CHAPTER 25

V iz was just finishing a large pepperoni and anchovy pizza when Gage climbed into the passenger seat of his blue-green Yukon half a block away from SatTek.

“How can you eat that stuff?” Gage asked. “You’ll be burping anchovies for the rest of the day.”

“I have a high tolerance for discomfort.”

“What about my discomfort?”

“You should’ve called ahead. I’d have picked up tofu and saltines.”

“I’ll do that next time.”

Viz pointed at a monitor propped on the truck console. It showed a magnified entrance to SatTek, an image captured by a video camera concealed in a gym bag resting on the dashboard. SatTek was housed in a half-block-sized, nearly windowless white concrete block with bold red letters spelling the company name along the front. To the right was the entrance. To the left, a long dock and four metal roll-up doors.

Gage surveyed the wide strips of manicured grass surrounding each building in the industrial complex. A coed group was playing volleyball farther down the block, and across the street from them three young men tossed a Frisbee.

Viz pointed toward SatTek. “See that guy with the brown sports jacket? He’s the controller.”

Gage focused on the man fifty yards away.

“His name is Robert ‘Don’t-Call-Me-Bob’ Milsberg. Accounting degree from SF State in the early nineties.”

Gage watched Milsberg climb into a ten-year-old Nissan station wagon. “What’s he been up to?”

“Arrives at 9 A. M. Goes out to lunch at 11:50. Comes back at 12:50. Leaves at 5 P. M. Except yesterday. Yesterday broke the pattern.”

Viz noticed movement in the dock area and reached forward to reposition the camera. He then reached again, turning it a quarter inch.

Gage smiled. “Don’t leave me hanging.”

“It’s called dramatic tension,” Viz said, smiling back. “I’m thinking about taking a film class.”

“You could teach a film class. So what about yesterday?”

“I had one of the guys take over for me here so I could follow him. He went to a mortgage company in Cupertino. Came out looking real grim. I asked Alex Z to run him. Turns out his house is in foreclosure. He’s lived there since the eighties. Lots of equity. Refinanced last year. Took out a huge chunk of change. And guess what he did with the money?”

“SatTek stock.”

“Bingo. Alex Z looked it up. Milsberg used the whole four hundred thousand dollars plus another eight hundred and fifty thousand, probably from his retirement account.”

“And he didn’t get out in time?”

“Nope.”

“That means Matson didn’t clue him in that SatTek was collapsing.”

“I guess not. And now he’s got almost nothing, literally nothing if he loses his house.”

“It must’ve jangled in his number-crunching brain that something was wrong when the FBI started poking around,” Gage said.

“I don’t think so. Look over there.”

Viz pointed at another white block building housing AccuSoft, an accounting software company whose insider trading scandal rode the front pages for months.

“Gotcha,” Gage said, nodding his head. “Don’t-Call-Me-Bob must have thought SatTek was targeted for the same reason as they were.”

“That’s my guess.”

Gage’s eyes fell on the last slice of Viz’s pizza and his mind looped back through their conversation. “Where’s he eat lunch?”

“A Chinese place over on Tully.”

“Maybe I should join him for a little kung pao chicken tomorrow.”

“Great idea, then you can bring me back some pot stickers. And a mandarin beef.” Viz held up his forefinger. “No, make it a mu shu pork. Or one of those-”

Gage made a show of studying his watch. “How about you try to decide between today and tomorrow?”

“Sure, boss, deciding on lunch is one of the few diversions for a surveillance guy.”

Gage left Viz searching his mental menu, then slipped back into his car. He called Faith on her cell as he was driving back to his office.

“I’m here now.” The words came out as a sigh, her tone answering what would’ve been his next question. There’d been no improvement.

Gage heard shuffling as she walked from Burch’s room. “The doctors come by?”

“Kishore was in an hour ago, but only to give Courtney a hug and try to boost her spirits. The new critical care doctor strode into the room a few minutes ago as if he could do something, but after flipping through the chart and shining a light in Jack’s eyes, he just stood there, kind of slump-shouldered, then shuffled away. It was heartbreaking and-”

Gage winced as Faith’s voice caught. He imagined her and Courtney sitting for hours, their eyes darting toward the monitors, flinching at each beep, then looking to the doctors for reassurance that was never forthcoming.

“Then one of the nurses took Courtney aside and asked whether Jack had an advance directive, and then she just fell apart.”

“I’ll be there in forty minutes.”

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