“There were three of us in Vietnam that were really close. All of us were sergeants. In the 82nd Airborne. We DEROSED about the same time and agreed to meet in Washington, D.C., on the first of May 1970. The peace demonstrations were everywhere. We were all bitter. None of us had much chance of getting decent work. We tried to think up something we could do together to make some money. We didn’t know much except military life and killing. Nothing came of it and we separated, promising to stay in touch.”
“This story better get interesting soon.”
“It will but I want you to understand.”
“Just hurry up!”
“A few years went by and Conrad Connor., the youngest of the three of us, called me and said he needed help and asked me to come right away. He said there would be enough money in it to pay my expenses with plenty left over. He knew I would drive and asked me to bring a couple of my rifles so we could do some shooting on a nearby range.
“I made my way to Conrad’s small farm house in Round Hill, Virginia. Just north of Leesburg on Route 15. He was renting the house and barely had enough money to buy groceries. We had a few drinks, catching up, and bringing back old times. Finally I asked him why he wanted me to come. He said Dom called him a few days back. Dom Salvatori was the third person of our group. Dom had family connections on a low level to gambling in Atlantic City. Dom offered Conrad $25,000 for taking out a guy the Atlantic City mob wanted to disappear. Nothing fancy, just kill him. Dom also said Conrad could contact me. If we did this job well there would be more work. Conrad and I talked it over for less than an hour and agreed it was no different than killing for the Army. We were still bitter at the government and the people in general. They sent us to Vietnam and let us dangle out there and didn’t care squat about helping us when we came home.
“We did two or three hits a year for Dom and his friends. The pay got better. Our lives improved. I bought my shooting camp with mob money. They thought it was excellent cover for us and we could do some spotting of other good shooters who needed money. We never knew much about our targets. Just a picture, an address, and some information about where they hung out. A year ago they asked me to recommend a shooter with no criminal background who was young and naive. The guy had to be responsible, follow instructions, and ask no questions. They didn’t want Conrad or me because the shooter they wanted would be expendable. After a period he would disappear and another similar shooter would pick up the business. We did not know about the kidnapping. You shook me when you told me about the young women being snatched. That’s all I know.”
“Kelly, see if you can find a tablet. Jim is going to write out his statement.”
“What are you going to do with my statement?”
“Keep it in case I let you live. If I even suspect you alert your friends or fail to follow my instructions in any way I’ll kill you and Bobby and leave your statement where it will be found. You should know that there are more of us than just Kelly and me. I’ll need more than you told us before I let you go back to your camp. So far you’re still a dead man. A warning: I’m going to untie your right hand, the other hand will be tied to the chair. Don’t even think about making a move. I will not be taking my eyes off you.”
“What else do you want?”
“We’ll need phone numbers, photos, or very good descriptions, personality data on Conrad and Dom, and a history of past kills.”
Kelly found a yellow pad and pen and handed them to Jack, using a paper towel to avoid putting her prints or Jack’s on the pad. As Jim wrote out his statement, Jack pulled her to the side and asked her for her thoughts on what to do with Jim, keeping his eyes on the big man.
“Kill him. It is too dangerous to let him live. I don’t trust him after he tried to kill us.”
“Hear that, Jim? Your information has to make her change her mind, otherwise it will look like you and Jake got into a fight and killed each other. Kelly has Jake’s rifle and you conveniently shot Jake with your rifle. Case closed. So you had better be convincing.
“Kelly, his cell is beside the sink. Go through it and see what you can find.”
When Jim finished writing his statement plus the information Jack wanted, Jack passed it over to Kelly to check what she could against data contained in the cell phone. Jack retied Jim’s right hand and motioned to Kelly to step outside. When she followed him out he said, “Anything in the cell’s memory that checks with his written information?”
“Yes, the names of his friends match, as do their phone numbers. His photo library is almost full. Very few captions or dates. Hard to make sense of them. No audio recordings. A list of recent calls and favorites. No music or videos and a few bookmarks of gun and outdoor sellers. Doesn’t look as if he does much searching on the Internet. Nothing on his cell relates to their hits over the years. Guess he was smart enough not to record any of them. Bottom line, alive, he’s a walking time bomb with our names on it.”
“If we kill him, I believe we could leave a plausible crime scene scenario but Bobby and others at the camp saw us with him and she knows we were going to see Jake carrying weapons. I’m not so tough that I could kill her in cold blood and I don’t want you to get there. So, if he dies, he is still a problem to us. If we let him live there is at least a chance he will not alert his fellow thugs. I’m thinking the same thing you are. This guy has killed several innocent people and counting up the ones Jake killed, the number gets into the twenties or higher.
“I like a combination of carrot and stick. Stick first. If he talks we send his statement to his mob friends. They will do the rest. Sending to the law enforcement types is a waste of time. The way the statement was obtained rules out its use in court. Every month we have no reason to believe he has double-crossed us, I’ll deposit $10,000 in his account. I don’t expect payments to go on for more than two or three months. I don’t think this guy believes he did anything wrong. He never even said he regretted trying to kill us. Whatever happens to him won’t keep me awake.”
Kelly said, “Something needs to happen to him. Let’s turn him over to Kathy.”
“What, you have no mercy?”
“Scum like Jim don’t deserve any mercy.”
“We have two choices. One is to move up the chain by grabbing Conrad or Dom. The other is to make Jim call Conrad and set up a meeting. I like the option of grabbing Dom the best. Conrad is just another Jim, a hired killer. Agree?”
“Yes, but only because killing Jim could cause complications for us. He doesn’t deserve to walk.”
“Jim’s days are numbered. The mob will figure out who fingered them and do their thing about cleaning up loose ends.”
“Who was the voice that called Jake to give him his schedule?”
“It had to be Dom Salvatori. Conrad and Jim are just hired help. Now we need to wipe the cabin clean of our prints without removing Jake’s. It’s okay if we miss some Jim left here. I removed the nylon line from Jake’s wrists before he died. I’ll check his wrists for marks. There will be none on his legs. There is a rainstorm coming soon. It’s clouding up now. Even a small rain will take away our tracks on the way in here. But the trail up to his body from the cabin will need checking. You check the path you and Jake used. I’ll clean up my marks at Jim’s ambush site. I’m tempted to leave any tracks or marks he made there for an especially sharp sheriff to find, but it is not good for us to have the cops question Jim. He’ll cave in a heartbeat. Meet me in the cabin when you’re done. Make sure Jake’s rifle and its position look like he was going up the slope when he was shot in the back. Jim’s car is probably on the fire road. When we leave, you drive and I’ll watch him. Once back at the camp our story will be that Jake wasn’t there. I’ll say we might try again next month. Jim can make sure Bobby doesn’t talk about us going to get Jake. Okay? Let’s get started.”