Warren Murphy: Acid Rock

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    Acid Rock
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The stage is set for murder, mayhem and deafening music. But the music isn't loud enough to drown out the shots aimed at the gorgeous redhead on stage. Not that anybody is paying much attention, not in the screaming chaos of the world's biggest rock festival ever. The girl likes to be near singers, the freakier and more spaced-out the better. Some of them get too close and wind up permanently spaced out. Why? Someone wants to kill the beautiful girl with the long auburn hair. She is under contract for one million dollars. A big bounty is on her beautiful head. She has to be killed, and quick. But Remo and Chiun have other ideas. Their assignment from CURE says protect her at any costs - and that means someone is going to have to pay a very high price.

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* Title : #013 : ACID ROCK *

* Series : The Destroyer *

* Author(s) : Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir *

* Location : Gillian Archives *



The day before his flailing body met the Denver sidewalk, accelerating at thirty-two feet per second per second, William Blake lost his temper at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

It was not that his district supervisor had once again given him an assignment that might keep him away from home for weeks. It was not that Special Agent Blake had to cancel his family's vacation for the second year in a row. It was that the supervisor was so ... so ... well, supervisory.

"Damn it, what is Washington worried about?" asked Blake, referring to the place from whence all policy flowed. "I've successfully handled situations like this seven times. At this, I'm probably the best in the whole bureau."

"That's why you're in charge," said District Supervisor Watkins.

"Yeah. I'm in charge, but you're going over where we're going to keep her, who's going to be on duty with her at night, what's she going to eat, and who's going to prepare it."

"I'm just going over the details with you. Two heads are better than one."

"Not if the other one's yours."

"I'll forget you said that, Blake."

"I want you to remember it. I want you to put it in your report. I want you to put down that you're giving advice to the man Washington calls in on all protective custody situations. I want you to tell them that."

Blake straightened his tie. He could feel the heat rising in his neck. Perhaps it was just the summer queasies getting to him, queasies he had hoped to cure with a two-week camping trip. Perhaps. But why was Washington making such a fuss over a simple protective custody? There was a girl, nineteen. The girl was the daughter of a wealthy commodities dealer. She hated her father and was going to testify about some hanky panky with a large Russian grain deal. So what? The biggest problem they faced was that she would change her mind, not that someone was going to kill her.

"Bill, I think you should know. This girl is the target of the largest open contract in history." Watkins's voice was hushed.

"What?" asked Blake, his clear blue eyes widening, his brow wrinkling.

"She is the target of the largest open contract in history, we believe."

"I thought you said that," said Blake. "Open contract, you said."

"The largest open ..."

"I heard that. I heard that. I heard that." Blake's smooth fortyish face showed sudden wrinkles as he gave way to laughter. "An open contract." He shook his head and laughed some more. "Since J. Edgar, nothing has worked right. What's the matter with you? You should know better."

"This one's for real, Bill."

"Real, unreal, a thousand dollars, a hundred thousand dollars. It's an open contract. Give her a plane ticket, a new name and the date she's supposed to show up to testify and let me go on my vacation."

"We have reason to believe this open contract is for one million dollars. One million dollars."

"Why not ten million? Why not a hundred million?"

"Don't be facetious, Blake."

"I'm not. An open contract is about as dangerous as a head cold. It's a myth invented by newspapermen. When have you ever heard of an open contract being filled? Who's going to fill it?"

"This one, I was told on highest authority, is for real and there are people trying to fill it right now."

"Mr. Watkins, sir. The definition of an open contract is that anyone can make the hit and collect from the man offering the money. But there's a little flaw in that. No one is going to commit murder on the possibility that someone he has never met is going to keep a promise of payment for the murder. Killers don't go knocking people off unless they at least meet the person who wants the job done. I mean, what are they going to do if they don't get paid? Bring the victim back to life? An open contract, sir, to be specific-and hopefully final-does not exist."

"I believe Willie Moretti in New Jersey was killed on an open contract."

"No, sir. If you remember, it was a standing order from all five Mafia families in the New York City area. Now, Joe Valachi was an open contract. He outlived Genovese, who was supposed to have issued it, for $100,000, I believe. Genovese should have made it for a million. It wouldn't have mattered."

Supervisor Watkins looked at Agent Blake and then back to the file in front of him. In that file was an order, and whether he felt the same way Blake did, did not matter. Blake was to be put in charge and given maximum staffing and other support. One Vickie Stoner, nineteen, female Caucasian, was to reach the Senate hearings on grain fraud, scheduled for two weeks away. And she was to reach them alive.

"Would you feel better, Blake, if I told you it was a closed contract?"

"Yes. Then I would know I am defending against a real opponent."

"Then treat your charge that way."

"In other words, make believe."

"If that will enable you to do a more effective job, yes."

"This could never happen under J. Edgar," said Blake. "We're protecting someone who's supposed to be killed on credit."

Supervisor Watkins ignored this remark. Later he ignored Blake's stated reason for wanting a fifth night man to be assigned. In addition to the ones outside the room, on the roof, in the stairwell and in the hotel lobby, this one was to be placed at the airport.

"Why the airport?" asked Watkins.

"To protect her against low-flying night fairies, sir," said Blake, containing a smile.

"Four men," said Watkins.

"Very good, sir," said Blake.

Watkins also ignored the suggestion about food.

"And we'll make sure no diet soda is used."

"Why is that?" asked the now-suspicious Watkins.

"Cyclamates, sir. It's been proven that if a person drinks fifty-five gallons of cyclamates an hour, that person might develop cancer."

"We'll vary the restaurants, as per usual procedure," said Watkins.

"Very good, sir," said Blake.

Miss Stoner was now in L.A. headquarters, said Watkins. Would Blake like to see her now?

"I'd like to tell my son, daughter, and wife first that we're not going to Washington State Park. Then I'll take over, if it's all right with you."

Watkins agreed; it would prove to be Blake's first mistake. He said he would be back in two hours and put the assignment out of his thoughts.

He drove to his small ranch house with the neat lawn and the bicycle sprawled in the driveway. He did not scold his son for the driveway obstruction. He called him into the den.

"I'd like to explain about the bicycle, Pop. I was out on the lawn with Jimmy Tolliver and the ice cream truck..."

"That's all right," Blake told his son.

"Something wrong, Pop?"

"Yes, in a way. You know that camping trip we were going to take? Well, we'll have to postpone it this year."

Blake was surprised to see his son just shrug.

"I'm sorry," Blake said.

"That's okay, Pop. I really wasn't looking forward to all those bugs at night. Maybe we can go to Disneyland sometime, okay?"

"But we always go to Disneyland. We've been there twice this year already."

"Yeah, but I like Disneyland."

"I thought you had your heart set on Washington State Park."

"That was you, Pop. I never wanted to go that much."

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