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THE DIAMOND DECEPTION
By MIKE GALLAGHER
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Mike Gallagher
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIt was two o'clock in the morning on a humid August night in Chicago and a young woman's life was in the balance. Inside room 1230 of the Hotel 71, Kevin Wicker and Shannon Menlo were lying in bed and embracing having just made love, on and off, for the past two hours. They had met in the hotel bar that evening.
Shannon rolled over onto her side facing the window. Kevin admired the gentle slopes of her body as light filtering from outside the room silhouetted her form. He gently stroked his hand back and forth from her thigh to her hip. Her soft skin was intoxicating, and Shannon let out barely audible sighs with each caress. This evening was a pleasant distraction for Kevin, once the star closer for the Arizona Sidewinders baseball team that were in Chicago to play a series against the Cubs. He was still on the team, but his skills seemed to have eroded, as had his desire for baseball.
Kevin's six foot seven inches of height contrasted starkly with Shannon, who barley reached five feet tall. He had bad skin with significant pock marks on his face, the result of untreated teenage acne. A few of his teeth had been lost due to a hometown beating he took many years ago for some trouble he had caused. His blond wispy hair hung down to his lanky shoulders.
Shannon's long black hair was unruly after rolling in the bed with Kevin. Her dark brown eyes were like a mystery waiting to unfold. She was only twenty years of age and still had a hint of baby-fat in her soft cheeks that complemented her full lips and radiant smile which she knew just how to use. Her body was that of a sultry model with perfectly shaped breasts a narrow waist and an even more perfect rear end.
Kevin snuggled against Shannon and nibbled on her ear and neck. He couldn't remember the last time he felt such intense desires if ever. His cell phone rang destroying the quiet atmosphere with the first chords of Black Sabbath's I Am Iron Man blaring. Kevin looked at the clock and realized he had become so infatuated with Shannon that he had missed his appointment. Shannon was lightly sleeping, but awoke when Kevin answered the phone.
"I know I fell asleep, I'm sorry."
"It won't happen again, Frank. I promise." Kevin realized he had made a big mistake. He didn't want Shannon to notice how anxious and scared he really was.
Shannon was groggy as she sat up in bed.
"I said I'm sorry. Do you want me to go do it now?" There was a long pause as Kevin endured a verbal berating from the caller.
"Who said I brought a girl into my room?"
"Yeah, okay. She's here." Kevin admitted in a muffled voice.
Kevin knew how weird all of this must sound to Shannon. He also knew that she could hear every word he was saying.
"Okay I'll tell her to leave right now."
"Tell Holtzman I'm on my way. I'll be there in twenty minutes."
Kevin was going to ask Shannon to get dressed, but she was already way ahead of him, having already put on most of her clothes.
"Sorry I have to rush you out, Shannon."
"It sounded like he was upset that I was here," she said as she slipped on her shoes. "Was someone spying on us?"
"He was angry at me for missing an appointment."
"I didn't know ball players had appointments at this hour," Shannon snapped back.
"How are you getting home?" Kevin asked.
"I'll take the train. It goes right by my apartment."
Kevin reached for his wallet on the night table, and pulled out two twenty-dollar bills. He walked over to Shannon as she looked around the messy room for her purse.
"Here, take this money and have the hotel call you a cab."
"I'm not taking money from you after we had sex," said Shannon angrily, as Kevin offered her the bills.
"That's not what I meant. The streets are dangerous this time of night. Please take a cab."
"I'll be fine. From what I heard, you're the one in trouble."
Shannon found her purse under the bed, opened the door and walked out without saying anything else.
Kevin walked over to the sink and splashed some water on his face. He looked in the mirror but didn't like what he saw; a washed-up ball player who should be in the prime of his career. He saw a man completely beholden to two men who controlled his life for their own selfish needs. Kevin noticed a napkin on the sink where he had written down Shannon's phone number. Perhaps he could call her after the baseball season was over. No, he knew that would be impossible. He put on his clothes, grabbed the athletic bag out of the closet, and left for his appointment with Holtzman.
Shannon stepped off the elevator into the elegant lobby of the hotel, and walked to the main entrance. At this hour, there weren't many people to be seen. A minor scuffle was taking place outside the lounge as three security people were trying to subdue a man who was inebriated. She exited the hotel and quickly walked toward the elevated train station that was two blocks away.
She sensed someone walking behind her as she hurried away from the hotel, but she soon passed a couple night-clubs that were closing down for the night, where dozens of twenty-something's were leaving the clubs, and milling around on the sidewalk. Distracted by the crowd of people, Shannon lost track of who might have been following her.
Two guys in dark suits and open collars who had been drinking all night noticed the dark-haired girl with pouty lips walking alone. The taller of the two called out, "Hey, sweetheart, don't walk so fast. Do you need a ride?"
Shannon ignored them and kept walking down Dearborn Street to the Washington Street Station. She was used to attracting men, but right now she was in no mood. She was tired, having been up since 6:00 in the morning, and she was disappointed in the way the evening had ended. She wasn't even sure it was worth bragging about to Brittany, her roommate.
She reached the steps that led to the elevated train platform, and took the CTA card out of her purse as she approached the turnstiles. She placed it in front of the electronic reader and climbed the stairs up to the platform.
She waited along with three other people including a Chicago Policeman, as the train arrived, but she didn't notice the man who had arrived on the platform a minute after she had.
It was the same man who followed her out of the hotel. He stood behind a pole, out of view of the policeman. She had lived in the big city all her life and considered herself street smart, but she had no idea she was being pursued.
The train's brakes squealed as it came to a stop. A few people got off when the doors opened. Shannon and the others stepped into the second car. The man stepped into the third car and took a position, next to the window, so he could peer into the car carrying the girl. He wanted to keep her within eyesight. He used his bulky frame as a shield from the other passengers, and removed his Glock nine millimeter gun from his jacket to screw on the silencer. He replaced it to his holster under his left arm. She might not have seen any incriminating evidence in Wicker's room, but there was no way to know for certain. Besides, he had his orders.
There were four other people inside the train car that Shannon was riding in. A young couple busy groping each other and laughing loud, attracting the attention of an elderly man who pretended not to notice but couldn't help himself from keeping an eye on them. The last passenger was a late-working business man wearing a worn and wrinkled suit, desperately trying to stay awake as the train sped through downtown Chicago before veering off to the northwest making stops at the Grand, Chicago and Division Stations.
Shannon stepped off the train at the Western Station, as two other people also exited the train. One was the elderly man who had been entertained by the young couple, and the other, was the man following her. Shannon walked down the stairs with the two men behind her. The man with the gun let the elderly man walk down the steps first. She was only aware of the old man behind her, and passed under the tracks after descending the stairs. The old man went in the opposite direction. The other man followed about forty yards behind Shannon, who walked south on Western. The noise from the train was deafening as it revved up and sped away.
Shannon struggled through the thick humidity that usually blanketed Chicago this time of year. He started to close the gap as she turned west on East Nineteenth Street. Shannon was looking forward to getting to her apartment where there was an air conditioner over her bed.
She had only one block to go when she heard footsteps behind her. The block was quiet at 2:30 in the morning, but someone was quickly approaching from behind. She had felt the fear of strange footsteps before, and it always turned out to be nothing. She peeked over her left shoulder and saw the heavy-set man picking up speed and staring straight at her. She looked around for someone, anyone; but the street was deserted, and the only lights were street-lights. There were no cars moving at all.
The man knew he had to act quickly. She was passing two-story homes, and any one of them could be hers. If she got into a house the opportunity would be lost. The thought kept crossing his mind that she was of no consequence, but anything was possible. He was now within twenty yards of her.
Shannon peeked over her shoulder again as she approached her apartment building on the corner of the street. She saw the burly man begin to run and he pulled a gun out of his jacket. She broke into a sprint but stumbled as the spike on her left high-heeled shoe snapped off. She reached into her purse and grabbed her keys before dropping the bag running up the steps on the toes of her shoes to compensate for the broken spike while finding the correct key. As she charged up the six steps, she shoved the key toward the lock, but in her panic, the key hit the side of the lock and she dropped it to the ground. She looked down the steps and tried to scream, but nothing came out. The fear was overwhelming. She saw the man as he pulled the trigger. The first bullet hit her in the base of the throat shattering her spine, and the second one went into the center of her chest.
Shannon motionless, fell down the steps, her blood forming a puddle around her body.
The man took a brief look at the dying girl, and ran down the block while unscrewing the silencer that kept the murder from waking up the whole neighborhood. He put the weapons back into his jacket and stopped running at the end of the block. Then he walked three more blocks before hailing a cab.
Chapter TwoAgents Pete Dobbins and John Schuster of the FBI were eating lunch at a small Mexican restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Schuster was a thirty-one-year old agent with two years of experience with the Bureau. A former college wrestler with cauliflower ears and a depressed nose, his short black hair was balding fast from front to back. He generally had a confident smirk on his face, which he learned to use on the wrestling mat. Dobbins iPhone rang, with the news that a bank robbery was in progress at First Security Bank in northwest Phoenix. The agents left their lunches half-eaten and sprinted for Schuster's car. A bank robber had hit two other banks on the west side over the last two months, and the agents had been assigned to the case.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations, rather than local police departments were in charge of investigating robberies at banks that were insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Only about seven percent of bank robberies were actually solved with an arrest and a conviction. And this suspect from the last two robberies worked alone and drove a motorcycle.
Schuster drove west on Van Buren until reaching Grand Avenue, which traveled northwest through the western side of Phoenix. Schuster placed the red emergency light on the roof of his GMC Denali so he could speed through traffic unimpeded. The agents listened to the Phoenix Police radio frequency. Grand Avenue crossed over Interstate 17 just south of the Thomas Road entrance where Schuster entered the freeway.
Dobbins could hear that the police were on the scene and the suspect had just left the bank, traveling east on Glendale Avenue on a motorcycle. Dobbins instructed Schuster to exit the freeway at Glendale Avenue, which was less than a mile away. Schuster drove over eighty miles per hour along the emergency lane, heading north on the crowded freeway as he approached the Glendale off-ramp.
"John, lose the light. This guy might drive right past us." Dobbins told his partner, and it was perfect timing as a motorcycle ran a red light crossing the overpass of the freeway right in front of them.
"There he is," Schuster said as he turned east behind the suspect. The desperate man looked over his shoulder and did not see any police vehicles following him. He slowed down feeling confident that he had once again successfully robbed a bank.
Dobbins communicated to the Phoenix Police over the radio that they were following the suspect who was on a motorcycle. He instructed the police not to move in too fast because it appeared the suspect was driving normally and the last thing they wanted was to start a high-speed pursuit. The suspect turned south on Fifteenth Avenue and drove at a relaxed speed for a few miles. A police helicopter following the events over the radio located the suspect. The pilot stayed a thousand feet in the air and behind the suspect. But, the one thing the pilot did not take into consideration was that he was directly between the sun and the motorcycle, and the suspect saw the shadow of the helicopter.
Schuster pulled in three cars behind the motorcycle at the light. Both agents opened their doors, drew their guns and started running toward the motorcycle. The suspect reacted impulsively, revved his engine and sped around the waiting traffic before the agents could reach him. The motorcycle's engine produced an ear-splitting noise as he quickly accelerated into the intersection, but a large furniture delivery truck was barreling through the east-bound green light, and they were on a collision course. The suspect had no choice but to hit the brakes and lay the motorcycle down as the truck ran over the bike, just barely missing the rider who was well padded with a helmet, cowboy boots, leather over his jeans and a leather jacket. He sprang to his feet and grabbed the bag of stolen money off the back of the destroyed motorcycle. He saw two men in suits running towards him with guns drawn. He pulled out a hand gun from his jacket and fired two shots at the agents who dove for cover behind a car. The suspect ran across the street toward an apartment complex.
Dobbins motioned to Schuster to go to the back of the complex as he followed the armed man through some bushes and into the pool area, which sat in the middle of the two- story apartments. The suspect was slowing down as he realized that his right leg was in terrible pain from the accident. He grabbed a middle-aged woman who was coming out of the laundry room holding a basket of clean clothes. The basket fell to the ground and the woman screamed. Dobbins ran into sight of the suspect in time to see him holding a gun to her head from behind. The suspect yelled at Dobbins, but he could not be heard through his helmet, and over the hysterical woman's screams. She was panicking, and Dobbins could see that the suspect could not control her. The man was yelling at the woman to calm down, but she did not understand English. She was in full panic mode as she scratched and kicked at him screaming uncontrollably. Dobbins took advantage of the distracted suspect. He calmly aimed his nine-millimeter automatic at the suspect's right shoulder and pulled the trigger. The shot was perfect and the suspect dropped his gun and collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain. Dobbins moved in to place him under arrest as the woman ran off screaming even louder than before.
Peter Dobbins was a twenty-nine year old FBI agent with four years of experience on the job. He was just-under six feet tall, with blue eyes and sandy brown hair that was cut short to conform with the Bureau's culture of a conservative, professional appearance. He had a rugged jaw contrasted by a boyish-smile and a naturally muscular build with broad shoulders and a thick neck. Dobbins dressed in dark suits and starched white shirts every day. On occasion, he wore loud ties. But since agents normally wore striped ties of no more than two colors, it was not difficult to wear a tie that was considered loud.
Dobbins had graduated from the FBI academy four years earlier. He was first assigned to the FBI office in Seattle for three years. In Seattle, he worked the harbor district, looking for illegal drugs being shipped in from the Far East. He built a reputation within the bureau for working well undercover, and getting the necessary evidence to win convictions. The Seattle FBI office arrested dozens of drug traffickers, including a leading organized crime figure who had eluded law enforcement attempts to convict him for twenty years.
Excerpted from THE DIAMOND DECEPTION by MIKE GALLAGHER Copyright © 2013 by Mike Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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