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Authors: Jeffrey B. Burton

The Chessman

BOOK: The Chessman
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MacAdam/Cage Publishing
155 Sansome Street, Suite 550
San Francisco, CA 94104

Copyright ©2011 by Jeffrey B. Burton

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Burton, Jeffrey B.
The chessman / by Jeffrey B. Burton.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-84982-259-6 (hardcover)
1. Serial murder investigation—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3602.U76977C47 2012


Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Designed by Dorothy Carico Smith

Printed in the United States of America

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

“Of all ghosts, the ghosts of our old loves are the worst.”

—Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


he special agent flipped open his ID for the two policemen hovering about the front entrance to what was now Washington, D.C.’s most recent crime scene. Judging from the two news vans being held at bay down the street, it would also be tomorrow morning’s lead story.

Actually, the special agent silently corrected himself as he inspected the security system a few paces inside the residence’s entryway, it would be
morning’s lead story and it would appear on all network and cable news shows, a lead story that would rock this old town to its marrow. The agent slipped elasticized shoe covers over his black Florsheims and headed toward the stairs. The coffee that had singed his esophagus as he double-timed it to the crime scene had done little to banish his grogginess. He was getting too old for these midnight calls, and could easily have curled up on one of the circular staircase’s marble steps and grabbed another five hours of shuteye. Of course, that might not play too well in his upcoming review.

The Brink’s Home Security System had been comprehensive, top of the line by any standards. And if the victim himself hadn’t shut off Brink’s, that meant
Oh Shit!
As in
Oh Shit
the unknown subject—the UNSUB—had an IQ. Two calls on the way over informed him that the housemaid was visiting a sick sister in Seattle. The chauffeur, who was safely tucked in at his home in Alexandria, had dropped his employer off at his Georgetown abode after a late dinner with a group of senior senators, with strict orders to pick him up at ten o’clock sharp the following morning.

The special agent hit the top of the stairs and walked down a long hallway, toward an open room and the muffled voices of the team of investigators. He looked down at his wrist. Three a.m. Likely scenario: the victim comes home, taps in his security code, goes upstairs, hangs his tie and suit jacket in the walk-in off the bedroom, sheds his Ferragamos, enters the master bath for a quick brush of the ivories, and enters the master to find the shooter sitting on his bed. No sign of a struggle, perhaps he knew the UNSUB, perhaps he let him—or her, it was D.C., for Christ’s sake—into the house right after the chauffeur vamoosed. Either way, no sign of a struggle, and the man recently designated by the president and soon-to-be chairman of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission gets one smack dead center in the forehead.

But that was only half the reason why the agent had to forfeit a night’s Z’s and haul ass across town. The other half was something he had to see for himself—get an actual visual—before they took the SEC commissioner’s body away for a formal autopsy.

The special agent spotted Detective Howell and headed toward him. He’d met Howell a time or two in the past year.

Howell watched as he approached, then nodded. “The shooter must have dialed 911 from the phone by the bed on his way out.”

The agent watched as another detective dusted the bed phone for fingerprints. “What a sport.”

“I heard the tape. No sound whatsoever so dispatch sends a squad and an ambulance.” Detective Howell looked at the FBI agent. “Does that tell you anything?”

The agent shrugged. “Did you put in the call?”



“Talk to them,” Howell said, tossing a thumb over his shoulder.

The special agent walked over to the body and knelt down. Two medical examiners were on the floor, one dictating measurements into a handheld recorder. A forensic team worked the master bedroom, a couple more moving about in the bathroom. The agent got a bad feeling. He doubted that they would find anything of much use.

C. Kenneth Gottlieb II, seventy-year-old widower, lay on his back in a sea of off-white Berber with a fist-sized hole punched out the back of his head. Exit wounds tended to have that effect.

“What have you got?” the agent asked.

The examiner with the recorder stopped dictating and looked up at him through Coke-bottle lenses. “Forty-five cartridge, maybe.”

The agent inspected the victim’s forehead, the entry wound, and began to think that he’d only have to follow this case from a distance, through the newspapers, and that he might actually get some more shuteye tonight instead of spending the rest of it in a drafty conference room.

“Anything else?”

“Craziest thing I’ve seen in eight years on the job.” The ME held up a small baggy and the special agent realized instantly that sleep was out of the question. The baggy held a single chess piece: a crimson-covered glass queen. “This was inserted nearly half an inch into the entry wound. Wedged so tight I used a needle-nose to pull it out after the photographers were done.”

The agent stood, typed a number into his cell phone as he walked from the room. The call was answered on the first ring.

“He’s back.”

Book One

Opening Moves

Chapter 1

t had been a harried day. And it didn’t seem likely to let up anytime soon.

Retired Special Agent Drew Cady thought he’d left his former life far behind, and immediately kicked himself for picking up the phone, even though he’d recognized via caller ID that the call came from Quantico—from a certain academy located on the United States Marine Corps Base in the green hills of Virginia.

Hard to believe that a mere six hours earlier Cady had been in his home study, sipping a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and about to drop a lowball in an online auction for a 1918 Abraham Lincoln half dollar. American numismatics had become an addictive hobby after his
retirement. Cady had done a little consulting on the side, mostly helping hotel chains bring their security systems into the twenty-first century, but to be honest, coin collecting had become an encompassing pastime. And this little gem was in superb condition, a blush of rose patina splashed across the coin for flavor.

Nope, Cady never should have answered that phone call.

Although no specifics were mentioned, Roland Jund, his old boss and currently one of the bureau’s assistant directors, had cajoled, persuaded, sweet-talked, and all but blackmailed Cady into dropping everything, heading straight to the airport—a car would be arriving at Cady’s door in mere minutes—and flying from his home in Canton, Ohio, to the nation’s capital. And then making haste to the J. Edgar Hoover Building—the bureau’s headquarters—on Pennsylvania Avenue in the District, where Jund would connect with him as soon as possible.

Once past security, Cady had been ushered into an empty conference room by an overly somber secretary and informed that the “other agents” would be joining him momentarily.
Which part of “retired” do they not quite grasp?
Cady wondered to himself. Fortunately, they’d passed a coffee station during the trek to the meeting room and Cady was able to score an unoffered cup of java while Miss Somber stood off to the side, scowling at him. The cup—too sweet, as though Cady had subconsciously spooned in extra sugar to counter whatever harsh medicine lay before him—sat nearly empty on the conference table next to his unblemished yellow pad.
Good thing I rushed here to sit waiting, twiddling my thumbs
—an action never gracefully completed since the loss of fifty percent use of his right hand.

And exactly why am I here?
Cady wondered.
Three years is a lifetime in this business
. What urgent help could he possibly provide? Today’s news cycle had focused solely on the murder—no, make that assassination—of SEC Commissioner C. Kenneth Gottlieb. Cady didn’t know Gottlieb, would have had trouble picking the old gent out of a police lineup. Gottlieb had been one of five commissioners sitting on the Securities and Exchange Commission. He had been selected by the president to replace the SEC chairman, who had recently resigned under a bipartisan storm cloud of disapproval over the continuing loss of public trust in the financial markets. And with Gottlieb’s ascension, word on Wall Street had it that the times they were a-changin’. But that was so much inside baseball, and to Cady, Gottlieb was just another bureaucrat in a town chock full of them. Jund refused to say anything over the phone, very hush-hush, which frightened Cady and was in itself an answer.

There could be no other explanation.

Cady’s head snapped toward the door as Jund entered the room, briefcase in hand, followed on a short leash by Elizabeth Preston, Jund’s administrative mini-me. Trailing them was a young black man that Cady couldn’t place. All wore the same grim expression. Cady stood and held his gimp hand toward his old boss.

“Drew!” Jund faked a toothy grin and pumped Cady’s hand, pretending not to notice Cady’s less-than-powerful grip. “Great to see you. You remember Liz, of course?”

“Of course I do,” Cady said, nodding at Preston and noting the additional gray in her salt-and-pepper, shoulder-length cut. She shot Cady her Mona Lisa smirk and he considered himself lucky. They’d locked horns in the past. He bore Preston no ill will, but she remained all but impossible to read.

“And this is Special Agent Fennell Evans. He’s our boy genius at FSRTC.”

“Please call me Fen.”

Cady reached across the table and shook Agent Evans’ hand. FSRTC was the Forensic Science Research and Training Center at the Academy.

“So how’s the stamp collection coming along?” Jund needled him.

BOOK: The Chessman
5.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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