Category Archives: Spy novels

“Shades of Justice” Chapter Eight

Kathy and Kelly got back to the hotel at 6:30 PM. Jack came back from a workout in the hotel gym a few minutes later. He announced he was the bartender and took orders. Everyone settled on a tall gin and tonic with a slice of lime. Gathered around the dining table, Jack listened to the account of their day. Kathy told him about their approach.

“The guy Kelly described came in Starbucks. She described him perfectly. I watched him when Kelly came in. He definitely recognized and watched her closely. I believe he was relieved to see that she was alone. I left first. Kelly came out behind our suspect and we followed his car to a boarding house in Schenley. We saw him use a key to go in a side entrance. We got pictures of him, his car, his house, and jotted down his license number, which we should run tonight.”

“Good work. We may have a break here. My instincts are to pick him up immediately and interrogate him. If he won’t cooperate, we have a disposal problem. We’ll deal with that when we have to. I’ll run the plates now.”

Five minutes later, Jack was back with the information from running the plates through Captain Shorer. Shorer had mixed the plate search with a couple of others his office was running.

“The plates were stolen three weeks ago,” Jack reported. “It’s more than likely the car was also stolen. Kathy, rent us a panel truck. Kelly, find a site where you watch either his car or the entrance to the boarding house. I assume you are carrying your SOCOM .45?”

“After that attack on your Charleston house, I’m never without it.”

“On your way to the guy’s house, pick up three gallons of water, a bucket, several towels, a box of latex gloves, some kitchen trash bags, three small high-intensity flashlights, and a roll of duct tape. Don’t buy it all in one place and pay cash. We’ll interrogate this thug in the van Kathy’s renting. We may have to dump him in the river if he doesn’t cooperate. Are you okay with that?”

“We’ll know if he’s part of the kidnapping gang by the time you finish with him. If he doesn’t help us, then he can try swimming.”

“Okay. Be on your way. Stay in touch with your cell. When we are on the way to Schenley, we’ll call.”

An hour later at 8:30 PM, Kathy called and told Jack she was in a dark brown Ford panel truck. “Turn left out of the hotel and walk a block and a half. I’m on your side of the street in a short-term parking place. I bought some masking tape to block the interior lights. By the time you get here I’ll be done.”

“I’m on my way. See you soon.”

Much to Shadow’s disgust, he saw Jack leaving again without him. He whined once and Jack told him it was okay and he would be back soon. Shadow provided too much of an identifying mark for this operation. Jack knew he had skilled, experienced people in Kathy and Kelly but things go wrong easily when you’re pushing the envelope this hard. His goal was to get enough information so he could give direction to the retired cop agency tomorrow morning.

Jack found Kathy waiting patiently. He tapped on the passenger window and when the door unlocked he got in and said, “Now, ain’t this fitting for a honeymoon adventure?”

Kathy said, “Lover, you forget I’m not the live-on-the-edge junkie, you are. I’d sooner be back in our suite. But I do hate these bastards in the human trafficking business. They ruin hundreds of lives for money they soon waste, while these poor girls become playthings for the rich perverts of the Middle East and Asia. So let’s go bring some misery and fear into one of them.”

Jack said, “If we can break him or turn him into an informant, the information we get will result in a number of these pigs feeling the pain of retribution. Kelly’s picking up some stuff we’ll need. She’s probably waiting for us now from a position where she can watch the house and the side entrance. I’m going to call her now. What are we, about 15 minutes out?”

“Make that 10 and I’m taking it easy. No tickets.”

Kelly picked up and said, “Go.” Jack told her they were less than 10 minutes out and asked if she had seen any action.

“No. I’m parked in a good spot and there is another place right in front of me that will take a panel truck. No one has been in or out the side entrance. Lights are on in what I believe is the apartment or room he’s staying in. There is a dim light over the door. The streetlights here are partially blocked by the many trees. I saw a few people on the street earlier but no one in the last 30 minutes. The neighborhood is old, rundown, and quiet.”

“When we pull in, come and get in the panel truck.”

Right on schedule 10 minutes later, Kathy said, “I see Kelly’s car and the parking space in front.”

When Kathy cut the lights, Kelly climbed into the back of the truck. Jack said, “Here’s how it’s going down. Kathy, this guy doesn’t know you. Go ring his bell or knock on the door. If no action, pick the lock and pretend the door was open. When he sees you, tell him you’re sorry but you scraped his car and you don’t want an insurance claim on your record so you want to give him cash for the damage. Ask him to come out and look at the damage. Leave your cell open to my number. I’ll be able to hear what’s going on. Any trouble or if he won’t come out, keep the door open and I’ll be there in a few seconds to bring him out and load him in the back of the truck. Put the bag over his head when I’ve got him under control. That should do it. Kelly, when I put him in the back, take him down, duct tape his arms and legs. No prints. Wear your gloves. Put all waste in one of the trash bags. I’ll jump in behind him and help.

“Give Kelly time to move her car several blocks from here. Follow her and pick her up. Then drive around while Kelly and I convince him to talk. If he doesn’t, he gets water boarded. All clear. Any questions?”

Kelly asked, “Are we trying to avoid putting any marks on him? Like abrasions on his wrists or ankles or bruises?”

“Yes. Use your soft skills. Nerve points, joint locks, come-along holds. I’ll put him out if necessary using pressure on his carotid arteries. Okay? Let’s go!”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Seven

Jack scrolled down his contact list until he came to Miller’s Investigation and Protection Agency. He called the number and his old partner Howard Miller answered. “Are you for real or just a scam?” Jack said.

Howie said, “For Christ’s sake Brandon, I thought you would be dead by now. You here to stir up trouble again?”

“No, just looking for a good detective agency. Can you recommend one?”

“Yeah, you’re talking to the only good one in the city. What can we do for you?”

“How many can you put on the street with two days’ notice?”

“If the money is right, I’ll have ten guys ready to go. All street smart with police backgrounds or trained personally by me.”

“The money will be right. Get your guys ready. I’ll stop by your office tomorrow morning about ten. Okay? And Howie, keep the lid on. No paper, big meetings, or talking to cop friends. For good people I’ll triple your rate. One leak and its over.”

“I’ll hafta know what’s going on.”

“Tomorrow, I tell you the story. Trust me, it’ll be okay. Mostly surveillance and background checks.”

“Good. I’ll have coffee for you. Still drinking the strong French roast stuff?

“Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Six

Three hours later after hitting all of her old stomping grounds, Kelly said, “I don’t know where else to go other than some places we used to go for dinner.”

“No, let’s concentrate on the places she went almost daily,” Kathy countered. “We’ll cover them several times before trying elsewhere. Let’s walk back to Starbucks.”

“Okay, young people use it as hangout-pickup place after 5 PM. There was one guy, I remember, who didn’t seem to fit in with the crowd, but was nearly always there by himself.”

“If he is a bad guy, he will recognize you because of the many times you were here with Sally. He probably has some information about you, at least your picture. Fortunately, whoever spotted Sally didn’t select you. You failed the blonde test and you have that don’t-mess-with-me look. What I’m getting around to is we should split up before going in and no contact inside. I’ll go in first and get pick a spot where I can see you come in. Give me ten minutes and come in but first describe this possible thug.”

“He’s Mediterranean type. Short dark hair. Dark eyes. Five-eight or nine. 145 pounds. Slouches when standing. No visible tats. Dress is closer to workman than student. Drinks espresso coffee.”

“All that from casual observance?” Kathy smiled.

“I had a good teacher, big sister.”

Kathy winked and said, “See ya,” over her shoulder as she walked off.

There was a line in front of the counter, a few empty tables inside, a few more outside. Kathy got a tall French roast and took the last table for two. She put her bag on the other chair to discourage anyone from joining her. She could see the entry but not well. Just before the ten-minute mark, Kathy saw a man fitting Kelly’s description exactly enter and get in line. Kelly came in a few minutes later and looked around. She saw Kathy but gave no notice. The man she described spotted Kelly and moved into the amateur surveillance mode of “I’m watching you but no one can tell.” To a pro like Kathy, it was almost laughable. For whatever reason, this guy was interested in Kelly. When he could see no one was with her, his intensity backed off some. Kathy got his picture from different angles.

Kathy left the shop, spotted Kelly’s car just a half block down Craig Street and walked toward it. On the way out of the busy entrance, she had slipped Kelly a note, saying, “We’re going to follow this guy. Come out behind him.” After 15 minutes, Kelly came out 30 seconds after the mark. Kathy saw the mark cross the street and get into a pale blue Ford Taurus with Pennsylvania plates. She noted the numbers and took photos. As he pulled out, Kelly came out and slid behind the wheel. She made a U-turn in the middle of the block and kept the Taurus in sight.

“I don’t think this guy is a pro and I doubt he has had any counter-surveillance training, but he may have good street smarts. So treat him with respect,” Kathy said to Kelly. “Not too close but don’t take a chance on losing him. We may never find him again.”

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“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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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Four

11:30 Monday, June 2nd

Just after Jake shot the cop, Sally McGovern was walking along a street in Oakland, not far from the university. She was thinking about how boring her last class on real estate law had been and her plans for lunch. She didn’t notice the two Middle Eastern men walking toward her. She almost bumped into them. Startled, she murmured an apology and felt a stinging sensation in her left arm. The world swirled and went black. It was easy for the two men to help her into the van that pulled up to the curb. No one noticed anything.

Sally didn’t know it yet, but she was on the first leg of a journey to a living hell. The end of the trip would be an uncertain, drug-fogged existence as a sex toy in a locked room in either the Middle East or Japan. This was a one-way ticket. There was no road back. Her owners had paid an extremely high price for her. She had been carefully studied and evaluated for months until her future owners made their selection. The kidnapped blonde western women went to the radical Islamic fundamentalists who had contracted for them. They, in turn, often sold the women to the highest bidder. The prices for each woman started at one million dollars. Sometimes an auction was involved to drive the prices up. The kidnappers received a pittance. The real money went to terrorists who used the money to fund operations in western nations, primarily the United States. It was much harder to track these funds than it was to follow the transfer of funds from known terrorist organizations. The payment was in cash or money transfers to fronts from Swiss bank accounts.

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Three

Back in their suite, Kathy said, “We are going to have to be extra careful. With the retirement of Captain Shorer and the loss of our CIA connection, we are hanging out there. The law enforcement community cannot be trusted. They will turn on us in a heartbeat if they get any clue to what we have done. We killed bad guys from Florida to New York, not to mention more than a few in India and Nepal. All our operations have been clearly beyond the law. We’d make a nice collar for any up-and-coming FBI officer.”

Jack nodded. “We need to start making plans for disappearing if things get bad. That means moving money into safe places, locating in-country and foreign safe havens, several sets of documents, and some appearance changes. Fortunately, we have the money and contacts to prepare a real contingency plan.”

“I guess I suspected something like this could happen. Thank God Captain Shorer gave us a heads up. With a couple of months, we can get ready. Tomorrow let’s get in touch with Kelly. We haven’t seen much of her since the big shootup in Virginia. She is nearly through with her bachelor’s degree at Pitt. I’ll call her first thing in the morning.” Kathy yawned. “I am wiped out and need some sleep before starting on the investigation for Captain Shorer. Somehow I can’t seem to refer to him as Paul.”

“I’ll join you as soon as I finish reading these files,” Jack said, holding up the files Shorer had passed along to them after dinner.

“Don’t be too late. I like to feel you beside me.”

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“Shades of Justice” Chapter Two

A little after 8 PM, the captain joined them at the secluded table Jack had reserved. The captain hugged Kathy and said, “You are even more beautiful. Jack, thank you for bringing your bride to our city on your honeymoon.”

“Hey. You know this is my favorite city. How could we pass up seeing our favorite police captain on our honeymoon?” Jack smiled.

“As I remember the last time you were here, both of you damn near got killed. If it hadn’t been for Shadow, the assassin would’ve done you. Where is the super dog?”

“He’s up in our suite. We had to promise he wouldn’t come down to dinner.”

Kathy said, “I love that dog. He can do no wrong. I don’t mind Jack leaving me alone but Shadow better be there. I’m really excited – when we leave here we’re going to Philadelphia to pick up Shadow’s baby brother.”

“Why to Philadelphia, the home of the hated Eagles?” snorted Shorer.

“We’ll be in and out before any Eagles fans know we’re in their city,” Jack said. “It just so happens, that besides the hated Eagles with their dog-loving quarterback, there are some very good Bouvier breeders close by.

“We’re picking up a prize four-month-old pup who has already won best in breed in a national show for young Bouviers. Little guy has a testicle that hasn’t dropped and so he is out of competition. The breeder’s loss is our gain. Shadow is getting old and I want him to help teach this young pup his manners. Shadow will always be the alpha in our house.”

After a bit more small talk and at Jack’s suggestion, Captain Shorer signaled their waiter and said they were ready to order. Pushing the menu aside, he ordered a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay, lobster tails, cups of clam chowder, six-ounce filet mignon on the rare side, browned boiled new potatoes, and a small Caesar salad. He passed on drinks and asked the waiter to bring the wine instead. When the wine was poured, Captain Shorer cleared his throat. “I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed working with the both of you. Unfortunately, our period of working together is drawing to a close. My retirement date is next month and politics being what they are, I have to put my papers in.”

Kathy glanced at Jack before turning to face Captain Shorer. “When does this happen and how will it affect us?”

“It will happen within the next three months. I’m not able to give you a precise date. I’m afraid my successor will have no use for you. Our arrangement of working together will not be continued. In fact, I’m doing my best to make it all go away. The paperwork is already destroyed and computer files deleted and overwritten with a random program. Sometime soon I’ll need your badges back and ask you to destroy your official gun carrying permits. I’ll not be able to protect you any longer, like I was able to do when you killed the four people that attacked your Charleston home. I’m sorry, but whoever said all good things come to an end was right on.”

“Why don’t we give you our badges now?” Jack said.

“Because I want you to look into one more thing for me. I have another one of those nagging outside-the-box thoughts I want to tell you about. Are you willing to hear me out?”

“Captain, you know we both would walk on hot coals for you. Go ahead.”

“Today we had a patrolman shot from ambush. He’s in critical condition in Mercy Hospital. He was hit once in the face and once in the upper arm. The weapon used was a .22 Hornet. The rounds were hollow-point .22 Hornet. Ballistics not much use here. There was another patrolman right beside him. The second shot might have been intended for him. No one heard anything or saw anything. First I would like you two to examine the area, look for the sniper’s hide, and see what else you can find.

“I don’t think this is a straightforward attack on police officers. In the last year there have been 13 reported shootings involving police or firemen in the U.S. Only a few resulted in death. No clues anywhere, no matter how thorough the investigators were. But matching those attacks with other crimes within a few hours of the shootings revealed some perplexing information. Without exception, each case has a reported missing person report filed with the last known sighting of the missing person very near to the time of the ambush shooting of police officers or firefighters. All were young women, less than 22 years of age and between the heights of five-six and five-eleven. All were blonde, well dressed, with good family backgrounds. They were either students or young professionals. I believe the kidnappers are partial to students because of the movement patterns of students and the difficulty in pinning down the actual time of the crime. Unlike professionals, students don’t check in to a workplace on a fairly exact time schedule.

“You know how slow the police are to react to missing young women of that age. By the time it’s probable that some crime has been committed, the scene is cold and details are hard to come by. This is especially true if we are all chasing after a phantom sniper attack on police or firefighters in the same city at nearly the same time. My belief is that the timing of these separate crimes is not a coincidence. The shootings are used to cover up the kidnapping of young women by a group that carefully scouts and selects the women to match their profile.”

“And you want us to…..?” Jack trailed off.

“I want you to go over this file and investigate both crimes using your usual unorthodox approach. Report only to me on the phone. Do not come to the office. Try to stay out of the way of your old contacts.”

Jack saw Kathy nod and said, “Okay. We’re on it. Will check in when we have anything.”

“Okay, enough shop talk. Here comes our dinner.” Picking up his wine glass, the captain said, “Here’s to the honeymooners and my two best investigators. May you enjoy many happy years together.”

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