Marshall walked slowly into the main offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation where his wife Meredith worked. She had told him she was on the fourth floor, but he found he had to check in with the security officer seated at the front desk in order to gain admittance to the building without a keycard. He knew Meredith had such a card and understood the reasoning behind the tight security. Too many attempts had been made by terrorists on federal buildings of one type or another. No agency could afford to be lax on security under such a climate as that.
The guard called up to the fourth floor and the receptionist there directed the message to Special Agent Montgomery that her husband was waiting downstairs for her.
"She'll be right down," the security guard informed Marshall.
"Thanks," Marshall smiled, wondering why she didn't simply tell the guard to pass him on through. Perhaps this building required visitors to be escorted at all times, he mused to himself, deciding that must be the reason.
Minutes later Meredith exited an elevator across from where he stood and hurried over to greet her husband with a quick, but firm kiss on the lips.
"My god, Marsh, it's crazy up there." Her eyes were wide and he could tell by the flushed darkness of her cheeks that she was excited.
"So the perp at the foundry turned out to be the guy you were looking for?" he asked.
She took hold of his arm and guided him toward the front entrance, hurrying him along so they were outside before she could respond to his question.
"Not only is this the guy we've been looking for in those bank robberies," Meredith finally answered, turning left as soon as they walked down the short flight of steps that led from the federal building to the sidewalk that ran along the street, "but he's got all sorts of information on other jobs of different kinds that have been pulled recently, and..." she emphasized the singular word so he knew what importance she placed on what she was about to say, "he's making deals on information concerning a new crime kingpin in this area who is recruiting those with questionable character and giving them the plans and weaponry for pulling off all these jobs. For a share of the profits, of course.
"Mars," she stopped in the midst of the sidewalk and grabbed hold of his arm, her fingernails digging in through the material of his shirt and jacket. Fortunately he couldn't feel the pain a normal man would. "This guy is a nobody and he's giving us information to take down someone who is definitely becoming a somebody very fast. This is big, Mars. So big I can't believe I'm on the ground-floor, so-to-speak, of the biggest bust of the century."
They continued walking and soon were inside the Nirvana Garden, the Indian restaurant Marshall had suggested they have lunch in. They were quickly and politely shown to a table and given menus, but Meredith found it impossible to look at the menu without running on about the jobs this kingpin was supposedly responsible for.
"Meri," he managed to interrupt her at one point, "are you certain you should be out here having lunch with me instead of being back at your office getting credit for this bust?"
"Oh, no problem on that score, Marsh." She finally stopped talking long enough to catch her breath and look at the menu. But then looked up with a humorous glint in her eyes. "The perp, Ozzie is his name, Oswald Bunso, the little weasely son-of-a-bitch. He's trying to stonewall us now. He got us to a point of dropping his bank robberies down to one count of robbery in the first degree if all his information pans out, but now - get this, Marsh - now the son-of-a..."
Marshall interrupted her by placing a calming hand on her arm and applying the smallest amount of pressure.
"What?" she asked, her face giving the expression she was wondering what was wrong.
"Do you hear the cursing you're doing?" he asked amused. "You've never sounded like this before."
Her face turned red and she covered her face with her hands before looking back up. "God, I'm so sorry, Marsh. I - it's what I hear all the time from other agents, especially Evan. You should hear him sometimes. The language he uses. Anyway, I'm sorry, Mars. I'll try to watch myself.
"Anyway, Bunso wants us to drop all the charges completely in return for the information he's given us. Can you imagine that? I wanted to laugh in his face when he suggested it."
The waitress came and they ordered their lunch. Meredith ordered the Hariyali Tikka, which was boneless pieces of white chicken meat marinated in mint and yogurt and cooked in a tandoor, a specially made clay oven used in such cooking, and Marshall ordered the Tandoori Lamb Chops, which were marinated in ginger and other spices before being cooked in the tandoor. They ordered Masala tea to go with their food.
While they waited for their lunch Meredith continued on with telling about the perp they had in custody.
"So anyway, Bunso wouldn't give us anymore without our agreeing to his terms. He actually wants us to let him go, can you believe that? Give him a completely clean slate to start over with. Like he'd do anything besides rob more banks, now that he knows how to do it successfully. So when you showed up we decided to take a lunch break and leave him sitting by himself in the interview room without anything to eat or drink. We'll see how he deals when we each get back from long lunches. Set him free," she laughed.
"So do it," Marshall shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "Let him go." The twinkle in his eyes told his wife something was up, but she didn't know exactly what it was.
"Let him go? Just like that?" she snapped her fingers.
"Has he told you how to find this kingpin yet?" he asked.
"No. That's what he's holding back. He won't tell us the kingpin's name or where to find him or even what area he works out of, though with all that's going on lately we're thinking we know his general area of operation."
"That's why you turn this Bunso character loose," Marshall grinned, his hands folded atop the table in front of him. "Even if Bunso is too smart..."
Meredith snorted, an uncharacteristic gesture on her part unless she thought something was too ridiculous for words.
"...to lead you to this kingpin," Marshall finished as though she hadn't made the rude noise, "the fact that you've turned Bunso loose when it's obvious you've got him for the bank robberies will send a signal to the kingpin that this guy has cut a deal with the feds. In this case you."
Light arose in Meredith's eyes as they grew large. "Of course," she almost moaned. "Why didn't any of us think of that? We can put a couple of cars on him to keep..."
"No. Any real crime boss would be far too savvy for that maneuver, Meri. Don't put anyone on him..." he paused and then smiled wider. "No, they'd never go for that, either. You let him go, put a couple of cars on him, but make it obvious he's being watched. Not too obvious, but enough so anyone spotting your men will know Bunso cut a deal. Then allow Bunso to give your men the slip and I'll be watching from a vantage point no one else could possibly see me from. Simple."
"Simple?" Meredith leaned forward, her arms on the table, but just then their orders arrived. She leaned back while the waitress placed her food before her and she placed a chunk of savory, tender chicken in her mouth. She closed her eyes and almost moaned in pleasure at the minty flavor she enjoyed so much as she chewed.
"Okay," she said after she'd swallowed and taken a drink of her Masala tea. "How am I going to explain to anyone else why we're letting Bunso give us the slip? No one else will know you're keeping an eye on him.
"When you get back to your office, get my - or rather Solar Eclipse's cell phone number from Robertson. Call me - him - and ask if he's willing to help out on this case. Make a production out of it as you explain just a little of what it entails and ask me - him - to meet with your team at the FBI building. Hold a meeting with Eclipse. Let everyone meet with him and see what he has to say. I bet he can convince your supervisor he can be trusted in this instance, especially if he keeps in constant contact over an open frequency direct-to-you, while you follow along in a car, with your partner, of course. It'll be good for both of us, Meri. It'll build credit in the eyes of those above you once the case is completed and it will give Eclipse some credit with not only the FBI, but all other police agencies.
"What have you got to lose?"