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Chapter One
Detriot, Michigan
October 2003

Shivering with cold, thirty – three year old, Sarita Grayson, walked over to the worn pea coat hanging on a nail behind her desk and put it on. Even though it was only mid-October, the temperature inside her office in the old warehouse felt like below freezing. During the day, if the sun was out, being inside the drafty old eye sore wasn’t too bad, but once evening rolled around, the temperature dropped like a stone, and cold ruled. The building’s ancient heating system was kept running with duct tape, hair pins and prayer. It was two – faced however and would cut off at a moments notice so, Sarita and her staff didn’t like turning it on until the weather outside made it absolutely necessary.

To keep her hands warm she blew on them, then dug through the mountain of papers atop her lopsided desk looking for the notice from the city. She picked it up and reread it again for maybe the fiftieth time since it arrived in the mail three days ago. The wording had not changed. Block red letters, three inches high screamed EVICTION PROCEEDINGS across the top like a tabloid headline. The day it arrived the shock had paralyzed her. Even now, her hands shook a bit. She and her people had been using this abandoned warehouse for many years. In that time they’d worked hard to transform the abandoned hulking structure into the hub of the struggling community surrounding it. The space offered the children a safe environment in which to learn and play, and gave the senior citizens a place where they could meet and stay connected to life and the neighborhood.

But now, because the city wanted to auction off the property, they were being threatened with eviction.

The building had originally housed a food distribution company. After the owners moved the operation to the suburbs back in the early eighties, it sat empty for many years; attracting gang graffiti, rats and crack heads. One night, in July of 1990, the local Baptist church down the street, headed by Pastor Otis Washington caught fire and burned to the ground. Having no place for the congregation to worship, Washington and the elders approached the city about moving into the vacant building temporarily until money could be raised for a new church. The city gave its permission on the condition that if the building were sold the church would move its services and its neighborhood programs elsewhere. Washington and the congregation agreed to the terms. The new church was built, but the outreach programs dedicated to kids, seniors, and unwed mothers remained housed in the old warehouse. Neither the city nor the congregation envisioned anyone buying the place due to all the neighborhood crack and crime.

Obviously times had changed; the city received a bid for the property two weeks
ago. Sarita had taken over the running of the William Lambert Community Center after Pastor Washington’s death in 1998, and if she could come up with the money to match the seventeen thousand dollar offer, then she and her people could stay – if not, they were on the street. How in the world the city expected her to come up with that much cash, and in six days no less, was beyond her.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sight of Silas Devine sticking his gray head in the doorway. After the death of Sarita’s grandmother and great uncles, Silas had become the elder in her life. She loved him dearly.
“Afternoon, General,” he said to her.

It was his pet name for her and she gave him a smile. “Afternoon, Silas. How are you?”

“I’m okay. Any luck?”

She knew he was talking about the seventeen thousand dollar dilemma. She shook her head. “So far, nothing.”

Silas was her right hand man. He looked after the plumbing, mowed the grass, helped out with driving the homebound seniors wherever they needed to go; anything Sarita needed, Silas did. He was also the only person she’d told about the eviction notice.

“Something will come up,” he said confidently. “This place is too important to shut down. You’ll see.”

Sarita agreed with him on the Lambert Center’s importance to the neighborhood, but wasn’t sure the city officials who’d sent the eviction notice felt the same way. “How’s the van this morning?”

Their donated van was fifteen years old and on its last legs. It needed a new engine, muffler, struts and the floor was almost rusted through, but somehow, Silas kept it running.

“ It woke up in a pretty good mood,” he told her. “Started right up.”

They shared a grin and Silas added, “I’m on my way to take Mrs. Black over to the train station so she can get to Chicago for her brother’s funeral.”

“Okay. I’ll see you when you get back.”

He nodded, then studied her silently for a moment before saying, “Don’t give up. Somewhere up in heaven, Pastor Washington and that grandmamma of yours are all pulling strings. We’ll get through this, I know we will.”

She shook her head in agreement, but in reality, didn’t really share his optimism.

After his departure, Sarita got up from her cluttered desk and walked over to look out of her small, wire screened window. The center’s uncertain future filled her with a sense of helplessness that was totally out of character. In the years she’d been in charge here, she’d always, always been able to affect some change in a seemingly unsolvable situation – able to do a fast shuffle here, call in a favor there to keep the ship afloat, but this time she wasn’t so sure. School had let out about an hour ago, and out of her office window she could see the children playing down below on the cracked, broken pavement of the building’s parking lot that served as the yard. None of the kids were dressed for the weather. They were in the thin jackets, threadbare jeans, and cheap athletic shoes most would still be wearing during the hawk raging months of January and February, but like most children blessed by love and life, they didn’t seem to mind. Small knots of boys and girls played tag, twirled rope for double-dutch and shot hoop at the leaning, no net backboard.

So far, she hadn’t told anyone but Silas about the city’s notice – not the senior citizens who depended on the center for food and services – not the parents of the children whose only option for recreation might now be the streets. Sarita had kept the information on the down low hoping beyond hope something would happen, but so far, nothing had.

She went back over to her desk and sat down. There had to be a way out of this mess. It wasn’t like her to go down without a fight. To that end she picked up the phone. Her very last hope lay with the Mayor’s Office. The newly elected mayor, Drake Randolph, had been in office less than a year. She and everyone else she knew voted for him because of his vision for the future. The promises he’d made during the campaign were actually coming through in the form of working street lights, more police patrols, and safer public transportation. Randolph’s administration had begun freeing the city from the stagnation of the old regime and the residents were in love with him. Sarita was sure that if he were made aware of the situation she and her people were facing, something could be worked out. However, for the last three days she’d been unable to get through to him or any of his people. Her calls to his office, answered by a snippy receptionist hadn’t been put through. According to the receptionist, the people Sarita needed to speak with were either, out of town, in a meeting, or unavailable, and no, the woman had no idea when they might return Sarita’s calls. All this unavailability made Sarita wonder if there were anyone running the city at all because every time she called, she got the same run-around.

But she was determined not to give up. She vowed not to throw in the towel until she’d spoken with someone in the city’s administration. So to keep that vow, (and adding a further vow to be polite and not curse at the receptionist as she’d done this morning) Sarita dialed the number of City Hall. In response, she got the same old song. No, the parties Sarita needed to speak with were still unavailable. And no, no one knew when they were expected to return. Angry, Sarita hung up.

As he studied the faces of the candidates recommended for Project NIA, Mykal Chandler felt like the leader of one of the old 1960s television spy shows. Staring up at him from the black and white photos were fifty of the best and the brightest the nation’s law enforcement agencies had to offer; people who’d volunteered to spend the next eighteen months under his command.

The agents were young and old; men and women. Some were smiling, most were not. Myk spent another forty minutes reading bios, then tossed the remaining photos back onto the top of his desk. He was tired. Today had been another long day, one more in a long line of many. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten a decent night’s sleep.

Standing up and stretching to relieve the weariness in his six foot two frame, he walked over to the window and stared out over the night. His plush suite of offices were fourteen stories up in the penthouse of the city’s’ largest and grandest hotel/office complex, a complex in the process of being renovated by his own firm, and below him the Detroit river rippled like a black ribbon in the darkness. The lights of Detroit’s neighbor city, Windsor Ontario twinkled like stars from the river’s Canadian side.

In an hour Myk was due at the Detroit Opera House. He’d promised his half – brother Drake Randolph, a former surgeon and the city’s newly elected mayor, that he’d make an appearance at tonight’s performance of Aida. The Japanese Ambassador was in town to tour some of the auto plants. The ambassador was an opera nut. Drake thought it would be good PR if the city’s big wigs showed up, and since Mykal Chandler was one of the biggest wigs around, his attendance was mandatory.
Myk didn’t mind the opera, but did mind having to take the time out of his evening. He had work to do, a government task force to oversee, and he couldn’t do that if he was out helping Drake kiss up to the Japanese Ambassador.

Myk and Drake were less than a year apart in age. They’d had the same father, but different mothers. When the boys were six and seven, their paternal grandmother decided they should get to know each other and so, each summer Drake came south from Detroit to stay at the house she and Myk shared in Louisiana. They’d had some good times and over the years, the half brothers became full brothers in their hearts. No one knew a third half – brother, Anthony Saint Martin existed until a few years ago. Bringing him into the family fold was proving a bit more difficult.

Myk left the windows and walked back over to his desk. Picking up his phone, he called down to his driver Walter to have the car brought around. That done, Myk hung up, pulled his silk tie free of its knot, and headed for the shower.

After the opera, Mykal Chandler waited until the nine men and women took their seats before passing out the folders. The nine were the ruling council of the task force. They called themselves, NIA. In Swahili, the word, Nia, means, purpose, and the purpose of this group was to stop the flow of drugs into the city, by any means necessary.

Some of the people seated around the table in Myk’s finely furnished dining room represented various law enforcement agencies, both federal and local, and others were individuals Myk and Drake had personally recruited because of their commitment to the city and their positions of authority in the community. Tonight’s meeting was only one of the many that would be necessary if NIA were to be as successful as everyone hoped.

Myk had already read the initial reports; they looked good. NIA’s guerrilla tactics were having an effect. The midnight strikes against known crack houses, coupled with the outing of white collar, corporate executive types who handled the distribution and supply were beginning to be felt. NIA had been operating less than six months and the Marvin Rand episode had been their biggest mission so far. The Blue squad oversaw the city’s west side, while the Green squad operated on the east side. Both teams had included in their reports photos of some of the more well known dealers, their houses and their crews. The pictures would be added to NIA photo files and then cross referenced with Fed’s national and international data bases.

Myk waited until the reports were all read before asking, “Well, what do you think?”

“Everything seems to be going just fine, so far,” a representative from one of the Fed agencies replied.

Others nodded their agreement.

The mayor tossed the folder he’d been reading back into the center of the table. “If we keep up the heat, maybe we’ll make some progress.”

They discussed some other issues pertinent to the group’s mission and an hour later, the meeting ended. Drake stayed behind so he and Myk could talk privately.

Mayor Drake Randolph had been in office for almost a year. He’d been a highly respected orthopedic surgeon before taking on the challenges of running the nation’s sixth largest city, and Myk, owner and CEO of Chandler Works, a multinational architectural firm, had amassed enough wealth through construction and investments to be named one of the most successful Black businessman in the nation. Each brother had worked hard to make it to the top of his field. They both loved the city. Making it safe and viable once again was proving to be the most challenging undertakings of their lives.

Myk poured them both a small shot of cognac from the crystal decanter he’d purchased in Spain last year and handed one to Drake. As they each took a small sip, Myk went to look over to the windows facing the river and looked out at the silent night. “You know, Drake,” he said after a few moments of silence. “We have to be pretty arrogant to believe we can do this. The government has spent how many millions fighting the war on drugs?”

Drake tossed back, “Probably more than even they can count, but since you’re the most arrogant brother I know, who better to be in charge?”

Myk gave his brother a small smile.

Drake grinned in response, “See, you won’t even deny it. Besides, it’s too late to have second thoughts now. The genie is already out of the bottle.”

“But will we get our wish, is the question?”

“We will. Wishes always come true when you’re on the side of right, my brother. I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to keep this out of the media, though. We’re busting crack houses pretty regularly now. Some of the investigative reporters in this town are very good. Sooner or later, one of them is going to start connecting the dots.”

“So, they do a story on a mysterious force taking down drug houses, I don’t think Detroiters are going to mind that. Probably sell a few papers, too.”

“You’re right, but we’re breaking all kinds of civil rights laws.”

“ Dealers don’t have civil rights. They lost them the moment they decided selling death to people was ok. Besides, the government has always broken the law when it’s to their advantage. Remember the Chicago Black Panthers back in the sixties? The government didn’t care about their civil rights, and those brothers stood for truth. I personally have no problem, with this.”

“Well, if this task force idea of mine comes back to bite us, I doubt any grand jury will convict us for trying to stop drugs and guns from killing our kids.”

Myk studied his brother closely. They’d discussed the political ramifications of Drake being a part of NIA and how he might be negatively impacted should a stink arise over the task force’s strong arm tactics. Myk could honestly say his brother was a mayor who genuinely cared about the welfare of the city and its residents; Myk didn’t want Drake’s good intentions derailed by scandal. “You can always pull out you know.”

“I know, but why would I? This is my fight, and besides, who would keep you in line? You need me to be your conscience.”

Myk chuckled softly. Drake was right. Without him to temper Myk’s intense nature, the NIA project might never have gotten off the ground. Drake’s counsel though not always appreciated, kept Myk sane. “When you met with the Feds yesterday did they say they how long the NIA funding would continue?”

Myk and Drake were both fairly wealthy but not even they could afford to keep the NIA ship afloat without government help.

“No. It’s been hard getting a straight answer. Maybe they’re waiting to see how much bang they’re going to get for their buck.”

Although forming NIA had been Drake’s idea, Myk had been the one to approach the Feds about covertly supporting Project NIA because he had the contacts to do so. His four years of command with the Army’s Special Forces had been a major key to opening the Fed vault, but his connections overseas had proven even more valuable. When Myk left the Army and began his company, young Black contractors were rarely hired in the US for big municipal projects, so he’d taken his then small operation oversees and made his reputation in the Third World countries of Central America, Africa and Asia building bridges, roads and office complexes. During that time, he’d met a myriad of eccentric characters, some on the right side of the law, some not. Many of the Americans, like his half brother Saint, were agents of various United States intelligence agencies tracking the flow of illegal drugs, laundered money, and the movements of cartel kingpins. These agencies had scratched Myk’s back by clearing the way for international work permits, and introducing him to the local patrons he’d needed to pacify to keep the Chandler construction sites free of sabotage. Myk returned the favors by supplying the agents with any information he or his workers came across that might prove relevant to an ongoing operation. When the Third World had enriched Chandler Works enough to move the bulk of his business back to the states, Myk no longer needed the government connections, but by then he knew the ins and outs of America’s shadowy agencies better than most. “Well, I just wish they’d let us know how long the tap is going to flow. I hate working in the dark on this.”

“It’s going to take some time. This is the United States of America. You know the Feds can’t be overtly associated with a group of Black and Brown vigilantes like us.”

“Spoken like a true politician.”

Drake inclined his head. “Thank you.”

Myk’s housekeeper, Lily stuck her head in the door. “Myk, that woman from Saginaw is on the phone, again. She wants to know if you’ll reconsider doing her television show?”

Myk’s loud sigh told all. He’d turned down the request three different times now. The woman was persistent if nothing else. “Tell her I haven’t changed my mind.”

Lily smiled over at Drake. “Maybe you want to take his place, Drake? She’s doing a show on: Michigan’s Most Eligible Hunks.”

Drake grinned, “Really? I couldn’t possible fill big brother’s shoes on that one.”

Myk cut Drake a look.

Lily left the room laughing.

When they were again alone, Drake continued his teasing. “Why don’t you do the show?”

“Because I don’t need the hassle. How many of those women do you still have to write to from that magazine thing you did last year?”

Drake grinned sheepishly. “Probably, fifteen, twenty thousand.”

“See what I’m saying? A hassle.”

During last year’s mayoral campaign, Drake had agreed to be featured in a national magazine spread titled, “The Most Eligible Black Men on the Planet.” For Drake, it had been a silly and fun way to blow off the stress of the upcoming election. He’d taken the day off, done the photo shoot and thought no more about it. Three months later when the article ran, the responses began trickling in, first in twos and threes. Like most brothers, Drake had been happy as a kid in a candy store as he eyed the beauties in the pictures and read the letters they’d sent. The trickle soon became a river, and the river, a flood. Over the next six months he received close to thirty-five thousand letters from women of all races, from all over the world. “That was more mail than I’ve ever received in my life.”

“And you’re still determined to answer them all,” Myk asked doubtfully.

“All of them. A good brother would do no less. Besides, it’s been fun.”

While Myk shook his head with wonder, Drake cracked, “Hey, I can’t help it if your idea of fun is brooding in a dark room.”

Before the smiling Myk could give the mayor a terse, two word response, Drake warned prophetically, “Watch your language. I’m a servant of the people.”

Both men grinned.

Drake brought the subject back to the television interview. “So, this woman’s show comes out of Saginaw?”

“Yes, and I have no idea how these people find me? I’m not in the phone book. My office secretaries know better than to give out my home number.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, man. If people want to find you they will. That’s the price you pay for being a rich, handsome, eligible brother. If you were still living in the Andes maybe you could be a hermit, but this is the new millennium - nobody has any privacy.”

“Well, I’m tired of being in the public eye. I almost missed that meeting with the Feds last week because when I walked out of my inner office, I found Dot Dexter sitting in the reception area with four of the homeliest young women I’ve seen, ever.”

Dot Dexter had been a member of the City Council for many many years, and wielded a tremendous amount of power. Unfortunately, that power did not extend to finding husbands for her four, plain as paper plates daughters.

Drake felt compelled to reply out of fairness, “Her girls are quite nice, actually. They can’t help it if they all look like their mother.”

Myk took a swallow of his cognac, then replied, “Well, next time they can visit you. I didn’t want them in my office and I especially didn’t like missing that meeting because of having to take them out to lunch.”

Drake’s handsome face registered surprise. “You took them to lunch? I do believe you are mellowing in your old age.”

“No, I’m not. I took them to lunch because I knew you needed Dot’s support for the upcoming bond vote. In fact, you owe me a hundred and twelve dollars, and sixty-five cents.”

“They ate that much?”

“I felt like the trainer at the zoo.”

Drake burst out laughing. “That’s cold, Myk. Truly cold.”

Myk grinned. “Yeah, well, you’ll be getting my bill.”

Drake shook his head and chuckled, “Had you met the daughters before?”

“No. I’ve only met Mama Dot once before. When she asked me to join them for lunch, I told her I had a meeting to attend in an hour and that I’d have to take a rain check. So she says, ‘An hour? Then you have plenty of time to have lunch, and hear my concerns on the bond vote.’”

“So you took them to lunch.”

“I took them to lunch.”

“I’m proud of you man. Five years ago, you’d’ve turned your back on her and walked out.”

“Five years ago, you were a surgeon, not mayor. Like I said, you’ll get my bill.”

“Okay,” Drake chuckled. “So what were Dot’s concerns?”

“Besides whether to have three glasses of the best wine in the house, or four, it was my being impressed by those frogs she calls daughters.”

“Oh, Myk.”

“I believe she actually drank herself into believing I was interested in hooking up with one of them. I heard all about their degrees in Home Ec., which one liked horseback riding, and which one wanted six kids. Go ahead and laugh, you weren’t there.”

Given permission, Drake did just that, out loud. When he calmed himself, he asked. “She didn’t say anything about the vote?”

“Not a word, and it isn’t funny. Since you got me involved in politics my life’s been hell. Rallies, balls, community meetings. Everywhere I go, I’m beating off panting salivating women.”

“Some men consider that heaven.”

“Feeling like meat on a rack is not my idea of heaven.”

“Having Faye on your arm isn’t deterring the hordes?”

Myk ran his hands over his head in distress. “Faye, why did I ever start seeing her? I’m so glad to have her out of my life.”

“Because you needed dates for all those ceremonial functions, and you seem to be a slow learner.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Myk, you never learn. You date these beautiful, fine women, and not one of them has any substance. They bore you to death after six weeks. Now, granted, some like Faye, even last six months, but in the end, you wind up paying them off so they’ll go away.”

Myk had to admit Drake was right, even if Myk didn’t like hearing it. Myk stayed away from long term relationships because his work came first, and that made it difficult to conform to the usual standards women expected. Some women, especially those with brains, had expectations around conduct and treatment. Others had expectations that once they finished planing, sanding and painting him, he’d be their fantasy model of a perfect mate. Myk on the other hand, didn’t think he needed any polish or paint; he liked himself just the way he was, so by choice, he kept to those women who didn’t care if he were working in Sao Paulo and hadn’t called them in weeks, just as long as he sent them a fur coat or a pair of diamond studs to beg their pardon. Expensive? Sometimes. But infinitely easier on the psyche of everyone involved.

Drake brought the conversation back. “You know, you might enjoy being with a woman who can do more than figure the interest on a T-bill?”

Myk shrugged, “The women I date know the rules going in. No ties. No expectations.”

“So why’d you dump Faye?”

“Because her greed was wearing me out. Everytime I turned around she had her hand out. When she demanded I give her a key to the house, I knew it was time for adios.”

“She wanted a key?”

“ Demanded a key.”

Drake spoke sagely, “Well, at least now you won’t have to worry about her accidentally stumbling into NIA business.”

“True. Now, if I could just shake the rest of the females on my tail, I’d be home free. Dot invited me to dinner next week after the bond vote. Connie makes excellent macaroni and cheese.”

A laughing Drake asked, “Did you accept?”

Myk didn’t even dignify that ridiculous question with an answer. “Drake, if I’m going to head up NIA, I can’t spend my time being hounded by the Dot Dexters of this world.”

“So what so do you want to do about it?”

“I don’t know, but something you said a minute ago got me to thinking. Remember when you asked me if Faye had been able to keep the women away fom me when she and I went out?”

Drake nodded and took a small draw on the Remy VSOP in his glass.

“Well, wouldn’t a wife be more effective than say, a lady friend?”

“Sure. Wives have a tendency to quash stuff like that, especially when she’s on her husband’s arm. So?” Drake knew Myk well enough to recognize when the computer Myk called a brain was booting up. Drake stared at him a moment, trying to figure out where this line of thinking might be heading. When the light bulb finally came on, Drake’s eyes widened.

“Yep, “ Myk said, “I need a wife.”

Drake began to choke.

“No, wait,” Myk cautioned. “Think about it. I could marry, drop off the set and run the NIA missions in peace because no one would question my absence. I’m married. I’m settled down. And when it does become necessary to attend some function or other - a wife on my arm would deter the wannabees.”

“So, am I hearing you correctly? You want to get married?”

“Yep, it’s the perfect solution.”

“When was the last time you had a full night’s sleep?”

“Can’t remember, but I’m serious, Drake.”

“When do you want to do this?”

“As soon as possible.”

Drake rubbed his eyes. The man mouthing such an outrageous proposal had to be an impostor. Mykal Chandler talking about marriage? Mykal Chandler, bachelor forever? “I take it you have a woman in mind?”

“ The idea is only a minute old, Drake. Give me time to work out the details.”

“OK, here’s a detail: Have you lost your mind?”

“You don’t think it will work?”

“On paper, yes. In reality, too many holes.”

“Such as?”

“Such as, you don’t even have anyone picked out. Do you plan to stay married?”

“Of course not.”

“How long then?”

“I don’t know. Long as it takes for my life to settle down. NIA will be officially funded for what eighteen months, two years, max?”

Drake shook his head in amazement. “Where are you going to find a woman who will agree to a proposal like that?”

“No idea, but for the right price, I’ll bet it won’t be hard.”

Drake thought Myk was probably correct. However - “How are you going to keep her from finding out about your work with NIA? Not even you can live with a woman for two years and not leave some clue lying around.”

“Hey, I’ll buy her her own place. She only has to be around when I need her on my arm.”

Drake thought Myk’s attitude would go over real well with a prospective bride, but the more he mulled over the outrageous idea the more possibilities he began to see. Myk hadn’t been lying about all the attention he’d received since joining the mayoral campaign last year as Financial chair. The women had been giving him fits, and he did need to keep a low profile if he were to continue to head up NIA, but where would he find such a woman? She couldn’t be just anyone. Myk traveled in the highest social circles and rubbed shoulders with society’s elite. This mythical wife would need to know deportment and proper etiquette. She would need to know how to conduct herself in public so as to not embarrass herself or her spouse, and, she would have to be a stunner. No one would believe the marriage ruse if the woman Mykal Chandler married had a face like one of Dot Dexter’s daughters. “Do you really think you can pull this off?”

Myk shrugged. “Won’t know until I try. We can talk about it at the next NIA meeting. Maybe someone knows a woman who’ll fit the bill.”

“I can’t believe you’re serious about this.”

“I need my life back, Drake. We have a lot of work to do and I need the freedom to do it right.”

“OK, but I still think you’ve lost your mind.”

“Your support is noted.”

Two night later, while Myk looked over the reports, the other NIA leaders echoed Drake’s skepticism. Everyone agreed Myk needed to free himself in order to continue to be an effective leader, but a wife? No one thought the idea would work, but since Myk had already made up his mind, he let them toss the idea around for another twenty minutes, then moved the discussion on to the next item on the agenda - a report from NIA’s intelligence wing.

Myk brought everyone back to attention. “Our Federal friends would like us to pick up a man named Barney Fishbein.”

Myk passed around pictures of the lumpish, blue – eyed, glasses wearing accountant.

Myk continued, “Mr. Fishbein likes to bet sports so much he owes his bookies fifty grand.”

Someone at the table whistled.

Myk acknowledged the whistle. “I know. Fish has agreed to be a
courier for his bookies, so his wife and kids don’t wind up wearing cement shoes at the bottom of Lake Michigan.”

Drake asked, “What’s he carrying?”

“ Blood diamonds.”

In the silence that followed Myk added, “With all the emphasis on home land security, the Feds are spread pretty thin, so they’ve asked if we’d be their legs on this one. They’re confident taking Fish and his contact down will be a no brainer.”

“ Are these diamonds connected to Rand?”

Myk shrugged. “No one’s sure right now. We pick up the Fish, we find out.”

“ Who’s the contact?”

“ We don’t know that either. We do know that the diamonds are worth – best guestimate – three quarters of a mil.”

One of the female members at the table, asked, “When is all of this supposed to go down?”

“ According to the tap on Fishbein’s phone, 2 AM. Day after tomorrow.”

They spent a few more moments discussing the logistics of the operation, then moved on to the next item on the agenda.