"He quit, sir. Apparently, he just wanted a change in his life style. He became a forest ranger after divorcing his wife. She runs a fashion store in Miami and does adequately with it. The boy appears pleasant and well-liked."
"Just quit? Bullshit."
"We can't find anything, Mr. Sanderhoff. No woman, no other man for his wife. He has a modest savings. They urged him to stay on, and we can find nothing out of the ordinary."
"Keep looking, Chester. A guy doesn't quit a job like that and go off in the woods for no reason."
"Apparently, he did, sir."
"I didn't get where I am by accepting appearances, Chester," Galt said levelly. "Look closer into Hammond's wife. You've missed something there, old friend, I'll guarantee it. A man runs to the woods to escape, not to start over."
"What about Monica and the boy?"
"They seem – friendly – Mr. Sanderhoff. I think it won't be long, now."
Another heavy sigh came up the stairwell. "God… it can't happen again, Chester. It just can't."
"I hope not, sir. She's a lovely girl. Every bit as lovely as her mother was. I'm doing my best to keep track…"
"Well, do it faster, Chester," Galt said with a gravelly tone, not really reprimanding him. "Something's going to happen again. I can feel it. I can smell it the way an old bull smells wolf piss. There's a stench in the air that's getting stronger and stronger. Don't believe me, huh? You've got your contacts and network, Chester, and they do a good job, but I've got a nose that beats your contacts all to hell and back."
"I questioned that only once, Mr. Sanderhoff, a long, long time ago. I've never questioned it since. I'll check everything over again."
"What about their father? Is the bastard still in Colombia where he ought to be?"
There was a pause that made Monica hold her breath and strain to hear harder. Then Chester spoke hesitantly.
"We – uh – he seems to have left Bogota, Mr. Sanderhoff. The last check was returned by the bank. We think he's gone to Baranquilla."
"What! The port city? God damn it! Get on it, Chester – fast! The son of a bitch is coming back. Twelve years of taking my money to stay the hell away, and he's coming back to do it again. Herb Lobocky," he grated, as if swearing vilely. "I should have killed him then, Chester."
"There was never any proof, Mr. Sanderhoff," Chester said defensively.
"He gave my daughter two children, Chester. And then he took up with that slut, and I ran him off when they bungled that attempt to blackmail Ardelle. They were the ones who had her kidnapped, Chester. Proof! Hell, I don't need your Goddamn proof. My nose tells me it was him! Half a million I paid for her. And I got her back dead."
"Please, sir, it's best if you don't get worked up again," Chester said gently. "We're checking thoroughly. Indications are that Lobocky is dead. There was a drug thing last month. The Colombian soldiers shot up quite a few of them. We think Lobocky was one of them."
"What's it take to find out? More money? What do you need?"
"Just time, sir."
"Time can be bought, Chester. First thing in the morning."
"It's going to happen, Chester. Soon. God damn it, the air stinks of it! Don't stop with that Hammond kid or that Carla twat, either, out get the word out that I want Herb Lobocky. I want their son-of-a-bitch father!"