by John Nation
One of the richest men in the world declares war on Sheriff Johnson and the Pack.
|Stan Chitwood arrived at the restaurant half an hour before scheduled and waited for his meeting with Miranda. He ordered breakfast and kept his eyes on the front door where she should enter. Every few seconds he glanced all around him, looking for any movement. He watched the swinging door between the dining area and the kitchen and scanned the emergency exits. He even kept an eye on the doors to the restrooms, men's and women's, in case they were hiding in one of them. He would return his stare to the front door, seldom even blinking as he watched.
He jumped in surprise when Miranda said, 'Good morning, Stan. I hope you are well.' She and Sara pulled out their chairs and sat with him.
'How in hell do you do that?' Stan asked. 'I swear you have to be a ghost. I kept guard all around me, waiting for you and never had a clue you were here until you spoke.'
'Trade secret,' Miranda said. 'What did you find out about Montgomery?'
Stan opened his briefcase and removed a folder he handed to Miranda.
'His full name is Lyle Standish Montgomery. He is second generation American. His parents came over from England in 1957. Born in 1971 in New York City, he considers himself an aristocrat. While he may have ideas of nobility, his bank account kept him among the commoners. He overcame that problem with a series of art thefts. He belongs to several elite male only clubs. He has been married for twenty-two years, but he and his wife are seldom together.
'As of four o'clock this morning, he was staying at the Belmont, room 802. There is a high class hooker with him, helping him make it through the night. I have a man on him, and if he goes anywhere, we will know it.'
As he spoke, Miranda looked through the pictures Stan and his team had taken. To her, Lyle Standish Montgomery looked arrogant.
'He is known as a go to person to get things done,' Stan stated as he continued his briefing. 'The types of things he gets done are things a person cannot get done legally in a court of law. If there is a painting or some other artifact a person has and does not wish to sell and Lyle cannot steal it, he arranges a series of ever more serious accidents until the person agrees to meet the bidder's price.'
Miranda said, 'I have a parcel of land he has been pestering me to sell. After a couple of times of refusing him, the shop on it burned down. Last night, one of our planes was tampered with.'
'That sounds like his MO.'
'Do you know who hired him?'
'I cannot be positive yet, the investigation is only getting underway. I do have a partial list of clients that have hired him in the past. I must stress that the list is incomplete, and just because there is a name on the list, it does not necessarily mean that is the person paying his fee this time. I tried to tap his phone, but he has sophisticated equipment that will tell him if anyone is listening in. I hope that in another twenty-four hours I can give you greater details about him. Oh, by the way, his favorite food is grilled red snapper and he wears size eleven shoes.'
'You are doing good, Stan. Keep up the same standard.'
Stan handed Miranda a paper with half a dozen names on it. The name next to the bottom of the list caught Miranda's attention at once.
'What do you know about Samuel Robinson?' she asked.
'Not a lot. Only that he is as rich as they come. Even you are a pauper compared to him. There cannot be more than two or three people in the entire world with more money than him, and all of them are oil sheikhs.'
'His name came up last night in another matter. I find that odd.'
'It could be a coincidence but I have a hard time believing in those. I find that a coincidence is generally an arranged thing.'
'I agree. If it is not too much bother, look into Robinson for me.'
'No bother at all. After all, you are footing the bill.'
Miranda smiled at him and then she and Sara ordered breakfast.
'What the hell do you mean they are not dead?' Lyle Montgomery asked. 'You assured me the plane would crash.'
'It did crash,' Chase Schmidt, the head mechanic that worked on Sara's plane stated. 'Once the jet took off, the doors were rigged not to open and I even sabotaged the parachutes. They must have angels watching over them.'
'Not a dollar, not a cent, until the job is finished. You were paid to kill them. If you want the remainder of your fee, do what I hired you to do.'
'No, I was not paid to kill them, I was paid to make the jet crash. It did crash. It even exploded on impact. They had no functional parachutes and the door was jammed. I did all you wanted and more.'
'It was understood that the result of the crash would be their death. They are still alive.'
'That was not my understanding.'
'Then you are a fool.'
'I gotta have something to show my guys. They went out on a limb to do this. If they don't get their money, after they finish with me, they'll come looking for you. You'll never be able to get on a plane for the rest of your life without wondering if it will land safely.'
'I'll take my chances. You tell your inept crew that they have forty-eight hours to complete the assignment. If they fail again, they will be the one's wondering if they will see another day. Within a week, they will not. Are we clear?'
Chase was prepared to continue the debate, but a look into Montgomery's eyes convinced him this was a time where a front on attack would not work.
'Hell, I'll get the guys and we will get it taken care of.'
'Forty-eight hours. Not a single minute longer.'
Chase stood and left the room, mumbling softly to himself.
Montgomery remained seated a little longer. He did not have faith in the mechanic's ability to do the task. If he wanted to be sure, it would be necessary to add a few more people to the assignment. He waited until he knew Chase had time to be out of the hotel and then moved from his room to his car. Once on the streets, he was constantly on the watch for any vehicle that might be following him. Every thirty seconds, he looked in his rearview mirrors and observed the cars moving next to him. If he saw any one particular vehicle for too long, he would turn down a random street. So far each time he did, the car in question passed him by. Once it was out of sight, he circled back to resume his trip.
This is one sharp cookie, Stan Chitwood thought. Stan and his two teammates were on Montgomery's tail. After a couple of miles of following behind him, Stan would turn away and one of his teammates would move up to take his place. Then Stan would race ahead to return to the path ahead of Montgomery. He would slow down and allow Montgomery to pass him. His team was in constant communication, letting each other know the direction and rate of speed their target was going. When occasionally Montgomery turned onto a side street, the car tailing him kept going straight. The third car far enough back that Montgomery could not have seen it turned down the street in case that was his new route. After a minute, Montgomery returned to the main road to continue his journey.
After doing that twice, Chitwood and his teammates realized what he was up to.
'Okay,' Stan said into his phone. 'He is going somewhere he does not want us to know. Play it cool. Fall back a little further, but do not let him get out of sight.'
It did not take long until they left the center of Houston and moved to the outer edge of the city. Gang writing covered almost every stationary object in sight. It was another seven miles before Montgomery stopped at a convenience store. Over a dozen gang members stood around the parking lot. When Montgomery left his car and started to go inside, several of the gang members moved for him, but stopped when one of them waved them off.
Undisturbed, Montgomery entered the store.
'Well, if it's not my favorite gringo, coming to pay a visit. This better be good dude. Waste my time and we waste you,' the leader of the gang stated.
'Does a hundred fifty thousand sound good, Roberto? Seventy-five up front and the remainder on completion of the task, with a bonus for speed work.' Montgomery reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an envelope. It was bulging.
Roberto took the envelope and stepped behind the counter. The cashier leaped to get out of his way. He ripped it open and grinned as the hundred dollar bills fell to the countertop. 'What is this task you would have us do?'
Montgomery pulled out a second envelop. This one was thin. He opened it and removed a single picture of Miranda. 'Her name is Miranda Skinner. I need her dead. Time is of the essence. If you can do it within twenty-four hours. I will add an additional fifty thousand to the bounty. If it takes you forty-eight hours, I reduce it to twenty-five thousand. Take longer than that and I will find another group to handle the problem.'
Roberto studied the picture for several seconds before asking, 'Is she a movie star?'
'No, only a business rival. I do not want her competition.'
'Dude, I'm going to have a little party with her before she dies. Any problem with that?'
'You and your associates have all the fun you want, but I do not want her around when the partying is over. In addition, she may have a redheaded woman with her. I do not care about her. Do with her as you please, but I would suggest there be no witnesses.'
'Don't tell me how to handle business, I know what has to be done.' Roberto turned back to the picture. 'Where can I find this raven haired goddess?'
Montgomery gave him the name of the hotel she was in.
'Tell her goodbye, Gringo. After today you will never see her again.'