mosquito – Ren was the citronella candle.

Gary finally appeared in the office as Ren was walking out with her makeup bag hidden by her side. She didn’t wear a lot – sheer foundation, brown or gray eyeshadow, black mascara on her poker-straight lashes and clear lip gloss – but she couldn’t go without it, even when it meant applying it in the ergonomically challenged Safe Streets ladies room.

‘Nice makeup,’ said Colin when she got back.

‘Fuck you,’ Ren coughed into her hand.

‘OK,’ said Gary, ‘everyone’s here. I’m going to give the lowdown on one and two on our list. Ren will do three through five.’

‘Sure,’ said Ren.

Gary’s phone beeped. ‘Ren, go ahead. I need to take care of this.’

Ren stood up. ‘OK, gentlemen: here’s the lowdown on the Val Pando posse. If I’m repeating myself, please realize that I don’t care. First up, number three – Domenica Val Pando, Latina, DOB 10/02/64.

‘Domenica was head of a huge cartel operating in New Mexico in the nineties – people trafficking, drugs, weapons, branching into biological weapons. No one has actually seen her since she disappeared the night the compound was stormed, with her seven-year-old son, Gavino Val Pando and her fifty-year-old husband, Augusto Val Pando.

‘Domenica showed up on the radar again last August when she was attempting to set up a lab outside Brecken-ridge to make H2S – colorless, odorless, fatal in seconds. We stopped her. But we couldn’t make any firm links to her, because she was, sadly, too fucking smart.’

Ren stood back. ‘This photo is eleven years old.’ The team followed her gaze to the noticeboard. Domenica Val Pando used to have an exotic beauty, but she had Americanized it, tweaked her features with surgery. Her hair was now the yellow-blonde that only very dark hair can be dyed. It was perfectly styled, but wrong. Her eyes were deep brown, slightly protruding, her lips full.

‘Not every psycho is dead in the eyes,’ said Ren.

Colin stared a little too long at the picture. ‘I’d hit it,’ he said.

‘Your standards are rising,’ said Ren. ‘Let me quickly give you the lowdown on Gavino Val Pando, Domenica’s son.’ She pointed to his photo, stapled under his mother’s.

Gavino had flawless dark skin and longish black hair that he pulled back off his face. He had strong bone structure and full but angular lips. His eyes were brown and lost. Ren stared at the photo. She had spent one year looking after six-year-old Gavino Val Pando and trying to deny how much she really cared about him.

‘Gavino’s eighteen years old,’ said Ren. ‘Our last encounter with him was last year in the Summit County jail, where he was taken in for under-age drinking. More significantly, he was paying for it with bait money from a robbery in Idaho Springs, of which he claimed to have no knowledge. We couldn’t prove otherwise, but it was definitely connected with Domenica. There is nothing to suggest that Gavino Val Pando is violent and a lot to suggest he was drunk and stupid that night. We had to release him and we don’t know his whereabouts, or whether he has remained in contact with Mommy Dearest.

‘His relationship with her is complicated. Her husband, Augusto Val Pando, was not Gavino’s biological father, but Augusto probably suspected that – he had no time for Gavino. So, while Gavino may be with his mother and therefore a very effective route to her, he definitely will not be with Augusto.’

‘And what about his real father?’ said Robbie.

‘James Laker – presumed dead,’ said Ren. ‘It is believed he was killed in the fire that destroyed the compound.’ A sweet, kind man, used and abused, first by life and then by Domenica.

‘Now to number four on our list,’ said Ren. ‘Another of Domenica’s minions: Javier Luis, born 1973, five foot two, one hundred and sixty pounds. First-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated robbery; drugs; rape, sexual assault on a minor…he went MIA from Domenica’s compound in 1998, just before the shit hit the fan.’

Ren remembered Javier Luis. He was always dressed in concert T-shirts for bands he had never seen. He was not tall, so his shorts almost reached his ankles. His voice was nasal and whiny. He would look at Ren in a way that reminded her to shutter the windows at night and lock all the doors. She rarely spoke with him and, when she did, she kept it brief.

‘Finally,’ said Ren, ‘number five, Erubiel Diaz, Latino, DOB 12/10/58, one of Domenica’s shit shovelers.’

She pointed at the photo.

‘This roidy little man was involved in the H2S lab – as a gofer, not a scientist, so that qualifies him for our hit list,’ said Ren. ‘He’s violent, a probable rapist and every daytime chat show’s favorite – a dead-beat dad. He was ratted out by his ex-wife four months ago for showing up in Denver, penniless, trying to see his kids. And off the record? He tried to assault me late one night in the parking lot of the Brockton Filly in Breckenridge and I—’

‘Kicked the living daylights out of him?’ said Robbie.

‘All the way to Frisco Medical Center,’ said Ren.

‘Where he told everyone he was attacked by a man,’ said Gary.

‘He was,’ said Colin.

Ren rolled her eyes. ‘Diaz obviously didn’t know at the time that I was an agent, but I let him know when I paid him a visit in the Summit County Jail, where he was being held for failure to pay child support. I couldn’t let the sheriff there know what Diaz had done to me because then the sheriff would know what I had done to him. So Diaz was released, we had nothing on him. But after he’d gone we found out that he had been working for Domenica Val Pando.’ She paused. ‘And probably still is. So, right now, although he is a little lower in the pecking order, I believe that Erubiel Diaz may well be our golden ticket.’


Gary walked back into the office. ‘All done?’

‘Yup,’ said Ren.

‘Number one on our Fifty Most Wanted,’ said Gary, pointing to a photo of a man with long, thin, greased-back hair, balding at the front. He had fuck-you eyes and a nose that looked broken, re-set and broken again. His face was hollowed out. He had two shaven patches of white hair high on each cheekbone and a downturned slit for a mouth. ‘This piece of shit,’ said Gary, ‘is Jonah Jeremiah—’

‘Jim Jams,’ said Ren.

‘Jonah Jeremiah Myler,’ Gary finished, ignoring her.

‘Priiiceless,’ said Ren.

‘Caucasian, DOB 08/12/57,’ said Gary. ‘Myler springs up in a different city every few months, preying on vulnerable teens and setting up short-lived “cults”. He grooms the kids for sex. He has young followers, so he gets them out on the streets. And he waits behind the scenes for the disenchanted youth to show. They may not always use the same name for their sect. Names to date: Crystal Wakenings, Army of the Risen, The Witness Gathering, Divine Seers of the Watchful—’

‘You are making them up,’ said Ren.

‘You couldn’t make them up,’ said Cliff.

‘And The Watchful what?’ said Ren. ‘That’s a lot of seeing and watching. The Watchful Observers. Divine Seers of the Watchful Crowd of Onlookers. Divine Seers of the Watchful Blind…’

Gary ploughed on. ‘Don’t be fooled by Myler’s gaunt face. He’s not as feeble as he looks.

‘Next up is number two, Francis Gartman, African-American, DOB 01/15/83. First degree murder, aggravated robbery, drugs, sexual assault on a minor.’

Gartman looked like someone had paused while inflating his head to allow him to pose for the photo. Every feature looked like it was about to blow.

‘Those eyes are completely vacant,’ said Ren. ‘Soulless.’

‘Gartman is a former boxer,’ said Gary, ‘which translates in his case into giant man, huge strength. He’s had enough blows to the head for his frontal lobe to have left the building.’

Gary stepped back. ‘Not as dramatic in my delivery as Agent Bryce no doubt was, but there’s our top five. Knock yourselves out.’

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