All day Sunday there was no news about his assailant. Varella spent most of it in severe pain. His chest hurt like the dickens and no amount of tablets seemed to help. Every little move was traumatic. The first thing Varella did on Monday morning was call Brinks for a status report on the man. Brinks was quite reluctant to say anything but that the man hadn’t come around yet. Brinks would call Varella as soon as they found out anything useful.

Varella sat there by the phone after he hung up with Brinks. Despite the fact that he’d just woken up, he still felt tired and unrested, his body still ached. Now he also felt frustrated. If this fool of a man died before recovering they’d be back to square one. In fact they may be back to square one anyway. What if this bozo assassin was only a paid hand and had no idea who had hired him? What if this was like those movies where the man only got a picture of the victim, an address and money in a “Sanction” envelope. Then the man they’d caught last night would be worthless. And his flirt with death had been a waste of time. He decided that he was going to go try out his new gun.

After he’d popped a few more Advils that is.

* * *

The first bullet went wide and missed the paper silhouette completely. The second one was a bit better but still on the edge. Varella looked around him embarrassedly. Fortunately it didn’t seem like anyone was watching him. He removed the clip and looked at the Luger. There were a couple of little screws on the sights, he studied the contraption for a few minutes before he figured out what adjusted what. Then he tweaked on them a bit with a screwdriver that the gun dealer had provided. He replaced the clip and fired again. That was better. But it was still pretty awful.

A couple of hours and an entire box and a half later, he was getting pretty good. At least now he could hit the overall head of the paper silhouette. But he still needed to work on it.

His arm and shoulder were tired, which added to the dull ache in his chest and he decided to call it quits and head over to the office. He wanted to go through Carl’s desk and personal effects, the discussion with Gramps at the funeral had reminded him of it. He realized that Gramps had offered to do it but, he figured he’d know more about what was in that office than anyone else. And if the man who’d taken two shots at him last night wasn’t going to talk, at least he’d have a head start on solving this mystery. He certainly didn’t want to hang around and wait, he needed to do something and this was as good as anything.

The office was as usual a hubbub, Valerie, one of the secretaries said “hi” and looked very happy to see him. They talked briefly and as he left she gave him a hug. He was glad that he’d left the Luger in the car. Everybody knew how close he and Carl had been and he’d probably get a few more hugs while he was here. He walked around the corner to Carl’s office. Carl’s door was locked and had been that way since his death. Varella assumed that Brinks’ men had already been through the place though. Fortunately he had a key. The office was dark and held an air of coldness about it. Varella switched on the light and drew the shades open. That felt better. He shut the door. He wanted a bit of privacy.

The old mahogany desk sat in the center of the room and behind it was Carl’s high backed roller chair. Varella sat in it for a few minutes remembering his friend. This is where Carl used to sit but Carl was dead and there was that hole in his stomach again. There was that empty longing feeling again. When would it go away? He repressed the memory of Carl lying in that coffin, resembling the Carl he knew but not looking like his Carl, and looked around at the room. The walls were lined with shelves filled with books of every sort. Editors always had books all over the place. There were two large filing cabinets over in the corner. To the right of the desk was a computer desk with a powerful high speed PC clone on it, underneath was a laser printer. Varella had always preferred Apple Macintoshes but Carl was an old IBM buff. Varella could never figure out why. They’d have huge arguments about it. And end up calling each other “gunkies.” That was their swear word for each other. If you didn’t agree with someone, or were just acting stupid then you were a “Gunkie.” It didn’t really mean anything and neither of them could remember where it came from, but they’d been calling each other “gunkies” since college.

Varella pulled open the top drawer. Nothing unusual, pens, paper clips the lot. He moved to the next drawer, nothing out of place. Everything that should have been there was there. This was ridiculous. He didn’t have the foggiest idea what he was looking for. And even if he ran into it. How would he know what it was?

The desk yielded nothing. Varella turned to the two massive filing cabinets in the corner. A few hours later he was just a clueless as he was when he started, but now he was three times as frustrated. Nothing. All editorial stuff or notes, or publications, various folders marked “International News”, “Local Correspondence”, “Personal Finances”, “Car bills” etc. But nothing that meant anything. This was an office of a man who was high on life and planning on living a normal life for a very normal length of time, if not longer. This was not the office of a man who’d been targeted for death by a cult. Nor was it the office of a man who was in a cult.

He’d looked for things under Egypt, he’d found some info on Egypt but nothing that really was unusual. He’d found a lot of correspondence to and from Abdel Aziz in Cairo, but nothing out of the ordinary. Most of them were letters that were a bit chatty and then basically discussed a shipment of antiques that Carl had selected the last time he’d been in Cairo. Just in case, Varella had made copies of all the letters that referred to Egypt or Cairo. The copy room was out and down the corridor, but he’d known that nobody would have questioned his presence or what he was doing making copies of a dead man’s correspondence. After all, the dead man had been his best friend.

When he came back, he replaced the letters and sat down, depressed. If only he knew what Carl had been working on, or even whom he’d seen in the last few weeks. Of course, Carl’s day-timer… or his desk calender. He looked for the desk calendar. It should have been right on top of the desk, but it wasn’t there. Somebody’s taken it. Then he remembered, it was probably taken by Brinks or one of his men. But the day-timer, the little pocket calender that Carl always carried, where would that be? But moreover, if he remembered right, the day-timer allowed you to carry just the current and past or future month in a little wallet. The old months were stored in a box somewhere. Carl only carried the current and next month’s day-timers. Varella had seen the Daytimer box in this office before, but it certainly wasn’t here now. He could only assume that Brinks had gotten hold of that as well. What else would tell him what Carl had been doing before he died. Then he remembered something. There’d been a folder marked “Personal Finances”, Varella hadn’t thought about it then but perhaps Carl kept all his personal stuff here, because he spent most of his time hereat work anyway, it would be easier to just file stuff at work. Varella went back to the cabinet and found the Green Hanging folder with a red tab that said “Personal Finances”. In it were folders that he’d ignored the first time through, The folders were titled “cancelled checks”, “bank statements”, “visa statements”. Visa Statements! Let’s see what Carl had been buying the months before he died. Varella decided to start with the latest month and go backwards. The last month listed a large number of restaurants a few purchases of hardware and $3,156 to a Travel Agent. That could be a ticket to Egypt. The travel agency name was listed on the statement. “Wonderland Travel”. Varella decided to make a copy of this as well. He flipped to the next statement. Shoes, clothes, a jacket, he remembered that jacket, Carl had just bought it and had been very proud of it.

There wasn’t much else of interest in the folder and Varella decided to call it a day. He wondered if Sandy was home. The last thing he did was dial 411 and find out the phone number for Wonderland Travel. He would have to call them and check into this ticket.

When he got back to the motel very late that night there was a note from Brinks. His would be killer had awoken, but was refusing to talk.

Varella cursed bitterly and vowed to visit the man personally.