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Enemies in High Places

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Father sat down at the elegant dining table, Mouse beside him. Their plates were full of pasta and chicken. Mickey sat on the opposite side, his eyes full of suspicion.

McCall set down the bowl of peas he’d just pulled from the microwave. “Go on, eat.”

“So you see, Robert, we need to find out who has control of that land,” Father concluded. “It is destroying our world.”

“What can you do about it?” McCall asked sitting down in the last chair.

Mouse eyed the cutlery with apprehension. It had been a long time since he’d had to worry about table manners. He tentatively stabbed a tortellini.

Father sighed. “I don’t know. Maybe we can try and get the building stopped again. Catherine assured us that the neighborhood committee would never allow a building that would disturb our tunnels, but someone is digging!”

“Finding out who owns the property now shouldn’t be a problem, McCall. Just check the land records,” Mickey commented.

“Signs say Nichols.”

Mouse was perking up. He’d enjoyed the tortellini and now he was trying the chicken.

“Nichols… hold on.” McCall put down his silverware and went over to the pile of old newspapers. “Nichols…”

“You’re going to choke on that, friend,” Mickey warned Mouse. “McCall, I know who Nichols is. He’s a major builder up in Queens. Shoddy low-income housing.”

“I saw Nichols’ name somewhere in here. Yes, here it is,” McCall said, brandishing a sheet of newsprint. “Nichols is branching out into Midtown. He has an attorney named Paul Wilson who does his buying. So, if Nichols is the builder, Wilson is probably his counsel. And, Mickey, where’d you put that Wall Street Business on Elliot Burch?”

Father’s brows contracted imperceptibly at the name. He hadn’t mentioned any of the tunnels’ interaction with Burch. Did they know something?

“Left it on the counter. Here, have some pepper.” Mickey handed the enormous grinder to Mouse.

Mouse eyed him distrustfully but his attention switched to the grinder.

“Do I know you?” Mickey asked Father bluntly.

The older man looked him straight in his eyes. “I don’t believe so.”

Mouse looked from one to the other, sensing the tension between them.

“Later, Mickey, McCall interrupted. “I’ll explain later. Jacob, I knew Wilson’s name was familiar. He’s listed as one of the attorneys connected with the Burch Industries’ bankruptcy.”

“Can we do anything to stop these men?” Father asked.

Mickey shrugged. “Sure. Find Burch.”

McCall snorted. “Many people want that, Mickey!”

Father hesitated. “Burch. Elliot Burch is dead. He was on a boat called the Compass Rose when it exploded on the East River. It burned down to the waterline. Vin-there was a witness.”

McCall and Mickey stared at him. “You folks KNEW Burch?” Mickey finally asked.

“Through Catherine Chandler?” McCall asked remembering the article that linked Burch to the woman and the tunnels.

Father nodded. The Catherine connection would have to do.

“So have you told the police—“ Mickey started.

“No!” came from Father and Mouse. Neither wanted the police to know about the Tunnels.

“If Burch is dead, there must be a body,” McCall pointed out. He spared a moment of regret for a young man who had had great potential. “Find the body, and his estate goes into probate which freezes any deals he was involved in. If Nichols’ deal hasn’t been completed, he’ll have to negotiate with the estate to determine if he can continue building. It buys you time. I take it no body has been found.”

Father shook his head. “I don’t believe so. You probably know more about what is going on than we do.”

McCall waved to a pile of newsprint. “I haven’t finished my papers.”

“If Burch had been found, TV and the papers would have it,” Mickey cut in.

Mouse sneezed. The chicken in front of him was now heavily layered with pepper. “Stop the building? Good.” He unscrewed the electric grinder, probing its mechanism.

Father ignored him. “We have to find a way to stop Wilson.”

“Whoa, hold on,” Mickey cut in. “You’d better get all the facts first. And I think that will mean stopping Nichols more than Wilson!”

“Can you help us, Robert?” Father asked. His gaze met McCall’s. The former spy had been one of the few who ever found the Tunnels.

McCall shrugged. “How do I get in touch with you?”

“I’ll do it,” Mouse said. “I’ll ah--!”

“What have you done to the pepper grinder?” Father demanded in exasperation.

*****

Paul Wilson stepped away from the desk that he had completely covered with papers. Richards’ office had been ludicrously easy to break into despite the police tape and this was the fourth time he’d searched it for any information on Burch. Whatever Richards had had was hidden somewhere else than in his office.

Pope had finally told him about the gasoline charge and the ATM slip yesterday, after Wilson reported that he hadn’t found anything either in the office or Richards’ home, which he had searched on a consolation visited to the stricken widow. Richards’ body had washed up on a beach, and the police were treating it as murder.

This didn’t reassure Wilson as to his future. He knew too much now.

Wilson, cursing Pope’s two and a half week delay, set a young hacker tracking the ATM withdrawal. The gas had been bought from a station out on Long Island.

The lawyer ran his hand through his hair and cursed. Calling Pope back to say that he couldn’t find anything appealed to him like taking an injection in the rear with a blunt needle. Even after Julian Gabriel’s death, Pope ruled Avatar Enterprises like the ex-soldier he was – with an iron death-grip.

The cell phone burred softly. Wilson checked the incoming number It was his that he’d forwarded to Richards’ phone.

“I got somethin’,” the hacker’s youth voice said enthusiastically.

“What?”

“The amount you gave me turns up in another account on the Island!”

“Right, right. Whose?”

“Nurse named Kathleen O’Carvey.”

“Where does she live?”

“Hey, she’s a traveller! Has three different addresses. Got a pad?”

Wilson fumbled for a clean sheet, then his pen. “I’m ready.” He scribbled frantically.

“Now the money?” the hacker said hopefully.

“It’ll be in the mail tomorrow. You’re sure no one caught you?”

The young woman scoffed, “Hell, no. I’m GOOD.”

“Good-bye.” He hung up.

Wilson frowned at the three addresses. One was in Manhattan. The other two were on Long Island in widely different areas. It would take time to check them out. Still, it would be something to tell Pope when he called him later on.