Iron Orchid
An Excerpt From
Iron Orchid
ONE

HOLLY BARKER TOOK AIM and squeezed off a round. Her father, Senior Master Sergeant, U.S. Army (ret.), Hamilton Barker, looked through his hand scope.

“High and to the right,” he said.

“How high and how far to the right of what?” Holly asked in disbelief.

“An inch high and to the right of dead center,” Ham replied. “That’s not good enough. Push with your right hand, pull with your left.”

“That’s what I’ve been doing since I was eight, when you first taught it to me,” Holly said. She took aim and, this time, made a point of pushing and pulling.

“That’s better,” Ham said.

“How much better?”

“A quarter of an inch off dead center,” he said.

“Oh, please,” Holly said, laughing.

“How did the Orchid Beach town council take your resignation as chief of police?” Ham asked.

“They were appropriately sad, except for a couple who looked relieved. At least they accepted my recommendation of Hurd Wallace to replace me. They’re getting a good man.”

“They’re losing a better woman. What are you going to do with your house?”

“One of my young policewomen is going to move into the guesthouse and be my caretaker. I’ll need the house to decompress once in a while. Also to remind me of Jackson.” Jackson Oxenhandler, Holly’s fiancé, had been killed in a bank robbery two years before, an innocent bystander.

Ham went to his range bag and came back with a mahogany box.

“What’s that?”

“Something for you to take with you on the new job.” He handed her the box and a small key.

Holly set down the box, inserted the key and unlocked it. “Oooh,” she said, gazing at the shiny stainless slide with her name engraved on it. “Nice Colt .45.”

“It’s not a Colt, and it’s not a .45,” Ham said. “It’s a nine-millimeter made of Caspian parts. The lightweight frame was designed by Terry Tussey, and the grip holds a round shorter than standard, but it will conceal nicely. Only weighs twenty-one ounces. I thought it might come in handy.”

Holly picked up the small gun and hefted it. “Nice,” she said.

Ham handed her a loaded magazine. “See if you can hit anything with it.”

The target was still set at twenty-five feet. Holly set herself, pushed and pulled and squeezed off the round.

“Half an inch off dead center,” Ham said. “Not bad, considering it’s a three-inch barrel, instead of four.”

“Sweet trigger,” Holly said. “Four, four and a half pounds?”

“Four, exactly. Try it with both eyes open, and use up the magazine, rapid fire.”

Holly obliged.

“That target no longer has a center,” Ham said, a touch of pride in his voice. He went back to his range bag and came back with some gun leather. “Mitch Rosen made you a shoulder rig, a belt and a holster for it,” he said.

“It’s beautiful work,” she said, caressing the mahogany leather. “Thank you, Ham.” She put her arms around him and hugged.

Ham, uncharacteristically, hugged her back, but then he looked a little embarrassed. “What time did you file for?”

“Ten,” Holly said. “My stuff’s in the car.”

“You’ll have to clear out at Fort Pierce for the Bahamas,” Ham said.

“I know, Ham.”

“I don’t know why you want to go to the Bahamas alone for a weekend,” he said.

“I just want to take Daisy and spend the weekend alone; I have a lot to think about.”

“Whatever you say.”

“I’ll be back on Monday, maybe Sunday night, depending on the weather.”

“Okay.”

She packed up her things, put her new gun into her range bag and went to the car. She gave Ham a wave and drove off.

AT FOUR O’CLOCK that afternoon, Holly landed the rented Cessna at Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman, having flown first to the Bahamas, checked into a hotel, filed a new flight plan and left Daisy in a prearranged kennel. She dropped off her bag with the doorman at her Georgetown hotel, then kept the cab for the trip to the bank. Refusing the driver’s help, she hefted the two nylon duffels from the trunk of the cab and carried them inside.

A Mr. Dellinger—English, well-tailored and very discreet looking—was waiting for her. He nodded for a guard to take the bags, and the man went into a side room while Dellinger showed her into his office.

“How do you do?” Dellinger said, offering his hand.

“I’m very pleased to meet you,” Holly replied.

“The money will be machine counted in there,” Dellinger said. “It will take a little while; why don’t we get the paperwork done?”

“All right.” She sat down at his desk.

He handed her a sheet of paper. “It’s a very simple form,” he said. “You may use any name you like, and you needn’t put down an address, since we will not be mailing you account statements.”

Holly put down “H. Barker” for a name. “I’d like two credit cards in the same name,” she said. “They may be used by two different people, and I brought a sample signature of the other person.” She gave him a photocopy of Ham’s signature. It was illegible to anyone but her. She signed “H. Barker” for her own card.

The guard came back and handed Dellinger a slip of paper.

“Five million, seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars,” Dellinger said. “Does that sound right?”

“It sounds exactly right.”

“Let me tell you a few things about our service,” Dellinger said, “and I hope you won’t take offense at what may seem to be our assumptions. We give all our clients this information without regard to the amount deposited or the source of the funds.”

“I won’t be offended,” Holly said.

“First of all, because of the way we disperse cash around the world, these funds will immediately become untraceable. In the unlikely event that the United States or any other country should invade our island and take over our bank, they will not find a name on your account, only a number, which will not be in any way traceable to you. The number will not be coded in any way that would reveal even the nationality of the customer.

“The only thing traceable to you would be the credit card charges. When you view your credit card statement, you’ll be given the option of erasing the names of the payees—hotels, restaurants or shops, for instance. Only the amounts and dates of the charges would then appear on your statement, which you may access by entering your account number and a password, which you will designate. You may use as many as three passwords, each from four to twelve letters or digits or a combination of both.”

“That sounds good.”

“It is very important that you never forget the passwords, because if you do, you will not be able to access your account statements. In order to change the passwords, you would have to come personally here, to the bank.”

Holly signed one card and put them both into her pocket.

“The paper I gave you also has instructions for going to your account online,” Dellinger said. “Will there be anything else?”

“No, I think that does it,” Holly said. She shook his hand and left the bank. Now the drug money she had stolen from the hundreds of millions confiscated in a huge raid was safe from anyone but her, and no one would ever be able to prove that she had it. At least, she hoped not.

She spent the night in Georgetown, then, the following morning, flew back to the Bahamas. She spent two days there, shopping, eating and walking on the beach with Daisy, and on Monday morning she flew home to Orchid Beach.


Iron Orchid

Iron Orchid