A shotgun boomed off to Kramer’s right. That’s not good. Apart from her sniper rifle and Sig Sauer, Brandt had the shotgun from the guard Shadow had killed. Either one of the guys from the house had his own and just took a shot at her, or she used hers. Either way was bad news because it meant close action. I hope she, Junior, and Shadow are okay, because right now I have my own hide to worry about, and can’t do a damn thing about theirs.
A Mercedes SUV roared into view, spewing rocks and dust as the driver fought to keep the vehicle on the rough road. The windows had limousine tinting, which made it impossible for Kramer to spot the passengers.
He waited for the SUV to make the left-hand turn bringing it broadside to his position then he opened fire. Bullets from his MP5K raked the length of the vehicle punching holes into the metal body and blowing the front tire. He aimed another burst higher and saw the windows explode into a shower of glittering glass. For a split second he glimpsed one of the ISIS men staring wide-eyed at him.
The SUV swerved, struck the upper embankment then bounced onto the road only to lose traction on the ball-bearing gravel and slip over the road’s lower edge. The engine screamed as the driver fought to regain control. Dust plumed into the air as the rear tires ripped at the loose edge. Then, in slow motion, the SUV tilted toward Kramer. He fired at the windscreen then bolted from his position.
He ran up the road then turned to watch the Mercedes begin its death roll down the hill. A short burst from his MP5K punctured the exposed fuel tank and ignited it. Seconds later the vehicle was a ball of fire cavorting down the slope until it struck a large rock that sent it spiraling out of sight. Suddenly a fireball shot into the morning sky and the countryside echoed with a massive rumble.
Kramer inserted a new magazine into his weapon and turned toward the house. If his attack didn’t bring people running nothing would.
He left the road and moved through the brush, making an oblique approach to the impressive residence that edged slowly into view. Eventually he had the forecourt in sight and took a knee. He smiled to himself when he caught movement at his two o’clock and saw it was Brandt closing in. Junior and Shadow trailed her at a safe distance, the boy gripping the dog’s collar.
Brandt smiled at Kramer and, with a chopping hand motion, he directed her to the eastern side of the building. She nodded and Kramer immediately felt the tension leave his neck and shoulders. His team was safe.
He caught Shadow’s attention and, using a series of hand signals, motioned the huge dog to cover Brandt’s back by watching the rear of the house. The animal immediately dropped to the ground, pulling the boy down with him, and focused on the rear corner of the building.
Kramer turned to see a half dozen armed men running down the front steps. They paused at the bottom not sure exactly where the attackers might be, but long enough for Kramer to send a fusillade into their ranks. Two figures slumped to the ground dead and another began dragging himself back up the steps trailing blood.
Just then Brandt rounded the corner of the house and brought down another two of men with blasts from her shotgun. The remaining man tossed his weapon aside and threw his hands up in surrender. Kramer rose to his feet and advanced on the house as Brandt approached the sole survivor. Her shotgun twitched and he promptly dropped to his knees.
“Think that’s all of them?” she asked Kramer when he joined her.
He glanced up the marble staircase and the blood trail leading through the open front door. “Your guess is as good as mine.” A scream came from around the side of the house then trailed off into a gurgling sound. “I guess not,” he added. “But that might be.”
Brandt tapped their prisoner on the shoulder with her weapon and he flinched. “Are there anymore buggers like you inside?” The man looked about at the prone figures and the bloody steps and shook his head. “For your sake, there better not be, mate.” She produced a set of heavy plastic ties and bound his hands and feet. “There, that should hold you. Now what, boss?”
Both stood regarding the quiet residence for a moment. “Feel up to a little house cleaning?” Kramer asked. Brandt nodded, and they reloaded their weapons then climbed the stairs.
Kramer took point as they moved through the house clearing it room by room. The silence rattled in their ears. Their nerves grew taut with every step. Brandt moved professionally, efficiently but Kramer felt compelled to keep one eye on her nonetheless. He hated every second until they reached the last room.
“All clear,” Brandt announced.
“Maybe, maybe not.”
“Come again, boss?”
Kramer gazed around. “We discovered the ISIS group here. We know they brought the diamonds with them, and that intel had them meeting with a woman—supposedly Shelley Harper.”
“So, if all that is correct, where is she?”
“Damn, in all the excitement I forgot about her.” Brandt glanced around. “Geez, I haven’t a clue, boss. We’ve cleared every room.”
“We must’ve missed something,” Kramer grumbled. “We have no choice but to make another sweep through the place. This time I’ll call in some extra help.”
Brandt looked at him quizzically as he withdrew a small silver whistle and blew it. Moments later Shadow bounded up the stairs and slid to a stop before them.
“Well, bloody hell—I’m impressed,” said Brandt.
Just then Junior joined them. He bent over holding his sides as he fought to regain his breath. After a few moments he straightened up and smiled. “That’s some dog you have there.”
Kramer knelt in front of the boy and clasped his shoulder. “Listen Junior.” His tone was unmistakably serious. “We think someone might still be here in the house. I don’t want you getting hurt so I have a very important job I want you to do for us.” The boy drew himself up. “I want you to stay just outside the front door and keep watch for anyone who might come up the road while we search the place. You’re our extra set of eyes. Can you do that for us—for me?”
Junior puffed out his chest and nodded earnestly. Kramer smiled and patted the boy’s shoulder. “Good. I knew we could trust you, otherwise I wouldn’t have agreed to bring you along with us.” He held up the dog whistle. “I want you to use this the instant you spot anyone. We won’t hear it but Shadow will, no matter where we are.” He handed the instrument to Junior whose eyes immediately lit up. “You understand everything I just said?” Junior nodded enthusiastically.
Kramer stood up and ushered the boy to the front door. “Brandt and I are relying on you—Shadow, is too.” Then, tousling the boy’s hair, Kramer turned and joined Brandt. “We’ll start upstairs and work our way back down. C’mon, Shadow.”
Ninety minutes later they stood in the ultra-modern kitchen after carrying out a meticulous search of every room.
“Damned if I know where the sheila got to,” Brandt said, referring to Shelley Harper. She placed her shotgun on the huge island tabletop and leaned on the glowing marble. “I must give her credit for having expensive taste. Look at all this stuff. The whole kitchen looked like something out of a sci fi movie.”
Kramer looked around and saw the kitchen for the first time. He had to agree with Brandt; the whole set up was exceptional—and extremely expensive. Harper either has someone cook for her, or the woman was a half-decent cook herself.
“I must confess, when it comes to kitchens or cooking I’m a novice, but does that refrigerator look overly big to you?” he asked.
Brandt regarded the appliance for a long moment then pursed her lips. “Now that you mention it . . .”
She walked across the room and stood before the large unit. After checking the outside she pulled the door open. “Wow, havva gander at these goodies. Harper’s expensive taste even extends to her food.” She began rummaging through items on the shelves. “All of a sudden I feel famished.”
Kramer felt hungry as well and joined his partner. He crouched to better examine the laden lower shelf. Inadvertently he knocked a large can of Petrossian Caviar onto the marble floor. He replaced it . . . then paused.
“Hey, Charlie, check this out.”
Brandt froze with a handful of Culatello di Zibello midway to her mouth. “What?”
She quickly stuffed the Italian gourmet meat in her mouth and bent down to have a closer look at what Kramer was pointing at. “Mumph?” Surprisingly, Kramer understood her.
“Don’t these marks look strange to you?”
Brandt forced the mouthful of food down, making her cough painfully for a few minutes. Tears coursed down her cheeks as she examined the fine scratches in the marble tiling. She traced the long arc with a finger.
“Doesn’t make sense. If these were made by the fridge, how come they come out and then swing in the opposite direction to the door?”
“I’m with you. If the marks come from someone moving the refrigerator around then . . .” Kramer paused then got down on all fours ‘til his face almost touched the refrigerator shelving. Damn. He stood up slowly, gripped the edge of the shelf trim, and pulled.
To their astonishment the whole shelf section slid forward and swung open like a second door, quietly scraping the tile floor in the process.
Kramer and Brandt found themselves peering down twenty or thirty feet of stairs to what appeared to be a polished concrete floor. They looked at each other in amazement.
“Crikey! Knock me down with a feather,” she whispered.
Kramer took point.
Feeling somewhat foolish, he stepped into the refrigerator and descended the stairs with Brandt and Shadow following quietly close behind. At the bottom, Kramer and Brandt edged to either side of a long passage while Shadow stood in the center. The entire corridor was constructed of polished concrete with an eight foot high curved ceiling. It ran directly some fifty feet to a large solid wooden door that stood partially open.
The trio moved forward cautiously, wary they could be walking into a trap. A shiver tickled up Kramer’s arms and at first, he thought it was his nerves, but then realized that it was the damn chill in the air.
He and Brandt both wore Speed 3.0 five-inch tactical boots with oil- and slip-resistant urban soles that were whisper quiet on the concrete underfoot. Shadow’s claws, on the other hand, emitted soft clicks that echoed around them.
As they drew nearer to the door they noticed steel strapping that gave a distinct medieval touch to the woodwork. They also saw how thick the door was. That’s not normal. Someone is overly protective of whatever is on the other side.
Brandt took a position to the side of the narrow opening with her weapon ready. Shadow crouched beside her. Kramer squared off in front of the door and, with his fingers, signaled a countdown.
3 . . . 2 . . . 1
His boot slammed into the heavy door. Expecting more resistance, Kramer nearly toppled forward off his feet as the heavy portal swung smartly inward. It didn’t make a sound.
Brandt rushed through the opening and ducked sideways. She swept the area with her MP5K as Shadow bounded after her and scanned the same space with his acute vision. Kramer entered a second later and stood with his back to the door; his own MP5K prepared for anything.
The place was like a tomb; no expected gunfire, no one charging at them. Deadly quiet—except for the rush of air as Kramer and Brandt nervously exhaled.
“I’m not sure what I was expecting . . . but it certainly wasn’t this,” whispered Brandt. “Get a load of this place. What is it?”
“Looks like an oversized wine cellar,” Kramer replied.
They both looked about, stunned by the enormity of the chamber. Its overall size was lost in the shadows that flanked the long row of huge wooden barrels that stretched away from where the trio stood transfixed.
“Maybe we got this all wrong. Maybe the ISIS dudes did actually come loaded with diamonds to do some real serious wine buying.”
“I doubt it,” Kramer said. “Shadow—recon.”
The large dog sprang forward and immediately began sweeping the surroundings for any signs of activity. His training also made him proficient in detecting explosives, drugs, and weapons. Under the watchful eyes of his teammates, the canine continued to widen his search until it took him into the shadows.
Twenty minutes later he reemerged and trotted back to them, his tongue lolling from what passed for a doggy grin.
“That’s a good sign,” Kramer said.
Suddenly Shadow stopped, sniffed the air, then dropped his nose to the floor. He zigzagged for a few minutes then appeared to lock onto some kind of scent. The lolling tongue slipped back into a serious-looking mouth.
“What about that? Good sign, too?” Brandt asked.
“Maybe, maybe not. Depends on what he’s detected.”
They walked over to where Shadow sniffed around the base of one of the huge barrels.
“Maybe he’s a closet wino,” Brandt commented.
“Hardly,” Kramer said. “My buddy’s a teetotaler—sticks to water.”
“Well, whatever it is, it has his attention.”
“Stand down, Shadow.” The dog backed off and sat as Kramer approached the front of the barrel. It must be at least twelve feet high, he thought. He ran his hands over the dark wood, feeling the heavy grain beneath his fingers. He couldn’t even begin to guess at the volume of wine it contained. But there had to be more to what he could see ‘cause Shadow’s nose never failed on the job.
He was conscious of Brandt keeping an eye on the room while he concentrated on Shadow’s find. Kramer studied the thick metal rim with its large rounded studs. Just for laughs he began pressing each stud he could reach. You never know, one could be a button that triggered something. Nothing happened. He pursed his lips in frustration.
Kramer glanced round at his dog but the animal still sat patiently watching him. Damn, Shadow knows there’s something here—but what? When is he going to learn to speak up?
Frustration gave way to anger and Kramer slapped the side of the barrel. The soft clunk was barely discernible. He jerked with surprise as a tall door popped slightly open.
Shadow emitted a dolce bark and thumped his tail.
“Well, I’ll be,” muttered Kramer.
“You say something, boss?” Then Brandt caught her breath. “I’ll never question Shadow’s nose again.”
Kramer eased the door wider using the tip of his MP5K.
A gun blast nearly knocked the weapon from his hand.
The door shuddered as round after round punched into it. Kramer jerked back from the opening. Shadow barked aloud and leapt to his side as Brandt dropped to a crouch and pointed her weapon at the door. Splinters zipped through the air as the person inside kept up a steady fusillade.
Brandt touched her cheek and pointed at Kramer. He felt his face and his fingers came away sticky with blood. Shaking his head slightly, he indicated to his partner that he was okay, it was only a scratch. A bullet zinged past his ear and he dropped to his knee.
Their ears rang from the crash of gunfire, and the whole cavernous wine cellar reverberated with the explosive racket. Brandt eased onto her stomach and wriggled up to the door until she could reach it with her MP5K. She hooked the gun’s forward sight under the door, yanked it open and fired.
Shattering glass intensified the firefight noise. Kramer’s team squinted as their ears were pounded mercilessly. When Brandt stopped to replace her empty magazine, Kramer poked his weapon round the edge of the doorframe and filled the air beyond with a hail of bullets. But the mystery shooter wasn’t done; heavy return fire ripped into woodwork and concrete. Kramer’s face and hands stung from flying debris.
This is getting nowhere fast. He was concerned that the longer the firefight went on, the chances of one of his team—or even him—getting hit increased. Enough of this fuckin’ around. Reaching into one of his utility pockets, he withdrew a set of thick booties that he tossed to Brandt, and indicated for her to put them on Shadow’s feet. When she signaled she was done, Kramer reached into another pocket and pulled out a stun grenade. Holding up a hand so both Brandt and Shadow could see it, he signaled with his fingers.
3 . . . 2 . . . 1
He lobbed the banger through the open door.
A brilliant flash and bang rocked the room. Trained to the point of being largely desensitized to the resulting explosion, Kramer, Brandt, and Shadow charged through the doorway. White smoke floated lazily in the air.
A large black man stumbled drunkenly about the shattered remains of a once luxurious meeting room and bar. Temporarily blinded by the grenade’s flash, he groped around with one hand, the other scrubbing frantically at his eyes. He tried in vain to reclaim his damaged hearing by working his jaw.
Kramer’s team had only five seconds to act before the man regained even a portion of his sight. The shooter was quickly taken down and handcuffed. Shadow stood patiently in the doorway observing his fellow teammates conduct a thorough search of the large room.
Brandt shook her head in silent answer to Kramer’s questioning look. She hadn’t found anything of importance. They both stood before the injured shooter sitting propped up against the wall. Kramer nudged the man’s foot with his boot.
“Hey, can you hear yet?”
The guy answered by tilting his head and turning it this way and that trying to locate the source of Kramer’s voice. The former Marine squatted and repeated his question louder. This time the man’s head turned and zeroed in on Kramer.
“Good. Where is your boss, Shelley Harper?”
“Ek verstaan nie,” the man replied shaking his head.
“Oh, you understand perfectly well.” Kramer seized the man’s injured ankle and twisted it hard. A painful yelp filled the room. “Now, where is Harper? Is she still somewhere here in the house?”
The guy blinked rapidly, a sign that his impaired vision was returning. He squinted at his three captors and grinned. His bloodshot eyes and bloody teeth created a ghoulish face. “She gone,” he croaked, and broke into a coughing spasm.
“Yeah? Gone—gone where? Quit stalling.” Anger and frustration crept into Kramer’s voice.
“You cannot catch her. She long gone.”
“I haven’t heard any other vehicles leaving,” Brandt said.
“Me neither,” Kramer replied. “And Junior hasn’t signaled from his lookout either. I doubt very much that Harper is the type of person to hoof it out on foot.”
“That only leaves us with two options,” Brandt said. “That she is still around here somewhere, or—”
“Or she has air transport on the property.” Kramer studied the gunman closely for a minute but the man merely grinned back. Kramer tilted his head. “Shadow, come here, boy.”
The dog stepped to Kramer’s side. The man’s eyes widened and he cringed harder against the wall. Kramer had read somewhere that many blacks in South Africa were exceptionally skittish around dogs. Their fear stemmed from those times when the white security forces used dogs for supposed crowd control. It appears the article was right.
Shadow and Kramer had perfected their own technique for interrogating captives. Kramer clicked his fingers and the huge dog shoved his maw up to the gunman’s face. Despite being big himself, the man whimpered and the stench of warm urine seeped into the room.
“Where is Harper?” Kramer asked softly.
“Go . . . go to the . . . end of the . . . cellar,” the man stammered. “There’s a door—”
“Right.” Kramer sprang to his feet. Shadow eyed the man menacingly for a moment longer then stepped away. The dog followed his handler as he made for the doorway.
“What about this bloke?” Brandt asked.
“That double set of cuffs will hold him. C’mon, he’s held us up too long already.”
Brandt waited until Kramer and Shadow stepped from sight then she clipped the guy with the butt of her gun. “And that should hold you even longer, mate.” The man slumped onto his side as she ran after her teammates.
They entered through a hidden door to find themselves standing in a small one-room office. The building stood midway down a low ridge that formed one side of a narrow valley that stretched a quarter mile off to their left, and two or three miles to their right. The ridges were covered in rows of grapevines, and merged at their base with tall lush grass that carpeted the valley floor. But the trio was blind to the rugged beauty.
Their attention was fully focused on the airstrip below.
The gunman hadn’t stalled them quite enough. Kramer and the others had stormed down the length of the wine cellar and discovered another formidable-looking door barely discernible the dim light. Thankfully it wasn’t locked, and the short tunnel beyond ended at an ordinary-looking door. Kramer eased it open and he and the others stepped through the opening into a room awash with brilliant daylight.
It took valuable seconds for their eyes to adjust before they caught sight of the airstrip and the figures hustling around the lone aircraft.
“C’mon,” called Kramer, and the others rushed after their leader as he charged down the slope.
The former Marine always regarded it extraordinary how his mind could operate at various levels even in the midst of the fiercest firefight. In Afghanistan, during one of his deployments, his patrol had been ambushed, and the fighting quickly turned to hand-to-hand combat. Despite the desperate battle, he had been stunned to realize that part of his mind had drifted off to scenes of his family’s farm back in Palco, Kansas.
It wasn’t quite the same as he bounded down through the vineyard toward the waiting aircraft, but Kramer was surprised nonetheless that he suddenly realized they’d left Junior still keeping lookout at the house. The boy was all-alone. The thought was dashed from his mind as spouts of dirt erupted in front of him and bullets clipped leaves off vines close by.
His team had been spotted.
“Keep going,” Brandt yelled over the din. “I’ll cover you.” The woman instantly dropped to a kneeling position and began returning fire. Rounds from her MP5K stitched a path across the airstrip into a group of men crouching beside a black SUV. Three slumped to the ground and the remaining four scattered. A couple stopped long enough to turn and fire haphazardly in her direction. She took them out. The last two men headed for the far slope and the relative safety it offered.
Kramer and Shadow reached the edge of the tarmac. A high-pitched whine filled the valley as pilots aboard the corporate jet brought its engines to life. Kramer was close enough to pick out the black and gold lettering stenciled on the white fuselage—Inkwazi Enterprises.
Gunfire winked at him from the dark interior of the aircraft’s hangar. Pieces of tarmac exploded several feet to his left. Kramer fell to the ground and from his prone position directed heavy fire at the building. He was conscious of Shadow dashing off toward two men desperately making for a red fuel tender.
Bullets ripped closer to Kramer. He rolled away to his right and fired into the hangar. The jet swung sharply round to align itself with the runway. Hot exhaust buffeted him and threatened to blast him off the tarmac. The ear-splitting scream of the engines hammered them almost senseless as they throttled up.
Suddenly Brandt appeared at his side. Her mouth moved but Kramer couldn’t hear a word above the engine noise. She knelt, aimed and fired. Chunks of rubber flew from one of the jet’s tires. The aircraft kept rolling forward, picking up speed. She shifted her aim and bullets punched a series of holes along the nacelle, or outer casing, of one of the engines. A puff of white smoke erupted from the motor but it continued to run.
Kramer could see that the angle wasn’t right otherwise Brandt would have fired at the cockpit. She fired into the plane’s body instead Kramer hoping against hope she might inadvertently hit Harper inside. There was no telling that she succeeded.
The jet reached the center of the runway, aligned its nose and leapt forward. The aircraft hurtled down the airstrip then rotated. They watched as the aircraft rose into the clear light azure sky and their frustration along with it.
A minute later Kramer felt a little satisfaction at the sight of a thin dark grey smoke trail streaming from the damaged engine. Only then did he become aware that a tentative silence had fallen over the airfield.
Kramer stepped to her side and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Nice going. You did a good number on that jet. I’m thinking it won’t get too far; it’ll limp off to another airport somewhere.”
“This must be where Junior’s folks worked,” Brandt surmised. “Remember? He said they worked at the Franskraal Winery.”
Kramer glanced around. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He pulled his cellphone out, frowned, and looked over his shoulder. “Go help Shadow clean up here while I run back to the top of the ridge. Hopefully I’ll be able to call Darci and have him reach the authorities in Cape Town. If they react fast enough we might just be lucky enough to nab Harper before she switches aircraft and disappears.” He turned and sprinted off.
Atop the ridge Kramer had a clear view of Brandt and Shadow checking for any more of Harper’s people. His cellphone registered a strong signal so he put a call into Darci and Maria. As he updated them he eyeballed the area and noticed a couple of mangy-looking wild dogs watching him a couple hundred yards distance. After two or three minutes one of them let out a high yip then they both loped out of sight.
From where he stood, Kramer could barely pick out the rooftop of Harper’s house, and the dozen or so vultures spiraling out of the heavens toward it. Gotta love Nature’s African clean up crew.
He reported to Darci of his attack on the vehicle fleeing Harper’s house, and that the ISIS group was onboard. Darci then informed him ISIS communication channels were running hot with the news the organization had lost two high-ranking persons, and one of their best fighters in a cowardly attack.
“There was no mention of where the attack took place but the timing is far from coincidental. Maria and I believe the chatter confirms your hit,” Darci said. “From what we’ve picked up, and from what you’ve reported it sounds as if the three ISIS blokes were nothing but diamond couriers.”
“How did news of my attack get out so fast?”
“One of the blokes still at the house must have got a call off about it before you took them out,” Darci answered.
Then as Kramer expected, he and Brandt were ordered to remain in place and assist the local authorities when and wherever possible in locating and capturing Harper. Darci stressed the need to pull those diamonds out of play by the woman. Kramer ended the call with a promise to keep his home base updated as soon as anything new came to hand.
He called out to his team below and signed for them to join him back at the tunnel entrance inside the vineyard office.
* * * * * *
The Inkwazi Enterprises corporate jet was discovered five hours later at a seldom-used airfield twelve miles outside Port Elizabeth some three hundred sixty miles from Harper’s private airfield. A concerned farmer called the local constabulary after seeing, what he thought to be an aircraft in distress, make an awkward landing.
Normally a seven and quarter hours drive, Kramer made the trip to Port Elizabeth in a little over five. As the mileposts flashed past Brandt spent most of the time supporting her leader’s decision to leave Junior behind.
While they had waited for news of Harper’s jet, Kramer had sat the boy down and explained at length why he could no longer be a part of his team. Dealing with the youngster had proved harder than expected. Kramer had grown quite fond of the spunky boy but the mission just turned deadly and the kid was too much of a liability.
By the time the report of the jet’s location came in, Junior had agreed, albeit reluctantly, that he had proven himself to be a valuable asset for the mission, but that his role was no longer needed. Fortunately for everyone, a Franskraal constable stepped forward and offered to take Junior under his wing. Apparently he detected the possible makings of a new police recruit in the boy and promised to watch over him until Junior turned the right age to enlist. Kramer and Brandt could see the excitement in the boy’s eyes at his newfound prospects. They both hugged him and wished him good fortune. Shadow said farewell to Junior in typical canine fashion–with a long wet tongue slurp. Then the Land Rover sped off.
The scene at the airfield was one of organized chaos. The local police didn’t impress Kramer at first because they acted as if they had never seen an aircraft riddled by bullets before. But the Global Security Corporation agent’s misgivings were laid aside when the police detailed how they had sealed off all egress of Port Elizabeth and its environ within twenty minutes of the plane being found. This quick action resulted in the capture of the jet’s flight crew, who were discovered attempting to hitchhike from the scene.
When questioned about a woman suspected of being aboard the aircraft the police only shook their heads.
Kramer didn’t mention anything about a missing hoard of stolen diamonds and left the police with the impression he and Brandt were part of an international force on the hunt for the woman, Shelley Harper; that several overseas governments were after her for numerous charges.
When Kramer asked if he and his partner could check the aircraft for themselves, the police were only too eager to offer the two agents their full cooperation.
After nearly an hour of scouring the aircraft inside and out a sullen Kramer thanked the authorities for their assistance then he took Brandt aside leaving the police to their job of examining the aircraft.
“Where did you get that, boss?” Brandt asked.
Kramer turned his back to the police activity to hide the object in his hand. “It was crammed down the side of one of those executive seats.” He held it up to his nose. A faint smile appeared on his lips.
“Er . . . you have something you need to tell me?” Brandt sounded a trifle uncertain.
Kramer looked at his partner then at the scarf. He almost laughed aloud. ‘Hell no . . . this isn’t what it looks like. I’m not a—”
“Hey, I’m not one to judge another person’s idiosyncrasies.” Brandt held both hands up palms out.
Kramer scrunched the scarf in his hand and scowled at it. “This is evidence Harper was on that plane. I’ve never seen it before, but I’ll never forget the perfume she always wears—Chanel No. 5 Grand Extrait. It costs an impressive forty-two hundred dollars—and that’s per ounce.”
“Ouch.” Brandt flinched. “That is way above my pay grade—if I even wore perfume to begin with.” She looked around the aerodrome. “Okay, so we have proof she was onboard her jet. I doubt she jumped out along the way . . . which leaves us with the question—”
“Where the hell is the bitch,” Kramer growled.
There was a pregnant pause and both looked at Shadow sitting patiently awaiting orders then at the scarf.
Kramer smacked his forehand. “Duh.”
“You said it, boss, I didn’t,” grinned Brandt.
Kramer squatted in front of Shadow and held the silk material under the dog’s nose.
“I know a little about dogs,” Brandt said, “and Shadow sure isn’t my impression of a bloodhound. You sure he knows what to do with that?”
“Wait a sec—watch.”
Shadow swiped the scarf from Kramer’s hand with a paw and ground it into the grass with his huge nose. Brandt thought for a second that he might actually inhale the flimsy material. Suddenly he lifted his head, glanced at Kramer, and her then loped off toward the aircraft.
“Er, how are we going to explain this to the cops?” Brandt asked, a little concerned.
“If any of them ask just say he’s a drug dog—that should be enough.”
And it proved to be just that. Word quickly spread through the constabulary ranks that a drug dog was on scene, and that no one was to interfere with him or his two handlers. So when Shadow left the airfield with his companions following close behind they were paid scant attention.
It soon became obvious the perfume trail was keeping to the main road that led into the town of Port Elizabeth.
“Charlie, go get our wheels. I’ll stay with Shadow.”