Box Kicker a novel John David Card 1 It was exactly 4:38am, June 1st 1983 when, purely by happenstance, Maurice Thompson first heard the allegation that his long-time friend and regular collaborator, Colonel Joseph Baronhurst, had murdered a man in cold blood. Returning from a small family get-together in South Salt Lake, Thompson was driving down Millview Drive when he saw the fleet of white vans and a single grey Mercedes parked by the curb outside Baronhurst’s one-man apartment. Half a dozen men, all in plain civilian clothes, were visible filing in and out of the doorway leading into the narrow building. They all walked quickly and silently, as if in an unspoken hurry to complete some pressing task. A single uniformed policeman stood under a streetlight, both arms crossed and hands firmed kept under his armpits as he squinted around the otherwise deserted drive. Thompson slowed his dark-grey Ford Escort, parked it about thirty feet from the rearmost van. He cupped his hands to his mouth to mask the lighting of a cigarette while he took a moment to observe the scene. He recognised the next plain-clothed man who walked out of the building: dark brushed-back hair, inexpensive blue suit blazer and matching trousers – one Detective Garvey, SLCPD. Two men in full-body white jumpsuits emerged behind him and followed. Carried between them was a long plastic bodybag, - visibly empty - which they quickly deposited into one of the vans. It was clear this was a police crime scene clean-up squad at work. Thompson climbed out of the car, locked it, and started strolling up towards the house. The uniformed policeman under the lamp just as quickly moved to stop him. “You can’t go in there sir. Please get back in your car and go home” “I know the man who lives here. What’s going on?” The young policeman paused for a split second. He didn’t look entirely certain how to respond. He turned to look towards the dark-haired man as if silently requesting backup. Garvey quickly hustled over to confront the new arrival. “Maurice – what are you doing here, did Baronhurst phone you?” “Why would he do that at this time of night?” Thompson countered. Before either man could say another word Howard Grierson, State Director of the US Army Logistics Branch himself emerged from the Baronhurst residence too and walked up to the pair. He gave a quick order to the junior policeman to resume his post, who quickly moved away from Garvey and Thompson and back to his position next to the streetlight, looking quite relieved to do so. Despite the ease with which he still issued instructions to his men, this was not the Howard Grierson that Thompson was accustomed to seeing. His ruddy and usually relaxed face looked almost disfigured by his grim expression and shock of unshaven stubble. His necktie hung loose and poorly knotted around his collar and his shirt crumpled – everything about his current appearance suggested someone summoned out of bed on very short notice. “Better come in here, Maurice” he muttered. “This is some really grim business. I’ve got a full investigative team from Logistics here leading the SLCPD regulars.” As he continued talking, he led Thompson and Garvey into the house and along a narrow hallway. Garvey followed right on Grierson’s heels, protesting. “This is no time to let a reporter in here.” “I take full responsibility.” Grierson addressed both the men behind him. “Thompson’s fully vetted, he’s worked with me plenty of times in the past.” “What’s exactly going on here?” Thompson asked. “Brace yourself, Maurice. It’s in here...” Thompson steeled himself, and walked right through the doorway Grierson had intimated into Joseph Baronhurst’s bedroom. The room was packed full of people, all presumably with a task to do for Grierson’s really grim business. But Thompson’s gaze still focused on where it lay. Right in the middle of Joseph’s otherwise immaculate bed. The young man would have been in his mid-to-late twenties, Thompson estimated. He wore a plain black button-down shirt and matching black trousers, his neatly-trimmed brown hair only slighted disturbed at the back of his head as he lay face-up on the bed’s uppermost blanket. The brutality of the scene lay in his pinched expression – both eyes and mouth very tightly shut and the seven-inch blade of a steel paperknife jutting almost perfectly vertically out of the centre of his sternum. Another man, entirely unknown to Thompson, who also looked very tired and unshaven, straightened up and turned towards the trio of men who had just entered the increasingly-overcrowded room. He removed a pair of pale blue surgical gloves from his hands and dropped them both inside a plastic bag splayed open and sat inside a larger matte-black case perched on a chair to his side. Garvey jumped in: “Well, doctor, any immediate findings?” The doctor, tall, thin, with wispy curls of bright orange hair piled on top of his head raised one eyebrow. “You’ll still have to wait for the full autopsy. I’m not particularly prone to making guesses” “Perhaps not” a new voice added, “but could you give me a few preliminary findings? Time, or course, will be of the essence, considering our presumptive killer’s identity.” Thompson swung around in the direction of the voice. A tall, very well-built man stood in the doorway from the bedroom to the en suite bathroom. Although he was pushing his mid-forties now, he still had the physical presence and air of authority to dominate the room. Unlike everyone else Thompson had taken a close look at so far at the Baronhurst residence, this man looked fully alert and freshly shaven too. Spiro Connelly – Regional Overseer of the Logistics Branch, and Grierson’s immediate boss. “You might know the Regional Director, Maurice” Grierson said to Thompson. “I think we might have once before” Maurice replied with an honest uncertainty. “Either way, his reputation proceeds him”. Connelly was known for two things – intense micromanagement until he got his way, and keeping up a sharp image. “And I’m still waiting for an answer doctor” Connelly said sharply. The doctor heaved once, and sighed. “This man appears to have been stabbed. Once. In the torso. More than that I can’t say before-” “Yes, the autopsy” Connelly interjected. “Anything else you can interpret from the scene?” “The victim looks agile and reasonably fit. He could have fought off his attacker. I’ll look under his fingernails for skin or blood. But that will be subject to the autopsy” He looked over the group of waiting men. “My preliminary examination is finished as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to go now” Giving a small nod in the direction of Grierson, the doctor walked out without a glance at Connelly. Garvey moved around to bed to confer with the crime scene photographer present who also confirmed he didn’t need to body anymore. The two men in white jumpsuits Thompson had seen earlier returned, eased the young deceased man’s body onto a tarpaulin sheet before lifting it onto a collapsible stretcher and escorting it outside to where the investigative unit’s vans were parked. Connelly, both hands firmly clasped behind his back restlessly paced around the room a few times before Thompson broke the still silence. “Why assume it was Baronhurst?” “He did live here.” It had been Garvey who answered him. “And now it looks like he might be on the run.” Added Connelly. “We have to hope word of all this won’t get out. According to his file, Baronhurst’s cover while he stayed in Salt Lake on official Logistics Branch business was that he worked as an interstate insurance adjuster, so if need-be, we’ll spread the word around his neighbours he’s out of town on regular civvie work.” “If you want this kept under wraps” Thompson verbally poked him, “what are you doing here? Most-senior official in the Branch from Arizona to Montana. It’s not exactly low-key” “I don’t really like the way you phrased that.” Connelly bit back. “But you would do well to remember just how senior I am here”. He looked at Grierson, “But it is just about time I left. I’ll be in touch with your office by 9:30 this morning. Make sure you’re in and available.” He pulled a checkered golfer’s flatcap out of the pocket of his peacoat, straightened it out, and jammed it low over his forehead. “Think anyone will recognise me on the walk back out to my car” he sneered towards Thompson. He strode out of the room, leaving Grierson, Thompson, Garvey and the photographer to soak up the silence of the room for a moment. Grierson almost had his mouth open to say something just as Connelly suddenly stuck his head back into the room through the hallway door. “Really ghastly stuff, all this. I really wouldn’t have associated someone like Joe with all this before today”. And then he was gone again. Properly this time. Garvey looked towards the other men in the room with the quizzical expression of a man completely lost. “And I wouldn’t have associated someone like Connelly with such a human remark. People surprise you sometimes.” “How’d you hear about all this?” Thompson asked Grierson in a hushed tone. Anonymous phone call woke me up. I think the exact words were something like: ‘Baronhurst is in desperate trouble at his apartment on Millview. Better get there before the police do.’ “Recognise the voice?” “Not at all. Anyway, I dressed quick as I could, arrived about one-thirty. Door wasn’t locked. Knocked, went inside. No sign of anyone else, came in here to the back bedroom and found himself lying on the bed. I phoned Connelly, only thing I could do. He got down here quick as he could and brought along a whole clean-up squad and a couple SLCPD Regulars. Said we wanted to oversee this one personally – can’t have a situation like this turn into a full-blown scandal inside the service, could tear the whole branch apart.” “Who is – was – the young man on the bed?” Thompson asked crisply. Howard Grierson, still in a state of tired shock, just stared back at Thompson for a moment. Maurice Thompson, the experienced foreign correspondence reporter, was just now entering his forties. But even at his age and this ungodly hour, he still had an aura of alertness, of a certain productive energy, of professionalism, about himself. And it had so often served him well as an aide, confidant, and partner to likes of Joe Baronhurst and Howard Grierson in the world of “Logistics” for many years. “We’ve got no idea regarding his identity” Grierson finally replied. “They’ve torn the place to pieces too and they couldn’t find anything to identify him by. At the moment, we don’t know who he is, why he’s in Joe’s flat, or why he was killed.” “One thing strikes me as odd, Mr. Thompson” Detective Garvey added, “How exactly did you happen to turn up here at this hour?” “I’d been at a small family shin-dig down South which ended up running a bit later than I had expected” Thompson started to explain, “There hadn’t been any drinking – mostly Mormons there of course – so I figured I might as well drive back home before sun-up and on my way I just so happened to pass by Millview and when I saw all your boys outside Joe’s flat, thought something might be up.” “Know where Baronhurst might be then?” “Not at all”. Miles away, kneeling before the two-ton safe in his office at the heart of the Salt Lake City central business district, Colonel Joseph Baronhurst dialled in the last numbers needed to open the combination lock and hauled open the hefty door. The curtains were firmly drawn closed over the windows which looked out onto the largely grey-brown buildings which lined the CBD. Baronhurst pulled out a penlight to help him see what he was doing in the darkness. He pulled from the safe several large off-white envelopes each brimming with documents and several large, bound, wads of US- and Canadian currency. He arranged the items within the open leatherette briefcase at his side before snapping the case shut, heaving the door of the safe closed again, and spinning the combination dial. At rest, Joseph Baronhurst looked much like any white-collar worker in their late-thirties. Average build, sensible haircut, and a well-worn pair of horn- rimmed spectacles. While at work however, the light blue eyes behind the nondescript glasses were exceptionally watchful and weary. He wore a plain white business shirt and black office suit which decidedly lacked the elegance often displayed by his Chief, Howard Grierson. Baronhurst, Utah’s Deputy State Director of the largely off-the-books intra- continental intelligence agency that for all practical and budgetary reasons was referred to under the unassuming label of “Logistics Branch”, was a man who had fittingly worked hard to cultivate the look of a man you could easily pass on the street without noticing. The Logistics Branch was where he had worked just about all his whole adult life, and he still knew very little about just how wide its scope was. He had done jobs for them in both the United States and Canada, and he knew they had offices just like his in every state and province, overseen joint operations with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Police, the regular intelligence services, and every other branch you could name. And “Logistics” had been the cover for their organisation ever since the outbreak of the Cold War, it was the exact sort of title that drew very little scrutiny on a budget balance sheet, didn’t seem out of place jetting its staff all over the World on little advance notice, and could get away with having plain- clothed officers embedded wherever they wanted. Many of the Logistics Branch’s higher-ups were just like Colonel Baronhurst, consummate office work jacks-of-all-trades who knew the real strength of the intelligence-gathering profession lay in its ability to skillfully work with, and manipulate, data: financial spreadsheets, deployment forms, employment records and the like. Among civilian conspiracy theorist circles, shadowy government agent types had long been associated with nonsense like space-aliens and called “the Men in Black. But Baronhurst preferred the term he had once picked up from a Strategic Aerospace Defence Command officer at Malmstrom AF Base – a Major Austin Keeler had once told him that had had dealt with his fair share of Logistics men in his time, and in his unit they were called “People Movers” thanks to their inexplicable ability to have any person, vehicle, equipment or entire garrison relocated, requisitioned, or retired, promptly with just the right paperwork. “And if one of those plain-clothed accountant-looking types ever showed up at your command, you knew change was on the wind” he added. Joe had to agree with him, noting for himself the one time a button-down and necktie looked out of place was when everyone else for miles around worked in flightsuits or field khakis. Getting up from his position in front of the now-closed again safe, penlight still in hand, Baronhurst moved over to his office desk, took out his keyring and silently unlocked the bottommost right-hand drawer. Reaching into the opened drawer, he retrieved the stash of codebooks, passports, and drivers’ licenses within. Two of the codebooks he added to his briefcase before examining the selection of passports before him. He selected one issued in the name Nathaniel Miller and put it, and a matching driver’s license with the same name and sporting his image – sans glasses – and pocketed each into the interior of his suit jacket. The others he spread out and added into the briefcase too with the rest of the documents. He re-locked the desk draws and stood up to his full height, just as a figure standing in the one doorway leading into his office flicked on the main light switch with one hand. Gabriella Giada, his personal secretarial assistant, closed the door behind her and leaned against it. She was in her early-thirties, and still sported an excellent figure, that was accentuated by her raven-black hair and deep green eyes. Her thick raincoat was slung over one arm. Suffice to say, the early June morning was chilly, and a hint of snow was already in the air. Baronhurst, already in a tense state of mind, concealed his surprise all the same. His mind was still a steel trap, and his voice faultless as he directed a question to her: “What are you doing here at this hour?”. “I might ask you the exact same thing.” She also nodded towards the cheap briefcase at Baronhurst’s side. She may have been a secretary, but like everyone in Baronhurst’s line of work, she was still incredibly sharp and particularly quick on the uptake. Baronhurst let his next line sit on his tongue a moment. “Something came up unexpectedly. I’m going out for some time” “What’s wrong?” “Gabriella-” Joseph sighed, “I’m going to be accused of a particularly ghastly murder. That of a young man I’ve never seen before whose body is mostly likely still lying in my bed at my apartment on Millview Drive” He added, “I imagine now you want to ask, ‘Did I do it?’” – “No.” It was the only thing he’d said so far with any real emotion to it. Despite her usually unflappable demeanour, Giada didn’t exactly know what to say. She just shook her head a little, almost instinctively. She finally found her voice again, “Are you mad? And what are you doing here – preparing to flee? In case you’d forgotten, you’re the State Deputy Director. I would think that if you know someone’s been murdered in your flat you ought to stay put, not run and incriminate yourself, and try to figure out what’s really happened. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Joseph started to explain, “I’ve been working on something of a special project. Very, very, high-level stuff. Only one other person here knows about it. I need to make my way up North, make my way to an old contact without arousing any suspicion. I’m leaving, Gabriella, whole security of NATO could be at stake here. “Where up North? And I don’t see why you’re so certain you’ll be accused of something so… foul, anyway.” She protested. “Because someone very clever and equally ruthless has planned this whole frame-up. And they might very well have planted some very damning ‘evidence’ too. I haven’t had time to go back to my flat to search, and I suspect it will be far too late now. First, I’ve got to find my way to a bolt-hole quickly, and not any of my usual official safehouses either, somewhere even further off the record. Especially since I can’t necessarily trust whoever they get to investigate me on account of it being a frame-job. Then, I’ll plan out the fastest way I can get to where I need to be without-” “You bloody fool!” She snapped back at him, mid-sentence. “Well, you can trust me. I’m coming with you.” Gabriella pointed across the room “And I’ve always got my emergency bug-out bag packed and ready to go under my desk”. She hastened to add: “And a couple is always much less conspicuous than a man on his own-” “Absolutely out of the question” Baronhurst rebuked her. He strode right past her to the coatrack by the door and retrieved his moth-worn Burberry trench and stepped out of his office – closing the door without looking back. 2 At just-gone-7am that same morning, Spiro Connelly arrived at the flagship offices of the multinational company he had co-founded and formerly chaired, One Water Finance and Management. To minimise even the slightest chance he might be noticed, he had taken himself there in his wife’s brown Buick Estate. The thirty-two storey building was almost entirely empty at this hour, vacant except for a handful of janitors making the first rounds of the day or perhaps the most over-eager of junior partners ready to get an early start on their day. Connelly wheeled the Buick into the spacious underground parking lot, left the vehicle, and immediately made for the nearby executive elevator which he just a quickly opened and rode straight to the thirtieth floor. He waited there for scarcely a minute before a second man joined him, right on cue. That man was Francis Edwards, his tireless deputy and confidante. As Edwards joined him, Connelly turned away from the window he had briefly been taking in the view of the city out of and towards his loyal aide. “The Logistics team have bought it. Took it hook, line, and sinker.” “And Baronhurst?” Edwards enquired. Francis Edwards was only forty years old, but looked in excess of fifty. Despite how frequently his assignments kept him on his feet, he was overweight for his height of five-foot-four and his once dark brown hair had already gone almost entirely GIADA. While nicely dressed and freshly clean-shaven, he still managed to look thoroughly worn-out. Nevertheless, he was a man of immense capacity to do what was required of him, and his slow, highly deliberate, mode of talking always gave him time to choose his words well. Connelly’s wife, Zina, had once remarked to a friend “Spiro and Francis go well together – each more driven than the other...” “Joseph Baronhurst has seemingly vanished off the face of The Earth,” Connelly informed his partner in his usual lofty voice, “Just as we had hoped – that he’d make a run for it.” “Don’t underestimate that man,” Edwards warned as he pensively lit a cigar. “He’ll most likely have started heading towards the Yukon for you-know-what” “Knowing that might just make your next job all the easier. We have One Water offices all over the continent. And of course I’m putting you in charge of the next move. Locate Baronhurst and neutralise him – make sure it looks like an accident.” Edwards chose to take a moment to respond, “You want me to head after him myself? I still need to mind the office here. Ever since you got the Logistics top spot and officially parcelled out control of the company I’ve been Managing Director for Zina”. “You usually like moving around on jobs like these” Connelly’s tone was faux- sweet. “This job should be right up your alley – just pop up to the border, mobilise our top people in the region, get them looking, and you’ll most likely be back down here in a day, max.” Spiro checked his watch, “Anyway, I’m not even supposed to be here, got a lot of stuff to be doing down at the Branch HQ”. Edwards ran one stubby thumb under his chin, while he puffed at his cigar – Connelly was right, he shouldn’t be in the building. When he’d been officially moved out of the ranks of Senior Strategic Command and into Logistics, he had been not-so-subtlety told to drop his involvement with his public company. The Logistics Branch might have been very off-the-books, but all the same, the higher-ups still didn’t want the potential conflict-of-interest, let alone the potential security hazard, of having the chairman of a publicly traded company that deeply within an intelligence organisation and Connelly was “encouraged” to resign his position. He had certainly not been all too happy about needing to give up his public career or the easy lifestyle it afford, but Spiro was pragmatic enough to recognise the importance of the long-game and abandoned his position as chair of One Water Finance and Management for the chance to move further up the chain of command in the backstop intelligence operation he had been offered a mightily tempting position within after a long and fruitful career with regular Army StratCom. Nothing had stopped him from maintaining a lucrative side position as lead consultant and company chair during his regular Army StratCom days so long as he filed the right paperwork, dotted his i’s and crossed his t’s, – but Logistics operated on an entirely higher level of security. No exceptions. The very day he’d received the offer and been clued in on what the new prospective position might entail, he accepted, and immediately divested his stock in One Water among the other shareholders. He had decided the sacrifice would be worth it, and all the same, the majority of it, and his power as board chair went to his wife, Zina – who had in turn left Edwards which much of the actual decision-making. Despite how very fragrant Connelly’s attempt to skirt the expectations of his new role might have been under any amount of close scrutiny, so far, it evidently hadn’t rustled the wrong feathers. Perhaps because he’d absolutely made sure to have signed over the company to his wife under her maiden name and the activities of Edwards as his right-hand man wasn’t exactly papertrail-traceable. “I will have to return here sooner rather than later, however” Francis responded eventually. “I find Zina is becoming a bit more active – curious about things – as chairwoman. And I think she’s becoming a bit chummy with our head Salt Lake office accountant, Don Strickland” “Curious about what, exactly?” Connelly demanded. “Company figures. The balance sheet” Edwards paused for a second. “So far, I’ve been able to keep her away from anything she doesn’t need to see. Speaking of which, when’s the ten-million dollar loan from Chase coming in? I know I can’t bluff her, or the city, on that indefinitely” “Soon” offered Connelly vaguely. “And where the Hell do you exactly plan on bringing in the capital to eventually pay it back?” “You leave that one to me” Connelly shot back much more definitively. “For now, you just deal with Baronhurst. And quickly” “I told you not to underestimate him. And I’m certainly not going to either.” Edwards warned. “Well, try and get a start on it today please. I’m off..” Francis Edwards decided to stay on the thirtieth floor of the mostly-empty One Water building for a little while longer, reflecting on what would be required by the job now placed before him. He had undoubtedly come a long way as Connelly’s enforcer since he had started out as a lowly security guard for an upstart hedgefund’s original office years ago. He could still vividly recall how he’d gotten the job by answering a newspaper advertisement calling for an “experienced security expert to join a new organisation”. Edwards had made the bold claim over the phone that if he could get twenty minutes of his prospective employers’ time they’d hire him - and if not, they’d never have to hear from him again. Impressed enough by the claim, Francis was the first potential hire they’d called in for an interview, and right off the bat had responded to each and every one of Connelly’s probing questions with an air of unflappable authority. Spiro, usually one to dominate a conversation, almost couldn’t help but find himself enthralled by the consummate ease of the man before him who had shown up for a security guard interview. Connelly ended up hiring him on the spot, a decision he had never once regretted in close to fifteen years. Long before Connelly’s dual interest of a career in StratCom had properly taken off, One Water had become one of the quickest-growing financial firms in the country. In that time, Edwards had proven himself the perfect right hand man time and time again, and he’d always been one to counsel a cautious and slow approach in their dealings too. Through nominees, Edwards had also bought up a sizable holding in the company and often suggested to Connelly that they slow down – consolidate what they already had first before expanding further. “One day, I may just own the whole outfit” Edwards thought to himself, provided Spiro doesn’t let it go bust opening too many new offices too quickly. Francis Edwards was a perfectly loyal enforcer for Spiro Connelly and One Water Finance, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t also keep his own needs in mind. First, he’d need to track down Joseph Baronhurst. 3 Baronhurst moved quickly. That morning, he had caught the first available taxi out of the city’s commercial hub and taken it straight up to North Salt Lake. Given how professional of a conspiracy to frame him for murder he knew he could be up against, Joseph had decided against attempting to make for the airport and catching a flight out of the city. Not only would whoever had tried to set him up for murder presumably be calculating enough to know to keep an eye out for him there, he also didn’t much like the potential risk involved of waiting for a scheduled flight, needing to pass through airport security checkpoints, and then spending a considerable amount of time on a means of transport he’d have no capacity to control once underway. Years in the covert intelligence business had taught him that the best way to make quick, discrete, overland getaways was quite often by taking a string of public buses and hire-cars, which was now his current plan. His first move would be to head for a bolt-hole on the outskirts of the city while he ironed out a plan to make his way North, then exactly when it felt right to do so – and sooner rather than later –, start making a run for it without looking back until he had reached his destination. Arriving in North Salt Lake, he’d booked a taxi cab straight to a Motel 6, paid in full, with cash, for a room there. Leaving his briefcase at the motel room, he had almost immediately then made for the nearest rent-a-car operation where he picked up a hunter green BMW 3 Series by flashing a driver’s license in the name of one Mr. David Himpe. As an extra precaution, he decided to park this car not in the Motel 6’s parking lot itself, but at an underground parking facility a few minutes’ walk away from his current accommodation. “Do you really think we can make it up to the border unseen?” Gabriella had asked as they walked back to their motel. The presence of Gabriella Giada was one think Colonel Baronhurst hadn’t planned on. She had evidently followed him out of his office after him and managed to procure a taxi of her own to follow his, carrying her emergency bag with her. To a slight amount of frustration, he came to accept his long-serving assistant might not be so easy to dissuade from following him when he got out of his taxi in North SL only to discover her jumping out of her own cab not thirty feet behind him. Baronhurst had accepted that he couldn’t argue the matter with her here – it was far too public and the last thing he would want to do would be to draw undue attention to himself. It wouldn’t be until they had both returned from the rental car dealership to their room at the Motel 6 he could properly take a minute to absorb the situation and voice his protest. “What on Earth do you think you’re doing here?” “Coming with you, just like I told you back at the office.” “I trust you, and I know you’re a perfectly capable woman. But I can’t in good conscience risk having you with me. There are things you don’t know and you could end up in terrible danger if you stay with me.” “I’ve been there before – remember Reno, for one thing. Or the first time we got sent on a field job together and we had to go take inventory at Dugway. Or-” She could have kept going but Baronhurst cut her off. “By now, the SLCPD will be looking to haul me in on murder charges. I want you to catch the next bus back to the city and forget about me.” “If you’re going on the run like a common criminal, you’ll need every little bit of help you can get.” Gabriella fired back. “And back at the office you mentioned something about a secret project. Is that why you’re being forced to go underground?” “Perhaps. But don’t even bother asking me about it.” “I’m not leaving you” she warned him. “You’d better tell me later what really happened to you last night. But first, we’d better decided what to do, where you need to get, and who you can still trust.” Baronhurst, who up to this point had mostly been running purely off adrenaline and professional instinct, was momentarily taken a bit aback. He had to admit, Gabriella had just very accurately just surmised his next immediate move with her usual clarity. For the first time since this morning, he wavered in his determination to be rid of her. And she could sense his uncertainty. Gabriella spoke up again, “Well, for starters, who can we trust” “Almost no one” he admittedly bleakly. “Especially, not until we have even the slightest idea who might be behind the murder in my flat and what their motive was. My guess is that once the authorities realise I won’t be turned up a work today, they’ll begin a manhunt officially, and in earnest. Probably alert all my old contacts and sources from Logistics too, request I be held incommunicado if I attempt to reach or approach them.” “Do you really think someone like Director Grierson is going to swallow this absurd suggestion that you’re a cold-blooded murderer?” “We won’t have any option, I’m afraid. Situation looks grim.” They had quietly bickered back and forth like this the entire walk back from the parking lot: Baronhurst uncharacteristically pessimistic, Giada positive and trying to suggest possible ideas. Joseph’s mood didn’t make any immediate improvement once they both arrived back at their motel room. It had been Gabriella who had insisted they share the room, against Joe’s objections. “Stop being so Puritan” she’d snapped. “Besides, not only does sharing a room mean I’ll more easily pass as your wife, if we booked separate rooms I’d have to show my ID too. And a room being registered in my own name would lead a manhunt straight to you once they grasp I’ve disappeared too.” It was Gabriella too, who once they arrived back at their room showed Baronhurst the armful of complimentary roadmaps she’d made sure to grab as they passed by the reception desk on their way in. “We’ll need these to plan our route” She added briskly, “Where are we headed for once we get out of the city?” Baronhurst leaned over his assistant’s shoulder to study the maps she held, “Ideally, I’d like to be able to meet up with Scott Porter – Logistics Branch Manager up in Alaska. One of the very few people I’d be willing to trust implicitly in something like this, so he might be our best bet.” Gabriella carefully concealed her satisfaction at Joe’s first use of “our” in describing the plan. Baronhurst traced a path with a finger along several of the maps, “Our best bet would be a series of hire-cars under false names, share the driving shifts to keep going longer, faster. We’ll need to get started heading North as soon as possible – up through Idaho and then Montana most likely. Then, try to make the border crossing somewhere either Alberta or BC and, assuming we make it that far, travel up the Canadian coast until we reach the Alaska border and hope we can pull off another international border crossing. From there reaching the Logistics office out there will still not be particularly easy – it’s very far off the beaten track, right up in the mountains.” Gabriella had to ask, “How can we safely cross the Canadian border, twice? We have to assume they’ll definitely have put out an alert by then.” “Our best chance will be to try and stick with secondary roads. Perhaps the most direct route won’t always be the most secure for out purposes. There’s no guarantee when it comes to crossing the border, but, if we choose our spot carefully and play it smart when the time comes, then it might just be possible. But I do concede it’s one hell of a longshot.” Gabriella spread all her roadmaps out over one of the room’s beds and worked over the route they’d need to take in her mind over and over again. At last, she took a deep breath, steeled herself, and finally asked: “Isn’t it about time you told me what really happened at your flat back in Millview Drive?” “Like a complete fool, I walked straight into a very well-prepared trap. If one of my staff had ever done the same thing I’d most likely have had to fire him on the spot.” “What exactly did you do?” Gabriella continued to coax him. “Last night I was working late at the office – as you already know. After you’d gone home, it had just been me and Liz had stayed on to answer the night- phones. Call comes in, she takes it, and says it’s for me. The caller would only tell her his name was ‘L.B..’. I figured it might have been one of my informants from the ongoing Runyan case. I get calls on that from people you don’t even know – Branch has promised a lot of them total confidentiality.” “Go on.” Giada continued to encourage him. “I took the call, and it sounded just like Lawrence Byrd – although he had been speaking over a lot of background chatter. He said he’d driven over from Colorado urgently to meet with me and asked me to meet him at a particular café over on Temple Square. I agreed. My first mistake was not checking back with his number for his usual Boulder safehouse. Although admittedly even if I had, I imagine they would have covered that too.” He added those last words grimly. “Who is ‘they’?” Giada asked. “I’ve got no idea who’s behind this conspiracy Gabriella. But I suspect it’s most likely connected with the top secret project I was overseeing alone – don’t ask me about that, by the way. I arrived at the café a little earlier than had been suggested to me, just to scope out the place-“ “Of course.” “Went in. Ordered a coffee. And picked out a corner booth where I could keep an eye on the whole place. Whole place was still active long into the morning – and I waited and waited but Byrd never showed. Then, just before closing time, a young woman one table over got out of her seat, and on her way to the counter passed by my table and discretely dumped a unsealed envelope in my lap. The message inside was brief: Came early. Had to leave. Being followed. Meet you at Millview. -LB.” “Ever seen that girl before?” Gabriella asked. “No, never. Anyway, I had just barely had the time to get the message out of the envelope and read it when she’d returned and whispered to me she’d have to take the envelope and its contents back after I’d read it – very clever touch. ” “So what was your next move?” Gabriella prodded again. “Like I said, it was just about closing time, so I left and decided to walk the whole way back down to Millview Drive – which took a while-” “Making sure you weren’t followed?” “Of course. And I don’t believe I was either. Eventually I did make it back to my flat without incident, but when I arrived, the front door was slightly ajar. And no apparent trace of anyone having forced either lock. I crept inside, took out the heavy, steel-tipped, umbrella I keep in the stand by the door and started checking each room…” Baronhurst hesitated. This time, Gabriella waited in silence. He continued: “I entered my bedroom and the bed-side lamp was still on. I saw him straight away. Some young man with a bloody big knife sticking right out of his chest face-up in my bed. I realized the whole night had been one big, expert, frame operation. Targeting me.” “Why are you so damn sure they’ll think you did it?” Gabriella cried, “People from the Branch, like Howard-” “No other choice.” Baronhurst replied sombrely. “No alibi – I had been walking back to my flat, taking my time, alone at night for close to an hour I’d say. Doubt if anyone at the café on Temple would remember me either – was deliberately trying to make myself look inconspicuous, as usual. The girl who handed me the envelope and took it back was clearly part of the plot too-” “What about Lawrence Byrd? You said they used a message from him to lure you there, could he help?” “I suspect he might be dead too.” Joseph replied. “The people who organized this are cold-blooded professionals – what they did to that poor young lad in my flat alone proves that. They’ll have left no loose ends, I’m sure.” “Well, what the devil did you actually do once you’d found the victim in your bedroom?” “Thought fast. Could see someone had thrown a noose around my neck. My only immediate answer was to run – and hope that I can escape being apprehended and dragged in while I find out what’s happening to the top secret project I’ve been working on, and who might have wanted to set me up to take the fall for that man’s death. I’m a fugitive, and there’s not many people I can afford to put my trust in-” “There’s Thompson. And Barnard” “The spectre of a crime like murder tends to make a man an outcast – a pariah without friends or allies. We can’t necessarily rely on my old partners from Logistics to help, can’t say I’d necessarily blame them, either” And someone, somewhere, is banking on that. “That doesn’t mean we’re just going to sit around here until they come for us.” “No. Instead we’ll need to be proactive and get a move on.” Joseph gestured back towards spread of roadmaps that lay on the bed. 4 “I’ve learned that Baronhurst appears to have fled the city early. I’m having staff begin to check every local hotel – and I sent over copies of that photograph of him you gave me,” Edwards dutifully reported from the front seat of Spiro Connelly’s matte black Chrysler Executive as he the car’s owner towards his Oquirrh Mountains residence just beyond Salt Lake Valley. His bulk was tightly squeezed inside a chauffeur’s uniform. A peaked cap was pulled down over his high forehead. Connelly sat beside him, staring out the passenger-side window at the steep decline in terrain that began mere feet away from the tight, and largely unbarricaded, mountain road. Edwards, the One Water enforcer, had adopted his current disguise because, as a Logistics Officer, Connelly was not strictly supposed to have any further connection with the financial consulting and management firm he had built up. Spiro ran a hand over his lean face. “It’s essential we keep Baronhurst harassed and fearful. Make sure he’s on the run until you locate him and can finish off the job.” “There may be one complication.” Edwards slowly intoned, “Gabriella Giada, his secretary, has also disappeared. She’ll almost certainly be with him”. Edwards added cynically: “Looks as though Baronhurst’s taken his bedmate with him to keep himself warm.” “No, There’s no record that their relationship is anything but professional. Very in character for Joseph, he’s a real stickler for proper protocol.” Connelly corrected him. “That may also mean they’ll be all the more professionally alert. Keep that in mind. And if this Giada woman is with him when you pinpoint their whereabouts – I’m afraid she’ll have to go too.” “Noted. I’ve contacted Dayan Podhorowitz, he’ll meeting me at a pop-up office we’re running out of The Avenues for the job.” “Oh, you’ve gone right to the top.” Connelly commented as they continued through the Oquirrh Range. It was getting dark. “You do want a real professional on a job of this calibre,” Edwards responded. “Podhorowitz has never failed to take out a target cleanly.” “Don’t need to hear about that. Don’t want to hear about it. Spare me the more grisly details, please.” Edwards subsided back into complete silence. Connelly’s habit of distancing himself from the more unseemly side of their business while handing out otherwise very particular orders sometimes concerned him. Francis had little doubt that if anything went horribly wrong Connelly would let him take the fall. Which, he reflected might just be why his present position brought with it so many lavish benefits. But, he also knew, it meant he always ought to watch his back. Treachery was the name of the game in business. In state intelligence too. Because they grasped this fact was exactly why both Connelly and Edwards had risen so high. “Apart from your meeting with Podhorowitz, what are you going to do next about Baronhurst?” Connelly inquired as Edwards kept the two going through the copper-tinged mountains at a brisk pace. “Tell you in a minute. I’d better get out of this kit – also I also suggest you move to the rear before we get arrive.” Edwards stopped the car as far over to the side as he reasonably could on the empty mountain pass, which was still more-or-less still right in the middle of the narrow road. Quickly getting out, he tossed the peaked cap on the seat, wrestled his chauffeurs’ coat off, exposing the plain black button-up office shirt suit he wore under it – while Connelly awkwardly moved himself, without exiting the car, around to a seat in the back. Edwards replaced the high-end tailcoat with a much more simple wine-red jumper he retrieved from the Chrysler’s trunk and resumed driving. The headlights starting to pick out familiar bends of the serpentine road, Connelly’s alpine home lay only half a mile out. The two turned off the desolate road to an even less frequented drive flanked by two neatly-cultivated rows of Boxelder Maple until the vehicle finally reached its destination at Spiro Connelly’s secluded Oquirrh retreat. A waning gibbous moon sat in the sky, left uncovered by the clouds – if only to hauntingly illuminate the snowcapped brown sandstone of the Utahn sierra. Edwards answered Connelly’s final question: “I’ll want to take the chopper back from the helipad here to Salt Lake. Tomorrow I’ll pick up Gessler to meet Podhorowitz as early as I can. Pick up the trail there.” “You’d better know – unofficially, of course – that a Quicksilver Alert for Baronhurst has now gone out secretly to all our counterespionage friends on both sides of the border. Order is Locate and Hold”. “Might slow me down.” Edwards grunted. “Wish you hadn’t done it.” “Had to, I’m afraid. It was the obvious call I had to make as Regional Overseer. If I’d held my hand on this it would have looked too suspicious. Especially with the new Logistics Head keeping a very close eye on things recently after what happened to the last man in his position. At least it will serve the purpose of isolating the Colonel from his old contacts and keep him running like a scared fox.” “If you say so. And what happened to the last guy?” “Last head of the Corps got complacent about procedure. Ended up letting one too many mistakes happen – so, he ends up getting drummed out and shuffled off into supervising a shell manufacturing industry or whatever. Then within a week we’ve got the new guy, – AHC – some stand-by admin from the East Coast flown in pronto and breathing down our necks. I can see why he got the job, effective paper-pusher, and a real hardliner when it comes to departmental spending – although he was nice enough to pull some strings and sign off on the car” Connelly explained, gesturing around the interior of the Chrysler Executive as he added the last part. Francis felt much more at ease hearing all this as the approached Connelly’s retreat thirty miles from the city. Within Salt Lake they had to keep up the pretence that Connelly had nothing to do with One Water anymore and that Edwards knew nothing about the Logistics Corp and its ‘People Mover’ intelligence service. Connelly’s mountain lodge finally came into view. Small, but stately; two tall stone chimneys, arched mullion windows, with a compact cobblestone path leading up to the stark mahogany door. Edwards pulled the car up and checked his appearance in the rear-view mirror. He want to make sure his simple red jumper would look almost-offensively low-effort when he imminently saw the nominal Chair of One Water, Zina Connelly – a woman he despised like no other. He decidedly didn’t comb his hair and climbed out of the car. In the rear, Spiro made a pointed hissing noise between his teeth. The sooner Francis boarded the chopper and got going, the better. Zina now stood in the dark doorway. Edwards made his way around to the back of the Executive to open the rear door and Spiro alighted. His wife called out in her usual, well-modulated, tone: “Drink’s ready in the library. Then straight into dinner, I’m famished. – Good evening, Francis.” “Evening, ma’am.” Edwards called back, dipping his whole body in a mock bow and flashing his best smile. Zina Connelly was just over ten years younger than her husband. A slim redheaded creature in a shimmering Thierry Mugler gown. Her husband gave her a hug and hurried inside, mentioning that he was going to take a quick bath first, then he’d take to his study for drinks. “A drink in the library for you, Francis?” she enquired. Edwards ambled over to the entryway. She managed to conceal the absolute revulsion she always felt from being in such close proximity with this man exceedingly well. She might be chairwoman of One Water with Spiro’s block of shares in her name, but Francis Edwards really ran the organisation for her husband. “That would be nice, Zina. Thank you.” He pointedly agreed after entering the resplendent Connelly lodge. He’d leave it to someone else to put the Chrysler to bed later. He followed her into Spiro’s study, reached under his pullover jumper into a shirt breast-pocket to produce his portable cigar, but hesitated. “Not in here. Out on the terrace.” She let him know. “I’ve got a drink. Do pour your own. Leave some in the bottle” It wasn’t just a joke. Edwards was well aware she thought he drank too heavily. To Hell with her, he thought and kept his jumper on in the warm book-lined room. He poured out half a tumbler of Ardbeg ’74 neat, raised it to Zina. “To good friends”, and he took a very satisfying swig. Edwards excused himself out towards the paved terrace as he lit his Havana. Zina was getting to be a pain at work, probing into the affairs of the company. At least he’d kept the vital figures away from her. Out on the terrace, Francis worked through his next moves in his mind as we watched a thick fog roll in over the lows of Salt Lake Valley. He’d call up the chopper to pick him up from Connelly’s once he’d finished his drink, retrieve his travelling case from the trunk of the Chrysler, and tell the pilot to take him to Salt Lake City Airport. He could get a hamburger or a couple of sandwiches at the airport, before he’d head out to pickup Gessler, his lieutenant, on the way to rendezvous with the assassin Dayan Podhorowitz. At the Logistic Corps’ SLC headquarters, Howard Grierson sat behind Colonel Joseph Baronhurst’s desk, facing Maurice Thompson. Liz, the department receptionist of many years, sat at her own desk, pouring over urgent work files while the two men talked. “Do you really think Baronhurst is guilty of murder?” Thompson demanded flatly. “It’s completely inconceivable, I agree,” responded Grierson, slightly uncomfortable with the sheer blunt directness of Thompson. “But he made a great mistake in fleeing the city. And taking Ms. Giada with him. Doesn’t look good for his case, very bad optics.” “His case?” Thompson exploded. – “He obviously had his reasons. What was he working on here? And how do you know he’s necessarily fled the city?” “Can’t say about what he was working on.” Howard said stiffly. He paused momentarily, “Didn’t even know myself until I talked with AHC this afternoon. And you won’t like this, but since you’re fully vetted and have worked with us and Baronhurst in the past…” Grierson waved his hand. “A Quicksilver Alert has been put out for him. It’s all very hush-hush. The press mustn’t get on to that – and you are the press. But I’ll be invoking the Official Secrets Protocol you’re barred by on that one. Have to. Sorry to do it and all that, but I trust you’ll behave?” “I said-” Thompson repeated slowly, “how do you know he’s fled the city?” “Makes sense.” “Makes sense?” Thompson blurted back. “And-”, Grierson’s manner changed, “we found a motel receptionist with an evidently good memory who recalled a couple who checked in later that same day of the murder and seemed to be keen to continue of a trip of some sort as soon as they could. Connelly had men go out making discreet enquiries. From the description of that couple one man brought back from the motel, I’m afraid it could be Baronhurst and Gabriella Giada.” “And if that was Joe and Gabriella on the run this morning, that means two of my staff are currently active fugitives in the eyes of The Corps.” “Damn.” Thompson lit a cigarette. “Connelly sign off on that all on his own?” “Well-” Howard showed more hesitation. “Actually, I wasn’t initially privy to the decision to issue the Quicksilver Alert either.” “Wasn’t privy to?” Thompson controlled his frustration with a great deal of effort. “Then who was?” he demanded. “My understanding is that Connelly made that decision at the regional level unilaterally.” Grierson leaned forward. “I might also tell you I persuaded AHC to cut down the list Connelly had drawn up of people who need-be informed. Only those I feel we can trust to keep it under wraps have been contacted” “And who’s that?” Howard hesitated once again, “Why do you want to know?” “For Christ’s sake – because I believe Baronhurst is innocent. And that he’s been framed by someone dangerous. And I’d much prefer to do something about it, not just sit here on my backside wringing my hands.” “I can’t do much else, Maurice.” Howard said quietly, “-except sit here on my backside, as you put it. Although I am glad to know that you’re also convinced it’s a conspiracy. It’s not a view I can admit to officially. “Connelly seems to be running this outfit unchecked these days.” Thompson snapped. “I don’t like that, either.” If pressed, Grierson would have to admit his direct superior, Spiro Connelly, had – at least on paper – seemed like a very good choice to head the Logistics Branch regionally. He was relatively young for how experienced he was, energetic in his StratCom role, and had proven himself a competent manager in the world of international finance and trade too. And to be fair, despite a reputation for blunt talk and an aggressively granular method of procedure, ever since he had been brought into the fold of the People Movers his performance record showed persistent good results. Nevertheless, Howard was still very relieved to have an open communication over his head to their new boss when absolutely necessary. Grierson hesitated a third time before speaking his mind: “Just between you and me, the past few months have been an unspoken dogfight between myself and Connelly. Think he’s up to something on the side. I try not to give him excuses to come down here often. There are certain files I’ve kept from him. It may very well end up costing me my job, but so far AHC has backed me ever time I’ve gone to see him.” “And what about Francis Edwards? I met him at a party once. His conversation is a lie a minute. His policy is to ingratiate himself with anyone and everyone who might be useful to him. But I detect something sinister behind the façade.” “One of Connelly’s old One Water execs? I wouldn’t have said sinister.” And why the interest in him anyway? “Certain rumours from contacts I have with One Water say the company has something akin to a well-organised industrial espionage division. Apparently run day-to-day by a very unpleasant character with a dubious background, Martin Gessler. Gessler is Edwards’ deputy. Spends much of his time floating between the One Water flagship office and the one in Toronto. Also rumoured he’s the strongarm muscle behind Connelly’s many corporate takeovers. Might even get around to a little industrial sabotage. “I hadn’t heard all that.” Howard sat upright. “But I can tell you one thing - Edwards isn’t allowed anywhere near this building. Although, truthfully, I have had my suspicions in the past that some of Connelly’s requests for data had really emanated from Edwards. He broke off just as Gustav Barnard strolled in after tapping lightly on the door. Only in his late twenties, slim in build, and very plainly-spoken, Barnard was considered a very promising upstart of the Logistics Branch. Among his multitude of practical skills, he was renowned as one of the most deadly marksman in North America. Transferred into Logistics from the USMC Scout Snipers, Barnard was exactly the sort of man necessary when a People Moving job called for live-fire support, which they occasionally did from time to time. “Evening, all.” Barnard propped himself against Gabriella’s vacant desk and swung one leg over the other. Thompson noticed Grierson had clammed up as this new arrival appeared. Gustav added on, looking at Thompson: “Hey Maurice, long time no see. Haven’t seen many new articles from you recently either, come to think of it. “You know perfectly well, Gustav, that these days I only go after a story I think is really worthwhile. That’s the advantage of having journalistic ethics.” “So, you here to do a write-up about what happened over on Millview or something?” “There’s a very firm X-Notice on that,” Grierson interjected. “Official story is that we believe some foreign diplomat was involved in a wild party. Drugs and all that. Try and put them off the scent.” “Good idea.” Barnard lit a cigarette. “Can’t have the World thinking Baronhurst just snapped broke loose at long last, killed some poor bastard.” “You have such a nice way of putting things.” Thompson commented. “Life and soul of any party, you are.” “Keep your pants on. Both of you” Barnard said. “And since it looks like Joe scooted off, are you sending out a general alert – setting the hounds after him or anything like that?” “At the present time, all options are still under consideration” Grierson told him stiffly. “Fair enough. Just came in to say I’ve been summoned.” Barnard withdrew an opened envelope from a trouser pocket and held it up. “Thought you ought to know-”. “By AHC?” Grierson’s sudden sense of outrage was clear in his tone. “Oh lordy me, no. By Spiro Connelly, our esteemed and all-mighty Regional Supervisor, has asked me to meet him on official business at the secure facilities at his home in the mountains outside the city. The request forms and proper authorisation’s all signed off on, right here. “Why?” “Won’t know ‘til I get there, will I. I’d better get moving. It’s a quite a drive especially at night. Connelly never sleeps.” He glanced at Thompson as he stood up. “The Millview Drive episode would really give you something to get your teeth into. Assuming you’re still on Baronhurst’s side, or course.” “Are you?” Thompson let out. “I always keep an open mind…” “Because there’s not all that much going on inside it?” Thompson suggested. Barnard gave a mock salute with a wry smile, and left the office without replying. “You don’t trust him?” Thompson turned to Grierson with a slight sense of buried unease. “You asked me earlier about who had been made aware of the Quicksilver Alert and the Locate and Hold order on Baronhurst’s file. Of course, If you ever quote me I’ll deny I said it. But-” Howard spoke in a monotone: “Colorado State Director Farndon, his Wyoming counterpart Willard Turk, Pacific Northwest international liaison Scott Porter in the Glacier Bay Alaska outpost, OL-General Partridge at Malmstrom, Robert Day of Arizona, Matias Sebastian Regional Director of everything West of Connelly’s jurisdiction, and Provincial Director Colonel Matt Browning in Calgary Alberta. That completes the list.” “Thank you.” Thompson paused as Howard stood up to leave. “It’ll be a miracle if the news doesn’t leak out eventually. And you really have closed Joe in tight.” “The list was originally much longer as drawn up by Connelly.” Howard replied as he reached the door. “And the Signals included details of the murder committed at Millview?” “Many of those men have been Baronhurst’s friends and colleagues for quite a few years” “But will they still be his friends after receiving the Alert dispatch?” “I edited the Ministry version after my meeting with AHC,” Grierson told him. “My Signal used the phrase ‘alleged offence’. Must be off now. Good luck, Maurice. Afraid I can’t do another damn thing at the moment.” Once Grierson left the room, Thompson swung round to face the receptionist, Liz. Who had remained stock-still like a piece of the furniture the whole time since he’d arrived. Now, she held one pointer-finger to her lips, picked up a portable radio from the kneehole beneath her desk and switched it on. Carrying it over to Thompson, she placed it on Baronhurst’s desk, switched it on, and found a music programme. Keeping it on a modest volume she sat down close to Thompson. “Why all that?” he had to ask. “In case the Regional Director has had the office bugged. Wouldn’t entirely surprise me, some odd people with papers bearing Connelly’s signature have been around here recently.” “Surely Howard realises the danger? Yet he let me talk?” “He can’t bring himself to believe a Regional Overseer would do that. I can – I’ve met the Spiro Connelly. He’s one big con man, and that’s saying something in this line of work. Of course, I may be prejudiced – he called me Old Faithful.” “Patronising swine” “He did it on purpose – to try and get a rise out of me. Part of his stock in trade when he wants to take over any organisation: He starts to sow dissension. Howard thinks Gustav is in the running for his job.” “Barnard wouldn’t play that game. I don’t like him, but he’s a cynical bastard when he needs to be and won’t be taken in by the likes of Connelly.” “Are you sure? It’d be an awfully a big carrot to dangle in front of Gustav’s nose. It’s got Howard all shook up.” Liz leaned closer. “Am I right in thinking you really believe Joseph had nothing to do with that horrible murder?” “Yes.” “Then you might like to know that he took a very large sum of money with him. A small fortune in American and Canadian banknotes. It’s missing from the department safe and only two people had the combination. Joe and Howard.” “So he’s okay for funds? Good, that had worried me.” “And, Maurice, he’s also taken six phoney passports in different names, all with his photo on ‘em.” “Anyone else know about that?” “Only me. He kept them in his drawer. I’m usually the only one besides Joseph with keys for this floor, I checked while I was on my own. Plus, international driving licences in the same names. He’s gotta be up to something.” “He needs back-up. I have to find him.” “Gabriella, his personal case-assistant is with him as far as we know.” Liz reminded him.