(This is the continuation of a serial novel. For previous chapters click here.)
The following morning’s headlines had a common theme — Armageddon Comes to Washington. Pictures of Lipskey and Harrison could be seen on every network and newspaper throughout the country.
Both Time and Newsweek were planning to run their story as the cover page. They were the nation’s salt and pepper heroes and that made them all the more attractive to politicians. Diversity unites to defend the nation. The president was preparing to invite them to the White House for a dinner in their honor.
Irwin Rogers had to admit he had missed his moment. It was the interrogation that broke the case and that was the work of Lipskey and Harrison. Nobody cares about who said what over the phone. Rogers felt ashamed of being so petty. It was difficult to admit to himself that the green-eyed monster of jealousy got the best of him.
Still, he would have liked to have gone out with a bang — one big winner before he retired. He must be careful not to show his envy to Harrison or Lipskey. Irwin Rogers was feeling burned out. This may be my last case he thought to himself, as he sat alone at his desk waiting for his shift to end. Harrison had left early to attend a party at the mayor’s house
Mohammad Karun was now one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted and there was a $500,000 reward offered for information leading to his arrest and conviction. So-called terrorist experts were predicting on camera that Mohammad had fled the country by now. That he had in all probability been “extracted” by an embassy sympathetic to his plight. Others thought he may have fled to Canada by now and from there back to Iran. His story aired on America’s Most Wanted complete with an artist’s recreation of how he might look now. None of the experts ever predicted he would continue to stay in a flea bag motel in northeast Washington under the name of Diego Vargas.
Diego Vargas aka Mohammad Karun lay in his bed frozen by betrayal. He vowed to himself that he would no longer drink water and that he would wait for the end to come while begging Allah’s forgiveness. He only wished, that before he died, he could have cut the throat of Ramzi Kamel slowly with a dull knife. How he would loved to feel Kamel’s hot blood spilling upon his hand as he slowly pulled his dagger from ear to ear across the traitor’s neck. Mohammad tried to read the morning paper but his eyes could only focus on the picture of Darren Harrison standing with Lipskey. A police detective who doesn’t even work for the government of the United States took part in the torture of Ramzi. What clever tricks did you use to make him turn his back on Islam, detective? A black man should know better than to run with a pack of dogs. Mohammad thought quietly, agreeing with himself.
He was drifting in and out of sleep now. Weak from no food and dry from no water. He was dreaming much more now. Each time he awoke the dreams became harder to shake off. Dreams were becoming his reality. When he journeyed the seven paces from his bed to the toilet the dreams possessed him. He would fully awake only when feeling the slow flow of his urine, then he would remember that he had failed and return to his bed without flushing. In seven paces he knew that he would be dreaming again.
Now he had no urine left and his dreams seemed endless. Allah knows I was willing, that I was betrayed.
“You must then choose another sword,” said the goddess of fate, al-Manat. Mohammad sensed her presence as she was speaking to him. “You are the sword of Allah. You must not fail. Get up. The time has come to move from the city and sleep under the trees. Your fast is complete.”
Mohammad awoke abruptly. He could smell the urine from the bathroom for the first time. His heart was pounding. He needed water. He arose slowly from his bed and made his way to the sink where he began to drink the cold, flowing water.
That was no dream, he thought to himself. He must leave at once and never return. The water was clearing his thoughts. He reached inside his hooded overcoat pocket and pulled out his .32-caliber Beretta along with the detached silencer and threw them both on the bed. Reaching deeper into his coat pocket he found a map. Mohammad unfolded the map on the bed and looked for a place with trees outside the city. His knees were still weak but his body was surging with new found energy. Large green areas appeared on the map surrounding a town whose name instantly attracted Mohammad’s fancy. It was Clinton, Md. Yes, Mohammad thought to himself, Clinton is perfect.
Rogers picked up the ringing phone on his desk with less than an hour left on his shift. It was a staff member from the television show America’s Most Wanted calling. They had just received a tip from the night manager of a motel on New York Avenue claiming that a guy staying there matched the description of Mohammad Karun. The night manager said the suspect was pretending to be Mexican. He signed in under the name of Diego Vargas, but when he spoke Spanish to one of the maids earlier this morning, she knew the accent was definitely of the non- Hispanic variety. He also looked similar to the photos shown on TV, except his head and beard had been shaved.
This was the 78th sighting of Mohammad Karun in the last 48 hours since the airing of the show. Still it had to be checked out. Rogers jumped on the chance to leave the office early. He wasn’t going to call out the SWAT team on this one, however, he did have two marked units meet with him down the street from the motel. Rogers then talked with the night manager by cell phone and confirmed there was only one exit from room #208 which led to the balcony facing the parking area.
“Have the key ready for us in the parking lot when we pull in. Hand it to me and then go back into your office,” Rogers said.
The two marked units pulled into the lot along with Rogers’ unmarked car. The night manager was standing in the parking lot pointing to room #208 while holding up a set of keys. There were two sets of stairs which led to the balcony. Rogers directed one of the officers to take the stairs on the right, while he and the other uniformed officer approached from the stairs on the left. Rogers pumped his 12 gauge Remington with a live round of double 0 buckshot and ascended the stairway to the second floor. The door opened from the left. The uniformed officer on the right unlocked the door with the key as Rogers announced “ PO-LICE – open up.” The second uniformed officer was shining his flashlight, pistol drawn and pointed into the room behind the fully extended barrel of Rogers 12 gauge.
The bed was empty. The room clear from eye level. They turned on the lights.
“Under the bed,” Rogers yelled as he slammed open the door open with enough force to crush anyone who might be hiding behind it.
“Police, we have a warrant for your arrest,” Rogers repeated, “if you’re in the bathroom, come out with your hands up.”
The officers slammed open the bathroom door and then ripped open the shower curtain.
“ Shit,” Rogers exclaimed as he exhaled a long sigh of his baited breath. He could still feel the surge of wasted adrenaline pumping his racing heart. Then he looked at the floor, saw the newspapers and he knew. One of the pages was folded open to page A-17, The Shenandoah Bomber Escapes cont ...
Irwin Rogers paged Kyle Lipskey to brief him on the latest development and to see if he wanted an FBI Evidence Team to process the motel room instead of Metro’s team. As far as Rogers was concerned, he didn’t need to wait for the prints to come back to confirm that Mohammad had slept here. He could smell him.
Rogers’ pager began to vibrate. It was Sabrina Delfuco calling from the 1700 Club. He called her back immediately.
“Well stranger, I see you’re still a Four F member in good standing. Find ’em, Feel ’em, Fuck ’em and Forget ’em,” Sabrina said only half in jest over the phone. “Where have you been?”
Rogers could tell from her voice that she’d been drinking.
“I’ve been a little busy lately Sabrina,” Rogers said.
“Too busy to pick up a phone?” she asked without waiting for a reply. “ Only teasing honey. The reason I called is to invite you to a little party I’m having here at the Club. It’s my retirement party Irwin and I want you to be here. I’d like you to meet my boss, Brubaker. Please say you will make it.”
“I’d love to Sabrina. As soon as I get a couple of odds and ends cleared up here I’ll be on my way … say in an hour or so?”
“Thanks baby. It will be nice to see you again,” she said before hanging up.
Rogers cell phone rang. It was Kyle Lipskey returning the page. Lipskey wanted his Evidence Team to process the scene. Agent Parker would be there in 10 minutes to supervise the operations.
“I can’t believe it,” Lipskey said. “He’s been living under our noses all along. What the hell is keeping him here? This is not a good sign,” he concluded before hanging up.
When Agent Parker arrived, Irwin Rogers left the motel and headed straight for the station to drop off his unmarked and head to Georgetown in his P.O.V., police parlance for Personally Owed Vehicle. On the way he thought about what Lipskey had said. Rogers agreed that there must be something keeping Mohammad from leaving. Whatever he was up to had to be no good.
Twenty minutes later, Rogers was standing in the foyer, staring at the video camera while waiting to be buzzed in. He felt like he was at an ATM machine withdrawing cash.
The buzzer sounded and Rogers entered. Sabrina was waiting for him in the hallway. They embraced, kissed softly, and then walked arm and arm into the dining area.
“Come with me a minute. I want you to meet my boss, Mr. Brubaker,” Sabrina said. Most of the guests had already left, however Charles Brubaker had remained.
“Charlie, I’d like you to meet a very dear friend of mine,” Sabrina began, “ Irwin Rogers, meet Charles Brubaker.”
Philip Donovan turned his head toward Rogers and rose to his feet with a smile. “Detective Rogers, what a pleasure to see you again. Well Sabrina, since you brought the law in on this, I might as well confess. After all these years you finally get to find out what my real name is. It’s Phil. Then again, maybe I’m Charlie dreaming that I’m Phil. And who knows who I’ll be tomorrow?” he laughed.
Sabrina laughed on cue. “Who cares honey, as long as your money is green?”
“And Irwin, I believe you have already met Mickey Fitch,” Donovan said, introducing the forth person at the table. The pale, white head of Mickey Fitch seemed to glow from the dark corner of the table.
“ Good evening Irwin,” Fitch said.
“Hello there Mickey,” Rogers replied.
Rogers ordered a bottle of light beer as he and Sabrina sat to join the two men at their table.
“Tonight’s a special night,” Donovan began, as if to remind those present that civility was in order. “It’s the last night we will ever have the pleasure of working with this charming and talented lady. Sabrina, we wish you a long and prosperous retirement. Since we’ve already taken care of the prosperous part the rest is up to you.”
“To a charming and talented lady,” repeated Fitch, sounding a little drunk and considerably out of character.
“Speaking of charming, you’ll excuse me while I go to the bar and kick some ass. Already the service sucks around here and I’m not even out of the door yet,” Sabrina laughed.
Once Sabrina had left the table Donovan felt he should speak first.
“I’m not going to say I’m sorry for not telling you about this earlier, Irwin, but I hope you’ll understand that I wasn’t in a position to. Sabrina has been engaged in what we call ancillary employment with the company for 20 years now. I’m asking you both as a gentleman and as her friend to keep this matter to yourself. In her way she has been of enormous service to her country over the years.”
“ I think I understand Phil. It’s sort of a My Country, ’Tis of Thee thing,” Rogers said with a smirk.
Mickey Fitch burst out in the most spastic laughter Rogers had ever heard. Fitch obviously was drunk. His laughter had an uncontrollable, high-pitched sound that bordered on hysteria and it became infectious.
Soon Donovan joined in and eventually even Rogers could no longer resist. The three men could be heard throughout the building.
“ So,” Donovan said, returning to his senses, “I’ve been reading in the newspapers how your partner — Harrison is it?”
Roger nodded yes.
“How Harrison and Agent Lipskey managed to get Kamel to spill his guts out. I imagine you must be quite proud of their achievement. Did you know the president is honoring them with a dinner next week?” Donovan asked.
“They deserve it,” Rogers acknowledged, trying not to sound bitter.
“Don’t let it get you down Irwin. Sometimes it’s good not to be in the limelight. I certainly can vouch for that,” said Donovan, while watching Rogers empty his first beer in three swallows.
“I’m sure you would have preferred to have been there when Kamel broke down and confessed. Instead, as fate would have it, you were with me. You still made your contribution, Irwin. Not everyone gets to be in the limelight and — take it from me — not everyone wants to be. How would you like to have to read about your wife’s affair in the Post ?” Donovan asked.
“I don’t imagine I would,” Rogers agreed, while changing the subject, “but, I’m happy my partner is getting the recognition he deserves.”
Rogers looked over at Mickey Fitch and saw a smirk he didn’t like. Then he looked back into the cold, preppie stare of Phil Donovan and began to understand their game.
“Now I have a toast,” Rogers said. “That is if I can get another beer around here.”
Sabrina arrived at the table accompanied by a waiter who was carrying ice buckets full of beer and champagne.
Rogers grabbed an icy bottle of beer from the bucket and held it high as he announced his toast.
“Let those who deserve it enjoy their moment of fame and let those who wish to avoid it be lucky enough to keep what’s left of their secrets,” Rogers said smiling at Donovan.
Rogers hadn’t the faintest clue what he was saying, but if 22 years of police work had taught him one universal truth, it was that everyone has private, little secrets. Looking across the table only confirmed that reality one more time.
Mickey Fitch was no longer wearing his smirk. Donovan held his poker face.
“Here — here,” Donovan said, acknowledging the toast while forcing a smile. As he took a sip from his glass, Rogers had finally seen the first “Tell” in Donovan’s repertoire of deception. A forced smile is one of the ways Donovan lies, Rogers thought.
“So what’s your partner up to tonight?” Donovan asked.
“Daren’s attending a party at the mayor’s house,” Rogers said. “Would you like to meet him Phil?”
Without waiting for his response, Rogers pulled out his cell phone and paged Harrison. Then he calmly looked back at Donovan who still had not replied.
Sabrina could sense the macho crap going on between the two men, but she’d had enough Hennesey to not care. Besides, it was sort of amusing watching this testosterone tug of war.
“Actually, I’d enjoy meeting your partner very much,” Donovan said. “That is, of course, if he’s able to drag himself away from the mayor.”
Rogers’ cell phone rang.
“Darren,” Rogers began, “How’s the party? Really. How much longer are you going to be? Good. When you’re through how about joining me for a drink? Bring her. Just me and a few friends I want you to meet. Georgetown. Got a pen? The 1700 Club. Here’s the address.”
“He said he’ll be here in an hour Phil. He’s dragging himself away from the mayor now.” Rogers then finished another bottle of beer and placed it on the table a little too loudly, as if it were a pawn on a chess board.
Donovan smiled back at Rogers’ display and then diverted his attention to the guest of honor.
“So, Sabrina,” Donovan said, “tell us what you’re going to do down there in Palm Beach.”
“Change my sleeping patterns for one thing,” she said. “No more of this up until 4 a.m. crap. I’d like to watch the sun come up for a change.”
Boring pleasantries dominated the next hour. Donovan and Fitch would have left by now, but since Harrison was due to arrive, they felt obliged to stay.
The buzzer sounded, Harrison and his date could be seen on the video monitor. Sabrina buzzed them in and Rogers rose from the table to greet them at the door.
“Thanks for coming Darren,” Rogers said. “And who is this beautiful woman you’re with?”
“Irwin, this is Linda Belamy. Linda, this is my partner, Irwin Rogers.”
“Pleased to meet you,” she said while extending her long and graceful hand. Linda had the kind of figure women would kill for, the kind of figure that was made to wear designer originals. Rogers could almost feel Sabrina’s eyes glaring with envy. Linda Belamy had a lean and sculptured stature, but it was her poised, graceful style that made it all happen. She had close styled hair that exposed the long nape of her graceful neck and large mocha eyes that stared through you. Her smile lit up the room. Darren Harrison gently held her arm as he escorted her into the room to join the others. He held her as though she were delicate china.
“So this is Darren Harrison — the Man of the Hour,” Donovan announced as he and Fitch stood from the table to greet them. “Let me introduce myself. Phil Donovan and this is Mickey Fitch. Our hostess Sabrina Delfuco had to go to the ladies room to freshen up.”
“Mr. Donovan, Mr. Fitch, may I present my fiancée, Linda Belamy,” Harrison said.
“A pleasure … please be seated. What can we get you to drink?” Donovan asked as though he owned the place. Then again, in a way he did.
“Club soda with a lemon twist for me please,” Linda said.
“Chevas on the rocks please,” Harrison said.
Sabrina arrived wearing fresh war paint and a reluctant smile as she introduced herself. She always made it a rule to hate the competition. White Flint was not the kind of place where Sabrina shopped, however she could tell at a glance that Linda was a Neiman-Marcus girl all the way. I wonder where this bitch gets the money, she thought to herself while smiling pleasantly across the table.
Rogers sat back and prepared himself for the coy little digs that would initiate this pending estrogen war. He never could understand why women just couldn’t get along like men do.
“So Linda, tell me, what’s a good looking, sophisticated woman like yourself doing hanging with a cop? Not that I’m anyone to talk,” Sabrina asked while smiling toward Rogers.
“Darren and I met in college at Howard. That was before he was a police officer of course. Naturally I would have preferred it if he’d have chosen another line of work, but that was his decision to make. Now that he’s made it, I support him.”
“ That’s it girl. Stand – By – Your – Man,” Sabrina said smiling. “What sort of work do you do Linda?”
“ I’m an accountant for B.E.T. downtown,” Linda said.
“Black Entertainment Television? How exciting. All those celebrities in and out of your building all the time. Donnie. Girl how can you stand it? You better treat her right Darren,” Sabrina warned with a big smile in his direction.
“Oh he does, Sabrina. You better believe that,” Linda said with a not-so-friendly smile.
“Well then, now that we’re all having fun getting to know one another, let’s move on to politics and religion,” Donovan laughed. “How is our mayor these days? Behaving himself?”
“He wasn’t smoking crack if that’s what you mean,” Harrison said.
“Glad to hear it,” Donovan laughed glibly. “Speaking of politicians, I understand you will be dining with the president next Thursday.”
“That hasn’t been confirmed yet,” Harrison replied. “It all depends on his schedule.”
“It’ll be Thursday, believe me,” Donovan said confidently. “You and Lipskey are going to help kick off the president’s Tough on Terrorism Campaign. Sorry there, Rogers, but someone has to stay home and watch the fort.”
“We almost got Mohammad tonight, Darren,” Rogers said, releasing his trump card.
“Where at?” Harrison asked.
“A motel on New York Avenue. A tip from the America’s Most Wanted show. He had booked a few hours before we arrived. We just missed him.”
“How can this guy be so lucky?” Harrison asked. “It’s unreal.”
“How can you be sure it was him?” Donovan asked.
“It was him,” Rogers said. “Take my word for it. He’s shaved his head and eyebrows and he’s pretending to be Hispanic, but this was our boy.”
“Did you let Kyle know?” Harrison asked.
“Of course I let him know. They’re over there now processing the room.”
“Well, if you’re right Rogers, then we all may be celebrating a little prematurely,” Donovan said.
“Viper has no network left,” Fitch blurted.
“Viper?” Rogers asked, “you call him Viper! How long have you known about this Donovan?”
“Since 3 o’clock in the morning, the night Alexi was murdered. Viper was that matter of National Security Mickey had called me about. My alibi — remember? At the time I didn’t think there was a connection.”
“How did the FBI find out about Mohammad?” Rogers asked.
“How do you think?” Donovan asked. “We told them, obviously. The law prohibits us from become involved in domestic operations.”
“Shop talk!” Sabrina said bitterly. “Give it a rest. When are you people going to get a life?”
“Please give us one more minute, Sabrina,” Donovan said. “I know we’re being rude here, but it’s very important. Rogers do you trust your partner?”
“Of course I do,” Rogers said without hesitation.
“Well I trust mine, too. Mickey and I go way back. Now all we have to do is put our egos aside for a minute and trust each other. We can help the both of you so long as we can trust you to keep your mouths shut about where your information is coming from. This is touchy territory believe me. We’ll be taking a big risk if we give you any access to SCI, meaning sensitive, compartmented information. Do we have a deal?” Donovan asked.
Rogers looked at Harrison and waited until he nodded yes.
“It’s a deal. Whatever you give us, we’ll keep you out of it,” Rogers said.
“Agreed then,” Donovan concluded. “That’s enough shop talk for tonight. I’ll call you first thing in the morning and we can talk, then. Ladies, please accept my apology. Now, if you’ll permit me, I have a toast: To making new friends while keeping the old, one is silver and the other is gold.”
to be continued…
George Munkelwitz has been a law enforcement officer for 32 years. He spent 22 years patrolling the streets as a Prince George’s County Police officer. He served in Vietnam as a military intelligence specialist where he worked with the controversial Phoenix Program. Prior to the anthrax attack, he was writing the book “The Mother of Satan.” After the anthrax attack, an article appeared in the Washington Times magazine Insight, quoting his expertise in military intelligence, and mentioning his book. ABC news interviewed him but he felt the network treated him like a suspect and not an expert in the field. He never published the book after that interview. Nearly two decades later, his serial novel is finally published by Baltimore Post-Examiner.