The first light of dawn cracked through the dusty window of Samuel Sloan Investigations rousing me from what looked like it might be an actual restful night. I slowly made my way across the office still feeling the effects of No Neck’s cheap shot from the previous night. Sarah appeared on the edge of my desk as I worked on coaxing a fresh if unimpressive pot of coffee from the ancient device. “Sarah unless it is an emergency just stay quiet for two minutes. I need to get this done.” I saw Sarah nodding out of the corner of my eye as the first black drops started to hit the bottom of the pot. After I was situated in my chair I turned back to Sarah. “Now you were about to say?”
“I have no new updates since last night Detective. Also no one has tried to slip into the building. It appears the men who attacked you ransacked your room at the hotel last night. The staff called the police.” Sarah stepped down slowly strolling around the office as she talked. “The occupant of the room has been listed as missing. Luckily you did not use your real name.”
“Seems so. And so far all we have for it is hints and supposition. Barely enough to go to the police department with.”
“Even if they were not still cross with you. Perhaps next month?”
I opened up Sarah’s notes on the Lockwell case, scanning them for something we had missed. After fifteen minutes of wasted effort Sarah piped up. “Mr. Redgrave for you Detective.”
I sat up in my chair “put him through.”
“Samuel Sloan, If I never said it before you are nothing but trouble.”
“Julian…. I take it you found something for me?”
“You could say that but you know the rules, money first.”
“Half price, as you promised.” I nodded at Sarah briefly, letting her know to transfer the funds.
“You are lucky I am a man of my word.” I could hear the annoyance at being held to half price in his voice. “But here it is. West Coast Construction is a front all right. But I have no idea for what. Got quite a crew working for them too. I had to lose a couple of their heavies just to get back home.”
“I had a up close and personal run in with them last night myself.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Julian’s voice turned nasal as he continued. “West Coast has contracts with a crew of ambulances that make runs between their main building and a satellite location on the edge of town. I am sending over the details now.”
“Thanks Julian you are a lifesaver.”
“Yeah, One more thing I don’t care to be hunted by anyone’s hired muscle, so until you finish this case you don’t know me.”
I figured that was all I was getting out of him today. “Understood.” I ended the call. “I think it is time to talk to our client Sarah. Put in a call.”
“One moment..connected detective.”
“Mrs. Lockwell, I have an update on your case.”
“Who is my husband sleeping with.”
“I am fairly certain no one. However you were right on one point. He is covering up something, probably illegal.” I waited for a moment, you never could be sure how a woman would react to news like this.
“What has he done?”
“Unsure as of yet, which is the reason for my call. I have three options going forward. I have no clear evidence of wrongdoing so I can say your husband is not having an affair and close the case. I can turn what I have over to you. There should be enough to let the police dig into your husbands activities at this point . The third option is I can extend your contract and continue looking into it myself. I have less resources than the police of course.”
Veronica Lockwell’s voice came back cold and emotionless. “Do not implicate my husband in a criminal investigation Mister Sloan. You may continue your investigation and report his activities to me.”
“As you wish Mrs. Lockwell. I will be in touch soon.”
“I will expect more information soon.” The connection went quiet.
“Charming.” Sarah returned to her place on the edge of my desk. “Another day of tailing vehicles in store?”
“It seems so.” I found my coat and hat heading down to the car.
“Try not to get made this time Detective, They are almost certainly on the look out for you now.”
“Noted. I’ll keep my distance.”
Back in the Fairlane I took a slow trip out of downtown. The schedule Redgrave gave me made a good start point I slipped off the freeway and slid right behind an ambulance as it left an unmarked brick building on the right side of the street. I took it’s identification down for later reference and stayed a half a block back as it made it to Doctor Lockwell’s place of employment. I spun the wheel at the next right and got out of there before anyone had a chance to note my appearance. “At least we are getting somewhere.” I said to no one in particular.
The dashboard responded. “Asiru Ishamoto for you Detective.”
“Connect me…Did you find something Asiru?”
“A little bit. West Coast construction is buying bulk medical equipment and reselling the same packages overseas for an unbelievable profit.”
“Which means they are shipping out something else out entirely.” I flipped the auto drive on to let me focus on Asiru.
“You are the detective. I am sending what information I could get without sending up any red flags.”
“I owe you one. I’ll be in touch.” I clicked the call off then took a long slow drive around the edge of town while I scanned Asiru’s data. West Coast also had a contract with our mystery brick building. Just enough distance so no one would connect the link between them and the hospital unless they were really determined, or following one of their employees for other reasons. Lucky them. “I think I am going to have to try something more direct.”
“Should I contact the authorities now or later?” Sarah’s mock helpful voice came back at me over the dash comms.
“Hopefully not at all. Security is tight at both ends of the chain, but the middle is not supposed to exist, so they can’t exactly camp an army there to protect it. That looks like our way in.”
I made a pass around our mystery building. A large loading bay in the front and a single side door were the only obvious ways in. I parked the Fairlane around the corner and scanned the side door. One camera covering it and and a good old fashioned key and tumbler lock. “Sarah how long do you think I can spoof that camera before anyone noticed something is wrong?”
“It depends Detective, if the camera is monitored remotely, thirty seconds. If it is only recorded for later viewing you could go days without notice, although a review of the footage would reveal interference.”
“Given the effort that has been put into hiding this place, let’s go with option one.” I popped open the truck of my car, going into a secret compartment to dig out a weathered set of lock picks and a small EMP device. I twirled the dial on the EMP, gaging the blast that would keep the camera out of commission for just long enough. I took a look down both sides of the back alley. Small favor that most crooks prefer out of the way places. I lifted the device towards the camera, slowly squeezing the trigger. “And begin.” I dashed up the three concrete steps to the door kneeling in front of it. Fair quality lock and I was out of practice and short on time. I slid a pick in and felt around for the pins hidden inside the lock.
“Twenty seconds left Detective.”
I closed my eyes, trying to recall the Zen tricks Toshiro had once taught me as I pictured the lock in my mind. A few of the pins set into place as I heard Sarah’s voice. “Ten seconds…nine.” Sarah made it to five before I slid the wrench in place spinning the lock and forcing my way though the door. I quietly closed the door behind me as Sarah counted two.
“And just in time.” The silence in response caused me to check comms. Nothing, the place must be shielded, and virtually empty from the looks of things. Besides a few old wooden crates gathering dust the only thing of interest was a pair of eight foot long tubes in a very familiar medical white. I crept around the far side wiping a light fog off of the burnished golden glass on the first tube to see a woman laying inside in some kind of drug induced sleep. Too thin, blond and mid forties at my best guess. Dressed only in a medical gown and sporting a surgical scar on the side of her neck. My first instinct was to put my fist through the glass, but with no knowledge of what I was doing I was just as likely to kill the woman as help her. Time to get out of here and let the law handle this one.
I made my way out the side door to find a pair of SUVs waiting for me. If front of the cars a few bruisers with pistols drawn surrounding a scrawny guy in a cheap suit and bowler. Cheap bowler stepped in front of the big guys like he owned the whole city. “You must be this Sloan I keep hearing about. You’re talking to the boss this time.”
“And you are?”
Bowler responded with a right cross to the side of my cheek. “I’ll ask the questions.”
This guy hit as tough as he looked. “You should leave the rough stuff to the others. Little squirt like you might get hurt.”
One of the geniuses behind him piped up. “You want us to grab him Sherman?”
Sherman’s eyes rolled. “Yes, grab him.” He obviously had not wanted to leave me his name. I don’t blame him. You have to be a really hard case to scare someone with a name like Sherman.
Bruiser two and three took my pistol as I was escorted rather impolitely into the back of one of the SUVs.