Authors: Simon Gould
All of a sudden, Conway’s feeling of superiority gave way to one of uncertainty, as the mug shots of Reno and Silverman appeared on the screen. He listened intently as the newscaster spoke.
‘And this just in from our man on the scene’, the anchor announced. ‘The police have identified these men, Leon Reno and Brett Silverman as the individuals responsible for this afternoon’s shootings. It’s believed that Reno was the shooter and Silverman the getaway driver. Both men were killed when their getaway vehicle collided with an oncoming Hummer, the driver of which escaped with only minor cuts and bruises’.
Conway almost dropped his cigar and knocked over his cognac in surprise. What the fuck had happened down there? Were they really both dead?
‘An unofficial police source’, the anchor went on, ‘has told us that they believe the shootings of McCrane and Burr this afternoon to be a hit of some sort. That Reno and Silverman were ‘guns for hire’, if you will. As yet, there has been no official word from Captain Neil Williams, but he is expected to hold a formal press conference within the hour. We’ll bring you more of this story as we have it, right here, on Farrington News’.
He stared open mouthed at the screen, his mind racing at a thousand miles an hour. Was that just guesswork about Reno and Silverman being hired by somebody? How could they know? Had one of them told somebody before the hit? What about after? Maybe one of them spluttered it to an onlooker as they died? Was there anything in their squat that could link him to them? So many questions that all came back with the same answer; it didn’t really matter.
He picked up his cell again, and thought for a moment. Who would be the best person to call? Who owed him big time? Reno and Silverman weren’t the only criminals he had in his back pocket. Deciding finally on Sam Bower, a small time hustler who worked the streets of LA scamming and conning, one quick phone call added arson onto Bower’s list of specialities. Conway gave him the address of Reno and Silverman’s squat and instructed Bower to leave nothing standing.
Even if Reno or Silverman had given somebody the information that he was behind the hit on McCrane and Burr, there was nothing to tie him to either of them if Bower did what he had been told to do. Apart from his cell! How could he have nearly forgotten that? He had a spare SIM card with all his numbers stored safely in his lock up at Korea Town, so he could retrieve any numbers that he didn’t know by memory, or get from his office, from there. Quickly, he jotted down Bower’s number, in code; reversing every other number, so that should anyone search his house, they would have a completely different number; but it would be easy for him to work out to check that Bower had completed his assignment. He removed the SIM card and tossed it onto the fire, watching as it crackled for several seconds before burning and shrivelling up completely until you couldn’t even see the remains. Well that was that. Nothing that could link him to them now.
No sooner had he done that then there was a knock at the door. He casually strolled to the front door to find two uniformed police officers standing, apprehensively, outside.
For the second time that day, he was driven to the same police station only this time, he had been read his rights.
Part of me almost didn’t want Sarah Caldwell’s game to end. As long as it didn’t conclude, then I thought Katie would still be alive. I didn’t think it was in Sarah Caldwell’s nature to be forgiving and let my daughter go free. I sensed that her game ended with me suffering for the rest of my life; grieving over the loss of my daughter that I could have avoided, if only Andrew Caldwell hadn’t been run off the road eight years ago. If only I hadn’t run her brother off the road eight years ago.
The accident, well at least it had been an accident on my part, had occurred on one of the highest roads in Los Angeles, never mind one of the highest roads of Windsor Hills, which is an affluent area of the state to say the least. The residents of that area, which I believe to be around eight to ten thousand, hadn’t exactly welcomed the attention that I’d attracted to their area when I’d run Andrew Caldwell off the road and down the cliff side to his death. Not that crime was non-existent in Windsor Hills, far from it. But it always enjoyed near top-of-the-table status when annual figures were published, proclaiming it to be one of the safest places in Los Angeles to live. That was an accolade that I brought into question when I’d brought reality into their lives during my pursuit of a drug dealer through their streets. I remember that several residents wrote indignant letters to papers, politicians, local TV; you name it. How dare I put them in danger by pursuing a criminal who had fired upon police officers through their safe little streets?
I remember the day of the pursuit, having an uneasy feeling as we had unsuccessfully tried to pull Andrew Caldwell over, as we had sped round the lower streets of Windsor Hills, trying in vain to stop him. That feeling was exacerbated as I realised he was taking the road that led to the top part of the Hills; a dangerous road at the best of times made all the worse for the icy winter conditions that day.
I had never been back since, but can picture that day as clearly as I can just about anything else. The winding road took us a couple of hundred feet up over just under three miles; tall trees adorning one side of the road, a safety barrier the other. I remember reading, after the incident, that the road we had taken was a notoriously dangerous one; and despite the barriers had averaged two fatalities per year for the last decade. Granted, these were mainly drunks, vision and reactions dulled by the alcohol; doing little to increase their chances of survival, but the danger nevertheless remained just as prevalent for any sober driver taking that path.
If memory served me correctly, I couldn’t remember any buildings or anything other than trees near to where Andrew Caldwell had fallen to his death. There would be nowhere really for Sarah Caldwell to hide. Was this really the final stage of the game? Or was I supposed to think that it was? It had to end there didn’t it? Or would I simply find something else there, more instructions?
Balfer agreed to accompany me, with no hesitation whatsoever. It took around forty minutes to drive to my rendezvous with SWAT from the Staples Centre although we didn’t say much during the journey. He didn’t push me either. Perhaps he saw the look in my eyes. Even if I got Katie back untouched and unharmed, Sarah Caldwell had kidnapped my daughter and I knew that the only acceptable way this could end would be when she had stopped breathing. It struck me, only minutes into the journey that this was probably similar to how Sarah Caldwell had felt towards me when she learned of her brother’s death.
When we got to the corner of 12
and Main, only the SWAT unit Commander, Carl Orton, was waiting for me. He told me that Williams had briefed him as to the possible location of Sarah Caldwell and he had dispatched his team to that position five minutes ago. It seemed that the drive here had been enough time for SWAT to check the schematics of the location, allocate positions and tactical manoeuvres. Whilst I was slightly surprised, I really shouldn’t have been. SWAT is renowned for their ruthless efficiency when it comes to putting together an operation such as this at short notice.
‘We’ll have your back Detective’, he assured me. ‘I know she has your daughter’, he continued, seeing me about to speak up. ‘I’ll be in communication with my guys at all times. When one of them has the shot, I’ll give him the green light. Your daughter won’t be at risk. Not from us’. Orton oozed confidence, although that gave me little comfort. It wasn’t SWAT I was worried about, it was Sarah Caldwell.
‘Agent Balfer’, he continued. ‘I’m led to believe you will accompany Detective Patton in the car?’
‘That’s right’, Balfer confirmed.
‘OK then’, Orton handed him an earpiece ‘I’ll tie you into our communication channel. Any change in status I need to know about then just speak up’.
It took a couple of seconds for Orton to confirm his team was in position. ‘We’re good to go. You guys ready?’ he asked. I didn’t answer, I just nodded. I’d been ready for a long time.
We took the drive up to where Andrew Caldwell had crashed through the barrier slowly; taking the time to survey any area where she might be lurking, but we didn’t pass a single person or car as we made the near three mile drive up. I hadn’t really expected to see her. She would be exactly where her brother had gone over the cliff side, wouldn’t she? Once, I thought I saw something but on closer inspection it turned out to be nothing; just my over-active imagination wanting to see something that wasn’t there.
As we pulled round the corner to our destination, I saw a bunch of flowers lying on the side of the road by a safety barrier. Looking at the barriers you would never guess the number of fatalities this road had claimed over the years. There were scuffs here and there on the metal where a car or two had scraped along side them, and I noticed that these barriers were substantially more reinforced than the one Andrew Caldwell had crashed through.
Telling Balfer to remain out of sight, I ground the car to a halt, and stepped out, only a few feet away from the flowers. Although I knew the flowers were for Andrew Caldwell, I suspected that the card in them that I could see from here was for me.
Conrad Conway looked untouchable as he sat across from Captain Williams, whose telephone call with Whitehouse Joint Chief of Staff Lee Brindle had only served to make him more pissed off than he had been all day. And that was saying something. Brindle had asked questions that Williams hadn’t had the answers for, and Brindle suggested, fairly forcefully, that those answers had better be forthcoming before the close of play today. No excuses.
Unbeknownst to Williams, Brindle was naturally concerned that two of the Animi had been gunned down. For he too was no wiser to the fact that McCrane and Burr’s warning at their meeting last week that The Chemist was seeking revenge on all Animi members was in fact, largely fabrication. A cover story for their attempted hit on Conway himself.
Nevertheless, Williams knew that when any member of the Whitehouse staff thought it necessary to call you personally, what they had to say mattered a great deal, and unaware of Brindle’s Animi connection, was keen to appease this formidable individual.
Conway had taken the backseat ride to the station in silence. Going over in his mind what the police might know, or what they thought they knew. But what could they prove? Even if Sam Bower was slow to carry out his instructions, he doubted the police would ever find the squat that Reno and Silverman had occupied and he was also fairly certain that there would be nothing there to tie him to either of them in any case.
He declined to ring his lawyer, knowing that this would send a message to Williams. He knew they had nothing on him, so why bother contacting his lawyer for nothing? He could see the look in the police captain’s eyes which told him as much. ‘So tell me, Captain Williams’, he smiled, ‘why have I been arrested?’
Williams flipped two pictures onto the table; mug shots of Reno and Silverman. ‘You know any of these two men?’
Conway gave him the pretence of looking intently at the photographs for a couple of seconds. ‘Never seen either of them before in my life’, he stated, matter-of-factly.
‘You sure?’ Williams continued, ‘Take another look Senator, please’. Conway glanced down again. ‘Well, I mean, I’ve seen them on the news’, he said. ‘Just before you came to arrest me actually. But other than that; like I said, no never before’.
‘How well did you know Paul McCrane and Jameson Burr?’ Williams continued.
Conway shrugged, ‘Obviously I knew Paul and Jameson well’, he said. ‘Our paths crossed on a weekly basis as we conducted our business; some weeks more than others. I might even go so far to say that they were friends of mine’.
‘I have to say’, Williams pounced on that last statement, ‘that you don’t seem particularly upset that two of your friends were gunned down outside this very station less than two hours ago and are both, as we speak, lying in the mortuary awaiting post-mortem’.
Conway shrugged again. ‘Let me just say that my particular line of work demands that I don’t show my emotions; that I never let people see what I’m thinking by facial expressions alone. If I did, I wouldn’t get very far now, would I?’
‘And what are you thinking now, Senator?’ That was a loaded question and one which Conway declined to answer truthfully.
‘I’m thinking, ‘what the fuck am I doing in this police station, Captain Williams?’’.
‘Well what would you say if I told you that just before Leon Reno died of the injuries sustained in the crash as he fled from the scene where he had just shot and murdered, in cold blood, Paul McCrane and Jameson Burr, he told a member of the public that you had ordered the hits on them both. That you instructed him to carry out their murders?’
Conrad Conway, as confident as he’d felt all day, leant back and shrugged once more. ‘I’d say ‘prove it!’’.
As I picked up the card that lay tucked in the flowers, I glanced around nervously. There was an eerie silence that was only broken by the birds and the wind rustling through the trees. I wondered again if she was watching. I had full confidence that SWAT would remain undetected. Those guys are the best of the best. The elite. I knew they had our backs.
The card threw our plan into disarray; something which none of us had prepared for. I read it a couple of times, realising it meant that SWAT were not where they needed to be. Shit. I’d been sure she’d be here – right where her brother crashed to his death. The card just said ‘Keep going – one mile. Go now’, with an arrow pointing further up the road, which veered round to the left.