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Authors: Ken White

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BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
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Downtown
is full of pawn shops. Since the war, people had a lot of things to get rid
of, usually things that had belonged to loved ones, dead or turned. And
there were still a fair number of apartments that had been empty for five
years, the occupants dead, turned, or just gone. You sometimes heard about
somebody who got caught looting.

After
seven more pawn shops, I was ready to call it a day. Even driving, it was
hot work, and I wasn’t having much luck. Maybe Joey was smarter than he
seemed, and had used a pawn shop close to where he was scoring his dope.
Maybe Joey hadn’t stolen the ring after all. I’d check pawn shops in a ten
block radius of Mrs. Dillon’s apartment. Then it might be time to have a
chat with Joey himself.

There
was a big black Ford SUV parked halfway down the block on Expedition. I
passed it as I went by and made the turn onto Hennessy. Normal state plates,
but it was a model favored by Area Government personnel. Nobody inside,
nobody around it. I went around the corner and parked the jeep on Second,
walked back to Expedition to give the Ford one last look, then went up to
the office.

It
was getting towards four, and if Cynthia didn’t have anything for me, I
might head home and grab a short nap. Mr. Maxwell was due in the office
around 11 pm, and I wanted to go over the presentation with Brenner when he
got in at 9:30.

And
if Maxwell was gone by midnight, I’d start teaching Brenner skip-tracing and
background checks. He could work with me and Sara on Shuster’s credit
card.

I
came through the door and dropped the credit card on Cynthia’s desk. “Start
an internal case file, skip-trace and background check. Leave it on Sara’s
desk. I’ll start working with the new trainee on it tonight.”

Cynthia
looked up, but didn’t say anything.

“What?”

“I’m
sorry, Charlie,” she said quickly. “They started calling about an hour after
you left this morning and called every hour after that. I didn’t have any
way to contact you.”

“Who
started calling?”

“The
Area Governor’s Office,” she said. “I told them I’d have you call back as
soon as you got in, but then he showed up half an hour ago and said he’d
wait. I was going to have him stay out here, but I thought it might be
better to put him in your office, in case a client stopped by.”

“Who
is in my office?”

“I
didn’t get a name.”

I
sighed. “Okay, you did the right thing I guess,” I said. “Get that file
started, please.”

“I
didn’t know what to do.”

“It’s
fine,” I said as I went to the back of the reception area and opened the
door.

He
was sitting in one of the chairs near the front of the office, and stood
when I walked in. Middle-aged, blond crewcut, broad face. He wore the blue
uniform of the Area Governor’s Security Force, complete with a red beret
with the falcon emblem on the front.

“Sergeant
Newell, sir,” he said. “Deputy Area Governor Bain would like you at the Area
Operations Center.”

“When?”

“Now,
sir. I’ve been detailed to take you there.”

 

 

 

Chapter
Four

 

Apparently
small talk wasn’t included in Sgt. Newell’s orders.

He
wasn’t impolite. He responded when I spoke to him. But he didn’t initiate
conversation. I wish I could find a barber like him.

In
the three hour drive to the Area Three Operations Center, I found out that
he had been with the Security Force for a year and a half, that he’d been in
the 82
nd
Airborne before the war and that he either didn’t know
or wasn’t saying why Bain wanted to see me.

My
dealings with Phillip Bain during the investigation into Joshua’s death had
been cordial and he’d actually saved my life by snatching me from the
custody of corrupt Vee cops. Of course, it wasn’t done for my benefit. He
wanted the people who murdered his bloodson found and brought to justice.
But not the kind of justice I’d served up as a police officer. Vampire
justice. His justice. He wanted them dead. Which was fine with me. They’d
killed my partner and friend. I wanted them dead too.

I’d
met with Bain twice, once when he hired me, once when the investigation was
done. Both times had been at his personal residence, which was more an
estate than a house. I’d never been to the Area Operations Center, the
headquarters for area government in Area Three.

Since
the war ended, the United States has had a kind of dual government system in
place. There’s the regular U.S. government, on a federal level in Washington
and a state level in the various states.

The
President and Vice-President are human. There are humans and Vees in the
cabinet. The Speaker of the House is a Vee, the Senate Majority Leader a
human. About twenty percent of the senators and congressmen are Vees, the
rest human. Business is conducted as it always was, and there’s still the
usual partisan bickering and gridlock.

On
the state level, it’s about the same. Some governors are human. Others,
including Janine Baxter, the governor of this state, were Vee. The state
legislatures were a mixture of human and Vee, maybe fifty-fifty
here.

And
then there’s the Area Government. The country is divided into seven areas,
each covering from four to more than a dozen states. Each area has an Area
Governor and a Deputy Area Governor. Above them all, Christopher Austin, the
Governor General of the United States.

Even
with my experience working for Bain, I wasn’t clear where the
responsibilities overlapped or split. Everyone knew that area policy took
precedence over city and state policy, but the Area Governor’s Office rarely
got involved in city and state matters. And I was completely in the dark
about the national level. Maybe the President and Congress had to confirm
every decision with the Governor General. Or maybe he left them alone unless
the decision impacted his interests.

However
it broke down, Phillip Bain was a powerful man. Not someone you could blow
off or easily deny.

The
drive to the Area Operations Center, though long, was easy enough. Traffic
on the interstate was pretty light. Mostly semi-trucks moving freight. With
gasoline expensive and still rationed for the average person, there wasn’t a
lot of private vehicle traffic on the road.

Once
we were off the main highway, it was twisting mountain roads for half an
hour or so. We passed Humvees and military trucks, as well as the occasional
black SUV, heading in the opposite direction.

Then
we came over a hill and I got my first look at the Area Operations
facility.

My
first thought was that it looked a lot like the entrance to the old NORAD
headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain, something I’d seen in movies. The
operations center was built into the side of a mountain, with a concrete
entrance that fronted a tunnel into the interior of the mountain.

The
open area in front of the entrance was fenced with three rows of ten-foot
high chainlink fence topped with razor wire. To get to the wide parking lot
in front of the tunnel, we had to stop at three checkpoints, one for each
fence.

At
each checkpoint, a guard looked over Sgt. Newell’s ID and my own, and
searched the car thoroughly. Two others stood off to the side, their
automatic rifles trained on us.

When
we cleared the third checkpoint, I thought Newell would park the SUV in the
parking lot beside the Humvees and SUVs already there, but instead he drove
into the tunnel. About a quarter of a mile in, we reached another
checkpoint.

“General
Bain is expecting him,” Newell told the officer who studied our
IDs

He
nodded. “Martinez!”

A
tiny Hispanic girl came out of the gatehouse. “Sir?”

“Mr.
Welles needs an escort to the Deputy AG’s office.”

“Yes,
sir.” She came around the car and opened my door. “If you’ll come with me,
Mr. Welles.”

I
climbed out of the SUV, the officer nodded in the direction of the gatehouse
and the barrier lifted. Newell drove on into the darkness of the
tunnel.

“This
way, sir.” Martinez started down the sidewalk that lined the road at a good
clip. I hurried to catch up. Maybe when your legs are short, you learn to
walk fast.

Martinez
paused at an open hatch on the wall. “Watch your step and please use the
handrail, sir. The stairs are steep and we don’t want any accidents.” There
wasn’t any interest or life in her voice. This was something she’d said many
times to many visitors. All scripted.

She
was right about one thing, though. The stairs were steep, and though she
didn’t seem to need it, I kept my hand on the rail as we
descended.

At
the bottom of the stairs was a long corridor that curved to the left. “This
way,” she said.

“Quite
a place you have here,” I said.

“Yes,
sir.”

“Been
here long?”

“I
was assigned to the Area Three Operations Center right out of the camp,
sir.”

“Which
camp were you in?” I asked.

“Charlie-43,
sir. Outside Nashville.”

I
smiled. “Spent a good amount of time in Nashville when I was in the
military. Are you from that area?”

She
shook her head, never looking at me. “No, sir. I’m from Dallas.”

“Were
you visiting Tennessee or just looking for someplace safe after the war
began?”

“You
ask an awful lot of questions, sir.”

“I’m
a detective,” I said, smiling. “I have a curious mind.” I paused. “You don’t
have to answer my questions, of course. I’m just making small
talk.”

“Not
a problem, sir. I’ll decline to answer if you ask questions that I shouldn’t
answer.” She was silent for a moment, walking fast, her eyes straight ahead.
“I was stationed in Kentucky when the conflict began, sir. We were deployed
to Nashville. I was taken into custody there and interred.”

“Fort
Campbell?”

“Yes,
sir. 716
th
Military Police Battalion, 101
st
Airborne.”

I
laughed. “That was my old unit.”

“That’s
interesting, sir,” she said. She didn’t sound very interested. “When we
enter the operations room, please walk behind me, your eyes on the back of
my head. Do not look at wall displays, displays in the quads, or any written
material in the quads. Do not engage on-duty personnel or myself in
conversation. Conversation of any kind in the operations room is strongly
discouraged.”

“I’ll
do my best.”

“Please
do, sir,” she said. We reached the end of the corridor and she opened the
door.

The
operations room stretched out in front of us and looked to be nearly the
size of a football field. We were on the thirty yard line, relatively close
to one end.

The
room was laid out in groups, four desks to a group. The quads Martinez had
mentioned. Everyone I could see was either speaking softly into a headset
microphone or staring at a computer monitor. Some were doing both at the
same time.

At
the far end of the room was a raised platform with a dozen or so desks in an
arc. Behind the desks was a huge electronic display of Area Three, with
multi-colored blotches and circles, some blinking. Some of the people at the
desks were looking out over the room, others were looking up at the
display.

Though
Martinez was facing in the other direction and couldn’t see me checking out
the room, I didn’t want to get her in any trouble, even if she wasn’t
exactly bubbling over with friendliness. I’d seen how the Security Force
dealt with their people when orders weren’t followed. So I focused my
attention on the short black pony tail at the back of her head and stayed on
her heels.

We
reached a door on the other side of the room, at roughly the fifty yard line
and she opened it. I followed her down a short hallway that opened into a
small lobby with three doors against the far wall. She headed for the door
immediately in front of us.

“Sergeant
Leonardo,” she said, saluting as she faced the sergeant at the small desk in
the anteroom behind the door. “Trooper Martinez. I have Mr. Welles for the
Deputy AG.”

“Thank
you, Martinez,” he said.

She
nodded to him, then turned and left the room. She never gave me a
glance.

“Is
it my breath?” I asked the sergeant.

He
smiled. “Don’t take it personally. Martinez is on punishment duty. Her
regular assignment is outside perimeter security and a deer got inside the
first fence. Set off the sensors, there was a security alert. Pissed off a
lot of people.”

“Including
Mr. Bain?”

He
shook his head. “No. The general was more concerned that the animal was able
to breach the first perimeter fence. He viewed the incident as an
opportunity to reevaluate and tighten security.”

“Then
why is she on punishment duty?”

BOOK: Night and Day (Book 2): Bleeding Sky
4.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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