February 20-21, 1984
morning, I noticed Darby heading into the library with his guitar. It was the
perfect opportunity. I slid into Sid’s office and locked the door.
up?” he asked, turning towards me from the computer.
second buy,” I said, picking up his phone. “I’ve got to set it up and I’d
rather do it on the secure line. Darby’s in the library practicing.”
nodded, then started writing again. There are actually four phone lines coming
into the house, Sid’s and my private lines, the business line, and the one we
use for Quickline. That one is only hooked up to the phone in Sid’s office.
waiting for the other end to pick up, I watched Sid as he stopped writing.
Grimacing, he went over the papers spread out on his desk, then pulled a sheaf
of binder paper to him. I chuckled as he unscrewed the top to his fountain pen.
I’m more comfortable,” he snarled.
would have answered, but Tony picked up.
got anything new for us?” I asked.
he replied. “I-I-I can bring it to you tomorrow. There’s a hotel on-on Century
Boulevard.” He named it.
are you trying to do? Set me up for a bust?”
No. No. I-I just thought it would b-b-be easier to t-talk.”
all of a sudden, put aside his project and started scribbling in big block
about what?” I asked.
d-doing more business.”
held up the paper he’d been working on.
too nice,” it said. “Cuss, damn it.”
string of obscenities followed. I blushed, but he was right.
I’ve got g-good stuff. It can’t hurt your b-b-bottom line.”
arrested can,” I said as Sid pointed, then added the epithet he’d suggested. “I’ve
got a better idea, we’ll meet in the lobby, near the concierge’s desk. I know
what you look like. Unless you’ve got any
other surprises for me.”
Twelve- twelve thirty.”
thirty, tomorrow,” I added the name of the hotel and hung up.
leaned back in his chair with his arms folded. He was smiling, but he wasn’t
sorry. I wasn’t raised that way. It’s not in my nature.”
just as happy it’s not. But it doesn’t make you very convincing in this sort of
giggled. “I guess it doesn’t. It just seems so strange, after hearing all my
life that you just don’t use that sort of language, being told I have to.”
well, we’ll have to hold the obscenity workshop later. What are you going to do
about that photograph business?”
sighed. “I do have my wig. I’ll re-do my make up with all the different
contours and stuff.”
if Darby sees you?”
I thought. “Wait. That hotel’s right near the airport. I can do my make up
there. Nobody will think twice about it.”
shrugged. “Probably not. I don’t like it, but it’s probably our best shot. See
if you can set up a meeting with his boss. Maybe we can set up a sting.”
but I don’t want to push it too fast. It might scare him off.”
we’ll see.” Sid went back to the computer.
went back to my office. Outside, hanging on the sliding glass door, was Frank
Lonergan. I stuck my tongue out at him and he went back to work.
a musician trying to make it, and in the meantime, he has to do other things to
eat and pay rent, like gardening. He works for a contract company and is pretty
much able to come and go as he pleases or picks up gigs.
last fall, Sid’s gardener retired, and I got the job of finding a new one. It
worked out really well. The company turned in a nice low bid, Frank got a bonus
for picking up a new client, and Sid doesn’t have to think about his yard,
which is why he has a gardener.
makes a point of grabbing Sid’s place when the job assignments go out. He
usually eats lunch with us, and as often as not, dinner, after which he and Sid
get together and play flute and piano works. Frank plays guitar, mostly as a
matter of economics he says, but he’s primarily a floutist, which is why he’s
also a gardener.
lunch, Frank, Darby, and Sid, of course, talked about music, and the next thing
I know, Darby’s all excited, and the guys are talking fugue. Frank agreed to
finish up by three.
hall clock had barely chimed the hour when Darby dragged me into the library to
listen. I concentrated on my knitting instead.
stayed to dinner. I usually do my weights on Monday, between dinner and the
teen bible study Frank and I help lead. I tried to talk Darby into staying with
Frank and Sid so they could keep playing, but Darby insisted he wanted to stay
with me. So I took him to the gym with me, and then on to bible study.
next day, I left early for the airport, wearing slacks with heels. In one of
the restroom stalls, I changed to a dress with flat pumps and put on my wig. I
did my make up over one of the sinks. It wasn’t easy, but no one paid any
attention to me. After sliding on my glasses, I put the duffel bag I was
carrying into one of the lockers next to the restroom and headed out.
took a cab over to the hotel. Tony was at the concierge’s desk, looking out at
the bar. I slid up behind him and squeezed his elbow. He jumped.
talk in the lobby,” I said quietly.
we c-c-c-can get a d-drink in the b-b-bar,” he said, then he saw me. “You’re
I am. I’m just not interested in giving certain people a description to pin on
me.” I nodded at some sofas around the corner from the check-in desks. “We’ll
talk over here. Now, what have you got?”
schematics, radar, g-guidance systems, you name it.”
how much are you asking?”
depends. We-we need a regular b-b-b-buyer.”
I stayed calm even though my brain was racing. On one hand, it was almost too
easy. We could set up a meeting with our respective bosses and spring the trap.
Then again, trap was the key word. What if they were setting a trap for us? On
the other hand, this guy was so obviously an amateur, what if he didn’t know
about the implications?
would m-m-make things a lot easier.”
I don’t know. I’d have to get it okayed first, then you have to show good
can set up a m-m-meeting. Y-your people and ours.”
what can you give me now to prove it’s worth our while?”
slid a five by seven envelope into my hands. “L-l-look that over. It’s only one
p-part, b-but I think you’ll f-f-find it interesting.”
See you later.” I turned and headed for the exit, jamming the envelope into my
purse. It wasn’t my regular monster, but a smaller briefcase style affair in
sputtered behind me. Something was definitely up. As I passed the concierge
desk, I stopped momentarily. Two men in dark suits were headed my way.
wanted to head for the door, but Tony was there by then, and I didn’t want him
following me. I headed for the back of the lobby and the service doors. The two
dark suits trotted up.
a sandy-haired fellow about my age, flashed an FBI ID. It said Rick Tanner.
ma’am,” he said.
smiled at them. “Yes, gentlemen?”
waiter with a cart full of wine glasses came out of the service door. I smiled
again as the cart rattled my way, then ducked behind it and through the door.
The two agents bolted after me.
had one advantage besides a small but decided lead on those guys. I grew up in
South Lake Tahoe on the resort my parents own up there. All my friends’ parents
were in the tourist trade one way or another. I’ve spent plenty of time in the
bowels of hotels. While every hotel is different, there is a certain feel to
the layout of the service halls, one that I’m fairly familiar with.
You’re under arrest!” called Tanner’s partner.
slid around a corner just in time to miss the crash of gunfire that followed
me. I grabbed my gun and fired back randomly, praying I wouldn’t hit anyone.
Then I ran for the kitchen figuring that with all those innocent bystanders
around, they wouldn’t be as likely to start shooting again.
found it easily enough and hid behind a stack of produce boxes. The agents came
through, and I ducked out of there, unfortunately taking a stack of pans with
clatter alerted my pursuers, but the pans also stalled them some. As they
dodged around them, I ran full out. I lost them in the corridor, but as luck
would have it, they entered the lobby barely minutes after I did.
was already in the cab. As we pulled out, I could see the agents spot me.
late for my flight,” I gasped at the driver. “Please hurry.”
stepped on the gas. “Which terminal?”
Western.” My hands were shaking as I slid my gun into the shield for the metal
detector at the airport.
old LAX was jam-packed, and all the construction they were doing for the
Olympics wasn’t helping any. The traffic kept my pursuers at bay but also
were near the first terminal when I spotted the blue light of a police car
get out now,” I told the driver, handing him a couple bills.
opened the door, and keeping low, I slipped out of the cab and between the
cars. I made it across the parking lot okay but Tanner and his partner were
moving through the cars, looking.
swallowed and tried to be calm and casually walked towards the terminal. As I
hit the door, I glanced behind me to see Tanner in the middle of the parking
lot suddenly point at me and take off running.
took off for the planes, thanking God there hadn’t been a line at the metal
detectors. I ran down the moving walkway, then cut through the crowd on the
escalator to the gates.
the top, I looked back. Tanner and his partner had just reached the bottom and
were fighting their way through the people. My key snagged in the locker, but I
got it open before the Feds reached the top of the escalator. I yanked my
duffel bag free and ran for the bathroom. I took one last look around before
sliding through the door and didn’t see anybody looking for me.
changed in the stall, cold creaming my face and taking off my wig in there,
too. I was afraid I was going to stop up the toilet with all the toilet paper I
used, but it flushed okay when I was finally ready to go. I went to the sink
and finished washing my face and casually re-applied my normal make-up,
basically just lipstick, mascara and blush.
was giving my cheeks a final dusting when Tanner and his partner came in. He was
are you doing in here?” I asked, letting my voice shake as I backed away from
FBI, ma’am,” said Tanner’s partner, an Earl Weisman according to his ID.
made a point of examining both ID’s.
these look like they’re on the level.” I swallowed and backed up again. “I
don’t mean to be rude, but you know how it is with airports. All sorts of
weirdos running around.”
well, we understand,” said Weisman. “Um, we’re looking for a blonde lady, a
little shorter than you. She was wearing a blue dress with a gray tweed jacket
over it. We think she may have come in here.”
She may have. There’ve been a couple ladies in and out. I wasn’t watching. I’m
okay,” sighed Tanner.
men left. I gave my face a final once over, sighed in relief, then left the
bathroom. Weisman and Tanner got on the down escalator just ahead of me but
apparently didn’t see me. I heard them.
got to be on that plane,” grumbled Tanner. “Don’t ask me how, but that’s the only
place she could be.”
okay. But you call Chicago,” said Weisman.
don’t I get Powers to do it? He’s got the pull.”
really want to tell Len we lost her?”
else are we going to tell him? Geez, how the hell did she get past the metal
detectors with that cannon she had?”
must have ditched it. I say we get a search detail out on the trash cans in the
want to get that past Powers?” Tanner laughed.
the cab was clean.”
driver sure was happy. Forty bucks for a five-minute
chuckled. “I thought that was the going rate.”
got off the escalator and walked quickly through the crowd. They didn’t see me
as I walked past them out of the terminal and to my truck.
I swung my duffel bag into the back, I decided I wasn’t going to go home just
yet. I went straight to the Federal Building in Westwood first.
everyone knows I’m just as much Henry James’ friend as Sid is, no one gave me a
second glance as I went past security and upstairs to Henry’s office.
the outer office, Angelique Carter was behind her desk with a stack of flyers
and a bottle of Liquid Paper.
is also a good mutual friend of Sid’s and mine. She and I go to lunch and chat
whenever I’m there to see Henry. I would imagine she and Sid chat, but they
also, you know. She’s one of Sid’s very few re-occurring girlfriends. Every now
and then she moves in with him and moves out two weeks later.
kid, where you been?” she asked, grinning as she tossed her dark brown full
hair back from her face. She’s confessed to a stint as a model some years back
and still keeps in shape.
what else?” I looked over at the door to Henry’s office behind her. It was
closed as usual. “Is your boss busy?”
course. When isn’t he? But he should be done in a few minutes, so why don’t you
go ahead and sit down and keep me company.”
I plopped down into the chair next to her desk. “What on earth are you doing?”
Angelique made a face at the pile of papers. “Some dope down in printing messed
up the date, so now I have to correct every single one of these by hand.”
they reprint them?”
cuts. It’d cost too much. Personally, I think my time is more valuable, but
this is the Federal Government we’re dealing with.”
can say that again.” I smiled casually, but inside I was steaming about getting
shot at by the guys on my side.
how’s your boss? Keeping you busy as usual?”
Except you wouldn’t believe what we’ve got going on now.”
I would. I’ve known Sid longer than you.” Angelique smirked.
don’t you call him? He could use someone to stroke his ego right now.”
just to stroke him.”
always needs that.”
sighed lustfully. “He does indeed. And you won’t provide. You’re so cruel,
shrugged. “So I’ve got morals.”
I’m glad you do. You’re enough competition as it is.”
looked me straight in the eye. “Darling Lisa, Sid is hung up on you. Should you
ever consent to sleeping with him, he will, for the most part, not be sleeping
with anyone else.”
not saying he’ll be completely faithful. We both know him better than that. But
there are a lot of women in this city, myself included, hoping against hope
that you never move into his bedroom.”
suppose if I was available all the time…”
has nothing to do with it,” Angelique snorted a little bitterly. “It would be
right. Ange, you haven’t got a thing to worry about. It’s not going to happen.”
I stopped. “What makes you so sure he would?”
things.” She sighed, looked at me, then back down at her papers. “A lot of
little things, but they add up.” She looked at me again. “It’s okay, Lisa. It’s
not like it’s your fault. You know what a fool I am over him. Just do me a
favor and stay upright and true to your morals, will you? If sex is all I can
get from Sid, I can live with that. It’s plenty, believe me.”
squirmed. “Well, you can have it. And don’t worry about me. If Sid has more
than the hots for me, it won’t make any difference because that’s the only way
he can express it and I need more than that in a relationship.”
just laughed softly.
shook her head. “I’m even more worried about you.”
would have demanded an explanation, but the door to Henry’s office and a young
man stepped out, followed by Henry, himself. He’s a tallish man and balding
with a very red face. The young man said goodbye,
then Henry turned to me.
this a lunch date or are you here to see me?” he asked pleasantly.
looked at Angelique. “Both, actually. I came to say hello to you, then, Ange,
you want to go?”
frowned. “Lisa, it’s already two-fifteen.”
hoping. I’ll just have to say hi to you, Henry.” I got up. “Let’s go talk.”
followed me into the office, shutting the door behind us.
is not a good idea,” he said sternly. “Didn’t Sid tell you?”
the leak in the office? Yeah, of course. But no communication at all isn’t
going to help, Henry. I almost got busted by two of your guys this afternoon.”
I was making a second buy from that defense plant contact. I took off and sure
enough, here come the suits. They must have been following my guy, which with
all due respect, I think is a little stupid considering how antsy these guys
not right here,” Henry grumbled, bothered about something.
steamed, I wasn’t paying attention. “I’ll say it’s not right. It’s downright
ridiculous. Good Lord, we were shooting at each other and we’re on the same
you return fire?” he asked anxiously.
yeah,” I said, suddenly sheepish. “I’m sorry, Henry, but darn it, they shot
think you got one of them?”
thank God. There were only two of them and I ran into them later, and that’s
pretty complicated, too.”
if you’d gotten one of them, it’d be easier for me to track down who they are,
or even have an interest in them without spooking anyone.”
can tell you who they were. Rick Tanner and Earl Weisman.” I explained the
whole mess and included the badge numbers just to show off.
wrote them down. “Len Powers, too, huh. That makes a little more sense.”
N.S.T.” (National Security Team, sort of like the uniform cops of
counter-espionage because everybody knows about them.) “Used to work out of this office, but he got
promoted to running the San Diego team a couple months ago, and not a minute
too soon, if you ask me.”
a hot dogger. Damn good man, but one of these days, he’s going to push his luck
too far and somebody’s going to get killed.”
take care of it, Lisa.”
you’d better not, what with that leak and all. We can’t afford to let anybody
get a hint about me.”
might be taking a chance you don’t want to. Powers can get a little overzealous at times.” Henry frowned. “So be very
careful about any meetings. Make sure they’re in a public place with multiple
I swallowed. “You don’t think we’re being set up for a bust,
do you? Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know. It’s doesn’t make sense.” Henry shrugged. “Unless
somebody’s trying to eliminate some competition.”
“But then it would be someone else besides the defense plant
“I know and that’s the part that doesn’t make sense. Just
play it cool and let me deal with the stuff in the agency.” He sighed. “I’d
pull you guys off this one, but Dragon says we can’t.”
Dragon was the agency head. We heard from her now and again
and had even worked with her, but she mostly stayed in the background. Dragon
knew things we didn’t, which meant that we didn’t tend to question her.
I sighed as well, then got up. “Alright. I’ll head back to
Henry glared down at his desk. “Oh, wait. I was going to
send this some other way, but now that you’re here. I’ve got something for Sid.”
He handed me a big manila envelope. I debated opening it but
decided that Henry would have told me what it was if it was okay for me to look
at it. Besides, I’d probably know what it was soon enough, anyway.
I got back to the house to find Darby hidden in his room.
“He wouldn’t come out,” Sid told me. “I decided not to press
it. He got his schoolwork done.”
“Okay,” I said, looking down the hall with a worried frown.
I looked down at my purse and pulled out the envelope Henry gave me. “This is
for you and we need to conference. It’s getting even uglier.”
“Wonderful,” Sid replied, glancing at the envelope.
“Do you mind if I check on Darby first?” I asked.
Sid nodded, and I hurried down the hall to his room and
knocked softly on his door.
“Darby, it’s Aunt Lisa,” I called.
He opened the door. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine. I’m done with my schoolwork. Can I watch TV?”
I looked him over. He seemed to be acting normally again.
“Sure,” I said.
He ran off to the rumpus room and I went back to Sid’s
office and shut and locked the door.
“He seems normal,” I told Sid.
“Hm.” Sid was scowling.
“Nothing I didn’t entirely expect.” He picked up a small set
of papers. “I had Henry run a profile on Rachel and Nick. I had to.”
“Did you tell him why?”
“Uh, no.” Sid winced. “But he’s probably already figured it
“Take a look at Nick’s birth certificate.”
I took the piece of paper from him. Under father, it listed Sid Hackbirn.
“Yikes,” I said. “How are you feeling about it?”
Sid shrugged. “People have lied on birth certificates before.”
Something inside me just snapped. I don’t know what,
exactly, but his attitude really made me angry.
“Why can’t you just accept it?” I snarled at him. “For
Heaven’s sakes, Sid. You know what it’s like to not be wanted and don’t give me
any nonsense about him not wanting a father. He wants you. And there’s no good reason you can’t just own up to
being his father. None! If Nick really doesn’t want a father, then he’ll get
used to having one, just like you’ll get used to being one.”
“It’s not that simple, Lisa.”
“Yes, it is! You don’t need a blood test to prove that he’s
your kid. He looks just like you! So quit pretending that you don’t have to
acknowledge him and get it taken care of. You’re his father. Get used to it.”
I was about to storm out of the office when I realized the
door was locked and then why it was locked.
“Shavings!” I groaned and sniffed.
“I take it there’s something else to discuss?” Sid’s tone
was acerbic at best.
I sniffed then nodded. “Yeah. And none of it is good.”
I repeated my conversation with Henry, which did not help
Sid’s mood in the least.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Sid grumbled.
“No kidding.” I flopped into the chair in front of his desk.
“But what are we going to do about it?”
“Be very careful, I guess. Let’s get that next buy set up.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow. Don’t want to seem too anxious.”
Sid nodded. I looked at him sadly for a moment, then got up,
unlocked the office door and left.
I tried to focus on my usual work but didn’t get very far. I
couldn’t tell what was bothering me more. Sid’s attitude toward Nick was
frustrating, but I had good reason to believe he’d come around eventually. The
case was getting pretty scary. On the other hand, Sid and I had survived some
pretty tight situations before. So, while I wasn’t happy about the way things
were going, I wasn’t freaking out or brooding.
No, I was mostly worried about Darby. It really wasn’t like
him to hold onto secrets. But he was holding onto something. It wasn’t something
he was happy about, more like he couldn’t tell, even if he wanted to. In fact,
I suddenly realized he was acting a lot like me when my family or friends
wanted me to be more open about the things I cannot talk about for their
safety, let alone mine.
That was not a comforting thought. It meant Darby was
holding onto his secret because he thought someone else’s welfare depended on
it. Which, in turn, meant that he was not going to share it. Period. That
definitely made things a whole lot more ticklish.