Authors: Ken White
course,” she replied. “Rest assured that only General Bain and I have access
to the debriefs. He or I conduct them personally.”
was about two people too many with access. “But in answer to your question,
yes we did and no we’re not doing any more.”
nodded. “I gathered that.” They probably asked about it when they were
debriefing the trainees that came after Hudson. “Your personal life is your
own business, Mr. Welles. But the general likes to have as much information
as possible on people he works with. For security purposes. For example, if
Miss Tindell was compromised...”
we not talk about this?” I asked, interrupting her. “I understand the
general’s reasoning. I’m not enthusiastic about having my sex life included
in your files, but I’ll handle it.”
course,” she said, smiling as she stared over the steering wheel. “I was not
going to enquire further.”
didn’t know if it was some quiet meditation or the talk about my affair with
Sara, but whenever it was, by the time we hit the city, the tension about
her upcoming meeting with Anna Thodberg seemed to have melted away. Takeda
was calm and relaxed once more.
company commander will meet you at your office at fourteen hundred tomorrow
afternoon,” she said.
o’clock. That would give me time to see Jimmy and take a look at Jackson
Square, get an idea of what I’d gotten myself into.
go over the deployment of his force at that time and discuss any changes you
might want to make,” she continued. “I will meet you at twenty-one thirty
tomorrow night at your office and we’ll go to meet the ambassador together.
If the ambassador is delayed, I will call you.”
is fine,” I said. “I’ll either have Brenner meet us there and he can come
along, or I’ll have him meet us at Jackson Square.”
you wish me to incorporate him in my operational plan?” she
figure that out that tomorrow night. If you think he might be helpful to
you, for all those reasons that you can’t discuss, I don’t have a problem
with it. He’s not trained well-enough to handle Night and Day cases on his
own, so he can either work this assignment or find a stool at some uptown
slurp-club for three or four nights. Anyway, General Bain is paying for his
time on this job, so he might as well do the work.”
another thing,” I said. It was something that had occurred to me while I
looked out the window on the drive into the city. The memory of an unhappy
young woman, arms folded across her chest, staring at the ground.
Martinez,” I said. “You know her?”
personally. I am, of course, aware of her security infraction and her
punishment.” She paused. “Why?”
she any good?”
is a competent trooper,” Takeda said after a moment of silence. From her,
that was high praise.
know, to me it seems like a waste to have a competent trooper cooling her
heels inside the Area Operations Center, escorting people around, when she
could be doing what she’s good at.”
don’t disagree. You have a suggestion?”
a matter of fact, I do,” I said. “If I’m going to be commanding almost two
hundred Security Force troopers, I should probably have somebody close at
hand who knows more about how things work than me. And I don’t think it
makes any sense to tie up the company commander or some other officer to act
as my guide.”
want Trooper Martinez assigned to your command platoon?”
nodded. “Yeah, let’s get her out of the doghouse and give her a shot. If
that’s not a problem.”
matter of a phone call,” Takeda said. “When do you need her?”
afternoon will be fine,” I said. “I want to check out the ground I’ll be
defending in the morning. When your company commander shows up, I’ll
probably want to go back and get a look at the deployment in action. Have
her there by three-thirty or so.”
will make the call.”
were about four blocks from the office. I checked my watch. “12:10,” I said.
have done better,” she said. She pulled the Hummer to the curb on Second,
behind my Jeep, then opened the console and removed the black envelope. Her
hand went in. It came out with a vehicle charger for my cell phone and a
familiar black ID case.
was wondering if I’d be issued a get-out-of-jail-free card this
nodded. “As you know, it’s standard for area government operatives in the
field,” she said. “You will not be in uniform.” She paused. “Unless you wish
to be, of course. I can have a uniform delivered tomorrow.”
shook my head. “No, thanks for the offer, but I’m fine. Blue’s not my color
there are any questions, the identification card will make your authority
clear to the troopers under your command.”
anybody else I run into,” I said. I flipped open the ID case. Same lousy
picture from my PI license. Special Agent Charles L. Welles. Governor’s
Office, Administrative Area Three. A signature that they’d also copied off
of my PI license.
the wording on the card in the top of the ID case, the real kicker.
‘Attention,’ it read in big, bold letters. ‘This agent is assigned to
critical duties involving area and national security. All citizens are
hereby ordered to render any and all requested or required assistance.
Failure to comply will result in severe consequences, including penalty of
death.’ Signed by Phillip Bain, Deputy Area Governor.
identification packet was in your file at the operations center from the
last time you worked with us,” she said. “That saved us some
chance the general might let me keep this after the job is over?” I asked
with a smile. “There have been a few times in the past eight months where
this would have come in pretty handy.”
unless you wish to close your detective agency and work directly for the
Area Governor’s Office,” she said. “If that interests you, I can make
was I, Mr. Welles. I will see you tomorrow night. If you have any issues
before then, call me.”
laughed and got out of the Hummer. “I’ll do that.”
barely slammed the door before she floored it and hurtled out onto Second,
disappearing into the darkness.
the night security guard, was behind his desk in the lobby as I came in. He
seemed to be dozing.
walked quietly to the desk and slammed my hand, hard, on the top of it. He
jerked up and nearly fell out of his chair.
Welles,” he said quickly. “I’m sorry, I must have...”
I interrupted. “Let me ask you something, Benny. How much traffic do you get
through the lobby between 10 at night and six in the morning?”
not a trick question. How much?”
very much,” he said. “Maybe a couple of people. Your office is the only one
that’s open all night.”
what I figured. I’m going to make some calls next week. Some kind of buzzer
system shouldn’t be that expensive to install. Something that would let you
buzz people in and out after regular business hours.”
would be helpful, sir.”
sure it would.” And the nice chunk of change that Bain would be putting in
my pocket within the week would more than cover it. “I’ll look into that.” I
paused. “Till then, how about you try to keep your eyes open while you’re on
face reddened. “Yes, sir.”
smiled and headed for the stairs.
and Brenner were in reception when I came through the door. Brenner had
taken Cynthia’s chair and moved it behind Sara’s desk. They sat side by
side, staring at the computer monitor on her desk.
up?” I asked.
credit card,” Sara said. “Since we had the card, I figured the quickest way
to get an address was to call American Express. They said the card had been
cancelled this afternoon, around 1 pm.”
was shortly after Shuster left the restaurant. Guess he decided he didn’t
want his credit card floating around after all.
did give us the customer address they had on file for Champion. It’s a post
office box in Minneapolis, one of those maildrop places. Private
shook her head. “Minneapolis.”
you check on a Champion or Champion Consulting in Omaha?”
what we’re doing right now. Champion Tire, Champion Dry Cleaning, Champion
Food Services.” She paused. “No Champion or Champion Consulting.”
Did you check Champion in Minneapolis?”
see,” she said. A couple of mouse clicks, then her fingers flew over the
keyboard. “Another Champion Tire, Champion Windows, Champion Sports Bar.”
She shook her head. “No Champion Consulting.”
leaned forward and tapped something on the screen. “Right,” Sara said.
“There is a Champion listed.”
firm?” Maybe Shuster wasn’t as freelance as he’d told me. Maybe he worked
for a company based in Minneapolis, but operated out of Omaha.
typed something. “If it’s a consulting firm, it’s not showing up as one,”
connection between it and the post office box you got from American
moved the mouse and clicked twice. Brenner laughed.
address American Express has for Champion is Box 87. The Champion office
address is Suite 87. Same address for both on Olson Memorial Highway,
Minneapolis. It’s a UPS store.”
we have nothing,” I said.
plenty of it,” Sara said. “You know anybody in Minneapolis who can go stake
out the maildrop?”
not get crazy here. It’s strange, but not worth calling out the cavalry.
I’ll ask Shuster about it the next time he calls. We’re supposed to get
together again in the next few days.”
is this guy anyway?” Brenner asked.
army buddy,” I said. “Told me he ran a freelance consulting company based in
had the credit card in his hand and was tapping it gently on the top of
Sara’s desk. “There’s something else that’s unusual,” he said. “I’m
surprised you didn’t notice it.”
handed me the credit card. “Look at it. Tell me what’s missing.”
studied the card, front and back, then shrugged. “No idea,” I said. “I
haven’t had an American Express card since before the war. Strictly cash
maybe you’ve forgotten. American Express cards have a code on the front,
printed on the card itself. Four digits, printed above and to the right of
the card number.”
looked at the card again. No code. And now that he mentioned it, I
remembered that code from when I’d had an American Express card. I’d ordered
something online, they’d asked for the security code, and I had trouble
finding it. Most cards had it on the back, three digits, near the signature
line. American Express put it on the front, and used four digits.
they don’t use the code anymore.”
they do,” Brenner said. He pulled out his wallet, removed an American
Express card and held it up. John J. Brenner. And it had a four digit
don’t know,” I said. “The card was good. It went through fine at Boyle’s.
American Express has a customer record.”
Brenner said, sticking his wallet back in his pocket. “It’s just
handed back the card. “Well, we have more important things to worry about
right now,” I said. “The Area Governor’s Office has just dropped a case on
us. Executive protection for the German ambassador, who, as you might know,
is currently in the country. He’s taking his show on the road, and this is
the first stop. He’ll be in town for a few days.”
pretty good news,” Sara said. “Who knows, maybe someday we’ll be able to
travel outside the country.” She paused. “If you’d give me enough vacation
didn’t reply. She got two weeks off a year, which was two weeks more than I
protection,” Brenner said. “That’s, what, like a bodyguard?”
usually. In this case, because of the high profile nature of the visit and
some threats that area government has identified, it’s a little more
involved. I’m tasked with protecting the ambassador during daylight hours
and I’ll have a Security Force company to back me up.”