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Chapter Ten

February 22 – 23, 1984

Pull Quote: "I think they were there to take us out." From Fugue in a Minor Key, a cozy spy novel or mystery

The next morning, I managed to keep a straight face when Sid told me that he’d called Rachel the night before and had agreed to have Nick down for the coming weekend. [Not by half, kiddo. You pulled a smirk for the ages – SEH]

Shortly after that, we got a call from the Dragon directly, asking us to set up a meeting for the next night. She explicitly told us not to set it up as a sting. Just to make the purchase quietly and try to get a look at the other side’s big boss. So, I made the calls, then got worried because Dragon had also insisted that both Sid and I go together. Since I wanted to call Mae, anyway, I went ahead and asked if she’d mind watching Darby while Sid and I went on our separate appointments. Mae agreed to come late that afternoon, then spend the night.

The rest of the day passed quietly. Sid wanted to go out that night, so I talked George into coming over and watching a movie with Darby and me. Darby went to bed after the movie. George and I were going to watch another, but we got caught up in a little necking. Finally, George got up, flushing a deep red.

“You okay?” I asked.

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “I just…” He laughed guiltily. “It’s nothing. I guess it’s time for me to get home. Are we going out on Saturday?”

“Unless something comes up,” I said, following him through the front of the house. “You know how that goes. Nick’s supposed to be here. Maybe we can take the boys out to a movie.”

“Sure.” George didn’t look all that enthused about the idea.

“Well, if you don’t want to,” I said.

“No. If you want to, we’ll do it,” he replied.

I kissed him good night and went to bed.

Mae and I had a good chat when she arrived the next day. I told her about my suspicion that Darby felt that he had a good reason for keeping his problem a secret.

“That seems to make more sense than anything,” she said. “But how do we get it out of him? It’s clearly not something that he should be carrying around.”

“I know.” I sighed and chose my next words very carefully. I did not want Mae trying to pry my secrets out of me. “But I have no idea what to do next. Maybe Sister Jerilyn would have an idea. It is her area of expertise.”

“You know, you’re right,” Mae said. “I should have thought of that.”

“Maybe not,” I said.

Sid stepped in to say that he was leaving, and Mae, Darby and I all ate dinner together shortly after. Then I went off to my meeting.

Sid had parked his car at the gym, and I met him there. We both played some racquetball, then showered. I got on my wig and makeup. Sid met me in the parking lot and we took my truck. The meeting was in Century City, so we parked the truck under the Shubert Theater, then walked to the garage at the Century Plaza Hotel. Sid had put on a fedora and held it on in the brisk wind. As we approached the garage, he pulled the hat down low over his face. We’d gotten there somewhat early, certain that the people we were meeting had gotten there early, too.

I spotted Tony standing nervously near a pillar, deep in the middle of the ground floor. I looked at Sid. He nodded and we moved into a shadowed recess closer to the entrance.

“Tony?” I called. “I can see you, but I’d really rather we met over here.”

“I- I- I was told to meet you at this pillar,” he whined looking for us.

“And what makes you think we’re that stupid?” I said. “We’ll meet where we’ve both got clear sight lines and a fast way out.”

“I w-w-w-was hoping you t-t-trusted me,” Tony said, slowly coming near the entrance. He couldn’t quite see us, but it was interesting that he wasn’t looking around for other bad guys.

As he neared the entrance, I slid out of the shadows. He was trembling.

“I hate this,” he said sniffing. “I only d-d-d-did it so that my son could have an operation. He n-needed it t-t-to save his life, b-b-b-but the insurance wouldn’t c-cover it. They said it was experimental. We c-couldn’t afford it otherwise.”

My heart melted, but fortunately, I didn’t let down my guard. Tony may have been an amateur, but he was being handled by some established professionals.

“Is your b-b-b-boss here?” Tony asked.

“I am,” said Sid, stepping out of the shadows behind me. “And I don’t like doing business with rank amateurs who have the Feds on their backsides every five minutes. It’s almost not worth doing business with you. You’re just lucky that my client wants what you have so badly.”

“The F-F-Feds aren’t m-m-m-my fault,” Tony whined.

“I don’t give a crap,” Sid growled. “I’m not going to risk my backside because you’re an idiot. Now, what have you got that’s worth so damn much?”

“Uh, uh, full g-guidance systems specs. Your c-c-c-client will know what we’ve got c-cooking for the next t-t-t-ten, no, t-twenty years.” Tony swallowed.

I rolled my eyes for effect.

“Federal agents,” barked a voice at the far end of the garage. “We’ve got you covered!”

Tony ducked and hid behind a car as Sid and I slid into the shadows and crept our way through the bushes planted next to the garage. There didn’t seem to be any agents behind us, and there were only two men advancing toward us. One held a rifle and was sweeping the area. The other had his revolver out, with his arms braced.

Sid and I soon hit a wall but spotted a door into the hotel. We hurried inside, then walked through the lobby. Sid stashed his fedora in a trash bin along the way. We put on our most casual faces and smiles then had the doorman at the entrance summon a cab for us. Fortunately, the cab took the long way around to the Shubert. Sid paid the driver, then we headed out across the plaza in front of the theater. We waited just long enough for the show inside to end, then blended in with the crowd.

Finally, in my truck, we joined the crowd of cars winding their way out of the garage. Sid and I looked at each other but neither of us felt comfortable talking yet, even though we were probably safe. As we finally got out of the garage, Sid directed me to drive by the Century Plaza. I was a little surprised but did without arguing.

“There’s nothing going on,” I said.

“Exactly,” Sid said. “That’s what’s wrong. Why aren’t there vans and swarms of guys sweeping the snot out of that place? Where are the cops? This defense plant leak is a huge deal and they send only two guys to make the bust?”

I frowned as I made the left on Olympic to head back to the gym. “That’s true.”

“Those two guys in the garage weren’t Federal agents,” Sid said. “I’d stake my life on it.”

“The guys in the airport most certainly were,” I said. “Or they had really, really good IDs.”

“Then why hasn’t Tony gotten busted?” Sid asked.

“Maybe he’s not such an amateur,” I said slowly.

“As in he’s playing your game.” Sid’s eyebrow lifted. “Which means if those guys were Feds, a) they don’t believe he’s got that much going or b) they’re using him to land us. But that doesn’t make sense. They should know we’ve got a sting operation going on.”

“Or maybe they are Feds, but they’re the leaks,” I said.

“They could be,” said Sid. He closed his eyes for a moment. “Either way, I don’t think they had a bust in mind. I think they were there to take us out.”

“How comforting,” I grumbled.

Sid shrugged. “We’re out of it now. If we were for real secrets brokers, we wouldn’t be dumb enough to set up another buy with Tony. So, setting up another buy would tag us as Federal agents.”

“From your lips to God’s ear,” I said.

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