"Were you aware that Angela White wasn't the natural child of Frank and Linda?" Jack asked Marty as he studied the newly faxed documents on the deceased.
"I'm aware of it, and it is one more thing about this entire scenario that disturbs me." Marty leaned back in her comfortable brown leather chair and said, "Sit down, Jack. Let me bounce a few ideas off your mind."
"Jack, you know that Jared and Les were on Faison's trail."
"I know. They'd been tipped that Faison was on Grand Bahama Island."
"Standard Operating Procedure-check out the tip. So, they followed the tip, and voilà! Faison is there. This most elusive of evil doers who has been thought dead on numerous occasions, has narrowly escaped all manner of death traps set by the most dedicated of man-hunters, is taking a leisurely vacation at a very public resort. Expensive, yes, but still public."
"At this same resort, oddly enough, the White's are visiting-Mr. White and his scapegrace daughter, Angela, who suddenly shows up demurely attired in virginal white. A vision of innocence."
"That wasn't, I take it, her usual choice of clothing?"
"Hardly. Had Jared been privileged, no make that cursed, enough to have a more intimate view of the young female-note, I don't say 'lady', he'd have seen the pentagram tattooed on the inside of her upper left thigh."
"The young lady was into Satanism?"
"Among other things," Marty nodded. "To continue-this odd couple, as it were, from Jared's home town, shows up at precisely the moment when Jared fires into the bushes where he'd seen the glint of a gun barrel following an attempt to shoot him."
"This does strike one as oddly convenient." Jack was turning the whole scenario over in his mind, inspecting it from all angles. "So why haven't we done a deeper investigation on this before."
"It's been in the works," Marty told him. "I've had someone on this, backtracking since Les called me with the news. Jared has been about as helpful as a heart attack and I didn't want Les to do the digging."
"That's understandable. Too close to the situation, and not objective since he was in on it."
"Exactly." Marty looked down at the computer screen and entered a few more commands. "Unfortunately, our sources down in Grand Bahama Island missed a few rather interesting bits of information."
"That sounds bad."
"It was. At the time, we didn't know that Frank White is married to the former Linda Sinclair, who just happened to attend school with Jared."
"Interesting. What else didn't we know?"
"We didn't know at the time that Linda spent the last six months in various rehab clinics undergoing therapy for everything from alcohol abuse to grief counseling."
"Whose head are you having on a platter over that?"
Marty smiled, and Jack was grateful that he wasn't the one who had supplied the substandard quality information. "Jack, you know better than to ask questions like that. Anyway, we became suspicious that the rest of the information was less than accurate, and reopened our inquiries."
"We've learned that two of the three remaining witnesses, a maid and an off-duty busboy disappeared later that day. It was thought that they'd eloped, but their bodies were found a few days later-she died of a drug overdose, and he died in a motorcycle accident."
"And Faison has vanished without a trace."
"More or less. At any rate, at this point, the entire scenario is to be doubted-especially since I've discovered that Dr. Kolby-Dr. Dwayne Kolby, did the autopsy on Angela White."
Jack shook his head. "That man lost his license to practice in the States-how'd he manage to..."
"He wasn't practicing on live patients-just acting as coroner and pathologist."
"So he could have been bought?"
"That is a possibility. It has happened before." They were speaking of a series of mysterious deaths in upstate New York in which the victims, all dead of gunshot wounds, had been listed of having died of natural causes. "Worse yet, we can't even order a second autopsy. The body was cremated."
"Okay, I'll bite. What happened to the third witness?"
"Nothing that I know of," Marty answered, a smile flickering around the corners of her mouth. "But, this is where it gets interesting."
"It wasn't already?"
"Okay, make that sinister. Frank White is employed by some old friends of ours."
"Does the name Net Co. ring any bells?"
"It's worked out even better than I'd dared dream," Peter Castle announced to his former mentor and current partner, Stuart Matthews, an elegant looking man of almost 60 years. His dark hair streaked with silver, Stuart was trim, and nattily attired in a suit obviously hand tailored in London. "Net Co., has delivered on time, and we are several million dollars richer already."
"Yes," Stuart nodded. "And the next shipment should net us even greater rewards, now that the conduit has been setup."
"Our Swiss bankers should be very happy," Peter smiled. "All that money flowing to them on a regular basis..."
"And then being returned to us, clean and ready to do with as we please."
"And we please to make more money." Peter settled back in the chair and admired the rather large crystal ball that sat on one corner of his desk. Not lead crystal, or Bavarian crystal, it was naturally pure quartz crystal, unbelievably clear, and held in the palm of a finely cast 18 karat gold hand. The crystal ball had cost him an astonishing amount of money, but the intense pleasure he felt when gazing into its depths off set any financial investment.
"And to spend it," Stuart observed. "I couldn't help but admire the lovely necklace around the neck of your even lovelier wife last night."
"I love beautiful things," Peter smiled. "Suzi deserves nothing but the best, and I intend to see that she gets everything she could want."
"Generosity is an admirable trait in a man," Stuart commented as he rose to exit the room. "It can also draw attention to one's wealth, and thereby to the source of that wealth."
"Let them look all they want," Peter laughed. "I'm 100% legitimate."
At that the eyes of both men met, and Peter stopped laughing. "And I intend to remain that way."
"On paper, at any rate," Stuart added. Then, he turned and left the room, leaving Peter a little less comfortable than he had been before.
Peter drew the crystal ball across the desk until it stood directly in front of him, and he stared into its depths. For a few minutes, the room seemed to recede, and he sat silently, staring as if he could see something, anything. What was he looking for? He wasn't certain, but there was always something nameless, unidentifiable, that called to him, something to fill the aching void in whatever he called a soul. He'd been searching for it since he'd been a boy, living in an impoverished section of Texas. Barefooted, ragged, and hungry, he'd searched for and worked for something to make him whole. Marriage to Suzanne had done a lot for him, and draping her with diamonds did even more, but at times like this, when he sat alone in his lavishly appointed office, staring into the crystal ball, he could still see that little boy, still feel the unending hunger........
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