Rose watched as her employees spread out. The NSA agents quickly jumped into their cars and took off in pursuit. Allowing a smile, Rose slunk away from her vantage point. She walked through the third level of the parking structure to the inner stairwell. "Well, Detective?"
Lepinski stepped out of the stairwell. His dark hair rustled in the wind caused by the pressure difference. "New hairstyle?"
"No grey." Rose adjusted her wig a little.
"I wish you hadn't brought me into this, Rose."
"I needed someone I could trust, Carl. We may not get along, but I know where you're coming from."
Carl sighed. "Rose, I can't get involved in this, officially or unofficially. This is a mess."
"What about the burst from the M-16?"
"I'm just a police detective," Lepinski explained. "These are Federal agents. I need more than a random shooting. It's not helping that you're acting guilty."
Rose put on an innocent expression. "Guilty, me?" She leaned against the wall. "Okay, no involvement. I just need you as an unimpeachable witness to what I'm about to do, to make sure that the evidence is kosher."
"I thought you had a lawyer for that."
"Henry charges for leaving his office."
"I'm a cheap date, huh?"
Rose clapped Lepinski's shoulder. "That's the spirit."
"What's the plan?"
"Go out, find what I need to shut Sexton down, go home, and cook dinner for my family."
"Rogue Three to all Rogues," Elena said over the radio. "I can't shake him."
"Where is she?" Lepinski asked.
Rose held a finger up to shush him. "Rogue Three, this is Rogue Four, wait for it." She changed her radio's frequency. "Sexton, are you there? It's Velasco."
"No use pleading now, Rose. You had your chance."
Rose raised an eyebrow. "Now, Ray, I could say the same thing. Instead, I'll ask you, is the person your chasing, hell, any of your people are chasing, talking on a radio?"
"Smith, Thompson, report."
"No radio," Smith replied.
"None here, either," Thompson added.
"Shit! Backup units following Alpha, return to the parking garage. Repeat, all backup units following Alpha, return to the parking garage, now!"
Rose turned the radio off. "That should get him riled."
"Why did you do that? He'll come straight here."
"That's right, leaving Elena alone. We should leave, though. There's more I need to do. Where did you park?"
"Ground level." The tall detective opened the door to the stairs for Rose.
Rose dashed down the stairs. "Good. Carl, you have to trust my methods here. I need to keep Sexton off balance until I have what I need."
"They taught you that in private eye school?"
"Nope. Columbo reruns." Rose laughed. "Seems to be paying off."
Lepinski joined in the laughter. "You're a piece of work, Velasco."
St. Louis, Missouri
Terrance's Parking, street entrance
Sexton's silver Sebring screeched to a stop in the ground floor of the parking building. Two beige Chevrolet Impalas made their entrance in a less dramatic matter. Sexton got out of his car. "Spread out! Velasco could still be in here somewhere. If you see her, shoot."
The black-suited men nodded and went in different directions along the floor's perimeter. Sexton crept through aisle after aisle of parked vehicles, looking inside each to be sure no one was hiding from him. He approached the stairwell in the middle of the structure. Looking in the window first to make sure the way was clear, Sexton opened the door slowly. The arm of the hydraulic to close the door creaked slightly. Sexton stepped into the stairwell and climbed upwards, his GLOCK 22 out.
A piece of paper taped on the second floor door caught Sexton's eye. Expecting a trap, he maintained his cautious pace. He approached the door and ripped the paper away. The slip was folded over and had Sexton's name handwritten on it. Sexton unfolded it.
"You should have done your homework better before hiring my Ladies and me. You're playing at a game that I've worked at since you were in diapers. Bow out now before people get hurt.
"I'll assume you won't take my advice, though. That means I'll have to find out why the Ourobouros and why you wanted my Ladies and me eliminated. Let this be a lesson, Ray. Never, ever, set us up. Ever. You won't come out ahead.
"However, a Canadian ship depends on my next move. Bishop to King Five. Good luck, Ray.
"By the way, you should get out of the stairwell. It's going to get hot soon.
Sexton crumpled the paper. He heard a small hiss followed by a muffled woof. Smoke filled the stairwell. Sexton burst through the door on to the second level, coughing. He staggered a few steps, trying to get fresh air into his lungs. The door closed behind him, a few wisps of smoke escaping. Sexton slammed his fist into the metal door. He thumbed his radio. "Sexton to all. She's not here. Regroup outside. All units in pursuit, remain in pursuit."