s why the Khans were killed. That makes a hell of a lot more sense than me pulling some kind of double cross on Callahan and trying to kill you.”

  “And I’m saying that theory is bullshit, which is the same thing I told Callahan. Ara Khan and her father were too damn smart to have leaked the meeting. They lived in that godforsaken country and they knew how dangerous it was.”

  Dolan didn’t say anything for a moment, then said, “I don’t know what else to tell you, Kay. I really like you—I think I was falling in love with you—but if you can’t trust me . . .”

  “Yeah, right,” Kay said, and hung up.

  It occurred to her later that maybe she shouldn’t have been so honest about considering him a suspect in Ara’s death. That was like waving a red flag at a bull that had already gored a few people, and Dolan was a very smart bull.

  —

  CALLAHAN CALLED a couple nights later while Kay was sitting there with an ice pack on her bad leg, watching a rerun of a show called Boss where Kelsey Grammer, the guy who used to play in the sitcom Frasier, was this nasty, evil, corrupt mayor of Chicago. Kay was surprised Grammer was so good in the role, and she was enjoying the show, and wished Callahan had picked another time to call.

  “Eli just resigned.”

  Kay didn’t know what to say or what she thought about that.

  “I need him, Hamilton. He’s the one guy working for me who’s just about irreplaceable.”

  “Why did he resign?” Kay asked.

  “Well, I may have screwed up. I asked him to take a polygraph test and he was offended.”

  “Offended?”

  “Yeah. He said he couldn’t work with people who didn’t trust him and who would even think he’d killed Ara.”

  “Did it ever occur to you, Callahan, that what he’s really doing by quitting is making it harder to prove he’s guilty? You’re not going to be able to polygraph him if he’s not an employee.”

  “You’re wrong about Eli. I only asked him to take the polygraph so you’d quit thinking he was guilty. But he didn’t buy that explanation.”

  “Why did you call me, Callahan?” Kay said. “Just to share the news?”

  “No, I want you to go up to Manhattan and talk to him. I know you were close to him and he likes you.”

  What the hell did that mean? That Callahan knew she was sleeping with Dolan?

  “I want you to apologize for suspecting him and convince him to come back to work for me. Like I said, I really need him for the financial stuff.”

  “I’m not going to do that,” Kay said. “I’m not convinced he wasn’t involved, and I don’t think you’re digging hard enough to prove he’s guilty.”

  “You’re going to do what I tell you,” Callahan said.

  “No, I’m not. Not when it comes to Dolan. And I gotta go now. I smell something burning in the kitchen.”

  Actually, the microwave had just dinged, signaling the popcorn was done. And screw Callahan. She wasn’t going to beg a guy she didn’t trust to come back to work with her, and she sure as hell wasn’t apologizing to anyone.

  She turned off the television, pissed that Callahan had made her miss a good chunk of the show. As she sat there, something else occurred to her: Assuming Eli Dolan hadn’t conspired to kill Ara Khan, Kay could actually see him quitting because he was offended or his feelings were hurt.

  Throughout his life, people may have been jealous of Dolan because of his wealth and his success, but he was a man who’d probably never been really disliked by anyone—his ex-wife maybe being the only exception. He was good-looking and charming and fun to be with. He wasn’t an arrogant asshole who lorded his money or his intelligence over others. Kay could imagine that no one had ever accused him of being dishonest or doing something illegal; certainly, no one had ever asked him to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence. So she could see that he indeed may have been hurt very badly by the way Callahan—and particularly Kay—had treated him.

  This, however, said something about his character, and what it said wasn’t good.

  When Kay worked for the DEA, she’d had bosses chew her up one side and down the other for being insubordinate. Male coworkers had treated her like crap because she was a woman. She’d stood toe-to-toe with guys, screaming curses at them as they screamed back at her. But she took her lumps without whining—and she never even thought of quitting because someone was mean to her.

  If it hadn’t been for what happened in Afghanistan, Kay probably would have continued to see Dolan. Maybe she might have married him. But she didn’t want to be married to a guy who . . . who what? Who bruised so easily?

  —

  FOUR DAYS AFTER their meeting at St. Margaret’s, Barb called Kay.

  “Hey, sweetie,” Barb said. “I was just wondering how you and Jessica were doing. I haven’t seen you in months. Anyway, ol’ Bob’s out of town and I figure we’re due for a girls’ night out.”

  “That sounds great,” Kay said. She figured Barb was talking this way in case someone was monitoring Kay’s phone.

  “When and where?”
Kay asked.

  “How ’bout tonight? Say eight. You remember where we went the last time we met?”

  “Yeah. You want to go there again?” Kay figured Barb meant St. Margaret’s.

  “Nah, I didn’t think the food was that great. But there’s a little place just a block south of there. I can’t remember the name. It’s bad enough my ass has dropped down to my knees, and now my memory’s going, too.”

  That was a lie. Barb had a butt like a thirty-year-old’s.

  “Anyway, it’s just a block south of the place we met last time, on the same street. It’s the only place on the block that has a piano bar.”

  “I’ll find it,” Kay said.

  —

  THE RESTAURANT was called the Russia House. It was about a block south of St. Margaret’s on Connecticut Avenue, but it wasn’t the only restaurant on the block. It was, however, the only one that had a piano bar. Kay found it on her way home from work and then left her house at seven to make sure she could shake a tail if she had one. She still had that feeling that somebody was watching her.

  Barb, as she had done last time, arrived late.

  “Why did you want to meet here?” Kay asked.

  “Because I’d prefer to have this discussion over a drink rather than sitting in a pew. Considering the life I’ve led, I never feel comfortable in churches. And this place makes a great martini.”

  Kay wasn’t sure what Barb meant, about the life she’d led. She did know that Barb hadn’t always been faithful to ol’ Bob.

  After their drinks arrived, Kay said, “So. What did you find out?”

  “A number of interesting things. Number one on my list is that the fifty million never made it into Sahid Khan’s bank account.”

  “What?” Kay said. “Where did it go?”

  “I have no idea. I just know it didn’t end up in Khan’s bank. It appears that somebody either stole it or that it was never sent to Khan’s account.”

  “I saw Ara put in the account number, and Dolan transferred the money with Ara watching him,” Kay said.

  “I don’t know what to tell you about what you saw or what Dolan and Ara did. All I know is that the money isn’t in the bank.”

  “How did you find this out?” Kay asked. “I mean, since I didn’t have the account number.”

  Barb laughed. “I went to my money wizard and asked him, ‘Can you find out if fifty million was deposited into a certain Swiss bank if I don’t have an account number?’ You know what he said?”

  “No.”

  “He said: it depends on the bank. And I said, ‘What does that mean? You can hack into some banks and not others?’ And he said . . .”

  Kay could tell Barb was enjoying telling the story but just wished she’d get to the point.

  “. . . and he said, everything’s not about hacking and computers and all that high-tech stuff. He said, I have a relationship with certain bankers and I’ll just call the banker and ask if money was placed in this guy’s account on a certain date, and he’ll tell me.”

  “That must mean that you’ve threatened or bribed a few bankers at some of the banks the narco traffickers use.”

  “Maybe,” Barb said. “I didn’t ask for the details. Anyway, a banker at Khan’s bank was the one who said fifty million was never deposited into Khan’s account.”

  Kay thought for a moment, then said, “I wonder if Dolan could have put a program on his computer that made it look like the money was going to Khan’s bank but really sent it somewhere else?”

  “I don’t know,” Barb said, “but let me tell you what I learned about Eli Dolan. By the standards of normal people, he’s rich. His net worth is about twenty million, which includes his ten-million-dollar loft in Manhattan with a view of the East River and his two-million-dollar town house in Georgetown. The houses are both paid off and he has no significant debt. However, right now Dolan only has about seven million in liquid assets. Back in 2007, before he quit investment banking, his net worth was about sixty million, but he lost a shitload during the meltdown and was a partner in a company that lost a big lawsuit. Sometimes even the smartest guys in the room do dumb things. The question, of course, is would a man with a net worth of twenty million kill several people to increase his net worth?”

  “Maybe,” Kay said. “If you or I owned twelve million bucks’ worth of expensive real estate and had seven million in the bank, we’d think we were in heaven. But Eli Dolan isn’t like you and me. He’s part of the whole Wall Street–Bernie Madoff enough-is-never-enough crowd. He might think he’s one step from the breadline with only seven mil in the bank.”

  When Kay’s drink was only one-third gone, Barb signaled the bartender for another martini. Kay never tried to keep up with Barb when they drank together.

  “The thing is,” Kay said, “Dolan had the opportunity. Like I said, it was his computer. So maybe he stuck a program on it to make it look like the money was going to Khan’s bank when it was really going someplace else.”

  “I suppose that could have happened,” Barb said. “But Dolan isn’t a programmer; he’s not a computer guy. I mean he’s smart, but what he’s smart at is understanding banking systems and how the government accounts for its money and moves it around. He’d need help, I think, to develop the kind of program you’re talking about.”

  “Did you find a heavy-duty computer guy connected to Dolan?”

  “No, but I wasn’t looking for one.”

  “What else did you find out?”

  “Thomas Callahan, as I expected, is practically broke. He lives in a crummy apartment and has about fourteen cents in a savings account. His problem is all his ex-wives; they live in the houses he used to own and took what savings he once had. When he retires, he’s going to have a pension that’s comparable to a postal worker’s because one of his ex-wives will get half his pension. But my guys found no evidence that he’s suddenly wealthy, and I’m not surprised. Thomas Callahan would never have killed Ara Khan.”

  “Yeah, maybe,” Kay said, but she was thinking there was no point in debating the issue with Barb. She was obviously biased when it came to Callahan.

  “Sylvia Sorenson is in about the same financial shape as Callahan, but for a different reason. Her problem is her mother’s medical condition. Sorenson has never been married, lives in an apartment with her mother, and pays nurse’s aides to stay with her mom when she’s at work or has to go out of town. One of the two dozen medications her mother takes costs twelve hundred bucks a month, and naturally it’s not covered by insurance. So Sorenson basically has nothing to show after working her whole life, and unless she’s a saint, she’s probably just waiting for her mom to die.”

  Kay had never seriously considered Sylvia Sorenson as a suspect; Sylvia wouldn’t have the balls to do something like this. At least, Kay didn’t think so.

  “Mercer is in slightly better financial shape than Callahan and Sorenson,” Barb said. “Her net worth is around half a million, most of that being the equity in her house. She’s got about a hundred and fifty grand in an IRA, and when you think about it, that’s not very much considering she’s been steadily employed for over twenty years. Mercer’s problem is she spends money on herself and her house almost as fast as she makes it, and she’s taken out loans a couple of times to remodel her house.”

  The way Mercer dressed, Kay wasn’t surprised to hear this.

  “So in terms of their finances, I guess you could say that Callahan, Sorenson, and Mercer all have a money motive. Callahan’s broke because of his ex-wives, Sorenson’s practically broke because of her mother, and Mercer, although she’s not broke, certainly isn’t rich, because she’s a spender and not a saver. On the other hand, these people’s finances have been this way for a long time, so I don’t know why any of them would suddenly decide to kill a bunch of folks to get rich.”

  “What about Cannon and Ster
ling?” Kay asked.

  “After Cannon and Sterling retired from the army, they found a couple of angel investors to help them start up their security company. And at the time, it probably didn’t seem like a bad investment when we were involved in simultaneous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a bunch of undeclared wars in places like Somalia and the Philippines. But then the wars died down and the contracts started going to the big, connected outfits like Blackwater and Halliburton’s pals. Right now, C&S Logistics has a gig in Yemen protecting a few oil wells, and another job in South Africa guarding a guy who’s probably a diamond smuggler. But that’s it. The company did pretty well its first five years, but right now it’s barely solvent.

  “But Sterling is in a lot worse shape than Cannon. Cannon’s carrying some debt and he invested a lot of his own money in the company, but he lives conservatively and his wife has a good job. Sterling, on the other hand, went a little crazy after they started up the company. He not only invested his savings, he went through an expensive divorce, then bought a McMansion in West Virginia he can no longer afford. So Cannon and Sterling really needed the contract for protecting the mining operation in Afghanistan, but Sterling needed it more than Cannon.”

  “Then I don’t understand,” Kay said. “If their company really needed the contract, then neither of them would have any motive for killing the Khans.”

  “Wrong,” Barb said. “Based on what you told me, the mining operation was never a sure thing. Khan could have taken the fifty million and done nothing, in which case there’d be no security contract for C&S Logistics. Or the guys in Kabul could have screwed everything up and stopped Khan from allowing Glardon to mine the lithium. Or, because of the politics in Afghanistan, it could have taken forever for the mining operation to start, in which case the company would have no money coming in for a long time. So maybe Sterling, or Cannon—or both of them—figured the best way to get rich and get out of debt was to steal fifty million and retire from the security business.”

 

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M. A. LAWSON SERIES:

  • Agent Kay Hamilton
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