Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 10

Published: 8 Apr 14

Evening Transgressions

by Jack Scribe

Monday, late evening

Stakeouts had never been high on Gordy Bostwick's list of enjoyable duties. The space inside a vehicle was usually cramped, the climate was inevitably stuffy and the time spent was incredibly boring - occasionally interrupted by unplanned moments of danger and stress. And if sleep deprivation wasn't a factor, irregular diets and inadequate liquids worked into the equation. Contrary to urban myth, investigators didn't imbibe continuous cups of coffee: they had to sparingly pace drinking beverages or risk taking pee breaks into an empty bottle at inopportune times.

His relief, Brady Johnson, would be on-site at midnight and that meant only two more hours in the AOI-issued undercover 'chariot'. In this case, the 'chariot' blended a used ordinary vehicle with advanced automotive technology and electronic surveillance sophistication. The exterior shell was a sun-dulled, maroon 1999 Ford Explorer with scarred exterior wear and tear from driving the L.A. streets. These scuffs, scratches and chips helped the SUV blend into the average residential neighborhood. However, under the hood was a fine-tuned 4.6L 292 HP engine with a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission. And the entire vehicle was bulletproofed.

Inside the SUV, a sound recorder could accurately pick up conversations 100 yards away, even through an ordinary wall of a building. This was backed up by a thermal imaging system with long wavelength infrared capabilities. A video camera with a telescopic lens could monitor the target's movements in synch with the audio equipment, and it converted easily to handle night viewing.

Gordy thought about the events of earlier in the day as he sat in the SUV. None of the unwelcome visitors had carried I.D., but the Mustang was registered to an import company located in the heart of L.A.'s Russian immigrant community. He had passed on this information, along with the 5XK license plate characters from the mystery car, to the police. The vehicle was identified as either a dark green Toyota or Nissan. He and Oleg concurred that there was still a potential element of danger and worked on an action plan to provide security for Andy Leeds.

The 'desperate men do desperate things' criminal modus operandi had been drummed into Gordy's head during training and he was determined to diligently watch over his charge in case the Ruskies returned. It was agreed that his partner, Barry, would follow Andy home and keep watch until Gordy could requisition the AOI-rigged Explorer at the AOI garage and set up surveillance. By 6:00 p.m., he was parked on Andy's quiet residential Fairfax neighborhood street near trendy Melrose Avenue and waved for Barry to take off. Gordy knew that daylight was on his side, so he had time to speak with Andy and check out the residence.

Andy was renting a small cottage situated behind a larger stucco-frame house that an older, retired couple owned. Andy had told Gordy that the one-bedroom structure was originally built for one of the couple's parents several years ago. Gordy first walked the grounds, inspected the cottage and was relieved that no one was lurking. Once he'd determined that the location was safe, Andy joined Gordy, along with Ginger - Andy's skittish Jack Russell terrier. Ginger was reluctant to come out from under the coffee table at first - but once she'd sniffed Gordy's hand and determined that he was a good guy, she all over him.

As much as Gordy would have preferred to stay, he turned down Andy's invitation for a light dinner and returned to the SUV just after 7:00 p.m. He had been able to park in a nearby space that was away from the streetlights - he could keep in the shadows once the sun had set and watch the property without being obvious. A collateral problem with stakeouts was the risk of making an observant neighbor nervous if the investigator was spotted. The unwanted result was either a boisterous confrontation with the neighbor or a police patrol car. In any case, the cover and investigation would be compromised. Part of AOI's 'pimping the ride' - as the younger associates jokingly referred to the modifications of the vehicles - was a special window tinting that prohibited the curious from peering in, but didn't interfere with the investigator's vision looking out.

It was just after 10:00 p.m. and, except for a few dog walkers and some joggers, the evening's surveillance had been uneventful - up until now. A vehicle driving by at a minimum speed caught Gordy's attention: it was a Nissan, dark in color, with a California license plate beginning with 5XK. 'Those fuckers are back,' he thought as he picked up his cell phone, 'and they're watching Andy.' He hit a special button that would connect him immediately with AOI Operations. "Got it," he said to himself when he saw and memorized the rest of the license plate. They hadn't had the sense to turn their lights off and the plate was well illuminated.

"This is Bostwick, on-post, reporting suspicious activity." The Ops Center had his address and Gordy didn't need to waste valuable time by stating where he was unless he had moved. In any case, the GPS system at the center tracked all vehicles on assignment. "I just spotted the..."

Suddenly a blinding, searing flash of light and an abrupt, rumbling sound jolted his senses as the sedan suddenly accelerated and drove away. He immediately looked at the cottage - or what was left of it as the smoke began to go up instead of out - and yelled in short spurts, "Explosion at subject's home. 9-1-1, fire and EMS. Tell Oleg 5XK involved...complete plate I.D. 5XK384. Out." He hit the 'end' button, grabbed his Glock and bolted from the SUV. The explosive violence had disrupted the tranquil solitude of the entire area. The resulting fire, acrid odor in the air, spreading smoke and several beeping alarms from nearby parked autos oddly enhanced the chaos. Gordy armed his Glock as he ran across the street and past the home fronting the property. He noticed a few windows of the house had been broken and was careful not to trip on glass shards as he got closer.

The cottage was near complete ruin from the blast and what remained was being consumed by fire. The only threat from the fire was a nearby garage and a large tree. Fortunately there wasn't much wind and Gordy judged the fire wouldn't spread unchecked if the fire department responded quickly. He stopped and put a handkerchief over his mouth and nose as he surveyed the scene. Intense heat prevented him from moving any closer. 'There's no way Andy could have survived this,' he thought as a flaming support timber fell into the ruins. 'It's probably going to burn down most of the way before the firemen can get here.'

Suddenly, the yipping sound of a dog in the corner of the backyard got his attention. He looked over towards the sound and saw the little terrier excitedly racing back and forth, barking and growling beside a slumped form. The form was Andy, lying on the ground by a flowerbed, wearing a bathrobe - and nothing more except for one flip-flop. "Andy," Gordy yelled excitedly, as he skirted the fire and debris. He quickly approached his new friend with hope and a racing heart. The small Jack Russell whined and wagged her tail as she looked at Gordy.

"Ohhh," was the only response from Andy. However, he was taking short, shallow breaths and his eyes were starting to flutter.

"It's Gordy...I'm here." Since Andy was breathing hard, Gordy did a primary first aid examination of Andy's body and didn't find any burns. 'Just some wounds from flying debris - I hope,' he judged, 'and some scrapes from the fall.' "Andy, do you know me and where we are?" He looked into Andy's almost focused eyes and waited for recognition.

"Hi. What the...heck...happened?" Andy tried to sit up, but was restrained by Gordy.

"It's best not to move. Just stay where you are and wait for EMS," Gordy replied.

Andy relaxed and turned his head to look at the fiery rubble that had been his home. "Oh, my God," he said, as his mouth dropped open.

Gordy noticed that Andy's breathing began to calm down. "An accident occurred and the result was your disappearing house." 'Don't want to alarm him and say what I really think,' he decided. He put the safety on his weapon and tucked it into his holster before taking Andy's hand. "Squeeze my hand and wiggle your toes."

"How's that, boss?" Andy asked. He complied with the order and giggled when his dog licked his feet. "Did I get burned?"

"No, just cuts and bruises...nothing that won't heal. Your motor skills seem to be in good shape. I'd say you and Ginger are going to be fine." Gordy put on a small smile, discreetly covered Andy's crotch area with the robe, filing away the image of the flaccid, uncut equipment he had briefly seen. The sound of approaching sirens confirmed that assistance wasn't far away. "How the hell did you end up outside?"

"I took Ginger out for one final pee before turning in for the night and the next thing I know is...this." Andy turned his head slightly and viewed the remains of his home. "I can't imagine what happened. There's no gas in the cottage, only electricity."

"That pooch probably saved your life." Gordy turned and became aware of an older man and woman in their 70's standing behind him. He got up and once again told Andy not to move until the paramedics checked him out. The couple - both wearing bathrobes of a different era: he, a plaid flannel and she, a floral design - were frowning with a mixture of repressed shock and stoic concern. 'Must be the landlords,' he thought. He also noticed a few neighbors gathering on the driveway by the house.

"Sir, I'm Gordon Bostwick," he said to the older man as he rose. "You could help if you would go out by the street and direct the firemen and paramedics back here. This man appears to be all right but he needs to be professionally examined. I'm trained in first aid but we need to make sure there are no serious injuries I can't detect." He looked at the woman and added, "If you'll stay back, I'll look after him until help arrives." Gordy decided not to reveal anything more about his job or relationship with Andy. 'I gotta make sure he's taken care of before I speak with Oleg,' he thought. He watched as the man said something to the woman and then walked quickly toward the street.

"Any pain I should know about?" Gordy asked as he kneeled back down. He took Andy's hand and held it for a moment.

"Just shaken up and some aches. Do I look like shit?"

"I wouldn't go that far." Gordy leaned over a little closer and added, "Let's say that your mascara is running and you need a new gown." In his peripheral vision the sight of a man in a yellow slicker uniform came into view. "In the meantime, you might rearrange your robe so your dick isn't hanging out. We've got visitors."

Gordy stood and gave the fireman a quick synopsis of his emergency first aid exam. At the same time, he watched more firefighters approach the destroyed cottage with hoses. He knew it would be only moments before the men systematically put out the remaining flames, contain the smoldering embers and make sure other structures weren't endangered. Just behind the firemen, the paramedics appeared and quickly approached with their portable equipment.

Gordy turned to Andy, nodded with a 'thumbs up", stepped back and thought about the blatant bomb attack. 'Whoever's behind this must think Andy knows more than he really does. Enough for these characters to attempt murder.' The vibration of Gordy's cell phone interrupted his concentration. He grabbed it and saw the caller I.D. - Oleg Petrov.

Oleg absorbed Gordy's on-site observations and plotted the next part of their expanding investigation while they were still talking on the phone. He told Gordy that AOI Ops had just finished running the license plate through the DMV database and successfully identified the owner. The vehicle - a 2005 Nissan - was registered to the same import company that had surfaced earlier in the day as owners of the intruder's Mustang. The Russians were in this game up to their eyeballs, but Oleg was determined to finish it on his own terms. He knew who the key players were in the local mob organization and where they could be found. And he had compiled a thorough surveillance report, which identified all repetitive movements and habits of the subjects.

He approved Gordy's plan to take Andy home for temporary lodging. The young man's safety was paramount and Oleg was convinced the Russians were still a dangerous threat - a genetic 'destroy the enemy' mentality - and they would probably attempt another brutal attack. Until the situation was successfully resolved, Andy and those around him would be at risk.

It was decided that Andy would call the studio in the morning and let everyone know he wouldn't be in for the day - but say no more. Fortunately, when rushing home earlier in the day, Andy had distractedly left his laptop in his car, along with his cell phone, and therefore would be able to function 'on the fly' for a while. Because it was not wise to drive the Honda, Andy would retrieve his laptop bag and ride with Gordy.

Oleg had ended the conversation with a word of praise for a job well done and left it for Gordy to determine when the time was right to tell Andy about the true nature of the explosion. Oleg added that he would deal with the Russian problem and suggested that Gordy anonymously call in the license plates to the police from a pay phone.

He spoke with his managing partner, briefed him on both attacks and outlined the approach he favored to respond to the bombing. The boss and Oleg always sought out the other when extraordinary measures were contemplated. It was agreed that untraceable drastic action was needed to save innocent lives as long as the plan couldn't be traced - it was imperative that AOI's involvement was not detected.

Next was a call to the head of a covert resources group that AOI used on unique occasions. After they discussed his plan, the man felt confident that they could 'recon' the mission and successfully set up the task in six hours or less - it was now just before midnight. In Oleg's line of business, contracted services were available 24/7 - for the right fee. In this case, the resource was a reliable, loyal firm called SEAL'D, Inc.

To the public, SEAL'D was a benign small business that wholesaled decorative self-sealing envelopes and containers. However, behind this front, the company's principals specialized in handling tricky recon projects and 'target elimination' assignments around the world. It was operated by two ex-Navy Seals who had handled several unpleasant undercover tasks for AOI over the past couple of years. For SEAL'D, this new assignment, however illegal, would be a 'piece of cake' and very profitable. The added bonus was the opportunity to 'kick ass' on some bad guys.

Before retiring for the evening, he sent Dex an email and suggested he contact L.A. Ops at the earliest for an update concerning the Russians' activities in Southern California. He emphasized that events in L.A. might have some bearing on the London investigation. Oleg set his alarm for 6:00, turned off the light, and once he was comfortable, closed his eyes. He almost immediately drifted into 'alpha' and moved on to 'delta' as the new day began.

The third shift at AOI Ops was just wrapping up their duties as Oleg walked into the center at 7:00 a.m. He reviewed the details of his case that had been compiled overnight and verified Dex had called. Oleg also had an encrypted message from his SEAL'D contact - "The mission is a go and will be executed at 0730." A description of the target's Brentwood location and telephone numbers were attached. 'Good,' he thought as he went to his office, 'I've got time to reflect while I have a cup of coffee.'

At precisely 7:28 a.m., he dialed the subject's cell number from his satellite telephone. The call originated from his office, transmitted to an orbiting satellite, and then bounced back to a receiving station in Denver before ending up on a landline in Phoenix. Caller I.D. would only display an innocuous 602 area code number. After the second ring, the call was answered.

"Speak," a gruff voice said in Russian.

"Sergei Gorshkov, you have disappointed me," Oleg replied in Russian. Even though they had never met, he used a device that altered his voice to confuse any attempt to get a voiceprint later. To confuse matters further, he spoke with a vague Balachka dialect.

"Who is this?"

"Someone who knows all about your little game with innocent boys and girls. Porn with children must be a very profitable business. You drive a nice car."

"Is this the police? I...I'm just an importer of food and liquor. Who the fuck is this? Tell me or I hang up."

"Not the police; a concerned citizen who knows you very well. And on top of your slimy business, you and your flunky lieutenants tried to kill an innocent civilian by blowing up his house last night." Oleg knew that this mobster would get to know the police very well later in the morning.

"I don't know what you're talking about. It..."

"Listen very carefully because I'll say this only once: if you ever again try to harm the young man who works in Harvey Fine's office, you'll regret it. He has nothing to do with this mess that you've bungled. That goes for anyone connected with Frat Loft." Oleg paused for a moment and added with a bark, "Back off. Leave the civilians alone."

"Big talk."

"Okay, asswipe, let's talk about your beautiful Maybach sedan that's parked in front of your house. Is it there?" Oleg looked at his clock and noticed it was 7:29:30.

"Ya...yes. I can see it from my window. Ha, you try to steal it?"

"Steal? No. But I suggest you step away from the window and protect yourself. What is fixing to happen to your car will happen to you...if anyone from your organization attempts to harm anyone from Harvey Fine's operations again. Grasp all - lose all." Oleg thought the use of a familiar Russian proverb was appropriate in setting the mood.

"You threaten me? I'll..."

Suddenly a noisy explosion interrupted the conversation. Oleg could also hear glass shattering and hoped Sergei had moved away from the window. Moments later, the mob leader started shouting the basest of obscenities to no one in particular. Rage of an untamed, caged animal came to Oleg's mind.

"Bastard, what have you done?" Sergei screamed into the cell phone with a mixture of anger and fear.

"Got your attention. Now you know that I have resources to go after you if you screw with anyone? Yes?"

_"I...I understand." _

"Good. That is important. If you even think of attempting anything, you and your house will be history. We know you very well." Oleg hung up and decided that the day had started off reasonably well, however unpleasantly, with the successfully initiated task - the C4 and remote ignition switch had performed the demolition mission with precision. The violent destruction of Sergei's $400,000 Maybach had gotten the mobster's attention and invoked a concept the Russian mob respected: fear and intimidation. However, he had a gnawing feeling that more 'push and shove' might be required.

The act communicated that unknown forces - not bound by conventional rules - had the determination to back up verbal threats. 'It'll drive him nuts,' Oleg thought with a satisfied, low chuckle, 'trying to find out who's behind this.' His covert operators were invisible and Oleg's Russian regional dialogue was convincing. However, he wasn't convinced the problem was going away. 'Those bastards will probably try something else.'

The call a half-hour later from Gordy was good news. A bandaged and bruised Andy, with the help of a sleeping pill, had dropped off to sleep after Gordy carefully administered a sponge bath. The banged-up young man was still asleep...with Ginger. Oleg decided not to probe for details of the bathing. He was sure his young associate had acted as a gentleman, albeit probably mentally claiming territory for future reference.

Gordy had revealed the true cause of the destruction and reassured Andy that measures were being taken to dissuade any further attacks. In addition to calling the studio and shopping for clothes, Andy also wanted to talk with his insurance company about his destroyed household effects. Once those tasks were handled, he insisted he would look for a furnished 'efficiency'. Andy felt he would encroach on Gordy's private life if he stayed in his apartment too long and he needed his own personal space right now, or at least, once he woke up.

Because they were speaking on an unsecured telephone connection, Oleg did not mention the episode with the Russian's Maybach other than acknowledge that they were playing with fire in this case. It was decided that Andy would not appear at his destroyed home or at the Frat Loft office for a couple of days. They discussed a few other security options and decided they would meet in the AOI offices around noon for a working lunch. Gordy's partner would escort Andy for the balance of the day.

To be on the safe side, personally, Oleg used a Saturn sedan with untraceable license plates - from AOI's pool of vehicles - for his trip to Harvey Fine's home and his meeting with Joe Lamanna. He also wore aviator sunglasses and a Dodgers cap for good measure. As he approached the house, the only other vehicles were two unmarked police cars, and his detective friend was standing in the driveway. He pulled up behind the Crown Vic and waved as he turned off the motor.

"What happened? You piss off someone?" Lamanna said with a laugh while Oleg locked the car. "I haven't seen you with an ordinary set of wheels for years."

"Gives me a touch of the common man, don't you think?" Oleg grinned and shook the detective's hand. "And I'm actually a big Dodgers fan."

" a Gordon Biersh brew washing down your Dodger Dog. I don't suppose your natty attire and borrowed car have anything to do with an incident over in Brentwood a while ago?" Lamanna smirked and raised his eyebrow.

"Brentwood? I get over there for golf once in a while...that's about it. I was in my office before coming here. What's up?" Oleg turned on an angelic expression and cocked his head.

"Mr. Gorshkov, who you may know, was awakened this morning by a blast that destroyed his personal vehicle. Some fancy Maybach worth a helluva lot of dough."

"I've heard of the man," Oleg replied coyly. Although he trusted the detective, it was best not to comment further. "But when your investigation is successfully concluded, I don't think Mr. G. will need a car...for a long time. Man, a Maybach, huh? The back seat is so big you could have a ten-way orgy and a dance floor." He patted Lamanna's shoulder and added, "Seriously, his organization's prints are all over this kiddie porn business and I hope he's convicted. But right now I'm more concerned about young Andy Leeds' home being blown up last night. We're trying to look out for him, but I didn't see this one coming. He's a very lucky guy."

"Very lucky - I read the report. And it was disturbing to find out one of Gorshkov's company cars was seen speeding away just before the explosion." Lamanna nodded for Oleg to follow him to the front door of Harvey Fine's house. "An APB is out to find the car."

"Good luck on that. My guess is that car is at a chop shop as we speak."

"I'd bet you're right. Between that car, the Maybach and the Mustang from Frat Loft that we have as evidence, it's been an expensive 24 hours for Gorshkov. However, the Mustang was reported stolen by his company."

"Typical cover-your-tracks-101 stuff," Oleg replied.

"By the way, a team was over at Rory's condo...but there's nothing in the place that would tie him to the murder," Lamanna said as they stopped at the front door.

"The guy probably is putting his military training to good use. Or he's been watching a lot of CSI shows."

"Probably the latter...but I'm not giving up." Lamanna knocked and another detective inside opened the door. Once they entered, Detective Lopez introduced himself before the two detectives discussed the most recent activity at the residence, and the two explosions, while Oleg listened. A new piece of information was a note that the evening shift had passed to the relief detective: a Nissan sedan had slowly driven by the Fine house on two occasions late the previous evening. It hadn't seemed relevant until now.

The three men walked upstairs to the master bedroom. With the morning sun coming through the window, turning on lights wasn't necessary. Oleg appreciated the cost of the decor but not the design of the room as he peered inside. 'This ornate look - almost bordello classical - is better on a movie set than a residence,' he thought. While Lopez waited in the hallway, Lamanna and Oleg stepped inside.

Except for the large brownish stains of dried blood on the ivory carpet, blood splatters on the wall and powder remnants where investigators had probed for fingerprints, the room was mostly undisturbed. He skirted the carpet stain and examined the contents of the wet bar. The expensive variety of liquors was almost a duplicate of Fine's wet bar at his office.

"I suppose the doorway by the desk goes to the closet?" Oleg asked, almost rhetorically. It was the only logical layout: a common open doorway that led to the closet and toilet areas. He turned to Lamanna and said with a smile, "Might as well see if the Caligula decor continues into the head."

"I take it you don't approve of these ornate decorations." Lamanna replied as he followed Oleg through the doorway.

Oleg switched on a light. To the left was a large, marble-laden bathroom with all the luxury features. He glanced to the right and saw a well-organized wardrobe room. 'Calling this a closet really doesn't do justice to the space,' he thought as he walked in. "Good old Harvey was very anal about his clothing." Pants and shirts, hung separately, grouped by color. The same care was applied to the rows of shoes.

"Whew, the guy was compulsive." Lamanna followed Oleg and felt a few of the fabrics. "Guess we'll never know if he was obsessive."

"Unless you're good at channeling," Oleg replied with a chuckle. "What strikes me a little odd is that the clothing is very expensive and a way."

"Stylish if you're into Beverly Hills flash."

"But flash with big name labels. And the area of the house we saw downstairs looks more like something you'd find in an Architectural Digest spread from 20 years ago. But the bedroom is over-the-top glitz. Harvey must have gotten off with this fantasy surrounding." He scanned the closet one final time, shrugged and nodded to Lamanna. "I've seen enough in here if you have."

"Yeah, the closet doesn't ring my chimes."

"Did I hear you say you're coming out of your closet?" Oleg asked with a broad smile and a wiggle of his eyebrows.

"In your dreams, macho man." Lamanna chuckled, turned and re-entered the bedroom. "That panel of switches by the bed seems excessive," he said as he walked over to the head of the bed. He started pressing the buttons at the bottom of six separate rheostat switches and the room came alive with light - lights of different color hues - as each circuit was turned on. The dramatic effects were nearly overwhelming. "Now this is what I'd call over-the-top."

"Harvey must have loved to stage his fuck sessions like a Hollywood production. Almost like he'd taken his work home." Oleg looked around at the way different pools of light highlighted the various decor details, the 'David' statue and the bed. He picked up the two Sony remotes that were sitting on the bedside table next to the lighting controls. He guessed one controlled the large flat-screen television, and the other a sound system. 'If I hit the stereo button, I'm sure Bolero will come blasting out of the speakers,' he thought as he set them back in their original spot.

"I've seen several rooms over the years that were built to enhance a person's sexual fantasies. This is pretty mild compared to some of the dungeons the S & M leather crowd uses for role-playing."

"Different strokes et cetera, if no one gets hurt." Oleg decided to dispense with the joking and help wrap up this review of the crime scene. "And whatever is going on is consensual."

"When it's not consensual is when I've gotten involved...but that's another story for another time."

"Anything of interest in the desk?" Oleg asked as he walked over to the ornate piece of furniture. The chair was more in the style of something you'd find in a French throne room.

"The report says that the credenza next to the desk contains files of the various actors who worked for Fine and his personal papers. The Rory Reed file, aka Henry Wiedermeier, is in there."

Oleg opened the credenza drawer and pulled out Rory's file. He flipped through it and set it aside. Next, he randomly selected a few other files and compared the contents. "Rory was a favorite of Harvey if the thickness of the file is any indication."

"Plus a big moneymaker for the company from all accounts."

"But something's missing." Oleg looked at a few more files and then returned to the one marked 'Wiedermeier, Henry'. He carefully examined each page - and the revealing photographs. 'Damn, that guy is hung,' he judged as he scanned Rory's posed body and a nude shot that showed off the guy's excited glory.

"Whatchu got?" Lamanna said as he moved closer.

"Every file except Rory's has a signed contract clasped to the left inside cover of the file. The agreements I saw are pretty basic with compensation rates, conditions and all the rest. There's no contract for Reed 0r Wiedermeier in his file." Oleg pulled out another file and added, "Look for yourself."

Detective Lamanna reviewed the randomly selected file and went through a few others. "Good call. It's something that I wouldn't have thought of and apparently the rest of the investigative crew didn't either. Maybe Rory had signed a contract from early on where he gave away the store to Harvey?"

"And wanted to retrieve it when negotiations failed? From what I understand, Rory was the golden boy and was paid more than anyone else. Andy told me that Rory was going to be a big part of a new adult site Harvey was launching."

"Whatever the case, someone certainly went out of their way to frame Thad Brooks for murdering Fine." Lamanna shook his head while he returned the files to the credenza. "We found Rory's prints in the house but he was a frequent visitor, if you know what I mean."

"We both know how Rory earned his little roadster. It just doesn't compute." Oleg walked around and studied the room one more time. 'What am I not seeing,' he thought, 'in this make-believe room?' He stopped by the head of the bed and looked at the panel of light switches. Next to it was a single toggle switch. He reached down and pushed the toggle down. Nothing. He flipped it back up. Zero. 'Must be an old switch that isn't active.'

"Find anything else?" Lamanna asked as he joined Oleg.

"Just another switch that doesn't appear to control anything. That's all. Probably part of an earlier remodeling and it was easier to leave it." Oleg looked at Lamanna and shrugged. "I've seen enough. How about you?"

"Until another piece of the puzzle pops up, this is good for me. I'm up to my ears in Russians on the other investigation and need to get back to the office. If you'll turn off the light show, we can get out of here." Lamanna watched the room go to its natural brightness as he walked over to the doorway. "This is still an active crime scene and I'm going to keep a man on site."

The two men joined Detective Lopez and walked back downstairs to the more conventional living room. Oleg and Joe promised to contact each other if anything of importance came up. After adjusting his baseball cap, Oleg put on his sunglasses and left the house. He got into his Saturn, looked around at the quiet neighborhood, but didn't feel his usual sense of accomplishment. There was something about the scene he was missing.

Back in the office, he worked through the remainder of the morning, returning emails and updating his active files. Gordy arrived for the meeting and the two men devised a more complete plan to provide security for Andy and further thin out the Russian foot soldiers if needed. In a brief telephone conference call with one of the SEAL'D principals, the plan was discussed and a contract negotiated. Oleg set up a private meeting with the SEAL'D team later in the day at a remote location so the details could be finalized and left after the conclusion of the call.

Just after 1:00, Buddy West, L.A.'s computer tech supervisor called and asked Oleg for a few moments up in the lab. They had found a few things of interest on Harvey's hard drive that might be important and wanted his opinion.

With the importance of the Internet mushrooming in unparalleled growth, the lab - located next to the AOI operations center - increasingly intersected the lives of everyone on a daily basis. The laid-back crew of four staff members, quartered in a quiet space crammed with the latest equipment, was in constant demand. Their success in ferreting data from the continuous bombardment of electronic minutiae had helped solve many of the cases.

He greeted the supervisor in a corner cubicle and sat down. "What have you got, Buddy?"

"Maybe nothing, but there's something that whetted my curiosity."

"With a wife and two kids, I doubt pictures of hot dudes doing their thing rings your bell," Oleg replied with a laugh. There was an unsaid requirement that all straight AOI staff members were 'gay-friendly' and accepting.

"No. No bell-ringing but I sometimes wonder how two or more guys can do all that maneuvering in bed. Makes my hetero efforts look pretty vanilla." Buddy grinned and shrugged. "What I did find was curious, however."

"How so?"

"I'm familiar with the deceased and the porn star's relationship from your background overview. What startled me was finding a file in the hard drive showing the two men going at it." Buddy moved the mouse slightly and the screensaver disappeared. He clicked on an icon and the screen went dark for a moment. Slowly, a picture opened - a room with Harvey and Rory, nude, in a freeze-frame. "Watch this."

Oleg was startled. Not from the image of the two men, but rather from their surroundings. "Holy shit," he said as the activity started. He scanned the screen and pictured where the cameras must be embedded. As Rory was entering the pucker of Harvey's fat pimpled ass, Oleg muttered, "Buddy, this is incredible. I'll fill you in later."

He quickly returned to his office and called Joe Lamanna. The detective answered after the third ring. "Joe, you got a sec? I think I've found a big clue in the Fine murder."

"Big enough for me to play hooky from the staff meeting?"

"Bigger than big. Can you meet me back at Harvey's house ASAP? If I'm right, Rory is lunchmeat."

"Hold the mayo...see you in a half-hour."

"I'll be there." Oleg took a deep breath, and spent a moment to type in his revised schedule and location before he departed. He grabbed his Dodgers cap and was out the office door. 'I better play it safe and keep using the Saturn for a while.'

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