Ted sat in the passenger seat of the big black SUV, looking at his iPhone. “Should be just around that bend.”
Special Agent Simon Keith was driving. He was in his late thirties, but didn’t look it. He was robust, with thick brown hair, a handsome clean-shaven face, and eyes like a hawk.
“Look. Three dirt bikes over there, in the bushes to the right.” He parked.
“What are you doing?” Ted asked.
“Checking to see if the engines are warm,” he said, getting out. He trotted over, looked at them for a moment, felt the engines, and rushed back.
“Well?” Ted asked.
“Stone cold. A full-sized bike and two child’s bikes. Nice ones, too. They aren’t locked up. Nobody would just leave them like that if they had a choice.”
“Calling it in now,” Agent Joe Cooper said from the back. He was a rookie, with black hair, always chewing gum, his eyes shifting nervously from one thing to another.
Agent Keith drove the SUV around the bend. There was blood on the road in front of them.
“Somebody died on the road there,” Agent Keith said. “We’ll come back to it.” He kept going until they were at the driveway of the house, pulling in to make room for the second SUV.
“Hey, Simon,” Agent Cooper said. “Man and two sons reported missing a week ago. Were out for a Sunday ride.”
“Shit,” Agent Keith said.
“Yeah, shit,” Ted said. They got out of the car.
“Where are all the bodies?” Agent Cooper asked.
“Alien abduction,” Agent Keith said, shooting a sarcastic glance over at him. “Somebody cleaned up the site, obviously.”
“What the hell kind of bullets made those holes?” Agent Cooper asked.
“Looks like a BMG to me,” Agent Keith said. “Fifty caliber. You’re awful quiet, Ted.”
“I’m just here as an observer for the Serial Killer Task Force, through LAPD.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet,” he said. “Going to rush back and report to Malcolm Davis?”
Ted flashed him a look.
“Yeah, Ted, I know you two are tight,” Agent Keith said. “Don’t play us for dummies. If you know details, you’d better not hold back.”
“Come off it,” Ted said. “I’m here to help you guys. You already know that Malcolm Davis and George Franklin were involved. I told you guys, remember?”
“Yeah, so what? Looks kinda like an ambush to me.”
“They were being hunted, Keith, dammit,” Ted said. “You know it.”
“Yeah, I know it. They could have come to us for protection.”
“Hmmm, let’s think about that for a minute,” Ted said. “They come to you. You put them in witness protection. They lose all contact with their family and friends, and get to go live in some hellhole like Fargo, hoping that one of your agents doesn’t decide to put his kids through college by giving out their location. Sounds like a great deal to me.”
“Fuck you,” Agent Keith said, shaking his head. “Fuck you.”
“I’ve seen it happen before,” Ted said. “How many of your men got killed by these assholes again?”
“We were zeroing in on Sailor Boy before your friends got involved,” he spat.
“Why don’t you two zip it?” Agent Cooper asked. “You sound like assholes.”
Agent Keith glared at him.
“You’re the junior agent, so shut the hell up.”
“Baloney,” Agent Cooper said. “I’m not shedding any tears for Jason Beckler, Earl Wilson, or Sadie Evans. No way, no how. And by the way, the live scumbags involved with this mess took out a father and two kids, probably because they simply showed up at a bad time. Too bad those assholes weren’t killed by Malcolm and George too.” He was chewing his gum faster and faster.
“Look around,” Agent Keith said. “Look how many blood spots there are. There were more than three serial killers massacred here.”
The three men were on the porch now, looking in the house, the curtains blowing out the windows at them.
“Hey, Jamie,” Agent Keith yelled. A small lean man trotted over from the second SUV with a plastic case in one hand.
“Yeah,” he said.
“See if you can figure out where on the ridge these fifty-cal shots came from, and then send a couple men up there to survey the spot.”
“On it,” he said.
Agent Keith looked at Ted again. “You really think this was okay?”
“Do I think what was okay? Why are you trying to draw me into this argument? I wasn’t involved.”
“Yeah, but your buddy was,” Agent Keith said. “And the sick thing is that he’ll get away with it again, thanks to folks like you who look the other way.”
“You want to prosecute Malcolm Davis and George Franklin for what happened here?” Ted asked. “Really? Let’s hear how you’re going to convince a prosecutor to take it on.”
“Strange blast pattern by the back edge of the house,” Jamie said, walking up onto the porch.
“Oh, really?” Agent Cooper asked. “Strange how?”
“Shrapnel all around, like something blew up, but it wasn’t a grenade,” he said. “Too small for that.”
“I smell the spook,” Agent Keith said. “Any comments, Ted?”
“How would I know what caused that?” he asked.
Agent Keith shook his head.
“Damn, lots of brains on the walls,” Agent Cooper said. “I’m going to go check the back.”
Ted took one last look around the living room of the house, and then stepped into the front yard, looking around a boulder with bullet scores. He could see from the sand that somebody had been lying there. Good cover.
Agent Cooper trotted over to him. “Look what I found.” He thrust out a gloved hand, holding a crossbow arrow. He looked at Ted’s face, his mouth working the gum hard and fast.
“Better show that to your boss,” Ted said.
Agent Cooper’s eyes narrowed. “You know what he’s gonna say.”
“It’s evidence,” Ted said.
“It feeds the ambush theory,” Agent Cooper said.
“Why do you care?”
“I’ve been studying your friend for a long time, Ted. I don’t want him out of action.”
“You don’t sound like an FBI agent to me,” Ted said softly, a sly smile on his face.
“Let’s just say I don’t believe in a black and white world,” he said. “Unlike Ranger Rick over there.”
“You’re the kind of agent we need,” Ted said. “Malcolm is safe, and we don’t need your career to end over hiding evidence. Give the arrow to your boss, but make sure that all the blood samples in the house get analyzed.”
“Because some of the blood in there belongs to Malcolm, that’s why.”
“Ah, that doesn’t feed the ambush theory, does it?” he asked, smiling as he walked to the house. “Hey, Jamie, send one of your guys in the house. We need to take samples of each and every blood spot. I want to witness the collection.”
Ted turned back to the spot behind the boulder. The impression in the sand was large. Big man. He took a picture, and then got down into a squat and looked more closely around the brush. He saw metal, half covered by sand. Car keys. He grabbed them and felt something else. Is that a wallet? He picked it up, looking around to see if anybody saw him. Everybody was inside or in back of the house. He laid the wallet and its contents out, taking pictures with his iPhone. Most of it was the usual stuff. Credit cards with phony names. Fake driver’s license. In the bill section there was a folded piece of paper, tattered with age. He opened it up, and his eyes got wide. Nicknames, phone numbers, addresses. He took a picture of that, too. Then he quickly re-assembled it and rushed into the house.
“Hey, Agent Keith, you might be interested in this,” he said, handing the wallet and keys to him.
“Where did you find it?” he asked, eyeing him.
“See that boulder out front? Pretty sure Beckler was pinned down behind it. Go look at the sand. Looks like the impression of a large man to me. These were half buried in the sand, under that bush next to the boulder.”
Agent Keith opened the wallet and looked for the driver’s license. His eyes got big. “Jason Beckler. Bingo! Not his name, of course, but a good picture.”
Agent Cooper rushed over and took a look. “That’s one scary-looking motherfucker.”
“That alias seems familiar,” Agent Keith said.
“Forgot to look,” Ted said.
Keith looked closely at the license, reading. “Harold Robbins. That was a famous person, wasn’t it? Can’t quite place it.”
Ted and Agent Cooper looked at each other and chuckled.