novel-in-progress

Deception Island, Chapter 3 (revised)

In which we meet the antagonist, Taylor Smith, for the first time.

Taylor Smith wasn’t actually bald. He did have the receding hairline of many men in their late forties, but actually had quite a lot of hair. He spent several minutes every morning carefully shaving his scalp just like he shaved his beard. It was a habit he’d picked up as a young man in the Marines, continued in his time as a cop, and now was second nature. Trouble was, sometimes he missed a spot, like just above and behind his right ear.

And it drove him batty.

He self-consciously touched the line of stubble now as he took one of the chairs in front of the Director’s desk. It was full dark, well past normal office hours and the lights of Seattle’s business district lit up the windows of the office. It was really quite dazzling.

“Anything to report?”

“Not much,” Smith answered, willing his hand down into his lap. “He appears to be in for the night. He’s probably going up to Port Salish in the morning.”

“I assume there will be nothing to find when he gets there.” The old man sipped from a tumbler of scotch, his preferred refreshment this time of night. He had not offered any to Smith and Smith had not expected him to. If he had, Smith would have had to decide whether to shoot him right there.

“Of course.”

The old man nodded, seemed to consider his next question for a moment.

“Do we think he’s going to be a problem?”

“It’s too early to tell. So far, he’s done nothing a grieving son wouldn’t do, but it’s early.”

“How big a problem could this be?”

“Worst case scenario? He has the potential to be a disaster.”

“He’s that good?”

Smith nodded and touched the line of stubble behind his ear again. “You read the paper. You’ve seen his file. He’s very good at what he does. He also has the medium to reach a wide audience and a reputation that will make that audience listen. Just ask Councilman Stevenson.”

The old man snorted. “Stevenson is a moron.”

“A moron that’s won five straight elections.”

The old man downed the rest of his whiskey in a single swallow and set the tumbler on his polished desktop with a thud. “I assume we have contingency plans to deal with this if it does become a problem?”

“Of course. That’s what you pay me for.”

“Really?” The old man peered at Smith. It was like meeting the gaze of a rattlesnake. “Seems to me you were supposed to take care of this problem a couple of weeks ago. Yet here we are.”

Smith refused to be intimidated, but he lowered his hand into his lap again. “It is what it is. We deal with it. This is the wrong business if you’re expecting perfection.”

The old man nodded. Just barely. “So what is your recommendation?”

“We sit tight and continue to watch him. We should know in the next few days how big a threat he’s going to be, or whether he’ll be a threat at all.”

“Either way,” the old man told him. “I want this problem eliminated by the end of the week. Understood?”

Smith nodded. “Understood.”

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