Happy Monday, Team! Sorry I missed you at the end of last week. I was gathering a little info for the long march to the last chapter. I thing I've got some fun things in the coming installments. The plan is to churn out more this week. I need to light that fire! So here we go again. Let me know what you think is going to happen next...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined. Keep in mind that I don’t review what I write until after the first draft of the whole novel is done, so please keep your spelling and grammar fixes until the Beta Reader rounds.)
It was Cal's third trip to Roanoke in as many days. He called the Quinn's, of course, before leaving, just to make sure that they'd be home. Tom Quinn confirmed that they would and that they'd just received their son's belongings. When they pulled up to the home, Cal was glad to see the police officer still waiting out front. He looked bored, but at least he was there.
Patty Quinn greeted he and Daniel like family, offering to make them some food as they stepping inside.
"There's plenty left over from the visitation," she said. She was right, the kitchen counters were covered with food once again.
Daniel stayed in the kitchen with Mrs. Quinn while Cal took Tom into the living room, "I was wondering if I could take a look at your son's things, see if I might be able to find anything."
Tom stared at him and then gave a little grin. "Why do I have the feeling that you have more resources than the police?"
"I'm not going to promise anything, but it won't hurt to look," Cal said.
"Of course, of course, everything's in Tommy's old room. You remember where it is."
"Well, then I'll just be out here if you need me. Take your time, Cal."
There were two rows of boxes lying along the far side of the wall when Cal entered the bedroom. Every one was marked in black Sharpie, T. Quinn. It was obvious that Tommy's parents hadn't looked through the boxes yet. They were still taped shut.
Cal was glad for that when he opened the first one and found the pistol. Whoever had packed had at least been smart enough to take out the loaded magazine and put it in a Ziploc bag that was now lying next to the pistol. Cal checked to make sure that the chamber was clear and then examined the weapon in his hand. It was an 9mm, but he didn't recognize the maker.
He was about to call out to Daniel, but when he turned, the sniper was already there.
"What did you find?" Daniel asked.
"Nine mill. I don't recognize the maker."
Daniel took the weapon and checked the clear chamber.
"I'm pretty sure it's a BUL Impact. They only made them for a few years. Pretty rare in the US.”
“Why don't you have Neil run the serial number; he might get a hit," Cal said and then went back to sorting boxes.
There were plenty of designer shirts, tailored coats, and fashionable jeans. There was a single picture, the same one he and Diane had seen on their first trip to visit the Quinn's, a grinning Tommy Quinn at boot camp graduation with his parents. Cal set it aside and kept digging.
It wasn't until he was in the second to last box when he found a laptop. As soon as the home screen popped up, the computer asked for a password. Cal was no hacker, but he had something just as good. He pulled out his cellphone, tapped on the application that had been especially designed by Neil Patel himself. The app activated and Cal set the cellphone on top of the laptop's keyboard. About ten seconds later, the password screen was gone and Cal was staring at a new screen. Cal was no tech genius like Neil, but he didn't have to be. The phone and Neil's program did all the work.
Systemically sorting through the computer's history, five items popped up at a time. The very last thing Tommy Quinn had checked on his computer was the weather. Items two and three were files he’d deleted. Like Neil always told their men, nothing was ever truly deleted. But the files were a dead end. They were just old resumes for jobs that Tommy obviously hadn't gotten.
Items four and five were routine computer processes. It wasn't until the next batch of five items came up on the screen that Cal got excited. Emails. The first one was addressed to his parents, just a quick hello, checking in to say he loved them. It was the second email that really caught Cal's attention. It was addressed to someone at the Chicago Tribune with the subject line reading, "Insider Information." Cal scanned the email written by Tommy, which basically said that he had information that would impact the standing of a certain high placed lawmaker. He didn't mention which one, but he did include the words, "This politician is ground zero for what's wrong with America."
Cal sifted through five more batches of historical data, but nothing jumped out at him. They were all just mundane daily tasks of a man who was about to die. Finally, Cal gave up. Neil's program had already copied the entire hard drive and The Jefferson Group's big brain was undoubtedly already pouring through the bits of data.
Cal texted Neil just to confirm that he had everything and then he closed the laptop and put it back in the cardboard box.
"Find anything interesting?" Tom Quinn said, entering the room. Cal didn't want to lie to the man, but he also didn't want to get his hopes up.
"That box on the bed has a pistol in it. Just wanted to make sure you knew before Patty started digging through things."
Tom walked over, lifted the cardboard lid and pulled out the weapon. The chamber was inspected for the third time that day.
"Was that Tommy’s?” Cal asked.
"I'm not sure."
"Well, if you feel uncomfortable having it in the house ..." "
“No, no, it's fine. I just- Why don't you take it with you? Maybe it'll help in your investigation."
"Tom, I don't know quite how to say this," Cal said awkwardly.
"I know you're not officially investigating, right? I understand, but Cal, I am not a stupid man. I know that all our bills were paid this morning. There is a very short list of people in my immediate circle who might do such a thing, but none of them would have done it that way. They would have told me. The only thing I can assume is that you did it." Cal didn’t say a word. "That's what I thought," Tom said. "Thank you." Cal just nodded. "And as for Tommy's things, well, they're just things now, aren't they? You take whatever you need. And while it's not much, if I can be of help, I will be. All you have to do is ask."
"Thank you, Tom."
"Please, find whoever did this to my boy. I know it won't bring him back, but I'll be goddamned if I have to leave this earth without at least knowing."
A phone call with the reporter from The Chicago Tribune was quick. He prefaced the conversation by saying, "Look, I've got a lot on my plate, so I'll give you three minutes."
Cal dove right in and asked the reporter about the email Tommy had sent him. The report didn't have to say anything, but to Cal's surprise he started talking, sounding mildly interested now.
"I talked to Tommy one time. I don’t remember it word for word, but I remember the vibe he gave off. He was animated. Not like a lot of kooks I get on the phone, but you could tell he was on edge. A voice like that always reminds me of those movies when somebody's being followed. Anyway, Tommy told me that he was going to deliver a flash drive with some information. I was supposed to meet him."
"Which day was that?" Cal asked. The reporter told him.
"That's the day Tommy Quinn died."
"Wait? He's dead?" the reporter asked.
"Yes. So what happened that day?"
Now, the reporter was interested, like he'd caught the scent of a juicy story.
“It was the weirdest thing. I got a phone call from this think tank, don't remember the name, something based in Washington. I've got it somewhere in my notes. They told me not to talk to Mr. Quinn. That’s what he called Tommy, Mr. Quinn. The manager told me that Tommy was a disgruntled employee who got fired for poor performance. He even sent me the file, afterwards."
"What did it say?"
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff. Said he was a possible drug addict, that he'd popped on one of their screenings, that he'd been stupid enough to surf porn on the company's computers."
"Do you think it was legit?" Cal asked.
"Who's to say? Well, anyway, in the file itself it actually had Tommy's last words that he yelled at the security guards. He said, "I'm going to bring you guys down.” I thought nothing of it, figured he’d just wasted my time. It was like a typical kid trashing the office before he leaves, and to be quite honest with you, I've got more important things to cover than some disgruntled employee. Have you seen the murder rate in Chicago lately?”
"Yeah, I have," Cal said, "but listen, did you get anything in the mail from him or…?”
"You're asking about the flash drive," the reporter guessed, “No, but now that you've called I'll definitely keep an eye out for it."
"Would you mind letting me know if you get it?"
"That depends. What's in it for me?"
Cal wasn't a fan of reporters but he decided to throw the guy a bone. "I'll give you the whole story if there's anything to it."
"Deal," the reporter said. Although by now it didn't seem like he was that interested, more of one of those, "Ah, it could be a story or it's probably not," kind of attitudes. Cal ended the call after thanking the man and giving him his phone number.
"Anything good?" Daniel asked. He was at the wheel. They'd decided to go out for dinner and pick something up for the Quinns and then head back to Charlottesville.
Neil hadn't gotten any hits on the pistol, but Cal knew it was only a matter of time. Anything with a serial number had a history and even if it was stolen, he could still track most of the owners.
"Tell me we aren't wasting our time with this," Cal said.
"We are not wasting our time with this," Daniel said without looking away from the road ahead.
"Well, I'm glad you think so because I'm starting to get the feeling that we're about to piss off some very important people."
Daniel chuckled. "What else is new?"
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