14. Investigation

Detective Carter was working her way through a mountain of paperwork – her least favorite part of the job – when a uniformed officer stopped by her desk.

“You’re Carter, right? The one looking for a Mystery Man in a suit?”

“Yeah, that’s right. What? You got a lead on him?”

“Maybe. We got a tip last night about an armed robbery gone bad – some witness called it in from a pay phone – and went to pick up this kid. He tried to rob three suits and ended up getting his ass kicked instead. We just brought him back from the hospital after he got patched up for a dislocated knee and a broken elbow. Anyway, kid says one of the suits done it to him, and told him he would’a shot him dead if he hadn’t left the safety on. Told him to find some other line of work, too, if he didn’t wanna end up a piece of garbage on the street.”

“Did he say anything else about the guy?”

“You can ask him yourself if you want. He’s downstairs – we’re waiting to see if his gun matches any previous crimes.”

Carter made her way down to the interrogation room and sat down across the table from a young black boy, still probably a teenager, who was trying hard to look tough with his arm in a sling and his leg in a big brace.

“I’m Detective Carter. You said a man in a suit did this to you?”

“Yeah. He moved like lightning, man – he had, like, crazy ninja skills,” the kid mumbled.

“What did he look like?”

“Tall. White guy. Maybe forty? I dunno… I just thought they looked like easy marks, y’know? They were all wearin’ suits, so I figured they’d have some serious coin. Didn’t expect him to be, like, all Kung Fu master… ‘Specially since he was hangin’ all over this other guy like some man-whore.”

“‘Man-whore’?” Carter echoed, her voice going up with incredulity. “The tall guy?”

“Yeah! He was actin’ all faggy ‘n’ shit, then he just grabbed me and broke me bad. He preached at me an’ tol’ me to wait for the cops. Next thing I know, he’s leavin’ with his john, all arm-in-arm and gay as hell.”

“This other guy, did you get a good look at him?”

“I dunno, just some old white guy. Not as old as the other guy, though – the third one, he had white hair, so he had to be, like, real old. But he looked loaded, and the john looked loaded, too. He was wearin’ one of them fancy suits with a… a vest underneath.”

“You mean a three-piece suit?” Carter confirmed, taking notes.

“Yeah, one o’ those!”

“What else do you remember? Any jewelry, tattoos…”

“Nah, I didn’t see nuthin’ like that. They didn’t look the type for tattoos, y’know? But they were wearing watches – expensive-lookin’ ones. Oh, and the john, he was wearing these geeky glasses. Black plastic frames, y’know? Like all them computer geeks wear.”

Carter scribbled furiously as she nodded and encouraged him to go on. “What else? Did you hear them call each other by name?”

The boy thought for a moment, squinting as though it would help him remember. “Oh, yeah! I think so… The big guy, he called his john… Gerald? No, wait… Harold! Yeah, that’s what he said, when I first walked up to ’em. He was all cool-as-shit, and said, like, ‘Oh, Harold, I think this young man is going to commit a felony!’ Then he told me to take his cash but leave his cards, ‘cuz he didn’t want to mess with changin’ those. I figured I’d just swipe the dough and get their watches, but he grabbed me as soon as I reached for the cash.”

One of Carter’s eyebrows had shot up involuntarily when the boy quoted Reese, since he had raised his voice to mimic the man’s distinctive speech. That’s my guy, she thought, gritting her teeth.

“You did real good,” she told the boy. “I’ll tell the other cops that you cooperated, all right? This guy that banged you up, he’s a real badass – a dangerous man, you understand? He’s ex-military, I know that, but he’s gone rogue or something. He’ll just as soon shoot people as look at them, so you’re lucky to be alive. I need to find him and get him off the street. If you remember anything else about him or the guys he was with, I want you to give me a call, okay?”

She gave him her card and he took it, nodding.

“Say, uh… can I call my mom? She’ll be gettin’ off her shift pretty soon, and she’ll be worried if I’m not home…”

Carter sighed, gave the boy a short lecture on not breaking his momma’s heart, then left the precinct to see the scene of the crime (or attempted crime) for herself.

Reese found it somewhat disconcerting to have Russwood following his every move as he swept the house for bugs and cameras, but he knew the man was just trying to learn how to protect himself and his family, so he did his best to give him pointers.

“These flower arrangements – are they done here by your house staff or brought in from a florist?” Reese asked, picking up a vase of lilies and inspecting the glass pebbles in the bottom.

“I don’t know – my wife handles that sort of thing,” Russwood admitted.

“If they’re brought in as arrangements, it’s possible for someone to place a camera in these,” Reese said, pointing to the pebbles. “Thankfully these are all clear, so I can see that there isn’t a device inside, but if they were opaque or even colored, I’d have to look them over one by one.”

“Would a camera work, submerged in water like that?” the older man asked in surprise.

“Oh, sure! Not a microphone, of course, but a camera would work just fine – the glass would camouflage the lens and make it the perfect hiding place.”

As they slowly moved through each room, Russwood was impressed with the attention Reese paid to every detail. He ran his fingers over the frame of a mirror to check that none of its rococo filigrees were grafted on, checked each stud around the bases of a pair of candle sconces, and peered into the unused keyholes of the entertainment center cabinet with a penlight.

It wasn’t until they arrived in the study – the place where Russwood said he felt the most uneasy – that Reese actually found something. It was a small jade ornament carved into a stylized lion, set up on the mantelpiece.

“Was this a gift?” Reese asked, peering into the open mouth.

“Yes, as a matter of fact. It was given to us by an old friend on our twenty-fifth anniversary. Charles had built factories in China before it was a common thing to do, and used to bring back some choice pieces of jade.”

Reese picked it up carefully and weighed it in his hand.

“I’m sorry, but it seems your friend’s gift has been replaced with a fake. Feel how light this is – it’s a heavy resin replica – plastic – with a little lens here. The color’s been simulated by marbling the lighter colors, then painting the darker shades over them. Someone went to a great deal of trouble to make this.”

In utter shock, Russwood examined the piece and had to agree with Reese.

“The camera was trained at my desk, wasn’t it?” he asked grimly.

“Yes. Which makes me wonder…” Reese looked over the desk and picked up the cigar box, then tapped across the lid with his finger.

Tap tap… tap tap… tup tup… tap tap…

“What the—?”

“May I?” Reese asked, pulling out a pocketknife.

“By all means!”

Tapping the lid again to ascertain where the hollow sound was coming from, Reese proceeded to cut into the wood and peel off the thin veneer, revealing a narrow chamber beneath the surface. He pulled out a black strip of wire with a thicker barrel at one end, but no bigger overall than a matchstick, and set it gently on the desk.

“Well, hello,” he whispered at it.

“Is that… what I think it is?”

“Yes. I think I’ll call Harold now.” But first Reese rolled the device until he found some marks on it and took a picture with his cell phone. Sending it to Finch’s e-mail, he called the library’s phantom landline.

“There you are, Mr. Reese.”

“Hi, Harold. Guess what I found?”

“A microphone, just as we’d expected. Where was it?”

“In the cigar case. I also found a camera in a fake jade lion, but that may be harder to extricate.”

“I’m sure you’ll find a way. How is our client holding up?”

“Shocked, but vindicated,” Reese replied, exchanging glances with Russwood.

“Well, I’ll get working on this serial number now, but I’m afraid there hasn’t been much movement in the son-in-law’s bank account – unless he has a hidden account offshore, which I haven’t ruled out yet. Any other leads?”

“None that have sufficient motive to go to all this trouble. But I’ll keep looking.”

“All right. I’ll call you if I can trace who purchased this mic.”

“I’m sure you will. Oh, and Harold?”

“Yes, John?”

“If I ever get seriously maimed on the job, could I convalesce in the Hamptons? Somewhere with a view of the ocean?”

There was only a slight pause before Finch answered, “Of course. I’ll add that clause to your benefits package.”

Russwood took Reese to his workshop in the basement, where he said he “tinkered” now that he was retired, and assisted him in cutting apart the fake jade statue. It was a tricky operation since they wanted to keep the camera equipment intact as much as possible, but in the end they were able to remove it with only a slight nick in the lens casing. After sending photos of the serial number to Finch, Reese resumed his sweep of the house.

He took extra care in the nursery, beaming his penlight into the eyes of each stuffed animal and doll, while Russwood struggled against his rising panic at the thought that his granddaughter might be in danger.

“Are there any toys that she especially likes? Maybe ones that her father gave her?” Reese asked.

“There are a couple of stuffies that she absolutely loves. Janet would have taken them with her so she wouldn’t fuss. I don’t know if any of them came from Evan…”

“I’ll need to see those,” Reese said, turning to inspect the light fixtures and furniture.

“Of course,” Russwood agreed, “but why don’t we have lunch first? I told Elizabeth to take our girls and the Havers out to our favorite restaurant – if we hurry we might even meet them there.”

Luckily, they did, and the restaurant was able to seat them at a table next to the others. After being introduced to Janet, Reese crouched down to Isabella’s eye level and immediately got his nose grabbed by the little toddler. Seeing him grin at her baby set Janet’s mind somewhat at ease, for she had spent a restless night wondering about what was happening at her parents’ home, but learning that Reese had actually found those devices did not help anybody’s digestion. However, Russwood assured his wife and daughter that if any devices were still hidden, John would find them.

“I would never even have thought to look in some of those places,” he said, shaking his head.

“That’s because cameras – especially with transmitters – used to take up more space,” Reese put in. “Now they’re so small that they can escape detection very easily.”

“But you still managed to find them,” Russwood pointed out.

Reese leaned back as the waitress brought out his clam chowder. “Actually, I just look around the room and think, ‘If I were a bad guy, where would I put it?’ I don’t know what it says about my character that nine times out of ten, I find I’ve chosen where the real bad guy put it…”

Everyone chuckled at Reese’s wry smile.

“Why did you go first for the cigar box, though?” Russwood wanted to know. “Out of all the things on my desk, you zeroed in on that at once.”

“That’s simple – most people have a favorite brand, so all the culprit had to know was what brand and how big of a box you usually order, then get the same kind. It would be hard to tell the difference between two boxes from the same company, and a cigar box is small enough to carry, even hidden under a jacket. Everything else on your desk is too personal to switch with a replica – you would have noticed right away. The jade lion, though, was situated far enough away that you didn’t notice the forgery, plus it had a convenient open mouth for the lens.”

The others had already finished their dessert by the time Reese and Russwood’s entrees were brought out, but they lingered over their coffee to keep them company. Only Reese noticed the man sitting in a corner booth, pretending to read a newspaper but watching their every move from behind his tinted glasses.


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