“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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“Shades of Justice” Chapter One

While Jake was making his uneventful getaway, Jack Brandon and his wife, the former Kathy Grayson, were checking into a suite at the Convention Center in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was Jack’s favorite city. He graduated from Pitt and played football with the Panthers; he had been a star cornerback until his knee blew out. Jack felt at home in Pittsburgh. He knew the city. His days as a detective sergeant in the homicide unit after Marine Recon had been happy days until his marriage fell apart and his wife left him for a big name trial lawyer. That was all in the past now and he had no regrets.

Paying for an expensive suite was no problem for Jack. His father had left nearly half a billion dollars to his only son. Only Jack and Kathy knew the fortune was based on KGB money his father had taken when he opted for freedom in America. The KGB had searched for their renegade deep cover agent for years, managing to kill Jack’s mother and baby sister before they lost the trail. Jack only learned the story – and about the existence of the baby sister – when his father was near death. He told Kathy his father’s history when he proposed to her. She was shaken at first but her love for Jack overcame this bizarre story.

Kathy was a CIA officer on the fast track when her mother’s medical bills led to her resignation so she could take a more financially rewarding position with the Brandon Group. The Brandon Group, composed of Jack, Kathy, and Anita Marino undertook risky and violent assignments associated with the Brandon family’s past in fighting terrorism and hostile espionage. Anita Marino, another CIA agent, was killed in Kathmandu, Nepal, very early in their mission. Jack and Kathy recruited Kelly Marino, Anita’s only child, when she was a student at Pitt to work for the Brandon Group. She had her mother’s genes and quickly became a skilled warrior. Helpful contacts within the Pittsburgh police, where Jack had once served as a homicide detective, and his father’s long-standing contact with a senior CIA officer provided information and equipment to help in their fight against the nation’s enemies. Jack’s big black Bouvier, Shadow, had saved their lives more than once. Where Jack went, Shadow went. Shadow was graciously admitted to their suite. Money and an in with a city police captain gave the Brandons special privileges. But Shadow still had to use the freight elevator.

Later in the evening, Jack and Kathy were scheduled to have dinner with Captain Shorer, Jack’s old boss, in the Fish Market restaurant. The captain loved to eat there. There was a note in their suite saying Captain Shorer would be an hour late.

“Fine,” Kathy said. “That gives me a chance to get a workout.”

“I’ll join you as soon as I take Shadow for a walk down to the river,” Jack replied.

Jack never tired of the view at the Point Park where the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers join to form the Ohio.

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“Shades of Justice” Prologue

This begins the serialization of Barry Kelly’s third novel, “Shades of Justice.” Peruse this blog further for the serializations of his first two novels in the Justice Trilogy: “Justice Beyond Law” and “Justice without Mercy.”


11:20 Monday, June 2nd

Jake was not bright, but he could shoot.

His dad was a Vietnam War vet and a gun nut. When Jake was in his middle teens, his dad sent him to a shooting camp run by a former squad buddy who took a special interest in Jake when he saw the kid’s raw talent. The first summer the instructor told Jake’s dad that his kid wasn’t even full grown yet, but he was a better shot than his dad ever was. Jake thought his dad would be angry but, instead, he gave Jake a rare hug and praise.

His dad was dead now, but Jake liked to remember the praise his dad had given him about his shooting skills. When he was being honest, Jake would say he was very good at shots less than 300 yards. After that his success dropped off sharply. But how many times had he had to make a kill beyond a couple of hundred yards?

Not today. Exactly 125 yards. No wind. Good light. Doesn’t get any better. The two police cruisers were in plain sight, angled into the curb at a 7-Eleven just off Forbes Avenue in Pittsburgh. Jake liked his hide. If you took the time to case your kill site, it was easy to find good targets and plenty of good shooting angles. He had found his line-of-sight to the popular coffee place for cops from the top of a building farther up the street. The angle was better than he usually had. Picking the lock on the access door to the roof took less than a minute. His bogus fire inspector credentials were not needed.

Jake loved the rush of shooting from an ambush site. He was a god. He controlled the destinies of his targets. It was up to him. He could kill, select the severity of the wound, or just scare them. The short term, five minutes after squeezing the trigger, was almost always the same. Mass confusion, multiple responses, wailing sirens, and scurrying pedestrians. The long term was different. Killing a cop was serious stuff. The city would never forget and the search for the shooter would be much more intense.

Today, in the next minute, he would shoot to seriously wound two of the laughing cops who were leaning against a squad car.

Jake often wondered why the voice that called him on his cell paid him for shooting cops or firefighters. The voice gave him a date, time, and city. The rest was up to him. Never any complaints from the voice. His pay arrived in his post office box on time. It was a good deal. He had never had so much money, but he knew something this good couldn’t last. He hid most of the money in the log wall of his cabin near Big Timbers, Montana. When he needed the money, there would be no time to mess with banks and leave a trail for the cops. They hadn’t identified him yet. But the hunt was on for the City Sniper.

Jake glanced at his Timex watch. One more minute. The voice told him he did not have to be exact, just close. But he was a professional and one of the marks of a professional is being on time all the time.

He was viewing the cops through an old 4X scope mounted on a vintage .22 Hornet bolt-action Ruger rifle. If need be, he could leave the weapon behind. He had bought it at a private gun sale for cash. Cleaned up, sighted in, it was a lethal weapon within 150 yards. Hollow points didn’t leave much for the ballistics guys.

Officer John Reilly was hit first as he was taking a sip of his heavily sugared coffee. The hollow point hit him in the left side of his jaw, blowing a large piece of his tongue and several teeth out of the exit wound. His partner pulled John to the ground but not before another hollow point hit him high on his right shoulder. Neither one remembered hearing the shots. There was no panic on the street or in the coffee shop. By the time the first police and rescue vehicles with their screaming sirens arrived, Jake had cleaned up the shooting site, put the disassembled rifle in his tool box, picked the roof door lock closed, and casually walked the short distance to his pickup truck. Another successful shooting and escape. He had planned to hit both cops but the one he hit first got in the way.

His next act was a week later in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He hated to leave the late spring weather in Pittsburgh for the uncertainty of the weather in Minnesota. It could be unbelievably cold waiting in a sniper hide. Only people who were strong and dumb could put up with only three weeks of warm weather.

He wasn’t either.

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