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DARK PROJECT

 CHAPTER 2

FRIDAY

          Sable and Masters walked down the dimly lit corridor of the Delta River Hotel.  Though the hotel had seen better days, it still had the style and grandeur of a 1950’s hotel with its mahogany-paneled walls.  As they approached Harry Aston’s room, they spread out on each side of the door.  Masters knocked and announced their arrival.  There was no answer.  He knocked again, then nodded to Sable.

          “Well here goes nothing.” Sable quietly inserted the key and unlocked the door. Pushing it open, he stepped back to the side, drew his pistol, and looked at Masters for the lead.

          “You go right and I’ll go left.”

          As they slipped into the one-bedroom, efficiency apartment, Sable did a sweeping motion with his pistol.  The room was empty except for the furniture.  In one corner was a double bed minus its blankets and sheets.  Next to it stood the closet, its door open, and almost empty except for a few coat hangers.  Both Sable and Masters holstered their weapons.  “Want to bet that the cabinets are empty as well,” Masters said.

          Sable shook his head.  “How about bringing in the forensic team?”

          “The Fairbanks Detachment won’t come unless we’ve got a couple dead ones and the corpses have to be slashed and gashed.”

          They scrutinized the desk and medicine cabinet, but they couldn’t find even a fiber out of place.  It was a though Aston had never lived in the apartment.  “Let’s check out Zahler’s room.”

          As they approached the next apartment, they followed the same procedure.  Zahler’s apartment had the same unlived-in look.  So they proceeded to Yarnot’s, but stopped short.  Through the door, the sound of a vacuum cleaner roared away.  “I think we’ve got a live one.”  Masters smiled and gave the high sign for Sable to take the lead.

          Sable stepped back from the door, held his pistol at the ready and then slammed his foot into the door.  As it splintered from the frame, he rolled left through the door, came to a kneeling position, his gun at the ready and yelled, “Freeze!  Alaska State Troopers.”  Masters had gone to the right.

          The man, dressed all in black, looked up from the vacuum cleaner but seemed dazed.  He stood, Sable guessed, about 6 foot, sported a high and tight military hair cut, and had a jagged scar running down his right cheek.  The man dropped the hose and reached for his shoulder holster.

          “Don’t . . .,” Sable said.  The man hesitated, then drew.  Both Sable and Masters fired simultaneously; the man’s head exploded and the force of their rounds threw the man to the floor.

          “Now I know why you were transferred.  You went and killed our only witness.”  Masters approached the body.  “I was only trying to wound him.”

          Sable leaned over the man and pulled up his shirt.  “Body armor.”

          Masters shrugged.  “Okay, you made your point, but I think we could have easily taken him.

          Without comment, Sable rolled up each of the corpse’s sleeves.  On his right shoulder was a tattooed insignia of the Delta Force.

          “Well, then maybe not.”  Masters breathed a sigh of relief.  “I doubt if there’s any record of his fingerprints either.”

          “That doesn’t mean we can’t check out his car,” Sable said as he reached for the man’s wallet, but he found nothing. 

          “Do you think your DIS friend can help us on this scumbag?”

          “That might be stretching the friendship somewhat, but I’m sure he’ll help.”

          “Well, I guess you get your wish.”

          “What’s that?” Sable asked.

          “Now, the forensic team has to come down on this one,” Masters said.  “And even the Criminal Investigation Bureau nipping at our heels.”

            A quick search of the man’s car revealed suitcases full of clothes.  The ID tags told Sable that the items belonged to the missing men.  However, there was no paperwork that would tie them to their jobs at Fort Greely.  Over the rest of the day, Sable and Masters covered bars, stores, restaurants, and the post office, flashing the men’s photographs, with no additional leads.  Either the people didn’t know the men or they weren’t talking.  Sable was feeling frustrated.  It appeared that they were at a dead end in the case.  Then it hit him.  An old college buddy of his, Bill Kincaid, worked at Fort Greely.  He'd give Bill a call, have him come in, and maybe find out what was going on.


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