Ice monkeys drunk monkey.., p.29

Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting), page 29

 

Ice Monkeys [Drunk Monkeys 7] (Siren Publishing Ménage Everlasting)
 



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After she managed to pull herself together enough he could leave her for a few minutes, she blew her nose from the box of tissues someone had left on the bedside table for her. When he returned, he had a cup of hot tea and a bowl of chicken soup.

  “It’s out of a can,” he apologized about the soup, “but it’s warm and salty and will help. The hot tea’s been laced with a generous shot of bourbon.”

  She sipped it, wincing as the warm booze-infused mint went down her throat. “What time is it?” she managed to whisper.

  Uni sat on the bed with her, closely watching her. “It’s nearly five.”

  “How long asleep?” She was going for an economy of words.

  Hurt less that way.

  “Hours.”

  She looked up into his dark blue eyes, midnight blue, the pain and anger there simmering right below the surface. Had she wished too hard? She wasn’t a superstitious person by nature, but maybe she’d quietly, silently begged the Universe one too many times not to lose these men.

  “With us,” he said. “We meant it. You’re staying with us and coming with us. Bubba will make sure the bills get paid on the apartment and keep it up. He’ll handle everything.”

  “Funeral?”

  “We can’t risk it. I’m sorry. We can do something privately, just us. Besides, it’ll…be hard to explain.”

  She teared up again, the bowl of soup she was struggling to finish blurring in front of her. Of course he was right. If they had a funeral, how to explain it, anyway? No cops? Who committed the crime? Maybe she’d even be blamed for it, and how to explain it except for them to blame her for…whatever had happened.

  “What…did they do to them?”

  His mouth set in a grim line. “Please don’t make me tell you that.”

  In her heart, a door swung shut and locked. If this man, who had seen—and could remember—everything, who’d been through horrors untold…

  If he couldn’t speak of it, didn’t want to speak of it, then maybe she was better off, in this case, forcibly pulling the happy bubble around herself and keeping it there.

  She nodded.

  * * * *

  Jerald stared at his phone. It was a little after five o’clock local time on Friday, and he’d just gotten off the phone with one of his contacts, one he’d kept back from Silo.

  For a situation like this.

  The man was simply being bribed for information, not milked for it.

  It meant when he heard something of interest, he passed it along to Jerald.

  What Jerald had just heard turned his stomach.

  He called his consultant in Indianapolis. “What’d you tell Silo?”

  “What?”

  “Cut the crap. Atlanta. I know you told Silo something. What happened? What information did you give him?”

  “I—”

  “Whatever Hannibal’s paying you, I’ll pay you more, you know how this works. Tell me.”

  He did.

  This could only mean Hannibal had called in the expertise of one team.

  And he called them.

  “Yeah?”

  “What does Hannibal have you doing?”

  The man’s hesitation told Jerald loads.

  “I know you’re in Atlanta,” Jerald said. “After Donna Epperson, whoever the hell she is. Tell me.”

  When the guy reluctantly revealed the facts, Jerald felt sick. No, he understood the need to trim wood, but Hannibal had ordered the brutal torture and murder of two women who didn’t know what was going on.

  “Fucking hell…”

  “Fuck, man. You know how he is.”

  “We had a fucking deal. You were to run all field operations through me first. What the hell?”

  “Twenty million is a lot of money. We can’t turn our noses up at that.”

  “Where are you now?”

  “Waiting at the woman’s parents’ house. They’re not here.”

  “I suggest you get out. Now.”

  “Fuck that. He sends someone after us—”

  “He won’t.”

  “Look, I don’t know what kind of ballet is going on between you two, but you need to get your stories straight. We’re going to finish this job, then, honestly? We’re done. We’re not going to do any more jobs for you two until one of you backs off. I can’t keep track of who I’m supposed to double-cross next.”

  Jerald rubbed at his temple. “Abort the operation.”

  “No.”

  “If you don’t abort the operation, you’re going to die.”

  “If we abort without results, Silo will order another team after us.”

  “No, he won’t, because he won’t be able to. You’ve got a bull’s-eye painted on you.”

  “What?”

  “You have no idea the shit-storm you’ve created, do you? You would have been better off going and kicking a damn hornet’s nest. There’s a—”

  “Sorry. Gotta go.”

  “—SOTIF team after you.”

  But his warning met with dead air.

  Jerald stared at the burner phone. Fuck it. If a SOTIF team was involved in taking care of the Atlanta team, it meant they wouldn’t be his problem much longer anyway. He immediately shut off the cell phone and pulled the battery from it. He’d have to destroy it and toss it.

  But first, he needed to take care of a few things before he met friends for dinner.

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Hannibal had gone farther off the reservation than Jerald ever dreamed he would, but that no longer mattered. Hannibal’s actions in having the woman’s roommates needlessly tortured and killed couldn’t come back on him, only on Hannibal.

  When the Atlanta team disappeared without a trace—which they no doubt would once the SOTIF team finished with them—that could only be traced to Hannibal.

  It also sealed the preacher’s fate. It had been a silent chess match between the two of them up until this point. Now, Jerald knew, the stakes were far more deadly. This wasn’t a game, it was a slow, cunning duel to the death.

  He had to hope Hannibal didn’t realize how much Jerald knew, or how far he was prepared to take it.

  What Jerald had to do now was start cleaning house in preparation to take Hannibal down himself, laying a concrete framework of blame pointing everything directly back to Hannibal. Or, at the very least, pointing away from him and in any other direction.

  Step one meant getting rid of Dr. Able Isley. He’d been responsible for infecting the volunteers of their Preachsearch Project in LA with Kite. Him and two other desperate doctors, whom Jerald had already made sure were dead.

  Jerald knew Isley lived alone and didn’t have any security cameras. Hell, the man didn’t have a security system.

  Hannibal didn’t pay the psychiatrist enough for that, and Isley’s practice barely paid its own bills.

  That all worked to Jerald’s advantage.

  No one would be looking for the man before Monday morning. He didn’t keep Friday office hours. After several days dead, it would be impossible for the coroner to fix an exact time of death, only a ballpark.

  A ballpark during which Jerald planned to be in the middle of a bunch of witnesses.

  Friday evening, Jerald used the back stairs to leave his office. He borrowed one of the church fleet’s pick-up trucks, used for some of their different charities and maintenance. Before he left, he pulled around the back of the building into what he knew was a small blind spot the security cameras didn’t cover, and slapped a different license plate onto the truck, held in place with double-sided adhesive over the real plate.

  It was a legal plate, registered to a fictitious business that didn’t exist anywhere but on paper.

  He drove past Isley’s house once to make sure the man was alone before returning and pulling into the driveway behind the man’s car. Tonight, Jerald wore jeans, a black T-shirt, and a black jacket. Over his face, the medical mask and black ball cap hid his features.

  In one pocket of the jacket lay a hypo filled with
po-clo.

  In the other, a dose of Ketamine that would knock the man out, and a pair of nitrile gloves.

  Isley glanced around when he opened the door at Jerald’s knock. “What are you doing here? I wasn’t expecting you until Monday.”

  “The boss thought it was better I come by tonight instead. Especially in light of everything going on.” He stepped inside, walking straight past Isley and to the bar in the living room. “I don’t have to tell you how upset he is right now.”

  “I can imagine.” Isley closed the front door and locked it. “I still don’t think she left by herself. There’s no way, with the dosages she was on, that she could have pulled this off on her own.”

  Jerald poured himself a drink. He’d been over there countless times before and wasn’t worried about his fingerprints on any of the bottles. “That’s just it. I think he’s wondering if you had something to do with it. Maybe your conscience is getting the better of you.” He held up a glass to the now anxious-looking man, who nodded.

  Jerald turned his back, poured the man a stiff shot of bourbon, and spiked it with the Ketamine.

  “But I didn’t! I swear, Jerald, you have to help me convince him. You know I would never do that, right? I don’t want to go to jail, and Silo could send me there!”

  Jerald knew from the man’s history with Silo that Isley had a habit of frequently self-medicating with the drug.

  Turning, he handed Isley the glass. “Oh, I believe you,” Jerald said. “I’m sure you had nothing to do with this. If you had, I have no doubts you would have taken the money and run.” He watched as Isley gulped his drink. “You’re still here, and I’m extremely thorough. I checked your accounts. Nothing different or unexpected.” He lifted his glass and pretended to take a sip.

  Isley vigorously nodded. “I have too much to lose. After all these years, why would I betray him now?”

  “See? That’s what I told him. I’m on your side. God, look at you, you’re shaking. Sit down.” He helped the man to the couch and took the glass from him when he drained it.

  “I just…I… I feel weird.” He looked up at Jerald, trying to focus on him. “What…what?”

  Jerald smiled down at him. “Just relax, Able. Close your eyes for a minute. You’re under a lot of stress. You need a nap.”

  “Nap…”

  The man fell over on his side, unconscious.

  Jerald quickly set his glass down and pulled the nitrile gloves from his pocket, yanking them on. Then he removed the hypo from his other pocket and found a vein in Isley’s left arm. He drew back the plunger, verifying he had a vein, then took the man’s right hand and put it on the syringe and slowly pushed it halfway down.

  After a minute, he checked.

  No pulse, no breathing.

  Nodding, Jerald stood. He hadn’t touched the syringe with his bare hand at all.

  He picked up Able Isley’s feet and positioned them on the couch, and a pillow under the man’s head. That tableau complete, he wiped his fingerprints from the glass he’d handed to the psychiatrist and wrapped Isley’s hand around it, leaving only the man’s fingerprints. He set the glass back on the coffee table and then grabbed his and took it to the kitchen. There, he washed it, dried it, and took it back to Isley to get his fingerprints on it before setting it on the bar with the others.

  Okay.

  Next step—the laptop.

  They’d given Isley the laptop for Christmas. A “present” from Hannibal.

  It really was an easily accessible trojan for Jerald to continue monitoring the man and his activities. He pulled up the word processor and typed out a quick suicide note, admitting that he had committed some sins, detailing a few of the most recent ones, and acknowledging his guilt over helping others with Mary Silo’s disappearance but not quite explaining why or how. Enough to get cops very interested in the man as a suspect and throw a red herring into the investigation that would, hopefully, take heat off of Hannibal.

  He printed it, carried it over to the couch, and made sure impressions of fingers from both of Isley’s hands were on the paper before leaving it on the coffee table, the empty glass weighing it down. That done, he positioned Isley’s right hand by his left elbow as if it fell from the syringe at his moment of death.

  He quickly erased the trojanware off Isley’s laptop and then looked around the living room. Everything appeared right. There might be some cops who’d question the timing and circumstances, but considering the state of the world and their anxiety to keep Kite out of New Mexico, chances were one druggie shrink who’d apparently decided to commit suicide out of guilt wouldn’t become their top priority.

  Checking Isley’s bedroom, sure enough, he found Ketamine in the man’s private stash under his bed. Jerald made sure to leave the plastic tub pulled out enough that it was visible, and left the lid ajar, so any detectives would readily see it and put two and two together.

  Hopefully.

  One more walk through and he decided it was enough. It had to be. Nearly fifteen minutes had passed since he’d entered, and he wanted to leave.

  He headed to the truck and quickly returned to the office building, removing the fake plate before parking the truck.

  Returning via a back entrance—for which he’d left the security alarm shut off before he left—he let himself in and returned to his office via the back stairs. There, he got on his computer and reset the security settings, scrubbing the logs and hiding all evidence of his meddling.

  It was good to be the secret king.

  When he emerged from his office and headed downstairs, the receptionist gave him a smile. “Leaving for the night, sir?”

  “Yes, I’m supposed to meet up with some friends for dinner. I meant to be out of here twenty minutes ago.” He swiped his official ID to let himself out and could barely conceal his smile. In his laptop case, which he carried, he had the license plate. For now, he’d return it to its hiding place on the back side of his refrigerator at home.

  Once Isley was reported MIA and his body discovered, Jerald would wait to see if anyone reported seeing the truck at Isley’s house and had gotten the tag number. If so, he’d dispose of the plate. No use getting rid of it yet if he didn’t need to.

  It might come in handy again one day.

  He knew Silo hadn’t recorded their conversation that day in the car about Isley. He’d checked the man’s phone via a backdoor app he’d installed when he’d given it to him.

  Hannibal thought he was slick, but Jerald was about ten steps ahead of him in terms of tech.

  Jerald pulled up at the restaurant just in time to meet his friends, who were walking toward the front entrance. After cheerful greetings, they entered together.

  Jerald made sure to pull out his cell phone, which he’d left at the office during his run to Isley’s, and quickly replied to an e-mail.

  Everyone who knew him knew he didn’t go anywhere without his cell phone, and it would be pinged by the cellular service as having stayed stationary all afternoon.

  As he settled into a large corner booth with his friends and ordered himself a beer, he let the smile play across his face.

  Done.

  One loose end tied up.

  He hadn’t been lying to Hannibal that day after the botched interview. He did need to protect Hannibal’s neck to protect his own.

  But what Hannibal didn’t know was that Jerald had no intention of going down with the ship.

  He damn sure wouldn’t let Hannibal Silo suck him down in the undertow of the church’s drowning, either. It was patently obvious Hannibal, even had all their plans gone perfectly, was in no way going to be able to win a presidential election.

  All Jerald had to do now was keep the man alive long enough to figure out the best exit strategy and set things in motion. The Church of the Rising Sunset could exist without Hannibal Silo.

  Hannibal Silo, however, couldn’t exist without the church.

  Jerald already had a few ideas, affiliate ministers he could t
ap to step into the figurehead role once Hannibal was gone.

  It would mean a very dangerous game of chess with Hannibal, Jerald trying to convince him that he was still leading Team Silo.

  He also needed Hannibal alive, at least until Mary was dead. If she was alive, she could step into the leadership role. Hannibal had set things up like that for appearances’ sake. Ever playing the doting, loving husband.

  His predictable, narcissistic weakness.

  If both of them were dead, however, the game changed, naming a board of directors to continue the church’s work.

  With Jerald at the helm as CEO.

  Salvation, Inc.

  He could still grab the Kite vaccine once it was available, either through the government or through their church researchers. Once he’d done that, he could start spreading it through their charities while buttressing the new figurehead of the church.

  That man—or woman—would be a paid employee with no knowledge of the history of dirty tricks. In fact, Jerald had already eliminated several of the lower level employees and volunteers from both the Los Angeles and New York Kite projects. They’d been dispersed throughout the country to the different strongholds and met with…well, tragic ends over the past few weeks.

  Only the research team, who’d had no contact with those other staffers and volunteers once the projects were scuttled, was left alive and busy in the St. Louis stronghold and under heavy guard.

  Excuse me, “protection.”

  He wouldn’t repeat the security flaws of the Los Angeles operation. He would scale things down, keep them lean and trim and easily able to respond to necessary changes.

  It also meant fewer witnesses. And it meant Hannibal thought it was business as usual with them.

  No, Hannibal had no idea the plans Jerald had set in motion over the years. Had Mary simply waited to bolt, Jerald could have easily cited health issues and disappeared before anyone had time to miss him.

  Since that wasn’t an option any longer, Jerald would make good use of the wealth of resources available to him.

  Adapt, improvise, overcome.

  Hannibal might think he knew Jerald, but the truth was, Jerald knew his boss a hell of a lot better than his boss knew him. Including the fact that his boss used secret operatives he thought Jerald had no knowledge of.

 
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