Saturday, December 1, 2007

Chapter thirteen: The person who taught me this hold used to warn us

Previous Chapter

I returned to my bloon through the trapdoor and dumped enough trim to drop me to the 300 K level, the same as my Darkunder digs. I powered back to the hotel, so it only took about 10 minutes. On the way there I changed out of my now bloody shirt and dropped it over the side. The darkness swallowed it without comment.

Joey had a smile waiting for me when I got back, and I tipped him big. Then I went back to my room, switched off the buzz on the comm, and enjoyed an unbroken eight hours of sleep.

I awoke late the next morning and the message light was flashing twice. The first one was from Calvin Lee, the second from Marjori Low. I called Calvin first.

"How would you like to go on a raid?" was the first thing he said to me.

"Duh?" I replied. "Who are you going to bust?"
Another bit of Big Brother bridges the gulf of space.

"A renegade chem lab, we think," he said. "I took your advice and got some biosniffers from Skyhook. We turned a search team loose in the corridors above the route that the Marley Farm transport bloon always takes when it makes a delivery to the City once every two weeks. I guessed that maybe someone at Marley Farm does a little side trip sometimes, so they'd have to come up through the floor somewhere along the route. If someone is doing extractions to nicotine, cannabinol, or any other plant derived products, I figured that the lab would probably be somewhere near the entry point. Moving a lot of contraband over any distance would be a risky."

"That sounds like a long shot," I said, not mentioning the fact that I'd never given any such advice about biosensors. If he got the idea of trying some biosniffing from anything I said, it was his idea, not mine. "I'd have thought that you'd just pick up a lot of closet ganja heads."

"We'd be willing to bust them too," he told me cheerfully. "Smoking in the City is a misdemeanor. Fire and health hazard. If you do nick or cannabis it's supposed to be by patch, extract, or chewing leaves."

Great, I thought to myself. Biosensors on the alert. Another bit of Big Brother bridges the gulf of space. "So did you turn up anything?" I asked.

"Maybe," he said. "We're checking into them and having the warrants cut. We should make the play tomorrow. Are you in or out?"

"Count me in," I said. "I might want to have a quick crack at any violators before they recover from the shock."

"I thought you'd be happy," he said, and clicked off.

I didn't have much hope for the idea that a drug bust would give us information about Sheila's murderer, or the whereabouts of Doria Adams or Thomas Grayling, but if there was a Marley Farms connection, it was an outside chance. More likely they'd just hit a coincidental thing. Following the trail to the top might get interesting, though. I shook my head and called Marjori Low.

She came on the line as soon as I identified myself to her servant. I'd forgotten how pleasant her voice sounded. "Mr. Honlin?" she asked. "You asked my to contact you if I found either of Doria's postcards?"

"Hello, Mrs. Low," I replied. "Does this mean that you've found them?"

"One of them, anyway," she said. "The first one. It's just a little note, of course, and I can't imagine its being important to your investigation, but I could bring it by for you."

It was not lost on me that she was offering to bring it to me rather than the police. "Yes, that would be excellent," I told her. "I have to go out this afternoon, but if it wouldn't inconvenience you too much to bring it by this evening, I could buy you dinner."

"Why yes," she said. "I think I'd like that."

"About 8400 then?" I asked. "In the lobby of Fumio's Deluxe Hotel and Lodging Establishment." I gave her the address listing.

"Yes, I will be there," she said.

# # #

I shaved, showered, dressed and caught a squid for the City's edge. My timing was pretty good, I got to Fields Clinic just before lunchtime. I loitered outside for a few minutes until I saw Chan's secretary leave and head toward the airtubes. Bon App├ętit, I wished her silently.

I entered the clinic, ducked by the receptionist while she was on the comm to someone, and climbed the couple of flights to Chan's personal office. I was hoping he didn't have any sessions during the lunch hour and also that he was the sort of overachiever who worked through lunch. I was right on both counts. He was sitting behind his desk, engrossed in the reading of some journal or case file.

He didn't hear me enter, or when I padded over to stand in front of his desk. "So hey," I said in a moderately loud voice. "What's up, Doc?"

He gave a start at my voice and another one when he looked up to see me standing there. "Oh," he said in that voice that people use when they have temporarily forgotten which way their breath is moving, "I didn't hear you come in. My secretary..."

"Has gone to lunch," I said. "I know. I thought it would be more private this way."

"Well," he said, pushing his papers aside. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your presence, Mr. Honlin?"

"Oh, irony," I said to him. "Good. I like a man who is familiar with the elements of style. Next we'll try for anastrophe and onomatopoeia."

"Beg pardon?" he said, by way of a snappy comeback.

"It's called 'using non-sequitur to keep the interrogatee off balance,'" I told him. "I'd have thought a top psychologist like you would be up on all these clever police techniques."

"Please get to the point, Mr. Honlin," he said. "I do have work to do."

"So do I, Dr. Chan," I replied. "So do I. Lately, part of that work has involved going over reports that were prepared by some private investigators, who were in the employ of Mr. Robert W. Grayling. Are you familiar with the name?"

"Yes, of course," he said, trying to put on a poker face. He wasn't very good at it.

"Maybe you are even acquainted with Mr. Grayling's son, one Robert Thomas Grayling. Does that name ring a bell?"

"Mr. Honlin," Chan began. "Please believe me when I tell you..."

I cut him off. "Not yet," I told him, holding up one hand. "The part where you tell me things hasn't come yet. I'm still telling you stuff."

I put both my hands behind my back and looked up at the ceiling. "Now Robert Thomas Grayling turns out to be the same guy as a patient of yours who went by the name of Thomas Roberts. Not a good pseudonym, but that's okay, nobody is giving points for originality, here. Now I'm betting that you knew Thomas' real name when my buddy Calvin Lee and I were in here to see you the other day. True or false?"

He said nothing for a moment. "This is where you get to answer the questions," I told him. "Try it."
"The part where you tell me things hasn't come yet. I'm still telling you stuff."

At length, he said, "Yes, Mr. Honlin, I did know Thomas Roberts was Thomas Grayling. Thomas' father is a very wealthy and influential man, and I was trying to protect him. I know that my actions do leave me open to sanctions. I can only say in my own defense that I was trying to uphold the basic mission of this clinic, which is to aid and protect our clients."

"Especially if those clients are filthy rich and give your clinic large sums of money each year, yes?"

"I admit that to be one consideration," he said grudgingly.

"How long have you known Grayling Sr.?" I asked him.

"Quite a number of years," he told me. "I'm sure you've done some checking on these matters, so I doubt that I can surprise you by saying that I've know Robert W. Grayling for nearly twenty years."

Actually, I hadn't bothered to do the checking yet, but I would be doing it later. No matter, Chan wasn't likely to lie about anything that could be found in City records.

"So you probably knew the late Mrs. Grayling, as well," I suggested.

"Yes, of course," he said. "A tragic case. A very gracious lady, but prey to serious depression and several other illnesses that led to her drinking and substance abuse."

"Grayling called her death a suicide," I told him.

"I believe that the official verdict was accidental suicide," Chan told me.

"Did you ever treat her?"

"No," he said. "But her death was one of the reasons why I decided to set up this clinic."

"With Grayling's help," I said.

"With Mr. Grayling's generous support," he said.

"So how well did you know Robert Thomas?" I asked him.

"Almost not at all," he said. "At least until he became my patient here. "I might have met him a few times, but I cannot say if he even remembered the incidents."

"And when the private detective came to ask about his whereabouts a few days ago, what did you tell them?" I asked him.

His face developed a look of genuine puzzlement. "No private detectives came to call," he said.

I smiled at him. "I know," I told him. "At least they didn't put anything about it in their reports. Now isn't that interesting? Thomas was last seen in the company of a girl he met in one of your little groups here, and yet the private detectives that papa hired to find him didn't bother to come to you to ask if you knew anything. If nothing else you might have been able to give them some insight based on your therapy group experience. But nobody asked. Why is that?"

He kept silent and I stared at him. A few little beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead and he was fighting the urge to take out his handkerchief to mop his brow. "Perhaps because Mr. Grayling had already called me directly," he said.

"And perhaps Mr. Grayling already had a complete report of the therapy sessions involving his son," I suggested. "Perhaps a report that had been given to him over a year ago."

His mouth set into a tight line. "That is an insult, Mr. Honlin. I would never..."

I reached over the desk and grabbed both his shoulders and pushed down, hard. Inflatable furniture is wonderful. He bounced a little bit, and I used to bounce to help yank him out of his chair and across his desk, turning his body as it came. He was too startled to do anything, even when I reached down and grabbed his collar in the choke hold. By the time he realized what was happening, the grayout had already begun. He struggled briefly, then passed out.

I relaxed my grip, and put my free hand over his torso and gave in a little rap to the solar plexus. His breath returned in a choking gasp, and he tried to sit up. I slapped the side of his head and said, "Keep still, or I'll kill you."

He froze.

"Good," I told him. "Now we get to do this a different way. This isn't a game, but it has some rules. The rules are that I ask questions, and you answer them. If I like the answers, which is to say that if you tell me the truth, then I'll ask another question, and we'll keep on that way until we're done.

"If I don't like the answers, which is to say that if you try to lie or otherwise hold out on me, then you get another trip to blackout. We'll keep that up until you do tell me the truth. Now I should warn you that after a few times, your brain gets a little oxygen starved and it becomes harder and harder to remember things, so you don't really want to let it get ahead of you. The person who taught me this hold used to warn us when we practiced it. 'You have to be very careful or you might not get your subject back' is the way he put it. Actually, I'm pretty good at it. In fact, I've never accidentally killed anyone with it." I put a small bit of emphasis on the accidentally.

"You're insane," he whispered.

"Maybe so, Doc," I told him. "But I'm not the guy who's flat on my back helpless here.

"So," I continued. "You fed Grayling Senior reports on his son, right?" He nodded.

"Good," I told him. "Now, where did Thomas get the stuff to feed his habit?"

Chan squeezed his eyes shut, but answered, "He stole them."

"From whom?"

"His of the businesses that his father owned."

"Did he just take enough for himself, or was there more?"

"Considerably more, I think," Chan answered. "He was supplying quite a number of others." He paused and I considered tightening a little to encourage him, but he started up again.

"Thomas thought very poorly of himself," Chan said. "His background, his mother's death, a lot of things left him with a feeling of inadequacy. He thought of himself as damaged goods, and he was almost painfully shy. He found that he was less shy when he took various drugs, 'Speedball' combinations, that sort of thing, and he also found that he could buy friends with drugs, as well. So he started using and giving them away, skimming what he needed off of the warehouse inventory for one of his father's pharmaceutical distribution firms."

"Did he cover his tracks?" I asked. "Did he try to cook the books to hide his thefts?"

"Yes," replied Chan. "He gained access to the accounting system and changed some of the entries. That's how his father found out, when an audit showed the discrepancies."

"Just clever enough to get into trouble, eh? How did the father react?"

"He was furious, of course. He forced Thomas into a drug rehabilitation program, obviously. He told me to report to him any other illicit activities that Thomas admitted during therapy."

"So Thomas didn't know that you were a spy for his father."

Chan winced again. "I...Thomas was very circumspect in his therapy sessions. He admitted to nothing beyond the petty thievery."

"Give the kid credit for some smarts," I said. "How often have you done this sort of thing?"

"I don't understand," he said.

"Don't make me send you sleepy-bye," I warned him. "Grayling is a big man in pharmaceuticals. This can't be the only instance of inventory shrinkage, or the only time that one of the help started sampling the merchandise. I imagine that one of the reasons why Grayling helped you set this place up was to keep tabs on his employees. As long as you don't publicize the connections between the two of you, he can get a lot of useful information out of you, right?"

He nodded. His eyes had started watering like he was about to cry. Well, that can happen when the do-good mask starts to slip. Admitting your own motives can be a real tear-jerker.

"How often do you report to him?"

"Once every month or so."

"What's in the report besides the dirt on any of his employees that happen to come through?"

He knew better than to try to act dumb, by now. "Some of Mr. Grayling's competitors have similar problems, from time to time. I'm to inform him of the details."

"Anything else?"

"I keep general records of the kinds of drugs that come in and out of fashion. Mr. Grayling calls it the 'black market report.' I send him copies of those records."

"Any idea if Grayling has any other medical moles? Does he have other informants?"
"What's in the report besides the dirt on any of his employees that happen to come through?"

"That I wouldn't know," he said, his body tensing slightly.

"I believe you," I told him, and I felt him relax. "For now." I released my grip and he slowly turned himself and pushed off of his desk. His knees nearly gave way and he sat heavily back into his chair. A couple of tears made tracks down his face, and he wiped them away with his hands.

I smiled at him. "Thanks for your cooperation," I said cheerily. "Don't bother to stand, I can find my own way out." Then I turned and left him to his conscience.

Next Chapter


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