A story of murder, espionage, and terrorism comes together when private investigator, Jordan Anderson teams up with Senate oversight committee investigator, George Kilburn to discover how and why a highly classified, early warning security system that was being shipped from the Arlington, Virginia warehouse of the Kingman Corporation to their warehouse in Seattle, Washington for testing, ends up in Afghanistan. The sudden death, thought to be caused by a massive heart attack, of the Arlington warehouse disbursement officer further complicates the puzzle when it is found that the death was actually a highly unusual and well-planned murder that was essential in carrying out the deception. The two investigators also discover that they make quite a team in more ways than one.
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High Jinks in High Places
By Ruth Barrett
Abbott PressCopyright © 2015 Ruth Barrett
All rights reserved.
Jordan anderson sat at her desk finishing the final report of a case she had just completed. Looking around, she thought about what she had accomplished in her thirty-two years and where she stood in the career path she had mapped out for herself when she decided to major in criminal law at harvard university.
She had graduated with a 3.8 grade average and had received offers from a number of law firms, but being a corporate lawyer wasn't what she wanted. Her brother, James, was a JaG lawyer with the navy, and her uncle had been a detective with the Baltimore police department until he was killed in the line of duty. She could easily put herself in their places when they told her how they had conducted interviews and followed leads to arrive at the truth.
It was the thrill of discovering and obtaining evidence and putting the pieces together to make right something that had been wrong that compelled her. She found fulfillment in being a private investigator who chose whether to accept or refuse a case based on the merits and not by political pressure, money, or power. Unlike some of the other private investigators out there, Jordan wouldn't take a case if she felt the person was just looking for revenge or to 'settle a score'. She knew that she had to be able to look back at the face in her mirror each morning. She couldn't do that if she compromised her principles in the process.
She was brought back to reality by the ringing of her phone. "This is Jordan Anderson."
"Hello. My name is Sasha Goldman. A friend gave me your name and number and suggested that I contact you."
Jordan sensed that Sasha was nervous by the soft, almost timid tone of her voice. "how can I help?"
"I work for a large corporation that has a number of federal government contracts. I'm concerned that something's going on that may be illegal. Can you keep this confidential?"
"All my client work is confidential," responded Jordan. "Why don't we meet and you can tell me what's going on."
"That sounds good, but I need to ask you how much you charge. Do you have a flat rate, or do you charge by the hour, or what?" asked Sasha.
"When we meet, I'll give you a sheet that lists my fees, credentials, office address, and phone and fax numbers. I can set up payment plans if that's necessary. Let's see what's involved here. We can discuss the fee later if I take your case."
"I usually visit my parents on Sunday afternoon in upper Marlboro, Maryland," said Sasha. "Could you meet me for lunch at the Steak and Ale Restaurant on Highway 16?"
"Yes, that sounds good. How about twelve thirty?"
Two days later, Jordan entered the restaurant and noticed a slender, young woman sitting on a bench. She had shoulder-length, brown hair and was wearing a floral-print dress and a pink sweater. The way she was watching people entering the restaurant, Jordan knew this must be Sasha. As she approached and made eye contact, Jordan smiled and said, "You must be Sasha."
"Yes I am." Sasha replied as she stood and extended her hand. "You must be Jordan. I appreciate your meeting me like this."
Jordan briefly grasped her hand. "Let's get a booth so we can talk."
They were seated in a booth near the back of the restaurant. after they placed their orders, the waitress brought them each a glass of iced tea.
"Who recommended me?" Jordan asked.
"My fiancé, Boyd Hutchison. He said you had helped him with a problem he'd had three years ago, and he felt sure you were the person I should talk to about my situation."
"Yes, I remember Boyd. Tell me what's happening where you work."
"The Kingman Corporation develops computer programs that perform multiple functions for naval ships that travel all over the world. They have millions of dollars in government contracts. I'm the executive secretary for Mr. Shaun O'Riley, director of operations."
"When I asked if this would be kept confidential, it's because of my position. I have access to information not available to other staff. I have two daughters, ages three and four and a half, from a previous marriage to support. My husband was killed two years ago while serving a tour of duty in Iraq. He and Boyd were close friends in college and planned to join the navy together, but Boyd wasn't able to pass the physical."
Their conversation was momentarily interrupted when the waitress brought their food. As they ate, Jordan asked, "What do you think is going on at work?"
"Recently, a shipment of cargo being shipped from our warehouse in Arlington to our warehouse in Seattle, mysteriously turned up in Afghanistan. I don't know what the specific cargo was, but it must have been something extremely important because this place has been going crazy ever since it was discovered. There have been private meetings and phone calls every day. Everybody appears very worried.
"A couple of weeks ago, a man came into our office demanding to see Mr. O'Riley. He didn't have an appointment. When I told him that Mr. O'Riley was at a meeting out of the office, he became very angry and agitated. I didn't know what he might do."
"Did he threaten you?" asked Jordan.
"No, but I was sure he didn't believe me. I finally got him to let me set up an appointment for the next morning at nine o'clock. he gave his name as Boris Urich. When I asked the nature of the meeting, he said only that Mr. O'Riley would know what the meeting was about."
Just then, the waitress stopped by their table to refill their iced tea glasses. Jordan looked around and noticed that a number of families were coming in. Looking at her watch, she concluded that the local church services had ended and families were gathering for lunch.
"Had you ever dealt with Mr. urich before?" asked Jordan.
"No, never. Mr. O'Riley called the office later that afternoon, and I told him what had happened. He was very angry that Mr. urich had just shown up and behaved like that, but he was glad I'd set up the meeting for the next morning."
"What happened next?"
"The next morning, when Mr. Urich arrived, Mr. O'Riley closed his door, saying that he was not to be disturbed. I heard a lot of shouting, but I couldn't understand what was being said. After the meeting, Mr. O'Riley had me cancel all of his appointments for the rest of the day and said not to disturb him unless it was an emergency."
"He came out of his office twice and was looking through the file cabinet for something. I offered to help, but he just brushed me off, saying that he could find it faster than he could explain what he was looking for. He finally left the office, and I began to straighten up the office and mark his appointment calendar as I always do before I leave for the day. It was then that I noticed them."
"Noticed what?" asked Jordan, noticing the strange look that had come over Sasha.
"I noticed two file folders sitting on his desk. The top one concerned a high-level contract that was up for review and refunding. The second file was one I'd never seen before."
"Was it also a contract file?"
"No. It appeared to be some sort of a ledger of expenses, but there was nothing explaining how or when the expenses had been incurred. I saw a column of random numbers that may have been some type of code furnishing that information, but that's just a guess on my part.
I was about to mark his appointment calendar when my phone rang. And I went to answer it. While I was on the phone, Mr. O'Riley returned and looked surprised to find me still there. He went into his office and closed the door. When he came out a few minutes later, he asked when I would be leaving. I said that I had only to straighten his office and mark his appointment calendar and I'd be leaving. When I entered his office, I saw only the contract file on his desk."
"Do you think that any of this is connected to the cargo that went to Afghanistan?" asked Jordan.
"I can't be sure, but I believe the cargo involved was connected to the contract that's up for review. From bits and pieces of conversations that I've heard and documents that I've seen, there are serious questions being raised about any and everybody who had anything to do with that contract and whether the contract would be re-funded.
"Mr. O'Riley has been making mysterious phone calls and having private meetings over the past few weeks," Sasha continued. "From what I've overheard in the office, if this situation isn't resolved soon, there could be Senate oversight hearings on the hill."
Jordan took a drink of tea while she thought about what Sasha had just told her. She was having trouble understanding how the whole matter involved Sasha and what exactly she expected Jordan to do. As she set her glass back down on the table, she fixed her gaze on Sasha. As she said "I can understand why you're questioning some of the things that have taken place, but I'm confused about how any of this affects you and what you expect me to do."
Sasha was very quiet for a moment. "That's a question I have repeatedly been asking myself."
"Take your time" said Jordan, as she placed her hand on top of Sasha's.
"When Carl was killed, my whole world fell apart. It took all that I had to get out of bed each morning, but I had no choice. I had two small children who had no idea that their lives had just taken a huge body blow. Mr. O'Riley and the Kingman Corporation were there for me. I was given time off, with full pay to handle the funeral arrangements and the tons of paperwork. I'll always be grateful for the support that I received. This company and Mr. O'Riley mean a great deal to me."
"I can see that they do," responded Jordan.
"I don't know that there's anything illegal going on. Obviously, something went wrong or some of the cargo wouldn't have ended up in Afghanistan. Everyone who's had even the slightest connection with the contract involving this cargo is under scrutiny. That includes Mr. O'Riley, as the director of operations, and even me as his executive secretary. While I'm sure that Mr. O'Riley would never be knowingly involved in anything underhanded or illegal, bad things have a way of happening to good people. If you'll investigate this, I'll take whatever you find to Mr O'Riley myself, even if it costs me my job."
As Sasha spoke, her eyes did not waver or look away, but remained locked with Jordan's the entire time, showing her conviction and sincerity in what she was saying.
"Let me look into this a little," said Jordan, "and then we can decide who, if anyone, you should contact. Are you all right with that?"
"Yes." said Sasha. "and thank you for understanding."
"What do you mean by mysterious phone calls that Mr. O'Riley made himself?" asked Jordan.
"Normally, Mr. O'Riley doesn't place any phone calls. He'll buzz me on the intercom and have me place the call. I maintain all our clients' addresses and phone numbers for that reason."
"Was he making these calls before this situation with the cargo occurred?"
"No. I noticed that he has what looks like an appointment book that he keeps in his inside suit coat pocket. That may be where he keeps the numbers he calls himself. When he places a call, he tells me that he's not to be disturbed."
"About a week ago, he mentioned that he couldn't find a specific file as he was leaving for a lunch appointment. Later that afternoon, I found the file and went into his office to put it in his in-box. He hadn't said that he didn't want to be disturbed, but when I approached his desk, he looked startled and angry about the intrusion and turned whatever he was working on facedown on his desk."
"What did he say?"
"His voice was gruff when he asked what I wanted. I handed him the file, apologized for disturbing him, and quickly left."
"Was that incident typical?" asked Jordan.
"No. He'd never acted that way with me before. When he saw the file, he must have remembered asking about it and immediately came out to my desk and apologized. He said that he had a headache and that was the reason for his attitude. Since it was late in the afternoon, he told me to just take the rest of the day off, so I did."
All the while they had been talking, Jordan had taken notes about the Kingman Corporation and what they do; about Sasha, what her job entailed, and how she felt about her work and her supervisor; and about Shaun O'Riley.
"Let's stop for now," said Jordan. "I want to go over my notes and do a computer search for additional information about Kingman. Before we go, here is the sheet I said I would give you listing my fees, credentials, address and phone numbers. We'll talk more about this at a later time after I have gathered more information. I'll be in touch with you in a few days. Please try to relax, Sasha. Everything will be all right."CHAPTER 2
Shaun O'Riley was reading some papers in preparation for his meeting with Tom Clancy, vice president over security and disbursement at Kingman Corporation, who was wrapping up a phone call in his office.
Shaun was about sixty, with thinning hair and a build that let you know he was a big fan of two-hour lunches. He took his job as director of operations very seriously. He was a stickler when it came to following procedures and could be someone to reckon with when things went wrong. He was also the person most likely to be named boss of the year. Unfortunately, things had gone very wrong, and he was frustrated. No matter which way he turned, no answer was forthcoming. Now, a Senate oversight committee had gotten involved.
When the light on her intercom went out, the secretary motioned to Shaun that he could enter tom's office.
The two men shook hands before Shaun sat on a chair opposite tom's desk. Tom was three or four years younger than Shaun, and he took better care of himself. He was more a soup-and-salad-type of guy who tried to stay away from burgers and fries. He frequently spent weekends in his health club's swimming pool with his grandson.
Today, both men shared the same problem; neither had been able to find a solution. That's why they were expecting George Kilburn to join them.
"That was George Kilburn on the phone," tom said. "he's running a little behind schedule but will be joining us in a few minutes."
"I'm glad to have a few minutes to speak with you alone," said Shaun. "We may have a problem."
"What happened?" asked tom. "I thought you said that everything was running smoothly."
"Boris urich showed up at my office the other day demanding to speak with me. Fortunately, I was in a meeting at the Pentagon. Sasha told him that, but I don't think he believed her. He finally agreed to a meeting the next morning."
"What was his problem?" asked tom.
"As the disbursement officer, Boris was in charge of sending that shipment to Seattle. Apparently, he's scheduled to meet with George Kilburn sometime over the next couple of weeks, and he has a major case of nerves over it. I told him everything was all right and he needed to relax, but I don't think he will," said Shaun.
"Boris knows that George works for Senator Granger and is an investigator for the Senate oversight committee," tom said. "If he's that nervous about a meeting with George, maybe we should find out why. Find out what George is concerned about. Let him know you're aware that he'll be meeting with Boris and just want to make sure that Boris has all the information with him that he might need."
Just then, the door opened and George Kilburn walked in. "Sorry to be late. Our staff meeting went longer than I'd planned."
"That's all right," said Shaun. "I was just telling tom that you're planning to meet with Boris sometime during the next couple of weeks. If you have any particular concerns and don't mind sharing them, I'll make sure Boris has whatever paperwork he might need with him."
"There are no specific concerns with him at this point," said George. "I'm sure you're both aware of the situation concerning the cargo that was supposed to go to Seattle but ended up in Afghanistan."
"Of course," said tom. "It was an advanced early warning security system along with the actual hardware to be installed onboard U.S. ships being made ready for battle. Once installed, the device would sound an alert if an intruder tried to override or lock onto any of the operating systems onboard the ship."
"Exactly," said George. "I'm just looking through the requisitions and shipping documents to see if there's anything that will give us a clue as to why and/or how that portion of the shipment went astray. Since Boris was the disbursement officer, it seems only right to see if he can shed any light on what might have happened."
Excerpted from High Jinks in High Places by Ruth Barrett. Copyright © 2015 Ruth Barrett. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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