Read Bernhardt's Edge Online

Authors: Collin Wilcox

Tags: #Mystery

Bernhardt's Edge

BOOK: Bernhardt's Edge
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Bernhardt's Edge
An Alan Bernhardt Novel
Collin Wilcox

This book is dedicated

to Mickey Friedman,

my old friend

Contents

Monday September 10th

1

2

Tuesday September 11th

1

2

3

Wednesday September 12th

1

2

3

4

5

Thursday September 13th

1

2

3

4

5

6

Friday September 14th

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

Monday September 17th

1

2

3

4

5

6

Tuesday September 18th

1

2

Wednesday September 19th

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

Friday September 21st

1

Preview:
Silent Witness

MONDAY September 10th
1

A
S THE FALCON JET'S
wing dipped, Justin Powers' grip tightened on the arms of his seat as he unconsciously tried to right the airplane. Then, mind over motor reflex, he deliberately lifted his hands from the arms, flexed his fingers, clenched his right hand into a resolute fist, lifted his left wrist, checked his wristwatch. Four o'clock, exactly. They were about to land, then, probably turning to the final approach course. They would be on the ground by 4:15, at the Oakland airport, where limos were allowed on the tarmac. Forty-five minutes, he'd been assured, would be enough time to get into downtown San Francisco, even in the rush hour. Powers tightened his seat belt, reached for his gold-bound appointment book, placed it on a small coffee table. He looked at the notation he'd made on a perforated half page. Yes: Herbert Dancer, Ltd., 350 California Street, Suite 1705. Time of their appointment, 5
P.M.
Probable length of the interview, forty-five minutes to an hour. The limo would wait. By seven o'clock, he'd be back in the Falcon, airborne. A catered meal would be on board: cold cracked crab, green salad, French bread, and Chardonnay, all very San Francisco. By nine o'clock he'd be home—or almost home. Sylvia and their guests would still be at the table. Adroitly, Sylvia would have arranged matters so that he'd join them for dessert—chocolate mousse, she'd promised, one of his favorites.

Now the airplane was rocking gently as the landing gear and flaps came down. Through the windows, Powers saw a line of hills higher than their flight path. He checked the time, 4:08. Good. Even concluding an agreement that he dreaded, initiating a sequence of events that could conceivably ruin him, it was nevertheless essential that everything happen on schedule, predictably. For Justin Powers, there was no other way.

“I should be finished by six o'clock,” Powers said. “To be safe, you'd better plan to be here by five-forty-five.”

“Yes, sir.” Holding the door, the driver nodded. “Five-forty-five.”

Powers turned away, began making his way purposefully through the press of liberated office workers to the revolving doors of 350 California Street. Dressed in a medium-dark, three-piece suit, white shirt, discreetly striped tie, and narrow-brimmed hat, a man of medium height and medium build, Powers' manner and his appearance were a perfect match, projecting the image of the successful, assertive, assured executive. His face completed the image: a tightly compressed mouth, dark, level brows, impersonal eyes. It was the severely sculpted face of a man who seldom allowed himself to smile. He carried his attaché case as a soldier carries his weapon, a part of himself.

An empty elevator awaited him; at five minutes to five, everyone was leaving the building, not entering. He pressed “17,” and was gratified to see the doors immediately slide shut. Solitude, Powers felt, suited his status.

As his office door opened and his secretary performed the introductions, Herbert Dancer rose, moving out from behind his desk.

“Mr. Powers—” Smiling, Dancer extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Thank you.” Powers perfunctorily shook hands, put his attaché case on Dancer's desk, sat in a tufted black-leather chair, crossed his legs, arranged his trouser creases, checked his cuffs. He decided not to return Herbert Dancer's smile. Instead, pointedly, he consulted a gold Piaget wristwatch. When he raised his eyes again to Dancer's face, he saw the other man's smile fading. Good. Dancer had gotten the message.

“You were recommended to me by Gardner MacCauley, Mr. Dancer.” Now, deliberately, Powers smiled. And, yes, the other man couldn't quite decide whether to venture a smile in return. They were making progress, then, defining their roles. Employees smiled by permission only.

“MacCauley has handled several, ah, matters for me in the past,” Powers said. “And when I told him that I needed someone with Northern California—San Francisco—coverage, he suggested you.”

“Fine.” Expectantly, Dancer drew a pad of legal paper close, clicked a ballpoint pen.

“Actually,” Powers continued, “it's the same, ah, problem that concerns me in both cases. That is, I called MacCauley when I—” He frowned, interrupted himself. He was digressing, losing momentum, compromising his authority. He allowed himself a moment to organize his thoughts. Then:

“First, I'll give you the background. I'm based in Los Angeles, as I told you when we talked on the phone. I'm in investments. Venture capital, primarily. Powers, Associates…” He produced a card, leaned forward, placed the card on the gleaming walnut desk, leaned back, recrossed his legs, rearranged his trouser creases, cleared his throat. “I'm the, ah, principal. It's a corporation, of course. But I'm the C.E.O. I've got three vice presidents, and five or six third echelon people. Below them, there're another four or five secretaries, plus several clerks and typists.”

Writing on the yellow pad, Dancer quickly noted 3
VPs, 5–6 assts, 10–15 flunkies.
“Yes, I see.”

“The problem,” Powers said, “developed with one of the third echelon people. Her name is Betty Giles.” He leaned forward again, opened the attaché case, withdrew a single sheet of paper, which he slid across the desk. “That's a fact sheet on her.” As Dancer dropped his eyes to the sheet of paper, Powers broke off. Quickly, Dancer scanned the page, obviously extracted from a personnel file:

ELIZABETH (BETTY) GILES, born 1953, San Francisco, CA. Parents divorced. Father's current whereabouts unknown. Mother, Norma Heckler/Giles/Farley, currently divorced from her second husband, living at 456 Brady Street, San Francisco. Betty Giles currently resides at 5022 Klump Avenue, apt. #603, Los Angeles.

Education: B.A. art history, U.C. Berkeley, 1975.

Employment record: 1976–1978, Researcher, Appleton Systems, Inc. San Francisco.

1979–1982, Assistant Director, Standard Oil Community Development Program.

1983–present, Researcher, Assistant Supervisor, Powers, Associates.

Evaluation: Excellent.

The evaluation was handwritten, signed, and dated.

“This is her picture—” Powers handed over a colored 3” x 4” head-to-waist picture of a young, dark-haired, dark-eyed woman with regular features. Her mouth was upcurled in a hesitant smile. Her eyes didn't pick up the smile. She wore a demurely tailored blue dress, pleated in front. Her face was oval, her torso was slim. Her breasts were in determinant.

“You'll notice,” Powers was saying, “that she was born in San Francisco, and her mother still lives here. Her mother's name is Nora Farley.”

“Yes.”

“That's why I've come to you.”

Dancer nodded, but decided to say nothing. Almost twenty years as a private investigator had taught him the value of strategic silence.

With the air of someone reluctantly getting down to unsavory business, Powers paused heavily. Then: “That report doesn't really tell much about the nature of Betty Giles' work. But the truth is that, during the past year, especially, she was involved in developing some very, ah, sensitive material for us. We have interests worldwide—Europe, Asia, South America. And research—information—is absolutely vital. The more we know about a given situation, the better we can predict the future. And when you're involved in multinational investing, the future is what it's all about. Educated guessing, in other words. Do you follow?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” Briskly, Powers nodded. His manner was more decisive now, as if the hardest part was behind him. “Well, especially during the last year, as I say, Betty was doing some highly classified work for us. Which meant that she was dealing with material that could be very damaging, in the wrong hands.”

“And now she's disappeared,” Dancer said. “With some sensitive material.”

Powers was satisfied with his reaction. His face, he was sure, revealed nothing. Without allowing the cadence of his speech to change, slightly flattening his voice, he said, “MacCauley called you, then.”

Dancer shook his head. “No, I haven't talked to MacCauley in months. You mentioned educated guessing. That's my business, too. Educated guesses.”

“Well,” Powers answered, “you're right.” He glanced again at his watch. Almost five-thirty. Marginally on schedule. “But that's only part of it. The rest of it is that she's demanding money, to return what she took.”

“Whether or not she returns it,” Dancer said, “she could make copies.”

“That's true. But it's also a matter of what she knows.”

“So you want to talk to her. You want us to find her, so you can talk to her.”

Gravely, Powers nodded. “That's it exactly.”

“We can't hold her. We can't restrain her. You know that.”

“Yes.”

“She's committed a crime. Embezzlement. Do you want us to contact the police, once we find her?”

Quickly—too quickly, Powers realized—he shook his head. His reply, too, probably came too quickly: “No—no. When you find her, I want you to contact me. I want you to keep her under surveillance. Then you—” He frowned, began again: “Then I'll decide how to handle it, when you've found her—when you've contacted me. But the important thing is, you're not to contact anyone but me. I want to stress that.” Across the desk, he stared at Dancer, making hard eye contact. Yes, he could see the urgency registering, even though the other man refused to drop his eyes, as a hireling should. Irritated, Powers took his confidential card from his wallet, slid the card across the desk. “Those are my private numbers. Day or night, you can get in touch with me at one of them. They're, ah, classified. Do you understand?”

BOOK: Bernhardt's Edge
10.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Story of a Life by Aharon Appelfeld
The Biology of Luck by Jacob M. Appel
The Russian's Furious Fiancee by Lennox, Elizabeth
The Black Angel by Cornell Woolrich
Token Huntress by Carrington-Russell, Kia
0451471040 by Kimberly Lang