Darkstar: Chapter One, part three.

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“Ok then. I’ll get right to it.” Sitting on the coffee table in between the two men was a small pile of light brown folders, the seal of the CIA stamped in the top left hand corner of each one. The top one was titled Paris, 24th December 1989. Below was stamped highly classified. “Take a look at this.” He passed Burke the top folder and the Lieutenant opened it, grimacing as he saw the photos inside.
There were nine photographs in total, eight black and white and one full colour. The black and whites were a series of headshots of men, and each one was dead. He flipped through; six of the men bringing no recognition into his mind but the other two looking familiar. Setting them aside on the table he picked up the colour photo, before seeing that there was a second one stapled behind it. The first picture was a photograph from the shoulders up of a man who looked to be in his early thirties and had fairly short, neatly combed black hair, light blue eyes and a thin, lean face. He was wearing a dark grey suit and matching grey striped tie, with a white shirt. Burke could make out what looked like a federal law enforcement agency logo behind him but didn’t recognise which one it was. Flipping over the photo and looking at the one that had been attached underneath he saw the same man, but looking about ten years younger and sporting a shaven head.
Simmons spoke. “The man in those colour photographs is named Michael Crimmins. That first photo is from his security clearance picture. He CPO in the Department of State Security. Before that he worked for me on the taskforce to bring down the Soviet sleeper cells.” He picked up one of the black and white photographs, one of the ones Burke found vaguely familiar. “This was his protectee, Undersecretary of State Richard Winter. He killed him. Winter was a key advisor to President Oldham and was on a visit to Paris in order to meet this man.” He passed another photo that Burke recognised. “Alex Southam, senior political editor for the Guardian newspaper. His journalism was much respected in England, as you may remember. He was also a senior consultant for Interpol. What we also knew was that he’d been doing freelance work for the hardliners in Moscow. They were understandably pretty pissed about the wall coming down and wanted to know how far we’d gotten with tracking their sleeper agents.”
“We sent two men to kill Southam and disrupt the meeting, get the Undersecretary to safety. We even went as far as to let Crimmins in on the plan so that he could ensure that his men didn’t fire on our guys. But it went wrong. Crimmins saw an opportunity and didn’t tell his men. There was a gun battle between the DSS and my team and they all but wiped each other out. Crimmins then killed the Undersecretary and Southam, and stole the list, killing two police officers in his escape.”
“Right.” Burke was interested but didn’t see what this had to do with him, to be perfectly honest.
“We couldn’t track Crimmins after that, but about two months later we know the list got into the hands of some Soviet Generals opposed to the new regime. We managed to take them out and recover the list before they did any real damage to our work but about a month after that a new player appeared in the Intelligence community, known only as The Salesman.”
Now Burke was starting to see how he was useful. “I’ve heard of him, vaguely. A friend of mine back in British intelligence was staying with me for a week when the Bishop of Milan was killed in June 1990. He had to get out of the country and back to his office as soon as possible, said that the Salesman was a new figure and they wanted to get every piece of information they could get their hands on for profiling and tracking.”
“Yes and they failed.” Simmons sat forward. “A month later they passed the information that they had compiled onto us and we set a trap for him at an arms deal. We sent in a team of our best men, five company employees. He killed three of them and wounded the other two.” Simmons passed another file to Burke. “These are four of the other five confirmed kills that we know of. A Swiss Banker, the South African Ambassador to the United Nations, the Polish Minister of the Interior and a wealthy philanthropist in Miami. All but the Ambassador were shootings, he was a car bombing. Took out five DSS agents in the process, one of whom he’d worked with before. We’re also pretty sure he was responsible for numerous arms deals in the Middle East, including work done for the Iraqis and several Muslim terrorist groups. We’re not sure if he has any affiliation to the big names in drugs or human trafficking but we aren’t ruling it out.” Simmons reached back onto the desk and gave Burke the last file. “This is the fifth confirmed kill. It’s a little lower profile than the others but it’s a case that you’re familiar with. It’s also why you’re here.”
Burke opened the file and it immediately became clear to him why Simmons was meeting him. The black and white photo in front of him came from the departmental archives. Burke recognised it straight away. He’d have trouble not doing so; it was an experience that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
It was a photograph taken at dawn, a front view of a burnt out house, similar to many four bedroom houses that you’d expect to find in decent neighbourhoods. The scene was littered with uniformed officers and detectives, part of the 1st floor wall had collapsed and men were visible inside the house. Around a dozen body – bags lay on the ground in the front. And there he was, Burke himself in a ruined shirt and jeans, face blackened by soot as he rested on the bonnet of a Patrol Car, a shell shocked look on his face.
Burke knew it had been a professional job, but not from the kind of man Simmons was telling him about. “You’re kidding.” He whispered.
“I’m not. One month ago we added this to the list of confirmed kills. And as I’m sure that you gathered it’s also why you’re here.” Simmons took the file back from Burke and started reading from a short summary sheet stapled to the top of the file. “On the 24th of April 1995 Detective grade II Bill Masen, son of former US Senator Nicholas Masen shot and killed Thomas Lowe whilst serving a high risk warrant on his home. Lowe was wanted in connection with the ‘Window Shopper’ serial killings, and according to Masen’s own report to IAD attempted to fire upon the detective who was forced to respond with use of deadly force. Lowe was the cousin of CEO and owner of Harlow Pharmaceuticals, Jacob Harlow.” Simmons paused momentarily. “Masen’s residence was firebombed at a 4th of July party, killing fourteen people including his wife and infant son. LAPD questioned Harlow routinely as a suspect but could not prove his involvement. We however came up with a different result.”
“About a month ago we had an operative placed in Madrid take out a Mr Paul Jamieson, an American Expatriate who was working as a fund manager at a mid - sized bank in the city, one that we know Harlow Pharmaceuticals hides money in. He was also helping with banking work for several major terrorists on the side, including the Salesman. We got lucky, the materials he had in his apartment were pretty detailed stuff. We don’t know who he is, but we know that the Salesman is living in Los Angeles County, and posing as either a State or Federal official of some sort, something that gives him access to LAPD and Federal law enforcement records. He also accepted half a million dollars two weeks before the Masen incident and another half the day after. Unfortunately that’s all we know, he’s hidden himself pretty well, lost us on the money trail. We want you to find him.”
Simmons reached for a briefcase next to the sofa and putting in the combination, opened it, revealing yet another plain folder. Closing the briefcase and putting it down on the seat next to him he opened the folder, passing Burke a computer printout.
Burke looked at it. It was confirmation of a wire transfer to the LAPD of five million dollars, and at the bottom were the acting chief's signature.
“A further ten million dollars are going to be wired to the LAPD in one month, two of which are going to be pumped into a fund for your squad so that you don’t lose any personnel. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about the rest of the budget cuts though, that’s up to Acting Chief Lent. This is conditional on you assisting us in finding the Salesman in the next two weeks. We want you to assemble a team of your best men and women and bring him in, preferably alive, using the evidence from the Masen case. He’s our only link to the Salesman, and in turn the only way to bring down Harlow.”
Burke nodded but instead of committing to anything asked another question. “Why a timeframe?”
“Everything that I have told you is highly classified information. What I’m about to tell you is even more secretive. As you’ve probably seen recently there’s been a lot of debate over the new medical bill going through Congress next week, a big part of which will result in big payouts to men like Harlow. Despite the Republican majority it actually looks like the Democrats are going to squeeze the bill through by five votes, and the Senate by two. That happens and the President will veto the bill. Now that doesn’t particularly bother me, my job isn’t to get involved in the politics here. But we think it’ll bother Harlow.”
“When we managed to get hold of the records in Madrid it showed someone had established a twenty million dollar line of credit in the Salesman’s account with a standing order for eighty million dollars to be added in three weeks. Harlow hides his assets well but we’ve managed to get hold of some of his personal finance figures and it looks pretty certain that he’s the money behind the Salesman. We think that he’s put out a contract on the President.”
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