6: Monday

8:39 AM, Monterey

I’ve been thinking,” Zamora said as she and Kitfox walked across the Police Station parking lot, “two murders within a few days, two different killers, both claiming amnesia. How can these not be related?”

“Yeah, and yet, how do we prove it? Before that, even, how are they related? Conspiracy? Is Darnall somehow connected with this kid from Reno?”

“We’d have to go through things like her address books, Internet records, that kind of stuff. If there’s a connection, we’ll find it. Nobody’s thorough enough to hide everything. Nobody.”

“What if there isn’t one? What if this middle class wife and mother of two has no connection to a burger-flipping kid in another state? What’s our link then?”

“I don’t know.” She stepped into the building as he held the door for her. “Maybe we need to look at what the victims had in common.”

“What would that prove if the killers acted independently?”

“Agent Kitfox,” the desk sergeant greeted them, “your office called. They want you to call them back. Do you have the number?”

“Yes, Sergeant, thank you.”

“I don’t know what it proves,” Zamora said, continuing their conversation, “but look at what we’ve got. We get a murder with no apparent motive, and the weirdest possible alibi, and within a couple of days, the same alibi turns up in a case the FBI felt might be connected to begin with.”

“Any lawyer worth his fee will shoot that down within minutes,” Kitfox said as they entered her cubicle. “When you have two murders here, and you arrest two suspects, you don’t assume a connection because they both say they were at a bar with friends.”

“No, but this is different.”

“Not in the eyes of the law. Just because a thing is statistically unlikely doesn’t mean it can’t happen, and no defense attorney is going to let you get away with a statement like that.”

“Defense attorney,” Zamora said.

“Right.”

“No, no. Darnall’s attorney will have to be informed of this development. Once you arrived, it became part of the disclosure requirement.”

“Oh, right. You don’t inform him yourself, do you?”

“No. I’ll have to brief the prosecutor.” She glanced at her watch, a man’s model with all the bells and whistles. “He’s probably still at his desk. If you want to call your office, I can give him a preliminary report now.”

“Good idea.”

He sat in front of her desk, took the phone she left available, and dialed Dixon’s office. June, his secretary, put him through at once.

“Leon, God damn it,” Dixon greeted him, “what the hell are you doing down there?”

“Good morning to you, too, sir.”

“Cut the bullshit, Leon. I told you there’d be hell to pay if you weren’t back here this morning. Do you have Jimmy Hoffa’s body on you?”

“No, sir.”

“Well, you’d better start digging! What the hell are you doing?”

“I ordered some prints Wednesday. They aren’t here yet.”

“The prints are moot. They have the guy. The guy, Leon. Not Susan Darnall, not her son, not the bag boy at her local market. Case closed. Hie thee hither!”

“It isn’t that clear from this end, sir.”

“Isn’t that—” Kitfox could almost hear Dixon pinching the bridge of his nose over the phone. “All right, Leon, you tell me. What, exactly, isn’t clear?”

“The alibis.”

“Come again?”

“We have two cases where two apparently normal, civilized members of society viciously murdered people who, as nearly as we can tell, were unknown to them. The level of violence in both cases was unreasonable, beyond what was necessary to simply kill a person. It almost bordered on mutilation of the corpses. Darnall, of course, was caught almost in the act, but the kid from Reno was able to leave the scene, but they caught him two weeks later because he was making no effort to flee or cover up his involvement. He just went back to work like he hadn’t a care in the world, and them, from the moment he was arrested, he’s been claiming amnesia, just like Darnall. Do you really think there’s no connection?”

A long silence was his only answer.

“Boss?”

“I’m thinking.” Another silence, then, “there is such a thing as coincidence.”

“We’re talking about a list of coincidences. The only thing different about these two killings is the killers.”

“That’s not strictly true, but I agree with you.”

“And the different murder weapons just means they probably used what they felt familiar with.”

“I said I agree with you. Here’s how we’re going to play it. I’ll report your findings to His Highness. You take today down there and see what you can develop. Call me tonight with whatever you come up with, and I’ll decide what you can do tomorrow.”

“How about those prints?”

“Leon! Oh, shit. Get me a fax number, and I’ll send them down, though I can’t imagine what earthly good they’ll be to you.”

“When you have nothing, anything might be a lead.”

“Yeah, okay. And, Leon, I don’t know what you’re onto down there, but these are ordinary human fingerprints, and by God, they’d better stay that way!”

“Don’t worry, boss. And by the way, thanks.”

“Yeah, yeah. Don’t let me down.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir.”

9:52 AM, Monterey

“You’re Mr. Kitfox?”

“Special Agent Kitfox, Ma’am, San Francisco FBI.”

“And may I see your credentials?”

“Of course.”

As he produced the case, his passport to everywhere, he liked to call it, he sized the woman up. She was tall and exotic, leaning on forty, and just beginning to put on love-handles of middle age. Too bad. He detected her Latin-American roots, but the garnish eluded him. Asian, certainly, Chinese maybe, or Filipino, but with her using her wedded name, Roberts, that detail would remain a mystery.

“Gloria Roberts, acting manager,” she told him, inviting him with a wave to her office. “What sort of name is Kitfox?”

“Native American, Ma’am. Shoshone.”

“Mmm. Pretty. Sit down.”

He did. Her office was nothing more than a glorified cubicle, a personal space partitioned by mahogany and smoked glass which allowed her to do her business with everybody watching but not hearing.

“I apologize for the fact that things are still pretty hectic around here. Hopefully, I can clear up whatever questions you may have, though we’ve told the police everything we know.”

“I appreciate that. This shouldn’t take long. There are just a couple of little points I need to get clarified in my own mind. First, how did Mr. Durant know the suspect, Susan Darnall?”

“That’s a very underhanded way to ask a question that has been answered multiple times. She didn’t.”

“Now it’s my turn to apologize. Sometimes if you ask an old question in a new way, you get a new answer. Still, Robert Durant’s murder wasn’t a random event.”

“You’re quite sure of this?”

“The woman was dedicated to nonviolence. For her to plan to sneak out of her family’s home, dress for strenuous activity, and bring a very personal weapon to commit the crime suggests that she knew him very well, and that he had done something to make her very, very angry. If she wasn’t involved in his personal life, let us turn to business. I understand that she didn’t bank here?”

“That’s correct.”

“Is there any indication that she may have tried?”

“Meaning?”

“That she may have been denied a loan or some other service prior to the crime.”

“The police asked about that, too. There was no paperwork, no application for anything. It is, of course, possible that she discussed something of the like with Robert, and was told verbally not to bother, that she wouldn’t qualify.”

“Would he normally conduct the bank’s business in that way?”

“No. In order to reach his desk, it would have had to have been an appeal of an earlier denial.”

“Unless she saw him in a social setting, and just asked him on the spot.”

“And then we’re back to whether she knew him. No one here ever heard him mention her.”

“Could they have been having an affair?”

“Anything’s possible, I suppose. You’d know better than I whether the police have found any evidence of that.”

“I suppose so. What about community involvement? Did Durant espouse any local causes, especially in a leadership role, that might anger a liberal or a pacifist?”

“Quite the opposite. Mr. Durant had no high-profile public projects that you see ballyhooed on the news, but personally, he supported groups that benefited orphans, the homeless, battered women, all the causes that liberals traditionally embrace.”

“Was he a liberal himself?”

“Mr. Durant wasn’t of any one plain stripe. He firmly believed that everyone should pay their own way, but he also believed that those who were too disadvantaged to do so were deserving of help.”

“Kind of a libertarian, then?”

“Just a good man. The world doesn’t have enough like Robert Durant.”

“So, he was a saint, then, with nothing to condemn him?”

“Nothing he would have shown to Susan Darnall.”

“I see. Well, I’ve taken up enough of your time.”

He stood to go.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help, Mr. Kitfox.”

“That’s all right. Negative information is still information. If you think of anything that might help—”

“I’ll call at once.”

He handed her his card, and stepped toward the door.

“Oh, Mr. Kitfox, there was one project he very active in the public eye with.”

“And that was?”

“The PacRim Conference.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s an economic conference that’s being held this weekend at the Marriott. Mr. Durant was instrumental in bringing it to town. The Pacific is going to be the next engine that drives the world’s economy, and Mr. Durant was determined that Monterey would be a leader in that new prosperity. He envisioned an annual meeting among world economic leaders here in town, at which the strengths and benefits of Monterey’s assets would be underscored. This one was to be the first.”

“And it’s going ahead without his leadership?”

“Oh, yes. He wasn’t the sole supporter, just the most tireless.”

“Interesting. Still, he hardly would have been killed for supporting something that would benefit the whole community.”

“Perhaps it would have harmed her employment. Nothing benefits everyone.”

“She worked in the tourism industry.”

“Her husband, then.”

“Possibly. It’s something to look into, anyway. Thank you for your time, Mrs. Roberts. If you think of anything else, that’s my cell phone. Call me anytime.”

11:13 PM, Salinas

Ikhilevich’s travel clock had beeped punctually at eleven. He had turned on the news and watched graphic images of Middle Eastern violence flood across the small screen as the talking head grimly intoned the body count, and noted that the hoped-for peace settlement was all but dead. The images were of higher quality than those shown forty years ago, but the content was the same as it was then, the same as it would be forty years hence, the same as it would be forever.

When the coverage turned to a local drug bust in Seaside, he switched off the TV and turned to his real business. After eleven; people who woke for work before sunrise should just be heading into a deeper sleep about now. The perfect time. Taking out an electronic organizer, he entered his password and looked up a number. He dialed it, and patiently waited out nine rings before his party answered.

“Hullo,” said the sleepy monotone.

“Armadillo underpants swimmink in a pile.”

There was a pause, then, “Yes?”

“Haff you been keepink up your exercise?”

“Yes.”

“Zen you must be beautyful. Stronk weemen are beautyful, do you agree?”

“Yes.”

“Can you press one hundret fifty yet?”

“No.”

“One hundret?”

“Yes.”

“Can you lek-lift sree hundret?”

“Yes.”

“Zat is goot. Girls viss stronk leks get ze best boyfrients. You keep vorkink. Are you still eager to save America from zose traitors who vould sell her out to ze Asians?”

“Yes.”

“Goot. I vant you to reat some books. Leesten carefully. All of zese books are at ze library. You vill reat zem deeply, as I taught you. Do you understant?”

“Yes.”

“Goot. Ze first book is Ze Vay of ze Ninja by Shungo Hasekawa. Ze secont book is No Second Place, ze American Art of Knife-Fighting by Davit Lewiston. Ze sirt book is Ze S.A.S. Guide to Concealment ant Infiltration by Frank Stone. Ze last book is Basics of Sil Lum Kung Fu by Che Wang Chin. Do you remember all zese titles?”

“Yes.”

“Goot. You vill pay particular attention to ze followink sections . . .”

He went on for some time, giving detailed instructions on what he wanted his listener to gain from this reading material. At length, satisfied, he hung up, and consulted his organizer again.

11:24 PM, Pacific Grove, California

“Who the hell was that?” Benson’s roommate, Sharon Ward, was out of bed and wearing her robe.

“Just a wrong number.”

“Wrong number? Why’d you talk so long, then?”

“What are you talking about? Some guy asked for Michael. I told him he had a wrong number, and we hung up.”

“Bullshit, Kathy. What do you think woke me up? You talked for ten minutes.”

“That’s not possible!”

“Check the clock.”

She did.

“That must be wrong.  What did I say?”

“‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes—”

“Okay, I get it.” She picked up the phone and punched in *69. After a moment, she put it down. “Blocked.”

“Oh, Kathy, who cares? I’ve gotta get some sleep. Do me a favor and turn the damned thing off.” The girl shuffled back toward her bedroom, rubbing her hair into a fine messy tangle.