CHRISTOPHER CHANCE'S OFFICE, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
"Mr & Mrs Graham…" Winston began, "You can understand our difficulty. We normally deal with cases a bit less…" he searched for words that wouldn't belittle their situation. "…conventional. And we are very expensive."
"We have plenty of money…" Ronald Graham and his wife were sat in chairs opposite Winston's desk. Chance was sat on a sofa at the far end of the room, Carmine sat next to him, head in his lap as Chance scratched absently at the dog's ears. The Grahams looked distinctly uncomfortable in the cavernous office, which was no surprise to Chance. None of his clients wanted to be there and most would trade everything to avoid the need to employ his services. Winston had quickly become an expert at putting potential clients at ease.
The letters they had shown Amos back in their house earlier in the day, and which had been the catalyst for the meeting, lay across Winston's desk. Chance and Winston had read through them as the Grahams had sipped their coffee. The content of them had disturbed both men enough to decide to take the case if the Grahams could pay, but both had felt that there was something in the letters that was being left unsaid by their prospective clients. This conversation was Winston's way of scaring the couple into spitting it out. It wasn't working. Winston sat forward.
"I don't know what Amos told you about us, but we don't deal in money, we prefer more unconventional payment…."
The Graham's look confused. Ronald looked from Winston to his wife and back again.
"As part of my severance payment with my previous employer, I received a number of share options – each is worth $50,000, I'm prepared to transfer one to you, if that will cover your costs."
Before Winston could bite their hand off, Chance sat forward.
"So you're vets?" Graham nodded. "So as well as the share option my partner here is so eager to have you sign over…" He shot Winston a look, who in return rolled his eyes. "…how about you throw in free healthcare for Carmine here?" The rottweiller lifted his head from Chance's lap momentarily and looked around. Sensing that neither a walk or food were in the offing, he laid his head back down and groaned.
Ronald Graham shrugged, confused.
"Sure, of course."
"Here's how we work. I'm not a bodyguard in the strictest sense. There are a dozen bodyguard companies in the phone book in San Francisco, all of them a lot cheaper than me. What they won't do is solve your problem." Chance stood up, Carmine groaning again as he did so, and walked over to Winston's desk, perching himself on the edge.
"A traditional bodyguard will sit by your side, with body armour and wraparound shades. He or she will look intimidating and your letter-writer…" Chance waved his hand over the letters as he spoke, "…may will be intimidated enough to back off. But he won't solve your problem, and when your money runs out, you're back to square one. What I do is the opposite to that. I'll integrate totally into your life, I won't look like a bodyguard, I won't act like a bodyguard, I'll be a co-worker, or a friend from out-of-state. My job is to draw your letter-writer out in the open and put a stop to it, once and for all."
The Graham's stared at Chance, eyes full of hope and more than a little confusion. It was common to all Chance's clients. He smiled.
"In order to do that, we need to know everything about you, your favourite type of soup, who you prefer, the 49ers or the Raiders, where you went to high school, how old you were when you sneaked into your first R rated movie. The more open and honest you are with us, the better we can protect you and the sooner this will be over."
After the Grahams had left, with Chance promising he'd drive over the next day, new persona all arranged, Winston and Chance sat in the office, both troubled. Winston broke the silence.
"I don't know, this one feels a bit off to me."
Chance rubbed the back of his neck.
"Yeah, there's something they're not telling us." He shrugged. "Maybe it'll come out over the next day or two…"
"Yeah…" began Winston, "And maybe Guerrero and Ames can shed a little light on the situation."
Chance continued to rub Carmine's ears. If Winston was calling on Guerrero voluntarily, he must be worried.
"So are you going to ring Ilsa or am I?"
CENTRAL VERMONT MEDICAL CENTRE, MONTPELIER, VERMONT
"I'm FBI agent Olivia Dunham, this is my partner Peter Bishop. We're here to talk to Donald Cho."
The duty nurse directed them to a room down the corridor, and Olivia and Peter found themselves at the back of a line of law enforcement agencies all waiting to see Cho, who was sat up in bed, eating a bowl of ice-cream with a bandage round his head. A doctor walked up to them and took them to one side.
"He's OK, but he has a hairline skull fracture and we're still monitoring for swelling, so I'll tell you what I've told Washington County Sheriff's Department, Montpelier PD and Vermont State Police. You've all got ten minutes."
Olivia waited five minutes for the rest of the cops to ask their questions and pat the ex-Boston Patrolman on the shoulder, then, his room empty, they sat by his bed.
"Donald? I'm Olivia Dunham, I'm an FBI agent and this is my partner Peter Bishop." Peter raised his hand in a wave.
"Fed's eh?" Donald said between mouthfuls of Ice Cream. "Did these clowns cross state lines or something?" Olivia and Peter shared a glance, before Olivia continued.
"Mr Cho, we're more interested in your statement to the Washington County Sheriff's department. You said that the woman bank robber was an amateur, how do you know?" Cho considered the question for a second.
"I used to work Patrol in Boston before I retired, I worked a few armed robberies – the pro's were always in the zone – in and out in a minute, never phased by screaming customers, alarms, guards waving guns. This woman was freaked out by a crying baby, but she had the jitters going in."
"What about the guy?"
"He was stone. Didn't drop a beat. Now I can believe that guy was a pro."
Peter leaned forward.
"Your statement said you shot her." Concern crept across Cho's face.
"She made me drop my Colt. She had an auto – a MAC-9 or MAC-10 I think, so I wasn't going to argue. I still keep a Detective Special .357 in a sock holster, old habits I guess. The female perp started freaking out at the mother of the crying kid and I figure that I'm not gonna have a kid orphaned or worse on my watch, so I drew my back-up piece and dropped her."
"And?" Peter continued expectantly.
"And I put three .357 rounds in her chest. 10 seconds later, she gets up, cracks my skull and runs out of the bank."
"Was she wearing a vest?" asked Olivia. Cho laughed at Olivia's question.
"Lady, if I have to draw my back-up, I'm in a world of hurt. That means I want to drop what I'm shooting at, vest or no vest. I shot that woman with a .357 from 10 feet away with tungsten-jacketed hollow-points. They haven't invented a vest that could stop those rounds at that distance."
"And yet she walked away from three rounds in the chest. How do you explain that?"
"Agent Dunham, I can't."
"You ever heard of someone walking away from those kind of injuries?" Peter and Olivia were walking across the car park to the SUV. Olivia mused on Peter's question for a second and leaned against the car.
"I remember Charlie telling me a story from when he worked with Pittsburgh PD. He was on Patrol when he and his partner get a disturbance call from a downtown bar. When they get there, they find one guy bleeding to death after being thrown through a window and another, standing in the middle of the bar, stark naked, off his gourd on Angel Dust."
"Off his gourd?" Peter laughed. "Is that a law enforcement term?"
"It's how Charlie described him." Peter saw a flash of pain behind Olivia's eyes as she remembered Charlie. "Anyway, they try to tazer the guy and that pisses him off, he just pulls the wires out and comes at them with a broken bottle of Wild Turkey, so they both draw and put 14 rounds into the guy before he eventually goes down. The ME said later that Charlie's first round penetrated the guys heart and should have killed him, but he kept on coming." She sighed. "I don't know Peter, I guess anything's possible with the right chemical assistance."
"Well…" started Peter, "Walter and Astrid are at the bank. Maybe they'll be able to tell us something."