“Shit,” Cyrus Kang swore, gritting his teeth.
Muscle-for-hire Dieter Countryman pulled his hand free from inside his jacket and pantomimed a gun, clicking off two by bending his thumb. The smile on his face was unbalanced and unpleasant.
“Watch it, Cirk,” Conrad Waller yelled, his hand squeezing the dash.
Kang refocused on the road. To his left was Countryman and to his right, parked cars. He stomped on the brake pedal to avoid slamming into the rear end of the slower-going flatbed truck. At that same moment, Countryman steered his car toward the Camaro, then broke it off at the last moment and zoomed around the lumbering truck.
The Camaro’s screeching brakes pierced the quiet early morning as Kang came to a stop in the middle of the street. Thanks to the lightness of traffic at this time of day, he managed to guide his vehicle to the curb without getting rear-ended.
Waller said, “I just about peed on myself.”
Cyrus Kang couldn’t let the steering wheel go as a trembler went through his hands. Both men were breathing hard, sweat going clammy on their foreheads. “That was interesting,” he finally managed.
Waller stared at him and the two laughed nervously.
Not ten miles to the west and less than forty minutes later, Chet Kimbrough could hear the hollow echo of his footfalls as he walked across the concrete of an underground parking structure in Century City. Naturally what occurred ot him was that iconic scene from All The President’s Men with Redford and Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein when they go for the first time to meet Hal Holbrook as the chain-smoking Deep Throat.
He arrived at the pillar marked B13 and hunched his shoulders. It was cold down here, and a steady, omnipresent low buzz emanated from the overhead fluorescents like the mating call of invisible gnats. From a nearby recessed stairwell the other man emerged and came over.
“What I got to say,” the new arrival began, “I’ll never repeat in court or some hearing your boss puts together. I ever get a subpoena or grief from Countryman or one of his wackjob waterboard-lovin’ buddies, you’ll hear from me.” He let that gestate for a couple of seconds and added, “And I don’t mean no irate phone call.” He gestured from his chest toward Kimbrough, “You and me share the bohica?”
“I understand,” Congresswoman Kang’s chief of staff said, nodding curtly. “I want to know what you know because it’ll point me in certain directions.”
“You can get your dick caught in a wringer like that,” he said, flatly and without affectation. “But whatever, man, what can I do you for?”
A car’s tires squealed and both looked around but then it got quiet again. “How many jobs have you done for the Fallenbee Directive?”
The other man made a derisive sound in his throat. He was not particularly large but had knotty hands at the end of long arms seemingly out of proportion to his torso. “Be clear on this, you ain’t gonna get no trail back to Gilmore to hang his ass like I already told you when you contacted me. You know damn well he’s not about to put his mouth on the tailpipe. That’s for peasants like you and me.”