“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 2

Driving down the familiar streets of Oakland, a sense of déjà vu swept over Jack. ShadowJWM Serialization sat up straighter and stared out the window. Rush hour was nearly over and minutes later, Jack pulled into the driveway of a small detached house just off Forbes Avenue. The house looked abandoned. It was more than a year since he loaded his old Cherokee station wagon with his few belongings and Shadow and headed east to McLean, VA, to take care of his adored ailing father. A lot had happened since then. He could barely remember what his ex-wife looked like. He was certainly a different person than the young, naive man who had lived here. Everything seemed smaller. The violence and stress of the last year marked him. If he had ever feared death, he no longer did. He knew he was a killer when his loved ones or country were threatened. Few people could do what he now did routinely. His senses were always on near-maximum. A feeling of confidence flooded through him. He now loved a woman who loved him in return and was willing to share the danger. Shadow’s nudging brought him back to the present.

Laughing at Shadow’s antics, Jack opened the door and let him out. He watched Shadow stretch and relieve himself on the small strip of grass in front of the house. Marsha had yelled at Shadow every time she caught him urinating on the grass. Kathy got out after examining the house from the car and headed for the front porch. Shadow looked at Jack, gave his Bouvier smile and ran up beside Kathy. As they moved near the front steps, Shadow stopped, stepped in front of Kathy and growled deep in his throat. Jack never questioned Shadow’s instincts. He called to Kathy to stop.

She said, “What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know but I always trust Shadow’s warnings. Follow us around to the back.”

Jack put his hand on Shadow’s back and led him to the back of the house. Shadow sniffed and continued to growl quietly. In the backyard, a slanted double trap door, typical of houses built in the 1930s, led to the cellar. Taking the key to the padlock from its hiding place behind a crack in the German siding, Jack opened the lock and eased one-half of the door open.

Little of the late morning sunlight reached the basement. It was too dark to make out the interior. Jack could just see the four steep cement stairs leading into the gloom. With Shadow leading the way, Jack and Kathy moved quietly down the stairs. Shadow had stopped growling and stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the kitchen, sniffing the bottom step and the surrounding area. Jack picked up a flashlight he had left on the cluttered work bench and giving a small prayer to the makers of modern batteries, switched the flashlight on. Its beam cut through the gloom in the windowless basement. Examining the basement area quadrant by quadrant, he could find nothing out of place until he turned the beam upwards and almost immediately saw a small, partially concealed shape fastened to the inside of one of the rough-cut ceiling joists. A closer look showed a black insulated line running from the shape along the joist and then up through the old pine floor.

“Kathy, what do you see up there?”

She took the flashlight, looked intently at the dark object snuggled up to a ceiling joist and said, “That has to be a bomb of some kind. I don’t see a triggering mechanism.”

Jack was no stranger to explosives or booby traps. His years in Marine Recon had trained him well. He was not going to try to disarm what could be a very sophisticated triggering device.

Jack took Kathy’s arm and said, “I don’t see one either, but disarming bombs is beyond me. Let’s get out of here.”

Rubbing Shadow’s head, he led the big dog back to the SRX. Jack drove around the neighborhood streets, while Kathy used her counter-surveillance skill to make sure they were not being followed. She gave Jack an “all clear.” He parked a block away from the house, pulled over and got his cell phone out. Jack dialed the number from memory. Captain Shorer’s secretary immediately recognized Jack’s voice and put him right through to his old boss.

“Captain, I thought you would still be at lunch.”

“Jack, how in the hell are you, and what brings you back to your old haunts? Football season is here and the Pittsburgh Panthers could use you, if that old knee would hold up.”

“It’s holding up well, but my football career is over. I’ve been out of the country for a while and trying hard to get my father’s estate shaped up. I need to see you tonight, if possible. I went back to my old house in Oakland and found a booby trap in the basement. I might have triggered it, if Shadow hadn’t made me be careful. He growled when we approached the stairs to the front porch. I took his warning, went in through the basement door and found the bomb attached to a ceiling joist.”

“Christ, Jack! What have you been up to? I better get the bomb squad out there immediately. I have no choice. The damn thing may be big enough to kill a few neighbors.”

“I’ll meet the squad at the house. Can we do this without the sirens and lights?”

“Okay! I’ll try to treat it as a suspected gas leak but that won’t last. We have to talk. I don’t like people trying to kill my best detective, even if he is on a leave of absence.”

“You got it! I have a long story to tell you. But the story has to stay between you and me for the time being. You’ll understand when I give you the details. How about dinner tonight? I want you to meet my significant other. She is a gorgeous and dangerous lady.”

“You’re on! I’ll pick the place. Now let’s deal with the bomb.”

“You pick next time. I know you like the Fish Market, and we’ll be staying at the Convention Center. I’ll see you in the restaurant tonight. Seven-thirty, okay?”

When Kathy asked what was going on, Jack told her the bomb squad should be arriving there any minute, and he had to show them what he found.

Kathy said, “Damn those people. How many of them do we have to kill? I am really angry. Thank God for Shadow. I love that dog. How did he know?”

“I’m a bit puzzled. Dogs have sensory capabilities that aren’t understandable by humans. Shadow is very intelligent and doesn’t miss anything. He wasn’t trained as a bomb sniffing dog, and it’s doubtful he could have caught the distinctive odor of the explosives from outside the house. His reaction must, in some way, be tied to the recent attack on my father’s house in McLean.”

Two full-time housekeepers and Jack’s father died in the attack, but not before Shadow gave the alarm and killed one of them. Two additional intruders were killed in the house. The attack team was made up of members of a renegade KGB sleeper team based in Charleston, SC.

Jack said, “I wonder if a surviving member, motivated by revenge for the death of one of his family, may be responsible for the bomb. Shadow may have picked up the scent of an old enemy.”

Ten minutes later, as the light was beginning to fail, a police cruiser glided past the house and parked down the street. Jack recognized one of the officers and, leaving an unhappy dog in the car, he and Kathy went to meet them. Don Esposito saw them coming, “Hey, Jack, how ya doin? We don’t need you drumming up business for us! You never were boring! Whatcha got here? The Captain said it was a bomb situation. Is that right? And aren’t you going to introduce me to Miss America?”

“Don! Give me a chance to get a word in! I missed you, too. Yeah, some package nestled up to a joist in the basement with a wire running out of it. Being the smart detective I am, I told myself not to fuck with it but to wake up Esposito. He’s getting all that hazardous duty pay for telling the bomb squad where to go. Kathy, say hello to Mr. Esposito so he can get to work.”

“Hello, Mr. Esposito. I hope you’re good at this bomb business.”

“I’m not too bad. Glad to meetcha. If you tire of this bum, call me. I can be available. Jack, how about you show me where this suspect bomb is lurking?”

“Okay, suck it up and follow me. Kathy, please keep Shadow company. He hates to be left out of any action. Hey, Esposito, remember, please don’t touch the damn thing until I get out of there. I’m not drawing the big bucks for bomb squad duty and, besides, I’m on leave-without-pay. Follow me and I’ll show you my bomb.”

Jack led the two officers around the back to the outside stairs and opened the cellar doors. Once inside, Jack used his flashlight to point out the bomb. Esposito took a quick look and said, “Okay, I see it and it sure looks like a bomb. That wire running out of it may mean that it’s not set up for remote detonation or that this bomber is damn smart. Who in the hell would want to kill a poor dumb detective on leave-without-pay? Who’ve you been hanging around with? Never mind talking. Let’s get out of here. I think I heard the real bomb squad pull up.”

After talking to Esposito, the bomb squad Lieutenant set about directing his growing on-site force to evacuate every house within two hundred feet. Jack knew that action would take at least an hour, and there was nothing he could do to help. He waited until the Lieutenant was finished issuing his preliminary orders and introduced himself as the owner of the house. Esposito chimed in to add Jack was a homicide detective on leave. Jack then offered to give the entry team the house keys and a briefing on the layout of the house. Jack could see the Lieutenant was giving him his undivided attention now that his bona fides were established. When the officer asked him who was on his suspect list, Jack told him he didn’t know. He didn’t want to pass out any more information before he had a chance to talk with Captain Shorer.

When Jack slipped into the car with Kathy and Shadow, she told him the newspapers could have provided enough information for the bomber to find his old Pittsburgh house, who then placed the bomb in an attempt to kill him or someone he cared about. She doubted it had anything to do with their killing a room full of al Qaeda mid-level cadre in Kathmandu.

Jack said, “I believe you’re right. Maybe the bomb forensic guys can give us something. Now let’s get Shadow checked into his old kennel and ourselves in a hotel.”

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