Read Shoot Him if He Runs Online

Authors: Stuart Woods

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense

Shoot Him if He Runs (8 page)

BOOK: Shoot Him if He Runs
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“I haven’t told him to do that, either.”

“You’re hoping Lance will just make it go away.”

“I’m hoping all sorts of things: I’m hoping Teddy is in a block of ice in Antarctica; I’m hoping he was eaten by a shark the last time he went swimming; I’m hoping he’ll put a bullet in his brain, then fall into an active volcano.”

“Yes, Teddy is an inconvenient person.”

“I’m also hoping he wishes to remain dormant, because if he took it into his head to start killing people again…Well, I don’t know how we would handle that.”

“Perhaps leaving him alone wherever he is is the best move.”

“We’ll have that option, if Lance’s people find him on St. Marks. We could just keep him under surveillance and hope for the best.”

“I like that option best,” Will said, “except the surveillance part; he’d twig immediately.”

“You never give me official orders when we’re drinking.”

“Just think of it as a firm suggestion.”

“I think that, tomorrow morning, when we’re both entirely sober, you might give me a written finding to that effect that I can log and store in my safe at Langley.”

“But then I would be on record as saying that a murderer, having been found, should remain free. God knows,” Will said, “I would hate to see him tried. I think I’d rather invade Iran or Korea.”

“Remember, we don’t have an extradition treaty with St. Marks, yet.”

“State has been working on that since their new prime minister took over.”

“Do you think you could possibly slow them down?”

“I think it would be impossible to slow them down, since they’re already going as slowly as possible, with no help from me.”

“If Teddy is in St. Marks, and we sign an extradition treaty, he could bolt for other, less arresting climes.”

“And then we’d have to start all over again?”

“Exactly.”

“It’s the perfect conundrum, isn’t it?”

“It is.”

15

T
homas arranged for Stone to rent a car for the remainder of their stay, and early in the evening they drove up Black Mountain for dinner at Irene Foster’s.

“Funny,” Holly said as they climbed the steep road, “I didn’t notice before but there are underground power lines running alongside the road, and a pipeline, too. See the markers?” She pointed them out.

“Odd for a small island to go to the expense of putting power and water underground in what seems to be a fairly sparsely populated area.”

“The houses may be sparse, but they’re expensive,” Holly said. “The rich usually are willing to pay for preferential treatment.”

Irene’s gate was open, but after they drove through, it closed behind them. An SUV and a smaller car with a rental sticker were parked in the paved parking area, and as they got out of their car, Harry Pitts appeared on the front porch to greet them.

“I see you found the place,” Harry said.

“It was easy,” Stone replied. “There’s only one mountaintop in St. Marks.”

“You have a point,” Harry said. “Come on in, and let me get you a drink.” He led them into a fairly large, comfortably furnished living room and waved them to seats. “Irene’s busy in the kitchen; she’ll be out in a little while. Are you still drinking those vodka gimlets? I made some.”

“You betcha,” Holly said. “It’s easy to sell this crowd gimlets.”

Harry produced martini glasses and a frosty Absolut bottle, the liquid inside tinged with green, and poured for everyone. “Cheers,” Harry said, raising his glass.

“Wait for me,” Irene said from the kitchen door. She entered the room looking cool and well pressed, not like someone who had been cooking all afternoon.

The men stood and greeted her, and Harry handed her a gimlet. “I’m afraid I had one too many of these last night,” she said, “but this time I didn’t get a head start.” Everyone sat down.

“This is a marvelous place,” Holly said. “How’d you find it?”

“The usual way, through an agent. Actually, Thomas Hardy was a big help. He knew that Sir Winston Sutherland had bought up here and that he was bringing in electricity and water. The place had been on the market for a long time for lack of utilities. There’s a large cistern under the house, and water was collected from the roof, and although the house had been wired in hope of power, it didn’t happen until the PM made it happen. Before there were just a small generator and a lot of oil lamps.”

“So, you got in ahead of the rise in property values that must have come with the utilities?”

“Thanks to Thomas, yes. I got the place for half what it would bring now.”

“Where is Sir Winston’s place?”

“Just down the hill a couple of hundred yards, after what used to be the guesthouse for this one. I couldn’t afford the guesthouse when I bought, and an expat English couple bought it, but they seem to be rarely here. I’ve never met them.”

“I’ve noticed,” Stone said, “that since the last time I was here the island has taken on an air of prosperity. Has St. Marks attracted some new manufacturing or something?”

“Or something,” Harry said. “It’s called offshore Internet gambling.”

“How does that work?” Genevieve asked.

“A business establishes what amounts to a casino, except it’s entirely virtual. Anyone with an Internet connection, anywhere in the world, can play, and winnings or losses are credited or debited to a credit card. There are half a dozen establishments here, and they are hugely profitable. Each of them employs a lot of people, many of them islanders. The managers and computer people are almost entirely from abroad—the States, Europe and Asia—and those people are buying property and building houses. Irene got in under the wire, but it’s getting harder and harder to hire construction people. I tell you, if I lived here I’d start a construction company.”

“Is there any sort of regulation for the industry?” Dino asked.

“Not really. The United States is trying to ban Internet gambling, but not very successfully. When they started pressing the credit card companies not to process charges from offshore casinos, the casinos just offered their own credit cards, through offshore banks. A gambler can go online, fill out an application and get a credit line in less than two minutes. The card is mailed to him within a week, and he can use it anywhere, like any other credit card.

“The U.S. has arrested a couple of casino operators when they passed through American airports, but as long as they don’t enter the States, they’re safe. The U.S. and St. Marks have no extradition treaty, and negotiations have been bogged down for years.”

“Is there any local regulation in St. Marks?” Dino asked.

“A government department has been set up to regulate the casinos, but rumor has it, the only enforced regulation is to pay Sir Winston Sutherland for the privilege of operating.”

“Sir Winston seems to have a finger in every pie,” Stone said.

“Indeed he does,” Irene said. “There are rumors that he’s pulling in over a hundred million dollars a year for himself, and he’s established an offshore banking system much like that of the Cayman Islands. He owns his own bank, and his friends own all the others.”

“So he’s St. Marks’s Papa Doc, then?” Dino asked.

“Sir Winston is, practically speaking, almost as much a dictator as Papa Doc Duvalier was in Haiti, but he’s smarter and more benign; he spreads the wealth around. The per capita income on the island is said to have doubled within the past few years, and it’s expected to double again. Of course, it was pretty low to begin with, but now there are businesses like car dealerships where there were none before. A few years ago, if you wanted a car, you had to go to a dealer in St. Martin or Guadeloupe or Antigua. Now you can buy a Toyota or a Volkswagen off the lot, and there are rumors that Mercedes and BMW dealerships are on the way.”

“I can guess who’s going to own those,” Stone said.

“Sir Winston and his friends, of course,” Irene replied.

“So who’s getting hurt?” Holly said.

“The suckers,” Harry replied, “the losers at gambling. The casinos have a slightly lower profit margin than the Las Vegas establishments, so they’re attractive to gamblers, but they still lose, just like in Vegas. The casinos operate without infrastructure—they don’t have to invest in building hotels or producing entertainment. There are rumors that those things are in the offing, though, and that will goose tourist income enormously.”

A uniformed black woman came into the living room. “Dinner is served, Miss Foster,” she said.

Irene rose, led them into the dining room and seated them at a beautifully arranged table, while Harry poured a French wine.

Stone nodded toward the view from the dining room window. “I can see a couple of roofs,” he said.

“The big one is Sir Winston’s,” Irene replied. “The two smaller ones are the former guesthouse, now owned by the Weatherbys, and another small house, owned by the Pembertons; I haven’t met them, either.”

16

I
t was nearly midnight when they left Irene’s house, after a good dinner and a lot of talk.

“That must be the driveway to the old guesthouse,” Holly said, as their headlights flashed over a gate. “And then the Pembertons, and this one coming up must be Sir Winston’s place. I wonder why there’s no guard.”

“Look,” Stone said, pointing, “there’s a guard shack up the driveway, about thirty yards after the gate.”

“So the big man is not unprotected.”

“I guess not. This jungle is so thick, there could be a company of infantry hidden in there.”

“St. Marks doesn’t have an army,” Genevieve said. “I read it on the Internet. The island has a police force, but that’s all.”

“Well, it’s not a banana republic, is it?” Dino said. “And I haven’t heard anything about a drug problem. If anything, Sir Winston must be guarding against that, if his police are shooting drug smugglers on the beach.”

“If he allowed the drug lords in,” Stone said, “they’d own him in no time, or they’d kill him and install somebody more cooperative.”

“I’m beginning to think this guy is very smart,” Dino said. “How’d you manage to beat him in court?”

“Beat him? My client was hanged, or at least, I thought she was. I didn’t beat him. She paid a million-dollar bribe to the old prime minister, without my knowledge, and was allowed to leave the country.”

“I wonder how the old prime minister met his demise,” Holly said.

“Maybe he didn’t,” Dino said. “Maybe he’s rotting in prison.”

“I’ve got to sit down with Thomas and talk with him about this,” Stone said. “There doesn’t seem to be anything he doesn’t know about what’s going on here, and he’s a member of the local parliament, so he must be knowledgeable about the politics.”

“And he’s doing very well out of it, too,” Holly pointed out.

“Speaking of doing well,” Stone said, “how did we do at dinner tonight? What did we learn?”

“A lot about the island,” Holly said, “but not much about Irene and Teddy.”

“To tell the truth,” Stone said, “I’m not sure there’s all that much to learn about Irene. If there were, Lance would already have told us about it. There’s just the Teddy connection, if it exists.”

“Well, we learned how she’s able to afford that house,” Holly said. “I mean, buying it on the cheap before property values went up. She sets a very nice table, too, and that was an expensive wine.”

“My guess is, Harry would have supplied the wine; probably the groceries, too.”

“Is Harry rich?”

“He said he had a large home remodeling business, and that he sold it. He seems to have enough money to retire comfortably and buy a very nice yacht.”

“How much would the boat cost?” Holly asked.

“I don’t know, anywhere from two hundred thousand to half a million, depending on how old it is and how well equipped. Certainly, it’s extremely well equipped now, but my guess is that Harry added most of the equipment. He has the kind of stuff that you would more likely find on a yacht costing twice as much—electric winches, big GPS plotter, watermaker, central heating—everything you could cram into a boat of that size. I think she’s an inch or two down on her marks from the extra weight.”

“So he’s a tech junkie,” Dino said. “Nothing wrong with that, if he can afford it.”

“Teddy’s a tech junkie, too,” Holly pointed out. “They have that in common.”

“Why don’t you ask Lance to check out Harry’s net worth?” Stone said. “It would be interesting to know where the money is coming from.”

“I’ll ask him tomorrow,” Holly said.

T
hey arrived back at the cottage, let themselves in, and switched on the lights.

“Nobody move,” Holly said.

Everybody stood still.

“What?” Stone asked.

“Something’s different; things have been moved. That little sculpture was on the other end of the coffee table; the TV was a little more to the left.”

“We do have a staff, Holly,” Genevieve pointed out. “Maybe they’ve been cleaning.”

“I gave them the rest of the day off late this afternoon,” Holly said. “They wouldn’t be spending their evening cleaning the house; anyway, it was already clean. Check the bedrooms.”

Dino and Genevieve went into their bedroom, while Holly and Stone went into theirs. She began opening drawers, and so did Stone.

“You’re right, Holly,” he said. “The place has been turned over.”

“But not by an expert,” she replied. “I mean, it’s neat, but it’s not the way it was. What could they be looking for?”

“I’ll check the safe.” Stone went into his dressing room, opened the little safe with his credit card and looked inside. “My cash is still here, and my spare watch,” he called, “but my clothes are pushed over on the rack.” He went back into the bedroom.

Holly came out of her dressing room. “Same with my stuff; nothing missing.”

“A burglar would have taken the TV and stereo and the booze,” Stone said.

“Where’s your passport?” Holly asked.

“In my jacket pocket,” Stone said, feeling for it. “I always carry it when I’m in a foreign place. Yours?”

“In my handbag.”

“Was there anything here…” He stopped himself, walked over to Holly and whispered in her ear. “Let’s check for bugs.”

BOOK: Shoot Him if He Runs
4.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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