Tell our mutual friend I've discovered something important here. Really important. It's most of what he wanted to know. I can't say more, but I'll come to you tomorrow night. A woman's voice: All right. A click.
The caller, in the Double-Seven Health Club, had hung up. Wizard Wong wasn't sure why he thought Tony Bear Marino would be interested.
He simply had a hunch, and his hunches had paid off before. Making up his mind, he consulted a private notebook, went to a telephone and called a number. Tony Bear, it transpired, could not see him until late Monday afternoon.
Wizard made an arrangement for then and having committed himself set out to extract more information from the tape. He rewound it, then carefully played it several times again.
"Judas Priestl" Tony Bear Marino's husky, thick features contorted in a savage scowl. His incongruous falsetto voice rose even higher than usual.
"You had that goddam tape, and you sat on your goddam ass a week before you came herel" Wizard Wong said defensively,
"I'm a technician, Mr. Marino.
Mostly, the things I hear are none of my bustness.
But after a while I got to thinking this one was different." He was relieved in one sense.
At least there had been no angry reaction because he had bugged a Double-Seven line.
"Next time," Marino snarled, "think faster!"
Today was Monday. They were at the trucking terminal where Marino maintained an office and, on the desk between them, was a portable tape player which Wong had just switched off.
Before Coming here he had re-recorded the significant part of the original tape, transferring it to a cassette, then erased the rest.
Tony Bear Marino, in shirtsleeves in the stuffy, heated office, appeared physically formidable as usual. His shoulders were a prizefighter's; his wrists and biceps thick.
He overflowed the chair he sat in, though not with fat; most of him was solid muscle.
Wizard Wong tried not to be intimidated, either by Marino's bulk or his reputation for ruthlessness. But, whether from the hot room or other reasons, Wong began to sweat.
He protested, "I didn't waste all that time, Mr. Marino. I found out some other things I thought you'd want to know n "Such as?" "I can tell you the number that was called. You see, by using a stop watch to time the length of each dial turn as recorded on the tape, then comparing it…"
"Cut the crap. Just give me the number." "There it is." A slip of paper passed across the desk. "You've traced it? Whose number is it?"
"I have to tell you, tracing a number like that isn't easy. Especially since this particular one is unlisted. Fortunately, I have some contacts in the phone company … Tony Bear exploded. He slammed a palm on the desktop, the impact like a gunshot.
"Don't play games with me, you little bastard! If you got information, give!"
"The point I'm making," Wizard persisted, sweating even more, "is that it costs. I had to pay off my phone company contact."
"You paid a goddam lot less than you'll squeeze out of me.
Get on with it!" Wizard relaxed a little, aware that he had made his point and Tony Bear would meet the price to be asked, each of them knowing there might be another time.
"The phone belongs to a Mrs. J. Nunez.
She lives at Forum East. Here's the building and apartment number." Wong passed over another slip. Marino took it, glanced at the address, and put it down.
"There's something else might be of interest to you. The records show the phone was installed a month ago as a hurry-up job.
Now normally, there's a long waiting list for phones at Forum East, but this one wasn't on the list at all, then all of a sudden it was put on at the top."
Marino's growing scowl was part impatience, part anger at what he heard.
Wizard Wong went on hastily, "What happened was, some pressure was applied. My contact told me there's a memo in the phone company ales showing it came from a guy named Nolan Wainwright who's head of security for a bank First Mercantile American.
He said the phone was needed urgently for bank business. Billing for it is going to the bank, too." For the first time since the audio technician's arrival, Tony Bear was startled.
Momentarily the surprise revealed itself on his face, then vanished, to be replaced by a blank expression. Under it, his mind was working, relating what he had just learned to certain facts he already knew.
The name Wainwright was the connection. Marino was aware of the attempt six months ago to plant a stoolie, a creep named Vic who, after they busted his balls, said "Wainwright."
Marino knew of the bank click by reputation. In that earlier series of events Tony Bear had been very much involved.
Was there another one now?
If so, Tony Bear had a strong idea what action he was after, though there was a lot of other business through the Double-Seven he had no wish to see disclosed. Tony Bear did not waste time in speculation. The caller's voice, a whisper only, you couldn't tell.
But the other voice the woman's had been traced, so whatever else was needed they could get from her.
It did not enter his mind that the woman might not co-operate; if she was foolish, there were plenty of ways.
Marino paid Wong off quickly and sat thinking.
For a while, he followed his usual cautious pattern, not rushing a decision and leaving his thoughts to simmer for several hours. But he had lost time, a week.
Later that night he summoned two musclemen. Tony Bear gave them a Forum East address and an order. "Pick up the Nunez broad."
"If everything you just told me turns out to be true,"
Alex assured Margot, "I'll personally administer the biggest kick in the ass that Nolan Wainwright ever had." Margot snapped back,
"Of course it's all true. Why would Mrs. Nunez invent it? In any case, how could she?"
"No," he admitted, "I don't suppose she could."
"I'll tell you something else, Alex. I want more than your man Wainwright's head on a platter or his ass. A whole lot more."
They were in Alex's apartment where Margot had come a half hour ago, following her Monday-night talk with Juanita Nunez.
What Juanita had revealed amazed and enraged her. Juanita had nervously described the month old agreement in which she had become the link between Wainwright and Miles Eastin. But recently, Juanita confided, she had begun to realize the risk she was running and her fears had grown, not just for herself but for Estela.
Margot had gone over Juanita's report several times, questioning her on details, and at the end Margot went directly to Alex.
"I knew about Eastin going under cover."
Alex's face was troubled, as it had been so often recently; he paced the living room holding an untasted scotch. "Nolan told me what he planned.
At first I opposed it and said no, then I gave in because the arguments seemed convincing. But I swear to you that no arrangement with the Nunez girl was ever mentioned."
"I believe you," Margot said. "He probably didn't tell you because he knew you'd veto it." "Did Edwina know?" "Apparently not."
Alex thought peevishly: Then Nolan was out of line there, too.
How could he have been so shortsighted, even stupid? Part of the trouble, Alex knew, was that department heads like Wainwright got carried away by their own limited objectives, forgetting the larger view.
He stopped pacing. "A minute ago you said something about wanting a whole lot more.' What does that mean?"
"The first thing I want is immediate safety for my client and her child, and by safety I mean placing her somewhere where she's out of jeopardy.
After that, we can discuss compensation." "Your client?" "I advised Juanita tonight that she needs legal help.
She asked me to represent her." Alex grinned and sipped his scotch.
"So you and I are now adversaries, Bracken." "In that sense, I suppose so." Margot's voice softened. "Except you know I won't take advantage of our private conversations."
"Yes, I do. That's why I'll tell you privately we will do something immediately, tomorrow for Mrs. Nunez. If it means sendin,gher out of town for a while, to be certain she's safe, then I'll approve it.
As to compensation, I won't commit us on that, but after I hear the whole story, and if it agrees with yours and hers, we'll consider it."
What Alex left unsaid was his intention to send for Nolan Wainwright in the morning and order the entire undercover operation terminated.