“Shades of Justice” Chapter Five

Tuesday, June 3rd

 

Kathy called Kelly at 7 AM, knowing she would be asleep or just getting up. A sleepy voice answered and said, “Hello, what do you want?”

“I want you to get your rookie ass out of bed and get ready to work.”

“Kathy, I’m up and moving. Where do you want me?”

“Breakfast at the Convention Center in the Brandon suite in 30 minutes.”

Kelly looked at the dial tone and wondered what was up. She was really tired after being up until almost dawn looking for her friend, Sally McGovern. Sally had been out all night before, but not without telling Kelly where she’d be. No time to wonder now, she had to get moving. Kathy hated for anyone to be late. Probably a hold over from her time with the CIA, Kelly thought.

Twenty-nine minutes later, she knocked on the door to the Brandon suite. Jack opened the door and gave her a big hug, thinking, Every time I see her, she looks more like her mother who defined the term “warrior.”

Kathy came over and joined the hug, saying, “Girl, I have really missed you. Come in to the breakfast room. Breakfast is laid out. I hope your diet hasn’t changed.”

“No. The same high protein, strong coffee, and fruit. I see all that here.”

“Come, sit down. We’ve a lot to cover. First, how are you doing?”

“Not too good. A good friend disappeared yesterday. We were going to have dinner together last night and she never showed. No one is looking for her except me. The police don’t care and the school is not interested at all. She is a graduate law student and totally on her own.”

“Was she a blond about five-foot-seven or so, nicely dressed, good manners?” Kathy said, frowning.

“Yes. Yes. That fits her. How did you know?”

Kathy told her the story Captain Shorer had told them at dinner last night. After she finished, Jack said, “I can get Captain Shorer to move right away to start an investigation.”

“Maybe,” Kathy said, “we should wait a bit. A police investigation will scatter all the rats. They might be so sure of themselves, they get careless.”

“You might be right,” Jack said. “Kelly, get the files off the desk in the next room and scan them. We’ll wait for you.”

Ten minutes later Kelly joined them fighting back angry tears. Jack started with the basics of what he had deduced the previous night after studying the files. “Here’s what we know. This is an organized activity that has several people involved. There’s big money in human trafficking. These people have been working for more than a year without the police even working this as a crime. So far it’s all been filed under missing persons. Not much police time or expertise has been put toward finding the women or the kidnappers. They are focused on finding the sniper who has been shooting cops. An understandable position and one the kidnappers were sure the police would take. It has worked so well that there must be some carelessness setting in. Our best shot is following Kathy’s approach. We will start now investigating the disappearance of your friend.

“Now here is what I think. It looks as if these kidnappers are very particular about who they snatch off the street. They must be operating on guidance from the sellers of these young women. And the sellers are catering to what the buyers want. Blonds from America and Western Europe have always been premium in the human trafficking markets in the Arab world and Japan. To supply their market the kidnappers must scout a huge territory. To do that they must employ dozens of low-level streetwise thugs who may have people in the big universities and business centers of major cities that are spotters for them. Our best chance is to find and squeeze a couple of the thugs and work our way to the kidnappers and transporters, jailers, and up the chain. We have a break here with Kelly and her friend, Miss McGovern. Let’s use it now. Kelly, help us question you. Please have patience, it is our best chance.”

Kelly said, “This is so ugly. I could kill all of them. I’m ready. Let’s go!”

“Let me start,” Kathy said. “You two jump in anytime. Kelly, these thugs had to be casing Sally for some weeks. We’ll need you to tell us everyone who was around her or close to her in the last month – professors, other students, and lovers, anyone at all. Don’t rule anyone out. Money can make people do terrible things.”

“She had no lovers. She wasn’t even dating anyone, though she was looking and wanted a good relationship. She was very particular about everything she did. If she thought a class she was taking could be improved, she would tell her adviser about it. She was also worse than you are about the quality of her coffee. She ordered the same dark roast coffee black every afternoon at Starbucks. If she was close to anyone, male or female, she didn’t tell me about it. Overall, her life was more structured than mine. I used to kid her about her schedule. Talk about precise, she damn near wore her watch out by constantly checking the time. Sally said she enjoyed my company because my laid-back style helped her balance the priorities in her life. Don’t get me wrong, she enjoyed adventure and danger. She was a very good downhill skier and talked about breaking broncos on her dad’s ranch in Montana. She was strong but not in very good shape. It would be hard for anyone to grab her without a giant fight.”

“What about eating out?” Jack asked.

“We ate out nearly every night. A lot of different places. Usually small, inexpensive restaurants that didn’t require reservations.”

“If you were going to kidnap her where would you do it?” Kathy asked.

Kelly thought for a moment and said, “Her only regular pattern was walking to and from class and her afternoon coffee.”

“There is usually a crowd around a popular Starbucks, inside and out,” Jack replied. “I wouldn’t think it would be a good place to grab anyone off the street. Her route to and from class was probably routine and provided isolated places to pick her up.”

“But someone would have to know her class schedule and actually watch her for a while.”

“Right on,” Kathy replied. “Her adviser certainly knew her schedule and had access to her I.D. photo. But he or she wouldn’t be following her around. Kelly, did you ever see the same person hanging around when you were with her?”

“Let me think about that.”

By lunchtime, they had a candidate spotter and a possible watcher or surveillant. They easily found the address of the adviser, but only knew where the person Kelly singled out as a possible watcher hung out.

Jack knew a few people from his days on the homicide squad who had retired and started a private investigative service. He was sure the service could field a half-dozen streetwise retired cops who would work without warrants and commit nothing to paper. Throwaway pre-paid cells would work for them. The high pay would be enough to eliminate worry about warrants and other awkward questions. They only needed a photo and description to put a detective agency to work.

Kelly and Kathy left in Kelly’s car to try to find the people she thought might be the watchers. They were in Kelly’s car since she had access to university areas and parking. They had worked surveillance operations together before. Kelly had come a long way since Kathy had trained her 18 months ago.

Kathy said, “The watchers would not be hired to watch Sally. They had to be available to handle other assignments. So first let’s hit the places people like you and Sally would go.”

“How about starting with the university areas, especially where we met to chat or drink coffee?” Kelly suggested. “She liked Starbucks so let’s start there.”

“If you see the person you suspect or anyone else, signal me and I’ll get an iPhone photo. No one knows me here and I like to think I can fit in on a university campus.”

Kelly glanced at her and raised an eyebrow.

Kathy caught the gesture and said, “Damn you, I’m not that old. Anyway, I’m playing the role of your older sister who is a graduate student at Duke. Up here doing some slumming.”

“This whole thing is so weird,” Kelly said, shaking her head. “I can’t believe Sally is gone down the human trafficking pipeline to a terrible life. Do you think we can save her?”

“No. By this time she is probably on her way out of the country. Probably by boat to one of the islands in the Caribbean. And onward by air from there. If she’s tough enough to stay alive and we can roll these bastards up, maybe. Then, she’ll have to go through detox and shrinks. There is no happy ending here.” Kathy had never been one to sugarcoat things.

Kelly pulled over to a Starbucks on Craig Street not far from the university. “We hung out here, nearly every day. I was stuck on good strong coffee from spending so much time with you and Jack. Speaking of which, how is your husband and married life?”

“It’s strange but it is different. I feel more at ease but at the same time find myself worrying more about my husband,” Kathy replied. “He is very restless. Not that he can’t kick back at times, but he is an action junkie. Doesn’t like slow times or inaction, but he never complains, even when I cook something I can barely choke down. He doesn’t communicate very well about personal things. On operational stuff he tells me more than I want or need to know. But he is almost always right. What really worries me is that I can’t tell when he’s hurting or down. His pain tolerance is off the charts. All in all it’s great, and I’m one happy bride. Now let’s go find some perps.”

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Filed under Action thrillers, Barry Kelly, Books, Spy novels

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