Read Pieces of the Puzzle Online

Authors: Robert Stanek

Pieces of the Puzzle (4 page)

Baltimore, Maryland
Thursday,

30 December

Cynthia lifted her head from the toilet, flushed and pulled herself to her feet. She turned on the shower, waited until the
water was warm, removed her robe, and then stepped in. Another month, another week, another day, she told herself as she lathered
up the soap and tried to let the warm water rinse away her disquietude. Her gynecologist told her the morning sickness would
probably end with her first trimester—the doctor was wrong. Today was the beginning of her second trimester and she had expected
the morning sickness to disappear almost magically—but it hadn’t.

A few minutes later, she shut off the water. She dried herself with a towel. After clearing the steamy mirror, she stared
at her reflection. Her breasts were starting to swell. They hurt. Everything hurt. Everything was swollen. Get it together
kid, you’re a mess… she told herself.

She took a deep breath. Someone knocked on the door. It was Edward. He said, “Mr. Simons is here, Miss Cynthia. Shall I tell
him you are on your way down?”

She looked into the mirror. The hurt returned to her eyes. She put a hand to her mouth, closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
She wasn’t ready for this.

“Are you all right, Miss Cynthia?”

“Tell my father I just got out of the shower. I’ll be down in a moment.”

She put on a robe, wrapped her hair in a towel and then sat on the edge of the Jacuzzi tub until her knees stopped shaking.
She walked slowly down the stairs. She knew her father would wait in the library—he preferred the library, said it was the
only room in the house where he felt comfortable. More likely it was the only room in the house that wasn’t bugged. She knew
this—she wasn’t as naïve as she pretended. The family “business” had taken her mother and she wasn’t about to let it take
Scott as well.

She paused in the hall to collect her thoughts and then entered. “Daddy, the flowers were beautiful, but they would have been
even more beautiful if you had brought them yourself.” “Pumpkin, you look beautiful, healthy.” He held out his arms.

She hesitated. The game, she reminded herself, it’s all about following the rules of the game.

“Come here, tell daddy what’s wrong and I’ll fix it.”

She still didn’t move. “Was the business trip really that important? You couldn’t have pushed it back a day? Mom would’ve
been fifty. Fifty was special to her.”

“Is that what this is all about? Why I drove all the way out from the airport through rush-hour traffic?”

“Yes—No, it’s about Scott. He hasn’t been himself lately. I’m worried about him.”

“I’m sure it’s nothing. Now, if you don’t come over here and give me a hug, I’m going to put you over my knee.” Cynthia smirked.
They embraced. “Now, isn’t that better?”

“Daddy, I know he’s in trouble.”

“Pumpkin, how do you know he’s in trouble?”

She took a seat next to him, braced herself, told herself to be brave, to look daddy in the eye. “Glen was here Sunday.”

“Glen who?”

“Glen Hastings,” she snapped, hormones and morning sickness getting the better of her. “I know I shouldn’t have listened in,
but I had to try to find out what was wrong. I heard everything. Scott’s in trouble, daddy. Do you think you could pull some
strings and get him reassigned?”

James Simons, daddy to Cynthia, reached over and wiped the tears from her cheeks. “Pumpkin, I’m sure you’re just upset, but
I will see what I can do to help out.” But in his eyes, she saw the Chairman and not her father. If there was one thing she
had learned from Scott, it was how to read someone’s eyes.

“Thank you.” She kissed his cheek, trying to hide the sudden trembling of her jaw. She’d gone too far with her admission.
She wasn’t supposed to know anything and where before he had only absently listened to her, he was now paying full attention.
“You know I really liked it better when he was just working with his gizmos. Now that he’s working in negotiations it’s just
been a nightmare.”

“Yes, negotiations can be tough,” he said with a smile.

“Dangerous, more like. You didn’t tell me.”

“You have to understand, I didn’t know the last assignment would—”

“Don’t blame yourself. I don’t think anyone could’ve guessed that it’d go on for so long, especially through the holidays.
I’m just glad he was able to come home for a few hours before heading back. But I’m worried that the work is too dangerous.
All it takes is one wacko with a gun and Scott—”

“Scott’s a technical specialist, pumpkin. He’s not supposed to be—”

“But he was.”

“Well, this time, perhaps. I think it just happened because he has a common background. It’s not everyday we crack one of
these cybergang cases wide open, you know. He’s a real—”

“Hero, yes I know: I read the plaque. But does it have to be Scott who—”

“I’m afraid it does. He’s made a connection with their leader and now that they’re talking, we need to find out everything
we can.”

She waved her hand at Edward. Edward set the tray on the table beside her. “Earl Grey?”

“Yes, ma’am. Strong, three-minute steep, just the way you like it. The biscotti are fresh, just baked.”

Edward excused himself. Cynthia thanked him, then turned back to her father. “Tea? It’s imported, some of the best.” He nodded
and she poured. She smacked his hand when he reached for the sugar. “No sugar. You don’t need any of that.”

Mr. Simons smiled, sincerely. “No, I don’t. Your mother’d be laughing right now if she were here.”

“She would, wouldn’t she. Next year, we’ll go together?”

“Yes, we will.”

***

Scott unzipped the garment bag, put the suits into the motel closet, put the Beretta in the left boot and the Browning into
the shoulder holster. He stretched out on the bed and propped his head against a pillow. He closed his eyes, but didn’t sleep—wouldn’t
sleep. He left that part of him behind in Baltimore. The part of him that was here in a forty-dollar-a-day motel room in downtown
Miami didn’t need sleep to perform. Oh he’d sleep all right, an hour here, a few minutes there, but only when he couldn’t
go on otherwise.

Right now he was trying to sort out the cryptic message he’d received from Glen when he checked in. He saw the words in his
mind’s eye and tried to reorder them. He hated Caesar alphabet encoding and was sure that if anyone was watching, they would
have sorted it out by now anyway.

He rummaged through the bedside nightstand. Finding a pad of paper and a pen, he wrote:

Friday, 2p.m.

Jessica Wellmen

Southeast Financial Center

Not a team player

As he wrote, the videophone and the glossies under the plastic tabletop caught his eye. A caption under one of the pictures
read: THE ONLY SAFE SEX IS PHONE SEX. FOR THE ULTIMATE, CALL SALT AND PEPPER. Scott chuckled for a moment. The phone book
was under the videophone. He grabbed it and looked under the W’s. What he found surprised him. There wasn’t a listing for
a Jessica Wellmen.

He looked for the Southeast Financial Center next, found a listing, but before he dialed their informational number, he blacked
out the lens on the phone. “Yes, I’m trying to find someone who works… I should have called directory assistance? Will they
be able to tell me… They won’t? Thank you.”

As he hung up the phone, he looked down at the tabletop. The ad for Sid’s Pizza, printed in bold neon red, caught his eye:
SID’S PIZZA 555-3758. DOWNTOWN, CHEAP, WE DELIVER. He called the number. A guy with the worst Italian accent he’d ever heard
said, “Hold a minute, then I’ll take your information.”

He ordered a pizza with the works. Afterward, he drummed his fingers on the nightstand while he considered his next move,
and that’s when the light went on. He picked up the phone and dialed information.

The voice said, “What city please?”

“Miami.”

“What listing?”

“Jessica Wellmen.”

There was a moment of silence, then an operator said, “I’ve checked the listings, and there is no Jessica Wellmen.”

“Can you check for the area?”

“Okay, sir… I’m checking for the big cities, Fort Lauderdale, Hialeah, Kendall, Sunrise, there’s lots of Wellmen but no Jessica
Wellmen. Do you know the street address?”

“Is there a way you could check outside the 305 area code?”

“I’ve already cross-referenced. No listing for a Jessica Wellmen, or even J. Wellmen, but I do have a J. Wellmen and Associates
in Boca Raton.”

He grinned. “What’s the number?”

He hung up, then dialed the number.

A friendly-sounding woman answered the phone, “J.

Wellmen and Associates. Can I help you?”

“Is Ms. Wellmen in?” Scott asked, switching on video receive. The woman also had a pleasant face. More importantly, with a
red sweater draped over her shoulders and clad in a light pink blouse, she looked like a secretary.

“Gone for the day, down at the Symphonic. Her sister’s the conductor you know.”

“I was looking for Jessica, I believe. Well, actually, I’m not quite sure who I was looking for.”

“We have three departments and fifteen consulting engineers.”

“I think it was Jessica. Tall brunette, wears wire-rimmed glasses.”

“I think you’re mistaken. Jessica’s been strawberry blonde long as I’ve known her.”

“What was I thinking, long hair though and glasses, right?”

“No, no glasses. Doesn’t even like to wear sunglasses. Why don’t you just come down to the office, I’ll find out which associate
you spoke with and we can—” “No, I’m sure it was Jessica. Will she be in tomorrow?”

“She’ll be in Miami on business, but she’ll be back Monday.”

“Is she staying in Miami tonight?”

“Yes. Do you want to leave a message?”

“No, I’ll call back on Monday.” Scott hung up the phone and leaned back against the pillow. He could afford to sleep now that
he didn’t have to spend hours chasing around the Southeast Financial Center trying to find someone who wasn’t even in Miami—yet.
Some things were just too easy.

He was almost asleep when someone knocked on the door and yelled, “Sid’s Pizza. Hurry, your pizza’s burning my hand.”

The instant his head left the pillow, Scott came fully alert. He took the gun from the holster and stuck it into the back
of his pants. He opened the door with the chain in place—not that the chain would really stop anyone but because it would
give him an extra instant of reaction time. “How much do I owe you?”

“Twenty-two fifty, plus tip.”

Scott took twenty-five dollars out of his wallet, and then unchained the door. He glanced at the deliveryman’s ball cap as
he took the pizza. “Rainbows, local team?”

The guy looked at him strangely. “You could say that. Enjoy,
mahalo
.”

He closed the door, set the pizza on the bed. He stared blankly at the wall while he tried to remember something, then it
clicked. Rainbows—Hawaii. The last time he’d seen a Rainbows game it’d been… He tried to think—must’ve been…

He ate a slice, then pushed the pizza aside and lay down on the bed. He stared up at the ceiling. He remembered now and knew
why he blocked the memory. His father had taken him to the games at Aloha Stadium during the year he’d been stationed in Hawaii
and Scott had visited. Had it really been that long ago?

He pushed memories of the past out of his mind as he ate another slice of pizza. The past was a painful place. He drove out
to the Southeast Financial Center around 10 a.m. on Friday morning. Not because it was a long drive from the motel or a hard
place to find. He wanted to check the place out. He knew who to look for—a woman with long, strawberry blonde hair, no glasses
and probably wearing slacks, somehow he couldn’t picture Ms. Jessica Wellmen wearing a dress—and when to look for her, around
two. But he didn’t know who she was going to meet—would it be Whuthers, Wolcott or Williams, all three, or someone else entirely—or
where they would meet.

He knew Jessica had come from Boca Raton the night before, but why? It was a mere forty-five minute drive to Miami—a few hours
in rush hour, but they were meeting at two. Obviously she wanted to arrive fresh, and maybe she didn’t want to worry about
being late—or early. If that were the case, she’d come by cab, he knew it. He had only to pick the right vantage point to
see her arrival.

As he walked around the financial center, he started thinking. Why Miami, why not just meet in Boca Raton? Why two o’clock?
Why the Southeast Financial Center? It seemed the answer was so obvious that he was overlooking it because it had to be right
there in front of him.

He stopped walking, looked at the people around him, then asked himself again. Why Miami, why not Boca Raton? Was it Miami
International? But that wasn’t enough, whoever Ms.

Wellmen was meeting could have caught a commuter flight to Boca Raton.

Crowds? Maybe.

Crowded—easy to blend in? Yes… Why two o’clock? Was the answer the same? Everyone would be coming back from lunch—crowds.

Why the Southeast Financial Center? Any place in Miami during midday was crowded. Why here? Was there an office in the center
Wellmen owned?

No, even if he owned the whole damned thing, that wasn’t it. The point was that John Wellmen didn’t own office space here,
because if he did they would just conduct business in a private office somewhere and if they were going to do that, why not
in Boca Raton? No, Jessica wasn’t a team player. She was a wild card.

Scott thought back to the drive from the motel. What had he seen? What had he been looking for—a ninety-five-story building.

He chuckled. Suddenly, all the pieces fell into place. Whoever was coming didn’t know Miami but knew how to find a tall building—just
look up. But why come to a crowded place in a city you’re not familiar with and to a place where you have no control?

He thought about this for a moment. The answer seemed suddenly clear, obvious—Ms. Wellmen wasn’t just a wild card, she was
holding the cards. She had something they wanted and she knew she was in control.

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