“So let me get this straight.” Masen had calmed down at first, but was angry again after a brief conversation with Simmons. “You knew who killed my family and you did nothing, not even pass on the information to the LAPD?”
Masen was sitting in the VIP area of the club with Burke and Simmons, leaning back with a mixture of anger and despair into the plush cream leather sofa he was on. Burke and Simmons sat opposite him in armchairs of the same design, both with guilty looks on their faces. Detective Sanders and the CIA officers were not with them, instead they were standing at the entrance to the VIP area, ensuring that none of the few partygoers entered and interrupted the meeting.
“It’s not as simple as that.” Simmons was calm, controlled as he spoke to Masen. “We had reason to believe that Harlow was involved, but we couldn’t act straight away. There was no proof that he was connected to whoever was hired to kill you.”
“You know we questioned him Bill.” Burke cut in. “We had a motive but nothing else. There were a few suspects, we had to be delicate.”
Masen wasn’t impressed. “**** that. My wife, kid and friends died and you did nothing. You had him and we both know it.”
Burke was a little surprised. Masen had been upset and angry after the murders, they all had but he understandably had been the most. But never towards Burke. This was new.
“Well we didn’t have all the information at the time.” The lieutenant gave a somewhat condescending glance towards Simmons, who looked down, apparently very interested in his shoelaces. “But we do now, and we can make a difference. And now we have the assistance of one of the most resourceful intelligence agencies in the world. We’ll get our guy.” He couldn’t bring himself to call them the most resourceful, not after the time he’d spent working for MI5. That wouldn’t be fair on his former colleagues.
“Mr Masen I understand that your angry at myself and my team, you have every right to be. We can’t give you the last two years of your life back and we can’t bring back your family. But what we can do is make things right now. The people behind this crime will not go unpunished.” Simmons’s face had a look of pure guilt on it now, staring down into his lap nervously.
Burke didn’t give Masen any time to respond before thrusting a small folder onto the table, along with a pen. “These documents will bring you back onto the LAPD, into Homicide Special on a provisional basis until the conclusion of the investigation. There’s also a badge, ID set and Glock 27 waiting for you in the car. If you want back in after we’re done together, then that’s fine, we can work something out. Please Bill, we need you on this one.”
Masen hesitated for a moment. “If, and I mean If I were to agree to this, who would we be working with?”
Simmons looked over his shoulder and motioned for Harris to come over. “This is Supervisory Investigative Agent James Harris. He’s been heading up the investigation into the Salesman for the last few years.” Simmons paused, and Harris merely nodded curtly at Masen as he sat down next to the DDSP. “With him there’s a team of a dozen men, all of whom have been working exclusively on this case for at least six months.”
It was then Burke’s turn. “The CIA will be there in an investigatory assistance and tactical role only. I’m bringing in a team of HS officers as well.”
“Who are you thinking?” Masen asked as he shook Harris’s hand. It was pretty clear that he was warming to the plan now.
“Pete Sanders obviously, he’ll be working as your partner. I want to bring in Gary Trenton as my deputy on the LAPD side of things. George Chance, he’s nearing retirement but is still pretty sharp. He also worked the original case. His partner Drew Casey was killed in a car crash last summer, so we’ve paired him with Ian Brewster.”
A quizzical look passed over Masen’s face. “I know the name, but I’m not sure I’m too familiar with him. He used to work Vice in Newton before he transferred to Central GTA right?” Masen winced. “Yeah, didn’t he shoot those two chop shop workers in Valencia right before I left the force?”
Burke nodded. “Don’t be fooled Bill. He may have been a bit quick on the trigger finger that one time but he’s a fast track detective, and he’s very good. He and Chance have an eighty percent hit rate on cases.” Masen nodded and the matter was closed. “I’m also thinking officers French and Brooks. You’ve worked with both of them before, there experienced members of my squad and they both have solid records.”
Masen seemed enthusiastic but could see a flaw. “Andy they’re great but aren’t they-”
“Yeah they’re still seeing each other and think we don’t know about it, despite all the jokes in the squad room. But both of them are professionals, they won’t let it get in the way.” I hope, he forgot to add. “Finally we’ve got Lieutenant Aaron Tollard. You ever meet him?” Masen shook his head. “Well he’s got a degree in Psychology, he runs the Detective Bureau’s internal profiling unit. Only been working with us for a year but he’s very good, solve rate’s gone up by twenty percent since he joined us.”
“Where was he before?” Masen asked, perplexed.
“Worked for LVPD. This guy is fast track material, and I trust him. Of course I’ll be maintaining operational command of the unit but he’s the best we could have for profiling this guy.” Harris moved on. Finally I want Gary Trenton as my number two man. I’ve got three deputies and he’s by far the best for the role, at least in my opinion. You’ve worked with him before, you know he’s good.”
“Alright then.” Masen smiled slightly. “Let’s talk tactics and go get this bastard.”
“That went well.” Harris smirked as he lit a cigarette outside Club 61, watching the car carrying the three LAPD officers as it drove off into the night. “Burke reacted as expected to your little game.”
“As expected. He’s a promising candidate, maybe someone we need to bring on board once this is over.” Simmons shivered slightly in the cold. “I hate this ****ing city, it’s so impersonal. Can’t wait for this to be over. So we need to be at Parker Center for eight am, you up for it?”
“Not a problem. Scott’s on his way down in the Gulfstream with the others. Todd and Miles are going to go down to Parker Center after they drop of the detectives and move our equipment in.”
“Do they have the bugging kit?”
“It’s all there. They’ll do the phones when they get started.”
“Good work.” Simmons paused. “James I know how you feel about all of this, but I need you to keep your focus and stay on the ball. We’ll do what we can to protect the detectives but at the end of the day we have a mission to complete and their safety isn’t a primary objective. We have to stop the Salesman. It’s a matter of national security.
“I understand. I’ll do my best.”
Burke waited outside his house after agents Collinson and Bennett dropped him off, finishing their impromptu carpool with taking Sanders home. He had one more call to make; he wanted to get more information on the Salesman, preferably from a source outside the CIA. Fortunately he had one card to play that he was pretty confident wasn’t on the CIA’s books.
He’d left the SAS in 1987, but not before signing a rather lucrative agreement with his former employers. For an extra ten thousand pounds a year from his SAS pension he had agreed to be MI5’s man inside the LAPD. It was nothing really, passing on occasional file that they were interested in. Nothing sinister.
His handler was an old friend of his from the SAS. Edward Bell had been wounded in action five years ago and transferred out of the SAS and into a role with MI5’s section B, Counter – Intelligence. They were still very close. It was eight am in London; Burke knew that Bell’s team had started work an hour earlier.
Taking out his cell phone Burke dialled a number that he recited from memory. After going through two separate identity checks he was put through to his old friend in Thames House, London.
“Andy old boy, what can I do for you today?” He heard Bell’s clear Home Counties accent over the phone. “Isn’t it a little past your bedtime?”
“Very funny. Something very interesting happened today, thought I should keep you informed.” He filled him in on the chat with Robert Simmons about the Salesman.
“Simmons. Yes, I’ve met him a few times. Watch your step Andy; he’s not someone who’s shy of using people for personal gain.”
“I gathered that. I’m going to watch my back. I don’t suppose there’s any chance you can give me the information you have on the Salesman and the Paris attack in ’89 is there?”
“Hmm, I don’t really know, that’s more Section D’s department. I’m working a late shift on Thursday; we’re expecting some information from my contact in another police department on your side of the pond.” Bell handled the contacts for most of the major US police departments, as well as the FBI, DEA and Secret Service. MI5 was still trying to get a mole within the CIA. “When I’m done I’m having dinner with a contact in D, I think he worked on the Salesman incident after that nasty shooting in Milan. How about I get him to brief me on it and I can call you later?”
“That sounds brilliant, thanks a lot Ed.”
“Not a problem. Oh and Andy? Does Simmons have a new assistant? Thirty – something man, brown hair, grey eyes, chap by the name of Harris?”
“Yeah. Want me to see what I can learn?”
“Do what you can. Just watch out for Simmons. He’s a piece of work, do not trust him.”
“Thanks for the heads up. I’ll be careful.”
Burke closed his eyes as the memories came back to him. In his time with the SAS he’d served in Northern Ireland and all over the Middle East, had killed many more men than would ever show on his record but it was still that horrible night that haunted him more than anything else. Bill Masen had worked hard to get where he was, gain his happiness, his independence from his father. And it had all been ruined in an instant, fourteen people dead. And they couldn’t prove who did it, no matter what anyone thought.
He was sitting in one of two converted Ford SUV’s, stereotypically jet black, just what he would have expected from a CIA operative. There were six men sitting in the car. The man he’d met earlier, Miles Bennett was driving. Riding shotgun was the agent that Burke had seen guarding the hotel room earlier’ Simmons introduced as Todd Collinson, an Investigative agent who was third in command of the operation to track the Salesman. Burke was sitting at the back of the vehicle on the left hand side, opposite Simmons. Next to Burke was detective Pete Sanders. Burke had wanted Sanders on board; he felt that his presence would make Masen more co – operative. He was probably the only person on the squad who Masen still spoke to regularly; he’d been much support for the man after the firebombing.
There was a fourth man in this section of the car, sitting opposite Burke, staring idly out of the window. Burke had been unaware of his presence earlier but it was the same man who had been out on the hotel suite balcony. Simmons had introduced him as Supervisory Investigative Agent James Harris, the leader of the operation to bring in the Salesman. Except at the introductions he hadn’t said a word, just remained silent and stared out of his window. There was something unnerving about the man; He wasn’t the kind of character that Burke would want covering his back should things get violent.
Bill Masen worked at Club 61, one of Los Angeles’s most popular and corrupt nightclubs. It was owned by a Columbian rap artist, a man the LAPD knew had serious connections with the Cartels. Masen had drifted around a lot after his family had died and his subsequent departure from the LAPD. The disability pay that he received had kept him afloat but Burke knew that Masen needed something to keep him busy. Club 61 was the last place anyone would have expected Masen to end up.
“Come here a lot on my nights off.” Sanders commented. Burke was confused for a moment but then realised he was talking about the destination.
“Good night out?” Burke, who hadn’t been to a nightclub in ten years asked innocently. Sanders smirked. He was a year older than Burke but still had the mind of a twenty five year old. Burke imagined it was the result of having ten million dollars in your bank account, it kept him thinking he could still be a kid.
“Depends what you’re looking for. Definitely not where I’d go if I was seeing someone. Definitely where I would go if I was with a group of mates and wanted a good time. Bill gets us all free entry; he’ll even join us on his nights off.” He noticed that Harris was idly touching a nickel plated Springfield 1911 officer’s model in a paddle holster by his right hand. “I wouldn’t do that in front of the doormen though.”
Harris scowled slightly at the detective and Burke explained. “We think that some of these guys are in on the dealing that goes on in the club, we don’t want them jumping to any wrong conclusions.”
Harris looked over at Simmons and he nodded to his deputy. “It’s okay James.”
Bennett turned the car onto Hollywood Boulevard and the four men in the back unbuckled their seatbelts. Club 61 was only a few hundred metres away. Despite Sander’s warning, both Simmons and Harris were checking their weapons. Burke wasn’t as surprised about this as he was the fact that Simmons himself was armed, a Ruger P95 visible in his hands now. He checked the clip and safety and placed it back in a black leather shoulder holster. Since when did former Cabinet members carry guns? It surprised Burke slightly.
Burke could see a small line outside the club. “Shouldn’t it be busier?”
Sanders laughed out loud this time. “Andy, nothing happens on Tuesday nights. It’s pretty dead.”
Simmons cut in. “How do you want to play this?”
Burke thought for a second. “I wouldn’t go in their flashing government ID. Just let Pete deal with the bouncers and get us Masen’s attention. We’re not here for anything else, just to pick up Masen.”
“What if we have a problem?” Harris spoke, the first time since they got into the car. His voice was soft, Burke noted. Dangerous.
“We won’t if everyone keeps their weapons away.” The car pulled up to a halt. “How many men have you got in the backup car?” Burke asked the former National Security Advisor.
“Four field agents. Myself and Agent Harris are going to travel back with them so that you and Detective Sanders have a chance to talk about the op with Masen.”
Burke nodded as the car crawled to a halt. “You go first.” He nodded to Sanders.
Sanders stepped out of the heated car into the surprisingly chilly L.A, night. He left the door open for Harris but didn’t stop and wait for him. Instead he started to stride purposefully towards the line outside Club 61. He was dressed for the occasion. Black Firado suit, one of five that he’d had tailor made on a trip to Italy for $15,000 (hell, he could afford it so why not?) White Armani shirt, dark brown Gucci loafers, no tie. He looked like just another well dressed member of the Los Angeles elite.
He didn’t enter the queue; instead he walked straight past it to where the four bouncers for the night were standing. Harris was right behind him, Simmons Burke and Bennett about three metres back. One of the bouncers, a slightly overweight man in his early thirties who Sanders vaguely recognised as being named Wallace approached him.
“Sorry Mr Sanders, you and your friend are going to have to get back in the queue. No freebees tonight.” Sanders looked past Wallace and saw that Masen was checking ID’s for a group of teenage girls waiting in line, he hadn’t seen them.
“Don’t worry, we’re not coming in. We need to speak with Bill, it’s important.” The other four men were with Sanders and Harris. Wallace looked slightly nervous now; Sanders could imagine this may not end well.
“What is this?” Wallace was instantly suspicious as to why one of his regular customers was flanked by five serious looking men in conservative suits. Sanders wasn’t sure if he knew he was a cop.
It was Harris who screwed up first. Reaching into his right inside jacket pocket he removed his wallet and flipped it open, revealing his identification and practically shoving it into the Wallace’s face. “Federal officers.” His soft tone of voice now had an air of command in it. “Step aside please; we need to speak with one of your employees.”
By now one of the other bouncers, a Middle Eastern man about Masen’s age had noticed. The second that he saw the ID he panicked, starting to swear loudly in his native tongue, his hands reaching down to an ankle holster.
“****!” Simmons yelled out, reaching into his jacket and thumbing the safety off his weapon at the same time. Two seconds later and there were a total of six weapons out, the four CIA operatives and two of the bouncers; the middle eastern one and a third one who had been helping Masen check ID’s. Sanders and Burke hadn’t drawn theirs; they were still in their holsters but gripped by nervous and sweating hands. Wallace hadn’t drawn his either, instead he raised his arms in the air, silently praying that this wouldn’t turn out the way it should do.
“Central Intelligence Agency! Throw down your guns!” Harris shouted at the two bouncers.
“**** you man! Where the **** is your warrant!” The Middle Eastern bouncer spat back. The bouncers were armed with .38 specials, there was no way they would stand a chance against the much better equipped CIA agents. “Where is the warrant!” He demanded again, a flicker of fear in his brown eyes.
“We will shoot to kill!” Bennett responded, a mixture of nerves and anger showing on his face as he gripped his handgun. This looked like it could get rough.
“What the hell?” Masen had noticed the confrontation, dropping the ID he was checking as he approached. The crowd had fallen deathly silent, transfixed and terrified at the same time. Masen’s hand was on the .38 in a paddle holster, gripped firmly but not removed, the same as his former colleagues from LAPD. “I know these people! Andy, Pete what the **** is this?”
“We just want to talk damn it!” Burke yelled out at no – one in particular. “Everyone put away your weapons!” He looked back at the CIA agents. “This isn’t helping anyone, put the guns away!” Then back to the bouncers, in a calmer tone. “We are not with the DEA. We don’t know or care about what goes on in here that shouldn’t be. All we want is to speak with Bill Masen on an unconnected case. Everyone put away your weapons and we can all just forget that this happened.” To Sanders: “Go back to the car and cancel any patrol car call outs there may be to this location. We don’t want any more of a mess on our hands then we’ve already got.”
Collinson lowered his pistol first, warily placing it back in his shoulder holster. The bouncer who had been helping Masen went next, harnessing it in a holster in the small of his back. The other bouncer and Simmons both replaced theirs as well. Harris and Bennett lowered theirs, but kept them in their hands.
Masen had already taken his hand off his holster and was staring warily at his former commander. “You’ve got some explaining to do.” He told Burke in a low, angry voice.
“Your turn Bill.”
Bill Masen turned away from the group he was chatting with and grimaced as he faced his wife and son. He thanked God every day for Joey, but as his six month old son bounced innocently on Carmen’s arms as she held him looking around he seemed totally oblivious as to the slight sagging in his nappy.
“The joys of parenting.” He said with a sad smile, reaching out to take his son from his wife. Joey gave a small giggle as he wriggled, settling down into his fathers arms.
“You love it really.” Carmen smirked slightly, leaning forwards and giving him a small kiss on his left cheek. They had been together for eight years, married for five and yet it still sent a feeling of warmth throughout his body every time that she did that.
“What’s he still doing up at this time anyway?” Masen asked. It was eleven thirty, a long time after they’d tuck the baby in for the night. Another hour and he’d usually wake them for feeding time.
Carmen smiled and motioned over to where Andy Burke and his wife Tracy were chatting with a friend of Masen’s from college. “Tracy’s getting all maternal again.”
“What, three kids aren’t enough?” Masen laughed.
“It’s a woman thing. Anyway, it’ll be nice for him to see the midnight fireworks. Now stop stalling!”
Masen had been prepared for this. He looked past Carmen through the door to his kitchen, to where his partner in crime Pete Sanders was standing, immaculate as usual in one of his overpriced Ralph Lauren polo shirts. Sanders nodded with a smirk and bounded over. “I, uh, need Bill on police business for a moment Carmen. Think we can maybe forget about the rota for a moment?”
The look on Carmen’s face was deadlier then either men’s service pistols but she was light hearted about it. “Pete. You really can be an asshole sometimes.” Then she grinned. “Fine but don’t you dare play that card again tonight!” She took the squirming baby off her husband and headed for the stairs, turning her head back once with a smile, that slight flick of her hair that had caught Masen’s attention all those years ago still there. “And before you try it Pete, don’t even think about lighting up in the house!” She said with a laugh.
Sanders paused, his hand guiltily resting on the packet of Marlboros halfway pulled out of his jeans pocket. “Outside?” He gestured to Masen.
The two men stepped outside onto the patio in his back garden. Masen had filled in half their small piece of land for a freshly filled pool, the water almost glowing a light blue from the lights, shimmering ever so lightly. Masen looked around the patio. The Burkes had stepped outside and were taking a walk around the pool. Detectives Ian Brooks and Aaron Tollard were at the other end of the garden, working the barbecue. Scott Hardy, ever the businessman was on his bulky new cell phone. A leading marketing consultant in LA County, he’d foolishly agreed to help consult the mayor’s staff on the celebrations this year. He’d been on the phone all night, his date wasn’t impressed. Still, what did she have to complain about, there were almost fifty people in the house she could meet.
“Thanks Pete.” Masen smiled, slapping his partner lightly on the back. “Couldn’t face a nappy right now.”
“No problem. Cigarette?”
“Not right now, Carmen still thinks I’m cold turkey.”
Sanders smiled, lighting one himself. Masen knew what was on his mind. “It’s been three months Pete. I’m doing a lot better.”
“I know man. It’s good to have you back; I don’t understand why IAD were so worked up. It was open and shut.”
Masen smiled slightly to himself at Sanders and how naïve his was being. He was ten years older then Masen and didn’t need the job quite frankly. His father had been a rich media executive in Boston of all places and had left about ten million to his Detective son about ten years ago – he’d packed up and moved to LA, getting a transfer to the department. He sometimes forgot how it felt to do the hardest thing in his job. “Pete, I killed a man, one of the most high profile killers this city’s seen. It was my first and hopefully last kill, and there were no witnesses. They had to do a thorough job and my nerves needed the time off. I’m not going to pretend I don’t think about it anymore but I feel happier in myself now. It’s good to be back at work.”
Sanders nodded, silent and thoughtful. Masen would never tell his friend but he was touched by how much he cared.
He looked up at the window to Joey’s room. He saw Carmen in the window, at the changing table, looking out and smiling down at Masen, giving Sanders a mock scold at the cigarette in his hands. She laughed, turning her head back to Bill with an ever so slight flick of her hair.
And that was the last he ever saw of her. There was an explosion of light that engulfed the top floor of his house, a thundering sound and a force that pushed Masen and his partner back into the swimming pool.
Masen was stunned, he had no idea what was going on at first. Other people had been blown into the pool; some were even jumping in for some reason. He saw the back of Detective Paul Nelson floating to the bottom and reached down, concerned for his friend.
Nelson turned limply with his touch. His face had all but been blown off.
Masen tried to scream, but no sound came out. The water started to rush down his throat, through his nostrils and there was a burning sensation in his lungs, before he knew it he was panicking, thrashing, drowning.
Then he felt arms on his jacket, pulling him up to the surface, towards the shallow end of the pool and out onto the patio. Breathless, he looked up, panting into the faces of Andy Burke and Pete Sanders and relief started to flow through him as the water had been mere seconds before. Tracy Burke was behind her husband, a shell-shocked look on her face. He didn’t understand that.
“Wha – What the hell – Andy, what’s-”
Burkes face was grim. “Bill, just stay lying down, helps on its way.” The tone of his voice was low.
Then panic started to give way to confusion and then fear as he noticed the panicked people running past him, the orange glow behind where he was lying. He started to get up, Sanders trying to stop him. “Bill, you need-”
He forced Sanders off him and stood up, turning on the spot and almost tripping up due to his panicked state. Then he felt a horrible dead weight in his chest as he saw his house.
The top floor window where his wife had been standing less than a minute before was empty, a mass of flames licking the paintwork both inside and outside the house. It didn’t quite register until he noticed the smell. Burning human flesh.
“Carmen?” He asked quietly, almost to himself. Then he started to bound towards the house more urgently, fear taking over. “Carmen! Joey!” This couldn’t be happening; everything had been just fine minutes before. He didn’t understand. It wasn’t fair!
Burke and Sanders caught up with him before he got close enough to do any physical damage to himself but the emotional damage was done. He fell to his knees, his partner supporting him as he started to sob uncontrollably. Everything he had, everyone he loved, burnt away in the blink of an eye. “No, no! ****! Carmen! Joey! Come on out, come out to daddy. Carmen!” he tried to stand but his friends were there for him and ready this time, they kept him restrained.
“We’ve got to move Andy, this whole place could go up!” Hardy was there now, breathless and worried.
“You’re date get out?” Masen heard Sanders ask and saw his best friend nod back. Hardy then saw the expression on Masen’s face and his eyes went down.
“Oh ****.” Was all that he could manage. “Bill,”
“Come on, there’s no time! Lets go!” Burke interrupted harshly, taking hold of Masen as the three men started to half drag half carry the sobbing detective away from the fire.
“Quiet one so far.”
Bill Masen smirked as he heard Wallace moan. He’d known this was coming for the last half hour, to be honest he was a little grateful for the distraction it was about to cause. The other two bouncers on the door, Saleh and Kircher both looked away, knowing what was about to happen.
Masen looked down, removing his Marlboro cigarettes from his jacket pocket and lighting one. Two left, ****. He still had three and a half hours to go and he was on his third last cigarette. “Steve, how long have you worked here?”
Wallace realised his mistake almost immediately but it was two late. “Eight months.”
“That’s right, eight months. You’ve been on this shift all that time, right?”
“Give it a rest asshole.” Wallace was pissed now.
“Just answer the ****ing question moron.”
“Yeah, I have. And no, we’ve never been busy on Tuesday nights.”
Saleh and Kircher were both openly laughing. “Good starter Steve.” Kircher commented, before turning to the fourth member of the group. “Ali, what you made tonight?”
It was common knowledge that the door staff at Club 61 wouldn’t report any drugs that they confiscated off potential customers. Instead, they often hung onto them and sold them themselves. Masen knew that the other three were in on it, and that they could make an average of three hundred dollars extra each on a busy shift. He’d seen them take more on occasion.
“Barely fifty.” Saleh, a Saudi immigrant who had worked at Club 61 for almost two years responded, visibly irritated by the lack of extra cash.
Masen didn’t really care much about the sideline business that they had running, he kept out of it. He’d spent five years as a cop; he couldn’t quite bring himself down to that level. He’d sometimes sample a bit of the merchandise, hell they all would. But selling it was different for him. Something good had to have come out of that time in his life.
Wallace was right it was pretty quiet, even for a Tuesday. The other guys on the door were all pretty decent, but still not the kind of people you’d want to spend six hours with day after day. He was bored of this job.
And if he left now this would be the seventh job he’d of left over the past eighteen months. Nothing had been able to tie him down since that horrible night, he just couldn’t stay focused. He’d tried labouring, bar work, security work, had spent a month or two putting together cell phones in a factory out of state. He just kept getting bored. And now the same thing had happened at the most exclusive and corrupt nightclub in California.
Saleh was bleating on about something again but he wasn’t really listening anymore. His mind was wandering again, as it had been so often the past two years. That bastard sure had changed things, whoever he was.
Masen had met Carmen Ramirez during his second year studying law at UCLA; he’d been dating a friend of hers. His roommate and best friend Scott Hardy had made Masen and his then Girlfriend, Lisa Tomwell to go to a house party in Lennox. Scott had just come out of a long term relationship and Masen persuaded Lisa to bring a friend along for him. Problem was, over the next few weeks that friend, Carmen had hit it off more with Masen than Hardy and it wasn’t long before he drifted apart from Lisa and started dating Carmen. They were married by the end of their final year.
Masen was all set for law school – problem was that it was 1990 and his Senator father, Nicholas Masen III had started thinking about a shot at the White House in 1992 or 1996. A popular democrat with a strong work ethic in public, he had an image to protect. Sure, he’d fund Law School, but only at nights. The PR machine thought it would be a fantastic idea if Bill were to train with the LAPD. It turned out that Bill did pass law school and the bar, but not before his father lost re – election in 1992 after it was revealed he was sleeping with one of his staff. It caused a lot of family friction, the Senators eldest son and deputy Chief of Staff Nick Masen IV went insane as he saw his ambition disappear, washed away by his fathers misdeeds. He drove his car into the Potomac two weeks after the electoral defeat. It was then that Masen had decided that the twin family businesses of Law and Politics weren’t for him, despite the successes his younger brother and sister were having. The LAPD became less of a way to fund law school and more of a career.
And that’s how it had gone, with his being fast tracked to Detective in 1994 (they liked the look of his Law Licence) and Carmen’s steady job as a receptionist at the DA’s office. All enough to get them a comfortable lifestyle and a nice house in a safe neighbourhood to raise Joey, their infant son born in 1995. A happy family unit, all shattered that 4th of July when someone had taken a lump of C4 and attached it to the boiler. He should have been inside with them, hell he was supposed to be inside changing the baby when it happened. It should have been him.
“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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