“Taken care of, boss,” said Bolson. He slipped his phone back in his jacket pocket and resumed his seat to the right of Mr. Anderson’s desk. He glanced at the miserable-looking guy standing in front of the desk. Poor Taylor. Even though the problem had been resolved, Taylor was still on the spot.
“Thank you, Bolson,” Anderson answered. He paused and considered his folded hands on the desktop for a moment. Then, he looked up and leveled a sharp gaze at the squirming man standing before him. “Taylor, I’m sure you are as relieved as I am that Bolson was able to correct this error of yours so quickly.”
Bolson kept his expression neutral, but he flinched inwardly. Taylor was going to be given the entire blame for the mistake. He wondered if Taylor knew how bad it was about to get.
“I’m sure grateful, Mr. Anderson,” Taylor said, his expression earnest. “I promise you, I’ll do a major overhaul of my courier network, right way. We’ll do all new background checks and retrain everyone.”
“Yes, of course we will,” interrupted Anderson. “I have every confidence.”
“I don’t know how Billy was able to get that shipment to the cops without tipping any of us off,” Taylor continued. “I can’t imagine what they could’ve offered him that we ain’t been doing for him all along, sir. Honest.” Taylor even raised his right hand in a sort of “scout’s honor” gesture. “I mean, I picked Billy for this job myself.” Here, his voice trailed off and he looked away.
“Yes, yes,” agreed Anderson. “I know you did, Ralph. I know, too, how much you’ve done for Billy.”
Bolson wondered if Taylor had noticed the subtle switch in tone. Anderson using first names was about as friendly as a bobcat crouching on the branch that overhangs the trail you’re walking.
“Ralph,” Anderson said, “you have a wife and two children at home, haven’t you?”
Taylor nodded eagerly but before he could answer, Anderson continued.
“This has been quite a day,” Anderson added. “Quite a day. There’s a big job ahead of us, too, wouldn’t you say? What with the complete re-evaluation of the courier network and all.” He joined Taylor in some hearty head-nodding. “A man can’t do his best work when he’s overwrought. Suppose you go home and have a nice evening with the family?”
“I’d like that, sir. Yes, sir,” Taylor agreed. “Only, my wife took the kids to visit her mother just yesterday. They ain’t due back until Sunday night.”
Anderson looked thoughtful at that.
“Perhaps, that’s better anyway,” he said. “I know how much you love your family, Ralph, but perhaps a quiet evening with a nice glass of scotch would be more the thing after a day like this, after all.”
“Yes, sir,” said Taylor. “Maybe I could call them before the kids go to bed. Talk with them all.”
“That’s the ticket,” said Anderson. He thumped the desktop in front of him and grinned. “Go home right now and call that family of yours. Have a good chat. Then, settle down with a drink and relax.” He gestured to the cabinet in the corner. “Bolson, get a bottle of the Aberfeldy for Ralph.”
Bolson sighed, but rose and did as he was told. He’d always liked Taylor and it was painful watching Anderson play with him this way. He handed Taylor the bottle, hoping the look in his eyes conveyed sufficient warning.
“Thank you, Mr. Anderson,” Taylor said, backing out of the office, clutching the bottle to his chest. “Thank you. I’ll do just as you say, sir.”
When Taylor had gone, Anderson stood and walked to the window, presumably watching the man’s departure.
“Bolson, you’ll need to arrange it for tonight, while his family is away,” he said. “You know what to do.”
Bolson didn’t answer right away. He really did like Taylor and the problem was the courier, Billy. Taylor might have given him this particular assignment, but Anderson was the one who put Billy in the network, personally. In fact, Billy was Anderson’s cousin’s son, Bolson remembered. He frowned.
“Sir, do you think we could give Taylor a chance to fix his network,” Bolson asked. “I mean, he’s always been completely loyal.”
Anderson turned to face Bolson, his expression blank.
“Bolson, just this one time, I’m going to pretend you didn’t say anything,” he said. “Let’s try this again.” He paused for emphasis. “You. Know. What. To. Do.”
Bolson met Anderson’s stare for a moment, then dropped his gaze.
“Yes, sir. I know what to do.”
Three hours later, a plain, white delivery truck pulled up in front of the house. A man hopped out and, carrying a large fruit basket, bounded up the front walk. At the door, he stopped and looked carefully up and down the street. He rang the bell, reached into his pocket, then concealed his hand behind the basket.
Bolson watched from a dark car parked across the street and one door down. He held a small, black, dish-shaped device which he had trained on the delivery man. He carefully extended it out the window of the car as the door of the house opened.
“Yes? What is it?” Anderson appeared at the door, looking surprised. “What’s all this, then?”
“Delivery,” the man answered. He moved his hand out from behind the basket. Whatever he held caused Anderson to take a step back. “Delivery from Mr. Anderson.”
“Wait a minute!” Anderson cried, extending his hand in a “stop” gesture. “You idiot! You’re making a mistake. I am Anderson! You’re supposed to be at Ralph Taylor’s house!”
“Sure, sure,” the man said, sneering. “You’re Anderson and Bolson gave me the wrong address.” He snorted. “I’ll just go on back home then, huh?”
“I don’t care what you think, you dolt!” Anderson yelled. “Bolson must have made a mistake. YOU must have made the mistake. All I know is, there’s a MISTAKE!”
Bolson grinned as he watched Anderson’s panic, evident even at a distance. He never took his eyes from the two men at the door, not even when the dish in his hand picked up the report of a silenced gun. Anderson dropped backward and the delivery man jogged back to his truck. Bolson stayed where he was until the truck disappeared around the corner. Then, he started his own engine and drove away, whistling.