This posting features Chapter 46 of my ongoing action novel, The Day of the Gun.
Paul Hewson had worked in law enforcement long enough to understand the pecking order, but he could not shake the feeling that he had been deliberately insulted. Roth had confided in him about the difficulties in finding Steve Harris, but the U.S. Attorney also had made it clear he had no use of local law enforcement personnel. Slouching in his office chair on the morning after the hospital shooting, Chief Hewson gazed out the window into the parking lot below.
Scott Petty sat across from the chief’s desk. “A penny for your thoughts.”
Hewson shot him a thin smile. “I’m too old for all this stuff. My back is killing me. I’m just waiting for retirement. And yet….”
“Yet you want to be in on the action.”
He sighed. “I suppose you’re right. Is that sick or what?”
“Everybody wants to feel relevant. Everybody.”
He smiled. “How true, how true.”
“Maybe we can figure a way to get you back in the game.”
“If you have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them, Scottie. I’m all ears.”
Vincent Fazio — lugubrious, hang-dog, spiritually ailing Vincent Fazio — stuck his head in the door. “Any word yet?”
Hewson shook his head. “’Fraid not.” He paused. “You know, Vince, you can take some more time off if you need to. No one would blame you. You’ve got it coming.”
He shook his head. “No can do. I need to be working — moving, doing something. You understand, chief. I know you do.”
Hewson nodded. “Yeah. I do.” He pointed to Petty. “Scott and I were just talking about how we might get back in the game despite the Feds.”
The detective leaned against the door jam. “I’m glad you mentioned that, chief. I’ve been thinking about this thing for a long time. The way I see it, there’s only one reasonable source of the WITSEC leak.”
“Someone close to McLean,” Petty offered.
Fazio gazed at his colleague with a belligerent expression plastered on his face. For a moment, he looked as if he might lunge at the younger, skinnier man. “Yeah. That’s right. That’s exactly right.”
Oblivious to Fazio’s withering stare, the computer geek plowed on. “He had three close assistants, but only one is missing in action.”
“David Tremblor.” Clearly, Fazio and Petty had reached the same conclusion.
“Very good, gentlemen. Very good. My thoughts, too.” The chief leaned back in his office chair and rubbed his eyes. He felt weariness creep through his bones like a river seeking out holes in a dyke. “But what can we do with this information?”
Fazio took a step toward his chief’s desk. “The U.S. Marshal Service needs to have this information, I should think.”
Hewson shook his head. “I think not. No offense, fellows, but if we figured it out, the Marshals and the U.S. Attorney have figured it out as well. If I know Roth, he’s all over it. Anyway, it’s their show, and they don’t want company on the stage. That much is clear.”
No sooner had the chief spoken than his office telephone rang. Lifting the receiver to his face, he tried to hide his anger. “Polly, I told you to hold my calls — especially from the media.”
“Oh, you’ll want to take this one, chief. Trust me.”
Curious, Hewson frowned. Polly was not the type of person to be so cavalier in following instructions. “Okay. If you say so. Then put it through.”
A moment later a familiar voice spoke without preamble. “You once called me ‘friend.’ Can I still count on you as a friend?”
Hewson’s heart slammed against his rib cage. “As I recall, you weren’t interested in being friends.”
“Times change. I need a friend now more than ever. Can I count on you?”
“That depends on what’s involved.”
Laughter. “You don’t make it easy to extend an olive branch, chief.”
“I first have to know that it’s an olive branch that’s being extended.”
“So, tell me, friend, what can I do for you?”
“I need to come in from the cold, but I need someone I can trust. Can I trust you?”
“Yes. I suppose you can.”
“What happened yesterday, Paul? I can call you ‘Paul,’ I hope.”
“Of course.” A sigh. “I wish I could tell you. This is the Feds’ show, not mine.”
Fazio looked at his boss with a frown.
Cupping the phone, Hewson whispered, “Harris.”
Fazio and Petty exchanged startled glances.
The computer geek stood. “I can try to set up a trap and trace,” he whispered.
Hewson waved him away.
“There isn’t time,” Fazio explained as he slipped into a chair next to the window.
Petty collapsed into his chair as well. “Old habits die hard,” he said.
“Sorry,” Hewson said into the receiver. “We’re still processing everything over here.”
“Understood, but there’s not much time. Is the phone tapped?”
Hewson considered the question for a moment. “If it is, we didn’t tap it.”
“Well, it’s a risk we’ll have to take. Now, listen.” Steve quickly explained what happened at the hospital, his escape to Alabama, and Mary Ellen’s departure from the Econo Lodge. “I’m surprised my lawyer, Gregg Stacy, hasn’t contacted you. I spoke to him a few minutes ago, and asked that he call.”
“I asked my secretary to hold my calls,” the chief explained. Holding the receiver against his chest, he leaned forward toward Scott Petty. “Ask Polly if Gregg Stacey — or anyone else I know — called me today.”
Harris paused. “My location may be compromised if Mary Ellen contacted the police, which she probably did. I will surrender — but not to the Feds. Only to you.”
Despite the avowals of friendship, Hewson was surprised. “Why me?”
“I know the real thing when I see it, Paul.”
“You flatter me.”
“I’m not trying to, but it’s much too late to leave these things unsaid.”
“I’ll have to turn you over to the Feds. You know how the game is played.”
“Uh huh. I also know there may be a leak somewhere in the Feds. That’s why I want you — not as many people involved. Loose lips sink ships, and all of that.”
“There’s a leak, all right.” Hewson briefed his “friend” on the news of Dave Tremblor’s likely involvement with the WITSEC leak.
“And the assassin told me McLean’s name because Tremblor provided him with a false name in case things went wrong. Clever. It makes sense.”
“Apparently, Marciano got to Tremblor when Tremblor met with him repeatedly in Sing Sing.”
“Where is Tremblor now?”
“Missing in action, I would imagine.”
“Or on his way here.”
“How would he know where you are?”
“Tremblor’s smart. Plus, he may have an accomplice. How soon can you be here?”
Hewson pointed to Fazio as he slid his palm over the receiver. “Get me an atlas.”
“Sorry. I’m trying to find a road atlas. I don’t know exactly where Demopolis is, but I expect it will take some time. I could call then local P.D.”
“No. It has to be you.”
“Well, that will take some time.”
Steve had already thought of this problem.“Do you have a police helicopter?”
Despite the gravity of their discussion, Hewson laughed. “That’s strictly in the movies, my friend. We don’t have that kind of budget in our little burg. Maybe the Feds have one, or big metropolitan police departments like Atlanta. We don’t have one in our tiny little town.”
“Can you get the Atlanta police helicopter and get here soon?”
“With the bureaucracy, I doubt I can do it in a timely fashion. The only way to get a helicopter faster would be to use….” The chief paused long enough to gaze at the ceiling. “Channel 11 has a traffic copter.”
Now Steve Harris laughed. “You must have a thing for the reporter.”
Hewson smiled. “Dana and I go way back, but not like that. She’s more like a daughter — a nosy, pushy, meddlesome daughter.”
“Well, find your meddlesome daughter. Hurry, Paul. I’ve got a feeling the hour is late.”
As they hung up and Hewson reached for his address book, he winced. He, too, believed that the hour was late. Maybe too late.