I KILL RICH PEOPLE 2, page 40
Thank you Afif, Miller thought.
“You want to kill this sonofabitch, right?!” Miller told Owen. “Your standard police procedures don’t apply, so let them go. I don’t want to hear about putting out any APB. City, state, and federal law enforcement aren’t coming into play. This gets buttoned down quietly. The people paying the freight want it that way and they get what they want. You got that?”
“Why?” Owen challenged.
“Again. Why all the secrecy? The last time, they left forty thousand cops in the dark. No APB, no suspect information whatsoever. A shoe size.”
“You’re the one who’s been champing at the bit to get going,” Miller snapped. “Cullen, it is what it is. You don’t like it; you can go home right now.”
“I still say having more eyes and more feet on the ground makes a difference,” Owen insisted. “Tell me, how do you contain and apprehend without physical resources? Are we going to call in a drone strike for Christ’s sake?”
“Maybe we will. Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to make them die,” Miller said.
“Irish, you keep thinking like a NYPD detective, you’re heading in the wrong direction. Last time I say this. You have any second thoughts, go home when this plane touches the runway. If you’re still here, you better have your head in the game.”
“He killed twenty-three people the last time,” Owen reminded Miller, “Tremaine Bull, the last one, was my best friend. A six-man Black Ops team dropped on his head yesterday and he massacred them, plus their pilot. Ex-Special Forces. All dead.”
“He killed my partner,” Owen told Miller a second time. He didn’t tell Miller the rest, how the case had messed up everything: career, family, everything that mattered.
“I’ve scanned the reports,” Miller quipped. “Funny. He seemed more like the type to hole up in a tower and blast away in blaze of glory. Now he’s got wannabes showing up in these Dimitri Vosilych clubs.”
Miller found it interesting, engaging; he felt a rush like nothing he had sensed in months. With $2.5 million bouncing along a dead-cover trail outside the prying eyes of the IRS and NSA both, Afghanistan was already in his rearview mirror.
“Criminy,” Owen exclaimed.
“Criminy?” Miller questioned.
“Something my father used to say.”
Miller’s eyes squared on Owen. “You need to get focused. We’re keeping this one cozy, not bringing too many people to the party. This is going to be handled discretely, Irish.”
I’m good,” Owen affirmed. “All good.”
“I had Spencer working on special assignments for me,” Miller explained to Owen. “Not a friendly guy, certainly no conversationalist, but after six months you get to know things about a person. Spencer likes his habits. He did what I told him to do and he went about it meticulously, examining every tiny detail. He sticks to the formula, practices it like a religion, hours and hours and hours. Me, I could never be in the military. I need to make sense of things, even when they boil down to the basics, greed and ego. I need that global picture. The military is about compartmentalized thinking; that’s how you run a war that makes no sense to the men fighting it, men like Spencer learn to do their job and leave the thinking to others. That’s how he got squared away for the next mission; he didn’t think, he just did it. Thinkers contend with fight-or-flight; soldiers don’t get to choose, ergo, soldiers better not think.”
Not thinking holds a whole lot of appeal. Owen got that. Just accept the Lake Success bullshit and make life easier. Keep ordering fake strawberries that taste like a thousand real strawberries put together into one. Because real isn’t good enough.
“He was in love with being the perfect army tool,” Miller continued. “He worked his ass off to be all he could be, like the army was going to love him right back if he did that. Man… looking for love in all the wrong places…”
He leaned and looked up the airplane’s narrow aisle. “What is this crap? No drink service?” He leaned back hard, shifting his attention back to Spencer.
“Get yourself ready for I Kill Rich People two,” Miller told Owen, who was staring at his tray table.
Bishop was gone. Now Miller was in charge. And nothing about Miller added up. The drinking and the hookers Owen could understand; a government guy with an expense account. But the gourmet stuff, the diction, and Miller’s clothes… none of that connected.
“Those couples next to us were saying they waited six months to get reservations,” Owen commented. “How did you get us in?”
Miller chuckled under his breath. The plane flew through some bad air, getting bumpy. “I’d tell you,” he started, “but--”
Owen finished the sentence for him: “But then I’d have to kill you.”
He shook his head. “I never knew food could be like that, turned inside out and controlled. ‘Magic,’ my mom used to say. Magic.” He loved it and it pissed him off; he was there for Jonathan Spencer. For Tremaine. What the hell did fancy food have to do with anything?
“Molecular gastronomy,” Miller corrected. “Getting in there is simple math, by the way. That maître d’, the guy at the restaurant podium, probably brings down fifty-K, tops. He takes in another Benjamin a night, tax-free, even one, and he’s almost doubling his take-home pay. It ain’t rocket science.”
“Should food even be like that?” Owen asked. “Make your brain get all fired up? It’s still just food, too, you know?”
Miller leaned again, on autopilot, looking up the aisle. “What kind of airline doesn’t have drinks?” he grumbled.
Owen checked his watch. “It’s six-thirty in the morning,” he replied.
Miller shook his head. “Not in Afghanistan, pal.” He threw up his hands and turned back to Owen.
“Take me through the attacks. Not the facts; I have ballistics, autopsies, victim profiles. Walk me through what distinguished your investigative approach. At least six state and federal task forces were after Spencer and nobody except you and your partner ever got close. How did you pull that off?”
Owen strained against his seat belt and looked around the tight airplane. “Not in here. Too many people.”
“Secrets are overrated,” Miller philosophized. “You want to know why secrets stay secret? It’s not because people don’t talk, it’s because people don’t listen. Oh, they care about gossip, celebrities and all that, but 99.9 percent of people don’t understand and they don’t give a shit about things that really matter. That’s why.”
Miller leaned his seat back and closed his eyes. “Keep your secret. If I can’t get a fucking drink around here, I might as well be sleeping. Wake me in Jersey.”
Nobody shouted “Draw,” but the second the airplane’s wheels touched ground Dilip, Kip, Dale, and Stephen were a split-second apart in firing up their cell phones.
Stephen was checking texts when a new one came in. Jonathan Spencer had crossed the intersection of the 80 and 287, Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, at 04:51.
He planned to forward it to Bishop, and then realized that Bishop was off the project. He had no numbers for Miller and Cullen, the new consultants.
Each of the six received a text message with the address and their individual lock codes to open the doors into a non-descript tilt-up warehouse building.
Owen looked again at his watch. Just about then, the boys were leaving for school and Callie was heading to work. For Doctor Marc. They were less than forty-five minutes away, just cross Lower Manhattan and head up the Expressway.
Inside the stark interior, motion sensors automatically turned on the lights inside a secure lobby the size of a big elevator. Red LED lights turned to yellow when the outer door closed. Concrete floors, office space bolted together within a cavernous outer shell, generic furniture, glass offices along one outside wall. The singu
The four techs had already checked broadband speeds and set up shop before Miller and Owen arrived.
“Last sighting was fifteen minutes ago,” Stephen announced by way of greeting when Miller and Owen entered. “No,” he corrected, “sixteen minutes ago.
“Twenty-three miles from here.” Nussbaum plugged his laptop into the media hub and projected a huge map onto the white wall. A few keyboard taps later, he added in both the car and where Spencer’s average speed would have taken him in sixteen minutes.
“Traffic density rises 40 percent coming into the city,” Dale volunteered. Using his cursor as a pointer, he corrected for traffic and pinpointed Spencer’s probable location. “He could be right here in a half-hour. That would make things easy.”
“Be careful what you wish for,” Miller muttered.
The whole West Virginia episode had left Bishop’s stomach queasy. Seven men dead, the two women, and no trace of Jonathan Spencer. The airplane ticket was a welcome relief. He appreciated that Jeffers had thought ahead. Jeffers was right, too. The flight from D.C. to West Virginia was booked in his name; the car rental was in his name. He had used an alias with the mother and with the private detective, but that one degree of separation wasn’t nearly as good as the nine-thousand-mile flight he was on board.
He had never been to Thailand, but he had heard plenty. Everyone knew about middle-aged men traveling there.
He didn’t have a wife to cheat on anymore; nothing at all was stopping him from enjoying whatever the country had to offer. The Marriot had a pool and a spa, but first thing on his agenda was sleep. He felt exhausted, wiped out straight to his core. Sleep for days maybe.
Delta. Thirteen hours and forty-five minutes to Narita, then another six-and-a-half hours to Bangkok. His hips barely fit between the armrests. The seat in front of him was reclined so now his tray table pressed into his gut unless he reclined, too. He read the in-flight magazine cover to cover, followed by the Sky Mall Catalogue, followed by five movies. He didn’t follow a single plot.
He stood up and retrieved his bag out of the overhead compartment then made his way sideways to the toilets. Once inside, he slid the lock and the fluorescent lighting came on. Bishop took out his electric shaver and ran it across his face, shaving on autopilot while he followed in the mirror blankly through drooping, bloodshot eyes.
He undid his belt and unbuttoned his pants, tucked his shirt down deep, then sucked in his sour belly and buttoned again. He smelled his armpits, stopped, and pulled his shirttails out before opening up his shirtfront to apply deodorant.
The plane had bumped onto the tarmac and stopped before he realized that passengers were unbuckling their seatbelts and standing up. He shuffled after them as they herded out the ramp toward immigration. Immigration to baggage claim. Baggage claim to customs. Beyond customs, he saw his name written out in large capital letters: BISHOP. An Asian man wearing a black suit caught sight of him and reached out to take hold of his luggage.
Bishop didn’t remember making arrangements for a driver, but followed the man out to the curb where a black Toyota Alphard luxury minivan with darkly tinted windows was waiting. The driver opened the sliding side door and put out a step stool. Bishop got inside and shut his eyes for a moment while the driver put his luggage into the trunk. The trunk hatch shut and then the driver got inside, seating himself behind the right-side steering wheel.
Bishop told him to drive to: “Radisson Hotel Sukhumvit.”
Before he could react, another man jumped in beside him and slammed the sliding door and a third man got into the front passenger seat.
The man in the front passenger seat turned around as the van pulled into traffic. He pointed a revolver a foot in front of Bishop’s red eyes.
“What is this?”
“You shut you mouth!” The man beside him screamed. “Hands in front of you!” He twisted a thick wire around Bishop’s wrists and then stuffed a sock into Bishop’s mouth. Bishop’s eyes opened wide when he saw the black hood. He snapped his head side-to-side to keep the hood away. His futile effort brought an elbow cracking at the base of his skull.
Spencer flipped license plates outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and then again with New York plates he took from the lot behind a body repair in Suffern before getting on the Thruway. After driving the bridge across the Hudson, he pulled into the drive-through line at Jack-in-the-Box. He tugged the hood tight around his head and slouched below the dashboard, watching for anything out of place, any anomaly that might be trouble.
They killed Mercy and Mouse, he thought. They had thrown me into hell. Right in Washington, D.C. No rights, no lawyer.
Power. Raw, morbid, rotten power. He had recognized all along that he couldn’t get them all; his random attacks impacted their entire category; it was the logical strategy, making for more target range, fewer ways for them to protect themselves, and more ways for him to hit them and get out alive. But he was a just a moth circling a flame, never attacking where the real power was centered.
That approach was all over. He was done with nipping at their flanks. Now, he wanted to see that one bullet, clean and true, hitting straight at the biggest snake of all of them: Vision Partners’ founding member was so rich that he built bogus institutes to legitimize his own greed; he bombarded legislatures across the country, tying them up with hatred-breeding bills; he manipulated news and politics and even science. One bullet!
“A system that moves toward imbalance always needs to correct or it crashes out of control,” Spencer recalled the captain saying, word for word. “We lose fairness, we lose faith in the system and, like the poet said ‘things fall apart, the center cannot hold.’ Johnny, somebody needs to stop them before we turn back to the Dark Ages. That’s the main truth of our time.”
“I’ll do my part, Captain,” Spencer promised.
“Excuse me?” the voice crackled through the speaker. “Can I take your order please?”
“Um…a steak and egg burrito,” Spencer told the plastic clown. “And a fat-free mango smoothie.”
He woofed down the burrito while he drove past Sleepy Hollow out toward the trailer park. You’d never know it was there, tucked behind a mini-storage in front, a warehouse store behind, and forty-year-old arbor vitae hedges running down both sides that kept it entirely hidden away from the view of wealthier neighbors in every direction.
Outside the chain link fence surrounding the trailer park he pulled the 4Runner off the road and lifted the HK onto his lap. He had a fresh mag loaded inside; the trigger was set to 3, fully automatic.
Spencer studied the trailer park for a full hour, and then he slowly drove the three lanes between trailers. The cars were right: older rigs with faded paint, lots of cracked windows; dusty, dirty Detroit relics with big back seats for when that was the only option for a night’s sleep. No anomalies, nothing to indicate a trap.
He finally drove alongside his trailer, the one he had rented before they captured him at Citi-Field. Yellow curtains in the windows; a red charcoal barbecue was tucked underneath his awning. Different, but not different like law enforcement had gone through it. They would have torn it apart.
Spencer parked and got out of the 4Runner, fast-jogging around the Winnebago sitting on blocks. The on-site manager lived out there with the storage containers at his back. Spencer’s lock was there, along with an even bigger padlock, painted yellow, hanging on a second hasp. Spencer lifted the yellow lock, reading “MGMT” written in black felt tip on the side. He grabbed the lock and pulled hard, then slammed it back against the steel container.
“Hey!” A gruff voice shouted angrily from out o
“Oh, it’s you,” the manager called, recognizing Spencer after throwing open his door. He grabbed the side, turned sideways, and let himself down to the packed dirt, wearing only blue jeans held up by a single suspender. A sleeveless undershirt failed to cover a prodigious belly. He waddled, favoring his bad hip, and extended his thick, tattooed arm toward Spencer.
“Thought you might show up,” Ollie said as he took Spencer’s hand in his thick mitt and squeezed. “Been six months.
“I had to give up your trailer,” he explained. “The park is totally full. But nobody touched your locker. I put the second lock on it. I expect you saw that. Come on over and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. I still got your clothes and stuff. Meant to give it to the Goodwill, but if it’s not one thing it’s the next. Glad that worked out your way. Let’s figure the numbers, and once you get squared up, I’ll pull that padlock.”
“I don’t have the key to my lock,” Spencer explained. “Lost it.”
“Got a toggle-joint bolt cutter. Take it off no problem. I’ll fix you up.”
“How about a flashlight I could borrow for maybe an hour?”
Ollie had that, too.
“You got it, Sergeant. Just as soon as we have that coffee and get what you owe squared away.”
Miller moved through the building fast, looking important for dramatic effect, and leaving behind Owen and the techs, who were watching the digital footage showing Spencer clean-shaven and clearly moving more fluidly, his body flowing with an efficiency that defied the record for his injuries.