Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

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

The Knowland Retribution (29 page)

BOOK: The Knowland Retribution
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“Got a match?” he said to the man, who now stood squarely on the icy spot. He was clearly startled by Walter's unexpected action. For just an instant the man seemed paralyzed. Then his feet moved, but all he could manage was an uncertain slip.

Walter lunged and grabbed him. He spun him around and slammed him face-first against the metal service door. He ripped the man's coat off from behind and seemed to jam his hand into the man's ass.

“You know what you're feeling?” Walter demanded. The man shook his head nervously.

“No,” he said, the word barely escaping his mouth.

“Who are you?” demanded Walter. The man did not respond. “What you're feeling is the barrel of a small twenty-two caliber pistol. If you don't answer my questions, quickly and truthfully, I'm going to shoot you. Do you know what that means?” This time Walter didn't wait for an answer. “It means a twenty-two magnum cartridge will literally cut you a new asshole. It probably won't kill you. But the damage it does to your colon and your intestines will take years to fix. Maybe decades. You'll shit in a bag until you're an old man, and every time you so much as pass gas you'll think of me and regret whatever impulse you're feeling now to withhold information. Have I made myself clear?” Walter reached into the man's coat pocket and removed a pistol. He ran his hand across the man's chest and took a second gun from his shoulder holster. “You hear me, asshole!”

“Yes,” the man said. Isobel could taste the fear in his voice. She too was imagining the lifetime of pain and discomfort that awaited the wrong decision.

“Who are you?” Walter asked. He pushed harder into the man's rectum.

“Jack Allen,” the man said.

“And?” said Walter, pushing even harder.

“I'm a New York City police detective.”

Isobel was shocked, certain they had stumbled into something that meant trouble for both of them. Holding a gun to the asshole of an NYPD detective. . . .

“Name,” Walter commanded. This time he took the man's wallet and flipped it open. The badge was there and the ID card. “You want me to start counting? Because when I get to one your ass is on fire.”

“Allen. Jack Allen. I already told you.” There was panic in the man's voice. Isobel could feel how desperate he was to save himself.

“You're not on the job, goddamn it! Your ID is old, shitface. You're retired. Name who you work for, fuckhead!” said Walter.

“I'm an NYPD detective,” said the man claiming to be Jack Allen.

“Fuck you, detective!” Walter growled in his ear. “I don't hear another name I shoot.”

“No!” the man cried out. “Don't shoot me! I work for a man named Robert Wilkes. I really do. Wilkes hired me.”

“To do what? Follow me?”

“No, no. I don't have any idea who you are, man. I'm following her.”

A chill ran through Isobel's body, not unlike what she felt talking to Leonard Martin. She remembered. Leonard said she was being watched.

“Her?” Walter screamed. “Why? Hurry up now, Jack.”

“Wilkes thought she would lead me to Leonard Martin.”

“You fucking sonofabitch!” Isobel kicked him just below his knee. Allen stumbled, but Walter held him up, pushing the pistol as deep into his asshole as he could. He felt the man's pants tear.

“Then what?” Walter asked in voice more at ease than anything he'd said before. “Then what, Jack?”

“Nothing. Just go back and tell Wilkes where he's at.”

“You won't hear the sound of this gun, you know that? When I pull the trigger you'll feel it like a hot poker ramming up your ass into your gut.” The man, Jack Allen or whatever his name was, groaned and slumped to the ground. Urine was flowing on the sidewalk, steaming in the cold winter air as it inched its way to the curb. Walter had not shot him.

“You're out of business, Jack. Tell that to Wilkes and whoever he works for. I ever see you again, you're a dead man, got it?” Jack Allen didn't say anything. He was pissing and sobbing at the same time. Walter threw the wallet down on the street but kept the badge, the ID, and the guns.

“Come on,” he said to Isobel. “Let's go.”

“Sure,” she said, but Isobel Gitlin wasn't sure of anything anymore.

New York

The smell of fresh
coffee woke Isobel. The bedroom drapes were open and a brilliant morning flooded in through the glass. The city that never sleeps at least naps, and now its nap was over. It was wide awake once more. Horns blared. Traffic inched forward on the streets below. Darting through the bare limbs of trees in snowy Central Park, an occasional jogger could be seen. The sun was bright in a cloudless sky, although the air looked cold to her. Steam heat whistled from the pipes in Walter's suite. He always asked for accommodations on the side of the hotel that had not been renovated. He told her that the first time, when she met him in the restaurant. He liked his hotels old. He preferred steam heat over hot air. She heard him on the phone in the living room where the coffee awaited, but she was unable to make out what he was saying. Isobel stretched and yawned. The sex had been fantastic, and the pendant he'd put around her neck when they were both naked was beautiful. Intrigue and danger, mixed with the sweat of their bodies, had driven them to furious heights. “Wartime sex must really be something,” Isobel thought. Violence, she already knew, went with sex like brandy with coffee. It made the moment more intense and the aftermath sweeter. She bent down and picked up the pillow on Walter's side of the bed. Holding it close against her face, she inhaled, smiled, and tossed it back on the sheets. Then she headed for the shower.

“Yes,” said Tom Maloney, answering his cell phone on the first ring. His voice was cold with a touch of anger poorly hidden. Walter had no sympathy for the difficulties of Tom Maloney's existence. The
New York Times
was on Maloney's ass. They continued to talk about him on cable TV, and the liberal press wrote piece after piece, coming this close to saying that he and his gang of co-conspirators deserved to be shot. Leonard Martin, already regarded as America's most effective and efficient multiple killer since
The Terminator
, wanted him dead. Maloney's charmed life had turned to pure shit, but Walter couldn't care less. He was pissed about a retired NYPD cop and Robert Wilkes, whoever he was. There was no
“hello”
in his manner or his voice.

“Wilkes,” said Walter. “Robert Wilkes.”

“Sherman? Is that you?”

“Tell me about Wilkes, Tom.”

“I don't know what you're talking—”

“If I hang up, Tom, you'll never hear from me again.” There was only silence on the other end of the line. “Tell me about Wilkes.”

“I don't understand,” Maloney said. “How do you know about Wilkes? Does Wilkes know about you?” He thought, “What have I gotten myself into.” Could it be that people like Walter Sherman and the FBI Special Agent Wilkes knew each other, traveled in the same circles like business associates or something? Could there be a world out there he knew nothing of? One that posed a new danger to him? Maloney hadn't said a word to Wilkes about Walter Sherman, and he certainly didn't tell Walter about hiring Wilkes first. Tom Maloney was, however, quick on his feet. “Nathan made a mistake in judgment, Walter. I didn't think you needed to know, and that was a mistake I made. I see that now and I'm sorry. But I still don't understand—”

“Isobel Gitlin,” said Walter. “Just what the hell is that all about?”

“Mother of God!” Maloney thought, “that bitch,” and he almost said as much out loud. “She's a reporter with—”

“I know who she is. Why did you sic Wilkes on her?”

“I didn't know—”

“You didn't know? Is that it? You didn't know?”

“I still don't know. What are you talking about?”

Walter shook his head in disgust, in frustration. He heard the shower go on. “Tom?” he said.

“Yes?”

“Detective Jack Allen. Does that name mean anything to you?”

“No.”

“Never heard of him?”

“Never.” Maloney had regained his composure and sensed that Walter had too. “Who is he?”

Walter told him about the encounter with Jack Allen. He left out the part about shoving his 22 magnum up the detective's ass—and, of course, said nothing about Isobel—but he made it clear he had taken control of the situation with Wilkes's man. Maloney was still in the dark.


What an asshole,” thought Walter. “An amateur, a total fuck-up!”

“You hired Wilkes to kill Leonard, didn't you?” he asked.

“Nathan—”

“Come on, Tom. Don't fuck with me. I have no patience for it. We both know Nathan couldn't hire anybody and get it right. You hired Wilkes.”

Maloney's first instinct was to soothe his own hurt feelings. After all, he'd been hired by Nathan Stein, but he was scared. Leonard Martin wanted to kill him, and now Walter Sherman was heading in the same direction. “Yes, I did. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I am. I am.”

“What did you think Wilkes was going to do? How did you expect him to go about his business? Did you give any thought to that at all?”

Maloney said, “No. I hire the best professionals. I pay top dollar. Why should I inquire about details? I don't ask how, just how soon. I hired you, didn't I? As I remember it I gave you a million dollars. Did I ask you how?”

“You stupid shit,” Walter said. “Wilkes was going to
kill
the girl!”

“Bullshit! He was going to kill Leonard Martin! You stupid shit!” Tom Maloney yelled at the top of his voice. He was not used to being talked to that way. His reaction showed Walter everything. Walter realized Maloney, for all his money and power, really didn't know how people like Wilkes operate. “It must be so easy to kill people when you don't know how they're going to die,” he thought.

“Calm down, Tom,” he said. “Let me tell you the facts of life here, fill you in on Wilkes's plan.” Walter took Tom Maloney through it step by step. The more he disclosed, the more convinced he was that Maloney had no idea what he had started. When he was finished, Walter said, “I want you to know that if anything bad happens to Isobel Gitlin—anything at all—if she gets mugged, hit by a bus, falls down a flight of stairs, has a heart attack, is struck by lightning—anything at all—I'll hold you responsible, Tom. And if I ever see one of Wilkes's people again I'll make them very mad at you. You'll regret that. You understand what I mean?”

“Look, Walter, I—”

“Just say ‘I understand.' I need to hear it, Tom.”

Maloney cleared his throat which was very dry now and said, “I understand.”

“Good.”

“I'll cancel the arrangement with Wilkes as soon as you and I get off the phone. By the way, Walter, how do you know Isobel Gitlin?”

“That doesn't matter,” Walter replied. “Now listen to me. You'll like this part. I'm going to tell you about Leonard Martin. I saw him. I talked to him. He's gone now, but I can find him again, easily. I gave him my number. He might even call me.”

“You found him! That's great news—just great. When? Where? I knew you could do it. Am I allowed to or supposed to ask you how?”

Walter told Maloney about his trip to the New Mexico wilderness north of Albert. He told him about the empty tract of land Leonard bought, and the small cabin. He didn't mention Michael DelGrazo or Leonard's altered physical appearance. He considered that his own proprietary information. He saw no need to tell Tom about Clarksville. Carter Lawrence, Nick Stevenson, and Harvey Daniels were not part
of his contract, just as Isobel Gitlin was not part of Wilkes's deal. When he finished, he asked, “What do you want to do with Leonard Martin? What do you want me to do? I'm just as anxious as you are to get this over, to go home. What's it going to be?”

“Jesus, Walter, this is fantastic. I can't tell you how good this makes me feel. I want you to come over to the Waldorf—that's where I'm pretty much holed up these days. Nathan's here too. We can go over our plans together. How soon can you be here?”

Walter listened. The shower was off. Isobel was only a closed door away. “Noon,” he said. Maloney told him to call the penthouse from the house phone in the lobby when he got to the Waldorf.

Then Maloney spoke as if addressing one of his sales managers. “Congratulations. Job well done. We're all proud of you.” For a brief moment Walter considered the possibility that Tom had lost his mind.

He opened the door to the bedroom. Isobel was dressed and brushing her hair. She had sprayed the same perfume she wore last night. The scent excited him. Walter wanted nothing more than to grab her, throw her down on the bed, and make love to her.

“What did you mean if
‘something bad'
happened to me?” She continued, brushing her hair while looking at him in the mirror. “I heard you say that. What did you mean? Who were you talking to?”

He had carried a fresh cup of coffee with him, and he put it down on the dresser in front of Isobel. “Thanks,” she said. He walked over to the window. A faint draft of cold air from the window frame, which had no doubt gone untouched for thirty or forty years, drifted across his face. It felt good.

“Our friend from the New York Police Department worked for a man hired by Tom Maloney, a man named Robert Wilkes. I can't be certain, but my guess is Wilkes is either FBI or CIA, and, unlike Detective Allen, he's an active duty agent.”

“W-what about—”

“No, Isobel. Don't ask me anything. Not yet. When I'm done there will be plenty of time for questions.” She nodded, and Walter sat on the edge of the bed. He continued, “Wilkes was brought in to kill Leonard. He couldn't find him, of course. He didn't even know who he was hired to kill until he read about it in the
New York Times.
That's where you come in. Guys like Wilkes assemble a team, and so he got a retired cop, that's Allen, to follow you, hoping Leonard would contact you again and you would lead Allen to Leonard. If such a meeting happened—once you and Leonard were in the same place together—Allen would show up. He'd kill Leonard with one gun and then kill you with the other. He'd place the gun he used to shoot you in Leonard's hand. Wilkes then takes over and there could be many possible scenarios, but any way they do it, the official story ends up with Leonard Martin killing you and someone in law enforcement killing Leonard. “Courageous Reporter Murdered by Madman Killer: Hero Cop Kills Murderer.”

Isobel seemed unfazed. “That's why Allen had two guns?” Walter shook his head yes. “You were talking to Maloney, weren't you?” Again Walter shook his head yes. “You told him if
‘anything bad'
happened to me you'd kick the shit out of him. Did you tell him you would cut him a new asshole with that little pistol of yours?” Walter shook his head no. A smile spread across his rugged face. “You're a wonderful man, Walter Sherman. My hero.” Isobel began unbuttoning her blouse. “I can always take another shower,” she said.

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