Read Severe Clear Online

Authors: Stuart Woods

Tags: #Terrorism, #Suspense, #Prevention, #Mystery & Detective, #Thriller, #Fiction, #Private Investigators, #Stone (Fictitious Character), #General, #Mystery, #Barrington

Severe Clear (6 page)

BOOK: Severe Clear
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Mike looked it over. “This is good. Have you hired any bartenders yet?”

“This is the first day I’ve interviewed.”

“If you’ll let me hire them, I’ll have you half a dozen by the end of the day and all of them by the end of the week.”

“I like your style, Mike, but I’ll want to meet your choices.”

“Of course.”

“How soon can you start?”

“I’ll go to work today on the hiring, but I’ll need to work my shift at the Beverly Hills for the next two weeks. They’ve been good to me, and I don’t want to stiff them, especially since I’ll be taking a couple of their guys with me—assuming you approve.”

“All right,” Duggan said, “you’ll go on salary as of today. You can work days here and nights at the Beverly Hills until your time is up there.” He handed Mike a file folder. “Here are all the personnel and tax forms you need to fill out. I’ll have a written contract for you to sign in a day or two.” Duggan stood up and offered his hand. “Welcome aboard, Mike.”

Mike stood and took the hand. “I’m looking forward to it, Mr. Duggan.”

“Call me Tim. We’re going to be working together closely.”

“Tim it is. If I can have a fruit crate for a desk and a phone, I’ll start calling bartenders.”

Duggan handed him another file folder. “Here’s the list of those who answered the ad, along with their résumés.” He led Mike to the office next door. “Use this for a while,” he said.

Mike took off his jacket and tossed it onto a file cabinet. He loosened his tie, sat down, and looked at the list in the folder. His first call was on his new cell phone, a text to the e-mail address he had been given in Leipzig: “All is well. I am fine,” it read. He signed it “Nod.”

 9 

M
ike Freeman arrived in Los Angeles aboard Strategic Services’ Cessna Citation jet 4, which he piloted himself. He landed the light jet at Santa Monica, then left the airplane in the care of his copilot and got into the waiting Mercedes.

“To the hotel, sir?” the young driver asked.

“No, to the office. I’ll do some business before I go to the hotel.”

The Los Angeles offices of Strategic Services were located in a five-story, wholly owned office building on Santa Monica Boulevard. In addition to the five stories of the building, two of which were rented out pending expansion plans, there were two underground levels, and Mike went directly there. His operations manager received Mike in his office.

“Good morning, Mr. Freeman,” he said.

“Good morning, Harvey,” Mike replied.

“I thought you’d be going to the hotel today. I didn’t expect to see you until tomorrow.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve caught you off guard, is it?”

Harvey laughed. “I know to be ready for you at any time, sir.”

“What have you got for me?”

“I think it won’t be necessary to hire a supervisor for the watch room at The Arrington. One of our better people here has applied for the job, and he’s qualified.”

“Tell me about him.”

“His name is Richard Indrisie—we call him Rick. Rick is young but smart. He’s a tech-school graduate with a broad and firm grounding in computer science, and he’s been with us for a little over two years. We’ve trained him for design and repair work, and he’s as good as guys who’ve been here a lot longer.”

“You said young—how young?”

“Twenty-eight.”

“Would you describe him as mature?”

“More than that, he’s a very cool customer, quick to grasp a situation and quick to deal with it.”

“Let’s talk to him.”

Harvey picked up a phone. “Send Rick in.”

Rick Indrisie knocked on the door and entered.

“Rick,” Harvey said, “this is our CEO, Michael Freeman.” The two shook hands.

“Sit down, Rick, and tell me something about yourself.”

Rick sat down, looking very much at ease. “I was born out in the valley,” he said. “Public schools and technical college. I’ve loved computers since the first time I saw one. I built my first one when I was fourteen, and I’ve never seen a broken one I couldn’t fix.”

“What do you do in your spare time?”

“I’ve got a little business on the side,” Rick said. “I buy vintage small appliances, restore them to perfect working order, make them look new, and sell them, mostly on eBay.”

“That’s enterprising,” Mike said.

Harvey interrupted. “I should tell you that Rick has a gift for catching anomalies on-screen,” he said. “He seems to know when a movement or a gesture picked up by a surveillance camera is a threat. He’s nipped crimes in the bud more than a dozen times since we put him on monitoring a year ago. And he can repair any piece of equipment in the watch room. He’s great with software, too.”

“Thank you, Rick,” Mike said. “We’ll let you know later.”

Rick shook hands and left.

“I like him,” Mike said. “Hire him when you’re ready.”

“That will be today,” Harvey said. “All of the wiring at The Arrington is complete, and equipment installation starts tomorrow. I’d like Rick to be there to supervise as everything is connected and tested.”

“Go right ahead,” Mike said. “I’ll be in my office if you need me.” He left the lower level and took the elevator to the top floor, then walked to his corner office. It was smaller and less luxurious than his New York office, but it had everything he needed. He spent a few minutes returning phone calls, then met with the engineers who were working on the fire plan for The Arrington.

“We’re up and running,” said the team leader. “All the automatic fire extinguishers are installed, sixty-one of them, and we have video hookups to every area where fire could be a problem.”

“What about explosions?” Mike asked.

“I don’t have to tell you that all bets are off if we get a significant explosion,” the man said. “What we get is complete chaos while we marshal forces and get them to the scene. We’re likely to lose our cameras in such a scenario. Everything is in the hands of the response team. The local fire department will be there in five minutes or less, of course.”

Mike nodded. “Are you satisfied that our response teams are trained and ready?”

The team leader nodded. “They’re assigned sectors, and the plan is for them to be on scene in no more than ninety seconds, usually less.”

“Have the Secret Service people vetted the plan for the presidential cottages?”

“Yes, sir, and they were pleased. They’re also relieved that they won’t have to be the first responders to an event, allowing them to concentrate on body protection.”

“Very good,” Mike said. He dismissed the men, made a few more phone calls, then called his car for the trip to The Arrington.


F
rom the front gate he noted the drill of every one of his people. He found them businesslike, but polite. His site commander was waiting outside his suite, and another man dealt with his luggage.

“Welcome to The Arrington,” the commander said. “You’ll be the first overnight guest.”

“Your people looked good at every point,” Mike said. “Spread the word that I want more smiling when guests start arriving. A smile doesn’t make a man any less alert, and it puts the guest at ease. I want to give an impression of a welcoming committee, rather than a private police force.”

“I agree, sir. Smiling will start immediately.”

Mike laughed. “I appreciate your confidence in your men,” he said. “As you know, installation of the watch room starts tomorrow. We’ve appointed a supervisor for the room, and he will appoint deputies. His name is Richard Indrisie, known as Rick. Young guy, late twenties, but very good.”

“I’ll look forward to meeting him,” the commander said.

“The fire and explosion plan is well set up. I had a briefing an hour ago. As soon as the watch room is up and running, start the drills.”

“Will do.”

“And tell your people that when an alarm goes off, they’re not to look alarmed.”

“Shall I tell them to smile?”

“That and not to knock any guests down when they’re rushing to a scene.”

“Yes, sir. You’re having dinner with the Secret Service detail commander at seven, as requested.”

“Where?”

“Here in your suite’s dining room. I’m afraid you’re the first guinea pigs for the room service kitchen.”

Mike laughed. “I brought Alka-Seltzer.”


R
ick Indrisie left work at six that evening. As soon as he had cleared the indoor parking lot, he pulled into the drive-by line at a McDonald’s, and while waiting his turn he dug out his throwaway cell phone and sent an e-mail. “All is well. I am fine.” He signed it “Wynken.”

 10 

H
ans was replacing a defective alternator on an elderly Porsche 911 when his supervisor tapped him on the shoulder. Hans looked up at him.

“There’s a visitor to see you in the showroom.”

“Can you send him here?” Hans asked.

The supervisor looked around the shop, then turned back to Hans. “All right, we are not so busy. Next time, meet your friends in the showroom on your break.”

Hans nodded and went back to work, tightening the last bolts. When he looked up again, a man in a sports jacket, no tie, was watching him closely. “Yes?” Hans said, straightening from his work.

“My name is Carl Webber,” the man said, offering his hand. “From The Arrington.”

Hans shook the hand. “I thought you might like to see the shop.”

“Yes,” Webber said, looking around. “It’s very clean, isn’t it?”

“Always the mark of a well-run shop—any kind of shop.”

“Is there somewhere we can talk?”

“The break room,” Hans said. “This way.” He led Webber off the shop floor and into a room containing food-and-drink dispensing machines and a few tables and chairs. It was after eleven, between coffee break and lunch. “I don’t think we’ll be disturbed here,” Hans said.

They took seats. “Your résumé is very interesting,” Webber said. “You had Mercedes training?”

“Right out of gymnasium—that’s German high school,” Hans replied. “Then I worked in a dealership for four years, while I raced sports cars on weekends.”

“Why did you change to Porsche?”

“They had a better racing program, and I liked the cars better. Besides, there were no openings for drivers at Mercedes. At Porsche, one could do race driving, then, between races, give buyers who were taking delivery of their vehicles at the factory a few rides around the race track and, if they were buying the Cayenne, around the off-road park. Before I went to work there, they sent me to the mechanics’ school, and I became a certified Porsche technician on all models.”

“Good, good,” Webber said. “Your references were excellent, too. Let me tell you about the job.”

“I would like very much to hear this,” Hans said.

“Most of the car parking will be underground at The Arrington, a feature that will make the grounds more beautiful.”

“I’ve heard that.”

“We will also maintain an underground repair facility for on-site hotel vehicles, among which will be a dozen Porsche Cayennes with the hybrid engines, and a dozen Bentley Mulsannes. Have you ever worked on Bentleys?”

“I had a private job dealing with the Flying Spur model, but never have I worked on the Mulsanne.”

“We have obtained a six-hour training course on DVD that Bentley produced for the training of foreign mechanics. I think you will find it adequate to familiarize you with the Mulsanne.”

Hans nodded. “Good.”

“We will stock a range of parts for both types of vehicles, and, of course, any other necessary parts will be available from a dealer. Since the cars will be in continuous use by guests of the hotel, most of the work on them will be conducted at night, when the vehicles are more readily available. Should there be an emergency, like an accident, then of course some daytime work would be likely, too.”

“I understand. I have worked a night shift before, at the Mercedes dealership, and I found I like it. Things were quieter.”

“Exactly. There are other vehicles to be serviced, too. We have a fleet of electric cars—glorified golf carts, really—that will deliver arriving guests to their suites and cottages, and another fleet for the use of staff for delivering room service meals, plus laundry and dry cleaning.”

“I’ve no experience at all with that kind of vehicle.”

“Don’t worry, we have two mechanics who will attend to them.”

“Good.”

“I wish to offer you the position of vehicle maintenance supervisor. You will have an assistant who will schedule the jobs and deal with the paperwork, plus a second mechanic trained in Bentleys. You will also supervise the electric car mechanics, and of course you will work on the Porsches and Bentleys as time allows.” Webber handed Hans a folder.

“Here is our offer, along with terms, salary, and fringe benefits. I think you will find everything satisfactory.”

Hans scanned the documents. “It’s a good offer. I accept,” he said.

“I’m pleased that you will be with us,” Webber said. “Now, read the documents carefully overnight, then sign them and return them to me at the hotel. How much notice must you give here?”

“Two weeks, I suppose,” Hans replied.

“That is satisfactory, though I wish you could come sooner. Perhaps if you will come to the hotel this weekend, I can familiarize you with the setup and see if you have any suggestions as to the arrangement of the shops.”

“I can come tomorrow morning at nine,” Hans replied. “And I will talk to my supervisor about giving notice.”

The two men shook hands, and Webber left.

Hans sought out his supervisor. “I’ve had an offer to join the staff of the new hotel, The Arrington,” he said, “and I’ve accepted.”

His supervisor shrugged. “I’m sorry to lose you, Hans, but it’s not such a bad time for me. I’ve got a new man starting on Monday. If you will spend that day orienting him and watching him work on cars, then you can start your new job on Tuesday.”

“Thank you very much,” Hans said, shaking his hand.


BOOK: Severe Clear
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