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.
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