The camel club, p.29
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       The Camel Club, p.29

         Part #1 of Camel Club series by David Baldacci
 

  Both men were furious about their failure to kill the pair, and it was fortunate indeed for Milton Farb that he wasn’t at home right now.

  The two men pulled out their flashlights and started searching. Farb’s place wasn’t that large, but it was filled with books and expensive computer and video equipment for his Web design business. Also located there was the one thing Reinke and Peters hadn’t counted on: a wireless infrared surveillance system that looked like overhead track lighting. Located in each room, it was now recording their movements, and had also sounded a silent alarm to a security firm that Milton had hired because of several previous burglaries. The system ran off a regular household outlet with a battery backup. He’d stopped using a loud alarm because in his neighborhood the police took their time coming and the alerted thieves had always been long gone before their arrival.

  As the pair searched the house, their amazement grew with each new discovery.

  “This guy’s a freaking nutcase,” Peters said as they explored the kitchen. The canned goods in the pantry were all neatly labeled and placed in excruciatingly precise order. The utensils hung from a rack on the wall arranged from largest to smallest. The pots and pans were organized the same way on a large rack over the stove. Even the oven mitts were lined up with precision, as were all the dishes in the cupboards. The place was a monument to fastidiousness of the most zealous kind.

  When they went upstairs and poked around Milton’s bedroom and closet area, it was more of the same.

  Reinke came out of the master bathroom shaking his head. “You’re not going to believe this. This bozo has torn off each sheet of the toilet paper and stacked them in a wicker box beside the toilet with instructions on disposal. I mean what do you do with toilet paper except flush it!”

  In the bedroom closet Peters said, “Yeah, well, come in here and tell me who puts their socks on hangers?”

  A moment later they were both staring at the socks and the tri-folded underwear and shirts that all hung on wooden hangers in precise order, with the shirts fully buttoned, including the cuffs. And they were organized by season. The men weren’t guessing at this, as Milton had helpfully posted pictures depicting winter, summer, spring and fall.

  Finding nothing useful in the master bedroom, the two NIC men slipped into the other room upstairs that had been fitted out as an office. They both were immediately drawn to Milton’s desk, where every item there was laid at right angles to its neighbor.

  And finally in this house of perfect order they found something that they could actually use. It was in a box marked “Receipts,” on a shelf behind Milton’s desk, and the receipts, they quickly determined, were divided by both month and product. From the box, Reinke plucked out a credit card slip that had a name on it.

  “Chastity Hayes,” Reinke read. “Want to bet that’s his girlfriend?”

  “If a guy like that can have a girlfriend.”

  Each probably thinking the same thing, they shone their lights on the wall of Milton’s office. The pictures there were arranged in a very elaborate configuration that Peters recognized first. “It’s a double helix. DNA. This guy is a total freak.”

  Reinke’s light flickered across one picture and then came back to it.

  “Love, Chastity,” Reinke read at the bottom of the picture, which showed Chastity in a revealing bathing suit and blowing a kiss to the photographer, presumably Milton.

  “That’s his girlfriend?” a stunned Reinke said as he eyed a picture of Milton next to the one with Chastity in her bikini. “How the hell does a geek like that get a chick like that?”

  “Nurturing instinct,” Peters answered promptly. “Some women love to play mother.”

  Peters pulled out an electronic device that looked like a larger version of a BlackBerry and typed in the name Chastity Hayes. A minute later three possibilities came up. Restricting his search to the Washington, D.C., area, Peters found Chastity Hayes, accountant and the owner of a house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. In addition it revealed her educational, medical, employment and financial history. As Peters ran his gaze down the info pouring over his tiny screen, Reinke pointed a finger at one line. “She was in a psych hospital for a while. I bet you she’s OCD like Farb.”

  “At least we know where she lives. And if Farb isn’t here”—Peters glanced once more at the photo of the lovely Chastity—“chances are he’s there. Because that’s where I’d be sleeping if I were him.”

  The noise in the back of the house froze them both. They were footsteps. And then they heard a groan and a thudding sound.

  They pulled their guns and moved in the direction of those noises.

  When they reached the kitchen, they saw it. The man was on the floor, unconscious. They both started when they saw the uniform.

  “Rental cop,” Reinke said finally. “We must’ve tripped some alarm.”

  “Yeah, but who the hell knocked him out?”

  They looked around nervously.

  “Let’s get out of here,” Reinke whispered.

  They slipped out the back of the house and soon reached their car a block over.

  “Do we hit the chick tonight?” Peters asked.

  “No, you don’t,” a voice said causing both of them to jump.

  They turned and saw Tom Hemingway rising from the backseat. He did not look very happy.

  “You’ve had a singularly unproductive night,” he began ominously.

  “You followed us here?” Peters asked in a small voice that broke slightly.

  “After your last report of screwing up, what exactly did you expect me to do?”

  “So you did the rental cop. Is he dead?” Reinke asked.

  Hemingway ignored him. “Let me impress upon both of you once more the seriousness of what we’re trying to accomplish here. I have an army working their asses off just north of here doing far more than either of you have been asked to do. And unlike them, you two are being paid very well. And they’ve made no mistakes whatsoever. ” He stared at them so intensely that both men held their breaths. “Maybe what happened tonight was just a string of bad luck. But going forward, I will make no more allowances for bad luck.”

  “What do you want us to do now?” Reinke asked nervously.

  “Go home and get some rest. You’ll need it.” He held out his hand. “Give me the receipt with the woman’s name on it.”

  “How did you—,” Reinke began.

  However, Hemingway looked at him with such disdain that Reinke closed his mouth and passed the paper over. In a few seconds Hemingway had disappeared.

  Both men sat back in their car seats and let out deep breaths.

  Peters said, “That guy scares the complete and total shit out of me.”

  Reinke nodded. “He was a legend at CIA. Even the drug guys in Colombia were scared to death of him. Nobody ever saw him coming in or going out.” He paused. “I’ve watched him working out at the gym at NIC. He looks like he’s carved out of granite, and he’s quick as a cat. And he’s destroyed two seventy-five-pound body bags with just his hands. They won’t even let him use his legs on the heavy bags anymore because he was breaking them with just one kick.”

  “So what now?” Peters asked.

  “You heard the man. We get some rest. After three close shaves tonight we don’t need a fourth. You can crash at my place.”

  CHAPTER

  44

  AFTER WHAT HE’D SEEN AT Arlington Cemetery, Gray had gone directly to CIA headquarters at Langley. Inside this facility was a room that only current and former CIA directors were allowed to enter. Each director could access documents and other materials that pertained to missions he was involved in while at the Agency. They were held in vaults that contained large safe-deposit-style boxes. Because of the secrets housed here, it was the most heavily guarded room at Langley.

  Gray put his hand on a biometric reader in front of the vault door that was labeled with his name. The door slid open and Gray entered, taking out his keys. He knew exactly the box
he wanted: number 10.

  He unlocked it and drew out the contents, sat down and spread the materials out on a desk kept in the vault.

  The file he was perusing was officially marked “J.C.” Those two initials could stand for many things, including Jesus Christ. However, they didn’t refer to the Son of God, but were simply the initials of a remarkable flesh-and-blood man named John Carr.

  As Gray read through the exploits of Carr’s career at the CIA, his head continued to shake in absolute amazement at what the man had accomplished. And survived! Although it could be argued that the world was a more dangerous place now, it was not appreciably more perilous currently than when John Carr worked for the Agency.

  As Gray came to the last pages of John Carr’s career at Langley, it ended, the way it had meant to end, with burial at Arlington Cemetery with full military honors, although John Carr had not technically worked for the army for years and had not died in a uniform. After that, his entire past had been wiped clean from every record in the United States. Gray had seen to that personally based on orders from the highest level at the CIA.

  And though John Carr wasn’t buried in that grave, he was still supposed to be dead. The initial hit on him killed only his wife. But there had been another attempt deemed successful, though no body had been recovered; it was presumably in the bellies of fish in the middle of the ocean. Perhaps Gray was simply jumping to conclusions. The man he’d seen was thin and seemingly frail. Could that be the mighty John Carr? The years could take their toll, but still, with a man like Carr, Gray figured age would simply bounce off him. Yet the man had been standing directly in front of the grave marked for John Carr. And hadn’t he managed to disappear, much like the legendary Carr made a career out of doing?

  Gray’s pulse accelerated as he thought how close he’d possibly been to a man who’d been betrayed by his country. And not just any man, but a man who, in his time, was the perfect killing machine for the United States government. Until, that is, he became a liability, as such men often did.

  Carter Gray put away the box and left the room of old secrets with a curious emotion filling his chest. Carter Gray feared a dead man who, inexplicably, might still be among the living.

  Later, back at his home, Gray lit the candles in his bedroom as he kept glancing at the photos on his mantel. In a few minutes it would be midnight, and September 11 would be with him again. He sat in the chair next to his bed and opened his Bible. Carter Gray had been baptized a Catholic, had dutifully performed his first Communion at age seven and his Confirmation at age thirteen and had even been an altar boy. Since reaching adulthood, however, he had never once set foot inside a church unless it was for some political function. With his occupation, religion had never seemed to be that relevant. However, his wife had been a devout Catholic, and their daughter, Maggie, had been raised in that faith.

  Now, with both of them gone, Gray had taken up reading the Bible. It wasn’t for his salvation, but as a way of picking up the banner for his fallen family, although, he had to admit, the words did give him some level of comfort. Tonight he read out loud some passages from Corinthians and another from Leviticus and then ventured into the Psalms. It was now well past midnight, and he knelt down in front of the photos and performed his prayers, although they were more akin to conversations with his dead family. He almost always broke down and cried during this ritual. The tears felt deserved and, in a sense, were healing. Yet, as he sat back in his chair with his Bible, Gray’s thoughts returned once more to a burial plot with an empty coffin. Is John Carr dead or alive?

  Tom Hemingway returned to his apartment, the receipt with the name Chastity Hayes safely in his pocket. He made his usual tea and drank it barefoot, standing by the window looking out onto the Capitol grounds. A lot had happened in the last twenty-four hours and none of it positive from his perspective.

  His pathetic duo of Reinke and Peters had missed two targets tonight, and now Alex Ford and Kate Adams would no doubt go straight to their respective agencies and demand that full investigations move forward. Added to that was the fact that Carter Gray was talking about the resurrection of the dead. In Hemingway’s mind that was a clear reference to all the terrorists supposedly killed by their colleagues. That had prompted Hemingway’s hurried message to Captain Jack.

  He turned from the window and looked at a portrait on the wall. It was a very good likeness of his father, the Honorable Franklin T. Hemingway, ambassador to some of the most difficult territories in the world of diplomacy. And his last post proved to be too violent even for him. A bullet in China ended the career of a man who had devoted his life to cobbling peace where none seemed possible.

  The son had not followed the father’s footsteps principally because Tom Hemingway didn’t believe he possessed the necessary skills and qualities that went into a successful statesman. And back then he was an angry young man. While that fury had diminished over the years, it had never entirely gone away. Why should it? At his funeral it was said by many distinguished voices from all over the world that Franklin Hemingway would be sorely missed as a global peacemaker. Hemingway still felt the loss of his mentor as strongly this minute as he had felt it the day an assassin’s bullet ended his father’s life. For him, time lessened nothing. It only intensified the sense of agony he’d carried with him since learning that precious, valiant heart had stopped beating.

  CHAPTER

  45

  TYLER REINKE’S HOME WAS VERY sparsely furnished. Reuben and Stone crawled on their bellies to each room, hoping for anything that could be useful, but came away disappointed each time. They passed the front door where another alarm code pad was mounted and slithered up the stairs after the fat tabby.

  When they reached the bedroom, something caught Reuben’s eye.

  “Our Mr. Reinke is a chopper pilot.” He picked up the only picture on the nightstand. In it Tyler Reinke was at the controls of a sleek black helicopter.

  “Any insignias on it?” Stone asked as he searched other parts of the room.

  “Nope.” Reuben put the picture back down after using a corner of the bedspread to wipe off any fingerprints.

  Stone had rummaged around in the closet and came out carrying a small box.

  “Financial records,” he said in response to Reuben’s questioning look.

  He took out a stack and started going through them, scanning each page.

  “Anything of interest?”

  Stone held up one page. “It seems this account is set up under a false name, although the address matches the house we’re in. However, I’m afraid I have little experience with financial portfolios.”

  “Let me take a look.” Reuben spent some time going over the statements and some handwritten notes also contained in the batch. “It looks like Reinke, if this is his account statement, has recently bought an enormous long-put option on margin.”

  “Long-put option on margin? What’s that?”

  “Margin means he’s borrowed money to purchase his position and he has the option to sell the position at a certain level. According to these handwritten notes, he’s essentially betting the farm that the S&P will take a dive. So it’s like sell low and buy back high. That’s not what you usually want, but in this case you can make enormous amounts of money doing that very thing. And the amount at risk is far more than someone would make off a government salary. That’s why it’s on margin.”

  “I had no idea you knew so much about finances.”

  “Hey, a guy likes to take a plunge every now and then. And I don’t plan on working on that damn loading dock until I croak, I can tell you that.”

  “But how would he know that it’s going down? It’s one thing to have inside info on one stock, but the whole market?” Stone thought for a moment. “But then again, the financial markets almost always drop in the face of an unforeseen catastrophe.”

  “What, like an earthquake?” Reuben said.

  “But also with man-made catastrophes. On 9/11 I recall they had
to close the stock market and calm everyone down. Left to its own devices, the market would’ve plunged. It still went down when it reopened after 9/11. Unscrupulous people with advance knowledge could’ve made a fortune.”

  “So maybe Reinke knows of a coming catastrophe?” Reuben said nervously.

  “Or else he’s helping create one,” Stone replied.

  As soon as they saw the car approaching from their hiding place off the road, Milton got on his cell phone and called Reuben. Well, he attempted to call, but no ringing sound came. He looked at his cell phone and his heart sank.

  Caleb glanced at him as the headlights crept closer.

  “Call them!”

  “There’s no signal strength.”

  “What!”

  “There’s no signal strength here. It must be a bad cell zone. I can’t get through.”

  Caleb pointed at the oncoming car. “That is very likely a murderer in there.”

  “Caleb, there’s nothing I can do.”

  “Damn these high-tech abominations,” Caleb said angrily. “They never work when you really need them to.”

  The other car turned off the road and headed to Reinke’s house.

  “That’s Tyler Reinke’s car. I recognized it,” Caleb said.

  “I know, I did too,” a panicked Milton added. “What are we going to do?”

  Caleb started the car. “Well, I’m certainly not going to let them kill Oliver and Reuben while we just sit here with useless technology. Hold on!”

  Milton braced himself as Caleb hit the gas and the Malibu sprang forward.

  They squealed back onto the road, where Caleb floored it and took the turn toward Reinke’s house just barely on four wheels.

 
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