Operation Listen Close

A Jonathon Stone Mystery Short Story

 

 

 

A man is found dead in the trunk of a cab in downtown LA and a FBI investigation reveals that Jonathon Stone is connected to the murder. The Victim: A Chinese Special Agent on assignment in the US. The Suspect: A Russian cabbie who is wanted for terrorism in Hong Kong. Stone and Chuck Chun go into the CIA bag of tricks to solve the murder.

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Excerpt from Operation Listen Close 


Young skaters rolling by the restaurant windows. Lean bodies flashing down the boardwalk. Blond ponytails bobbing in the sea breeze. God, I love the beach.

I run several times a week. Not to lose weight because I’m not overweight but to clear my head from the night before at the casino. Blackjack. Jack and Coke. Great combination.

My morning routine, since the CIA had changed my status to agent-on-call, was simple. Go for a run. Get coffee and a bagel at my favorite restaurant, Essie’s. Read the paper. Listen to the local’s scuttlebutt. And then trot back home and wait for a call from my boss, Russ Evans. Some days he calls, most of the time he doesn’t.

This morning started off the same as usual until I got to the part about the paper. An article on the second page caught my eye.

TRAFFIC STOP YIELDS DEAD MAN IN TRUNK

Last night two LA traffic patrolmen stopped a cab in the downtown area after it was seen driving in the wrong lane against traffic. The driver, Val Bachek, a Russian born immigrant, was stopped after a brief chase.

After asking for his driver’s license and registration, one of the officers observed a snub-nosed revolver partially hidden under the front seat. After securing the gun it was determined that it had been recently fired.

Then things got more bizarre. After questioning Bachek, they searched the vehicle and found Jimmy Lee, 55, a Chinese National, dead in the trunk of the cab from a gunshot wound to the chest. Bachek was taken into custody pending charges. Police are still investigating the crime scene.

I sat there staring at the paper. I think I know this guy Lee. I’ll have to check this out when I get home.

The more I ran, the more I knew this was a Chinese Agent I had worked with several years ago in Hong Kong. Back home, I threw my paper on the couch, picked up a towel, grabbed my cellphone, and headed for the backyard patio. A speed dial later I had my tech guy, Wiley, on the line.

“How’s San Francisco coming along?” I asked him.

“Jon, I miss Long Beach. It’s always so cloudy and dreary here.”

“I need you to check something out for me. A Chinese National by the name of Jimmy Lee was murdered in LA yesterday. Could you check that out for me? I worked with a Chinese guy by that name a couple years ago.”

“That’s a real common name. I will check with LAPD and find out what’s going on. I’ll go back door so we don’t get involved in the investigation.”

“Thanks, Wiley. Is Russ back from vacation?”

“Oh, yeah.”

I smiled. I sat there drinking a bottle of water and watching the seagulls flying back and forth overhead. My neighbor next door keeps feeding the damn things and I am in their flight path to the ocean, several blocks away. I swear they intentionally drop a load on my patio furniture on the way by.

My hostility for the birds was interrupted by my cellphone singing away.

“Wiley, what you got?”

“You’re good. This Jimmy Lee is a Chinese Federal Agent working on assignment in the US. Los Angeles police didn’t know much more than that. I checked our database and got a hit on Lee. He worked on an op with you five years ago. Let’s see. Operation Rising Son.”

“That’s it. Hong Kong. I worked that op for a while and then got transferred here. I lost track of it after that.”

“I tried to dig down more on the op but I am not having any luck.”

“Keep trying. I have a feeling it has something to do with his murder,” I concluded.

“Oh, I almost forgot. The FBI has taken over the case.”

“Now that means something. Keep digging on this. Something is not right here.”

I sat there staring at the gulls overhead. At least, they know what was going on. Sometimes I would like to pull my Beretta and start shooting.

My bad thoughts changed as my cellphone came to life again. It can’t be Wiley this quick. My caller ID brought a smile to my face.

AGENT SHANNON, FBI. She was the lead agent at the LA office.

“Jodi, nice to hear from you. Are you in the area?”

“No, I’m in my office in LA. I need for you to come downtown as soon as you can.”

“Is this about Jimmy Lee?”

“How did you know?” she asked. She sounded surprised.

I laughed. “I’m in the intel business, remember.”

“You’re amazing. I’m in charge of the murder investigation and you’re connected.”

“No way,” I said. I know she couldn’t know about the Rising Son op this soon.

“How am I connected? I just read about it in the paper this morning.”

“Then you know he was found in the trunk of a cab. Well, when we got him out of there he had scrolled a note in blood on a towel. It said two words, ‘STONE CIA’.”

She waited for my response and I didn’t have one. Finally, I had to come up with something.

“I’m not working with him or anything. He and I worked together on an op in Hong Kong five years ago. But I haven’t seen or heard from him since.” Now it was her turn to go silent.

“Jodi, I know he was one of the top Chinese Law Enforcement agents. The op had to do with a Russian arms dealer who kept evading everyone. I don’t even remember his name.”

“It wasn’t Val Bachek, was it?”

“I don’t believe so. I saw that in the paper but it didn’t ring a bell. He could have changed his name or something like that. I know I would.”

“That goes along with what we have. Nothing. He has been driving a cab in the LA area for five years. Before that we have nothing. We are checking with Interpol for foreign data because he is Russian. Now that I’ve talked to you, I’ll try the Far-East for information.”

“I’m walking out the front door. I’ll see you in an hour or so,” I said. “I’ll be on the first floor in Interrogation. The guard will have a parking pass for you.”

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