Monday, August 11, 2014

First Shot (35)

Nuts.” This was the extent of Lt. Carl Callahan's reaction to the line of stalled traffic ahead of his SUV at the foot of the Peter Q. Dummond Memorial Bridge. The word was spoken dispassionately, and might have sounded to someone not paying attention as a half-hearted growl. Blow was paying attention, straining to in fact over the pounding rain and intermittent rumbling growls in the clouds overhead.
Their destination was The Smokehouse, a York County diner Callahan said he liked because it reminded him of the Edward Hopper painting and served “damn good barbecue, first-rate coffee and not bad pie”. It also had booths that offered a modicum of privacy, where he and Blow stood less chance of being recognized than if they'd stayed in Leicester County.
My office is bugged,” he'd said, persuading Blow to leave the comfort of his home and slog through bitter cold stormy nastiness to the SUV in his driveway. Callahan had been parked down the street, waiting for Salzwedel to leave before before he called. The cop's implication Blow's house might also be bugged failed to produce what normally would have been amusement at its irony. Blow was already adrift in a swirl of questions and contradictions.

It's the fucking Feebs. Who else would it be?” Callahan was backing out of the driveway. His voice retained its usual low-pitched steady calm, letting the words alone convey his emotions. Blow admired this, wondering if it was natural or an acting skill. Probably a little of both, he figured. Callahan was wearing jeans and white sneakers and what appeared to be a sweatshirt under a brown canvas barn coat. A tan camo floppy hat covered his shaved head. His clothes were dry compared with Blow's dripping Sears raincoat. He pulled his raindrop-glistening knit watch cap off inside the SUV and slapped it against a knee.
Are you saying the FBI broke in? It's always locked, and there's somebody there twenty-four-seven. How would that be possible?”
Callahan allowed a single derisive laugh, waved a hand. “We invited them in. Training session. They were showing us how to use—get this—the latest surveillance doodads. Bugs, mini-cams, GPS hound dogs, receivers, monitors. Two agents. An old fart and a female. She was good-looking and dressed to kill, but the face was all fed. Hard as granite. Thinking back I remember she slipped out while the old guy was was demonstrating something. Probly told somebody she was going to the john. That was when she did it.”
How do you know? I mean, that she planted a bug?”
Two actually. One in my office and one in the sheriff's. We found them not ten minutes after Mulder and Scully were gone. One of the deputies was fooling with a receiver, flipping through the frequencies, and heard Ogie's voice. He was back in his office on the phone. The way the old guy explained it the bugs are set to transmit on a certain frequency. The ones they left with us, that came with the rest of the equipment, transmitted on a different frequency than what the receiver was reading after Gilchrist moved the band up from where the old guy had it.
You see, they gave us some of their old stuff. Part of a federal grant to encourage cooperation with local LEOs. After we heard Ogie's voice and did a search, using the same receivers the Feebs gave us, we found the bugs they planted. Looked different than the ones they gave us. We checked everywhere then, both floors, and those were the only two. Ogie decided to leave them in place so we could feed the Feebs some shit and hold our discussions somewhere else.” He laughed. “Isn't that just like the government. Give you something with one hand and stick the other up your ass.”
And then screw that up,” Blow said.
Yup. Keystone Kops. Anyway, I wanted to bring you up to date on on where I'm at on this thing. The Gunther thing. I'm going to want to talk with your client, Mr. Salzwedel, and I wanted you to know, in case you might have some objection.”
Woops. Don't tell me he's a suspect? Or whatever you guys call them these days, persons of interest?”
No, not at all, Joe. Hell, he's got the perfect alibi. And besides, I don't see a shouting match between the two of them as enough for a high school history teacher to go hire a contract killer. We've done a little scouting around. Old Gunther liked the skirts, and he played around some, but not with Mrs. Salzwedel. I'd bet my pension on that. There might be a jealous husband or two or even the father of a student or two or three--”
Whoa, are you saying Gunther was fooling with high school students?”
Rumors, but nothing substantial. Yet. He was a pig. No question there. If there'd been an insurance policy and if he hadn't taken such a beating in the stock market, and there wasn't the two boys, I'd have to put Mrs. Gunther up there near the top of the list. She's your client too, isn't she?” Blow nodded. “Well, I don't see her for it, or even hiring anybody. If it comes to that, though, I'll give you a call.
But what's jamming me up here, Joe, is this other thing. You know, these two nut cases, Moriarty or whatever the hell she's calling herself now, and this Himmler. Christ, it looks like both of them were phony. And it's starting to look now like this Himmler, for lack of a better name, was either a Feeb himself or some spook with Homeland. CIA for all we know. So what if one of them killed Gunther? Where does that leave me? And this gun the woman is looking for? What the hell is that? Gunther's? Salzwedel's? And why such interest? What's so special about a goddam gun? Does she kill Gunther because she thinks he has it? Or does Himmler kill Gunther and then Moriarty kills Himmler? Am I going nuts here? Help me, Joe.
Hey, this bridge is either stuck open or there's a wreck up there somewhere. Wanna stop at Angelo's here? I haven't had anything hot to eat since breakfast. The spaghetti here is good. You ate already, I know. The pie's good here, too. OK?
Oh, I'll tell you one thing I'm not gonna do is tell the Feebs what Moriarty's been up to. Screw 'em. They're here undercover now, and there's nothing I can do about that. But the bastards are spying on us, and with half a chance they'll go official and swarm in like flies on fresh dog shit, and they'll fuck everything up. I hope you can keep this between us girls, Joe. I love your sister to death, but her squeeze is a Feeb and I don't want to share even a whisper with those assholes. Give me a nod on this, and I'll tell you what I am doing that has a decent chance of handing us whoever blew Gunther's head clean off, as Dirty Harry put it. Maybe then we'll learn the why, as well.”
Blow knew he had no choice. He'd already decided to edit with great caution everything he said henceforth to Joan. He hadn't yet decided what to do when his father returned on Saturday. As much as he missed his mentor and stoutest ally, he feared he might have strayed too far off course already. He'd cross that bridge when he had to. He nodded, meeting Callahan's eyes as intently as Atticus Finch met his jurors'.
Callahan studied Blow for several seconds, then nodded back. “I'm getting some new videos.” He waited, as if expecting a response. Blow's eyebrows reached skyward. “At least three of the reenactors were wearing Go-Pro cameras during the battle Saturday. Three or more different angles. Should be enough to show us where whoever shot Gunther was at. Maybe even show us who. Morris Harper said he would get the names for me. Banacek gave me the go-ahead. He's talked to Judge Pendleton. We'll have no problem with the subpoenas.
Not a word of this to anybody, Mr. Stone. If any of your clients happen to be involved—either with a camera or a rifle—you will be the first to know.” Blow nodded again, despite a head grappling with half-formed implications.
OK then.” Callahan gave a conclusive nod and glanced up at the restaurant. Distorted through the torrents washing over the windows, its orange neon open sign beckoned like a pirate's torch. “Looks like we won't have any trouble finding a booth. Wanna sit here awhile, see if it lets up?” They were parked near Angelo's front door.
I don't think it's going to, Carl. Let's get if over with.”
Callahan nodded, turned the engine off, fastened the snaps on his barn coat and pushed his door into the strafing rain. Blow returned his watch cap to its post atop his head and did likewise. They dashed, Blow slipping and nearly falling, but they made it to the door without either giving the other grist for future jokes. It was dry and warm in the restaurant.

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