The End Game

The End Game

The End Game 17

  “He had a huge lunch he’s sleeping off. Please, sit down, both of you.”

  Mike and Nicholas sat on the sofa, on each side of the cat. Mike leaned forward. “Ms. Finder, we really don’t have much time. We—” Pooh opened her eyes, eyed Mike, and stretched out a paw to touch her on the knee. Mike automatically rubbed his ears. In the next moment the cat was curled on Mike’s lap. If the situation weren’t so dire, Nicholas knew he’d be hard-pressed not to laugh, particularly since Ms. Finder was staring at Mike in amazement.

  “Pooh hates strangers.”

  “I suppose even a cat has to respect the FBI,” Nicholas said. “Now, Ms. Finder, do you know anyone in the building who might have a Suburban? It seems the records were listed improperly.”

  “Not that I’m aware of, but it’s a big building, a huge garage. Like I said, I don’t own one. I’m a writer—a blogger, I mean—and most of what I do is either food- or wine-related.”

  “Excuse me,” Nicholas said, and stepped away to call Gray.

  Mike scratched Pooh’s ears and asked, “What’s the blog?”

  Ms. New York Hip sat forward, so excited she couldn’t sit still. “ I search towns for the best wine buys, then pair the bottle with a recipe. I’ve been running it since 2009, since I turned twenty-one. I have lots of celebrity guest chefs and stuff.”

  Nicholas held up his hand. “Ms. Finder, not only is the Suburban registered to this address, it’s also registered in your name. I believe you need to rethink ownership and tell us the truth.” His voice had lowered, and sure enough, Ms. Finder looked alarmed.

  “No, no, it’s not mine. Really, it’s got to be a mistake. I mean, who would do that?”

  “Let’s back up,” Mike said. “Perhaps you have a friend, someone who needed a landing spot for their vehicle? You have a garage space, don’t you?”

  “Yes, all the tenants do, it comes with the apartment.”

  “Maybe someone is using your spot and you don’t want to report it to the building managers?”

  “That’s not a bad idea, Agent Drummond. I could rake in the bucks letting other tenants park their second cars there.” She grinned at them.

  Mike didn’t grin back. Like Nicholas, it was time for her to intimidate. “Ms. Finder, the Suburban we’re looking for was identified at a crime scene in Brooklyn last night. Please tell us where you were yesterday from five o’clock on.”

  Ms. New York Hip drew back, more than simply alarmed now. Mike could see the fear.

  “I don’t understand. You think I had something to do with a crime that happened in Brooklyn? I don’t even know what you’re talking about. You’re asking me to give you an alibi? Look, I haven’t been in Brooklyn in two weeks, not since I had drinks at Cow and Clover and reviewed them for the blog. The entry went up yesterday. I was here, working on it.” She jumped up and ran to the chair by the window, grabbed her open MacBook Air. Both cats stared at her but didn’t move.

  “See? I posted the piece at six-thirty last night, perfect timing for people getting ready to go out for the evening and looking for the coolest places to eat. Then I ate dinner, drafted five more blogs, and went to bed. I watched two episodes of The Walking Dead before I fell asleep. Had bad dreams, too. My Netflix queue would be able to verify the times, wouldn’t it?”

  She started tapping on the computer, pulling up the website.

  “I would assume it’s geocoded to both my account and my television. You can contact them, see where the account was being accessed and when.”

  Nicholas took the computer from her. Nothing like the young computer geeks to speak the right lingo. He looked at the screen. The Walking Dead was indeed listed under “recently watched.” She was telling the truth.

  Mike picked up one of the pictures sitting on the table by the sofa, held it up. “Ms. Finder, is this your boyfriend?”

  “Yes, yes, that’s Craig. He’s in Paris right now. He’s training at Le Cordon Bleu. When he graduates, we’re going to open a restaurant. And before you ask, no, he doesn’t have a Suburban. Really, I don’t know what this could be about. It’s got to be a mistake.”

  In the 5x7, Melody Finder and Craig were wearing hiking shorts and boots, standing in front of a mess of trees Mike didn’t recognize, wide grins on their faces.

  “We ziplined in Costa Rica. We did it maybe half a dozen times.”

  Mike lifted the cat off her lap, rose, and set him back down. He gave her the stink eye, then fell back asleep. “Thank you for your help, Ms. Finder. We’ll be in touch.”

  “But why? I mean, you see now it’s all a mistake, right?” Melody was practically running after them to the front door, her Doc Martens hitting the floor hard.

  Nicholas said, “We’ll let you know if we need anything else.”

  “Well, okay, I guess. Hey, stop by my blog sometimes. You look like you’d enjoy a good Chianti. I have a lot of recommendations there.” And she gave them both a big smile, showing lots of white teeth.

  When the door closed behind them, Mike said, “Property management company, now. Since it appears Ms. Finder doesn’t know anything, that means someone probably registered the car in her name. Let’s see if they’re using the garage, too.”



  The on-property agent for the property management company was short, heavy, and annoyed, but willing to let them scout the garage for anything helpful. He rose from his comfortable leather desk chair to show them the way down.

  “I don’t know if any of the tenants have a black Suburban. Then again, I don’t spend a lot of time in the garage. If someone buys a new car, they’re supposed to tell us what it is, but half the time they don’t. Melody’s space would be coded to her apartment, 1507, but she doesn’t use the garage, so I rented it to 1202 instead. He has a Prius and a Jaguar. Can you imagine, having two cars in this city? But he’s some Wall Street jockey who likes to go to the Hamptons on the weekends.”

  This monologue took them to the elevator and down into the garage, where he handed off two Maglites.

  “Have a time,” he said. “I’ll be back upstairs, checking with the management company to see if they have anyone with a Suburban.” He left them, the elevator doors closing with a whisper in the dark.

  The lights were on motion detectors to save energy. A step forward and the whole quadrant lit up but left large swatches of dark. There were more than a hundred spaces on three underground levels to explore.

  The slot for 1507 was on the top floor. It was empty.

  Nicholas said, “Too much to hope for. Let’s split up. You take this floor, I’ll go down to the bottom. We’ll meet in the middle.” He checked his mobile—three bars. “I have service, so call me if you find something.”

  Mike nodded. “Last time I was in a Manhattan garage with you—my very own apartment’s garage, I might add—we ended up in a shootout.” She touched the bullet hole in his jacket. “Let’s not do that today.” She stepped into the darkness, the flashlight beam skittering in front of her.

  Nicholas took the elevator down two levels, stepped out, and started the search, looking systematically left to right. He was glad of the flashlight. The motion-detectors were slow because the lights were CFL to save energy; they needed to warm up to give maximum light, and that took a while. If it was busy, there’d be plenty of light, but in the midday with only two of then, all the shadows, the sounds of their footsteps, the dankness of the air, it was downright creepy.

  It didn’t make sense, someone squatting his car registration on Melody Finder. Whoever did it must have known she didn’t have a car, so didn’t use her space, probably rented another tenant’s. Or she was right and it was all a mistake.

  Ten minutes later, they’d searched the whole garage. Nothing. Nicholas saw the cameras as he walked back toward the elevator. They were tucked away, all but imp
ossible to see. He pointed them out.

  Mike shook her head. “That putz property manager could have mentioned they have video feed. Let’s go grab it for the past forty-eight hours, see if there’s anything worth seeing.”

  The property manager was on the phone with the management company when they got back to his apartment. Nicholas asked to speak to them. With a few brief sentences, they happily agreed to let the FBI look at their feed, housed off-site. They promised to send the tapes to 26 Federal Plaza immediately.

  For the moment, they were at a dead end.

  Mike said, “This is getting frustrating. We keep having these great breaks that don’t pan out.”

  “The bright side,” Nicholas said, “Mrs. Antonio might wrap this up for us, give us the faces of everyone in COE.”

  She nodded, dialed Ted “Bud” Anders, in her opinion their best sketch artist. Between him and his laptop, if there was a chance to come through with a good likeness of the four individuals, he’d find it. They’d asked him to do the Middle Eastern man first.

  Nicholas heard Bud’s enthusiasm. “Mrs. Antonio has great visual memory, so it won’t take too long, Mike. I’ll send the Middle Eastern guy’s sketch to your cell as soon as I have something.”

  When she punched off, Mike said, “No way to nail Bud on how long it’ll take, so I guess we now have to focus on the Honda with Mr. Wounded Knee and his buddy, whoever that was. You know they were probably two of the four people staying in that apartment.”

  “And Mr. Wounded Knee was looking for something. But what?”

  She threw up her hands. “Nicholas, we need more agents and another twenty hours in the day. And I’m hungry. Let’s head back to the office, pick up some pastrami on rye on the way.”

  “I heard your stomach talking, but I was too polite to say anything. Pastrami on rye? I could go for that, maybe a double.”

  They jaywalked, got into the Crown Vic. Nicholas had just turned over the engine and started to pull from the curb when Mike suddenly grabbed his arm.

  “Nicholas. I don’t believe it. Look, a black Suburban, coming up the street.”

  He braked, the car half out into traffic. “Are they going into the garage? Bloody hell, they are. It’s about time a little luck flowed our way. Can you see who’s driving?”

  “No, but I can get the plate. It’s New York.” She read off the rest of the numbers.

  “Yep, it’s our car.” Nicholas reversed the Crown Vic back into the spot while Mike kept her eye on the Suburban, idling in the garage drive, waiting for the door to go up.

  She said, “The driver is young, white, wearing sunglasses and a Boston Red Sox cap. I think I see blond hair, and it’s long. I can’t see his face. We need to get in there, Nicholas, before he parks and goes upstairs to wherever he lives. I’m calling for backup.”

  Nicholas was already halfway out of his seat. “I’m going to follow him down the ramp. I’ll text you what floor he goes to.” He took off at a run, weaving in and out of traffic, ignoring curses and loud horns. She saw him bend double to slip under the garage door before it closed again.

  Mike called Zachery as she jogged in and out between cars to get across the street. “Sir, we need backup at West Thirtieth and Sixth, in the Meadow Arms apartment building garage. We’ve identified a black Suburban involved in the possible abduction of the woman from the burned repair shop in Brooklyn last night.”

  She heard Zachery shout in the background, “Get agents to West Thirtieth and Sixth, and alert NYPD, they’ll be closer.” He came back on with her. “I love it when a talking gut pans out. People are on their way. Get the Suburban, Mike, and be careful. Where’s Drummond?”

  “Nicholas is already in the garage following the guy to see where he parks. I’m going in now.”

  Her text dinged.


  Zachery laughed. “Why am I not surprised? Keep in touch. And Michaela? No more shootings.”

  Crap, so he knew about Brooklyn and Mr. Wounded Knee. Mike punched off and started running.

  Their black Suburban was all the way down on the third level. The elevator was her best bet. She waved her creds by the young guy at the front desk again and kept running.

  He stepped from behind the desk this time, alarm on his face. “Hey, is everything okay?”

  She whirled around. “Can you shut down the garage door, so no one can get in or out?”

  “I can, but I don’t think the management company would be happy—”

  “Do it. Do it now. We have more agents on the way. Tell them there are agents on level B-three, looking to talk to a suspect in a black Suburban.”

  The elevator took only three seconds to rumble to the basement garage. She prayed it wouldn’t alert the Suburban driver.



  Nicholas leaned against the gray concrete wall. The ramp down into the basement was circular; he’d jogged behind the Suburban, careful to stay out of sight.

  The driver hadn’t seen him, another bit of good luck. The big SUV went to the very back row, the farthest from the elevator. It gave Nicholas time to get down to the third floor and take up a defensive position. Mike had been only half joking when she’d made the earlier crack about the other garage shootout. That had been a close one.

  Nicholas didn’t want a repeat performance. This time it was the Suburban guy who would be taken by surprise, not them.

  He pulled his Glock out of the clip at his waist, heard the elevator ding a soft single note—good, no way would their Suburban guy hear it.

  And out came Mike, bent at the knees, looking, looking, hand on the snap of her holster. He laid a finger to his lips when she saw him, and gestured for her to come to him. He pulled her behind a blue MINI Cooper. Not much in the way of protection, but at least it was parked next to a wall space, completely away from the line of sight to the Suburban. He hoped whoever was in the Suburban didn’t have bat ears and hear the elevator ding.

  He whispered against her temple, “He parked back there. No sign of anyone yet. And no talking, so he’s probably alone.”

  Mike whispered back, “Backup’s on the way. Since this is the only way out, he’ll have to pass us to get onto the elevator or walk back up. If the doorman did what I told him to, the garage door is now closed. Your call, Nicholas, wait here or storm the trenches.”

  “Let’s wait, let him come to us.” But no one came. After twenty very slow seconds there was still no movement.

  Mike whispered, “What could he be doing? Fixing his hair? A bit of makeup? Nicholas, I can’t stand it any longer. Let’s go see what he’s up to.”

  Music to his ears. Nicholas grinned like a bandit. “Let’s do it. Careful, Mike.” They started down the row of cars, one at a time. Still, they heard nothing from the end of the row. What was he doing?

  When they were two cars away, they heard a door open. Mike, in front, stopped, raised a fist. Nicholas closed in behind her.

  They heard whistling, then the back lid of the Suburban opened with a clunk.

  Nicholas held up three fingers. Three. Two. One.

  They came in hard and fast, one on each side. Nicholas shouted, his voice echoing hard and low off the walls, “Stop, right there. FBI. Hands where I can see them.”

  The man’s hands shot up. “Hey, hey, relax.”

  Mike was looking in the back of the truck.

  “Holy crap! Nicholas, he has an arsenal in here—weapons, grenades, radios. All right, buddy, what are you planning, some sort of siege?”

  “Listen, let me explain—”

  Nicholas said, “Turn around, slowly, right now, and put your hands on the car. Now!”

  The guy did have long hair, looked bleached, like an L.A. surfer. He was still wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. Nicholas couldn’t see his eyes, couldn’t see what he was thinking. He said, ?
??What are you, some kind of surfer-dude terrorist?”

  “Hey, it’s her majesty’s secret service, talking right to me. No, mate, I’m no terrorist. Trust me, this is all a big misunderstanding. If you’d give me a chance to put down my hands and explain—”

  “Hands, mate. On the truck. Do it. Now.”

  Surfer Dude didn’t move.

  Nicholas aimed his Glock right at his face. “Are you deaf? I told you to put your hands on the roof.”

  Mike kept her distance, blocking Surfer Dude if he made the poor decision to make a run for it. She kept one eye on the elevator, a good fifty feet away; they should have backup here any minute. Surfer Dude turned, raised his hands, palms up, to plant them on the roof. Then, at the last instant, he whipped around, dove at Nicholas, sent his fist hard into his jaw, and was off and running.

  Nicholas whipped around and grabbed his shoulder before he’d taken two steps, threw him backward. Surfer Dude landed hard against the Suburban’s bumper, bounced off, and went down to the concrete floor. Amazingly, he rolled, came up in a crouch.

  “So you want to play, do you?” Nicholas said, and Mike would swear she saw joy in his eyes. She realized soon enough that Surfer Dude was a seasoned fighter. She could see his eyes assessing for weak spots since his sunglasses had gone flying. Good luck to you, sir, she thought, and called out, “Take the moron down, Nicholas.”

  Nicholas feinted to the left, turned fast, and kicked out at Surfer Dude’s knee. He got only the side of his leg, barely grazed him, Surfer Dude was that fast.

  He narrowed his eyes, came at Nicholas, punches no longer wild but now fast and controlled, arms moving in a blur, all of it textbook moves, lethal, designed for maximum impact.

  Trained, Mike thought. He’s been trained. She smiled. No matter, he wasn’t Nicholas. In fact, she saw herself taking the clown down and sitting on his back, maybe smacking his head as she cuffed him.

  Nicholas had a height advantage and he used it, punching Surfer Dude’s neck, landing a hard kidney shot, stomping his arch. It was a relief Surfer Dude didn’t have a knife. Both Mike and Nicholas hated knives, far too dangerous. She watched Nicholas kick Surfer Dude’s belly.