Night Duty

Jack Slade #10

by Richard Dawes

A Chief Financial Officer and his lovely assistant discover their employer, in conjunction with the U. S. government, is running a clandestine operation manufacturing bio-chemical weapons. The company and the government discover they know about the operation, which puts their lives in danger. They ask Jack Slade for help. Blood flows and corpses stack up as Slade goes against two different security teams and federal agents as he battles for justice. In an exciting finale, Slade must combat an army of cyborgs.


Chapter One

With a deep sigh of satisfaction, Jack Slade pushed his plate, clean except for a gleaming T bone, across the table, leaned back in his chair, picked up a half-empty mug of beer and poured the last of it down his throat. He sat at the rear of the restaurant, with a wall at his back and a plate glass window at his right shoulder. He glanced out the window at a clear, late autumn sky darkening toward evening. Towering cement, steel, and glass skyscrapers thronged the financial district, their slim columns etched like black bars against the yellow disk of the setting sun. It was past five o’clock. The after-work crowd overflowed the sidewalks, and bumper-to-bumper automobile traffic congested the street.

Slade was traveling southeast across the United States, on his way home after completing a physically grueling job in the tall pines region of the Pacific northwest. He had never been in the city of Clearview, but hunger pangs struck him about the time the sun began dipping toward the horizon. So he took an off ramp into the city and found a restaurant on Main Street at the edge of the financial district. He glanced back into the room, all the tables full just then with the dinner crowd, and his black brows pulled together in a frown. Sitting at a table against the wall, facing Slade, was a man somewhere in his mid-forties, dressed in a dark business suit, with thinning brown hair, sharp nervous features and bony shoulders. As he talked excitedly to a blonde woman sitting across from him, also wearing a dark business suit, he had continuously flicked quick glances at Slade, and it was starting to grate on Slade’s nerves.

When he realized he had caught Slade’s attention, the man leaned across the table, spoke to the woman then both of them stood. Just as Slade breathed a sigh of relief that the man was leaving, he realized with a start that they were moving toward his table. He noted that the man’s suit hung loosely on a tall, extremely thin frame. The woman, somewhere in her early thirties, caught and held his attention as she moved across the carpeted floor with liquid grace.

Ash blonde hair curled over her head and poured over slender shoulders. Her skin was creamy white and smooth. Large blue eyes reflected the light, and an upturned nose hovered over full red lips. Heavy breasts jiggled under a suit coat that narrowed to slim waist then flared over rounded hips. As she came closer, Slade noted shapely thighs filling out a knee-length brown skirt, and well-turned calves above plain brown shoes with low heels.

They stopped at Slade’s table. The man nodded, licked his thin lips nervously then asked, “Are you Jack Slade, field operative for the Diamond Group?” His voice was as thin as the rest of him. His eyes were light brown, and the right one twitched.

Slade rested his right arm on the table, positioning his hand over the .38 automatic resting in a black leather holster hanging from his belt, set to the left of the buckle and angled for a cross draw.

“Yes,” he answered coldly, regarding the other with unblinking gaze.

The man snapped his fingers. “I knew it!” He looked at the woman triumphantly then swung back to Slade. “Would you mind if we sit down?” He glanced worriedly over a shoulder. “I have an issue of some importance that I’d like to discuss with you.”

Slade silently gestured toward the two chairs sitting on the opposite side of the table, and they sat down. A waitress appeared, a steaming glass pot of coffee in her hand.

“Would you like some coffee?” she asked brightly.

“Yes,” they said at the same time.

As she poured the coffee, Slade murmured, “I’ll have another Bud.”

White teeth sparkled as she flashed him a big smile. “I’ll be right back with your beer.” Then she spun around in a flurry of skirts and moved away.

Slade watched her swaying hips for a moment then focused on the two sitting across the table who stared back at him with wide eyes. “What can I do for you?”

After glancing over his shoulder, the man rested his elbows on the table, leaned forward and spoke in a hushed tone. “My name is Ed Thompson,” he said. “I’m Chief Financial Officer for a firm headquartered here in Clearview called Bernstein Technologies.” He gestured to the woman. “This is my executive assistant and manager of the Bookkeeping Department, Ann Howard.”

“I’m familiar with that name,” Slade observed, nodding his thanks to the waitress as she placed a chilled mug of beer at his elbow. “I believe the Diamond Group has partnered with Saul Bernstein in the past. If memory serves,” he went on, “Bernstein is a very diversified company. You have an aeronautics division, build planes, tanks, and other armaments for the American military, and you design security systems that you sell all over the world.”

“And much more,” Thompson replied. “It’s through the security aspect that I know who you are. About a year ago, I attended a security seminar at the Diamond Group’s headquarters on the east coast. It was the same time as your yearly staff meeting, and you were pointed out to me as a very dangerous man. A man with special skills.”

“I hold something of a specialty position,” Slade admitted. Still not completely trusting the pair, he kept his right-hand hovering over his automatic. With his left hand, he lifted the mug of beer and took a long swallow, keeping them in his peripheral vision. “All right,” he said, placing the mug back on the table. “Now that we know each other, let’s move on to the matter you want to discuss.”

Once again, Ed Thompson glanced nervously over his shoulder.

“What are you afraid of?”

“Let me tell you our story,” Thompson replied, “and you’ll know why I’m scared.”

Slade took his right hand away from his gun, lifted the mug of beer and took a swallow. “I’m listening,” he grunted.

“It was Ann, actually, who first discovered the discrepancies.”

“I noticed a number of bills of lading for equipment being shipped to a facility about fifty miles east of here, just outside of a small town called Newport,” she said.

“The problem is,” Thompson inserted, leaning forward, “that Bernstein Technology abandoned that facility six years ago. I know because I was part of the committee that made the decision to close it.”

“Why was it shut down?”

“The facility was actually a lab that manufactured biological weapons,” Ann answered.

“Which is illegal, by the way,” Thompson added. “Not only here in the United States, but it violates international law.”

“Since, as you say, that kind of research is illegal, why was the facility being used in the first place?”

“It was a clandestine operation overseen and funded by the U. S. government. They came to us because we have scientists on our staff with expertise in such matters.”

Slade toyed with the handle of his beer mug. “I seem to remember something from back then,” he said slowly, his memory reaching back through the years. “There was quite a bit of public outrage over biochemical weapons being manufactured in Asia. I don’t remember hearing anything about America’s involvement.”

“As I said,” Thompson replied. “It was a clandestine operation. But it was that publicity that forced us to abandon the facility. If it was revealed that we were manufacturing biological weapons, it would ruin Bernstein Technologies—as well as put us at legal risk.”

“I doubt if you had anything to worry about from the legal end,” Slade commented after another swallow of beer. “Neither that administration, nor this one, is interested in prosecuting its allies—no matter what they do.”

“You have a higher opinion of the government than we have,” Thompson returned, his thin lips stretching in a humorless grin. “Our fear, if the truth came out, was that the government would throw us under the bus. To save themselves, they could claim we were running a rogue operation, unsupervised and unauthorized. They could then move in, confiscate our equipment, and send upper management to prison.”

“I think you have a fairly accurate read on the government,” Slade commented dryly. “How did they react to you shutting down the facility?”

“Given the climate of the times, and the possible fallout if the facts became known, they had no choice but to reluctantly agree.”

“But something changed,” Slade observed.

“We think it’s the current administration,” Ann Howard said. “Things are happening behind the scenes—things that have never before been done in this country—that are quite troubling. Re-opening the biochemical facility is only one of the undercover operations we’ve been watching.”

“Are you sure they’re re-opening the biochemical aspect? Could there be another, more legitimate, reason for re-opening it?”

Ann reached into her purse, pulled out a sheaf of bills of lading and placed them on the table. “These are copies,” she said. “We didn’t dare take the originals.” She flipped through the stack, a slim finger tipped with clear nail polish pointing to different bills. “Notice the orders for lab equipment,” she pointed out. “And here,” she indicated another. “You can see that this is an order for viruses and other chemicals.”

Slade glanced down the list and shook his head. “This is gibberish to me. I’ll have to take your word for it. If this is a clandestine operation,” he added. “I assume it’s not being paid for through the usual channels. So how did you get your hands on these bills of lading?”

“I was in my office working late one night,” she answered. “I was looking into a back log of orders when a red flag appeared on my computer screen, indicating that an unauthorized transaction had just taken place. I immediately tracked it down and found that the old account we used to finance the lab had recently been reactivated, and twenty million dollars had just been deposited into it.”

“Ann brought the issue to my attention,” Thompson added. “Together we tracked down the bills of lading. That’s when we realized what’s happening.”

“So Bernstein Technologies is back in the biochemical weapons business at the behest of the U. S. government,” Slade mused, leaning back in his chair. His gaze sharpened. “Why are you so sure the government is involved? The funding could come from a private source—or even another country.”

“That is a good question,” the other replied. “We’re not so stupid that we didn’t confirm our facts. We had to go onto the dark web, but we were able to follow the payment trail. It took us to the same government account that was used previously.”

“What happens if what you two are doing is discovered?”

“It already has been discovered.”

“If we can follow their trail,” Ann put in, “they can follow our trail.”

“We were both called in separately to be questioned about what we were doing.”

“Was the government doing the questioning, or was it Bernstein?”

“There was a Bernstein representative present,” answered Thompson. “But there were two men in dark suits that did the questioning, and they were obviously government.”

“What did they want to know?”

“They asked what we knew and how we knew it. And they were especially interested in knowing if we had shared this information with anyone.”

“Did they threaten you?”

“Not overtly. They simply stated that it would be unfortunate if we decided to go public with what we know.”

“Maybe you should just go to the police.”

Thompson chuckled without mirth. “You mentioned earlier that this administration isn’t interested in prosecuting its allies. What do you think they’re willing to do to those they perceive as their enemies?”

Slade grunted and finished the last of his beer. “Okay, point taken. What do you want me to do?”

“For one thing,” Thompson replied. “We believe our lives are in danger. We were hoping you could use your special skills to keep us alive. And for another, we were hoping you could help us destroy the lab so completely that it can’t be re-constituted.”

“You mean blow it up.”


Slade shot a gust of air out between his teeth disgustedly. “You’re asking me not only to go up against the security forces of Bernstein Technologies, but also to go up against the Federal government. Just talking about this has put my life in danger along with yours.”

They just stared back at him, their eyes pleading.

“If we destroy the lab,” Slade pointed out, “they’ll just move to another site.” 

“That sounds like you’re willing to help,” Ann declared hopefully.

“It’s a mystery to me how I get mixed up in these things,” Slade complained. “But I suppose I’ll have to look into it.”

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Slade,” they exclaimed in unison.

“Drop the mister. Just call me Slade.”

“What’s our next move, Slade?” asked Thompson.

He glanced out the window. The sun had long since set, and a layer of clouds blanketed the city. Lights still blazed in the high rises, the windows forming a patchwork of light flickering against the dark backdrop. Street traffic had thinned, but the sidewalks still thronged with people moving from one bar, shop, or restaurant, to another.

“There’s not much we can do tonight,” he said, finally. “I’ve been on the road all day, and I’m tired. I need to find a motel and get some rest. I’ll give you both my cell phone number in case you need to get hold of me. Both of you give me your phone numbers just in case I need to call you. In any event,” he concluded, addressing Thompson, “I’ll give you a call in the morning. We three can meet and decide then how to proceed.”



"Jack Slade: Night Duty" by Richard Dawes


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