Category Archives: Action thrillers

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-nine

Jack and Kathy checked into the hotel Lou selected. When they were settled in the next morning, Jack called Lou and asked him to bring the others and come over. The beachfront hotel was perfect for a meeting site. It had several entrances, a lot of foot traffic by upscale shoppers passing time, and a large parking building that connected to the hotel. Lou arrived with Ted and Warren. Lou introduced them and Jack gathered them all around the large dining table.

“Tell us what you have,” Jack said.

“Ted got a couple of pictures of the guy Conrad met for coffee,” Lou said. “The pictures match the description we have of Dom and Ted heard a waiter in the casino address him as Mr. Salvatori.”

“Good enough,” Kathy said, turning toward Ted. “What else do you know about him?”

“The staff treated him with respect but he is not the boss. I believe he is probably number two or three. Does not wear a wedding ring. Doesn’t need to hit on the female staff. A number of them were more than friendly to him. I saw him go up in the elevator and come down 30 minutes later in a fresh outfit. He either lives in the hotel above the casino or there is an executive area in the hotel people like him can use. My bet is he lives in the hotel on the sixth floor where the elevator stopped.”

“Anything else?” Jack asked.

“While he was upstairs, I explored the corridor with a discreet sign pointing to the parking garage. The door to the parking garage is near the elevator. It opens on a short corridor leading to the garage. I was lucky. The area for staff parking was right there. I think it was only for the top management as there were only eight spaces. Dom’s black Cadillac CTS was there. I saw no parking lot attendants and there were no cameras, not even a mirror. No ticket on the window or lying on the seat inside. Probably the attendant at the entrance just waves him through. Inside the casino I saw several cameras. Anyone going in there is on the surveillance cameras. It looked like many other casinos with the cameras manned by staff in a monitoring room. I did not see any cameras in the elevator. On the upstairs floors I don’t know but probably there are corridor cameras.”

“Lou, you selected some real professionals,” Jack said approvingly. “An excellent piece of work. Get some rest tonight and go back tomorrow morning. We’ve all we need. See you back in McLean.”

After the three ex-FBI officers left, Kathy said, “This is a nice suite. Maybe the food is good. Let’s have dinner sent up. I’ll order a surprise for you.”

“Please, not too much of a surprise. Go easy on the broccoli and giant salads.”

After she ordered dinner, Kathy sat beside Jack and said, “You sent them home because you don’t want any witnesses. Right?”

“Lou would have been okay but we just don’t know Ted or Warren well enough to trust them with our lives or our freedom. We need to snatch Dom and take him somewhere for questioning. Depending on what he tells us will tell us whether we can afford to have him hunting us. Tomorrow morning I’ll rent some kind of a small boat just big enough for a cabin. The forecast said the ocean will be mild tomorrow with slight onshore winds. While I’m looking for a boat, see if you can rent a waterfront cottage with a boat slip. You’re good at cover stories. We need some privacy. I don’t want to drag Dom across the beach, day or night. Too many summer tourists out at all hours. I think we can get him out of the casino and into a car. But we’ll need to keep him for at least eight hours. And that could be a problem in Atlantic City at the height of the tourist season.”

For the next two hours, Kathy and Jack worked out their roles in the abduction and questioning of one Dom Salvatori. The plan was simple but, like many plans, it needed some luck to work smoothly.

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-eight

The green pickup stayed within the speed limit for the next hour and a half. Without using a turn signal, the pickup turned into a gas station-restaurant stop. Fortunately Lou had kept his distance and two cars in front of him pulled into the large parking lot. Lou saw the pickup park and a man get out and walk toward the restaurant. Ted put the glasses on him and said, “He sure fits Conrad’s description.”

“Warren, I’ll drop you off before we get to the restaurant’s entrance. Go inside and see if he meets anyone,” Lou directed. “We’ll watch the door for you to come out. If he meets anyone, we’ll switch and follow the new target.”

Thirty minutes later, Warren appeared at the entrance. Lou moved the car up and Warren climbed in the front seat and said, “Drive around the side. The guy he had coffee with is driving a black Cadillac CTS. He fits the description we have of Dom Salvatori.”

Nosing around the corner, Lou saw the black CTS in the merge lane to Interstate 95. The green pickup truck was nowhere in sight. Lou thought it must have gotten off at the next exit and headed back to Leesburg. He settled in several cars behind the CTS and said, “Well, it looks like we are going to Atlantic City. Jack said for us to buy whatever clothes we needed to stay over for a day or so. One of us will have to go into the casino we see Dom go in. Who knows their way around a casino?”

“I do,” said Ted. “I’ve spent some time in them on FBI business and have gambled a little on my own.”

“Will a $1,000 carry you for a few hours?”

“Hell, I can nurse a grand for half a day, even if my luck is no good. But I can’t mix with even the first level of big boys with less than $50,000.”

“See where Dom goes and who he hangs with inside. Don’t push the envelope. Those guys will spot you using a cell phone camera and be all over you.”

The CTS stayed within the speed limit and turned east on Route 322 to Atlantic City. Lou was still a few cars behind Dom when he turned into the parking garage for the Silver Chalice, a small but upscale hotel over the casino.

“Okay, we’ll be here for a while,” Lou said. “We need to rent a couple of cars and buy some clothes and a few suitcases. Each of us will go into a different hotel. We’ll use the hotel I pick as our meeting place.” Lou used his iPhone to check into the Emerald Hotel. He passed his room information on to Ted and Warren and said, “Rent a car, get some suitable clothes, and check into a hotel, then call me. Ted, after you check in with me, go to the Silver Chalice and nose around a bit. Here’s $1,000. Don’t lose it all in one place. Warren and I will be in my room waiting for your call. Don’t take longer than a couple of hours to check the place out. I’ll call Jack and see what he wants to do.”

Lou dropped Ted and Warren off near a car rental agency and called Jack. Lou briefed him and asked for instructions. Jack said, “Good. We’re moving much faster than I thought. I’m coming up with Kathy. Get us a suite for three nights. Show them your credit card but tell them you’ll pay the bill in cash. Anything you want me to bring?”

“Yeah. We could use a car beacon, a couple of audio bugs with limited range, and short-range communications with earplugs.”

“You got it. I have a stock of surveillance stuff. We’ll be there in five or six hours.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-seven

The following Monday, Lou Washington and his two new recruits, Warren Carter and Ted Levin, were in Lou’s two-year-old Chrysler van on Route 7 west from Tysons Corner to get their first view of Conrad Conner’s house and maybe the man himself, if they were lucky. Both Warren and Ted had been part of Lou’s surveillance team before he retired from the FBI. All three of them were in their sixties, in good health, and active. Like Lou, Ted and Warren were bored with retirement after the first six months. They kept waiting for it to get better and it never did. When Lou called with a job offer, they jumped at the chance, even before he told them they could make $250,000 per year with all expenses and good benefits. When Ted asked who they would have to kill, Lou smiled and said, “No one, but it can get rough. I took a lucky shot in my chest last year and almost lost a lung. My pay never changed and all bills, medical, and otherwise were paid. So I’m still working for the same guy, a Marine recon sniper and ex-homicide cop in Pittsburgh who has more money than you can believe. Lear jet, fantastic house, beautiful wife who is ex-CIA and very lethal. Everything is first class. Including the people who work for him. The rules are simple. Follow orders, keep your mouth shut, and keep no records. There are no second chances. Nothing bad. Just you’re fired. It’s all volunteer. Anyone can refuse any assignment with nothing said.”

“I like the sound of it but why is he doing this?” Warren asked.

“The quick answer is because he can. He’s a super patriot. Believes that in certain circumstances America is in danger because the current application of the law and order approach is too little, too late when it comes to terrorism, drug running, and human trafficking. He believes, and so do I, in many of these cases the bad guys shouldn’t have and don’t deserve the rights reserved for U.S. citizens. Also, his father was killed in his home by a team of well-armed men who were never identified. Jack believes they were terrorists seeking revenge on his father. That’s all I know.”

“Yeah. Good answer. I like being a good guy. It’s a habit I picked up. I always hated seeing the bad guys walk on some technicality. So I’m in and happy for the opportunity.”

“Goes for me too,” Ted added. “Thanks.”

“Okay. Let’s go to work.”

Warren turned to look out the window. “My wife loves Leesburg and was always dragging me out here to shop, search for antiques, and even to check out some real estate,” he said. “Great place to live but I couldn’t deal with the commute. According to our directions, this guy Conrad lives next to the Leesburg Shopping Center in one of those cookie cutter developments. Take the Route 15 Bypass north and pull into the shopping center on the far northern edge. We can get some coffee and then drive into the entrance of his subdivision, which is the first road after we pull out. He drives a green Chevy pickup truck and I see some kind soul has hacked the DMV to get the plate. So coffee, a bag of doughnuts, and we’re on our way. Feels good.”

Pausing at the stop sign at the exit to the mall, Ted said, “Look! That green pickup coming out of the development could be our guy?”

“Right on!” Warren said, checking the plate numbers. “The plate matches. He’s turning north.”

Lou couldn’t believe their luck. “What a stroke of luck! Maybe we’re just good. I’ll give him a big head start. He may be checking his six.”

Lou kept four or five cars between them and the pickup all the way up Route 15 to Route 70 where the pickup turned east. “It looks like we may be in for a long ride. Ted, pass me one of those doughnuts. Good thing I’ve a full tank.”

“You know if this guy goes north on Route 95 he could be going to see his buddy in Atlantic City,” Ted put in.

“It’s possible,” Lou responded. “Atlantic City is at least another three and a half or four hours. I’d better check in.” He took out his phone and speed-dialed Jack.

Jack answered quickly. “Lou, do you have anything?”

“Maybe. We’re following Conrad, or more correctly, his truck. Haven’t gotten a good look at the driver yet. We’re speculating he’s going to a meeting with his buddy Dom. If so, I believe we should follow Dom. Agree?”

“Yes, if he’s meeting Dom, it may mean that my friend, Jim Marshall, decided he had to warn his buddies. If so, both of them will be spooky. Better to lose them than be spotted. If you do manage to follow Dom, stay with him. I’ll come up with some help and bring some gear with me. I’ll get it ready now in case you call. Do you have enough cash?”

“We’re okay. He’s going north on Route 95. We may be in luck. Call you later.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-six

The next morning, Jack, wearing his hapkido uniform and black belt, addressed his students. “Today I’m going to introduce you to the art of fighting two people at once. Seldom will you have the ease of fighting one person at a time. We’ll practice a two-on-one attack. Don’t be misled by my statement about fighting two people at once. That’s not strictly true. What happens in a two-on-one fight is, you fight one at time, but the time space between your moves is so close that it appears to an observer that you are fighting two at one time. You can’t, except in rare or lucky circumstances, be able to attack two or more people at once. Yet your moves have to flow from one attack to another without a pause. You must always focus on the first move while you are setting up the second attack or third attack. For now we’ll keep the moves basic and slow down the action.

“First, the footwork. By now, you know that while the movement of the arms and upper body seem to the novice to be the most important and hardest to learn, it’s is really the footwork that’s critical, especially in fighting more than one opponent. We are going to practice at first as if our opponents are not trained fighters. Which is mostly a reality.”

Jack placed Kathy in front of him to his right and Kelly in front to his left. “This is a traditional approach when fighting two people. In this scenario, my objective is to attack Kathy, seizing her arm or shoulder and pivoting to my left to throw her in front of Kelly. If they both go down, I can either get away or move in and disable one of them, taking whatever opening I’m given. The basic approach is to reduce two attackers in two attack lines to one and go from there.”

For the rest of the morning, the two-on-one drill went on getting faster and faster until Kelly and Sally had a few simple moves down well enough for Jack to say, “Okay! Enough. Lesson is over for the day. Practice. We’ll fit another one in soon.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Forty-five

Kathy met them at Dulles Airport in the Ford Flex she had rented. Shadow and Gideon were in the back. Kathy let them out to greet Jack and Kelly. She knew Gideon wouldn’t run off as long as Shadow and his human pack were there. Shadow ran up to Jack and stood on his hind legs. He knew not to jump on people. Jack stepped forward and hugged him while Shadow licked his ear. Kelly made a fuss over Gideon. Kathy said, “Lover, save something for me.” Jack gathered her in his arms. “The next time you go anywhere, I’m coming. I’m not good at this stay behind and worry stuff. And Kelly thanks for bringing him back.”

“It was more like him bringing me back.”

Kathy spun back to Jack and said, “Did anyone get killed?”

“The sniper and we didn’t do it,” Jack said defensively. “Kelly was dragging him to his feet when he was shot in the back. We didn’t fire a shot. What we both need now is a hot bath and something to eat besides trail mix or store-bought sandwiches on an airplane.”

“Get in the Flex. I can fix both of those problems. Storm and Lou are residing with us. They are a great example of a father and daughter sharing the same values and belief system. Storm runs the family. In fact she runs anything she touches. She has a rare sense of always knowing what to do. Her exceptional beauty with her Jamaican ancestral heritage helps her carry off her in-your-face presence when her blood is up. I have to watch she doesn’t cross Mrs. Minh.”

Jack laughed and asked, “How is Sally doing?”

“Sally is getting into her training program. She is good at hapkido. I went to practice yesterday and was impressed. You will be swamped with questions about the ins and outs and tradeoffs of the units you want set up. I told them beyond keeping it simple I wasn’t going to guess what you were thinking about.”

It was dark when Kathy pulled into the garage of the Brandon house. It was late but the Minhs had held dinner and all were seated around the dining room table. Turkish yogurt soup was the first course followed by an Indonesian curry and rice with several condiments. Dessert was fresh lychees served with strong dark Sumatran roast coffee. Over coffee Jack brought everyone up to date on the episode in Montana and the next phase to destroy the mob-run human trafficking activity.

“We can’t stop the crime of human trafficking but we can put this part of it out of business. Lou, the first action is for you.”

Jack went on to detail what he wanted. He asked Lou to survey Conrad Connors and Dom Salvatori, starting with Conrad, for just enough time to verify Jim’s story about where he lived, phone numbers, car plates, and movement patterns with photos. The next step involved the same kind of surveillance on Dom in Atlantic City. The surveillance on Dom would have to be done very carefully. “As a member of a New Jersey mob he will be aware of his surroundings and conscious of anyone following him,” Jack cautioned. “The intent is to gather enough information on Dom, to again verify Jim’s account, and to learn enough about his movements, associates, and living arrangements so we have the option of picking him up for questioning.”

Storm said, “What kind of analytic unit do you want?”

Jack said, “Small, responsive, and very smart. Almost no paper products. A number of briefings as needed by Lou, Kathy, or me. Kelly, if you or Sally need analytic support ask one of us. Storm, hire as many people as you need. There is no time for on-the-job training. They should have some experience in operational analysis and planning. Hackers are good. I do not want ‘think pieces’ or unasked for reports. Do not hire any analysts that think they know more than you. I’ve seen and used your work. You are very good. No analysts whose egos exceed their abilities. Kathy will give you the pay scale and benefits. There will be no leaking of information to anyone and no discussing of work outside our group. No second chances. All must agree to polygraph-supported interviews at any time. Surveillants and analysts will not be brought to this house or given this address. Use your cells for all calls. Have any and all bills sent to a P.O. Box. Lease or buy secure office space as soon as possible. Kathy will approve all office rentals or buys. Lou, make sure all your people have private investigator licenses and concealed carry permits. If they don’t have them now, get them started on the process. Use hotel conference facilities until you get into your own spaces. Lou and Storm, it would be good if you could have separate spaces in the same building. Include enough space for a small team of lawyers. If you have any recommendations for a lawyer you know personally, please tell Kathy. We’ll meet here at dinnertime for a couple of days until you have office space. The office space will be leased or subleased to you personally. We start tomorrow.”

Storm and Lou left to go to their rooms and start working on their plans. Kelly and Sally stayed behind. Kelly asked, “What about us?”

Jack answered, “Kelly, your role is cast. You can change it, but you’re very good at the hard stuff. Sally, continue with your training but at a less intensive pace. We need you to organize and run a comprehensive legal team, including real estate acquisitions. Kathy and I want to establish a trust fund to finance educations for people who are college material but need financial help. Kathy will go over the details with you. Remember these assignments all depend on your acceptance. And nothing is forever. Both of you will also be asked to work as a team with Lou’s people once in a while and more often with Kathy and me. You always have the right to refuse an assignment. No questions asked. If you have bad feelings about the operation or can’t support it fully, just opt out.

“Kathy and I will be your teachers for now. Kelly is proficient now with long-range shooting. She needs more work on short-distance reaction shooting with multiple targets. Sally, you need both. You will always be in some training phase. Kathy and I put ourselves through training exercises several times a year. We can all make improvements.

“Physical conditioning is a constant struggle for improvement. We’ll include training in the development of cover stories, the use of alias documentation, interrogation, and use of disguises. Doing what we do is very much like role playing on stage. You have to get into the part. If you don’t believe in your cover, you won’t fool anyone. We want the two of you to work as a team to take over for Kathy and me at times. Tomorrow morning a couple of hours after breakfast the four of us will work out in our Dojang. I want to see how the hapkido is coming along. Kelly, you’ll work with me. Sally will be with Kathy. So get a good night’s sleep.”

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