Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Retro Diary, Part IV

 This is a serial mystery thriller. Look for a new installment every Wednesday! Enjoy.   

Part III is here 

Part IV 


Chapter 13

Billy Mantoin’s Oasis


Billy Mantoin loved his Atherton estate. It took years to get gardens so lush and full. His expensive trees created a private oasis in a neighborhood that valued privacy. He loved the late summer smell of decomposing leaves. It turned his thoughts to the earthier and more elemental forces of nature. Billy turned to his guest and revealed a bitter heart as he spoke.
“Percy has made a huge mess of things. I appreciate the work he did with money liquidation. I salute him for punishing my former attorney. But I fear that he may have attracted government investigators who are capable of finding the rest of us!”
“We do not face much of an army, William. They are only two young FBI agents who are not yet out of their twenties.” Billy’s guest was an arms developer. He created the explosive bullet that almost killed Kevin Ap-Rhys.
“You are right. One of them is not expected to live. The other is missing, probably in hiding. Percival hid or disposed of his local contacts and his property holdings in Taylor County... they will never be connected to him.”
“Those two FBI agents are no threat to us and your bullets are untraceable. As long as you hold the secret, those bullets will only be available to a privileged few. Still, Percival still had my money. He must have hidden it somewhere and I want it.”
“I believe that you should leave it alone, Billy. Considering your wealth and the risk involved, it is not worth it! I simply cannot understand why Percy was so obsessed with that small town in the middle of nowhere.”
Taylor County offers rural isolation and access to a major American highway, the Interstate Highway Five freeway. He could either go anywhere from Taylor county or he could disappear simply by staying in place. You know how he loved to blend in wherever he went.”
“I still must take care of my friend, the Chief of Police. I helped him into that position so he could keep an eye on Percy. He did a lot of work for us when he was in New Jersey and thought that a rural town like Taylor City would be easy for him to manage. How wrong I turned out to be!

“You are right about the money, friend. I would say the Chief needs to disappear, but we have no word about him. He may be dead. I also suspect that Percy had other people helping him in Taylor City, but local people tend to take their money and stay quiet. After I am sure that the Police Chief is dead, I will have no further interest in Taylor City.
“The government will probably auction off Percy’s property for the taxes. By then, he will be a legend, a figment of the past. Any connection to us will be lost!”
“Let us drink to that, my friend!” Billy Mantoin felt better. He was assured that no young FBI agents would show up to pry into his affairs. He turned the discussion toward other business with the explosives designer.
 Billy Mantoin was dead wrong about the two young FBI agents. Years would pass before he would actually encounter them, but that did not make him any less wrong.

Chapter 14

This is Kevin’s Operation Now

The explosives removal component of Kevin's surgical team burst through the double doors with a huge pile of armor piled on a gurney. The surgeons, anesthesiologists and surgical nurses were now free of the bulky protective gear and could start preparing Kevin for an exhaustive surgery. The surgeons and crew were standing before a wall of computer screens, reviewing MRI, CAT, PET and x-ray results. They sent the images to Dr. Yap, who reviewed them and talked to himself. After a few minutes, he spoke to the others.
"It was a rifle bullet, eight inches in length.  Half of the bullet was embedded in Kevin’s body armor and the other half, about four inches, entered Kevin's body and cleanly punctured his scapula. The surgeons are cleaning the wound as best they can.
Actually he will recover to his current state of athleticism as long as infection and internal bleeding do not become threats.  He will have a large scar on his back.  
Here is the good news. I would actually call this an impalement, rather than a shooting. I have treated several impalement victims with much worse damage. Those patients recovered to the point where one was able to compete in the Olympics and the other returned to an active, full life."
"Thank you, Dr. Yap!" Don Padre's voice was husky and Franklin was weeping outright.
Dr. Yap looked at Franklin. "Let's get you into a bed, Franklin. You are about to collapse from exhaustion. These are orders from Cousin William, by the way, so you cannot argue with me."
"Who, exactly is this 'Cousin William'?" the Sheriff asked.
"Don't ask!" the other three yelled in unison.

Chapter 15

Honey Barton was a Real Piece of Work

Honey Barton was a real piece of work. She came from a family that gave meaning to the term "generational failure". After the clan abandoned the dust bowl crisis and arrived in California, those who were not arrested were run from town to  town. They eventually settled in Taylor County and thrived by begging for jobs and  housing. Over the years, the able bodied found jobs in agriculture, then county and federal government jobs. Half of the clan did well enough to own property and send their children to school. The other half of the Barton clan found out that stealing, grifting and living the low life were preferable to government jobs and clean living.
Half of the Barton clan were nasty, hard core racists and crooks, but Honey was born into the right half. Eventually, a natural juvenile rebellion made her more comfortable with the  wrong half, much to the dismay of her immediate family. She married a boy who went into the Air Force, but she could not fit in with the other upwardly mobile young girls who spent their days in base housing. Her husband sent her home and divorced her after she was caught shoplifting from the Base Exchange in Germany.
When this happens, the removal is swift and the deposed wife finds herself back "in the world" with absolutely no support from the military. Since they had no children and Honey was only married for a few months, she was on her own.
She discovered that she could make good money as a stripper, a job she called "exotic dancing". She had some special tricks that she learned from the German strippers and became a local star. When the university went into full operation, she attracted students and professors of all genders and made enough money to buy a house in a mid-range housing development called "Running horse".
One of her customers, a law professor, convinced her to go to college and she invested some of her money in a Bachelor's degree, then a year of law school. She could not give up her low life relatives, however, and involved herself in their illegal schemes from time to time. She kept her dealings quiet and rare enough to stay out of trouble and she bolstered her clean image by volunteering at the county hospital legal department. It was not long before she was able to exploit connections throughout the hospital. She discovered that if she stayed out of the underground drug and theft cultures, she could make use of her connections.
When her cousin, Larry told her that a rich European man hired him to manage some of his properties, she stepped in to help. Larry would not let her near his boss, telling her that he was actually afraid of the man. He did allow her to help with bookkeeping and with tax and legal matters, but he was like the CIA when it came to her seeing the man’s name or face. Honey suspected that Larry was using her to make himself look more educated than he really was, then that he did not want the man to fire him and hire her. But her cousin paid her well and would benefit her by moving up in life.
Honey believed that they might make a profitable career out of real estate management based on what they learned while working for the stranger. Most of all, she appreciated Larry's tight body and sexual skills. They were lovers on the sly and they dated others for show. The truth was that they were embarrassed about being third cousins, which was a perversion in the minds of the holy rollers.  
Larry told her on Friday morning that he had a big meeting with his boss and would see her later that night. He never showed up and she was scared to death. She knew that something was terribly wrong, but she also knew that she would be stupid to bring the sheriff into it. Larry had hinted that he had done some crooked work for the man in the past. Honey could not be associated with a criminal like that.
She was at home on Friday night when an emergency room nurse told her that a group of people were brought in, drugged and unconscious.
“To top that, girl, they brought in this FBI agent, the Chief of Police and a foreigner! They were killed at the big lumber yard on county road 32. They wouldn’t even let us see the bodies!”
"The foreigner had a woman and a man tied to some creosote wood and was getting ready to burn them! The sheriff got there just in time to save the woman but the man is dead! What the hell, Honey?"
"That's one of the properties that Larry cares for!" she said aloud after she feigned ignorance and ended the call. "Then where's Larry? The ‘foreign guy’ must be the boss, so where did Larry go? Did he kill Larry?"
Honey Barton knew what was going on. She was, after all, a real piece of work.
The head of Taylor County Hospital’s legal affairs division called her. "Can you come in here, Honey? We have a big mess going on and we need you to do research and other tasks." She agreed to come in before she could think about it. Once she thought about it, she realized that she could get all the information she needed. She might even be able to tap into her connections and find out what happened to Larry.
"This is the best place to be," she yelled to no on in particular while she was getting ready. Twenty minutes later, Honey Barton was drawn into a chaotic swarm of people and activity. There were issues of hospital security, hospital liability and jurisdictional disputes between the FBI, the County Coroner, the Sheriff and the interim Police Chief.
"The Chief isn’t dead?" she asked, shocked to hear the news.
"Yeah, he’s dead! He shot an FBI agent! He went crazy out at that lumber yard. Someone said he was working with the killer who tried to burn a couple of people... and tortured one to death. Otherwise, why would he go out there and interfere with a Sheriff's department operation? They say he took his car and crashed through the security fence to get at the FBI agent, but the SWAT team shot out his windshield. He used a rifle to shoot the agent with some kind of special bullet. The agent is in surgery and everyone in there has to wear body armor because the bullet might blow up!"
"Damn! What has been going on in this county tonight?"
"It gets worse. We have over 30 people who were gassed at Blue Lagoon. They were doing Karaoke when the suspect gassed everyone and kidnapped a woman... Barbara Bain. They think he’s the guy who kidnapped that little girl in Utah and tried to kill her. Looks like he killed a lot of people... a real serial killer he was!”
“Who was he?” Honey’s heart was beating so fast she thought she was going to pass out.”
“They thought it was Percival Windsor, the man the FBI agents were after, but it was one of your cousins!  Now he's in Taylor county, gassing up a bar and taking a poor woman to the lumber yard. He tied her to some creosote railroad ties and raped her repeatedly. He kidnapped another person, a white male, and skinned him alive. He poured gasoline over both of them and was going to finish them off by burning them."
"Oh my Gahh!" she yelled, thinking of Larry. "Who was the man who was... oh my Gahh... skinned alive?" She was having trouble breathing.
"He was some foreigner... an attorney from Belgium. The investigators found his passport and clothes at the scene. They'll probably find the rest of his things at one of the hotels in the area. They are also checking at that fancy new airport where the private jets come in.
Honey fled to a lounge to calm down. The tortured dead man was not Larry, but her cousin was a surprise.
"I need to go through his things and get keys to all of the properties Larry managed before anyone else finds out about them." Honey was practical, even when she was in shock.
"That has to be done in daylight, during business hours. Running around in the middle of the night will draw attention. I'll stay here and find out as much as I can, then I'll get some sleep and head out in the morning."
She worked until 2 AM when the word came that both of the FBI agents were dead and their bodies were immediately being transported to their home base. No one would tell her where that was. One of the big shot FBI agents looked at her very intensely when she asked. She could not remember his name because her head was spinning from the night's catalog of shocking surprises.
"Who was that older agent?" she said aloud when she was driving home. "He was good looking and I think he liked me. I'd like to see him again. He was looking at me. He likes me. Isn't his name Don something?"
Don Padre woke Franklin up at 4 AM. He had called in two more of his subordinates, but wanted to speak to Franklin alone.
"Franklin, I brought in Brendan O’Donnell...I’m sorry. I got rid of him.”
“Is that the Brendan O’Donnell who hangs with the Borsini...”
“Yes. He was all we could get on short notice. He’s in Utah now. I’ll kill him if he shows up in California again.
Here is what I want you to do, Franklin. There is a woman who works in the legal department of this hospital. Honey Barton. I want everything you can get on her without dealing with these locals, including the Sheriff. She has connections everywhere. The dead man from the lumber yard is here cousin and I want to know who she was dating or  sleeping with. I suspect that more than one of that Barton clan was, or is, working for Percival Windsor.”
Franklin said, “Yes sir. I need at least five on my team. I made some calls to the state and have five more from them. We are waiting for your other orders."
"I don't want anyone but you checking up on that woman.”
“Yes sir.”
 “Honey Barton will be your job while we take Kevin to San Francisco and wait for William to arrive. You will then come back here and work with the Sheriff. Have him take you for a look at his parent's ranch. The ATF believes that the dead gangsters who blew up on I-5 did business on that ranch on Friday night, and I am sure that the dead man in the morgue was involved. ATF doesn't care about the case because they did not find any weapons in the wreckage.
“Sir, It looks like Percival somehow ran a scam, planted explosives on the buyers and got away with a great amount of money. Honey Barton is connected to this somehow. If she goes after that money, she is in grave danger."
Don Padre then assembled the rest of his team and he said, "We are moving SA Ap-Rhys and SA Franklin out of here now. The word is that they are dead. If one of these locals or the press discovers the truth, I will hold every one of you responsible. We move out in twenty minutes. Kevin’s private physician commands the move. The rest of you...
Darnell, you contact Interpol and have them research the deceased lawyer’s activities during the past month. That is all. We will conference in four hours."
Kevin Ap-Rhys was admitted to UC Medical Center in San Francisco at 6 AM, just in time to open his eyes and gaze blindly at the fluorescent light that blasted the route to his intensive care room. He saw a green eyed beauty who stood with the other people who lined his route.

Chapter 16

Sir William Ap-Rhys

Sir William Ap-Rhys was an imposing figure of a man. At 6' 4", he loomed above most people, but his imposition did  not stop there. He had the distinctive gray eyes and honey blond hair that had passed through the generations of Cornwall who claimed King Arthur as an ancestor (whether he was a  myth or not).
Sir William had a restless flight from Tokyo where he had been meeting with powerful and scurrilous individuals. He was satisfied with the outcome of his meeting but was worried about exposure to nuclear radiation. He believed that the Japanese had been lying about the radiation since the Honshu earthquake and tsunami.
“They behave as if the whole thing will simply go away if they just keep lying about it all.” He told his staff.
The British consulate sent a quiet driver and a chatty young woman. He immediately ordered them to take him to UC Medical Center. They rode in a Bentley SUV, a car drew unfortunate levels of attention.
"Sir Kevin is resting well, sir. He developed an infection and has a slight fever, but the antibiotics appear to be working. He is expected to regain consciousness shortly after you arrive, so you will be able to have a chat with him. Dr. Yap feels that your presence will be the best thing for him.
William gazed out the window and said, "Thank you, Miss Carmichael. I will just ride now if you don't mind." He remained in a reflective mood for a few minutes, amazed that his young cousin had survived the impossible. Kevin was an incredible athlete and was no stranger to serious injuries. He thought about Kevin’s future and will to recover.
"This will kill him if we don't handle it properly. He is used to pushing his body to its limits and he is awfully self sufficient. I don't know how a long period of dependency on others will affect his psyche. One more thing. I must know how that tough hide of his stopped an eight inch long, armor piercing and explosive bullet!"
"Are you all right, sir?" Miss Carmichael asked.
"It seems that young Kevin has a tough road ahead of him. I am at a loss as to what to say to him."
"He is heavily sedated at this point, sir. He will sleep most of the time. Your presence and kindness will be enough. Isolation from family and home is the worst part of taking on such an injury. If you could confirm that he is in San Francisco and not in Taylor County, you will have done enough. His body chemistry is out of sync, so he probably will go through psychosis, confusion and gaps in his memory. This is nothing to be alarmed about and it usually resolves in a couple of days."
"Thank you for telling me about this. I will be fine now."
"We made arrangements for you to stay at the  embassy, sir. If you wish to stay at Sir Kevin's home, his second, Andrew has everything ready for you there."
"But doesn't Kevin live in some kind of warehouse?"
"Apparently, he has done wonders with the top floors, sir. Dr. Yap lives there and it is a rather large space."
"I will stay at Kevin's home, then. I will make arrangements for him to come home from the hospital, so I might as well get used to the place."
Forty minutes later, William was sitting in a guest chair that he pulled up close to Kevin's bed. Because of his back wound, Kevin was sleeping on his belly. It was a terrible position for him to be in. His entire upper body was swathed in bandages. His right arm was raised in the air. William gently lowered his arm to a more natural position. Kevin promptly returned it to the original angle.
"I did the same thing, William, and he moved it right back to that position. He gets comfort when he has his arm that way." Dr. Yap had come into the room. After hugs and inquiries into Franklin's and Georges well being, Dr. Yap and William took their seats. They spoke softly and waited for Kevin to open his eyes.
"He has a bit of an infection, I hear. Is this serious?"
"It's more common than serious, I'm afraid. Hospital infections are the most hazardous part of being in hospital these days. He is responding to the antibiotics and he will be fine. His first surgery went well... it was textbook for an impalement, in fact."
"Impalement? First surgery?"
"Yes! The bullet simply stabbed him in his back and punched a hole in his clavicle. The experts are examining the device and will have more answers in a day or two, but it appears to have been a custom made bullet. How the Taylor City Chief of Police got his hand on such a sophisticated device is beyond anyone's comprehension. He is dead, so there will be no information from him."
"You are calling it a device?"
"Yes. It had electronic and explosive components. This whole thing is inexplicable and presents more mysteries than answers. I will confine myself to treating my patient. We should all be glad that that thing did not go off inside him."
Kevin squirmed and wailed softly. His honey blond knaps and curls, cut short to FBI standards, were matted and damp. He opened his eyes and saw nothing but a light, gauzy haze. He blinked and the haze partially cleared to reveal the faces of Dr. Yap and his cousin William.
"Good morning, Kevin! You are at home, in UC Medical Center. You are in San Francisco. I'm going to check your eyes now..." After Dr. Yap completed his examination, William's face moved into view. Kevin smiled, but tears came to his eyes.
"Thank you for comin', Wills. Mess up, am I?"
"Not so badly, Little Mouse. Not so badly. You will come back from this, but it will take time. Dr. Yap said that the bullet stabbed you more than it shot you."
"I so muddle. I saw buhful green eye woman. I canna remember she was real or a dream. I knew her when she was a girl."
"It's the morphine, Little Mouse." William was glad that Mrs. Carmichael
had warned him about the muddled thinking. He wiped tears from his own eyes
           "Mariane? Da boys? Baby girl?" Kevin mumbled.
"They are all fine. Little Mary calls you 'Kemin Mouse' now."
"Ahh. Thas mah girl." Kevin smiled briefly before his eyes filled with tears.
"I’m a mess Wills," he moaned. "Can I do dis?"
"You can do this, Kevin. Dr. Yap has treated injuries like yours. One of his patients recovered and went on to the Olympics!"
"True? You not makin' these up?"
"No a not making this up."
A large nurse barged into the room and spoke in a surprisingly gentle tone. "He's going to be fine. Good afternoon, Kevin. Hello, Sir William. I'm nurse Lee and I will be taking care of him during the daytime. I have a liquid meal for him.” She looked at Kevin.
 “Don't worry, sweetheart. You will be able to sit up in a week so we can see that legendary appetite I keep hearing about." She smoothed Kevin's damp hair and put her face where he could see her.
"You are awfully grungy, sweetie, so you get the spa treatment. Don't let me interrupt your conversation, Sir William. It will be good if you can keep him awake for his meal."
Nurse Lee bustled out of the room and quickly returned with Dr. Yap, a large cart, and a tray with two drinking bottles on it.
"Here is your breakfast, Kevin! The warm one is potato leek soup and the cold one is a mango/pineapple/strawberry smoothie."
"Real?" Kevin muttered, his voice cracking. His throat was raw from the screaming and the surgery.
"Real, Kevin. Your friend, Franklin figured this out.
"Thang you. Thas good. Who’s that green eye woman, nurse? She a nurse here?"
"Green eye woman? Oh! Marcia. Marcia Landon. No, she is a graduate student at CAL. She volunteers with the Medical Evac unit. They show up anytime one of you comes in. They help with the social work. It doesn't matter if the patient is a VIP like you or a homeless person, she or one of the other team members will be here. You like her?"
"She pretty. I see her before. She play a violin... Thought she was a dream. I will get her."
            "Well, before you get your green eye girl, let's see if we can change these bandages before you dine on your gourmet meal.” Nurse Lee was impressed. "This young man knows his priorities, all right."
          Nurse Lee had  never been so wrong in her life. She had missed the true meaning of Kevin's garbled words.

To be continued....

Part V is here

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