Friday, August 12, 2016

Chapter 7

Returning to Local HQ

Jace was explicit in telling Raahi that he was in no hurry to get back to the company store. He thought that might allow him to drive a little bit slower and more sanely. Jace needed time to think about what was really going on here. This case was beginning to sound  more like a broader conspiracy rather than a simple terrorist attack on an American-owned company especially since the boy was killed the night before the bombing. Was he was killed because someone found out that he was using credit card numbers from the list for personal use or was he killed to hide the evidence of the existence of the lists and the purpose of the company?

The evening air smelled sweet and pungent of Indian herbal cooking. He and Raahi hadn’t eaten all day and even spicy Indian food sounded good to him now even though years of irregular meals had left him with a tender stomach. Dinner would have to wait, but it was eventually going to be very hard to find an American cheeseburger in vegetarian India. He would give all the lint in his pockets for a bacon double cheeseburger right now.

As Jace and Raahi walked into the company store, A.I.C. Sachigian was waiting for them. He had a sad look on his face. “I sure hope you found out something because Jagrati Malhotra and her grandmother are dead. We have no other witnesses in this case. She was the last survivor. We were taking them both home in a company car when their car was pushed onto a railroad track from behind while waiting at the crossing. Agent Singh is also dead. The only witnesses to the accident were the engineers who were trying to stop the train and didn’t get a good description of the old pickup truck that pushed them. We‘ve put out an A.P.B. with the local police, but they’ll never find anything. This was a professional hit.”

“Damn!” She was such a sweet kid. Damn, damn, damn.  A.I.C. Sachigian was right. It was a professional hit. This really narrowed the possibilities now. The boy and the girl were both killed to keep them quiet about Elect-Co. That worksheet was now the only key piece of evidence they had left. This was definitely a conspiracy investigation and not a terrorist action. It also meant that somebody was watching … watching very closely.

Jace took care of immediate business, faxed the Elect-Co worksheet to Supervisor Ray, after he phoned the director from a private office over the secure line and got Raahi paid. Raahi, then gave him a lift to the hotel. Jace needed a drink. Another thing about India, no bars.

Checking In

The man at the front desk had a room reservation all ready for Jace and a porter was on-hand to carry his luggage. Jace signed-in and was about to pick-up his room key. The desk man compared his signature to one they had on-file in their computer. The computer also had his facial identification and a biometric comparison scan was in progress. Jace didn’t see the hidden camera, but it had to be around there somewhere.

The scan complete and identity confirmed, the desk man stopped Jace for a moment by reaching out and putting his left hand on top of Jace and the room keys. Silently, he reached down under the counter and located a small unmarked package wrapped in brown paper and tied with jute string and handed it to Jace. It was the size of a pack of cigarettes, but Jace didn’t smoke. It was too small to be a cheeseburger, so he waited until he got to his room to unwrap it.

Unlocking the Room

Unlocking his room door, Jace walked inside. Somebody must have also been reading his mind. On the counter was a covered serving dish and next to it a bottle of 12-year old, single malt scotch. He lifted the lid of the serving dish and found a bacon double cheeseburger and fries - still steaming. First things first. Where was the ice? He was no James Bond gourmet, just a poorly paid, public servant with simple tastes.

After drinks, dinner and a hot shower, Jace decided to open the brown paper package to see what else was new and different.  Letting the paper and string drop to the floor, Jace found an old Wilson Pickett cassette tape. What kind of joke was this? This is the Compact Disc, digital age. Where am I going to find a cassette tape player? In India?

Beside the Phone

Jace went over to the phone by the bed and prepared to call the front desk when he noticed the bedside table drawer was slightly opened. He pulled on the handle. Oh, this guy had a sense of humor. Stashed underneath the Gideon’s Bible was an old, battery operated GE cassette tape player.  Now he felt like a cross between James Bond and Jim Phelps of the old Mission Impossible TV series. Was this tape going to self destruct? This cloak and dagger stuff was amusing sometimes and he had just enough scotch by now to snicker just a little bit.

“Huh. What the hell?”

He loaded in the cassette tape and poured another scotch and added one ice cube. Wilson Pickett and his good old sweet soul music. How refreshing in this land of very different music. Through each and every song he tried to figure the significance of the lyrics. He played the entire first side without a clue, then flipped up the player door and turned the tape over then played the back side of the tape. He laid across the bed, half in - half out of consciousness with his drink on his chest and was nearly asleep when “the song” came on.

"If you need, a little lovin’
Call on me.

"If you need, a little huggin’
Call on me.

"Oh, I’ll be right here at home
All ya gotta do is pick up the telephone and dial

"6-3-4-5-7-8-9 (that’s my number)

"No more lonely nights, when you'll be alone.
All you gotta do is pick up your telephone and dial now...

"6-3-4-5-7-8-9 (that’s my number)

Jace quickly came to his senses and started laughing hysterically. What else could he do? He should be looking for his Russian contact and this crazy Russian found him first and gave him the phone number in the lyrics of a 35 year old rhythm and blues song.

>>>> Chapter 8 >>

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