9 AM Wednesday, June 4th
The next morning, Jack called a taxi and rode to Wilkinsburg, a nearby suburb of Pittsburgh, to see Howie Miller about using his investigative agency. Howie was waiting for Jack and offered him a steaming china cup of dark French roast. Jack looked at the cup and said, “Howie, is this the cup you use to impress clients? Well, I’m impressed. Give me a minute to commune with this cup and its contents and I’ll tell you why I’m here, taking up your time.” Jack drank some coffee. He thought over his opening and said, “An organized gang of kidnappers has been picking young women off the streets of major cities and selling them to clients in the Middle East and Far East. The police are working on it. But with the crimes taking place in almost random areas and with the police reluctant to commit major resources to finding young women of age who are reported missing, they don’t have much to show. To make it worse, the missing girls are often in major universities or employed in large urban areas where no one even reports them missing for days. I represent a number of the families who want to remain anonymous. They have asked me to do a private search for them. Their interest is to get their daughters home again. No interest in court or legal proceedings. The information I’ll share with you, if you decide to take the case, would not hold up in court. I’ll personally vouch for its authenticity. Are you interested?”
“How many investigators do you want me to use?”
“All you have and can get. They have to be willing to travel.”
“Jack, you’re asking me to shut all my cases down. I can’t do that.”
“How much do you charge an hour or day for your people on the job? I assume no one gets paid unless they are working on a contracted job.”
“Right. Nobody gets paid that I am not charging time and expenses to a client. My top guys get $500 a day and expenses. The others get $250.”
“I’ll triple the rate.”
“What! $1,500 per day for my top guys?”
‘“Yes, and a $50,000 bonus for you to manage the show and to be personally on call. Report only to me. No official interaction. No press and no credit for solving a major crime. No telling spouses or lovers or bar talk. A talking out-of-school investigator is out of your agency. Not just pulled off my job. Okay?
“Jesus! Jack, where is all the money coming from?”
“Not to worry. I’ll give you $25,000 cash to get started. If you need more let me know. And our arrangement details stop with you. You start as soon as I leave. What say?”
“I can’t turn it down. I know some serious shit is involved here but I trust you to protect me.”
“I have your back. Just like old times. Do we have a deal? No paper, just a handshake.”
Howie reached across the desk and took Jack’s offered hand. In the next hour, Jack gave Howie the leads he got from Walid and how he wanted Howie’s people to proceed. Jack made it clear that the people were dangerous and wouldn’t hesitate to kill. They were street smart but not pros. Probably had no training.
As he finished his briefing and handed Howie the data and photos, he said, “Just so we’re on the same page, there may be some rough stuff later, but for now it is strictly surveillance with photos and reports. You know the drill. Photos and data on everyone these four people meet. Error on the side of discretion. Don’t spook the targets. You and I will decide if we need to pick up the pressure.”