Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

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

The Knowland Retribution (28 page)

New Mexico

Leonard was gone within
an hour. He'd practiced playing the slow-witted Michael, planned on using it in case anyone made a wrong turn and stumbled onto his property. No one had until now. The business about Mr. Marteenez had been a spur-of-the-moment thing. It worked pretty well, he thought. Walter Sherman had been an unnerving surprise. Sure, Leonard heard the car approaching long before it reached the cabin, but he never thought someone would actually find him there; someone whose intention it was to seek him out. That frightened him. How could he have come to this place? And who are these people from New York? What was he talking about? Had this man been sent by Nathan Stein? And if so, how in the world did he know where to find him? Leonard knew he didn't have the luxury of contemplating these questions. He had to hurry.

He knew this man calling himself Walter Sherman was trouble when he asked to use the bathroom. It was obvious he wanted to look inside the cabin. Leonard didn't like it, but considering the circumstances he had little choice in the matter. How could he refuse? He didn't fear exposure. Clearly he was convincingly unrecognizable. The weapons and ammunition were all locked away securely. That was an arrangement Leonard had come up with at the very beginning. He was going to be away for long stretches of time: Boston, Houston, Tennessee, Nevada, and who knows where else. He couldn't risk someone finding his equipment, so he devised a storage compartment in his bedroom. To the naked eye it appeared as a closet, but behind the plain closet door was another locked door, this one made of steel protecting a safelike box four feet square and eight feet high. Inside were racks of rifles, shelves of special accessories, sights, stocks, cleaning materials, and boxes of ammunition. Walter Sherman could look around all he liked and never find a sign they were there. And Leonard was sure that was exactly why Sherman asked to use the facilities.

As soon as the intruder left, as soon as the sound of his car faded to silence, Leonard began packing. There wasn't much to it. He threw a few clothes into a bag, tossed in his toothbrush and other toiletries, grabbed three jackets hanging from hooks in the back room, and loaded it all in the SUV. It took about forty-five minutes to move the rifles and other stuff from the secure closet to a lock box in the SUV. When it didn't all fit, he decided to leave some of the ammunition behind. It was a risk traveling with weapons, but what choice did he have now? “Just make sure,” he told himself, “do not get stopped by a cop on the highway.”

Finally, he tucked a metal toolbox behind the driver's seat on the floor. It was filled with hundred dollar bills neatly wrapped in packs of ten thousand dollars each. Then he was gone. He would never return. He did not look back. There was no nostalgia. Leaving was not sad. Nothing pulled at his heartstrings. In the last two and a half years Leonard Martin had learned not to become attached to anything. He'd shut himself off from feelings like that. He wouldn't miss the sunsets or the crisp, chilly mornings, the smell of a fire crackling in the fireplace, the sounds of silence in the high desert. He wouldn't miss them because he wouldn't let himself. He came to New Mexico with a single goal—learn to kill. Having done that—and now being discovered—it was time to move on. He drove south on route 39, past Ute Lake and Logan, and picked up I-40 at San Jon. He was in Texas by the time Walter Sherman was considering his options.

New York

Just after seven, Isobel met Walter in
the lobby of the Hilton on Sixth Avenue. Dressed for winter, she wore a wide-brimmed woolen hat pulled down to cover her ears and forehead, and a heavy scarf on top of the coat with the fake fur trimmings. She passed unrecognized. “Celebrity,” she thought, although her encounter with it was somewhat marginal and thus far short-lived, “was a crock of shit.”

“Why here?” she asked, after greeting him with a kiss on the cheek. It was a friendly kiss and he felt disappointed. He hoped for more and hoped it didn't show.

“Dentists,” Walter answered. “There's a convention of dentists here. The biggest one they have anywhere all year. Dentists love Christmas, and they love New York.” Isobel laughed and dropped her coat next to her on the couch. “Go ahead,” Walter said, “look around you. Every one of these guys pulls teeth.”

“What about the women? What do they do?”

“Hookers,” said Walter after only a slight pause.

“All of them? It appears, perhaps, that some of your American dentists prefer hookers who are, shall we say, older and a twinge on the heavy side.”

“Wives,” Walter said. “There's a few of them too.”

“So, we're here to see the dentist?”

“No, we're here because the dentists do not want to see us—you, in particular. I don't need to be ducking photographers, but you do. By the way, how did a photographer get that picture of you and whathisname in Tibet?” Isobel laughed, and so did Walter.

“It's a hoot alright, Walter,” she said, “but honestly, I think it's a tub of crap. Hard to imagine any person, no matter how well known, who can't leave the makeup home, dress as casually as everyone does these days, and just walk about. I do it quite well, thank you.”

Walter said, “So, no cloak and dagger stuff for you? I'm overdoing it, you think?”

“Absolutely,” she smiled.

“We don't need the dentists? Or anyone to cover our movements?”

“We don't need no stinkin' dentists,” she said.

Now he too was smiling. Isobel leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. This was more than a friendly kiss, and it thrilled him.

“No one knows who I am,” she said, using her father's accent again. “I go anywhere and everywhere, just like the common folk.”

“Well, in that case,” Walter said, “let's go get a good steak. I'm starving and don't mind spending forty-five bucks for a piece of meat.” They left the Hilton and cabbed the short distance to Ben Benson's, Walter's favorite New York steakhouse.

When their salads arrived, Walter said, “I saw him, talked to him, used his bathroom.” Isobel was speechless. She knew he meant Leonard. A forkful of salad never made it to her mouth. Walter waited for something, but Isobel said nothing. Her eyes registered amazement.

“I found him in New Mexico. Way out in the middle of nowhere.”

“How?” she asked. And he told her everything: the guns, North Dakota, and Raleigh; the trip to New Mexico, the Pac-Mail store in Las Vegas, and the lonely cabin north of Albert. He told her how a tall, rock-hard, bearded man with some marked limitations named Michael DelGrazo said he worked for a Leonard Marteenez, not a Leonard Martin. He described the inside of the cabin. He told her how he decided
to follow up the lead in Tennessee, how credit-card receipts told him Carter Lawrence had gone there to meet Nicholas Stevenson, Harvey Daniels, and a third man. He told her about Debra Melissa Wallis and the man she called the cowboy.

“My God,” said Isobel. “Michael DelGrazo is the cowboy.”

“No. Not quite. Michael DelGrazo was a man who lost his wife and children in an apartment fire in Detroit in 1962.” Isobel looked at him bewildered and confused.

“The apartment house was owned by a man named Robert Bass. It seemed Bass had paid off the fire department inspector, a man named Willard Cox, who, in turn, gave the building a clean bill of health. The place was, of course, a fire hazard, and it soon burned to the ground, taking DelGrazo's family with it. When DelGrazo learned all this from a newspaper investigative exposé, he hunted down both Bass and Cox and shot them dead. Michael DelGrazo died in prison in 1984, prostate cancer.”

“Wow,” Isobel said. “Then this Michael DelGrazo is . . . ?” Her question hung in the air. She knew the answer already, but Walter obliged.

“Leonard Martin.”

“Oh, my God. B-but you said he looked like—”

“A man can change a lot of things in two years. Leonard did. I missed it, completely missed it.”

“The blindfold,” she said, remembering Kermit and her interview, in the dark, with Leonard. “That's why the blindfold.” She felt bad saying it, but she said it nonetheless.

Walter described his misadventure in New Mexico again, this time in fine detail. Isobel strained to hear every word in the noisy restaurant. She asked, and he said he didn't think there was much chance Leonard would call. Their steaks arrived, although they hadn't touched the salads yet. The waiter insisted he would bring them new steaks, freshly cooked, whenever they were ready for them. Walter insisted the waiter leave the entrees. They would eat everything at the same time. The man was reluctant, but, as any good waiter would, he protested but consented. They ate everything he put in front of them.

“Don't be disappointed,” Isobel said. “Don't be hard on yourself.”

“I'm not,” Walter replied in his trademark easy manner. “I know where he's been, where he's gone, what he's done. And I believe there's no rush. He's not killing anybody, is he?”

“I wasn't aware he had a schedule.”

“There was a pattern to the intervals. Hopman, MacNeal, Ochs, and Grath. Then he stopped and what did he do?” Walter took a sip of his wine. He looked for a response. Finally, Isobel said, “I don't know. Nothing.”

“Exactly. Nothing. Not yet anyway.”

“That means something?”

“Yes. I think it does.”

“What?”

“Now I'm the one who doesn't know.” He smiled at her and she smiled back for lack of something better and smarter to do.

“You'll find him again?” she asked.

“I think he'll find you again before I find him. I have a feeling he's got something in mind. Whatever it is, he'll need you to tell it.” Isobel did not reply. After a moment of silence, Walter said, “I saw you with Ed Bradley.” She nodded. “You like him, don't you? Sympathize with him, right?”

“Bradley?”

“Leonard. You're inclined to think he's righteous. Am I wrong?”

“How would you feel?” she asked. “What would you do?”

“No, no,” Walter said shaking his head, holding up his hands. “Don't ask me how I feel. Tell me how you feel.”

“I do,” she said. “It's not academic to Leonard Martin, not just numbers. They took everything from him. Can you imagine losing everything? It frightens me just to think about it—not only his family—everything. There's a curse in being a survivor. Yes, I sympathize with him. I can't help it.”

“And the people he's killed? And those he means to kill? All of them?”

“I can't say,” she said. “I can't say. I said I sympathize with him. That's not the same as saying I approve of what he's doing.”

“It isn't?” That question remained unanswered.

Over coffee and a glass of Spanish port, Isobel asked, “Walter, why are we still working together? You were correct. I could never have identified Leonard Martin on my own. You did, and you did it before he contacted me. However, now we've both met him, talked to him. I know who he is and my story is no longer questioned by anyone. You know who he is. You say finding him again is no trouble. Why are we still in this together, Walter? What's left for us to do?”

“I represent the people who remain on his list—”

“Exactly my point. What's in it for you or your clients? Why do you need me? And what's in it for me?”

“And,” Walter continued, “that puts me in a position to arrange a negotiated settlement, an end to the killing. When he reaches out to you, I can put him in touch with Stein and Stein's money.”

Isobel looked at Walter out of the corner of her eye, her mouth a frown, skepticism written all over her face. She had been impressed with Walter's self-assurance and intelligence from the first time they met. She found his demeanor enchanting and not a little bit erotic. Now she began to question his approach and her own judgment.

“Stein's money,” she said. “What in the world makes you think Leonard Martin wants any of it? And why are you still working for them after learning what they're all about?”

“I got paid,” Walter said. Isobel shrugged her shoulders, recalling a film where Humphrey Bogart had a speech about some silly obligation he felt to his partner.

“That's p-p-plain ridiculous.”

“I took the job. I got paid and I have an obligation to finish the job. That's not ridiculous. That's honorable. As for Leonard, don't discount him so easily. Remember when I asked you to think of a dollar amount and then double it or triple it? You'd be surprised how much money might be involved here. It could be an offer Leonard Martin can't refuse.”

“No,” Isobel said. “Not for any amount. Not this man. Not a man who uses the name of Michael DelGrazo. It's love, Walter. Don't you see that? There's no price on love. It's too important.” Walter stirred his second cup of coffee, wondering what Ike would say to that.

“You're right. I don't need you to find Leonard,” he said. “Now that I know what I know, a second time is only a matter of where and when. That's what I do, you know. I find people no one else can.” He was looking down into his coffee or at his napkin or checking out the brand name carved into the blade of his steak knife. He avoided Isobel's eyes. He felt the rush of blood to his cheeks. He hadn't experienced this kind of helplessness since high school. Isobel could see he was troubled. She leaned across the table and took his hands in hers. She knew there must be more than the lame excuse he offered. “What is it?” she said. “It's something, but what?”

“I want to be with you,” he said, terribly afraid he sounded like a sixteen year old. “It has nothing to do with Leonard. You're right. Find him or not. I really don't care. It's you, Isobel. I think about you all the time. I don't sleep. Tonight's the first time I've eaten a real meal since you left St. John. I want you.”

Walter's needy desire, his awkward hesitation, his tender honesty—it all did the trick for Isobel. Her faucets ran wide open and red hot.

“You want to go to my place?” she said. The invitation and the promise it held thrilled Walter. Whatever disappointment he felt at her casual greeting at the Hilton was gone now.

“Would you like to see what a snow-covered Central Park looks like from high up?”

“Sure,” she said. “ The Mayflower's close enough. Shall we walk?”

Bundled up to stay warm on the windy, cold night, they walked arm-in-arm toward Columbus Circle and the Mayflower Hotel. It was close to eleven o'clock, but this was New York, the city that never sleeps, where the streets were always crowded. Kids, couples in their twenties (kids to Walter, anyway), ran past them toward the park, tossing snowballs at each other. Many stores and all the bars and restaurants were still open. “In New York the magic never ends,” Walter thought. Tonight he was alive too. He pictured Isobel unbuttoning her blouse, slipping
it off her back, her skirt dropping to the floor of his bedroom a few blocks away. His whole body tingled in anticipation. That was when the man standing by the window of an electronics store caught Walter's attention. Something inside him stirred, and it had nothing to do with the thought of Isobel's naked body against his own. Walter was sure he'd seen the same man near the Hilton. They passed the store and Walter glanced quickly behind him. He knew the man could easily see their reflection in the store window. Walter and Isobel continued walking. The man followed them.

At the corner of 60th Street, Walter put his hand on Isobel's shoulder. She looked at him, and the look on his face frightened her. They stopped right in front of the Trump Hotel. The man who had been behind them kept walking, past them. He stopped at the next corner. And he waited. Walter watched the traffic light at 61st Street go from red to green, and then to red again and once more to green.
Walk . . . don't walk . . . walk.
The man did not cross the street.

“Don't say anything,” Walter said. “We go to this corner and turn left. Trust me.” They resumed walking, and at the corner of 61st Street, where the man who followed them was still standing, they turned west, heading toward Broadway. That block is a dark and empty one. The side of the Trump Hotel has no customer entrance. The other side of the street is the southern face of the Mayflower. It also has no public entrance. There is only a solitary apartment building with its awning entrance well down the street on the other side. Halfway down the block, on their side, there was a service entrance to the Trump Hotel. It was an unlit, windowless metal door set back slightly from the sidewalk. Walter could make out the icy walkway in front of the doorway. He and Isobel were a few feet past that door, firmly on a patch of dry cement, when Walter turned.

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