“Justice without Mercy” Chapter 16

Kathy called Lou Washington’s photo shop in Mount Pleasant. Lou was delighted to hear from her and agreed to a visit the same afternoon. Lou’s storefront was in an older mall on the ocean side of Route 17. There was some traffic in the mall, but Kathy had no trouble finding a parking place right in front of the shop.

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Lou was waiting for her. “My God, Kathy, you look wonderful. I’ll have to watch myself. I could fall in love with you. I’m vulnerable. I just finalized my divorce from my third wife last week.”

Kathy hugged him and said, “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or give you the ‘poor baby’ treatment.”

“Actually, I could use some of both. Come inside and meet my daughter and tell me what brings you to this dismal place.”

One look at the shop window and the dingy interior, and Kathy knew business was not going well. Lou reversed the “Open” sign on the door and led Kathy into the back of the shop. Working at a computer work station was a beautiful black woman Kathy judged to be in her middle twenties. Lou said, “Storm, I want you to meet Kathy, an old and good friend. Kathy, Storm is my daughter from my second wife and my only da

ughter. You can see she gets her looks from her mother.”

“Dad, come on. Praise my skill in keeping us afloat, if you need to say nice things. Kathy, as you can see, our photo shop is not making us rich.”

“Hey, Storm, she just got here. Let’s give her a cup of coffee before we share our business plan.”

“Plan! What plan? Never mind. Kathy, can I get you a cup of coffee? The best thing we do here is to make our own blend of coffee. My dad is a coffee fanatic.”

“Sure, if it’s that good, let’s have it black.”

“Kathy, from your body language, you don’t have a lot of time. Your trademark impatience is showing through.”

Lou cleared a space on the work table and pulled up a chair for Kathy.

“I guess I’m obvious. I never could wait very well.”

She could hear Storm making coffee and whispered, “Can we talk in front of Storm?”

“Yeah. She never tells anyone anything. She knows what I did for the FBI. Her specialty is hacking. She’s very good and, if the truth be known, her hacking ability keeps the shop door open.”

Storm returned with three steaming cups of black coffee in English china cups. Kathy said, “Wow, not only is the coffee great but I expected stained shop style mugs.”

“Not here. Dad may brew the coffee but I supply the cups. I love the thin edge of good English cups. Some of these cups cost more than a number of our cheaper cameras. Dad, this has all the look of a serious meeting, and I don’t think it involves romance. Do you want me to go for a walk?”

Lou said, “No. I want you to stay and speak up when you have something to say. Okay, Kathy, you have the floor.”

“My significant other runs a small team of counter terrorists. Lou, you remember Anita Marino. She was one of the team. She was killed last year in a firefight in an Asian country. I tell you that because there is and will be risk involved. The money is exceptional. For example, you each would get something around $250,000, plus expenses. Jack will also cover any business losses incurred. In fact, if he believes your business would be useful, he may offer to buy it from you. There will be no contracts, and you can opt out or be fired at any time. There are no second chances when it comes to carelessness or security lapses.”

Storm asked, “How and when is the money paid?”

“Any way you want it. Standard practice is half up front, the rest monthly.”

Lou looked at Storm and asked, “Okay, daughter, what do you think?”

“Dad, there’s not much future here. If we can get our investment out, let’s go for it. I’m bored and ready to take some chances to make some money. I don’t want to be sitting here five years from now.”

Lou reached over, took Kathy’s hand and said, “We’re ready. What’s next?”

“Close this place up and follow me to Charleston. I’ll put you up in a hotel for the first couple of weeks and then see if you need more permanent quarters. I want you downtown because the trip out here takes too much time. Are you buying or renting a place now?”

Lou said, “Renting.”

“Then keep it for now, until we see what develops. Now go pack a few bags. Be ready to go to Charleston in an hour. If you both have wheels, bring them for now. Give me a cell number, and I’ll tell you what hotel I’ve arranged. After you’re checked in, call me and I’ll set up a meeting with Jack.”

When the door closed, Storm said, “Is she always like this? I like her style.”

“Daughter, the woman is a warrior with no give and not too much of a sense of humor. But, you can trust her with your life. I know.”

Before Lou opened the door to his apartment, Kathy called and told him to check into the Marriott Courtyard Charleston, 125 Calhoun Street. She had reserved two suites in her name. Kathy made the call as she was crossing the bridge into Charleston. She knew Jack would be in the OP. Once Jack said okay, she would pick Lou and Storm up and bring them to the OP. Meanwhile she would have time to brief Jack.

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