Garth Wainwright wakes from a car crash coma with no memories of any kind; his name, his profession, his everything. After his hospital release, a taxi delivers him to the address on his driver’s license. While searching this condo, he learns that he has a wife, attorney Lacey Kinkaid Wainwright, who was with him during the crash but subsequently vanished. Is she dead? Was her body snatched? Was she kidnapped?
The LA Sheriff’s deputy said it was attempted murder and kidnapping. When Lacey’s captor, head of a crime cartel, is identified, Wainwright launches a perilous international rescue mission with the help of his longtime friend Greg Mulholland of the FBI, Boston DA Investigator Renato Wilson, and an extremely unlikely and deadly ally, whom he must learn to trust to save Lacey before it’s too late. The Assassin, as he is known to law enforcement agencies world-wide, has saved Wainwright’s life. He seems reasonable and non-threatening—for a paid killer—and is welcomed into the search team.
With electrifying action scenes at every turn, author Walter Danley takes readers on a white-knuckle journey into one man’s quest to regain his memories—and the love of his life.
Targeted Age Group:: 12-87
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 3 – PG-13
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The first book in this series, THE TIPPING POINT: A WAINWRIGHT MYSTERY, was started more than 20 years earlier. For many reasons, it eas only the first chapter that got written. The rest of the story had to wait for my 2nd retirement to be
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Over my investment industry career, I met some of the most interesting people and wanted to share their stories. Many of those people inhabit the characters in A WAINWRIGHT MYSTERY series. And as different as these folks are, their stories are even more bizarre. My joy is that I get to be the person that tells the tales. I am the TEXAS THRILLER TILLER!
THERE…IT IS AGAIN—THAT SAME odor. I know it…It stinks…I remember the…What’s the name of it? Can’t remember the name…Faint, familiar, antiseptic.
Wainwright couldn’t see. Something was covering his eyes. He wanted to touch it, to understand what it was, to remember its name and the name of the smell. He needed to know these things; he needed to remember his own name.
One arm wouldn’t move and hurt like hell. The other one…I can move it a little…but it’s restrained by the whatchamacallit. Uh, what is it? It has a name. Why can’t I move my arms? Why can’t I remember what things are called?
Wainwright was in the ICU at UCLA Medical Center. He needed to scratch his cheek. The arm that wouldn’t move was encased in plaster from his wrist to his shoulder. He couldn’t move his other arm due to the restraint attached to the bed rail, which prevented a patient from removing tubes placed in his or her body. Right now Wainwright was a collection of tubes and wires. Wires on his fingers, chest, and neck ran to monitors on the wall. Their incessant beeping drove him mad.
His head looked like a mummy’s, wrapped in gauze. Elastic bandages covered his scalp, forehead, and eyes. His face had sustained cuts, bruises, and lacerations. His wounds had required so many sutures that the surgeon joked about calling in a seamstress to consult on the case. Panic set in as Wainwright continued the inventory of his body.
His mouth wouldn’t open, as the surgeon had wired his jaw shut to heal his fractured mandible. He had no understanding of where he was or why he was there. In fact, he had no memory of anything. As he realized these things, depression replaced his confusion. He felt an overpowering urge to cry but had no idea why. When a person loses his memory, how can he know that he no longer has what he doesn’t remember he’s lost?
He felt blood behind his eyes; his heart was pumping hard, pushing the orbs out of his skull. He heard each beat with his pulse, increasing his anxiety. When he bent his elbow, he felt the tubes in his left arm. He was aware an oxygen cannula was in his nose, but it was still difficult for him to breathe. Hearing was the one sense that seemed to work. People were talking; the voices were male and close to his bed but not next to it.
“How long before he’s awake, Doctor?”
“Hard to tell in cases like this. We’ve tested for brainwave functions, but until he’s conscious and can speak, we won’t know if there’s any damage. You should prepare yourself for the possibility that he might never wake up, Mr. Shaw. It’s touch-and-go. I’m very sorry. Come on—I’ll walk you to the lobby.”
After the voices left, Wainwright took deep breaths. He needed to feed his heart more oxygen. Oh, God, that hurt. His mind focused on the pain in every part of his body.
He dozed off and on until he sensed another presence in the room. With his jaw wired, he half mumbled, half whispered in hopes that whoever was there would understand him.
“Time’s it?” There was no response to his question, so he tried again. “What day?” Unable to see, he sensed the person had laid a hand on the plaster cast. He thought he felt the pressure.
The other person said in a soft, reassuring tone, “It’s Easter morning, my son.”
He thought the voice might be male, but it could also be a female. The person must have removed his or her hand from the cast, as the pressure ceased. And miraculously, so did his pain. Wainwright no longer felt the sharp pains of cuts, bruises, and broken bones. And then, when he was sure the person was no longer in his room, he slept.
He had no memory of the events he’d experienced nine days before and six thousand miles from his hospital bed. He had no memories of any other time or place.
Lacey Wainwright was awake, enjoying her room service: toast and coffee. Relaxed after a good night’s rest, she was ruminating on her life. And why not? Here she was on her honeymoon, in one of the finest hotels in Salzburg—a new bride with a successful novelist husband. Life was good.
Lacey knew Garth considered himself both lucky and unique as an author. Unique because his first several novels continued to sell well, which rarely happened with a new author. He’d heard so many horror stories about starving writers. With two New York Times best sellers to his credit, he was a jubilant man. He was lucky too, since he had retired as a partner at CapVest, a successful investment company. His net worth ensured he’d never starve, even if his books didn’t sell.
True, he and Lacey had intended to wed sooner, but business commitments hadn’t allowed for it until now. Oh, glorious now, she thought. You can have your April in Paris—I’ll take April in Austria. There isn’t another place I want to be right now.
Lacey pictured Garth in her mind’s eye as he’d looked the day they’d first met. It was on the job. He had walked into the conference room with a slight limp, daring anyone to notice. She loved that expression he always got when he wasn’t sure of his circumstances. Lacey had learned that the hard set of his jaw was the “tell.” Did he lack confidence? Not at all. He had plenty, but sometimes, when he was off his home turf, an almost-pained crease appeared between his eyes. Ah, those eyes always remind me of a warm cup of cocoa, she thought with a smile.
A mutual attraction had led to dates, and then they’d fallen in love. They could only endure the long-term, bicoastal romance—her in Boston, him in Los Angeles—for so long. Her law firm had an office in LA, so she moved to the West Coast.
She stopped pondering Mr. Wonderful and glanced at the alarm clock on the dresser. Where is he? When that big lummox writes, he loses all sense of time. With a day of sightseeing planned, Lacey needed her husband at the hotel. While she waited, she continued the pleasant pastime of daydreaming about him. Lacey Kinkaid Wainwright was in love with Garth, their life together, and her place in it.
Her happy thoughts expanded when Wainwright walked into the room. He set his gear down and walked over to her. Lacey rose from her chair to embrace him.
“Good morning, gorgeous,” he said. “How long have you been of this world?”
Clearing her throat, she said, “Considering that considering is the first word I’ve spoken, I’d say not long enough. Did you get any work done this morning?”
Lacey donned a sheer white negligee trimmed with delicate white lace, over which she wore a matching silk dressing gown. Her natural radiance glowed from her freshly washed face. She was one of those women who looked lovelier without makeup, which would mask her natural beauty. She wore her raven-black hair in a classic short A-bob style, a dramatic contrast to her porcelain skin.
“I did. If you sit at that café long enough, the whole world will walk past on the Giselakai. I’ll bet I got plenty of interesting faces this morning. We can take a look later.”
“Will you join me for some coffee?”
“Thanks, but no. If I have one more cup, I’ll start speaking Brazilian.”
“Portuguese. The indigenous peoples of Brazil speak Portuguese as their first language. There isn’t any language called Brazilian. Considering you’re a best-selling author, I’m surprised you don’t know that. I suppose you left your copy of Languages of the Modern World in the hotel room when you left this morning.”
“Babe, the only thing of value I left in this room was you! How about we spend the rest of the day between those satin sheets?”
“You’ve become a horny ol’ husband, haven’t you? Why don’t we take a little break from honey-moon consummation?” She smiled. “I need the rest.”
“You know what they say: ‘Use it or lose it.’”
“Oh, no. God forbid that from happening. Then where would we be?”
“Love will find a way.” Wainwright said. “Oh, honey, I bumped into a CapVest client in the lobby just now. He’s doing some pension-fund business here in Salzburg. He asked if we’d join him for a late lunch at…oh, what’s the name of that place? Just up the street from here. We had a cocktail there before going to the theater a few nights ago. You remember, right?”
“The name escapes me too. Who’s this man we’re meeting for lunch?”
“Stanley Chambers, a Boston portfolio manager and a CapVest investor. Since we’re going out, I’ll grab a hot shower first. Care to join me, Mrs. Wainwright?”
“I sure like the sound of ‘Mrs. Wainwright.’ It’s got a ring to it, don’t you think?”
“A ring?” Wainwright reached out and took her hand. “You mean like what a bell does? Come with me, sweet lips, and I’ll see what I can do about ringing yours!”
They skipped off to the suite’s sumptuous bath. Over the next thirty minutes, the two lovers might have used up all the hot water in the hotel. Lacey and Wainwright emerged with cheeky grins.
The name neither of them could remember was Krimpelstätter. A place not too touristy and with enough locals so they could avoid feeling like they were in a Starbucks. Stanley Chambers, the client from Boston, was still doing business with CapVest and enthusiastic about the firm’s new management. Although he wasn’t happy that Wainwright no longer worked there, he was a big supporter of Tommy Shaw, the company’s chief executive officer and Wainwright’s best friend.
“So what made you two choose to honeymoon in Mozartland?” Chambers asked, after Wainwright had made introductions and they’d all taken seats at the restaurant.
“It was one of those marital compromises. The Sound of Music is Lacey’s favorite film; they shot many scenes in Salzburg. You should hear her sing a parody of the movie’s theme song. When she thinks I’m not listening, she belts out, ‘The hills are alive…and that’s really scary.’’’ Chambers laughed. “And I’m here to soak up the intriguing history of this place,” Wainwright added.
The conversation continued with recollections of deals done and those they had passed up. Lacey responded to questions but seemed passive in the conversation, Wainwright thought. Then she asked Chambers, “How long have you been in Boston?”
“My whole life. That’s where I was born. My family has always lived there, and I still do. Are you familiar with the city?”
Lacey nodded. “I used to live there with my uncle. Later I worked for the DA’s office before moving to Los Angeles.”
She took Wainwright’s hand in hers. He thought she seemed nervous, uncomfortable even, in this man’s company. He realized Lacey seemed to be acquainted with Chambers somehow. How does she know him? This guy isn’t reacting to her in any strange way. But then, portfolio managers don’t respond to anything but a bull market. Since he’s a good twenty years her senior, he probably isn’t an old boyfriend. Could be the county business she dealt with as an ADA. Yeah, it’s gotta be something like that.
Wainwright picked up his slides from the photo shop in the lobby after their late lunch with Chambers. He intended to ask Lacey if she had issues with the man who’d just treated them to an expensive lunch.
In their suite, before he had framed his question in his mind, Lacey said, “I got you something when I was out yesterday. Want to see it?”
She went to the entry closet and pulled out a large box with a blue ribbon and bow. She handed it to Wainwright.
“Hope you find it to your liking.”
“Babe, you have exquisite taste, as illustrated by your selection of a husband,” he said with a smirk. “How could your gift be anything but perfect?”
He opened the box, then tossed the lid and pushed back the tissue paper to reveal a light-tan leather topcoat. He shook the folds out and held up the long coat before he put it on. The hem came down to the top of his Tony Lama boots.
“What do you say? The man said it’s a duster but didn’t explain why it’s called that. It looks marvelous on you, handsome.”
“It’s fantastic, sweetheart. I love it.”
Wainwright, not one to avoid a speech, was unusually silent as he examined the details of the exquisite duster. “Looks like a custom job. Did you have it made to order?”
“Yes, but they did it fast for me. I saw something similar in the tailor’s window. The owner—oh, the cutest little man—helped me make some design changes. I gave him some of your clothes, which helped him get measurements. I selected the hide and added a little detailing. I hope you like it, because they won’t take it back. It’s one of a kind. Just like you are, baby.”
“Like it? I love it. The trim above the pockets has darker suede piping. So cool!”
“Turn around so you can see the back in the mirror.”
Wainwright admired the back cape, which would protect his shoulders from rain, snow, sleet, and sun.
“Why do you think the back is split to just below the waist?” Lacey asked.
“On trial drives, drovers or ranch hands moved large numbers of cattle hundreds of miles to train yards. These trips took months, and the cowboys had to endure all the elements of nature along the way,” he explained. “They’d unsnap the flaps to keep them from bunching up behind the saddle cantle while still protecting their thighs from the sun or rain or snow.”
“I wasn’t sure about those throat latches. The shop owner assured me they’re authentic. Again, to protect the face and neck against the elements, I guess.” Lacey lifted the collar and snapped the latches, holding it around Wainwright’s ears. She cocked her head to the side and grinned. “I like it. Looks good on you and goes with your boots. Oh, I almost forgot—your new duster comes with an accessory.” She reached behind the sofa and handed him a light-tan felt cowboy hat. The four-inch-high pinched crown complemented a three-and-a-quarter-inch-wide brim with rolled sides, the front and back turned down.
“This is terrific,” he exclaimed, embracing her. “I’ve never seen a hat in this style. How did you find it?”
“The same man who made the coat suggested it. He said he and his wife saw this style of hat in a Kirk Douglas movie called The Man from Snowy River. It’s an Australian film that hasn’t been released in the US yet. We’ll have to watch for it when we get home. The film and the hat are from down under, I guess. He gave it to you as his wedding gift.”
“That was very thoughtful of him. I’ll have to thank him in person. You know me so well, Lacy. I guarantee I’ll wear them every chance I get. Now how about we take in the Mozart Museum? I can show off my new outfit to the haut monde.”
“Honey, why don’t we rest a little before we play tourists? We can watch the slides of the photos you took this morning at Café Amadeus.”
“Sure thing,” Wainwright said, then went to set up the rented slide projector.
He and Lacey sat on a velvet chaise lounge as he used the remote to proceed through the tray of slides.
“Look at this one. Can you believe it? Right here in downtown Salzburg, a genuine New York City bag lady. Oh, did you see that?” He backed up to the previous slide. “See her head? Hey, she’s wearing a Raiders Super Bowl cap. Can you read it?”
“It’s a striped knit hat. Yeah, on the front it says…” Lacey got up from the chaise and peered closely at the image projected on the wall “They’re Roman numerals, I think. It’s hard to make out, but…it could be XIV or XV. I think its XV.”
“What’s that? Sixty?”
“Maybe in Brazilian, but to an ancient Roman, it would be fifteen.”
Wainwright chuckled then clicked through the next several slides, pausing for a few seconds on each one.
“Go back to the last one, the nun and the guy with a bicycle. Yeah, hold that one a sec.” Lacey moved in for a closer look. Her eyes grew wide. “Look at that! If I’m not mistaken, BJ Dreaver is now a bride of Christ.”
“What? No way!”
“Way. I’ll bet you my law license the guy pushing the bike is the Assassin.”
Wainwright got up for a closer inspection as well. “Oh, my God, it is him. Greg Mulholland questioned him after he killed Bennie Rubens. That was almost four years ago, and the nun…I’d know her anywhere. That’s BJ for sure. They’re in Salzburg? I took that shot just a few hours ago.”
“You’d recognize BJ whether she was in a nun’s habit or stark naked, which was her preferred outfit with you anyway, right?” Lacey said.
“Baby, like I’ve said, she was a casual date when I was in Bellevue, and it was over as soon as I met you.”
“Oh, I’m just teasing you, sweetheart. So those two fugitives are in Salzburg. What should we do?” Wainwright didn’t respond for a beat or two. “Well?” Lacey prodded.
“Take your time. I think it must hurt because I hear gears grinding.”
“What should we do? Is that the question?” Wainwright finally said. “You’re the lawyer. You tell me what we should do. I’m just a poor novelist trying his best to earn a meager wage to support—”
“Call Greg. We need to let the FBI know the Assassin and his girlfriend are in Salzburg.” Lacey reached for the phone. “I know Stacy’s number by heart,” she said. “She can get to Greg quicker than we can, with all the FBI BS we’d have to go through to get him on the line.”
The phone in Sacramento rang three times. Stacy Mulholland picked up on the fourth ring. “Stacy?”
The woman recognized Lacey’s voice. “Mrs. Wainwright, please don’t tell me you’re leaving the guy you—”
Lacey interrupted her longtime friend. “Stacy, we’ve got an emergency. We’re in Salzburg, and Garth saw Amiti and BJ here. You need to tell Greg right away. They need to track down—”
“Are you sure it was them?” Stacy asked.
“Yes, yes, Garth took their picture. We can fax it to the FBI or wherever your husband wants. But hurry or they’ll get away. Tell him about this ASAP, can you? Can you get him on the phone right now? Oh, please, Stacy, do it. BJ and Amiti are here right now!”
After placing the handset in its cradle, Lacey dropped her hands to her sides and looked at her husband. “She said she’ll call us back.” Letting her weak knees unlock, she dropped onto the chaise next to Wainwright.
“Greg will want us to help somehow—to do something—but I don’t know what it’ll be.”
“No, he won’t,” Lacey said. “At the Grand Bahama airport, he just about had kittens when, you, unarmed, chased Larry Rubens, who had a gun, down the taxiway. He won’t let us get anywhere near those two, and that’s Jake with me.”
“‘That’s Jake with me’? What are you, a throw-back to the fifties? Listen, Lacey, I have an idea. The bike path next to the café only goes so far. I doubt BJ and Amiti were out for a stroll, so they had to be on their way to a place between the café and the end of Giselakai. What’s up there? Do you have any idea?”
Lacey shook her head. She didn’t know the area any better than he did.
“Me neither,” Wainwright said. “But we can find out faster than the Sacramento FBI office can. And we should do that while we’re waiting for Greg or Stacy to call back. We could have a lead for Greg by the time he calls. What say you, partner?”
“I say, how did I fall for a madman with a death wish? BJ and Amiti are killers. He murdered four of your business partners, plus that working girl in Chicago. Your former girlfriend helped Amiti escape from jail. Then they disappeared off the face of the earth for four years. These aren’t nice people, and you want to interrupt our honeymoon to chase after killers? You’re a lunatic!”
“Do you have a better use for our time while we wait for the FBI to swing into action?”
Lacey crossed her arms over her chest and blew hair from her eyes with a sideways puff. Her eyes rolled up and to the right, toward the bedroom behind her. “Cute, Wainwright, but what I meant was, it isn’t worth the risk just to have a lead for Greg by the time he calls.”
“That’s what I told you a few minutes ago. What? Are you at a loss for original statements? Bad sign for a litigator, Lacey. If you’re going to plagiarize my lines, I want a screenwriter’s credit and a big stack of dough. —Have your people call my people!”
Lacey stood, acceptance of the inevitable overcoming her. With her hands resting on her hips, she looked at Wainwright. “Need any help getting to the front door, old man?”
They left the hotel and set out for Café Amadeus.
The couple on the sidewalk of Old Town Salzburg walked fast. Lacey took Wainwright’s hand. She liked holding it; it made her feel safe and secure. His hands weren’t overly large, as men’s hands go, but they were always warm and firm.
“You don’t think BJ and Amiti are here because we are, do you? I mean, like, stalking us?” she said.
“How could they know we’re here? We didn’t even decide on Austria until a week before the wedding, and we told very few people where we planned to go. No, baby, it’s just a coincidence we’re in the same city at the same time. They disappeared from the Bahamas after BJ broke Amiti out of jail while we were at the airport, and somehow they ended up here.”
When Lacey and Wainwright reached Café Amadeus, the patio had filled since Wainwright had left earlier. He moved to the patio railing, and with one hand on the top rail, he vaulted over. A few diners sitting nearby gave him polite applause. He turned to help Lacey cross the barrier, and then they set out to track down the fugitives on the Giselakai.
Neither of them had been on this path before. They didn’t know the length or exactly where it would lead. As they followed the Giselakai, as well as the river on their left, Wainwright studied the properties for a clue to where the fugitives might have been going. The businesses along the Giselakai all seemed to be hotels and restaurants. If they’re hiding in a private home, Wainwright thought, there’s no way we’ll find them.
Lacey nudged him and pointed. “Let’s check out this place, the Monkey Bar. Maybe they went in there for lunch.”
“I don’t think so. BJ wouldn’t be sitting around swilling beer dressed as a nun. Let’s keep moving, okay?” Since BJ was dressed as a nun, they could be holed up in a church, he thought.
Lacey called their hotel from a phone booth. “Stacy left a message for us with the front desk,” she told Wainwright after she hung up. “She gave our room number to Greg, and he’ll call soon. We should grab something to eat. There must be a restaurant around the Mozartplatz Square.”
They had passed a dozen buildings before a larger structure came into view. The sign identified the building as the Hotel Stein. Lacey and Wainwright entered to find the fugitives or a menu.
Smiling, Wainwright approached the desk clerk. “Guten tag. Kann ich Ihnen eine frag stellen? (Good day. May I ask you a question?)” The woman nodded. “Kamen in den letzten Stunden eine katholische Schwester ins Hotel? (Did a Catholic sister come into the hotel in the last few hours?)”
The clerk smiled at the awkward German but clearly appreciated Wainwright’s effort with her language. She shook her head. “Nain, tut mir leid (No, I’m sorry).”
“Vielen dank (Thank you very much).”
He turned and found Lacey in the bar. “Anybody you know in here?”
“No, but then I don’t speak like a native. For a guy who thinks there’s a Brazilian language, you Sprechen sehr gut Deutsch.”
“Thank Grandma Steinhauser for that. She wasn’t my actual grandmother, but neither of us would ever admit that. She was Mrs. Baker’s mother. Grandma Steinhauser made me learn German as a kid when I lived with the Bakers. Some of it stuck, I guess. How about an imbiss von bier und wurst?”
Lacey cocked an eyebrow. “Did you just make an erotic proposal, you beast?”
“Don’t play hard to get with me, babe. My rings on your finger.” Wainwright laughed. “Actually, I was asking you to join me for a beer and a snack.”
“Now I’m disappointed. Beer and a snack, huh? That’s all?” Lacey grinned. “Okay, I think we burned off our lunch at Krimpelstätter with the adrenaline rush, so whatever you’re having works for me. We should fortify ourselves before speaking with the Bundespolizei. That could be a long, drawn-out conversation.”
“It might be prudent to speak with Greg before we talk to the police here. Let’s wait on that.”
They took a table in the bar near a window overlooking the bike path. Wainwright ordered sourdough and sausages with a pint of the local brew for each of them. He smiled as his beautiful wife got up to use the pay phone to check for messages. The desk clerk told her she had received an international call five minutes ago. It was Assistant Supervising Agent in Charge Greg Mulholland of the FBI. Lacey dialed her calling card number, then Greg’s direct line, and waved Wainwright over.
“Hi, Greg. Thanks for following up. I’ll put Garth on so you can get the information firsthand.” She handed the handset to Wainwright. “Here, honey.”
Covering the mouthpiece with his palm, he whispered to Lacey, “Very lawyerly.” Then, to his good friend, he said, “My man, how’s it going? No, I’m sure it was BJ and Amiti. Yes, that’s true, but I saw him for a long time while you interrogated him. I recognized BJ”—he looked down at Lacey’s expectant face— “even wearing a nun’s habit.”
They spoke for several minutes. Wainwright hung up and summarized the call for Lacey. “Greg explained how Amiti got away from the Bahamas. Amiti’s passport with the name Gambol Schwartz was a forgery. The local police knew Amiti was a criminal but didn’t know he was the infamous Assassin.”
“So what does the FBI want us to do?”
“Greg said not to contact the local police. He’ll do that through the proper channels. He said with two federal police forces on the case, they’d get them.”
“Okay, so what’s next?”
“He has FBI agents from the US embassy in Vienna coming here. He says they’ll probably arrive around six o’clock. After we eat, we’d better go straight back to the hotel. They’ll want the photos and an interview. “Let’s see. What in the world can we do to while away the next hour and a half? Any ideas, sweetheart?”
The honeymooners delayed the planned romantic coupling. A telegram awaited them at the front desk. Wainwright read the cable as he stood in the lobby. “Oh, my God.”
“What is it? Bad news?”
In a shaky, tiny voice, he said, “It’s my brother, Bobby. He died…um…a few days ago, in a construction accident.” Wainwright paused, sniffing back a runny nose.
The words lashed Lacey as cruelly as they did her husband. She reached out and pulled him tightly to her. As he slumped into her, Lacey gasped, “Oh, baby. I’m so sorry.” Sobbing, she pressed her forehead to his chest.
Wainwright swallowed; a tear formed, then grew larger, falling into Lacey’s hair. He embraced her with his free arm. “Auntie Emma has arranged for the services to take place in a couple of days. My attorney said he’ll notify Bobby’s wife and Emma if we can’t attend.”
Wainwright tried to compose himself as best he could. He took Lacey by the hand and led her to a sitting area in the lobby, away from the desk clerk and others. They sat, holding on to each other for physical and emotional support. Neither spoke for several minutes.
Lacey finally broke the silence. “Of course we’ll attend Bobby’s services, won’t we?”
Wainwright nodded. “It’s such a shock. I can’t believe it. But yes, we need to be there. I’ll arrange for us to get on the next flight back. While I do that, how about you get our stuff together upstairs? Then we can check out and head to the airport.”
“Sure, of course, but the FBI is on their way to interview us. What about that?”
“I’ll deal with that after I take care of the plane reservations and make a few calls. Let me get to the travel desk and get the changes started. I’ll be up to help you as soon as I finish. Okay?”
Wainwright and Lacey went in separate directions, each to their assigned tasks. Wainwright’s world had drastically changed in the last few minutes. A romantic honeymoon fused with the excitement of tracking down long-sought fugitives had been cut short with the devastating news of Bobby’s death. The logistics of leaving faded as Wainwright’s thoughts turned to long-ago memories of his brother. Oh, God, Bobby, I’m so sorry.
His mind was full of flashed memories. One memory followed another. In his mind’s eye, he saw Auntie Emma’s broad, sloping lawn. He and his younger brother were contorting into tight boy balls and rolling down the hill. Wainwright saw Bobby stand, dizzy and disoriented. He winced at the trick he had played on him by diving onto the backs of his legs, knocking him to the ground. Wainwright envisioned his younger self laughing hard. Now that same memory made him tear up with regret. He blinked back his tears to attend to the job of leaving Austria.
He and Lacey had less than two hours to board the flight to LAX. He phoned Greg to tell him they were leaving Salzburg. So much to do and so little heart to face any of it. All Wainwright wanted was a dark place to crawl into where he could grieve for his brother.
“On our way to the airport, we can record an interview for the benefit of the Vienna agents, if you’ll loan me your microcassette recorder,” Lacey said in the cab. “As a former assistant district attorney, I’m qualified to question you. We’ll get everything about Amiti and BJ on tape and into the agents’ hands. All the relevant facts: time, location, et cetera. You can describe the events leading up to and following your taking the photos of BJ and Amiti.”
Although Wainwright’s mind was on Bobby’s death, he knew this was important. “Fire away, counselor,” he said with a feigned smile. “I’m all yours.”
Lufthansa’s arrangements for a quick boarding worked like a Swiss clock. Lacey and Wainwright entrusted the envelope with the interview cassette and the three slides of the fugitives to the Lufthansa ticket agent. In his call to Greg, Wainwright explained where the FBI agents would find the envelope. Then the Wainwrights boarded their plane for the fifteen-hour flight to LAX
Sister Beatrice and Vincent left the Giselakai and turned right onto a small avenue in the oldest part of Old Town Salzburg. Their destination was St. Leopold, a small Catholic church serving the religious needs of the poor and those unwelcomed at the grand Salzburg Cathedral. St. Leopold was where Sister Beatrice and Vincent had worked and lived for more than a year. Now that they’d been spotted, however, that had to change.
The archbishop of Salzburg had never set foot in the church’s small sanctuary. This was the same archbishop who had parked Father Hohenems there several years earlier. The archdiocese thought the old, often forgetful priest was an embarrassment. At St. Leopold, he wasn’t in the way.
Parishioners seldom saw Father Hohenems, as a parade of young priests tended his flock. One by one, they were promoted to another parish, replaced by yet another young priest. Father Hohenems appreciated the benefits this allowed, as books and wine were solaces for his banishment from Salzburg Cathedral. A few older nuns cared for him, preparing his meals and cleaning his quarters.
One day, the arrival of a new sister blessed the good padre. She was much younger and more beautiful than any of the nuns he had worked with before, although he never mentioned this to anyone. Sister Beatrice said she had come from a parish in America. For reasons unknown, the archdiocese saw fit to send her to St. Leopold. Although she spoke rudimentary German, she seemed to be studious and hardworking—a welcome addition to the parish.
A few weeks after Sister Beatrice arrived, a handyman named Vincent arrived at the parish. He spoke excellent German; in fact, Vincent spoke several languages quite well. Although Father Hohenems thought it strange that a handyman should be so well educated, the archdiocese had decided he should work at St. Leopold. Father Hohenems didn’t question his good fortune.
This morning, Sister Beatrice had told Mother Superior she was going to run some errands and was taking Vincent with her. Having returned, Sister Beatrice went to her room and washed her face and hands; the Giselakai was so dirty. She assumed the other sisters would be at prayer; Father Hohenems would be reading and/or drinking in the parsonage; and no one would be in the sanctuary. She headed to Vincent’s cottage behind the church.
Vincent’s hovel was a little more than a shed with a bed but without a head. He sat at a small table where he could eat or read under the only window the room offered. There was no plumbing of any kind, so he had to use the bathroom facilities in the parsonage—but only when Mother Superior allowed it.
Sister Beatrice entered Vincent’s room and silently stood over him. He moved to give her the solitary chair. With her hands clasped as if in prayer, she looked about the room. Then she turned toward the phony handyman. “Amiti, I never dreamed you’d lavish me with all this extravagance and luxury. How could a little girl from Chicago ever acclimate to the lushness of this locale?”
As she sat, crossing one leg over the other, she lifted the habit to show a lot of leg. It was a very unnun-like gesture, Amiti thought. BJ wanted Vincent to see that she wasn’t wearing underwear. Such a tease.
BJ often made sexual overtures toward Amiti. She liked sex, and often. They found few opportunities for intimacy, however, while hiding from the authorities. And here they had settled into a monastic lifestyle that forbade that kind of thing. So BJ just teased him a lot.
“Amiti, we’ve gotta go. We both know that if Wainwright recognized us, he’ll have the local cops and the FBI on us faster than you can say, ‘Get out of town.’ Father Hohenems doesn’t even know we’re back yet, so now would be a good time to hit the road.”
“Don’t sell the old pastor short. He’s not as senile as he seems. I’ve seen him give you the look—he always seems to have his eye on you and knows where you are. What do they say? ‘There might be snow on the roof, but there’s a fire in the basement’ or something like that. Anyway, if the cops ques-tion him, we’ll want a cover story to throw them off our trail.”
BJ nodded. “You’re right—we’ll need a story. How about reversing what we told him when we came? The archdiocese is transferring us to a different parish. Someplace in…Spain or Africa. He didn’t question it before, so he won’t now.”
Amiti sighed. “I take everything back about you being shrewd. That won’t work. Don’t you think it would look suspicious if both of us got a new assignment? The archdiocese might move a nun, but no way would they bother with a handyman. How about you get the transfer to Spain, and I quit, a brokenhearted slob pining away for the beautiful sister?”
BJ shrugged. “Whatever, but let’s hustle out of here. If the FBI shows up, we’re toast. We have to get new IDs too. The passports and entry visas we used coming in won’t work going out. The Feebies would track us in a heartbeat. Can you get us new papers?”
“BJ, my love, is the pope a Catholic?”
They didn’t go to Ethiopia, as Sister Beatrice had told the old priest. That would mean using commercial transportation. Instead, Amiti hotwired a dark-blue Mercedes 300SD parked on the street a few blocks from St. Leopold, and they drove out of the Alps and into northern Italy.
Amiti hired a young pickpocket in Lugagnano, a small town outside of Verona, to drive the stolen car 145 kilometers south to the much larger city of Bologna. He told the kid to park the automobile in the slums and set it on fire. He emphasized that all identifying marks should be turned to ash. Amiti knew the thief would do no such thing. Instead he would try to sell the car on the black market. Amiti also knew the young entrepreneur would be arrested and charged with grand theft auto or whatever the Italian cops called it. They wouldn’t believe his story that a stranger had given him the car, and he’d spend years in an Italian prison. Amiti took pride in his dual role of taking a thief off the streets and rehabilitating a young man who had taken the wrong path in life. He was sure the phrase “Live and learn” had been coined in Italy.
Outside of Verona, Amiti presented his business card to the charter air service’s vice president. His card identified him as “Gambol Schwartz, Farm Equipment Agent.” It included standard contact information, with a phone number and address in Oberstdorfer, Bavaria. The logo on the card wasn’t a piece of farm equipment, as one might expect, but a chess piece, the knight. Amiti had taken the logo from an old TV show he loved: Have Gun—Will Travel, starring Richard Boone. That’s how Amiti thought of himself, and he certainly did travel. So in his mind, the businesscard logo, the connection to the TV series, even his absurd idolatry of Richard Boone was all part of his persona—a very serious part.
Amiti hadn’t accepted a contract since he and BJ had escaped from the Bahamas. He considered Bennie Rubens his last hit, paid or otherwise. Since a church handyman gets so few offers to kill for money, he’d been forced to draw on his extensive offshore bank reserves and had transferred funds to an account he could access. BJ had dipped into Bennie’s cash hoard, which she had taken from the Bahamas penthouse. As Sister Beatrice, she had little need for money, but BJ was another story altogether.
Amiti concluded his business of chartering a long-range Gulfstream G-IIB, including an international overwater crew of three. The plane left that evening, with only two passengers, headed for Monterrey, Mexico. Amiti had chosen that destination because he had an old client there who had asked for his help. And this client would help with the business Amiti had to accomplish in the US.
Mexican airspace wasn’t as sacrosanct as it was in the US, meaning they could land at a private airport unknown to all those pesky government people, such as customs inspectors. While chartering the plane was a pricey proposition, Amiti considered the expense necessary. Even though he had promised BJ he’d get them new visas and passports, his contact in Salzburg hadn’t panned out. This had eliminated their traveling on a commercial flight, bus, or train, leaving them only the privatecharter option.
The plane landed outside the large metropolitan city on the private airstrip owned by Amiti’s friend, Don Armando Juarez Fuentes. The don now used the landing strip for his extended family’s private transportation. Up until eight-years ago, however, it had served as one of the busiest drug-transportation hubs in the Western hemisphere.
The don sent bodyguards in two limos to bring Amiti and BJ to the hacienda. Although they weren’t aware of it, the Gulfstream was the second business jet to enter Monterrey airspace that day. Busy is as busy does.
The limos pulled into the circular drive of Hacienda Fuentes, then stopped in front of the main building, where the seventy-six-year-old Don Fuentes awaited his guests. The aging don moved about his large hacienda with the help of his electric scooter. In the terracotta-tiled foyer, he greeted Amiti and BJ from it and welcomed them to his home. He hated that scooter; it was so damn embarrassing. It appeared to Amiti that Don Fuentes had grown much older in the years since they’d last done business. It also seemed that the don had physically expanded in girth and shrunk in height. He no longer captured Amiti’s imagination as the agile leader of a fearsome fraternity.
Don Fuentes’s past drug-trade profits had provided the seed money for him to acquire and operate legal businesses, such as cattle-feed lots, manufacturing firms across both sides of the border, and transportation assets—rail cars, cargo ships, and truck lines—along with their various support facilities. With virtually unlimited investment capital, he had taken control of industries in Mexico, South America, and the United States. The don’s operations and reputation had grown quite large.
The reunion between the former drug kingpin and his guests was made more festive when Amiti gave the charter jet and its crew to Don Fuentes. Amiti knew the don would follow established procedures to ransom the crew back to the charter firm in Italy and keep the plane to add to his small fleet. A twenty-six-million-dollar airplane was a wonderful gift to cement an old friendship.
When they were settled in the living room, Amiti said, “I’d be most grateful, sir, if you could arrange for new passports and US entry visas for the two of us.”
“Of course, mi amigo. You and the beautiful senorita shall have them in two days.”
“Why, thank you, Don Fuentes,” Lacey said. “Your compliment is most appreciated.”
“As are your beauty and charms, which now grace my humble home, BJ.”
“There’s one other small courtesy,” Amiti continued, “if I may be allowed to ask your favor.”
“Please, you are my guests. Don Fuentes is at your service. What may I do to thank you for the unexpected aeronautical gifts with which you have honored me?”
“You have business interests in Los Angeles, right?”
The don nodded. “Yes, of course.”
“I’d like to contact your most senior person in LA. I’d appreciate it if you’d advise this employee to cooperate with requests I’ll make of him or her when I’m there. Believe me, Don Fuentes, I’ll ask nothing of this person that will be of any concern to you. Is this something you could help me with?”
“But of course,” Don Fuentes said. “And in return, I ask that you attend to a small matter of interest to me while visiting the City of Angels.”
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