Agent Burns sat alone in the FBI’s audio/video room, staring at surveillance footage from the Chase Bank robbery. She observed the customers in line at the front of the teller booths. Behind them, an armed guard stood near the entrance facing the vault.
She advanced the digital recorder to see a man in a gas mask enter the building with a sawed-off shotgun. Moments later, a small canister exploded on the floor. She saw the smoke and the panicked frenzy from startled bank customers. The gunman pointed the shotgun at the camera. A second later, the screen went blank.
She reversed the footage and watched the same sequence again and again, scanning the bank entrance and the lone bank robber with a tattoo on his neck, anything to catch a glimpse of something out of place, a clue to focus the investigation along a more productive track.
“You get anything from the tape?” Kriegel asked, entering the room without knocking.
“I’ve watched this a hundred times. Our guy enters alone. He takes out the first camera. He empties the teller drawers and leaves the vault. Calm. Deliberate. No indecision. He’s in and out like a pro.”
“What about the second camera behind the teller stations? The one he missed.”
“The file was corrupted. I’ve got a video tech working on it. Did we get anything off the mask or shotgun?”
Kriegel gave a disparaging look. “I checked with forensics. The gas mask looks like Army surplus. The shotgun is a standard twelve-gauge Remington pump.”
“Doesn’t narrow things down much,” said Burns. “I asked Arlington PD to send me a list of recent shotgun purchases from every licensed dealer in the tri-state area. It’s a stretch, but we might get lucky.”
Kriegel sipped coffee from a paper cup. He clenched a manila folder in his hand. “This is a federal investigation. We have the lead on every angle. I don’t want any rookie mistakes.”
Burns leaned back in her chair and flicked the lights on. She rubbed her eyes. “Don’t shoot me, but I spoke with Arlington PD’s lead detective. He said their canvas turned up nothing. No eyewitnesses except for a homeless man camped out by the Rosslyn Metro escalator. The guy claims he saw the stolen van but didn’t get a good look at the driver.”
“What about our perp with the shotgun?”
“I brought in the sketch artist, but every witness tells it different. The only consistent description is of the mask.”
“You get anything?“
Burns shook her head. “A few people remember a loud bang. One teller claims she saw two men with guns. A biker says he saw a man in a gas mask enter the bank before the grenade went off. The recording confirms his story. Our gunman enters the bank at 9:55:23. At 9:55:37, the first camera folds.”
Kriegel stared at the video monitor. “Rewind it again… Stop.” He pointed to the gunman’s neck. “Did you see this?”
Burns zoomed in. “I caught it the second time around. Looks like prison ink. An Aryan Brotherhood tattoo. Our guy’s been in the system before.”
“Did you get anything else from forensics?”
“No prints. No fibers. Just spent shell casings and an empty flash grenade.”
“Army issue?” Kriegel asked.
“Not according to ballistics. This one was some sort of homemade device designed to mimic the effects of a standard flash grenade. Low impact energy, but with lots of noxious smoke, which standard flash-bangs don’t do.”
Kriegel checked his watch. “You look like shit. When’s the last time you got some shut eye?”
“Not since my flight from Miami.” She muffled a yawn in her hand. “Do you know if forensics found anything on the van?”
“Negative. But this will perk your panties.” Kriegel passed her the manila folder. “Dental records came back from Quantico this morning. Turns out our crispy critter from the burned-out van was Gordon Gentry.”
Burns looked at the image on the monitor. “Our guy with the Aryan tattoo?”
“It’s likely. He went by the street name Double G. Three convictions for armed robbery. Spent ten years in Attica before he started his parole six months ago. No local affiliations except an uncle in the white supremacy circus. I sent an agent to interview him.”
Burns flipped through the mug shot photos and the lengthy rap sheet before she skimmed the last page. “Do we have an address for his parole officer?”
“His PO went tits up from a heart attack two weeks ago.”
Burns flipped back to the front. “Did Gentry have a job?”
“Washing dishes in China Town. Check it out and see what you can dig up.”
Kriegel sloshed the coffee in his cup, gulping the last sip, grinds and all. “Who made this batch?”
“You did,” Kriegel’s admin assistant chimed in as she walked by. She winked at Burns and shared a knowing glance. “There’s a visitor in the lobby downstairs. He asked for you by name.”
* * *
“Shut the door,” said Kriegel, waiting for Burns and McLeary to enter an empty conference room.
McLeary closed the door and faced a panel of crime scene photos and a hand-drawn timeline along the bottom in red ink. He wore a floral print shirt with chinos and his favorite Sperry loafers. A white blazer concealed the Kimber .45 in his leather shoulder holster. A two day growth of beard covered his face.
Kriegel stood against the conference table encircled by black vinyl chairs. “You’ve met Special Agent Burns, our primary investigator on this case.”
McLeary kept a straight face and rested his hands on the back of a chair.
Kriegel opened a folder and read out loud from the page inside. “…inept, narcissistic chauvinist with a poor disposition. Lacks all respect for authority, rules, and regulations. Uneducated. Unkempt. Dysfunctional. I trust he would do more harm than good with this investigation.” He closed the folder and slid it across the table. “Those aren’t my words, McLeary.” He pointed to Agent Burns. “Those are hers.”
McLeary remained silent, undeterred by Kriegel’s meager attempt to get under his skin.
“Agent Burns debriefed me on your little conversation in Miami. She told me you’d rather eat shit sandwiches than assist me with this case.”
“I’m not here for your sake or hers.”
Kriegel closed the blinds. “Bullshit, McLeary. You’re a washed-up has-been with a tainted jacket. You don’t care about this case anymore than you care about your morning dump. Look around. This isn’t Hollywood. Or Pirates of the Caribbean.” Kriegel ran his hand through his hair. “You’re lucky I don’t have your ass thrown in jail.”
McLeary nodded to Burns. “I’ll be at Hooters. Call me if you have something worthwhile to say.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” Kriegel fired back. “I don’t like your attire. And I don’t like your attitude. Why you even bothered to show up here is beyond comprehension.” He followed McLeary to the elevators. Random hallway conversations ceased abruptly. “Cut and run, McLeary. That’s what you do best.”
McLeary pressed the “Down” button.
“Look at me, you son-of-a-bitch. The bureau wants you on this case. The request didn’t come from me.”
“The Deputy Director.”
McLeary waited for the doors to open. He was determined to close the chapter on a boss he’d rather forget, and a small piece of him felt compelled to stay. “This is a paid assignment or I walk.”
“You’re here as a paid consultant, not a Federal Agent with the FBI. Special Agent Burns is running this investigation. Anything she needs from you, she gets, as long as it goes through me first. But if I catch you jerking off on bureau time, you’re gone. If Burns submits a bad report on you, you’re gone. If you so much as look the wrong way at another agent assisting this investigation, I’ll charge you with obstruction of justice and have your ass thrown in jail.”
“Are you done?”
“Get a haircut and a shave. And some new clothes.”
McLeary noticed the other agents mulling about, pretending to ignore the heated conversation. If he hustled, he could still catch an early return flight to Miami.
It’s not your problem. Kriegel could care less if you dove out the window and cracked the pavement. He’d bury you in a shallow grave and piss on your headstone.
He saw how Agent Burns looked at Kriegel with admiration—and ignorance. Admiration for a combat veteran who’d served his country and lived to tell about it; ignorance about the past and the way Kriegel ran his operation. He touched his jacket, his senses tingling at the thought of drawing his gun and blowing large holes in Kriegel. A means to an end, perhaps, but one that would force him down a path of remorse and self-destruction.
Kriegel snapped his fingers at McLeary’s face. “You still with us?”
McLeary stepped into Kriegel’s personal space. “You snap your fingers at me again, and I’ll break them off and feed them to you.”
“Take your shot.”
Burns pushed herself between both men. “We’re all on the same team here. I’ll get the files if you two promise not to kill each other before I get back.”
“Forget the files,” said Kriegel. “You have a witness to interview.” He pointed to McLeary’s shoulder rig. “And your firearm isn’t bureau-issue.”
“Neither was your wife’s dildo, but it got the job done.”
Kriegel scowled at McLeary, his nostrils flared. His jaw muscles twitched when he looked at Burns and said, “Get this walking calamity out of my sight before I do something I’ll regret!”