Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

Tags: #mystery, #fiction, #kit, #frazier, #midnight, #ink, #locator, #bones, #spinoff

The Knowland Retribution (25 page)

St. John

The chase was easy.
The path well traveled. It was a foregone conclusion that he would find what he was looking for. At the heart of it all lay what people call “intuition.” Walter understood intuition as hidden calculation, invisible counting, and weighing. It made some card players rich, told goalies where to stick the glove without ever seeing the shot, drove scientific breakthroughs. As Walter had tried to explain to Billy and Ike, the conscious mind can't find or control the place where these calculations are made.

Intuitive people get results through a one-way door in the mind. This worked better for some than others. Walter believed that to fully exploit intuition, people needed intelligence. What's more, high intelligence plus intuition equals genius. True, people of average intelligence also have hunches and often know how to play them. Walter considered himself an average man with better-than-average hunches.

These skills and the resources he nurtured in thirty years spent finding people gave him a great advantage over cops and associated freelancers. He was confident of that. He faced no bureaucracy or any of the other multitudes of institutions that claim to be so vital to human sociology, yet more often than not are designed primarily to make things harder than need be. He worked without warrants, court orders, or permission, unshackled by rules. He encountered none of the legal, political, or jurisdictional red tape (priding himself on actually knowing the origin of the term) that plagued law enforcement. Most of all, when he thought about what made him a success he credited much of it to the simple fact that he knew what he was doing. His natural affinity for the process, going all the way back to Freddy Russo in Saigon, was only sharpened by years of experience. He wasn't quite able to recognize it, let alone have such feelings see the light of day, but deep inside he knew he loved it. The plane rides, the long drives to the middle of nowhere, the finest hotels in the capital cities of the world and the cheap ones in towns nobody wanted to spend time in. He loved the solitude, the privacy, the assurance of being alone, the certainty he could not possibly run into anyone who knew him. Especially himself.

Over time, Walter accumulated and cultivated a list of people who could get him access to information he needed either to begin or continue his searches. He made a conscious point of staying in touch with former clients and others he met along the way who could be useful to him in the future, and he was a truly good friend to those among them whom he really liked. He learned to distinguish gratitude from relief. Some clients lost their gratitude fast. Some never had it at all. Some never lost it—and many of these were positioned to help. The well was deep, and now he drank from it yet again.

“Hoe gaat het, Aat,” said Walter, sitting on his deck, the tropical sea spread out beneath him, the telephone resting easily on his shoulder.

“Walter, my friend,” was the surprised and happy reply. “How are you?”

Aat van de Steen was a Dutchman, a man of rare candor with a ripe sense of humor and a self-confidence Walter knew to be of awe-inspiring proportions. If you asked what he did, he most probably would describe himself as a soldier of fortune. And he would do so with a flourish, a smile, and a twinkle in his eye. What did Aat van de Steen do? Who could be sure?

“How are you, old man?” said the Dutchman. “So wonderful to hear your voice again.”

“Old man?” said Walter. “You're older than me.”

Van de Steen laughed. “Not in the ways that count, my friend. For there I am forever young.”

“Yeah, you and Zimmy.”

“Zimmy?”

“Dylan. Bob Dylan. ‘Forever Young.'”

“You think I don't know your Bob Dylan?” The Dutchman laughed again. “You are—how do you say—kidding me.”

Walter said, “Good to hear your voice too, Aat.”

The Dutchman was suddenly serious. “You must need some help, no?”

“I do,” said Walter. “I certainly do.”

Walter and Aat van de Steen first met in Laos in the summer of 1971. Both men were new to their trade, both blessed with special abilities, which, if handled with care and developed properly, were certain to make both successful. Van de Steen had begun with a few small deals with some Eastern European irregulars. He soon branched out to Northern Africa and the former Dutch colonies in Asia. It was through an Indonesian that he got his first contract in Laos. Over the years, the decades, in fact, Aat van de Steen had become one of the world's busiest and wealthiest arms dealers. From his headquarters in Amsterdam, on the city's fanciest canal, the Herens Gracht, he bought, sold, and controlled a lion's share of the movement of weapons—from handguns to tanks, helicopters, even heavy artillery—on every inhabited continent on the planet. “War is the most fundamental attribute of humanity,” he once told Walter. “I serve the species.” Over the years, Walter ran into him on his occasional trips to Europe. He made a point of it. At each meeting they renewed their friendship with genuine warmth, affection, and respect. Then, eleven years ago, Aat's brother suddenly disappeared when he was unable to pay a substantial gambling debt. Although Aat's reputation and unquestioned power protected his brother from harm, Jan van de Steen panicked and went to hiding. He left behind his wife, three children, and a brother who was a friend of Walter Sherman. It took Walter a month to find the younger van de Steen holed up in an apartment in Vancouver, Canada. By then, Jan was ready to be caught. Walter returned him safely to his family in Zoetermeer, and, of course, he refused any money from Aat.

Walter detailed the guns, the equipment, and the ammunition Leonard Martin used and deposited with Isobel. As Walter spoke and Aat jotted some notes, the Dutchman said nothing more than an occasional “okay.” Had the two been in the same room, a nod of his head would have sufficed.

“I will call you when I have something,” van de Steen said. “And Walter, you would do yourself well to come see me in Amsterdam. Not now because it's too cold here for an island man like yourself, but in spring—then we can sit in the Leidens Plein, drink coffee, and watch all the Swedish girls.” He laughed again, and so did Walter. “In fact, Walter, I will tell you what I will do. I will take you to the Yab Yum. Yes I will.”

“What's the Yab Yum?”

“You will not be disappointed, my friend.”

A picture was developing in Walter's mind. After Leonard's family died, his ties to everyone in Atlanta began slipping. When he discovered what really happened—when he received Dr. Roy's CD—he cut the remaining shreds. Sources in the financial world had already provided Walter with Leonard Martin's history. He knew Leonard had gone to cash and the money trail led straight to the Caymans. “We all keep our money there, don't we?” he thought, and wondered if they shared the same bank. If so, Leonard's account dwarfed his own. The move to Jamaica had been a hoax; a cheap one at that. There was a deed with Leonard's name on it, but the property had been bought for only a few thousand dollars. It made no difference. Leonard was probably never there. But he was somewhere, for two years. Wherever that was, he had managed to stockpile weapons, some quite exotic and expensive, and found a way to use them proficiently, expertly. “Practice, practice,” thought Walter. Like a golf pro hitting hundreds of balls every day, rain or shine, he envisioned Leonard Martin firing round after round, day after day, week after week, month after month. As Walter put the puzzle together, he guessed there had been no way Leonard could have used a commercial shooting range. He would have been like a pool hall junkie, hanging around for hours on end, day after day after day. That would have attracted too much attention. There was no way that happened. Isobel had told him about Leonard's use of a small trampoline, one he used to stand on to learn how to shoot accurately even while unstable. So where then did Leonard Martin stay? Where did he shoot? Something didn't fit. Perhaps the answers would come from Aat van de Steen. Wherever the guns went, Leonard was there. Walter would wait until the Dutchman called.

New York

Maloney was worried. The
stories in the
New York Times
—Christ! Every day they print something else with his name in it. Photographers, TV trucks, reporters of all sorts hounded them everywhere. The publicity was making it impossible for him and the others to conduct the normal business of the firm. Day after day the public relations machine so much a part of the Stein, Gelb, Hector & Wills operation labored to deny, deny, deny. Nathan wanted Louise to direct this effort, but he was dissuaded when she looked at him in disbelief, the left side of her mouth noticeably twitching, and said, “That's madness, Nathan. None of us—and I mean none of us—can be seen touching this. It will explode in our faces. Get someone else. You've got resources.”

Wesley Pitts said, “It's already blown up in our face, Louise.”

“No it hasn't!” she shouted. “It's just a fucking newspaper article, some talking heads on the cable. Shit, nobody watches those goddamn cable networks anyway. It can't hurt us. It will go away!”

“I think Louise is right,” Tom Maloney interjected, seeing the need, as always, to get things under control. He tried not to show how desperate he was to get them all calmed down before it was too late. He knew Louise Hollingsworth didn't believe a word she'd said. He could see fear in her eyes. Her reaction was visceral. She felt she was doomed. They were all doomed. Her emotions erupted into an open sore. Maloney did not share those feelings. No matter what the
New York Times
wrote, the killings had stopped. Leonard Martin had stopped killing people. Tom had earlier confided as much to Nathan, and Nathan, he thought, had bought in. Or so it seemed.

“We'll get someone to handle this,” Tom said. “The real problem is that we can't operate effectively with any sense of routine. We can't talk to clients because all they're thinking about is what they saw on TV or read in the paper. No matter how many times the firm denies any
involvement, it's still out of the question to call someone—anyone—and say ‘Hey, let's have lunch.' Who wants to be near us? After all, who among us is willing to walk in the street like a normal person?”

It was a question not requiring an answer. Nevertheless, Pitts said, “Not me.”

“It's not ‘out of the question,'” Nathan said, “it's fucking impossible! The way they treat us you'd think we were priests, goddamnit! As of right now,” he said, rising from his big chair, looking as tall as he ever had, “we're all on leave. Go home, or wherever you want to go, and don't come back until this is over. We'll stay in touch with cell phones.”

The room was deathly quiet. The light behind Nathan's desk was such that none of the other three could actually see his face. Were his eyes darting from side to side? Was his nose twitching? They had no idea. Despite the brief outburst, his voice was calm and smooth, his demeanor subdued, not agitated. Louise and Wes took the moment as a sign of Nathan's leadership. Had they thought it through they would have seen the folly in such judgment, but they badly needed reassurance, and how they got it was of no importance. Maloney stayed seated and Stein stood, towering above him as Tom Cruise might be made to appear tall when shot from the proper angle. “He might be a wee little man
,”
thought Tom, “but his name's on the door.” Wesley Pitts and Louise Hollingsworth left.

“Let them go hide,” Nathan said. “This is real horseshit, Tom. You know that. What the fuck is going on with Sherman? He knows his guy is Leonard Martin—the whole fucking world knows it. Results!”

“I haven't heard from him, but that means he's working, Nathan. That's what it means. The time will come when Walter Sherman calls, and Leonard Martin will be right there.”

“You still think we're safe?”

“No, not safe, not the way you mean it. People we know are already dead, for Christ's sake! We're in the crosshairs alright, but Leonard Martin has something up his sleeve.”

“Great. When do
we
find out?”

“If Sherman doesn't find him first, and soon, we'll find out when he wants us to. In the meantime there's nothing we can do, Nathan. Nothing.”

Louise and Wesley went home, kept their blinds closed, and stayed away from the windows. She drank and he paced, talking to himself, cursing. They didn't hurt for any creature comforts. The very rich can have anything delivered. They were used to having things brought to them. Each passed off the new, higher cost of such luxury to market conditions. Their stocks were tumbling, and in the end they knew the servants would just as soon pick their bones as wish them good morning. For both of them, bitterness and anger grew in direct proportion to personal jeopardy. After a couple of days of this, Tom called to say Nathan wanted them to “take off,” to go somewhere they won't be found and try to relax.

Under different conditions Wesley Pitts might have flown off to Cabo San Lucas or Palm Springs. Not now. Instead, he bought a first-class ticket with a private cabin on the Amtrak train that ran from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. Lawrence made the long drive from Manhattan to Union Station in the nation's capitol. From there, Wes was on his own. Although his ticket was to the end of the line, he got off the train when it stopped for a few minutes in Meridian, Mississippi. From there he rented a car and drove the hundred miles or so to the tiny town of Hintonville. His grandmother welcomed him with open arms and a warm smile.

“Are you hungry, honeychild?” she said. “Oh, Wesley, I'm so happy to see you.” She squeezed her grandson, although she barely came up to the middle of his chest. “I love you so, boy.” She was not surprised to see him. Even in the backwaters of the Deep South people read the newspaper, even the
New York Times.

Like Wes, Louise would have preferred La Costa or Vail. Unlike him, she had no grandmother who would take her in, no family who had been proud of her since childhood, eager to protect their loved one. There were many men she slept with, but none of them were of any use to her now. What she did have was an enormous amount of money. She called a real estate agent she found on the Internet in Brattleboro, Vermont. The same day she bought a house nearby, just north of the Massachusetts state line. She was adamant. She wanted privacy, off the beaten path, no neighbors. The agent suggested three properties. Louise chose the second one, a six-year-old cabin with all the amenities, three bedrooms and three and a half baths on two and three-quarters acres at the foot of what passed for a small mountain. The agent offered to fax Louise pictures of the property and directed her to a website where she could take a 360-degree virtual tour of
the house. “Not necessary,” Louise said. She wired power of attorney and approved a wire transfer from her bank to the realtor's escrow account in Vermont. “Close on it immediately,” she instructed the agent. “Today, if possible. Tomorrow at the latest.” She packed and began driving. She thought of Nathan's house in Wevertown and prayed the one she just bought would be as nice. It had to be, she figured. She paid almost six hundred thousand dollars for it.

Tom Maloney believed the best place to hide was in plain sight. He moved into a suite at the Waldorf, arranged for private security, and settled in for the duration. He was quite happy to get away from his current wife for a while, and she was so pleased with his decision she immediately left for Switzerland, telling friends she'd be gone until the spring.

Nathan Stein stayed home in the city for two days, then took off for the country, upstate. A day after arriving in Wevertown he was already going stir crazy. He called Maloney.

“Get a bigger suite,” Nathan said. “Hell, get the whole fucking penthouse.” By dinner he had moved into the Waldorf with Tom.

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