Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

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

The Knowland Retribution (26 page)

BOOK: The Knowland Retribution

St. John

The phone woke him
at six o'clock the next morning. It was noon in Holland and van de Steen had other business to attend to that day.

“Hoe gaat het, Walter.”

“Hoe gaat het yourself. What time is it?”

“It's nice to see you haven't lost all your Dutch.”

“No, I still know how to say ‘hello' and how to find the toilet.”

“And the polar bear.” Van de Steen laughed, recalling an old joke between the two men.

“Waar is de ijsbeer?” said Walter with a smile. “I don't remember much, but I remember that.”

“Listen Walter, some of your man's arsenal is too common, too available to trace to any one individual. You knew that, of course, but not all of it. The Holland & Holland, a fine and excellent piece of equipment—truly a work of art—that one I am sure came from California. How do you say S-a-n J-o-s-e?”

“San Jose,” said Walter. “How did he get it and where?”

“I cannot say for sure it was the man you are looking for, but the rifle itself was sold through a dealer, on the Internet, paid for in money orders.”

“Money orders? I thought that gun sold for more than twenty-five thousand dollars. That's a helluva way to pay that kind of money.”

“Yes. Quite normal, actually. And it was twenty-seven thousand, plus a dealer's fee and shipping.”

“That's great, Aat. I think I can find the trail of a money order that size. Is there a name?”

“Not so quickly, my friend. These dealers never sell to people who use their real name. In your country there are many named Smith or Jones. It will be a name like that. Dealers know the name is untrue. They don't care. The name—whatever it is—will do you no good. And, you will not be able to track down a money order.”

“Why not?”

“Most individual clients pay in this manner, and they do so with a group of money orders, none for more than nine hundred dollars, all of them purchased separately. It's an inconvenience, but it serves its purpose. Again, the dealers have no interest in the procedure, only the result.”

“Where did they ship to?”

“Ah ha, now you are talking—what is it—turkey? Do you know where is Fargo, North Dakota?”

Walter listened as van de Steen told him how the Holland & Holland double rifle was shipped from an anonymous owner in San Jose, California to a PO Box at a private mail and packaging store in Fargo, North Dakota. The transaction was completed under the auspices of a dealer Walter's Dutch friend saw no need to name. He wasn't asked. The owner of the PO Box was listed as Evangelical Missions Inc. Van de Steen said the commercial mail store, following instructions, forwarded the package, knowing nothing about its contents, to a private address in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“Jackpot!” said Walter.

“The Israeli gun,” van de Steen said, “I believe it too went to this address. Of that one I cannot be totally certain, but I think it is so. There are many of them—it too is a wonderful piece—and I believe at least one went to this place in North Dakota.”

“That's great,” Walter said. “The Holand & Holland is enough. That two of them were sent to the same place makes it a hundred percent.”

“A word of caution, my friend. It was not on your list, but I can trace a Walther WA2000 to the same destination.”

“What is that?”

, as you call it, is the finest rifle ever built in the sniper class. It is a NATO 7.62mm semiautomatic regarded by most people who are familiar with things of this nature, such as myself, as the most accurate long-range weapon in the world. And there lies the trick, Walter. The Germans—a people so good at making things like this—built only seventy-two of them. If you asked me to get one for you today—and you would be a rich man, a very rich man to do so—I could not.”

“You're serious?
couldn't find one? How could a rank amateur?”

“He did not. It was no amateur. A Walther WA2000 is a transaction to be proud of. I think it could be sold for a hundred thousand euros, maybe more. A dealer I know in Hong Kong made just such a sale at the same time as these others, all bought within a few months of each other. I remembered hearing about it. We brag, as you Americans say, even in my profession. I called him last evening. He was bursting with pride still, and told me he arranged for it to be delivered to the same place—North Dakota. Be aware, Walter. With that gun you can kill anyone, anywhere.”

“No need for the concern. My man doesn't want to kill me. He doesn't even know me.”

“He will kill someone with it. When you do what
do you can never know what can transpire. If he does not know you, make sure it stays that way.”

“Don't worry, Aat. But thanks.”

Aat van de Steen said, “No man spends that much money for such a thing and doesn't use it. Besides, having played with it, practiced with it, held it in his hands and against his cheek and shoulder, taken it apart, cleaned and reassembled it, I am certain he will be unable to resist shooting it at someone. It must be so.”

“Thank you, Aat,” said Walter, acutely aware of the intensity in his friend's voice. It struck him as almost religious—sexual. Every business has its Holy Grail. “As always,” Walter said, “I am in your debt.”

“Quite the contrary, Walter. It is I who owe you. It is my pleasure to assist. Do not forget. I am planning on it. In the spring, the Yab Yum.”

St. John

When the address in
Raleigh turned out to be an empty lot, Walter was not surprised. No delivery service—not UPS, not Fed Ex, not anyone—would simply drop a package in an empty lot and drive away. Someone had to be there when it arrived, and Walter was sure it wasn't Leonard.

He was certain, as certain as he could be absent real proof, that Isobel's Kermit was Carter Lawrence. He was convinced, although less certain, that Carter had been present at the empty lot in Raleigh. It must have been he who took delivery as the packages of weapons and ammunition arrived there. What did he do with them? Probably, Walter conjectured, he shipped them on to wherever Leonard was. Most likely Carter loaded the packages into his car and drove south on interstate 85 back to Atlanta. If he had sent them out again it would have been from there, from somewhere in Atlanta. And if the two men had seen each other, Walter was sure it was Leonard who had come to Carter, not the other way around.

For the last twenty years, at least, no contacts had been more valuable than those that enabled Walter to see credit card records. With friends in the right places, vital information could be gathered instantly. Walter knew the authorities could accomplish the same thing, but it would take them weeks, even months. There would be search warrants, court orders, and, of course, the inevitable screw-ups caused by multiple and overlapping jurisdictions. The cops would have to deal with their own internal politics. Somebody might have the idea to check out credit card records, and somebody else, often times the next guy up the line, would kill the idea, simply because it wasn't his. Walter's years in the business also taught him that even when the cops, the FBI, or any of a slew of government agencies got it right—when they knew what to look for and where it was—they still missed it at least as often as they didn't. Just as he once told Isobel the best way to follow someone can sometimes be to walk in front of them, he knew the best way to look for a clue was to know what you were looking for before searching for it. Easier said than done, but Walter trusted his instincts. For three decades they led him in the right direction.

Carter Lawrence's credit card receipts gave Walter the confirmation he expected. Gasoline purchases tracked him from Atlanta to Raleigh and back again, more than once. Walter could even see where Carter stopped for lunch along the way. And, best of all, UPS records showed shipments from Carter Lawrence to a PO Box in Las Vegas, New Mexico—no doubt a private mail and package store just like the one in Fargo. The shipments were in Carter Lawrence's name, paid for with his Visa card. The recipient was EM Inc.

After his ex-wife and two sons died, Carter hunkered down in Atlanta. Except for the trips to Raleigh, he went nowhere for more than two years. Some of his gasoline charges in Atlanta were separated by many weeks. He wasn't even moving around in town. The only vendor that showed up on Carter's records in any regular fashion was a Kroger supermarket. From the amount of the charges—never more than forty dollars—Carter was obviously eating alone. Then, only a month ago, charges appeared for gas and food in Birmingham, Alabama. “What was he doing there?” Walter wondered. This month there was another out-of-town charge. This time for a Hampton Inn in Clarksville, Tennessee—plus a restaurant bill of $130.46 at the Clarksville Holiday Inn. He wasn't eating alone that night. Another gasoline charge showed up the following day in Springfield. Walter opened the travel atlas he kept handy on top of the refrigerator and turned to the map of Tennessee. Atlanta to Clarksville was about three hundred miles. He traced out a route, simple and direct, going north on I-75 and picking up I-24 just past Chattanooga, going west right into Clarksville. The round trip was too long to make on a single tank of gas, and the refueling stop fit the trip perfectly. Springfield was just down the road on the way to Nashville. It was clear to Walter that Carter Lawrence had driven from Atlanta to Clarksville, eaten dinner with someone, spent the night at a nearby Hampton Inn, and drove home the next day. Walter had seen his share of Holiday Inns, from Maine to Montana and too many places in between. There was no way anybody could spend $130.46 in any of their restaurants—not alone. Carter had more than one dinner guest—at least two, more probably three, Walter figured. There were no more surprises after Clarksville. Carter wasn't hiding from anyone. He never thought to cover his tracks by paying cash. By now Walter expected to see the airline charge for Carter's ticket to New York. Yes indeed, he was Kermit. No hotel for New York. Walter made a mental note to check the addresses for Carter's brother and sisters. He was sure he'd find one of them living in New York City on the Upper West Side.

New Mexico

Walter's plane didn't land
in New Mexico until late afternoon, and he had also lost two more hours by the clock. The trip had been grueling, but he felt momentum and didn't want to break it, didn't want to stop. Up at six, he had taken the ferry to St. Thomas and boarded a flight to Miami. From there he flew to Dallas, changed planes, and he was airborne again on his way to Albuquerque—his first time ever in New Mexico. Santa Fe was another couple of hours by car from Albuquerque. Walter had booked a room at Santa Fe's most famous hotel, Inn of the Anastasia. At the suggestion of the reservations agent, he got one with a fireplace. “Isn't Santa Fe in the desert?” Walter had asked her, mistakenly believing he was headed for a warm climate. “Yes it is,” she told him, “but it's the high desert. It gets real cold here, Mr. Sherman. You'll see. There's snow on the ground right now. If you're coming from the Virgin Islands you need to bring a coat.” She laughed a friendly laugh. Walter had a lopsided idea of what Santa Fe was all about, and he figured she labored under a similar
misconception of the Virgin Islands, and most likely had never heard of St. John. “She probably thinks we're all walking around in shorts and T-shirts, with floppy hats and sunglasses,” he thought. Then he realized if she did think that she wouldn't be too far from right. “Take the fireplace. You won't be sorry,” she said. After landing, he rented a car and drove first to Sure Shot Shooting Supplies and Accessories at 5400 Holly NE. It took him less than half an hour to purchase a Glock, with bullets and holster, for $576.42.

The interstate is straight as an arrow, uphill heading north. Walter found it barren and sad. Occasional Indian casinos, their satellite motels and restaurants, were clustered along the sides. He noticed with wry surprise that the sun was setting, suddenly, behind ragged mountains. The Caribbean sun takes forever to disappear out past Puerto Rico. Here it drops like a rolling stone; daylight one minute, dark the next. “Not my cup of tea,” Walter thought.

He didn't like the landscape, either. It was mostly scruffy sand, much of it overrun by alarmingly hearty, ugly weeds. It wasn't graceful desert like Arizona, Nevada, or even Aruba. Whatever it was, he'd not seen it before and would not miss it when he left. An hour later he stopped at a roadside restaurant, felt the chill stepping out of the car, and understood how cold it would be when he'd driven another few thousand feet up. The restaurant was not even much of a diner. Walter ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. It came on the thickest bread he'd ever seen.

He reached Santa Fe at eight, followed directions to the Plaza, and found his hotel. The whole town looked like a theme park. From what he'd heard, it wasn't. The city restricted construction to adobe old-west designs, but people did live in the houses. The Inn sat smack on the well-lit Plaza, a wide space filled with people moving swiftly
in the cold. It was, Walter reminded himself, the Christmas season, which probably explained the seven hundred dollars he paid for the room. A bellhop led the way and started the fire. Walter found a Diet Coke in the mini-bar, set it next to the telephone, and fell asleep with the light on.

In the morning, after an early breakfast, he drove north for about an hour and a half to Las Vegas, New Mexico. The journey to Las Vegas led to a shopping center mail and package store. Walter expected as much. He already knew the address and PO Box number. The packages had been sent to Evangelical Missions Inc. Carter left a trail a mile wide. When Walter first encountered that name, he wondered whether he would again, or whether Leonard would use it just once. Walter was relieved to discover that Leonard was not quite that wise. Why should he be? This was his maiden serial rampage.

Had he been the kind of guy to offer advice to others in his field—if indeed there were others in his field—Walter would have told them first and foremost:
respect the obvious
. The easiest thing to discover
is always the most obvious. Start at the beginning. As he had done countless times in the last three decades, Walter once more began at the beginning.

Evangelical Missions Inc. in New Mexico was the same as EM Inc., which owned the empty lot in Raleigh. Corporate records in North Carolina showed that the company had been incorporated just before Leonard Martin left Atlanta for the Bahamas. Further checking turned up an SUV registered in North Carolina to the same EM Inc. It didn't take Walter long to find a transfer to a New Mexico registration for the same vehicle. The plate location indicated a Las Vegas address, but Walter knew he wouldn't find Leonard anywhere near there. Not anymore.

Leonard could not have shown his rifles at any conventional range. Weapons that unique would have been noticed. He had to have practiced someplace else, free from observation. That meant he almost certainly bought land for that purpose, probably when he purchased the lot in Raleigh. Working backward from Las Vegas, Walter saw Leonard planning it out in Georgia and selecting a suitable parcel from the raw, empty stretches of west Texas and out-of-the-way New Mexico. Walter did his own search for Evangelical Missions Inc. or EM Inc. Coming up empty, he reached out.

Before leaving St. John, he had called a nationally known, flamboyant attorney from Reno, Nevada who had once sought him out, and for whom Walter found and returned a wayward young son. As with so many others, the attorney was forever eager to show her gratitude. Many times she told Walter that she was at his service for any legal work, anything at all. Discretion was the ironclad bond between them, and no questions were ever asked. Walter's infrequent requests were sometimes difficult but never impossible. What he needed now was a land search. From the attorney he requested data on land sales of parcels within a day's drive of Las Vegas. This time it wasn't easy. After turning up nothing for Leonard Martin, Evangelical Missions Inc., or EM Inc., Walter was sure Leonard had bought the land using another name, one totally unfamiliar to him. A dead end. His Reno client told him she'd look for quit claims filed between two and three years ago. She explained that property is often purchased by one party, and then transferred, or quit claimed, to another. This tends to obscure the transaction, but it cannot be entirely cloaked, because every quit claim deed must be filed with an appropriate state or county agency. You had to know how and where to look. Forty-eight hours later, Walter had a map showing 270 acres adjacent to the Kiowa National Grasslands, north of a speck on the map; a place called Albert, New Mexico. The property had been purchased by a North Dakota company (he should have known), quit claimed to EM Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina, and then quit claimed again to Evangelical Missions Inc. of New Mexico.

In Las Vegas he showed Leonard's picture around—the same one that had been pasted across the front page of the
New York Times
and just about every other newspaper in America. But nobody had seen him and nobody cared. Walter was disappointed, although not entirely surprised. He doubted that Leonard had been to Las Vegas since his meeting with Isobel plastered his face on the nation's screens and front pages. Walter did not expect to find Leonard waiting for him here. He had hoped a Pac-Mail employee might remember a very fat man with pudgy cheeks on a fleshy face, and a belly bulging deep and wide. None did. “What about a guy who looked
this,” he asked everyone. Cut his hair? Grew it longer? Changed its color? Even lost some weight? Still nothing.

“Never seen this fellow,” the clerk at the mail store said.

Walter asked, “How about a man who picked up packages, big ones. Do you get many of those?”

“How big? Do you mean like refrigerators?”

“Not quite that big. Long, perhaps, but not bulky.” He held his hands as far apart as he could.

“I wish I could help you, mister. I do. But we get so many deliveries like that. This is ski country, you know.”

“So you don't remember anyone in particular who might have picked up packages looking like skis—maybe that long, maybe a little shorter, the size of a shotgun or something? About two years ago?”

“Two years?” said the clerk. “Why didn't you say? Except for the regulars, I can hardly remember two months or even two weeks ago. Two years? I'm sorry.”

Walter got the name of two others who worked there part time. Before leaving town he looked them up and got the same response. Nevertheless, he felt a twinge of satisfaction, a sense of professional pride standing outside this Pac-Mail store in, of all places, Las Vegas, New Mexico, knowing that the rifles that killed Christopher Hopman, Billy MacNeal, Floyd Ochs, and Pat Grath had passed this way. Perhaps, he thought, Leonard Martin had parked his SUV in the same spot where Walter's rental car was now parked. He pictured Leonard opening the back of his SUV, sliding the boxes into the vehicle, and driving away. Walter had a very familiar itch, an adrenaline rush he often felt when he was

Snow covered the ground and blew across the road. He was looking for a land parcel northeast of Las Vegas and about a hundred miles from Santa Fe. It looked like wilderness on the map, and close up too. No villages, towns, or houses. No filling stations or bars. He drove on small roads, long stretches paved with barely visible sand, oiled to harden in winter. Within the last hour, a pickup truck passed him, but nothing else moved his way. Three cars came from the other direction. The desert here was hilly and spare, less overgrown than near Santa Fe. His Buick handled the snaky white roads nicely. He hadn't thought to rent a four-wheel drive. Just as well. The Buick got all the traction it needed. He slowed, consulted the map that the attorney sent him, and turned left onto an unmarked road shown leading to the parcel owned by Evangelical Missions Inc. The car-width trail took him twisting in and around hills. Frequent sharp turns forced him to break. After ten minutes the cabin popped up ahead, as suddenly as the sun had set the day before as he drove north from Albuquerque. It was built into the side of a large hill, looking down on the road. Fifty feet in front of the cabin, the bumpy road stopped and widened, providing space for one car to stop and turn around. Walter parked and got out. The cabin door swung in. He saw a flash of white. Whoever was there had to have heard the Buick crunching ice—might have known he was coming a quarter mile away, or more. The door opened wider and Walter felt disappointment set in. A man emerged with a torso as strikingly muscled and as hard as a kid's. The man who faced Walter did heavy work for a living. He wore a clean white T-shirt, old jeans, work boots. His close-cropped gray hair and creased, sun-dark skin put him in his forties. The man wore shades, but used his hand to shadow his eyes against the white, glaring sun and the snow. He scratched his chin beneath a tight black and gray speckled beard. There could have been a pistol tucked at his back. Walter did not think so. He wasn't threatened now, but being closer might be different. Then, if intuition failed, Walter could only hope he'd get to the Glock in his coat pocket first.

“Evangelical Missions?” Walter shouted across the fifty feet.

“Yes it is. What can I do for you, sir?” He strained to be heard. Had the wind not been at his back, he would have been inaudible.

“I'm looking for Leonard Martin.”

“Leonard Mart
nez? He left two weeks ago.”

“Where to?”

“I don't know.”

“When will he be back?”

“Don't know.” His soft voice carried the nervous regret of one who knew his place and wanted to give some kind of satisfaction. The measured rhythm of his speech suggested to Walter that he might be what is politely called “slow.” “I don't hardly never see him. Never seen him but once or twice. He mostly has me come when he's away. He has me work on the well pump. I like that.” He pointed west. “It works just fine now. He wants me to build him a fence. He lets me use the place if he's not here. Honest, he does. I'm allowed.”

“Who are you?”

“Michael DelGrazo. I come by to work on the well pump and all.”

“My name is Walter Sherman. Some people in New York would like to talk with Mr. Mar-, Mr. Martinez. They want to talk about something very important. Will you tell Mr. Martinez I was here?” He covered the distance between them, reached inside his coat to the pocket of his shirt, produced a small, yellow sheet from an Inn of the Anastasia notepad. “Ask him to call this number to get in touch. Will you give him this?” Michael DelGrazo reached out and took the note in his hand. He looked at it for a long time.

“I'll put the note on the table, but no telling when he'll come back. Walter Sherman? From . . . New York?” He wrinkled his forehead, puzzling over the slip.

“No, I'm not the one from New York, but it's okay. It's all right there. Be sure not to lose it. Just see that he gets it, okay?” He watched Michael nod, all seriousness. Walter looked around, then said, “Use your bathroom?”

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