Harry Truman stood at the end of the hallway, arms crossed, and watched Claber and Grey laugh over some private joke. Their laughter cut short when they saw him.
Claber’s head jerked up in a quick nod, and he hurried away.Truman ignored Grey. “Claber, I want to see you and Eli in my office. Now.” It was true that Grey had gone along on the mission, but he’d gone only as a additional muscle. He didn’t have a voice in the decisions made. Truman wanted to know from Eli and Claber why they now had three teens hiding in the attic.
Unfolding his arms, Truman turned around and went into his private study. He swatted at the dusty desk and sat on it. A half-empty bottle of whiskey lay next to him. He eyed it, tempted to take a swig, but decided to wait.
Claber and Eli didn’t waste his time. Within three minutes, they were both there.
Truman nodded. “Shut the door.”
Claber did so. Eli cracked his knuckles.
Truman stood and paced for a moment, then came to a halt in front of the men. He clasped his hands behind his back, feet slightly apart. “Well? I sent you to get the Swan Lake necklace. Which you got?” He gave Claber a pointed look. Claber sent him a stiff nod, and Truman relaxed a bit. “Thought I said no stops. Get the necklace and come straight home. So what happened?”
Claber gave Eli a pointed look.
Eli returned the look, swallowed hard, and said, “It was my fault. We stopped in Idaho Falls to get a bite—”
“Idaho Falls?” Truman interrupted. “What were you doing in Idaho? You were supposed to head west through New Mexico just to throw them off the trail, and then head north for the border.”
“Got a call from our agent in Idaho Falls. Said he needed a new cover, the police were suspicious. So we drove up to take care of business.” Beads of sweat lined Eli’s face.
Truman swung around to face Claber. “Why didn’t you notify me, instead of waiting for me to call and find out why you were late?”
Claber’s eyes widened. “I assumed our agent had called you first. And even if he hadn't, I didn’t think it was that big a deal if we detoured to Idaho. Our border agent works at the Montana entry and Idaho’s fairly close to there. I figured we’d kill two birds with one stone.”
Truman gritted his teeth. He wanted someone else to blame, but he had to admit the logic was reasonable. They had to cross at a certain place, and they had to wait till a certain time to do it. There was no reason not to take a few hours extra and go to Idaho Falls. That didn’t explain why they’d shot a girl, though. “Go on. What did the agent say?”
Eli continued. “Since he knew we were coming, he had already bribed the mall security. It should’ve been quick and easy.”
Truman pressed his lips together, mulling over the words. He was right. “So where’d the girls come from?” he asked, his voice hard. “I’m a jewel thief, not a kidnapper. I’m wanted for burglary, not murder.” He turned his cold gray eyes on Claber.
“They were spying on us. Calling the police. I didn’t see any choice except to kill them or bring them along. They’d seen too much.”
“They saw a black van!” Truman snapped. “You should’ve drugged them and dumped them in a ditch! And the girl that’s dead. What happened there?”
Claber shrugged. “She didn’t listen. If I hadn’t shot her when I did, she’d have flagged down that Jeep and this whole thing would be over.”
“Then you should’ve just killed them all so we could forget the matter!” Truman shouted. “What, are we going to leave a trail of dead bodies from Idaho to Canada? Lead them right to us?”
He sighed, feeling the fight go out of him. “We’re in a tight situation here. McAllister is very angry about our part in the chicanery in Guadalajara. He’s going to tear Canada apart looking for me until I pay him back the seven million I owe him. He upped the prize on my head to four million, or I would’ve been leading that raid, not Eli.” He paused, but neither man said a word. “No false moves. We can’t afford it. The Swan Lake necklace is worth one point five million. Everything we pull in this year goes to paying that debt, understand?”
He exhaled and pressed his fingers to his temples. “Claber, get me Sid.”
Claber went to the phone on the desk. He pulled a small notepad from the drawer and dialed a number from it.
Truman saw Eli narrow his eyes and wrinkle his nose. He jerked his head in acknowledgement of the sentiment. “I’m not fond of Sid either. He plays with dirty money. But I bet he’ll buy each of those girls from us for at least half a million, maybe more. Then we’re still in the game, aren’t we?”
Claber looked up. “Truman. He’s on the phone.”
Truman moved around the desk and took the phone. He put a smile on his face, even though the man’s slimy voice put a foul taste in his mouth. “Sid. How would you like to do some business?”