Graves Pact (Matthew Stinson) - Matthew Stinson

Chapter One

Though the Department of Defense was shutting down Lowry Air Force Base, I still had to show my FBI credentials to the guard at the gate to gain entry. I drove through the empty streets and saw that many of the buildings had already been sold off to civilian businesses as part of the closure, signs proclaiming that this franchise or that restaurant was opening soon. The stillness contrasted starkly with the early morning Denver traffic I’d just endured.

My mind buzzed with worries. Why had Phil Calhan asked for me? He wasn’t even my boss. At least not directly. There was only one logical reason, but I didn’t want to believe that I’d have to delve into that part of my life again.

Reaching my destination, I saw that orange plastic fencing marked the edge of the property. A temporary sign staked into the ground boasted the affordability of the offices that hadn’t quite taken shape. I had never heard of the construction company, Daniels and McGraw, but they used sleek graphics. It seemed like they should have spent a little less on advertising and more on getting their projects completed.

Getting out of my car, I glanced at the fire truck and Lowry Security Police SUV, wondering if the drivers of either would be mad that I filled the gap between their vehicles. They hadn’t left me much choice with their skewed parking.

In his blue uniform, the airman in charge of coordination looked a lot like a regular police officer except for his M-16. He waved me forward after I flashed my badge. I entered through double doors of glass and dull steel.

Special Agent Phil Calhan met me in the lobby.

He had gained some weight since the last time I’d seen him and he’d opted to go with a shaved head. He pulled off the lavender shirt and purple tie while maintaining masculinity. His broad shoulders and take-no-shit bearing allowed him to get away with it. He reached over and we shook hands.

I felt nearly as intimidated then as the first time I’d met him. He’d been bouncing around the other FBI field offices since that case we’d worked together in ‘91. He’d returned to Denver a just few months ago and I hadn’t seen him much. Different departments.

“Landon. What’s it been? Two years? How’s the wife?”

The innocent question stung. I tried to keep my personal life to myself so that kind of thing happened every so often. That was what I told myself. “Ex-wife. Jessica is good. Remarried. She’s got a newborn now.”

Jessica and I didn’t really keep in touch, but I was in the FBI. I had ways of finding things out. It wasn’t like I stalked her or anything. I just liked to know she was doing well.

Phil winced. “Ouch. And after she got through cancer. That’s rough.”

He had no idea.

“Yeah. What have you got for me?” I asked, ready to focus on something else. Looking around the lobby, I added, “Usually you guys bring the files to me.”

“This may be a little out of your comfort zone,” he said. “Come with me.”

I knew why Phil had asked for me specifically, though I wanted to deny it. He and I had only worked together once before and that case had been a weird one. At least, it was weird by Phil’s standards. I had a slightly higher threshold.

I inhaled to calm myself. It won’t be so bad. I got a promotion out of the last one.

With that breath, I couldn’t help but note the scent of char in the air, like an old campfire. Given that I’d seen a fire truck in the parking lot, I cleverly deduced that there had been a fire in the building. I’m a regular Columbo.

Looking around the lobby, I saw another Security Police airman, but no one else. Despite the location, I found it odd that there weren’t more civilians loitering about the construction site. As we headed for the stairs, I idly asked, “Did they cut the construction workers loose already?”

“The contract is on hold because of permit violations. Work’s been suspended indefinitely. Took all morning to track down the building manager,” Phil said with mild irritation. “This is a bit of a cluster. The Office of Special Investigations would normally take this sort of case, but with the base closure they’ve already pulled up stakes. The commander requested that the FBI handle things.”

“So what’s going on?” I asked as we started up the stairs, dreading the confirmation of my fears.