Deadly justice, p.26
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       Deadly Justice, p.26

           Darrell Case
 
Allison ducked under the yellow plastic tape. CSI had finished and the coroner was removing Dickerson’s body. A large puddle of blood soaked the ground and stained the grass. Allison reached down a tentative hand and touched a blood covered blade of grass. Holding up her fingers before her face, she rubbed them together.

  The thought struck her. A man died here. A human being, a husband, a father, a neighbor, a friend. Someone's little boy grown to a man. Dead.

  “Where is he now? Where did that come from?” She wasn't aware she had spoken out loud until Derrick said “Huh?”

  “Sorry, just talking to myself.” Derrick nodded.

  “Allison, this was a professional hit.” He said, looking at the scorched area surrounding the blast site. “As soon as he lifted the ball, the weight shifted inside it. The explosion was meant for Dickerson and no one else.”

  “Yeah, Clayborn could have been standing next to him and it wouldn't have messed up his hair,” Alison said as she got to her feet.

  “I think we have to look at this differently than as just a revenge killing.” Derrick said, “Whoever did this kills people for a living.”

  Allison stood thinking, her eyes sweeping over the lush green expanse. “Let's go to his office and see what we can find. By the way did you see that phone guy?”

  “Yeah. Didn't seem suspicious but we'll check to see if these folks were having problems with their phone or internet.”

  Back at the SUV, he got into the passenger side. Not unusual for him. “You drive. I need to think,” he said pulling out his notebook. “I can't concentrate in traffic.”

  Allison slid behind the wheel.

  Many times Allison had remarked that Derrick's brilliant mind was wasted as a field agent. She was just as convinced that their superiors felt threatened by his ability to solve cases and quickly. He was quiet for the next few miles as they drove along 1-465. He would close his eyes, then open them and write in the notebook, then close them again.

  “Mrs. Roe believes her son’s murder is part of a nationwide conspiracy,” as Allison accelerated into the passing lane.

  “Well, it’s finally happened,” Allison, said smiling.

  “What?” Derrick straightened up in his seat.

  “The brilliant mind of Derrick Strong has snapped.” Allison laughed. “Show me a mother who thinks her son's not a saint after he's dead.”

  “Card in Texas started this case didn't he?”

  “Yes, so?”

  “He was killed surrounded by cops. Van Rudolf in Chicago, handcuffed and on his way to prison. Roe and then Brimmer in Michigan City yesterday,” Derrick said tapping the notebook with his pen. “There may be others we're not aware of.”

  “Wait a minute. You're not saying Captain Idiot is part of a conspiracy?”

  “No, Brimmer was murdered to keep him quiet.”

  “You'll get no argument from me there,” Allison said, keeping her eyes on the road. “I think the captain or one of his men killed Roe.”

  “Let's go see what Dickerson was working on when he was murdered,” Derrick said, slipping the notebook into the inner pocket of his jacket.

  The federal prosecutor's office was in chaos. Assistant prosecutors, paralegals and secretaries rushed from room to room , nearly colliding in the hallway. Some kept quiet, others whispered to each other, their faces tight with anxiety. Allison and Derrick stepped into Dickerson's reception area. Dickerson's secretary sat on a beige davenport shaking with big hulking sobs as though a family member had died.

  Derrick and Allison simultaneously held up their badges.

  “Agents Strong and Stevens, ma’am. We’re sorry for your loss. Can you think of anyone who would want to kill your boss?” Derrick asked uncomfortably. He disliked having to question crying women. “Maybe a case he prosecuted.”

  “No,” she sobbed. "He was the kindest, gentlest man I ever met.”

  “Sorry but that’s not what we heard from the state police,” Allison interjected. “They said he could be hard and demanding.” She raised her eyebrows slightly and fixed her face in a quizzical expression as she waited for the woman to react. The secretary stopped in mid sob, her lips became a rigid line. She looked at Allison with something more than sadness. Her voice was suddenly steady. “Those hypocrites gave him a rough time, always demanding he cover their mistakes.”

  “Perhaps if we could have a look at his office.”

  The secretary buried her face in a lace hankie and gestured toward the door of Dickerson's office.

  For the next two hours Allison and Derrick examined Dickerson's files, computer, datebook and bookshelves, mail- every inch of his office. “I'm stumped,” she finally admitted. “Plenty of possible suspects but no leads.”

  “Yeah,” Derrick agreed. “Well, he let his associates try the cases. If they lost he’d distance himself from the case. But if the trial was going their way, if he thought he was going get a conviction he’d come in for the closing arguments.”

  “Yeah, a real sweetheart of a guy.” Allison dropped Dickerson's Planner back into the bottom desk drawer. It landed with a hollow thump. She removed everything from the drawer for the second time. “Give me your pocket knife Derrick.”

  “What have you got?” He asked, handing over his Barlow. Sliding the blade into the outer edge of the thin wood lining, Allison pulled it up to reveal a false bottom containing a small leather bound notebook. Allison scanned the pages. A series of numbers and letters filled each one.

  “It's in code,” she said, disappointed. She ran her fingers over the rest of the drawers, pulling each one open and knocking on the bottoms.

  “Nothing. Guess we’ll have to break the code on our own,” Allison said. She handed the book to Derrick. “That may take a while,” he said, flipping through the pages. Allison replaced the false bottom and carefully put everything back just as she found it.

  As Derrick handed the book back to Allison there was a noise at the door. She slipped the book into her blouse.

  Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Mark Rice stepped in. “Find anything?” he asked, his eyes penetrating both agents. He was an agency man all the way. He and Steel were long - time friends.

  “Nothing out of the ordinary,” Allison said, glancing at Derrick.

  “It doesn't look like it was anything he was working on,” Derrick said.

  “We'll if you find anything, anything at all, let me know,” he said leaving the room.

  Back in the SUV, Derrick said “What was that all about?”

  “It sounds crazy, because I don’t really know the guy, but I don't trust him,” Allison said, resting her hands on the steering wheel.

  “oh, now, be reasonable Allison,” Derrick said, "He has more time in the field than you and me put together."

  “You felt it too,” Alison, said, looking at him intently. “You backed me up without hesitation.”

  “Only because I’ve fallen under the influence of your womanly wiles,” Derrick said, grinning.

  “Stop it.” Allison smiled at him. She inserted the key, and started the engine.

  Pulling onto the busy street, Allison and Derrick didn't notice the Ford Taurus following them. The Shadow fingered Allison's hideaway gun. “Never leave your spare in the vehicle,” he said, chuckling. “Like taking candy from a baby.” It had been simple for him to obtain the access code to the rental vehicle, and then find the gun Velcroed underneath the dash.

  At the hotel he became a maid, in a uniform identical to those worn by the housekeeping staff. It was imperative that on this assignment he not be seen or take another's life. The coded t
ext message on the throw- away phone had been clear. They were getting too close. Too close. Tonight an FBI agent would die.

  From a distance, he appeared to be an overweight, homely maid with bad hair. Up close, the real picture was chilling. The first and sometimes the last thing people noticed was his eyes-cold as steel without a spark of life. In Allison's room, he removed the bottle of aspirin from her suitcase.

  He knew her habits. Returning from target practice, she would take two aspirin and lie down for an hour. He replaced the pills with uppers. “Not tonight, my dear,” the man said to himself. “Any sleeping you do after tonight will be in a jail cell.” After checking the hallway, he slipped out of the room.

  At Derrick's door, he paused to listen. The sound of the shower whispered through the door. Derrick had begged off Allison's invitation to join her in the dining room, opting for a shower, a quick nap and room service. A telegram from western union lay unopened on the bedside table.

  Steel.

  He was to be in Derrick's room before six. He waited in a vacant room. Through the peephole, he watched Alison walk to the elevator. She seemed a little unsteady on her feet.

  Wearing surgical gloves, he screwed the sound suppresser onto the muzzle of her hideaway pistol. Cautiously opening the door to Strong's room he stepped in. After a quick check of the hallway he closed it. He could hear the shower still running.

  A telegram lay unopened on the bedside table. The man grinned. Steel was right on time. the telegram was to arrive at five. He knew what it said.

  `Suspect is Allison Stevens. Detain for questioning.’

 

  Allison was eating alone. That wasn't unusual. Derrick rarely dined with her, though she always asked him so she would use the time to go over a case file.

  Taking a bite of baked potato, she studied her notebook. The words swam before her eyes. She tried to focus but her eyes refused to cooperate.

  “'I'm more tired than I thought,” she said to herself.

  It didn't make sense. Even if she believed, there was a network of operatives why take out a federal prosecutor? Was there something in his background the FBI hadn’t been aware of? Surely not. By the time, the FBI finished their background check they would know how many times a day he visited the bathroom.

  No, it had to be something else, maybe some recent incident in his personal life. Tomorrow they would interview Judge Clayborn.

  There had to be something more to explain her overwrought reaction to her boss's death. The tears were real, but Allison didn’t think they were those of a distraught lover. Yet her instincts told her Dickerson's secretary was more than just a loyal employee and friend. She saw panic in the woman's eyes. Could she be in fear for her own life?

  She and Derrick were scheduled to interview the wife later tonight. Hopefully they would gain some insight into Dickerson’s personal life.

  Alison's phone buzzed. She looked at the display. Steel. The last person she wanted to speak to now was Tony Steel.

  Reluctantly she hit the button and brought the phone to her ear. “Stevens,” she said with exaggerated formality.

  Skipping the niceties Steel said. “What's this I hear about you concealing evidence in the Fitzgerald investigation?”

  “Good evening to you too,” Alison thought.

  “Well?” Steel always took an agent’s or suspect's hesitation as an admission of guilt. And he was recording the conversation.

  Alison feigned innocence. “All the evidence we have recovered so far is well documented, sir.”

  “That's not my understanding. The report I received said something went missing from the inventory of the prosecutor's office.”

  “Nothing's missing. Every item is well documented.” It was a lie and not a good one. Alison's ethics dictated that she always be honest except during an interrogation.

  “If I find you’re hiding anything and I mean anything. I will terminate you myself.”

  “We are to meet with his widow tonight. I will email you my report. You'll have it by morning.”

  “Watch it, Stevens, you’re on shaky ground. That report better be complete.” He hung up.

 

  Chapter 18

 
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