Viking bay, p.29

Viking Bay, page 29

 

Viking Bay
 



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  Kay had done a lot of thinking since she’d killed Nathan Sterling. She’d never found out if she could be a cold-blooded executioner; Sterling eliminated her dilemma when he tried to kill her. She was now in the same position with Anna Mercer—trying to visualize herself dispassionately executing the woman—but this time she knew the answer: She couldn’t kill someone that way; it just wasn’t in her nature. If Callahan asked her to assassinate someone who was an imminent threat to the United States, then she could do it—but Mercer was not an imminent threat to national security; she was a murderer and a thief and she’d betrayed her country, but she didn’t meet Kay Hamilton’s personal criteria for assassination. There was a difference, in Kay’s mind, between executing someone for a crime they’d committed and assassinating someone to prevent a crime—but she wasn’t going to try to explain this to Callahan. She could barely explain it to herself.

  She heard Callahan sigh into his phone. It was one of those Please, Lord, grant me patience sighs. “So what do you want to do?” Callahan asked.

  “I don’t know yet. Give me a couple of days.”

  Kay called Jessica after talking to Callahan, asked how things were going, and got the response she’d expected: Everything was going fine—but Jessica sounded a little down. Kay wondered if she’d had a fight with her boyfriend, or maybe she was just feeling lonely. God, she was a lousy mother.

  “Are you sure everything’s all right?” she asked. “Nothing’s bothering you?”

  “Nah, everything’s cool here,” Jessica said. “How’s everything going with you?”

  After she hung up, she sat for a moment, still holding the phone in her hand, then called Barb Reynolds. “I’m outta town and not sure when I’ll be back. How about doing me a favor and take my daughter out to dinner or something. She sounded kind of low when I talked to her a couple minutes ago. Use your mommy antennae, and make sure everything’s okay with her.”

  Kay said this knowing that although Barb had raised two boys she wasn’t any more maternal than she was. But she couldn’t think of anyone else to ask.

  “Sure,” Barb said. “I like your daughter. And when she gets her medical degree and I’m old and feeble, I want to be able to call her up and get free advice.”

  After Kay spoke to everyone she wanted to speak with on the other side of the Atlantic, she went for a run and took a shower. While she was drying her hair, she thought that after she’d had some dinner, she’d go spy on Anna Mercer some more. She was hoping that by watching the woman, some idea would occur to her insofar as avenging Ara Khan’s death without killing Mercer.

  As she was getting dressed, she turned on the television in her hotel room in time to hear a newscaster talk about how two thugs had been arrested less than an hour after they had robbed and beaten a merchant in London. It seemed that CCTV cameras had tracked them almost continually from the merchant’s store, to the subway, while in the subway, and practically to the doorstep of the building where they lived. The announcer then said something to the effect that you’d think these idiots would know that the British population was being constantly monitored by cameras all over the country’s capital city.

  And it was like a little cartoon lightbulb clicked on over Kay Hamilton’s head.

  45 | Kay called Callahan and told him what she needed: the security expert who’d researched Merchant’s home security system, a man and a woman with a special skill set, and information that Callahan would have to obtain from the British cops, although the information was most likely not classified. Callahan was not happy to hear any of this.

  “Aw, come on, Hamilton,” he said, “gimme a fuckin’ break. Why can’t you just take care of her the easy way? This is too complicated, involves too many people, and there are too many things that can go wrong.”

  “Callahan, if we don’t do this my way, then you’ve just wasted a lot of time and money training me.”

  Callahan didn’t respond immediately. She knew he was pleased with how she’d handled Nathan Sterling and the bogus Chechen kidnapping of Titov’s wife, but she also knew she wasn’t irreplaceable. Furthermore, she was pissing him off by continually refusing to bend to his will. She wondered if he was about to tell her that he would, regretfully, accept her resignation.

  He didn’t.

  —

  THE MAN AND WOMAN Kay needed for the operation arrived two days later. Judging by their accents they were Irish, and if they spoke fast, Kay couldn’t understand what the hell they were saying. They were in their early thirties; the woman was about five-foot-six, the man a couple inches taller. They were both slender and had short, dark hair, the woman’s hair not much longer than the man’s; they looked so much alike that they could have been twins. They said their names were Jack and Jackie—Kay assumed the names were false but wasn’t sure—and they took a single room in the same hotel where Kay was staying. Kay didn’t know if she was abetting incest or not; she didn’t care what they did in their hotel room as long as they could do the job.

  Kay met with the security system expert at a coffee shop the following day. He was a tall, stout, grandfatherly-looking man with glasses and bright blue eyes that reminded her of Callahan’s eyes. He was bald except for a white horseshoe of hair that circled his skull just above his big ears, and he wore a bright red vest under his gray tweed sport coat. He was a handsome man until he smiled and exposed stubby, crooked teeth. He introduced himself as Geoffrey, and Kay thought he looked like a Geoffrey.

  Kay explained to Geoffrey half her plan—the half he needed to know—and asked if it could be done.

  “Easily,” he said. “You see, the house actually has two separate security systems, and as I mentioned the other day, one of those systems is somewhat flawed. The primary system is the alarms she has on her doors and windows and the motion detectors inside the house. The idea of the primary system is that if a thief opens a door or a window or steps in the wrong place, a hideously loud alarm will sound and the security company will be notified and dispatch the coppers. There’s a standard keypad, of course, for arming and disarming the alarm system.

  “The pertinent thing that you need to know about the primary system is that it has a backup power supply. That is, if power to the house is interrupted because a power line is cut, the alarm system will still be functional. Are you with me, dear?”

  “Yes,” Kay said. For some reason, it didn’t bother her that he called her dear.

  “The secondary system is the cameras, floodlights, and motion detectors outside the house. They’re basically designed to scare someone off. If a thief approaches the house at night, the motion detectors will sense him, the light will go on—hopefully scaring the bugger away—and the camera will take a picture. A video, actually. The secondary system does not send a signal to the security company, as it can be set off by any passing cat.

  “Now, as you know, there are two floodlight-cameras installed: one at the front of the house to detect someone approaching the front door, and one at the back of the house, facing the beach. The homeowner is probably most concerned about people approaching the house from the beach at night and breaking in through the sliding door that opens onto the deck facing the water.

  “But herein lies the problem,” Geoffrey said, flashing the briefest of smiles. Kay could imagine him as a young man trying to smile without exposing his teeth or covering his mouth when he laughed. “The camera-floodlight system is separate from the house alarm system and the floodlights are wired into the house’s normal electrical system. What this means is that there is no backup power supply for the floodlights, motion detectors, and cameras. If power to the house is disrupted, then the cameras won’t work until power is restored. The other problem with the secondary system is that if you know where the motion detectors are and how they work, you can evade them.”

  —

  AFTER MEETING WITH GEOFFREY, Kay waited until it was dark outside, t
hen drove around the Thanet area of England. The Thanet area is located in the county of Kent and includes the towns of Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate, all within a short distance of Mercer’s home near Viking Bay. Kay was looking at CCTV cameras.

  There are almost a hundred CCTV security cameras in the Thanet District—it says so right on the Thanet Council’s website—and Callahan had obtained for Kay the location of a dozen cameras that seemed best suited for what she had in mind. Kay drove to each location, studied the cameras, the streets they were on, the general lighting in the area, the amount of traffic on the streets, and nearby homes and businesses. She finally selected the one that best suited her purpose.

  The following day, Kay met with Jack and Jackie and told them what she wanted them to do. She also directed them to rent a car and reconnoiter the selected CCTV camera location so they could see for themselves what they’d be up against.

  It was driving her crazy not knowing if they were perverted siblings or simply a couple who had identical names and looked like twins.

  —

  THE NEXT DAY, at eight a.m., Kay parked her car near Mercer’s home in a location where she’d be able to see Mercer backing her car out of the garage. Geoffrey was with her. In a separate car, parked on the same street, were Jack and Jackie. She didn’t want Geoffrey and the odd couple to see each other.

  Unfortunately, Mercer didn’t leave her home at all that day. Kay could see smoke coming out of one of the chimneys and figured Mercer had elected to sit in front of a cheery fire and read a good book on a blustery, overcast day. Weather-wise, this time of year the coast of England sucked. At four p.m., when Kay was about ready to go crazy after sitting in a car for eight hours, she told her team that they were done for the day and dropped Geoffrey off at a pub before she returned to her hotel.

  The next morning, her team took up their positions again. To Kay’s relief, at nine a.m., Mercer left in her Mercedes, and Jack and Jackie followed Mercer in their car. Surveillance wasn’t their area of expertise, but Kay figured they’d be able to do what was needed. Kay noticed the first time she followed Mercer that Mercer didn’t seem to do anything to detect or shake a tail, and Kay figured that after still being free four months after fleeing the United States, Mercer was now confident that Callahan would never find her.

  Kay and Geoffrey continued to sit in Kay’s car after Mercer drove away. She was waiting to hear from Jack and Jackie regarding Mercer’s destination. Half an hour later, Jackie called and said that Mercer was on the M2 and appeared to be headed to London. This was good news, but Kay decided to wait a bit longer.

  An hour later, Jackie called again and said Mercer had checked into the Mayfair Hotel. This was consistent with a pattern that Kay had noticed in Abigail Merchant’s credit-card records: She’d periodically make the trip to London, check into a good hotel, and spend a couple of days shopping and dining. Kay figured that Mercer wouldn’t return home for at least twenty-four hours, which would give her and Geoffrey plenty of time to invade Mercer’s home.

  —

  THE ONLY PROBLEM with breaking into Mercer’s house was her neighbor to the north, the lady who used a walker. The neighbor to the south couldn’t see Mercer’s home clearly, because the view was blocked by shrubs and trees. There was no fence or greenery, however, to prevent the old lady with the walker from seeing people approach Mercer’s front door. Kay decided that she and Geoffrey would just have to take the risk.

  They entered Mercer’s property by walking quickly along the southern edge of Mercer’s front yard, as far as possible from the home of the old lady to the north. When they reached the southern front corner of Mercer’s house, they sidled along the front of the house, staying close to the house and under the eaves. They did this because the motion detector in the floodlight-camera was mounted on the edge of the roof, and although it pointed downward, it also pointed outward, as it was designed to catch people approaching Mercer’s front door. The motion detector wouldn’t detect them if they stayed under the eaves—or so Geoffrey said. Geoffrey used a set of lock picks to quickly open the front door—it took him all of twenty seconds—and Mercer’s home security system immediately started beeping. Geoffrey walked calmly over to the keypad and entered an eight-digit security code.

  When Kay had asked him how he was going to obtain the code to Mercer’s security system, she’d expected some sort of high-tech answer, like maybe he would hack into the security company’s computers to obtain the code. Or maybe he would bring with him one of those gadgets you see in caper movies and he would disassemble the keypad, snap alligator clips onto wires, and the gadget would determine the code—numbers flashing by on a screen as the clock ticked down, he and Kay sweating dramatically—and just before the time expired, the code would be solved.

  Geoffrey’s answer to her question, however, was neither high-tech nor dramatic. “The security company has a master code they can use in case of an emergency or if they have to troubleshoot a homeowner’s system. Rather like a master key for hotel rooms. I paid a lady at the security company to give me the master.”

  “Oh” had been Kay’s response.

  After the security system had been disarmed, Geoffrey—who couldn’t have been any calmer if he’d been standing in his own home—said, “I’d suggest we watch the street for about ten minutes to see if one of the neighbors called the coppers. If one of them did, I’m afraid we’ll have to scamper out the back door and hope they didn’t send young lads that are able to catch us. Or, more likely, catch me, as you look as if you might be able to outrun the local bobbies.” So they waited ten minutes.

  “Okay,” Geoffrey said. “While you skulk about, I’m going to locate the breaker box.”

  What Geoffrey was going to do was attach an electronic “switch” on the wire going to the floodlight-camera on the front of Mercer’s house. The switch, which you can buy for about twenty bucks on eBay, was operated by a small remote control with a range of five hundred feet. In other words, a person standing outside Mercer’s home could push a button on the remote and disrupt power going to the floodlight, disabling the camera and motion detector, and then turn the power back on remotely whenever desired. As the switch would only be on the wire going to the floodlight-camera over Mercer’s garage, power throughout the rest of the house would not be affected.

  While Geoffrey was doing his job, Kay walked around the house and saw it was just as fabulous as she’d imagined: glossy hardwood floors, Oriental rugs, stunning pictures perfectly framed, furniture made from exotic woods. All the countertops were granite, or maybe marble. The only thing missing were photographs of people. There were no pictures of Mercer’s family or anyone else she’d been close to, and the absence of photographs made Kay wonder if Mercer ever got lonely. She suspected not.

  She located the room Mercer used for an office, and in the top center drawer of a gorgeous desk with inlaid woods made by an American company called Parnian, Kay found what she was looking for: a spare ignition key to Mercer’s Mercedes and a fob attached to the key for locking and unlocking the doors.

  There was a time when she could have made a wax impression of the key and taken the impression to a shady locksmith and have a key made. Those days were long gone. These days, ignition keys for automobiles were high-tech devices that had a transponder that electronically communicated with the vehicle to prevent theft, and the car wouldn’t start if the key wasn’t programmed to match the vehicle. Kay knew this because when she lost her car key once, it cost her about two hundred bucks to get a new one.

  She wrote down all the identification numbers on the key and the fob, then searched Mercer’s desk until she found a file that contained Mercer’s automobile insurance policy. In that file, she found the make and model of Mercer’s Mercedes and the VIN number for the car.

  She then made a cursory effort to find information related to where Mercer had parked her share of the fifty million, b
ut as she expected, she didn’t find anything. There were no convenient paper statements from some bank tallying up how much Mercer was making in interest. She turned on the laptop computer on Mercer’s desk, saw it was password protected, and powered it down. Mercer would not use her birthday as a password.

  She could hear Geoffrey whistling, and a moment later he walked into the office where Kay was standing. “What a lovely home,” he said. “This woman has exquisite taste.”

  “All done?” Kay asked him.

  “Indeed,” he said. “It was quite simple, as there was a single exposed wire in the garage going from one of the receptacles to the floodlight. I didn’t even have to cut the power, so we won’t have to run around resetting the clocks. Here you go.” He handed her two small red remotes. Each remote was about the size of a disposable cigarette lighter and there was a black button in the center. Push the black button once and power to the floodlight-camera mounted over the garage was disrupted; push the button a second time and power was restored.

  “I also need an ignition key for a Mercedes.” She handed Geoffrey the slip of paper that contained the information she’d written down. He looked at the paper and said, “Not a problem. I can have it for you tomorrow.”

  “Okay,” Kay said, “let’s take care of the garage door.”

  They walked into Mercer’s single-car garage, which was practically bare. There were, of course, no yard tools or any other kind of equipment normal people would use to maintain a home, since Mercer hired people to do whatever work she needed done. There was a mountain bike propped against one wall that looked as if it had never been ridden; the tires on the bike were as clean as the seat.

  Geoffrey then did exactly what that little man, Archie, had done in West Virginia. He took a black device that looked like a television remote, connected it with a USB cable to a small electronic box, and programmed the black remote to open Mercer’s garage door.

 

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M. A. LAWSON SERIES:

  • Agent Kay Hamilton
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