Heroes, p.12
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       Heroes, p.12

           Leigh Barker
At nine thirty the next morning, after a restful night’s sleep, Ethan and Kelsey were back at the FBI lab, and Special Agent Dryer was as nice as pie, wishing them good morning and offering them coffee and doughnuts. What a nice guy.

  Ethan refused the doughnuts but took the coffee. Kelsey refused both, taking a bottle of mineral water instead. Coffee makes for bad breath. They followed Dryer past Lisa’s lab and into a cramped but expensively furnished office. Dryer’s office. Dryer sat in the ergo mesh seat, leaving Ethan and Kelsey to fight over the visitor’s chair, leather and elegant, but too big for the small office. Ethan sat on the corner of Dryer’s desk and watched him force a smile through gritted teeth.

  Kelsey got down to it before the situation got any worse. “Did your people find the bullets?”

  Of course they did.

  “Yes, our agents found two rounds very quickly,” Dryer said, a little smugly.

  “Having their location pointed out must have helped a little,” Ethan added, just to rattle his chain. He let it go at that. For now. Dryer was about to speak, but Ethan cut in. “Nine mil with a tempered steel core.” He saw Dryer’s look of surprise. “7N21 armour-piercing round. Probably from a Russian MP-443 Grach.”

  “Impressive,” said Kelsey. “But how do you know?”

  “He doesn’t,” said Dryer sourly. “He’s just guessing.”

  Ethan shrugged. “The Grach Rook is the standard issue for the Russian military and law enforcement agencies, so you can pick one up for a bottle of vodka and a dollar.”

  “Still doesn’t make it our murder weapon,” said Dryer.

  “Maybe not,” said Ethan, finally getting off Dryer’s desk. “But it makes it a contender and gets my vote.”

  “There are other handguns that use the 7N21 round,” said Dryer.

  “Yes,” said Ethan, “the Russian GSh-18.” He waited for Dryer to make some smart comment.

  “You can’t get one of those in the US,” Dryer said with a slow shake of his head. “There’s a BATF trade ban on their import.”

  “Oh, that’s okay, then,” said Ethan. “We can discount them, because they’re illegal.” He leaned on the back of Kelsey’s chair and smiled nicely. “The point is,” he said when Dryer had squirmed enough. “We have two dead generals. General Harper was shot by a couple of kids with a junk thirty-eight, and General Davy was executed by an expensive automatic firing armour-piercing ammo.” He waited for some input.

  “It could just be a coincidence,” said Dryer. “It doesn’t make sense that these two killings are linked.”

  “Hell of a coincidence,” said Kelsey. “Two generals shot to death in the space of a week.” She shook her head. “No, I agree with Ethan. Somebody is hiring gang-bangers to muddy up our investigation.”

  Dryer tapped his fingers on his desktop as he thought it through. “Then, if you’re correct, and I’m not saying I agree with your conclusions, but if you are, then it has to be Naser Alzesh and Mahmoud Faraj hiring these shooters to do their dirty work.”

  “Not likely,” said Ethan. He caught Dryer’s puzzled look. “These boys do their own killing. They like it. Getting some idiots to do the fun part isn’t their M.O.”

  “Then you’re saying it is a coincidence?” said Dryer.

  “What I’m saying is right now I don’t know what the hell is going on,” said Ethan.

  “Then,” said Dryer, “we finally agree on something.”

  Before Ethan could work out if that was a crack or not, Dryer stood and looked past him through the glass door. “Ah, I believe you’ve already met one of our senior analysts.”

  Ethan turned as the door opened. “Teddy!” he said, stepped forward and put out his hand.

  The man smiled broadly and shook the offered hand. “Ethan, I thought you were dead.”

  Ethan chuckled. “I’ve come close a few times, but nobody has won the cuddly bunny.”

  “Yes, I heard about the drive-by in Chicago. It was that close?”

  “Didn’t need to shave that day,” said Ethan. “And it wasn’t a drive-by.” He let it go at that and looked down at Kelsey. “You won’t believe that this crinkly old guy served with me in Iraq. Teddy was the best intelligence analyst in the corps. Or so he said.”

  “That much is true,” said Dryer. “It’s why he now works for the FBI.”

  “Keeps him out of trouble,” said Ethan. “And that was something I never managed to do. Him nor his boy.” His smile faded.

  “Your son is a marine too?” Kelsey asked, surprised.

  “Yeah, he was the best,” said Teddy. “Served with Master Sergeant Gill here in Special Ops.”

  “Wow!” said Kelsey. “Two generations ruined by one man.”

  Nobody smiled, which was a surprise. She got it. “I’m sorry.”

  “Don’t be,” said Teddy. “He died protecting the country he loved. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

  “He was a great marine,” said Ethan. “And a better human being than I’ll ever be. He saved us all that day.” He put his hand on Teddy’s shoulder. “I think about him every single day.”

  “Hey, lighten up,” said Teddy. “He’s up there laughing at us being all sorry and stupid.”

  “I stopped in at Arlington to pay my respects,” said Ethan. “Everything was shipshape, just like Eli liked it.”

  “Hey, I think you’ve mixed him up with somebody else,” Teddy said with a real grin. “Eli was a train wreck kept in shape by the marines. Nobody could accuse him of being tidy when he didn’t have to be.”

  Ethan laughed. “Copy that.”

  “If we’re done here,” said Dryer, “I have a pile of paperwork to fill in on this case. Unless you’d like to stay and help?”

  It was a textbook example of an orderly retreat, and the three of them exited the small office in perfect formation.

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