All Things Mysterious Volume Thirty-Four
Brand and the All-Seeing Eye Part Two
‘Whaddya got for me?’ asked Avery.
The tech said, ‘We found no additives at all in the chocolate vat. Just trace amounts of this and that, way under danger levels.’
Avery smiled, tight-lipped and grim. ‘What do you mean, ‘this and that’?’
‘I mean the usual stuff, rat hairs, droppings, sawdust, all the usual stuff the FDA allows in small quantities.’
Costello held his stomach. ‘I’m liking chocolate less and less the more I know about this factory!’
The tech grinned. ‘Yep. Just like hot dogs, ain’t it?’
Finally Avery had agreed to allow Harold Who to have five minutes and not a second more on one of the desktops in the common room. They could remotely monitor the communications that he sent and received, but were sorely disappointed when the only messages that were sent were to his estranged parents, assuring them that he was all right. No incoming messages were noted.
‘That didn’t help much,’ sighed Costello.
Avery groaned. ‘I think we’d better have another talk with our friend Brand.’
Costello held up a hand. ‘When you want to find out about someone, you don’t ask them, you ask one of three people: Their ex, their baseball coach, or their co-workers.’
Grudgingly conceding that that made sense, and knowing that Brand had neither an ex nor a baseball coach, Avery rode along with Costello over to the main offices of the Krock Kandy Kompany, which were located right across the street from the giant factory, which was chained and closed with a sign on the fence that said simply, ‘Closed due to a death in the family.’ They spoke to the personnel director, whose name was Slidell.
‘Now, Ms. Slidell, what can you tell us about this man? How long has he been working here?’ Avery showed the businesslike woman a photo of Brand taken from a security camera in the precinct.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know this man.’
‘His name is Brand. Apparently he’s one of your consultants. Or so he says.’
‘Let me recheck our files. Hmm. I see we have a man named Grand employed as a consultant. Is this the man you mean?’ She turned the screen toward the men so they could see the head shot of a nondescript looking man in a business suit. ‘This is Lemuel Grand, late of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.’
‘Got a grand passion for technological chocolate, does he?’ quipped Avery as he eyed the picture. ‘I don’t think that’s our man Brand, do you, Louie?’
‘No. Where did you get this picture, Miss?’
HR professional Slidell replied, ‘It was in his interview package along with his resume and other personal details. And, as I say, his name is Grand.’
As the detectives were leaving, Avery turned. ‘What do you know about this fellow Harold Who, who stands accused of contaminating your chocolate in progress?’
Ms. Slidell said, ‘I can’t comment on Harold Who, for this is an ongoing internal investigation. However, I can tell you that no actual contamination has as yet been found.’
On their way to their police-issued auto, Costello said, ‘Well, THAT was a waste of time. They hired the wrong guy!’
Avery replied, ‘Interesting that there is no contamination of the batch. Yet the surveillance tape clearly shows Harold Who throwing something in the vat. What was it, and why did he do it?’
‘It’s a cinch he won’t talk.’
‘No, but Brand will. How did he know old man Krock was going to get whacked? And why did they hire Brand at all? A big company like that doesn’t make that kind of mistake nowadays.’
‘That’s the trouble. Too many questions and not enough answers!’
‘Let’s go find Brand, or Grand, or whatever his name is. We’ll get some answers!’
But they didn’t have to search for Brand after all. He was sitting quietly in the anteroom of the main detective’s room. This the detectives saw on the monitor screen in reception on their way in. Costello started for the stairs, but Avery stopped him with a hand on the younger man’s arm.
‘Wait a minute. Let’s see what he does.’
At first the visitor did nothing. Then, with a furtive movement, he reached into his bag and brought out a canister. He opened it and started rubbing a compound on his face. He took what appeared to be some putty and reshaped his nose. He took a pencil and thickened his eyebrows. Costello whispered, ‘Why isn’t he doing this in the bathroom?’
Avery shrugged, at a loss. ‘Must be he wants us to see that he’s disguised?’
‘Why would he do that?’
‘He looks more like the guy in the picture Slidell showed us, doesn’t he? And he sure could have falsified his credentials.’
‘But the company would have checked his background, wouldn’t they?’
‘Depends on how badly they needed a scientist from MIT, I guess. Look!’
Now Brand was removing his outer clothing to reveal a bandolier around his torso. Slotted into it were small orange tubes that looked like hot dogs, but probably weren’t. Avery shouted, ‘Let’s get in there!’
As the men ran into the waiting room, Brand stood up and yelled, ‘This is dynamite! Don’t move or I’ll blow this place to Kingdom Come!’
Tune in next time for another exciting installment of Brand and the All-Seeing Eye!
And while you’re waiting, check out these spy thrillers:
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