“Doctor, are you listening to me?” a now exasperated Alvin Klausner asked.
Doctor Lindsay Riccardi was not listening to her longtime patient. He sat facing her as rigid as a corpse in his prescribed psychotherapy session – same time, same day – each week for almost two years in her office in Manhattan, New York City.
“Doctor Riccardi,” his voice now raised and peppered with his customary annoyance at all things not gone according to plan.
Lindsay’s mind registered something distant. Her eyes, however, were fixed on a spot just above Alvin’s head on the wall. The visions in her mind of the last night she was with an old time patient and friend before he was murdered held court for the moment. Then the visions were replaced by the sounds of guns exploding coupled with blood and Detective Karl Dieter at her side. She would remember the fear in his eyes when he saw her on her living room floor surrounded by the bodies of gunshot victims.
Alvin was completely angered now. He rose and leaned forward toward Lindsay and rapped on her desk, his face filled with the petulance of a child whose parent was not listening.
Lindsay’s mind rebounded back to the present to see Alvin fuming as he stood over her desk. She rose quickly, confused at first but she recovered quickly.
“Alvin, what is it?” she asked mustering as much control as she could for the moment.
“You’re not listening to me. You don’t care any more, since…” he looked up to the gods seeking retribution against her. “…since those people were killed.”
Lindsay’s first reaction, which she checked quickly, was to strike out across the desk at Alvin, to smash his face, to obliterate all the demons that have come to roost in her mind.
The two humans stood facing each other as adversaries, seeking control of places in the mind that were now utterly out of control; demons now roamed the landscape of their minds. Lindsay was by far the stronger personality of this duo and she waited for the demons to retreat and let her breathing return to its usual rhythms. Alvin’s demons did not retreat.
“You were not listening to me!” he shouted now. “I was telling you about something very important and you were not listening to me!” He stood with eyes ablaze.
Lindsay sat in Dr. Virginia Ellison’s office, slumped forward, hands in her lap holding a sodden tissue. Her wavy hair was hastily brushed back into a pony tail. There was no mascara around her red eyes, or lipstick beneath her red blotched nose. But, she didn’t care how she looked today nor did she care for the last several days since Alvin’s explosion brought her to the brink of giving up.
Doctor Ellison, Lindsay’s college mentor, stared at her student – now her friend – with lots more than professional empathy. Sympathy was more like it.
First Lindsay’s marriage collapsed and then a terrible relationship on the rebound led to terrible things happening and death – and now a well of bottomless guilt. I hope I can help her.
Lindsay raised her head and looked at her friend Virginia. She saw the concern on her friend’s face and felt a jolt of guilt for bringing more to her already full plate. Virginia’s husband had fallen deeper into dementia needing more assistance and help to live a simple cared-for life. The end game had begun for him. Virginia had brought him to live in the New York hospital where she worked as a psychotherapist and spent her days – and nights – staying connected to the man she loved. She hadn’t noticed but the weight of her circumstances had begun to reveal itself in her looks. The once pretty woman was now thinner, and frail. Her personal strength, however, was as evident as it was when Lindsay sat in her classes at Northwestern University a lifetime ago.
Lindsay looked at the crumpled, sodden tissue in her hand. She quickly closed her hand around it as though to hide the truth from herself. The truth was that she now sat in Virginia’s office crying her heart out as so many of her patients had done in her office. She was embarrassed.
“You’ve had a difficult time…” Virginia began.
All Lindsay could do was nod in the affirmative. Speech wouldn’t come for a few moments.
“…and you are in the middle of dealing with those things.” Virginia stated.
Again, more vigorous nodding.
“And you wish it would stop right now,” another statement of fact followed by affirmative nods from Lindsay.
“And you also know this is a process you must go through,” offered her Mentor.
Lindsay merely sighed resolutely and looked into Virginia’s eyes.
“Yes, I know,” Lindsay said, “but it sucks big time.”
Virginia smiled at her student who always learned faster than the others. Lindsay managed a small, self deprecating smile in return.
“Now don’t be so hard on yourself. There’s nothing to be ashamed of about your present feelings.” She locked eyes with Lindsay. “It does suck – big time – and yet, there is a light at the end of the darkness. I promise.”
With the addition of “I promise,” Lindsay smiled, then laughed away some of the day’s tears. “Thanks Mom.”
Now they both enjoyed a brief moment of laughter.
“Sounds like PTSD,” Lindsay mused.
“How do you mean?” Virginia the therapist again.
“Well,” Lindsay focused and began her list of personal PTSD symptoms. “I have been exposed to a traumatic event.”
“Several,” Virginia added.
“I witnessed death and serious injury. And boy was I scared and completely helpless that night.” Lindsay stopped to gather her thoughts.
“Do you feel intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event?”
“Yes, I was reliving those moments in session with a patient and I was not in the present with him,” she admitted. “He was very angry.”
“Since then do you feel jumpy or get startled easily?”
Lindsay thought about this question for a moment. “No, I don’t think so,” she said while continuing to mull this in her mind.
Virginia interrupted with a very salient question. “Do you feel guilty because others died or were hurt but you survived unhurt physically?”
Lindsay blurted, “Absolutely and I should know better, but I can’t stop…” and thoughts drifted away once again and the tears returned.
The ambulance’s siren blared repeatedly through the New York City noontime traffic pushing the cars, taxis and trucks to the side. It skirted the slow pokes whose turtle-like reflexes frustrated the driver and the detective who sat in the back of the ambulance watching the EMT attend to Detective Karl Dieter’s gunshot wound. Detective JB McClure had only arrived to the Detective Squad two weeks earlier. He had the requisite time in the field as a police officer, preceded by a stint in the Army in Afghanistan, but he still screwed up and he knew it. He should have watched Dieter’s back.
McClure and Dieter had tracked down a murder suspect in the Chelsea District of Manhattan. They had entered the building, knocked at the door of the suspect announcing who they were and burst in when they heard a woman’s screams. They found her beaten and bloodied body sprawled face down on the floor. A winter’s cold breeze blowing through an opened window brought Detective McClure to it searching for the perpetrator. As he leaned out of the window he heard a gunshot from behind. Quick reflexes swiveled him around to see his partner, Detective Karl Dieter, his new mentor on the job, fall to the floor with a gunshot wound that squirted blood in little arcs.
“How’s he doing?” Detective McClure asked the EMT who was working on Dieter as the ambulance rocked from side to side through traffic.
“He’ll be okay. Lots of blood lost, but I got it stopped.” The EMT’s full attention went back to Dieter.
“Good, good,” was all McClure could say.
McClure had seen duty in Afghanistan. He had seen men shot and shot men too, but he felt culpable for Dieter’s gunshot. He should have had eyes on the woman who, in her beaten state, was lying on a gun. She had shot Dieter as he knelt to check her vitals. In her hysteria, she thought Dieter was the man who had attacked her.
Dieter gave a weak thumbs-up from the gurney in the ambulance where he lay just before his eyes closed. The pain killer had taken effect.
Rosetta Calderone sipped her morning coffee and then read the New York Post as she did each morning. Today she was halted by a story about a New York City Police Department Detective who was shot. The article linked him, Detective Karl Dieter, with the killing and shooting at psychotherapist Lindsay Riccardi’s office apartment several months earlier.
Rosetta had not seen the doctor for several weeks, her choice now that she had confidence in herself and her visions; but she did have concern about how her therapist was doing after the eruption of violent events which hurt Vincent “Vinny” Abruzzo, her new boyfriend.
I will call Doctor Riccardi to let her know.
The first ring at Lindsay’s office phone number went unheard as did the next several rings until Lindsay’s voice mail answered asking to leave a message.
“Doctor Riccardi, I am calling to tell you something that I saw in this morning’s newspaper. That very simpatico detective who helped you and my Vincent – he was shot,” she realized she needed to explain more. “He is alive and in the hospital. Maybe, I thought, you like to visit him?” after a moment’s pause Rosetta said, “Goodbye,” and then she added, “I hope you too are well.”
Her next call was to Vincent.
Lindsay had let go of her daily routine. For many years she had risen at a prescribed time to be ready for the day’s patient load. These days however routine was replaced by sleeping in. She went on a self imposed hiatus from her practice when she believed that she might be doing more harm than good to her patients. Alvin’s explosion was very disconcerting and a little scary.
An unending need to sleep replaced everything. Sleep she did until after 10:00 a.m. when she was startled awake by another disturbing and recurring dream.
She was in a dark foreboding place where gunshots sparked the darkness to light in bursts. The cacophony of the explosions echoed on top of each other until the sounds mingled into a debilitating state and she awoke very startled.
Bits of perspiration dotted her body in the winter’s cool bedroom where Andrew, her ex-husband, had conditioned them to keep the window cracked open slightly. The morning air brought a chill to her body. She wrapped the blanket around her and settled into her runner’s pose sleeping position. Her mind, however, was awake and running. She decided to join mind and body and rose from the bed, grabbing her bathrobe from behind the bathroom door.
A blinking light on her office phone connection – which sat next to her bed on the antique nightstand that she bought in Rhinebeck, New York – brought an involuntary groan. Lindsay dismissed the blinking light and walked into the kitchen to start the morning coffee. After several moments, the mental vision of the blinking light’s entreaty brought her back to the bedroom where she cautiously and with some anxiety punched the numbers to retrieve the message.
Lindsay was surprised to hear Rosetta’s voice, a sweet sincerity in her voice often made Lindsay smile. Not this morning.
Oh my god! She thought. She played the message again to ensure what she heard. Yes, he is okay, in the hospital. But where, which hospital? Okay, okay, I can find out. Just keep it together Lindz.
Lindsay Riccardi did keep it together. She learned where Karl Dieter was after a few phone calls. In a little more than an hour she was at New York Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital asking to see Detective Dieter.
The woman at the Visitor’s Sign-in station asked, “Are you a relative?”
“No, not a relative,” and before she could continue the woman cut her off.
“Only relatives or NYPD folks can see him,” and her attention was directed to the next issue at hand.
Lindsay’s patience had waned in recent days and she let it be shone. The woman at the desk noticed and asked, “What’s your connection to him?” She stared defiantly at Lindsay.
Lindsay’s mind went in gear and she dug out her card and credentials which she used at the crisis center where she volunteered and flashed both at the woman. Unimpressed the woman eyeballed Lindsay, but wrote the information on a sheet of paper and handed Lindsay a name tag nevertheless.
The elevator ride to the floor where Dieter’s room was located allowed her time to seek control of the moment. By the time she approached Dieter’s room near the Nurses Station she was as fine as she could be. A uniformed policeman outside of Dieter’s room looked up, saw her name tag which merely read, Lindsay Riccardi, but he said, “Go right in Doctor Riccardi.” The front desk must have called ahead, she thought.
Karl Dieter had brought the bed to an upright position where he was when she entered the room. Her first impression was that he looked remarkably well for someone who had been shot. He looked as robust as always. In fact, she thought, He looks good.
Dieter’s thoughts were not so gratifying. She looked pale, tired and unusually casual in her jeans, sweater and winter jacket. Yet, he felt very good to see her and not a little surprised.
“Hey Doctor Riccardi, how are you?” he smiled.
“Ah, but that’s my question, Detective Dieter,” returning his smile.
Suddenly, she felt a release of a significant portion of her tension. She was indeed happy to see him.
Dieter and Riccardi, who had experienced the same violent events, spent a moment looking and smiling at one another.
“Me, I’m fine,” with a self mocking braggadocio that brought more smiles to each.
“You look okay, I mean, well, you look well,” she said.
“Thanks, it’s nice to see you. But, how did you know…?”
“I got a call about you this morning,” she answered.
“About me, this morning?” Dieter looked at the clock on the facing wall. It read 11:23 a.m.
“Yes, sorry I didn’t know…” she offered. Okay, Lindsay, let’s not go back to that school girl stuff again. “I just learned about your injury after ten this morning.”
Again, Dieter’s eyes flashed to the clock. She got here fast.
“Is it bad?” she asked.
“Nah, it’s one of those good gunshot wounds,” and he was sorry the moment he joked because her face paled. “No, no, I’m fine. No vitals damaged. Should heal easily and quickly, I’m told, as long as I give up surfing and long distance running.”
“I didn’t know you surfed and ran,” she said.
“Well, the good thing is, I don’t surf and I gave up running a long time ago,” he laughed and she joined him. She felt better for being able to laugh.
They chatted easily until a nurse arrived to check his blood pressure and temperature.
“Okay, glad I came,” she said and rose from her chair to leave. “I wanted to see that you are well.”
“I am,” he said as the nurse wrapped the blood pressure cup around his arm and slipped the thermometer under his tongue.
He tried to speak, but the nurse held up a hand and said, “Wait, please.”
Lindsay turned to leave, Dieter pulled the thermometer from his mouth, but the nurse reinserted it. He spoke with a mouthful of thermometer, “Can we hab dinner thome time?”
The nurse smiled, pulled the thermometer from his mouth and pretended to read it as she waited for Lindsay’s reply.
“Sure Detective, that would be nice,” she responded.
“Yes, Doctor, it would be nice. I’ll call you when I’m released,” he said.
The nurse looked up at Lindsay, “So long,” and she paused for a split second, “Doctor.” The nurse returned her gaze to Dieter, “And your temperature,” another pause, “is normal,” followed by an even longer pause, “Detective.” The nurse covered her smart ass smile as she packed her equipment and left.
Lindsay lingered but was unsure why except that she felt better to be in Dieter’s company. She was glad he seemed okay and that he had a “good” gunshot wound which made her smile.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Funny, nothing, just happy to see you.” Oh my god did I say that out loud?
He looked at her a luxuriously long moment and said, “Yeah, me too.”
Awkwardness filled the room from corner to corner. Lindsay recovered from the silence first, “Okay, be well.”
“Thanks, I’ll call when I escape capture. Okay?” He joked.
“Yes,” and with nothing more to say she turned and left.
Lindsay spent almost an hour showering, fixing her makeup and hair which she put up and behind her ears. Too casual she decided. When it was fully blown out and her hair looked rich and radiant like one of the television commercials she nodded approval to the mirror. Another hour was spent trying on clothes, again too casual, followed by too sexy and finally just right. Not a business meeting she cajoled herself when she fingered a business suit. The black dress with a hint of cleavage was just perfect for dinner and drinks at the posh restaurant that Dieter had suggested. Lindsay obsessed less with the jewelry she added, simple but elegant, she laughed with approval.
It wasn’t until she entered the elevator in her building that she realized she felt good, perhaps happy. She settled into the ride to the lobby and luxuriated in her feelings.
Dieter had far less of the wardrobe choices, nevertheless he spent more time than he usually did for a date-which was long ago. Suit or sport coat? Tie or no tie? No tie. Color choices were limited. A dark blue sport coat was the winner, over a blue tie-less shirt with charcoal pants. He shrugged self deprecatingly, That’s it? To which he answered, Yup.
Dieter’s leg was still healing from the gunshot wound. He decided not to take the pain pills with him, Scotch would have to suffice. He took a cab to the restaurant and arrived before Lindsay as he planned.
“Karl, good to see you. Read about you in the papers. You okay?” asked Victor, the owner of the upscale restaurant.
“Guess I’m hard to knock off,” he joked. “Got a table for me?”
“Don’t I always? Your reservation is right here. Nice and quiet table,” with a wink and a chuckle.
Dieter had helped Victor’s family with an immigration issue when they arrived from Romania nine years ago. After 9/11 it became difficult for foreigners to settle in the USA. Dieter knew a guy at immigration from his early days at NYPD. “It’s good to have friends like you,” Victor had said.
“I’ll wait at the bar, that way I can see when she enters,” he said and then he heard Lindsay’s voice from behind him.
Victor smiled with satisfaction at his friend’s good fortune. Dieter turned and saw Lindsay Riccardi at one of her finest moments. He smiled, greeted her and said, “Hi, Doctor you look great.” Victor’s eyes popped a little at the formal greeting Doctor but he held himself in check.
“Lindsay, please,” she smiled.
“Hello Lindsay, you look great,” he answered.
“May I take your coats?” asked Victor.
Dieter helped Lindsay take her leather coat off. He handed it to Victor and gazed with approval at all that Lindsay had done to prepare for the dinner. He shrugged out of his coat and gave it to Victor who handed it to a coat check girl.
“This way please,” Victor gestured. Lindsay and Dieter followed to the quiet booth with excellent lighting and very comfortable seating. Each sat feeling good about the moment.
“Can I bring a drink?” Victor asked.
Dieter looked at Lindsay, “Would you like a drink?”
“I’ll have a dirty martini,” she said with a broad smile. It had been several months since she had a drink, even a glass of wine at home.
“Karl, you’re usual?” asked Victor.
“Yes, thanks Victor,” he answered.
Victor moved to a waiter, spoke a few words and the waiter went off to fetch the drinks.
“The usual?” Lindsay queried.
Dieter laughed, “I don’t drink much, but I usually have Scotch when I’m here. Victor remembers everything about every customer. Good business,” he said.
“Detective Dieter, how nice to see you,” said a gray haired woman of obvious means, bedecked in her generation’s customary mink coat surrounded by expensive jewelry. She walked gingerly to the booth, smiled at Lindsay and then her face simply exploded with joy at the sight of Detective Karl Dieter.
“Mrs. Hudson,” he said as he rose to greet her. She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek while holding his hand. “Nice to see you too.”
He turned towards Lindsay, “Lindsay, this is Mrs. Valerie Hudson.”
“Pleasure to meet you, I am Lindsay Riccardi,” Lindsay offered her hand. They shook politely and again Mrs. Hudson held onto the hand extended to her for a brief moment.
Before she let go of Lindsay’s hand she said, “Lovely, very lovely,” and offered a smile to Dieter.
“Yes, very…” he responded.
Lindsay felt a little color rise to her cheeks.
“I’m so pleased to see you after all these years,” she began. He didn’t respond this time. Mrs. Valerie Hudson, the socialite and former wife of an important CEO suddenly seemed uneasy.
“It’s all right,” he said holding her arm.
Lindsay saw the look on the woman’s face, a look she had seen many times on the faces of patients who had something difficult to say. Detective Karl Dieter saw the same look on this woman’s face; the look that he had seen before under very trying times in her life.
“Please sit down,” and he ushered her arm to help her sit at the corner of the small booth.
Victor noticed and came to the table, “May I get you a chair Mrs. Hudson?”
Seated now she declined, “Just be here a minute,” and turned to Lindsay, “Okay?”
“Mrs. Hudson, you are welcome to join us,” Lindsay said, without a query to Dieter.
“Yes,” he added. “You feel all right?”
Mrs. Valerie Hudson straightened and smiled at the two younger people. She looked from one to the other, “You make a fine couple. Just like Robert and me many years ago.”
“Robert your husband?” Lindsay asked.
Dieter squeezed her hand under the table. Lindsay involuntarily pulled it away and looked at him quizzically.
Valerie noticed and assured Lindsay, “It’s nothing,” then added, “Detective Dieter investigated my husband’s murder. He did all he could under the circumstances.”
Lindsay looked at Dieter for affirmation which he gave with a nod. She looked over to Valerie Hudson and saw states of confusion mingled with the woman’s own personal demons.
“I’m very sorry for your loss,” she said with utter conviction.
Valerie Hudson did something very strange, she smiled at Lindsay and said to Dieter, “I like her. Be good to her.” She rose and gathered herself, said her goodbyes.
Dieter rose, dug out his card and pressed it into her hand.
Stately Valerie Hudson took the card and moved off to her table of friends who had arrived.
“That was nice,” Lindsay said.
Dieter was unsure of her meaning. “What?”
“The card – you gave her your card – that was nice of you” Lindsay said. “I thought she had something to say to you.”
“She can always reach me,” and he turned his full attention back to Lindsay.
There first date, although ambushed by the woman, was deemed a success. Lindsay felt suddenly lighter at heart. He’s really a very nice man, she mused in the cab ride back to her apartment. He had asked for another dinner date and she agreed, which made both happy.
Dieter’s arrival at his desk the next morning was uneventful. Young Detective McClure, as he had, since Dieter was shot, stopped by to chat.
“Did’ya see the Knicks game on TV last night?” he asked.
“No,” was Dieter’s unintentionally terse reply.
“Oh,” McClure said awkwardly.
“Who won,” Dieter asked more out of politeness than interest.
“Miami, as usual,” he shrugged, “but it was a great game.”
The phone on Dieter’s desk rang and McClure shuffled off. He answered, “Detective Dieter.” His face immediately changed with recognition. “Hi, Mrs. Hudson, yes it was nice to see you too.” He listened to her speak for a moment. His pad and pen were handy so he began to make notes. “Well, I’m not sure whether I can…sure, I’d like to help….Doctor Riccardi? She’s probably not available …”
Valerie Hudson had cut him off with her end of the conversation which continued for a full minute. Dieter listened patiently.
“Let me see what I can do. I’ll call you back this evening. Okay?” He was listening once again. “You are very welcome. I’ll do whatever I can.”
Dieter’s phone call ended leaving him unsure how to proceed. Mrs. Valerie Hudson, wife of Robert Hudson, CEO of Hudson Manufacturing, one of the United States Government’s suppliers of bolts and rivets used for a million different things by Uncle Sam had been shot, twice in the chest on the street adjoining the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 moments before the buildings were hit by two airplanes piloted by terrorists who had commandeered the planes. It was several days before they found his body in the midst of the rubble. His was the only body found with two bullet holes in the chest.
A younger Karl Dieter, as a relatively new detective, had caught the case while everyone else was swamped with the attack on the towers. He had worked the case to an ending of forensics but to no avail. There just wasn’t anywhere to go. Robert Hudson was well respected, a philanthropist, a favorite contractor of the US Government, not because he was connected, but because his product was the best so there seemed to be no business or social enemies. A clear motive was missing. Dieter had checked the company’s financials as best he could without the support of forensic accountants. Nothing unsavory or unusual for such a business he had concluded. Conversations with his vendors in various parts of the government and public sector turned up a guy who was very well liked and respected. Even so, he knew that often meant nothing. His marriage was exemplary. They were socially connected to the best charities and often gave large sums to philanthropic organizations.
Dieter felt a responsibility to this, now aging, woman who was always the model of civility throughout the investigation. He was frustrated that he could not give her answers. “Why would anyone want to hurt Robert?” she had lamented countless times. Dieter could never answer the question.
Valerie Hudson’s last words this morning on the phone from Florida reverberated in his ears.
“I may have found something new about Robert’s death. Please help me.”
Dieter spent the next two hours searching through the cold case evidence, reviewing every detail of Hudson’s murder. He rose three times to walk off the cramp that began in his leg. He stretched his back which had tightened from the awkward way he sat on the hard wooden chair at the desk where the evidence lay challenging him to make more sense than he had years ago. Finally, he shook his head, refilled the boxes and left with the same unsatisfied feeling that he had at the end of the investigation.
“Where you been?” McClure asked when Dieter returned to his far more comfortable chair with an almost fresh cup of coffee.
“In Evidence reviewing a cold case,” Dieter responded. “You need something?”
“Nah, just asking is all,” said McClure.
Dieter decided to tell McClure about the case. He spent the next five minutes detailing all the events, the investigation procedures and the outcomes. McClure listened intently and asked some good questions which showed his understanding of the case and its difficulties.
“Anything I can do?” McClure asked.
“You know maybe there is,” Dieter began, “fresh eyes may be a good thing,” he said and looked to the younger, now eager Detective. “You up for it?”
“Sure why not?” McClure answered.
“Up for what?” came the query from Captain Whitehead who approached Dieter’s desk.
“Detective Dieter asked me if I…,” but Dieter cut McClure off.
“We were talking about a cold case of mine,” Dieter offered trying to deflect away from his request.
“What case?” Whitehead dug his hands into his pants pockets to show that he was waiting for the reply.
“The Hudson murder on 9/11,” he answered.
“Got new evidence?” he asked with a touch of belligerence.
“No, not here,” Dieter hated when he had to be honest.
“Where?” and the dance had begun.
“Captain, I met the widow in a restaurant recently. She was very excited to see us…” oh shit why did I say that?
“Us?” now with a seriously hard look.
“I was having dinner with someone and the widow approached me. We spoke briefly.” Dieter didn’t like where this was heading.
“She brought up the case in front of your dinner friend?”
“No, she did not. She called me this morning saying she thinks she has new evidence,” Dieter let that sit for a moment.
Almost dismissively, “Okay, go see her, make her happy.” He turned to leave.
“She’s in Florida with the evidence,” Dieter said.
Captain Whitehead turned to face Dieter again, “You asking me to let you go chase down a maybe lead in Florida from an elderly woman? You have any idea what my travel budget looks like?” he scowled.
Dieter and McClure both shook their heads in the negative.
Whitehead held up his hand forming a goose egg. “Sorry, no go,” he turned and walked off to the Men’s room.
“I guess that’s it,” said McClure.
“Maybe, but I will take you up on your offer,” Dieter wrote down the code for the evidence box, handed it to McClure. “Fresh eyes may bring new insights and it’s right downstairs.”
McClure took the paper, looked at it briefly and said, “Gimme a couple of minutes.”
“Hours, a couple of hours,” Dieter corrected the younger Detective.
McClure looked at his wrist watch and left for the Evidence Room.
Dieter’s mind replayed Valerie Hudson’s last words on the phone. “Please help me.”
The guilt that he had initially felt for the woman when her husband was killed and Dieter could not give her answers had died down over the years only to be rekindled by her lamentation, “Please help me.”
Dieter’s leg began to ache. The healing had begun and was moving forward rapidly due to his good physical conditioning over the years. Muscles need blood and he gave them plenty at the gym even though it was getting more challenging in his forty-fifth year. The aching leg was now a distraction that he welcomed. He decided to bypass the next dosage of over-the-counter pain medication. Distraction at this time was a good thing.
Valerie Hudson sat on the balcony of her penthouse apartment overlooking the ocean in Sunny Isles, Florida. The wind from the ocean, unobstructed by only a four foot glass partition, came rushing onto and around Valerie and brought a cleansing to her troubled mind. She sat facing the ocean as the waves dribbled into the shore. She closed her eyes against the wind and felt the warm morning’s sun instigate memories of days with husband Robert on their boat Valerie Forever II. A smaller boat had been sold to allow for ocean cruising along the Eastern seaboard to Florida and the Caribbean. Those idyllic days, all gone, brought her solace in the moments of melancholy that came forward on this day. That melancholy was triggered by what she found in Robert’s personal effects packed away in his clothes closet untouched to this day.
Robert’s death was difficult to accept on its own. The fact that it was at the moment of the country’s most shocking tragedy would herald a yearly reminder as the news media dutifully covered the event added unnecessary burden. Most troubling, however, was that he was murdered for no reason.
Valerie smiled now at the vision of her Detective Dieter, as she thought of him, sitting with a lovely woman at the restaurant in New York City. I like her, something very special in that woman, she thought. He’s a good man.
The phone near her lounge chair rang. Valerie picked it up, but couldn’t read the full phone number without her glasses. The 212 prefix was from New York so she answered.
“Hello, this is Valerie, who is calling, please?”
“Valerie, it’s Karl Dieter,” he began.
Valerie was delighted to hear his voice. Her mind filled with anticipation of his arrival and the new path to discovering her husband’s killers. “I’m so glad you called back so quickly,” she said, “I was just sitting here thinking about Robert and all…” her voice trailed off for a second.
“Well, I tried to get away,” he said.
“Tried? I hope you were successful,” she hid possible disappointment.
“Sorry, I was not,” he started.
“Oh no,” she blurted out.
“I need to get approval to leave, to voucher expenses and that takes time these days. Since it is not an emergency…”
“But it is an emergency to me,” she said.
“I’m sorry…” he offered.
“No!” she exclaimed.
Dieter flinched at her exclamation. “Listen, Valerie, I just can’t get there on NYPD’s dime,” he explained, “I am very sorry.”
Valerie became almost giddy, “No problem, no problem at all. I’ll send the company jet for you and Lindsay. It leaves from Westchester Airport in White Plains. You can fly to Miami. You see, problem solved.”
But Dieter knew that the problem was not solved. There was much more to it than getting down there. “Valerie, I would really love to help you…”
“No! You must help me! You must!” and he heard weeping.
A long silence interrupted the conversation during which time Dieter ran through the problems, choices and solutions for getting time to go to Florida on behalf of a cold NYPD case.
“Okay, I’ll come,” he said to an explosion of gratitude from Valerie.
Lindsay smiled at Dieter when they met for a drink and a question, as he put it. Dieter returned her smile and extended his hand which she took and shook with much more than a perfunctory greeting.
The Happy Hour crowd of worker bees and upwardly mobile management men and women had ebbed from the elegant watering hole. They sat in relative quiet before the later crowd descended looking for someone special.
“You look very nice,” Dieter said.
Lindsay smiled, “Thanks. I was glad to hear from you.”
“Thank you for meeting me for a drink.”
“And a question,” Lindsay added with a smirk.
“Strange request for sure,” he admitted.
“Definitely intriguing,” she offered.
“Do you remember Valerie Hudson?”
“Yes, of course, very nice woman,” she said. “Is she all right?”
“Yes, she’s fine.”
Lindsay waited for Dieter. He swiveled around to face her squarely on his barstool. “She asked us to come to Florida to help her.”
Lindsay sat for a few seconds, “She asked us?”
“Yes. Us. She likes you very much … she has a problem, I think. She wants me to see some new evidence.”
“Yes, regarding her husband’s murder.”
“What does she want with me?”
“As I said, she likes you, but I may need your help with her,” he admitted.
“I’m lost here Karl.”
“She probably just needs me to put her mind at rest about his murder. Things probably came rushing back when she saw me and it triggered … I don’t know what. I could use your help with that.”
“Is that all?” Lindsay tossed Dieter a suspicious look.
He smiled now feeling foolish. He was focusing on the reality of his reasons to go and help Valerie which Lindsay questioned.
“Lindsay,” he let her name sit in the air for a moment, “if I were to ask you to go away with me…I’d just ask you.” He sat back to survey her response, “I’d pick a far more romantic spot than Miami.” He didn’t laugh and she saw that he was serious.
“Okay, tell me the rest.”
He told her the rest of his conversation with Valerie for the next thirty minutes. They spoke openly about the request, the trip and the need to help Valerie.
“Okay, I’m in,” she said once Dieter was finished and she had asked her questions.
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” she said with conviction.
They hoisted their drinks, clinked glasses. Dieter turned to face the bar and its large mirror showing the two together. Damn, she looks good.
The small private jet, owned and operated by a subsidiary of Hudson Manufacturing, was fueled and ready to leave when Lindsay and Dieter arrived. Valerie had sent a car to pick them up from their respective residences. It arrived on schedule and left once they climbed into the jet. The Hawker 850 XP was stylishly appointed with plush leather seating for eight. The rounded cabin ceiling was back lighted. A table was set with fruit, cheese and wine. The oaken doors fronting the bathroom and storage areas matched the elegant interior.
Captain William Reynolds, tall, military type with the assuredness of his background evident said, “Welcome Doctor … Detective. Mrs. Hudson has provided you with in-flight food and drink. Please make yourself comfortable. We should be cleared to leave in a few minutes. Flight should be just under three hours to Miami International Airport.
“Thanks,” from Dieter and the pilot entered the cockpit.
Dieter smiled, “No crying babies on this flight.”
Lindsay plopped herself in a seat facing the cockpit near the platter of food and drink. Dieter sat across from her.
“Wine?” he smiled.
“Sure, if you’ll join me,” she watched as he opened the bottle of red imported wine, poured a little into her goblet and waited…
Dutifully she sipped the wine, nodded her approval grandly. They laughed while he poured a goblet of the wine for each. He sat and said, “What could be bad?”
“They’re on the jet,” a voice declared. The connection ended.
“Shit!” He thumb-dialed the next call on his cell phone. Impatience led him around his office desk once. When someone answered, he announced, “They’re on a private jet to Miami.” He listened for a moment. “Sunny Isles, he’s going to her penthouse. You need the address? No. Are you sure? No mistakes.”
Dieter sat in the leather upholstered seats of the jet plane reviewing the summary of the files from the Hudson case that he prepared before he left for Miami.
Lindsay sat thumbing through a magazine and watching the passing sky. At times when the sky was completely clear she could see the land below. It looked surreal, like a graphically enhanced map. After almost three hours out she became restless but Dieter didn’t notice. He was back at the scene of Hudson’s murder on September 11, 2001. Two shots had been fired at Hudson, probably no more than four or five feet away, possibly less. The holes in his chest indicated a large caliber bullet but no shell casings were found. At the time he believed that a revolver was used since no shell casings were found anywhere near the body. With all the debris from the fallen building strewn for blocks, it was not a certainty, although a good possibility that a revolver was used. He had researched revolver manufacturers. Ruger made a bunch and so did Colt and several other manufacturers. Dieter, however, never believed that a common crook would use a revolver. It had to be a gun of choice he thought. But for what purpose? To hide possible evidence like fingerprints on the shell casing? Maybe.
Lindsay unbuckled her seat belt, rose from her seat. “Ladies room,” and stepped to the rear of the jet to enter the bathroom.
Dieter decided to pack up his notes and let his mind settle into the flight with Lindsay. When she returned from the rear of the jet he took time to relax and chat on the smooth flight to Miami International Airport.
“What’s on your mind?’ he asked.
“Wondering how I got here,” she said. Before he could respond she added, “Now, don’t say by limousine or jet plane.”
Dieter looked at Lindsay, “Okay, I won’t.”
Her eyes clicked from the window to his. He could see a mist forming around her eyes. She also felt the mist and blinked away the moisture and returned her gaze to the earth below.
“You know you are a very strong woman, eh, person.”
“Lots of changes in your life and you seem to be in full control,” he was serious.
Lindsay looked at Dieter, “Maybe not full control…but, thanks. I try.”
Captain Reynolds’s voice filled the jet passenger space. “We’re beginning our descent. Fasten your seat belts please. We’ll be on the ground and parked at the terminal in fifteen minutes.”
They sat surveying the land as it came up to meet the small jet on its slow descent above the Florida landscape of highways, residences and man-made canals. Once the jet was parked at the mouth of a private hangar, Dieter and Lindsay stood, waiting to deplane to a waiting limousine.
“No snow,” with a chuckle, “that’s what I like about Florida.”
“Now that’s service,” Lindsay said over her shoulder to Dieter as they walked down the steps, the only passengers on the jet.
“Rich or poor it’s good to have money … I guess,” he joked. His eyes scanned the hangar focusing on two men who were pretending to be busy in the rear of the hangar. Lazy guys? Or more to it?
The large white limousine sat with its darkened windows idling while the round diminutive Latino driver opened the rear passenger side door for Lindsay. Dieter followed her and the driver closed the door and trotted around the driver’s side, entered, and the car was gunned away.
“You been to Miami?” Dieter asked.
“Yes, when we were first married.”
Dieter realized that he knew little about her married life but he didn’t pursue the subject. “I was here a few times about twenty years ago, he said” Small talk was suddenly difficult.
Dieter’s mind focused on his meeting with Valerie on the ride to Sunny Isles Beach, a small enclave of high rise buildings bordering North Miami Beach and Aventura on the west and the Atlantic Ocean pulsating on the east. Valerie was unclear about the evidence that she had uncovered. Dieter was unsure about the evidence’s usefulness. He hoped there was something to open a new trail to the answers. Good question Lindsay. How did I get here? Why am I here chasing down a very weak connection? What questions do I need answered?
The limousine glided through the gates of the circular drive to Turnberry Ocean Colony. In minutes they were in the private elevator and deposited to an utterly ecstatic Valerie Hudson in the Penthouse Suite.
“Welcome, welcome,” she gushed to Dieter and Lindsay. The greetings were more like a visit to grandma’s house. Lindsay embraced the elderly woman who luxuriated in the intimacy. Dieter smiled and kissed her on the cheek. I’m glad my Captain didn’t see that, he thought.
Once Lindsay and Dieter had been given the grand tour of the six thousand square feet of the penthouse he asked, “Valerie, I’d like to see what you found.”
“May I sit outside?” Lindsay asked Valerie.
“Yes, yes of course. You must be tired from your flight,” she gushed.
Lindsay walked through the sliding doors from one of the main living areas to an open expanse of air, sun and lots of ocean. The balcony was home to several lounge chairs and seating at a table. A bronze sculpture of a reclining woman smiled as Lindsay entered the balcony. “Hi there,” she whispered.
She stood at the reinforced glass railing and let a calmness work its way into her body. The ocean was calm and very inviting to this Midwestern woman who spent summers swimming at the local quarry with high school friends capped by nights of excursions into the world of adolescent sex. This was decidedly different. Elegance lived here. Even the ocean looked elegant with its rainbow colors of dark blues leading into lighter blue waters and finally the choppy white waves against the sandy shore. Several small and not so small private boats and a cruise ship in the distance moved across her mind’s easel to complete the painting. It pleased her.
“Miss, I have these for you,” said the attractive thirty year old Venezuelan service person. “The senora said to bring to you. Maybe you are thirsty and hungry? Yes.” Cecilia delivered a silver tray to the table with drink and food.
“Thank you,” Lindsay said. “What’s your name?”
“Cecilia and you?”
“Lindsay, this is lemonade. I hope you like. I made from fruits and bottled water. Here are small sandwiches also.” Cecilia turned to leave.
“Muchas gracias,” Lindsay said hoping not to seem patronizing.
Cecilia’s bright smile was her answer.
Valerie had led Dieter to her study. An ornate antique desk centered the large airy room facing the ocean. The study was appointed with photos of their boats, and the two on trips to Italy, France, London, Machu Picchu, Brazil, China’s Great Wall and places that Dieter couldn’t name. There were no family photos of vacations with smiling children because the marriage had not produced any children.
Valerie swung the very large panoramic photo of the Great Wall of China away from its hidden hinges on the wall to reveal a safe. She smiled back at Dieter who watched her several unsuccessful attempts to scroll in the numbers on the round dial that should have released the locking mechanism. Finally, she turned to him with a pained look. “I can’t remember.” She stood wilting from the failures.
He recognized it as a Burglary-Fire Safe that was supported by interior wall structures to hold the safe’s weight. Robert Hudson had been serious about this safe’s installation. Now he wanted to know what was inside.
Dieter asked, “Did you write down the numbers someplace? Maybe memory cues like a special date of numbers? Birthdays, anniversary? Like that.” He waited for her to answer as she stood with furrowed brow and trembling hands.
“I don’t know?” with pleading blue eyes fixed on Dieter.
“You know,” he began, “let’s go see how Lindsay is doing on the balcony. Maybe a break will bring back the numbers. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said softly, “I’m sorry.”
“We have all the time in the world. Come let’s get some air.”
Dieter walked Valerie out through the sliding doors of her study to the wrap around balcony where Lindsay sat fully relaxed on a white cloth lounge sipping lemonade. Valerie’s demeanor quickly morphed from saddened and confused to effusive.
“Look at how beautiful you look!” she declared to the sky and directly to Dieter.
Lindsay swung her legs to the side to rise and greet them, “No, no stay comfortable. We’ll join you,” Valerie said. She sat on the adjoining lounge facing Lindsay.
“You have a lovely home and an exquisite view,” Lindsay said.
“Yes, I do indeed. Robert’s realtor friends found this building for us. We flew down from New York and bought it on the spot. That was Robert. Yes, he made quick, sound decisions in all things. I think he saw the way I looked out at the ocean and he just bought it…for me.”
Lindsay saw Dieter’s gesture to keep chatting. “I am going inside to the men’s room.”
“It’s inside through the study and left down the hallway,” Valerie directed.
“He was a special man,” Lindsay stated.
Valerie’s eyes sparkled, “He always took care of me as though I was a princess. Silly, I know but he called me his blue-eyed princess when we were young.”
Dieter left them so he could poke around the study. He entered from the balcony and gave the room a careful look around. The desktop was covered by yellow leather matching the antiquing down the sides of the legs. Several knickknacks were on the desk’s top including a miniature of the recumbent woman in bronze sculpture from the balcony. Marble miniature Indian elephants covered with brightly colored blankets running to their knees walked in a single file line.
The desk had two drawers down each side and one large drawer before the chair. He tried each drawer on the right. Locked. The top drawer on the left was open. The drawer slid out easily. Inside he could see a stack of engraved letter paper with envelopes to the side. The bottom drawer had a small box with business cards. Valerie’s cards had her New York and Florida addresses and phone numbers. Dieter decided that the cards had never been used since the box was full. The middle drawer housed a few pieces of paper, mostly invitations to charity events past and future.
Cecilia passed from the hallway, stopped and saw Dieter. He turned to her, “Looking for some writing paper,” as an answer to why he was snooping around the desk.
Cecilia’s eyes just blinked twice before she moved down the hallway.
He decided to return to the women. As he approached he saw Lindsay seated upright, face to face with Valerie, holding her hand. Lindsay was whispering to Valerie as though they shared secrets.
Lindsay’s eyes moved upward toward Dieter and Valerie noticed. She turned around to face Dieter. He could see her tear stained face and red eyes. Valerie turned away quickly. She wiped her face and eyes with a tissue she held in her hand and rose to face Dieter. Lindsay rose and stood next to Valerie. “We had a very nice chat,” Lindsay said.
Valerie’s hand moved toward Lindsay’s, as they stood side by side, and coupled with Lindsay’s.
“Good very good, I’m glad,” was all Dieter could say.
A small boat a few hundred yards from the shore swayed gently with the incoming waves. “I can see them from here,” a barrel-chested man wearing shorts and a tank shirt which displayed his bulbous muscles stood holding binoculars to his eyes while speaking into the earpiece of a cell phone.
He listened a moment. “All three of them are just standing on the balcony,” more listening. “Okay, I will. Absolutely, for sure.” He clicked off the connection, “Pendajo!” And then he anxiously checked to make sure the call had been disconnected.
“Cap I have a problem here,” Dieter spoke into his cell to Captain Whitehead. “She can’t remember the safe combination. The evidence is in it.”
Dieter’s face displayed the frustration he felt at the Captain’s response. “Yeah, I’m sure she believes it’s important…tell you the truth, I have a hunch she is right.” He lied as his frustration deepened, “No she wasn’t able to explain it either. Notations in his personal journal.”
Dieter was now shaking his head at the Captain’s responses. “I need more time down here. If, she can’t remember, I’ll get the company that installed it in here to open it.”
He had been able to stall for another day but he wasn’t sure whether the safe held anything of value to the case. Valerie’s melancholy behavior was unsettling to him. Did she have anything or was she losing it? Glad Lindsay is here to evaluate her.
Dieter shoved his cell into his pants pocket. Lindsay entered the study where he was standing.
“Here you are,” she said.
“Hey…how is she?”
‘Stressed, tired and confused but happy to have you here,” Lindsay said.
“And you…” Dieter added. “What do you think?”
“Why she can’t remember the combination to the safe,” he said with a drop of the existing frustration hanging around from the call to the Captain.
“That’s pretty cold.”
“Cold? This case has been unsolved since September 11, 2001. It’s hanging in the air begging to be solved…” he suddenly realized what she meant. “Lindsay, I need something to go on and it’s locked…maybe…in that safe. Inside of her too.”
“Locked may be the correct word here,” Lindsay postulated.
“She’s very conflicted right now,”
“Conflicted?” Dieter interrupted. “I don’t understand.”
“She wants to show you the evidence, as she calls it, but she’s afraid…”
“She may think that it will change all of her memories about Robert, about their wonderful life together,” Lindsay stood facing Dieter fully back in control … for the moment.
Dieter had no immediate response. Finally he said, “Why? What would make her believe that possibility?”
“You won’t know until you see the evidence for yourself.”
“You’re right about that,” he agreed.
Valerie entered, “What is she right about? She’s very smart you know,” Valerie declared with her effusiveness returned.
Lindsay waited for Dieter to respond. “We were talking about the beautiful world you have here. The penthouse, the ocean and…”
Lindsay joined in, “Yes, and buckets full of sunshine to help you smile,” she said cheerily.
“Thank you. I also have a fine restaurant that’s only an elevator ride away. I’m hungry. Shall we have an early dinner?”
The trio prepared for dinner. Dieter showered quickly and put on clean clothes. Lindsay in her separate bathroom showered and put on a light summery dress with fresh makeup. Valerie put on her best for the show downstairs that would follow. She was giddy to show off her guests to the dinner crowd that would definitely have lots of questions.
Dinner was a feast of tastes made by the young female chef from Paris, France. They enjoyed good food and wine. Valerie deflected most questions about the young people at her table with, “They are dear friends from New York,” to each passing query. She sat tall and proud to be the center of attention to her inquisitive audience.
Sarah England, a too slender woman eighty years old, approached the table smiling broadly. Valerie beamed at her good friend, “Sarah, you look beautiful,” turning to Lindsay and Dieter, “doesn’t she?”
Dieter merely smiled.
“And who are these two beautiful people?” Sarah asked.
“Two dear friends from New York,” Valerie smiled.
Sarah, however, was not really interested in the visitors. She turned to Valerie, “You know this is our night to meet.” She looked directly at Dieter and Lindsay, “Are you going to be able to join us?”
“Well, I really should…,” she began.
Lindsay reached over to Valerie, took her hand and said, “Maybe you shouldn’t change your plans. Might be good to spend time with your friends,” with a look deep into Valerie’s blue eyes.
Valerie looked from Lindsay to Dieter and then to Sarah.
“Have you been to the beach? It’s beautiful in the evening,” Sarah asked smiling politely pushing her unsaid request to allow Valerie to join her.
Lindsay looked at Karl, “Want to walk on the beach?”
Dieter and Lindsay walked along the water’s edge. The soft, moist, sandy beach held rows of beach lounges that waited for the sun to rise and be covered by the cushions which were carefully lined and placed in the hut near the building’s beach entrance. Lindsay carried her shoes in her hands. The sky above the ocean was black save for the moon’s tip that was trying to rise above the blackness. Ahead, to the north, lights lining a pier jutted out into the ocean. The beach and the pier were empty. Lights from the adjacent buildings lightened the surrounding sand as they walked.
An ocean breeze played with Lindsay’s summer dress caressing her body as she moved. The breeze rustled Lindsay’s hair around her head and in her eyes. She pulled her hair up and back and tied it into a pony tail. “That’s better,” she said to the warm night air.
In silence, Dieter agreed. Dieter’s feelings for Lindsay had grown from the moment he had met her at the crime scene in Bender’s apartment months ago. Questioning turbulence had followed the murkier days, but subsided later. The gunshot wound in Dieter’s right leg throbbed slightly absorbing his attention momentarily.
“Nice,” Lindsay said. She took a deep cleansing breath. “The sea has a way of cleansing lots of stuff.”
“Lots of stuff,” he agreed. And then he added, “Is that a technical term?”
“Oh, yes, stuff is detailed in all the mental health manuals.”
They walked in silence for a bit. “What’s Valerie’s stuff?” Dieter asked bringing the conversation back to the reality of the day’s events.
Lindsay stopped and faced him. Her face was bathed in the lights from the building as he faced the darkened ocean. Dieter enjoyed what he saw. “She has a growing bag of stuff. Not the least of which is the loss of her husband coupled with the loss of who she was in their relationship. Add the simple fact that she is aging, feeling needy and alone. Being alone was a major theme that she brought up today.”
They continued walking toward the lighted pier like two moths to a flame. When they reached the pier’s entrance Dieter steered them onto its walkway. “Do you think there’s anything to the possibility of real evidence, or…?” He trailed off.
“Do you mean, was her mind triggered back to the investigation the night she saw you in the restaurant?” she asked.
“No that’s not what I meant. However, is that possible?” he was very serious now. “Am I…are we here on a wild goose chase?”
“Could be clinically,” she explained, “but, it seems very real to her.”
“I’d like to get that safe opened tonight. I’m going to ask her to try again once we get back.”
“If she can’t open it tonight then what?”
A painful grimace to Dieter’s face made him pause.
“You okay?” Lindsay stood facing him as he arched his right leg stretching the hamstring.
“Yeah, just a twinge is all,” he recovered. He walked on.
“Let’s go back. Ice the leg a bit,” she offered. “Okay?”
Reluctantly he agreed, “Sure, ice would be nice.”
Dieter and Lindsay turned toward the shore as three figures appeared at the entrance to the pier fifty yards away. Dieter’s hand moved to pat his gun needing assurance. The figures approached their position and Dieter relaxed slightly seeing them as two well dressed Asian women and a small Asian man. The women in their twenties walked arm in arm with the man who might have been their father. They chatted and laughed-enjoying the nighttime walk on the pier. Dieter and Lindsay moved to their left leaving the right side for the newcomers to pass.
As the trio passed Dieter, one woman whirled and delivered a round house kick squarely on Dieter’s wound. He buckled to one knee. The second woman attacked with rapid kicks to the same area. Dieter howled in pain. The small man was all over Lindsay pinning her arms behind her back and forcing her up against the pier’s railing. Dieter reached for his gun but was being pummeled by kicks to the wounded leg and ribs knocking the air from his lungs. His gun was removed from his holster with lightning fast reflexes by one woman. Lindsay struggled against her captor finally scrapping her heel down his shinbone. The small man yelped in pain and released her. Lindsay grabbed the man’s head as he bent forward and smacked her knee upright into his head breaking his nose. He ran off holding his broken nose with the women high-fiving each other and waving the gun in the air. They ran across the sandy beach to a Beach Access path set between the buildings leading to Collins Avenue and out of sight.
Lindsay moved to Dieter as he lay crumpled on the pier’s deck. He tried to get up, but Lindsay held his shoulders down, “Don’t move. I’ll call 911.” She dialed while he sat up feeling the leg as the bruising begun to grow under his slacks.
“Shit! They attacked my leg as though they knew…” he gasped through attempts to gulp in air as his chest rose and fell rapidly. His hand reached for his gun and it found an empty holster. Lindsay noticed, frowned and said, “They took it.”
“Sonofabitch!” Dieter exploded.
Dieter could see the two Sunny Isles Police Officers running toward him from the very same Beach Access area where the attackers had fled. He was sitting upright as they approached. It took less than three minutes since Lindsay’s 911call. Dieter was surprised.
A burly black officer whose name printed on his chest pocket read Harrison was followed by officer Staley, a small blonde female. They approached at a trot with hands on their holsters. Dieter had attached his NYC Detectives badge to his outer pocket.
“That was fast,” he said to them.
“Call came in about an officer attacked,” Harrison’s responded matter-of-factly.
Officer Staley bent down and looked into his eyes and read his badge, “How are you doing, Detective?” She checked for his pulse which was rapid but within healthy range. Dieter looked quizzically at her.
“She was a nurse before deciding to fight bad guys,” Harrison stated.
Sirens blared on Collins Avenue. In a minute Two EMTs also trotted across the uneven sand carrying their equipment. The first to reach Dieter was a short, heavy bald man about thirty. Tattoos stuck out from his neck collar and his sleeves. Dieter thought he looked more like an ex-con than an EMT. The second was a young Latina who struggled with her equipment.
They quickly attended to Dieter while Officer Harrison spoke with Lindsay.
He took out a pad, popped his pen to the ready and asked, “What’s your name ma’am?”
Once her identity was verified and recorded, Harrison asked, “What happened here?”
Lindsay was surprisingly in control after another violent event in her life. She explained in detail what had happened. Furthermore, she gave a clear picture of the attackers including the clothes each wore. Officer Harrison smiled when she told him that she thinks she broke the male assailant’s nose. “It was bleeding profusely.”
He frowned openly when she told him they took Dieter’s gun. Harrison wrote notes detailing the event as Lindsay explained. “Is that it?’ he asked Lindsay when she had finished.
“No. Did they take any money, jewelry, anything-besides the gun?” Harrison asked.
Lindsay just shook her head. Her eyes were on Dieter lying down with his pants cut open to the wounded area and his shirt opened to the bruised ribs. The EMTs had applied Instant Icepacks to his leg and ribs. She walked to Dieter leaving Officer Harrison to trail behind her.
The heavy set EMT said, “That’s going to hurt like hell tonight and probably for a few days. Luckily the wound didn’t open. You need to watch for internal bleeding, swelling will occur but if the leg becomes badly discolored you better see a doctor. Okay Detective?”
“Okay, thanks,” Dieter answered.
“You sure you don’t want to go to the Emergency Room, see a doctor?” the Latina asked.
“No, I still have some pain killer meds from the hospital in New York,” he said as he reached out to grab the EMT’s hand to rise. Reluctantly, the EMT helped him stand. Dieter was wobbly from the beating and unsteady due to the pain that radiated up his leg and around his rib cage.
“Karl, maybe you should see a doctor,” Lindsay said.
“No, I want to get back to Valerie,” he said. Dieter put an arm around Lindsay’s shoulder and leaned into her. She reached around his waist for added support. Dieter winced. Her arm went to his elbow instead.
“Where are you staying? I’ll need contact information,” Harrison said. Dieter gave Officer Harrison the particulars including his cell phone number.
The walk to the building was painful and difficult for Dieter, but the entrance to Valerie’s apartment brought a greater jolt to his senses. As they entered the apartment from the private elevator, Lindsay heard it first.
“What’s that sound?” she asked Dieter.
Dieter heard it too. They stood still and listened carefully. A muffled female voice came from the study.
“Stay here,” Dieter whispered to Lindsay. She ignored Dieter and moved alongside him as he hobbled toward the sound. The lights from the study led the way. They found Cecilia bound and gagged on the study floor. There was bruising on her forearms and blood on her knuckles.
Lindsay rushed to her side. Dieter surveyed the room wishing that he still had his gun. There it was, the panoramic photo of the Great Wall of China covering the safe was set aside and flung back against the wall. The safe was opened. The wallboard surrounding the safe was damaged as though it had been hit with a hammer. Bits of plasterboard dotted the tile floor beneath. But it was obvious that the safe had been opened by a blast to the locking mechanism.
“Where’s Valerie?” Dieter asked Cecilia once her gag was removed.
“She’s not here, gracias a Deus!” Cecilia explained.
“I can’t get the duct tape off,” Lindsay said. She rose and left the room. “I’ll get a knife from the kitchen.”
Dieter was able to loosen the duct tape from her ankles but his ribs hurt badly as he bent to undo the tape. Lindsay returned shortly with a knife. Dieter took the knife and cut the tape away from Cecilia’s ankles and wrists.
“What happened?” Dieter asked rising in pain.
Cecilia rose with Lindsay’s help. She faced Dieter, anguish oozing from her face. “I am very sorry. I am so sorry. I didn’t know…”
“What? What didn’t you know?” Dieter pressed hard.
“I didn’t know he was a bad man…that he could do this. He was so nice. So respectful and polite.” Tears formed in Cecilia’s eyes.
“Who? What man?” Dieter asked his voice rose. “Did you let a man in the penthouse?”
Cecilia lost her breath and began sobbing. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Lindsay said, “Cecilia, listen to me.” Holding her shoulders, Lindsay instructed, “Take a deep breath.”
Cecilia tried once but couldn’t hold the breath and she gasped for air. Lindsay said again, “Take a deep breath.” This time Cecilia succeeded. “Another, slowly,” and Cecilia responded. Lindsay took Cecilia’s arm and began to lead her to Valerie’s desk chair.
“No, not here, this is a crime scene,” Dieter declared. He walked both women into the living room. Cecilia sat on a floral, overstuffed couch. She looked very small and completely vulnerable.
Dieter stood directly over Cecilia, “Tell me what happened here,” he said, “it’s important. Tell me everything.”
Cecilia’s large brown eyes looked at Dieter, “I brought him here.”
“Who? What’s his name?” Dieter asked.
Cecilia’s gaze was unfocused, and confused. She looked pleadingly at Lindsay, seeking help for her muddled mind. Lindsay noticed.
“Cecilia, close your eyes and listen to my voice,” she directed.
When Cecilia blinked and shut her eyes against the outer world, Lindsay began. “Everything is all right now. You are safe. There’s no more danger.”
Cecilia’s countenance relaxed and her eyes opened momentarily.
“Keep your eyes closed, please,” Lindsay soothed.
When Cecilia had closed her eyes again Lindsay asked, “What is the man’s name? The man who came here with you. What is his name?”
Cecilia shuddered, “Victor. He said his name was Victor.” She sat shaking her head in despair.
“Okay, good. Very good.” Lindsay turned to Dieter.
Dieter asked, “How do you know him?”
Another shudder, “I met him at a restaurant.”
“How long do you know him?”
Cecilia’s eyes popped open, “A few days. Only a few days. It is my fault. I was so foolish.”
“Why did you bring him here?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know. He seemed so nice. He had a good watch, nice clothes. He said he wanted to see the view from the penthouse. Last night we walked on the beach. I said I work up there,” she began to cry once more.
“Were you on the beach tonight?”
“No not tonight. We had a drink nearby,” she looked from Lindsay to Dieter. “He tricked me, yes?”
“Yes, he tricked you,” Dieter agreed.
“Miss Valerie will never forgive me. She will fire me.”
Neither Lindsay nor Dieter responded. Privately, Dieter agreed she should be fired.
“The police will come and ask you lots of questions. You should try to remember everything about tonight and this man Victor,” he stated.
Dieter took out his cell phone and dialed 911. He identified himself as a police officer from New York and detailed the events at the scene. He walked back to Cecilia once he ended the call. “Tell me everything.”
Detective Rafael Barroso entered Valerie’s penthouse followed by a team of forensic officers. They quickly went to work in the study dusting for finger prints and taking crime scene photos. Barroso’s tall wiry figure was topped by tightly cropped black hair. His stern face, tanned by Florida sunshine, presented a no nonsense exterior. Beneath his face lay a no nonsense personality built from twelve years in the Miami-Dade Police Department, six years as a Detective. Four years at the University of Miami, playing baseball, added to his confident swagger.
Barroso saw Dieter with his New York City Detective’s Badge displayed on his belt and walked to him. They shook hands perfunctorily. Barroso moved away from Lindsay and Cecilia seated on a couch in the nearby living room.
No nonsense Barroso asked, “What happened here Detective?”
Dieter read from his notebook and explained the events at the penthouse fully. How he and Lindsay entered, saw Cecilia bound and gagged and the wall safe damaged, opened and empty.
Barroso eyed Dieter as he spoke. He looked at Dieter’s ripped shirt and pant leg. “What happened to you?”
Dieter eyeballed the Miami Detective. “I was attacked on the pier below the building on the beach.”
“Attacked?” Barroso didn’t hide his incredulity.
“Yes, three people…two Asian women in their late twenties and an elderly Asian man…” Dieter stopped when he heard himself. He didn’t like his answer but it was the truth, so he continued. “They walked past us on the pier arm in arm talking and laughing.”
“What did you do?” Barroso sized up Dieter with negative eyes.
Dieter knew he’d have to take a bunch of flack for this from his boss. It was only just beginning with Barroso. Even so he didn’t like the Miami Detective’s attitude. He also knew he didn’t have any choice but to explain the complete series of events leading up to their entering the penthouse after the attack.
Never taking his eyes from Barroso’s eyes, Dieter relived the events on the beach, the attack, and the arrival of the police and EMTs.
“The local police will have a complete report to corroborate. Officers Harrison and Staley were at the scene.” He ended the ordeal.
“Why are you here? In this penthouse? Family?” Barroso asked.
“Following up on a cold murder case in New York with the owner of this penthouse?” Dieter said. “I think all of tonight’s events are related to that cold case.” It was all out except for the details of the cold case, but Dieter didn’t feel any better. He felt worse.
Before Barroso could respond to Dieter’s incredible story, the apartment door opened. Valerie Hudson entered. Her demeanor went from bubbly and happy to fear and panic in a millisecond. She saw the opened safe, the several forensics police, then Dieter and Barroso. When she could move she saw Cecilia on the couch in the adjoining room. Cecilia’s eyes reddened and she began to cry upon seeing Valerie. She rose and walked toward Valerie, “I’m sorry. It is all my fault.”
Valerie wobbled, faltered and collapsed to the floor before anyone could catch her. Her head fell back against the tiled flooring and she lost consciousness.
Valerie was still unconscious but breathing when the EMTs arrived. They packed her up on a stretcher and left hurriedly. Dieter gave them her name and age. He didn’t know if she was taking any medication, but Cecilia did. She recovered some bottles of medication from Valerie’s private bathroom and handed them to one EMT. “Is she going to be all right? Please help her, please. Ayúdela.”
Lindsay flashed her credentials, “She’s my patient.” A white lie Lindsay thought. The EMTs, however, let her join them in the ambulance. As the sirens blared for the second time, a few tenants, awakened by the commotion, looked down worriedly from their balconies as the ambulance pulled away from the building.
Cecilia sat in the Detective’s room wishing the world had not turned on her. Wishing she had never met Victor. How foolish I am. Her brown expressive eyes snapped from one place to another seeking solace and help as the police detectives moved around the squad room. No eyes offered solace or help, so she sat quietly and prayed. Her hand clutched the cross that hung around her neck fingering the gift that her mother had given her before she came to the United States. It was the last time mother and daughter were together. Cecilia sat wishing she could be with her mother in heaven and safe from the surrounding demons on this night.
“Senorita Cecilia,” Detective Barroso said, “follow me please.”
He walked her to a windowless room centered by a small table and two chairs facing each other. The detective entered and as Cecilia followed he gestured to sit in one of the chairs at the table.
“Why am I here? I don’t want to be here. Please…” she pleaded. One hand still grasped the cross.
Barroso had seen many people sit there – some scared as Cecilia was now, some belligerent – but, most were guilty of something. He wanted to reveal Cecilia’s guilt. Was it merely poor judgment or was she involved in the break-in?
“I need your help,” he began.
“I am not in trouble?” she asked.
“Only if you did something wrong. Did you?” he waited.
Cecilia’s eyes once again filled with tears.
“I did, I did!” the tears ran down here face.
“Tell me what you did,” a gentle command.
“I was tricked by Victor and I took him to Mrs. Hudson’s penthouse. That was wrong…”
“Yes, it was. Can you describe Victor?”
Cecilia grasped her cross with two hands. “Yes, yes, I can. Will it help you catch him?”
Barroso rose, “I’ll be right back. Someone will draw a picture from your description. Okay?”
“Yes, yes of course. I want to help.”
Barroso left and Cecilia made the sign of the cross, “Gracias a Dios.”
Valerie lay in bed hooked to a variety of support devices in a private hospital room. Doctor Wilbur Chesterton, her private doctor, stood reading from the charts at the foot of the bed. Lindsay was seated in a nearby chair. Her summer dress was rumpled from the fracas. The shoes that she carried on the beach were again on her feet. They ached bitterly. The tussle with the Asian man left her heels scraped and her instep throbbing from the kick she rendered him. Most of all, she was near exhaustion both emotionally and physically.
Dieter asked the doctor, “How is she?”
“I want an MRI of her brain to determine whether the fall caused any damage to vessels in her brain. She’s been a pretty resilient person these years that I know her. No major health issues for a woman of her age. Her heart is beating strongly. I suspect if the MRI is clean then she should be fine.”
“Okay, what can we do?” Lindsay asked.
“Let her sleep, rest tonight, tests in the morning. I’ll be back early…she’s a favorite patient, so I…” he shrugged. He looked at Dieter and Lindsay, “I recommend that you two get some sleep too.”
“You want us out of here?” Dieter asked.
“Exactly,” Chesterton said with a smile.
Once Dieter had showered back at the penthouse, he stood before the large bathroom mirror surveying the damage to his leg and rib cage. Both areas had dark blue swelling. The pain from each was indeed palpable. He dug out the pain meds from his travel bag and swallowed a pill.
“You look like shit,” he declared to the mirror.
Dieter put on the guest robe that he found in the bathroom. A large blue “H” was embroidered in script onto the chest of the pure white robe. Once he was wrapped in the robe he exited his bathroom and bedroom. The penthouse was quiet and dark. A glass of Scotch would be nice about now.
The bar was in the living room corner nearest the study doors which were now roped off. As he approached the bar he saw Lindsay out on the balcony. She too had the white guest robe wrapped around her.
“Can’t sleep?” he approached Lindsay.
She didn’t turn to face him nor did she answer. One robed arm swiped across her face blotting away tears. A deep breath and she turned to face Dieter as he exited the penthouse to join her on the balcony. The dark sky was clear of clouds and a wind had kicked up. Beneath them unseen waves slapped at the shore, retreated and returned to slap again.
It took Dieter a few seconds to adjust to the darkness, but he eventually saw Lindsay’s red eyes and the look of despair that covered her face. Her usually wavy hair was wet from a shower and hung limply around her face onto her shoulders.
No words came to either. He strode to her with his arms open and she entered them and held onto him. He winced momentarily from her grip but her smell and the closeness of their bodies over shadowed the pain. They stood together in each other’s arms as the ocean’s wind wafted over and around them.
At first Dieter could feel her body quiver and shake uncontrollably, flooded by a rush of emotions, a precursor to the sobbing that followed. He held her closer, and she responded as though seeking refuge from the world that no longer made any sense to her analytical mind.
“Cold?” he asked.
She merely shook her head and rested it on his chest.
It had been a very long time since Dieter felt as he did now about anyone. Lindsay brought forward feelings that had lain unused. These feelings mixed with the bizarre but connected events that occurred in Florida. Dieter knew from years of challenges on the job that he had to compartmentalize conflicting things. He knew that he had to deal with the attacks and their meaning, Valerie’s condition, and his undeniable feelings for Lindsay. He knew that he couldn’t allow these disparate thoughts to overlap one another. For the moment his entire focus was on Lindsay’s quivering body in his arms.
“It’s very late. You should get some sleep. It’s been a very difficult day,” he whispered.
Lindsay picked her head up and faced Dieter. He could see her furrowed brow. “Stay with me…,” she implored. Her arms re-encircled Dieter and she held onto him.
They walked back through the open French doors where Dieter took a moment to close them against the night wind. They walked together into Lindsay’s bedroom. She slid the covers away and crawled into the bed in her robe, her arms outstretched to Dieter. Obediently, he joined her in bed. They lay together in silence, in their robes, holding onto the moment until Lindsay’s mind and body succumbed to exhaustion. He lay there for several minutes listening to her soft breathing before he joined her in sleep.
The morning sun filled the bedroom bringing warmth to the sleeping people in the bed. Dieter and Lindsay had fallen into a deep rejuvenating sleep. The events of the previous day wore heavily on their minds and their bodies. Each lay in bed with opened eyes not wanting to wake the other. Lindsay felt the comfort of Dieter’s embrace and the warmth of his breath on her hair as they lay spooned together.
“Karl…” she whispered.
“Morning,” he responded.
An awkward silence lay between them until Dieter released his embrace. He lay on his back unsure what was to be next. Lindsay responded first. She turned to Dieter, “Thanks for staying with me.” She leaned into him and kissed his cheek while her hand rested on his chest.
Feelings arose in Dieter that were not merely sexual. He turned to Lindsay, embraced her and kissed her fully on the mouth. She responded in kind. Her arms encircled his shoulder and neck while she pressed against him. The white robe fell away from her thighs exposing them and the warmth that lay between them. Lindsay only wanted to be close to Dieter. Perhaps these were the feelings she first felt when she met him but surely the feelings that had grown since she knew him. Now the sensations that she felt seemed so right, so natural and so good.
Dieter looked into Lindsay’s eyes for a moment before he slid his hand under the robe onto the small of her back and pulled her closer. He too strained to be close to Lindsay, to be part of her. Passion swelled and erupted in both as they scrambled to pull away the robes and press flesh to flesh. Their hands explored one another. Her toned body excited Dieter as did her exploration of his manhood. He luxuriated in her touch as he caressed her breasts, kissing them gently before he explored her womanhood. Again he looked deeply into her eyes as though seeking permission to move on. The eyes gave him that permission and he rolled onto Lindsay and entered her slowly and deliberately enjoying the sensation of lovemaking that had been gone from his life for too long. She responded by encircling her arms around his shoulders. They moved together as one, rhythmically. Each lover gave freely and each openly received the intimacy of the other’s lovemaking. Heavy breathing and soft moaning surrounded them along with the sounds of each body meeting the other. Urgency competed with passion as their lovemaking grew. Each body craved these moments. Each body felt an awakening of new feelings unique and connected to the other. Their urgency and passion matched and they completed the lovemaking together with unbridled satisfaction.
Afterward they lay together feeling the sun’s warmth wash over them, as it entered from a nearby window. They held onto each other lazily touching and caressing. No words were necessary.
The idyllic moment was soon broken by the familiar ring tone from Dieter’s phone in his room. He grunted. She moved away allowing him to free himself from her grasp. He rose, smiled apologetically, “Better get this,” and left the bedroom and the best moments of his new life.
Dieter found the phone on his bed under the pile of torn clothes and answered it.
“Dieter.” He listened for a minute and finally responded. “Bugged?” Dieter was incredulous. “Why would Valerie’s penthouse be bugged?”
Detective Barroso’s men had found bugging devices in the study. Dieter wondered how he could have missed it from his cursory look around the office.
“Dieter, this is seriously confusing,” Barroso declared. “We need to talk.” Always to the point.
Dieter’s mind clicked into detective mode once again. “Yes, sure. Where? When?”
“Here at the station. I can send a car,” and he waited for a response.
“Okay, sure. That makes sense. I need to call my Captain and bring him up to speed.”
“What about your gun?”
“Yeah, that too…”
Both men understood what the response would be from Dieter’s Captain. Dieter, however, would have to answer. Barroso was glad it wasn’t his problem.
“Coffee?” Barroso asked as Dieter arrived at the Detectives’ Squad Room.
“Yeah, sure,” Dieter said.
Barroso pointed to a coffee machine and fixings in the corner of the Detective’s squad room.
When Dieter had made his cup of black coffee, he walked back to Barroso’s desk, sat in a nearby chair and sipped. “Tell me about the bug,” he said.
Barroso, “Tell me about your cold case first.” Not a request, rather a statement.
Dieter smiled, realizing that he would have acted the same as Barroso. This was Barroso’s case, his turf and his lead-at least for the moment.
“Okay,” Dieter began. “Robert Hudson, CEO of Hudson Manufacturing, headquartered in New York City was shot, twice in the chest by revolver, sometime before the World Trade Center buildings were hit by terrorists who had hijacked planes on September 11th.”
“I remember that day,” Barroso confessed.
“The country remembers that day,” Dieter said thoughtfully.
Both men were silent for a moment.
“The buildings collapsed and covered Hudson’s body. His body was recovered once the rubble was cleared from the street where it was found.”
“You caught the case?” Barroso asked.
“Yeah, the NYPD, FDNY, medical staffers at the hospitals – all were busy as first responders. I was pretty fresh on the job but I caught the case. Almost nothing to go on. Two shots to the chest, close range, probably professional. The bullet holes were about six inches apart. Nothing taken from the body. Expensive watch, wallet filled with cash and credit cards all intact.”
Barroso interrupted, “Surprised you found that much if the buildings collapsed on him.”
“Yeah, many of the bodies from inside the building were never recovered. We found him on the street under tons of rubble. Forensics determined he was somewhere on the street when the buildings collapsed. Forensics also determined what was on his person.”
“No witnesses to the shooting?” Barroso asked with a touch of incredulity.
“No, hard to figure that, but no witnesses. Maybe he was dumped there just before the planes hit. Never determined. Long before cameras on the streets too. A couple dozen anonymous phone tips saying that the terrorists had shot him. Another dozen or so phone calls said it was the CIA, a government conspiracy because the newspapers reported that he supplied parts to the federal government. One caller said it was retribution for faulty parts that killed troops.”
“Anything to that last thing?” Barroso asked. He sipped his coffee and waited.
“No. He was rated as one of the top vendors to the several agencies in the government.”
“Was he connected?” Barroso asked.
“Politically? Did he have an inside man with the government who wired his bids?”
“No. Squeaky clean guy. Former Marine in Viet Nam. Self made guy too. People liked him. His employees, his clients all said his deliveries were always timely and good. One guy at a private company said, ‘His word was golden.’ ”
“History of bad blood with anybody who he may have fired or pissed off?”
“One guy who was fired years before, but he had died before the shooting,” Dieter said. Dieter sipped the coffee, “Not bad coffee. Better than the mud we have.”
Barroso didn’t respond.
Dieter looked at Barroso who was deep in thought. “Your turn Detective,” he smiled.
Barroso sighed deeply, “So only dead ends? No leads? No guesses?”
“Guesses, a bunch of hunches but none panned out,” Dieter answered then he added, “I’d really like to know where the bug was found.”
“Bugs, three to be exact. My guys did an extensive search of the office. It has a high ceiling as you saw, maybe ten feet high. One was embedded inside the recessed ceiling light above the desk. Another in a nearby electrical outlet, high-end stuff.”
“You said three,” Dieter said.
Barroso eyeballed Dieter, “One was in the bottom of the desk inserted into the ultra expensive wood frame. Whoever did this had lots of experience and money…and time to install the bugs.”
“Inside job?” Dieter mused. “Whoever placed the bugs needed time to get in, time to place the bugs, clean up and leave. All without being detected.” This was far more complicated than a simple shooting on September11, 2001. What the hell is going on? What was in the safe?
Barroso’s mind followed the same tack. “Do you have any idea what was in that safe?”
“No.” Again Dieter frowned, this time because he had missed an opportunity. He should have moved faster and gotten the safe opened. But he felt compassion for Valerie Hudson. He was definitely off his usual game. Lindsay’s presence, Valerie’s neediness and his gunshot wound all added to the faulty way that he had moved forward with the investigation since he came to Florida. He had acted as though he was on a vacation. Stupid!
“My men are checking the building’s logs and security video footage for deliveries to Valerie Hudson’s penthouse and others in the building for the last month. We think the bugs were placed recently…not sure how long. They’re going through her phone LUDs right now,” Barroso said.
“How about international calls?” Dieter asked.
“All calls in and out. My IT staff is searching her computer hard drive too. I put a team going door to door in the building speaking to tenants. Maybe someone saw something?”
Dieter nodded an internal approval of Barroso’s work. “Her car checked too?”
Barroso’s eyes flickered momentarily and he shook his head self deprecatingly. He picked up the desk phone and punched in an internal extension. He listened for a reply, when it came he was succinct as always, “Get somebody to go over every inch of Valerie Hudson’s car. You have the address? Good.” He listened, “Yes, right away.”
Dieter let the opportunity to needle Barroso about he car not being searched until now, “What about Cecilia’s guy?” Dieter asked.
“We got a positive hit on her description of the guy. Several aliases, real name is Eduardo Velez from Mexico City. No history on him being a local Florida guy, but plenty of history in California, Texas, and New York. Warrants in all three states going back a bunch of years,” he added.
“When were the warrants opened in New York?” Dieter asked.
Barroso flipped through his file on the case. He found the pages, “Goes back to November of 2001.”
“Two months after September 11th.”
Each man looked long and hard at the other. Barroso acted first, he reviewed all the warrants from California, Texas and New York. There was a long list of violent acts for which he escaped conviction in Texas and capture in California and New York.
“I’d really like to get this guy. How are we doing?” Dieter asked Barroso.
“We…have sent out bulletins to all counties in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and bordering states,” Barroso responded.
Dieter’s wry smile didn’t go unnoticed by Barroso.
Lindsay sat on the balcony overlooking the beach from Valerie’s penthouse wondering how she got here. How did all of this happen so quickly? The storm clouds had begun when Andrew had his affair. Jonathan had, at first, lifted those clouds and then he added thunderous cloud bursts of anxiety, fear and eventually death. Where did the Lindsay of old go? What happened to the intelligent woman from the Midwest?
A duo of screeching seagulls flying high above the beach brought Lindsay back to the present. She watched them soar effortlessly for a moment and then move out of sight farther down the beach for better pickings no doubt.
Do I need a man? First Andrew, then Jonathan and now who? Dieter to my rescue? No. I spent my days and nights helping others deal with their anxieties, their problems-real and imagined. The old Lindsay was a fighter, strong and independent. Gotta get her back. Gotta let her back inside.
Lindsay’s cell phone chirped to life. She reached for it where it lay on a nearby table top and punched Answer.
“Lindsay,” Dieter began, “how are you?”
Lindsay waited a second before she responded. “Fine, actually I’m fine. What’s up?” And just like that Lindsay returned, at least for the moment.
Dieter smiled at the other end of the call, “I need your help. Can you come down to the station and help us with a description of the people who attacked us?”
‘I need your help,’ she repeated to herself before she answered. I like that.
“Sure, I’ll get a cab…” she began.
He interrupted, “We’ll send a car,” he said. “Ten minutes?”
Barroso, sitting next to Dieter, shook his head and mouthed we.
“I’ll be ready downstairs in ten minutes.”
Lindsay moved with the old Lindsay vigor and zest for life. She felt good. She felt needed and she very much liked that feeling.
Twelve minutes later, Lindsay exited the building. A police car sat idling. As she approached, the passenger side window went down and Officer Francine Donolli leaned to her right, “Doctor Riccardi?”
“Get in,” Officer Donolli said.
The front seat of the police cruiser was bedecked with a computer and other equipment, so Lindsay opened the rear passenger door and entered the back of the cruiser feeling like every handcuffed criminal.
Doctor Wilbur Chesterton strode through the corridor leading to Valerie Hudson’s private room in the hospital. Patty Collins, the chief of nurses, waved a greeting and returned to her monitor which listed the people on the VIP floor of the hospital. People here paid for the very best of care, round the clock, and got what they paid for.
He read the charts at the nurses’ station which detailed the tests and the negative results to her brain and nervous system that he’d requested to be taken earlier in the morning. Chesterton reviewed each note, each test result and the names of the technicians, nurses and anyone who was attending to his favorite patient before he entered Valerie’s room.
“May I have a minute, Doctor?” asked Malcolm Cambridge, a resident from the United Kingdom.
“Sorry, Malcolm, give me a few minutes. I’d like to see my patient first,” and he moved off to Valerie’s room where a Sunny Isles policeman was stationed.
Chesterton approached the officer, “What’s this?” he asked.
“Not sure Doctor,” officer Stevens said. “This is my shift assignment today.” He paused a moment then asked, “Who is she anyway?”
“My patient,” Chesterton said and entered the room.
The light in the room was dimmed to allow Valerie comfort and sleep. Curtains were drawn as well. Chesterton saw his patient lying in bed asleep. She looked older without her makeup and accompanying jewelry. Her body seemed small in the large hospital bed. Chesterton took a minute to look at her face and hands which stuck out from the bed with one intravenous line from her arm. No bruises he observed. Her usually quaffed hair lay untidily around her small head. He frowned.
Valerie Hudson had been his patient for twelve years. He had never known her husband, but she had spoken about him often in the early days after his death. Chesterton, who had lost his mother and saw her grief for his father, was empathetic to Valerie, perhaps even sympathetic.
Valerie’s eyes opened. When she focused and saw Doctor Chesterton, she smiled briefly.
He moved to her bedside, “Good morning. How are you feeling?”
“I guess I’m all right,” she said, never having been a complainer.
Chesterton smiled and asked, “Do you understand what happened to you?”
Valerie’s face grimaced from the images that passed before her eyes. “How is Detective Dieter, Lindsay and how is Cecilia? Oh, is she all right? Are they all right?”
“Yes, Valerie, as far as I know they are all fine,” he said as he took her hand and felt her pulse. “The Detective and the woman were here late last night until I chased them off. They needed rest.”
Valerie took his hand once he had finished taking her pulse, “Why is there a policeman outside my door? I saw him this morning when I was taken out of the room for the tests.” Her hand trembled in his.
Chesterton looked her in the eyes, “I don’t know.”
Lindsay didn’t like being in the police station; but, Dieter had said, “I need your help.” That proved to be enough incentive to walk into the station, and ask the officer at the front desk for Detective Barroso.
A short minute later, Dieter came to get her. “Hi, thanks for coming,” he greeted her.
“Not really,” and then she offered resolutely. “Yes, I’m fine.”
Barroso offered Lindsay a seat once they had returned to his area. “Detective Dieter gave a description of his attackers,” Dieter winced at that, “and we’d like you to corroborate his description and help on the Asian man who attacked you.”
“Held me, he held me,” she corrected.
“Doctor Riccardi fought him off,” Dieter said, “he ran off limping.”
Barroso had no response. He pulled out the computer printout of each woman whom Dieter had described and pushed the renderings across the desk to her.
Lindsay sat and looked at each face. First she reviewed the one who had initiated the attack. She was the smaller one she remembered. Then she looked at the second woman, taller and very slim. Their images came back as they ran off waving Dieter’s gun in the air as though they had just won a trophy. However, the images that her mind exhibited were unclear, slightly unfocused.
“Anything to add?” Barroso asked.
Lindsay looked at Barroso, then back at the renderings and finally to Dieter whose expression was unclear to her. “I think…I believe that’s exactly what I saw too…that’s them. This one,” she pointed to the first rendering, “was shorter with a stocky build. The other was taller and slim.”
Barroso retrieved the renderings and replaced them in a folder. “Now what did the Asian man look like?”
Lindsay looked to Dieter for a sign, but realized that he probably didn’t have a good look at the man since he was fighting off the two women.
“He was older than the women. Looked like he could be their father. Slight build…”
Barroso interrupted. “Let’s get the graphic artist,” he rose and walked away. Dieter followed along with Lindsay.
Twenty minutes later the new digital rendering of the older Asian man was punched into the local data base with negative results. The digital technician moved on to Federal and International data bases in her search to identify the male suspect.
Captain Whitehead listened to Dieter on the phone while running his index finger around the top of his cold coffee mug. His face was impassive, but his attitude was dark.
“This little trip to Florida has turned from cold case to red hot case,” the Captain stated flatly.
“And you had your gun taken by two Chinese women,” Whitehead stated.
“Maybe Chinese, Asian for sure…” Dieter responded.
“But they were two women, right Detective Dieter? Not two armed burly men? Two unarmed, Asian women.”
“Come on captain, you got your pound of flesh. Yes, two women attacked me and took my gun while I was down.” Dieter continued. “Captain, whoever these people are they are not small time killers. They bugged this lady’s home with high tech devices. They knew that I was coming to Florida to see the contents of the safe. They broke into her wall safe while we were out. They knew that I was shot in the thigh so they knew exactly how to attack me to stop me momentarily. Robert Hudson’s murder on September 11th is the key to what’s happened here.”
“And you have no idea what was in the safe?” the Captain asked.
“I’m going to the hospital right after this call to see if I can jar Valerie’s mind. She saw whatever it is,” but Dieter wasn’t confident that Valerie Hudson would be of any help.
Lindsay and Dieter left the police station and went directly to the hospital. Doctor Chesterton had left but the police officer was still at his post outside of Valerie’s room.
“Any people ask to see her, Officer?” Dieter asked as he flashed his NYPD Detective’s badge.
“No, only ones who came here were the doctor and nursing staff, Detective” he answered.
Dieter nodded and entered the room followed by Lindsay. Valerie Hudson sat upright in her bed as she applied makeup and lipstick to her pale face. Her hair was combed back and held onto the back of her head with a comb that the nurses had gathered for her.
Valerie looked up at Dieter and Lindsay as they entered. “Thank god you’re all right.” She held out the arm that was not encumbered by the intravenous line and beckoned both. Lindsay came to her side and held the outstretched hand.
“We’re fine. How are you?” Lindsay asked.
“What’s going on? What happened at my home? Is Cecilia all right too? Where is she?” Valerie blurted all the questions in a staccato riff.
Her eyes watered but her face hid emotions.
“I called Cecilia several times without an answer. My house and her cell phone…I need some things…” and she trailed off for a few seconds. “They want me stay here and I need some things from home. What am I to do?”
Dieter saw the confusion in her eyes. He was sure she wouldn’t be able to tell him what was in the safe. Lindsay spoke first.
“Valerie, please don’t worry. We can get anything you need and bring it here. Will that be all right?” Lindsay was aimed at lessening the woman’s stress.
“You will?” she said looking at Lindsay.
“Of course, just tell me what you’d like,” Lindsay patted the woman’s soft white hand.
“I’ll check on Cecilia. She’s probably cleaning,” Dieter said.
Dieter left the hospital room and Valerie to Lindsay’s care once he was assured that Valerie had returned to some sense of ease. He had come to trust Lindsay and to rely on her abilities.
Cecilia was not cleaning Valerie’s penthouse when Dieter entered. The empty penthouse was left as is after Lindsay had gathered herself and her things to leave for the police station hours ago. Dieter entered Valerie’s office, careful not to upset anything there for further police investigation. He found her address book and Cecilia’s phone number. Several rings later the voice mail greeting heralded Cecilia’s sing-song promise to return the call.
Dieter wondered if Cecilia had decided to quit the job with Valerie since her actions caused Valerie such harm. However, he rejected that moments after he thought of it. Cecilia was not running from Valerie. Cecilia genuinely liked Valerie, cared about Valerie. Nah, she’s not hiding away.
Dieter answered his cell phone on the second ring from Barroso’s call.
“Detective,” each man began…then Dieter waited.
“Detective Dieter, I have a problem,” Barroso said coldly.
“My men just found a body floating in a lake east of Aventura. On my way to identify the body. Might be Mrs. Hudson’s maid.”
“Cecilia? I just called her. No answer.” Dieter stood absorbed in the moment. “Where is the body?” Dieter asked.
“Where are you?” Barroso asked.
“At the penthouse.”
“I’ll send a squad car to get you.”
The squad car took Dieter to the site where the body was found. The ride moved along Biscayne Boulevard traveling north to NE 172nd Street where there were several police cars and emergency vehicles. Dieter exited the squad car and scanned the area for Barroso.
Barroso stood listening to a police officer who pointed to Maule Lake and a small marina that opened to the lake beyond. The lake was large enough for several boats to be out on the very calm interior waters. Barroso waved perfunctorily for Dieter to join him.
A body bag, its contents obvious from the shape inside, lay on an emergency unit’s gurney at the marina’s edge near two divers still in their gear waiting for orders. Two teenage girls, dressed in bikinis and deeply upset tried to cover their bodies in that awkward teenage way. An officer was next to them writing on a pad.
“Is it her?” asked Dieter.
“Haven’t seen the body. Just got here.” Barroso turned to walk to the gurney and the body bag.
Dieter followed Barroso who motioned for the attending officer to open the bag. The officer slipped the zipper from top to midway along the body. It was a Latina woman with blood caked behind her left ear at the opening of a bullet hole. Barroso and Dieter moved in close to see Cecilia’s face. They stared momentarily at the familiar face that was once innocent and recently very scared. She would never be either again.
“Who found the body?” Barroso addressed the officer standing nearby.
The officer pointed to the two teenage girls standing fifty feet away who were now hugging each other for comfort. An EMT noticed and brought a blanket for the girls, more as a courtesy than a necessity since the day’s heat had begun.
The two detectives approached the girls with their badges fully visible. Barroso explained who they were then asked, “Did you young ladies find the body?”
Their eyes bulged in aguish at the word body. Both heads bobbed nervously in response.
“Tell me where you found the body?” Barroso said in his no-nonsense way. Dieter shot a glance at Barroso who was all business, sans finesse for the obviously scared teen girls.
Melissa, a tall slender blonde answered first. “We were in that boat,” she turned and pointed to a small dingy that was now tied to a marina mooring hook.
“How far out?”
The second teen girl, Betty a curly haired brunette, now recovered slightly from her anguish, turned and also pointed. “Out there in the lake, in the middle…maybe?” She turned to Melissa for corroboration.
“Yes, in the middle somewhere …we found her in the middle,” as soon as she said it her voice choked. The girls hugged again.
“What did you do then?”
“We screamed,” said Betty.
“A lot,” Melissa assured Barroso. Both girls returned to vigorous nodding and bulging eye contact with each other.
Dieter asked, “What did you do next?”
“We called 911,” Betty said.
“Yeah, we used Betty’s phone. Mine didn’t have any signal,” again eye approval and nodding.
Barroso groaned audibly. “Okay, thanks,” he said, not attempting to hide his dismissiveness. “Did you give a statement to the officer who arrived first on the scene?”
“Yes,” they chorused.
Barroso turned and walked off, eyebrows raised to Dieter. When they were several paces away Barroso spoke, “You disapprove?”
“Me, nah, this is your case…but, they are two scared kids…you know…kids,” Dieter emphasized. He walked back to the gurney leaving Barroso a few steps behind.
Dieter bent close to Cecilia’s face visually examining the gunshot wound behind her ear. “Some blood … not a lot. Must have been shot and then dumped right away. Probably last night.” Dieter looked hard at Barroso.
Barroso diverted his eyes. He knew that she should have been given protection. Dieter knew Barroso would pay for his mistake with lots of sleepless nights ahead. Dieter wasn’t going to add to it.
Barroso examined Cecilia’s head wound closely for a full minute until his eyes saw a glimmer of the gold cross which Cecilia held as she sat in the police station. It hung loosely at her shoulder partially hidden by the collar on her blouse.
Dieter stepped away from Barroso. He put on his sunglasses against the sun and gazed out at Maule Lake. Across the lake he saw rows of residential buildings, to the north were condo towers.
“Lots of people around this waterway. Traffic back there,” pointing over his shoulder to Biscayne Boulevard, “somebody must have seen something…” he said to Barroso as he approached.
“Yeah, there’s an exit to the Intracoastal,” Barroso pointed across the lake, “and the ocean beyond.”
“But?” Dieter added.
“No buts just lots of man-power needed is all,” Barroso said.
“Yeah, well…we still have to find her killer and lots more too,” Dieter offered.
“There it is, that we again,” Barroso said releasing both frustration and anger as a byproduct.
Dieter stiffened, “Would you rather I said, you still have to find her killer…?”
Barroso cringed a little at the word you. “Yeah, Detective, I have to find her killer.”
“What the hell does that mean?” Dieter exploded.
“It means that I have to find her killer. I have to find who broke into your friend’s penthouse. I have to find who attacked you – and stole your gun,” Barroso responded angrily.
“What are you saying? I created this mess? It’s my fault that these things happened-that poor innocent Cecilia is dead?”
Both men moved forward, not backing off, clearly angry.
“How the hell did these people know there was something in her safe?” Barroso challenged.
“She called me in New York and said that she had found something that might be helpful in finding her husband’s killer,” Dieter responded.
“And the bugs in her study picked up the call,” Barroso said, with recognition.
“Yes. It all happened so fast. We flew down and then it all happened,” Dieter said.
“So whatever was in that safe triggered all this,” Barroso said arms opened expansively.
Each man took a step back, took a deep breath and stood still letting it all set in. Barroso was the first to move. He looked at Dieter, “You hungry?”
Dieter held on for a moment longer, then said, “Yeah I could go for a nice fat Cuban sandwich.”
Barroso turned and began walking toward the vehicles. “I know just the place.”
Dieter followed, “Great.”
“You’re buying,” Barroso declared.
“Not me. NYPD is buying,” Dieter answered.
When Barroso finished with the crew at the site where Cecilia’s body was found, and after the body was taken away the two detectives entered Barroso’s car and made a U-turn heading south on Biscayne Boulevard toward Miami.
Dieter took out his cell and dialed Lindsay’s phone. He sat awaiting her pick up but it did not come. He was momentarily relieved that he would not have to tell Lindsay about Cecilia’s body being found, but he knew full well that he would have to when she returned his call.
“Hi Lindsay, it’s Karl. Call me when you can,” and then he added, “when you’re alone.”
“Still in the hospital?” Barroso asked.
Barroso turned left at Sunny Isles Boulevard heading east toward the beach. Dieter looked to his right out of the window at Oleta River State Park. Trees separated the roadway from the park creating a blur of green as Dieter wondered how Cecilia’s murder would affect Lindsay. He knew how it would affect Valerie and he was concerned for her mental state. He needed her to be in control of her faculties to help him put together some of the missing pieces to the ever increasing and mysterious puzzle. He hoped that Lindsay would be able to help Valerie cope with this new tragedy in her life.
The car turned right at A1A and began its long, slow ride to the Sazon Cuban Cuisine Restaurant in Miami. After they had traveled south along the area fronted by the Atlantic Ocean on the left in relative silence, Dieter said, “This a hell of ride for a sandwich.”
Barroso answered, “This is the best Cuban place in town,” with a self assured chuckle.
“Really? The best?”
Barroso looked over at Dieter for a moment, “Yes, and it’s owned by a very good friend.”
“Ah, that’s what makes it the best,” Dieter offered.
Barroso actually smiled, “Yes that’s what makes it the best.”
Lindsay sipped a coffee while she sat in the hospital’s cafeteria. Her turkey sandwich was untouched. Her mind was filled with the events of the past days. How can I help Valerie? Am I still capable of helping anyone? My focus blurs too often!
Other visitors sat eating, drinking and hovering over their cell phones. Lindsay took her cell phone from her pocket book. A voice mail icon indicated a message. She clicked the voice mail connection and waited for the message. “Hi, Lindsay, it’s Karl. Call me when you can,” and then a pause, followed by, “when you’re alone.” The message laid heavily on Lindsay especially the ominous addition. Dieter’s voice held a heaviness that immediately increased her anxiety. Without further thought, she punched in Dieter’s number.
Dieter sat across the table from Barroso in the noisy Cuban restaurant. Latin music resounded from the speakers that were set to full. When the phone rang he answered Lindsay’s call immediately. He rose, signaled to Barroso that he would be outside, and left the confines of the restaurant as he asked Lindsay to hold on.
Outside in the heat of the day, he spoke to Lindsay, “Hi, thanks for calling back.”
“Sure. Is everything all right?” she asked knowing the answer before it came.
“No, not really. Cecilia has been murdered.”
Lindsay gasped and felt as though a hammer hit her head. Dieter heard her gasp.
“No, not at all. What happened? Who did this? Those people?” Lindsay anxiously rattled off a series of questions.
“Listen, I can’t talk to you about the details right now. Just know that things are getting very serious. I am sending a buddy, retired NYPD Detective who lives in Brickell, to watch over Valerie,” he didn’t add Lindsay to the watch list but she was definitely included. She was scared enough.
“What? She’s waiting to be released.”
“I know. The local police will take her home, and watch the place. Kevin Newfield, a retired detective I worked with in New York, will be there late afternoon and stay as long as is needed. Okay?”
Lindsay’s eyes searched the faces of people who sat in the small cafeteria. She suddenly felt alone, isolated in a world where cause and effect didn’t overlap. Why were we attacked? Is Valerie really in danger?
“Lindsay?” Dieter’s voice intruded into her wandering mind.
“Yes, okay, I understand. When will you be back?” she asked.
“As soon as I can. Stay there until the police escort arrives. Okay?” Dieter needed Lindsay to help support Valerie and he felt lousy that he did.
“Yes, I will. Later.” She said.
“Later,” and he clicked off.
She left the cafeteria, exiting the opened double doors to the corridor as a young woman in tears entered. The woman was being comforted by an elderly man with an ashen face. Lindsay’s attention strayed to them as she walked to the elevator on her return to Valerie’s room. She passed the gift shop where a tall angular man pretending to shop had been watching her through the glass windows that adjoined the cafeteria. He left his position and moved into the corridor as Lindsay disappeared into the elevator. He took out his phone and made a call.
“The woman just left the cafeteria, she seemed upset. Someone called her and she went up in the elevator back to the old lady’s room probably.” He listened, answered, “Okay,” and ended the call.
Dieter re-entered the Cuban restaurant with several young Latinas at his side. One young woman smiled, winked and went off giggling with her friends. The joke went unnoticed by Dieter. He strode to the table where Barroso was well into his sandwich and he sat down.
Barroso, his mouth filled with a half eaten Cuban sandwich, raised his eyebrows as a query.
“That was Lindsay. I told her what happened to Cecilia.” Dieter picked up his sandwich and bit hungrily into the specially baked Cuban bread and prepared meats. He nodded approval to Barroso who gave a thumbs-up in return. They remained quiet, eating and slugging down their drinks until the sandwiches were eaten.
Cesar, the diminutive owner of the restaurant approached their table, all smiles. He shook hands with Barroso, smiled grandly at Dieter.
“Good?” he asked looking at both men.
Dieter responded first, “Best Cuban sandwich I had all month.”
Barroso gave Dieter a wry smile, “Always the best my friend. How are you?”
“Excellent, couldn’t be better.” He waved to a nearby waitress, who moved to her boss. “Maria, please bring these gentlemen some flan.” Maria smiled and moved toward the kitchen.
Dieter started to speak, but Barroso cut him off, “Cesar makes the best, the freshest flan in all of Miami. Gracias, dos café con leche por favor?”
“Absolutely,” Cesar said and left to prepare them himself.
“Nice guy,” Dieter observed. “but we,” and he paused for effect, “have lots of reports to write today. You for your files and me for mine, back in New York.”
“Believe me the coffee will help keep us sharp.”
Barroso’s phone chirped so he quickly wiped his fingers clean and answered, “Barroso.” Dieter watched Barroso’s face for a sign as it went through several changes of emotion.
“You sure it was them? What took so long? Yes, yes. Good, okay.” Barroso clicked off and looked directly at Dieter.
“So?” Dieter asked.
“My men found a video from a camera at the building where you were attacked. They had to review lots of footage since it is on twenty-four seven. They were able to recognize three people leaving from the side access walk to the beach at the time of your attack, two women and a man who was hobbling.”
“What took so long?” Dieter asked.
“The time stamp wasn’t working so they had to approximate the time until they found the three attackers that you and Doc Riccardi described.”
Dieter’s face begged for more and Barroso obliged.
“They saw the trio run from the alley into a dark, four door sedan sitting at the curb. It raced off going through the traffic light at the corner. The traffic cam got the plates, my guys did the search. The license plates were traced to a stolen car left abandoned in long term parking at Miami International Airport.” Eyebrows raised in disquieting thought.
Dieter spoke the words running through Barroso’s mind. “They’re gone.”
“Probably. My guys will go through the car, dust and lift anything from the inside, but…”
Maria arrived with the flan and coffees to the now chagrined detectives. She noticed, “It’s not okay?” Her brown eyes fluttered and she looked anxiously at Cesar who was approaching the table.
“No, no, querida it is perfect. Gracias,” Barroso said. Maria left the table unsure what was wrong with her coffee and flan as Cesar arrived.
Cesar saw the dour look on the men’s faces. He looked at Barroso, “You gotta go?”
“Sorry my friend, can you make this to go?”
Two police officers arrived at the hospital to escort Valerie Hudson to her home. She had been vetted by doctor, nurses and the hospital and was itching to leave the confines of the sterile hospital to return home. No small amount of anxiety was mixed with her need to go home. She barely remembered the night she returned to find the police, Cecilia and Dieter injured before she collapsed to the floor and was carted off to the hospital. She wondered what her home would feel like now that intruders had ascended on it and her peace of mind.
Lindsay helped pack Valerie’s things and carried the small overnight bag to the waiting police car as Valerie was wheeled through the hospital and outside to the afternoon sun.
One officer drove while the other rode shotgun. Lindsay sat next to Valerie who scooped up Lindsay’s hand for comfort. Lindsay too wondered what was next on the agenda of the unimaginable events in the past several months. She looked over at Valerie who was lost in thought perhaps of happier times, times less complicated, times with her husband Robert-times when she felt safe.
Safety had been erased from Lindsay’s world and replaced by moments of ever increasing insecurity. A nexus formed with Valerie’s life leaving both women confused and fearful. Lindsay promised herself as she sat next to the elderly now frail looking woman, as their car moved through light traffic, that she would help Valerie cope with the events of the past and those ahead.
After all isn’t that what I was trained to do?
Valerie entered her home feeling uncomfortable and ill at ease. Her world had been violated. She was frightened as she walked through the home where she had always felt comfortable and safe.
Lindsay noticed Valerie’s trembling hands and quivering lips. Once smiling and cheerful, Valerie’s face now showed the disorientation that lives beneath.
“Would you like to put your things away?” Lindsay asked motioning to the bag which held the clothes Valerie had worn to the hospital on that fateful night.
Valerie’s response was a blank, uncomprehending stare. Her attention moved compulsively to the study where the police had been gathered and the safe broken and damaged.
“Come, let’s put these things away,” Lindsay said and took Valerie’s hand to steer her from the accursed room to Valerie’s bedroom.
“Yes, yes, of course, thank you,” Valerie muttered and let herself be taken to the safety of her bedroom.
Valerie’s large, airy bedroom well lighted from the floor to ceiling windows seemed to cheer Valerie for a moment. She walked to her large comfortable bed and let her hand play across the coverlet caressing the silky fabric. A bedside photo of husband Robert brought a momentary smile to her face but it quickly evaporated into furrowed brows and misty eyes.
“Where shall we put these clothes?” Lindsay asked, once again bringing Valerie back to the present.
Valerie blinked twice, recovered and took charge. “I’ll take those, Dear.” She walked the clothes into the large walk in closet and emptied the bag into a hamper then stood holding the small, flowered overnight bag until she remembered where it went. With momentary purposefulness, she placed it next to a larger, matching suitcase.
“Are you hungry?” Lindsay asked as cheerily as she could.
“Yes, I am hungry. Let me call the restaurant downstairs. They’ll bring salads. Is that okay for you?” And she marched to the telephone and began to dial.
Lindsay knew that the moments of confusion could be followed by clarity, but she wondered how long the cycle would continue. Dementia was often triggered by a traumatic event. Valerie had experienced several traumatic events in a few days. Lindsay decided she needed to be vigilant and watch for even small signs of dementia.
Their lunch delivered by an affable employee of the restaurant in the building was tasty and just right for the hungry women. The Waldorf salads were made with fresh fruit and accompanied by bottled water. Once their hunger was sated Valerie and Lindsay moved to the living room and sat side by side.
“What’s happening?” Valerie spoke to the room as much as to Lindsay.
“I wish I knew,” she said facing Valerie. “I do, however, know one thing…”
Valerie turned to face Lindsay and her eyes beseeched the one thing…
Lindsay took Valerie’s hands in hers, “You will be all right,” she smiled reassuringly.
“You promise?” was Valerie’s little girl response. “Tell me that you promise I will be all right.”
Lindsay released Valerie’s hands and hugged the elderly childlike woman as she whispered into her ear, “I promise.”
Valerie smiled, tension relieved from her shoulders and she stood. She moved about the room eyeing each item on the tables, pillows on the couch, an empty vase captured her attention.
“We need flowers for the vase. Funny, Cecilia always puts fresh flowers in this vase.”
Valerie stopped her appraisal of the room and looked with a growing degree of anxiety. Furrowed brows followed accompanied by quivering lips once again.
Eyes lasered on Lindsay, Valerie asked, “Did she quit? Did Cecilia quit and leave me? Oh, I hope not? I need her? She’s very good to me…” her speech trailed off as her gaze clouded.
Lindsay rose and moved to the elderly woman, “Sit down Valerie, please. I have something to tell you.”
Valerie became confused. “Sit? Why?”
Lindsay’s answer came as she ushered Valerie to the couch and sat down with her. Her back straight and her composure controlled, Lindsay said, “Cecilia is not coming back.”
Valerie’s hands raced to cover her ears as an attempt to block out the news. Her eyes shut tight to close down all senses from what might come next.
Lindsay leaned closer to Valerie. She took the old woman’s hands gently away from her ears. Valerie’s eyes opened briefly, and then shut again. Lindsay waited until Valerie opened her eyes, now moist from fearful possibilities.
“Valerie, Cecilia is gone. Her body was found in a lake nearby. She is gone. I’m very sorry.”
Valerie bolted upright with such vigor that it startled Lindsay. Valerie stumbled toward the bedroom holding her ears almost losing her balance and careening into the wall near the bedroom. Lindsay followed as Valerie flopped onto the bed crying bitterly.
From beneath the pillow where Valerie had buried her face came a muffled wailing like a creature caught in a trap. Lindsay could only watch allowing the grief to sweep over Valerie as it must in order to eventually be purged. Lindsay knew the harm that bottled up grief – left to fester and grow – could bring.
“It’s my fault she’s dead. It’s my entire fault. If I never called Detective Dieter to help me everything would be all right. Cecilia would be alive…” followed by intense sobbing.
“It’s not your fault, Valerie. These are bad people…,” but nothing more came to mind. Lindsay believed that the phone call to Dieter was indeed the catalyst that set all the events in motion. She just didn’t understand what door that one call had opened and she also knew that Dieter didn’t know either.
Later Valerie slept with the help of the tranquilizer that Doctor Chesterton gave Lindsay.
“Captain…wait a second, Cap…” Dieter tried to answer the snarling questions coming from Captain Whitehead into his cell phone.
“What is going on down there? You went to Florida to talk to the wife of a cold case victim and all hell breaks loose,” with utter accusatory tones.
“Captain, this is our case, my case,” Dieter declared. “Don’t we have to clear up a cold case that happened on the worst day in New York City’s history?”
Silence swirled until, “What do you want now?”
“I want to get to the bottom of all this. I want to find the people who killed Hudson, who attacked me and Doctor Riccardi, who killed the innocent maid Cecilia and who are terrorizing this old woman Valerie Hudson.” Dieter paused from his listing of things to be done, “I owe it to her Captain…”
“Ah shit Dieter, you owe her nothing. She is a victim, not your doing, not your responsibility. What you owe is this department’s mission to get the bad guys off the streets. Now what the hell do you need?”
“McClure. I need him to help…”
“Then call him,” Captain Whitehead slammed down his receiver to end the conversation and give his tacit permission.
“Hey Karl, how are you doing down in sunny Florida?” came McClure’s cheery opening to Dieter’s call.
“Not too well. Clouds have been forming ever since we arrived -metaphorically anyway. Lots of shit happening down here. I need your help.”
Dieter explained all the events of the days since he arrived. McClure, as was his habit, took copious notes.
“You okay?” McClure asked once Dieter finished talking.
“Yeah, fine. You got all that?’ he asked McClure.
“Yeah. What now?”
“I need copies of the cold case file on Hudson’s murder … all the interviews too.”
McClure, “That’s lots of stuff.”
“Yeah, but I need it all.”
“How else can I help?” McClure asked.
“Interview the same people I interviewed years ago. Start with the execs at the Hudson Company. Maybe something new will surface. Fresh eyes and ears…”
“Okay, got it. You heading back soon?”
“Not sure right now,” Dieter answered.
“Yeah, okay. I’ll call you …”
“ASAP,” Dieter declared.
“Yes, sir,” reverting to his military days.
McClure rose and walked purposefully to the Captain’s office. The opened door, however, did not signal a welcome. Captain Whitehead was on the phone with his head turned to the window. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw McClure at the doorway, turned and held his hand over the phone, “Dieter call you?”
“Yes, Captain he…”
“Give him what he needs.” The Captain returned to his phone and swiveled away from McClure.
Captain Whitehead never heard McClure’s reply, “Will do Captain,” nor would he have needed to since his mind was on the phone call from his wife and a family matter. Whitehead had passed his twenty years eight years earlier. Since then his resolve faded imperceptibly each year until he reached his present status of ensuring that his ass was covered at all times.
McClure returned to his desk and the notes he had taken during the phone conversation. He read the notes several times to memorize them and the possibilities that they may offer. He then wrote out a step by step approach to getting Dieter his information. The first note read, “Interview Hudson CEO.” He dug through the folders on his desk for the man’s name.
Eric Caulfield, Chief Operating Officer, at the time of Robert Hudson’s murder had taken over Hudson Manufacturing once the body was recovered. As the former COO, he was the logical successor to Robert Hudson of the wholly owned company. He was very generous to Valerie Hudson both monetarily and with his efforts to make sure she was cared for properly.
Valerie’s gratefulness for his support during her time of grief was genuine and she had thanked him often.
“Valerie, Rob was my friend as well as my boss,” was his mantra then. The money kept rolling into her bank accounts, the favors were always at hand, and her jet readied when she needed to fly off to Florida. Valerie felt as though Eric had taken care of her these last years as Robert always had. She felt secure and grateful but very alone.
Step two on McClure’s list was to detail what Hudson Manufacturing produced, what they sold and how they won their contracts with the federal government. Caulfield will help, but I gotta do my own diligence just in case…he thought. No stone unturned.
McClure busied himself learning the language of bidding on jobs for the Federal Government. The policies and procedures were indeed arduous but not intimidating for a dogged mind. Once the background steps were completed then the potential vendor could respond to the listings for RFPs (request for proposals) that fulfilled a need for a product or service. The RFQs were essentially a request for a quote on a very specific product or service. Much more until McClure felt comfortable that he would not be left in the dust by a fast talking executive filling the air with buzz words that he didn’t comprehend.
McClure dialed the phone number at Hudson Manufacturing and asked to speak with the CEO, Eric Caulfield.
“I’ll see if he’s available Detective,” was the officious reply from his secretary. After a brief moment, she came back on to explain, “Detective McClure, I’m sorry but he’s busy all morning and will be leaving this afternoon to catch a flight out of town.”
“Then I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” McClure declared and ended the call.
The officious secretary scrambled to Caulfield’s office door and knocked gingerly.
She opened the door and entered standing tall and stoic, “The Detective said he would be here in twenty minutes. I told him…”
“What does he want?”
“He didn’t say, just that he needed to talk with you.”
“Okay, show him in when he arrives.” Caulfield frowned, looked at his desk piled with folders, washed his hand across his face to clear away cobwebs and rose from his desk.
“Okay.” She left him and closed his office door.
Caulfield walked around the large office space at first calmly sorting out the possibilities for this visit from a NYC Police Detective. It was an old fashioned office, not the new glass enclosed egalitarian offices of the young newer execs eager to show their connection to the employees. His was the inner sanctum of the boss, the final arbiter of all decisions. The office was defined by a closed wooden door, dark wooden walls, and large imposing desk with all the trappings of the powerful, and walls which displayed photos of the most powerful New York officials, mayors, senators, governors all smiling and shaking hands with Caulfield. One photo still remained of Robert Hudson, the company founder, shaking hands with Mayor Rudy Giuliani long before the September 11th attack on the Twin Towers.
Once he had catalogued the possible reasons for the detective’s visit and dismissed the obviously incorrect he realized there was only one reason for the visit by a NYC Police Detective. It had come back to life. That fateful day had risen from the depths of its burial and he would have to face all the anguish once again.
The next several moments were agonizing to the man who was known to make decisions based on the facts and the information at hand. Now he was about to make a decision based on a growing, gut based fear. Before he dialed the phone number that he was never to call unless there was a good reason, he opened his small office refrigerator and took out a bottle of antacid liquid and took a swig. He closed the cap, reopened the bottle and took a second swig.
Eric Caulfield, CEO of Hudson Manufacturing returned to his desk, steeled himself then dialed.
The menacing voice at the other end came on quickly, “Why are you calling?” the voice demanded.
Caulfield struggled to speak. “There may be a problem.”
“Now listen very carefully Caulfield. Stay calm, you hear me? Everything is resolved in Florida. Everything…” ordered Charles “Chuck” Renfro former Special Forces United States Army.
Chuck sat twirling a large straw in his hand with the same dexterity that he used thirty five years earlier on clandestine missions for the Army. He switched the phone to his other hand and the straw as well and continued twirling with equal dexterity.
The sun along the beach had begun to slip behind the mountains that hugged the shores of Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Chuck Renfro moved around the world in places that he knew and places where he felt he could disappear. Barra, as it is called, was a place to disappear. He was at times the gringo tourist, or the German tourist befitting his tall figure and once blonde hair.
He was about to enjoy an água de coco from the large coconut that was engulfed by his outsized hand when the phone interrupted. Before he answered, he peered surreptitiously to his left and right behind his ever present sunglasses as he sat lounging on a bench along the beach. People were going about their business both on the beach and on the promenade adjoining the beach. He placed the coconut on his lap and answered the cell phone ring.
The first sounds were a rustling of movements, then a deep breath. The voice of Eric Caulfield, one of his least favorite clients, came next.
“The police are coming to see me right away,” a whisper characterized his angst. “I’m not sure what I…”
“Now listen very carefully Caulfield. Stay calm, you hear me? Everything is resolved in Florida. Everything. You answer same as before.”
“But what if they…”
“Enough,” Renfro interrupted. “FW will contact you later.”
Renfro clicked the call off, buried the phone is his pants pocket and slipped the straw into the top of the coconut which had been cut off by a vendor’s machete at the kiosk along the beach. He sipped leisurely as anyone might while relaxing on a bench in the late afternoon. Behind the sunglasses Renfro’s eyes beaded into dark blue pools that could have burst into flames from the anger seething beneath.
Eric Caulfield took out the emergency supply of cigarettes that he kept for times like this; times when everything might erupt. Awkward fingers tore at the sealed cigarette package fumbling with the top until they popped out a cigarette. He held the cigarette in his hand momentarily as though weighing the enormity of the moment for a few seconds and lit it. The deep inhalation of the smoke filled him with a momentary satisfaction that once calmed him. Then he merely coughed.
Suddenly he needed to pee. He entered his private bathroom and relieved himself. The face in the mirror portrayed his state of mind and he didn’t like the look. He splashed cold water from the faucet onto his face, then again. As the cold water ran into the sink beneath his face Eric Caulfield, CEO of Hudson Manufacturing looked deeply into his eyes and he felt ashamed and weak.
John Bryan McClure, JB to the world, arrived at Hudson Manufacturing headquarters in Manhattan. The trip uptown took twenty-five minutes allowing him to review the questions that he had prepared for Caulfield. McClure had read the answers to the questions Caulfield had answered back in 2001. He would ask the same questions and a few new ones too.
He was met by Caulfield’s secretary, not an underling, at an elevator that led to the executive floor. Caulfield’s secretary eyed McClure with a touch of hostility, a look that McClure had seen many times before but he had learned to dismiss the look.
“Follow me please, Detective.”
When they reached Caulfield’s outer office area, she moved behind her desk and punched the intercom.
“Detective McClure is here sir.”
“Give me a moment.”
McClure looked quizzically at the secretary. It was her turn to offer no response. She sat at her desk, looked up at McClure standing and pointed to the couch nearby.
McClure sat only briefly as Caulfield came to the door and greeted the Detective with all the gusto that he could muster.
“Detective, how can I help you?”
The two men stood outside the office door facing one another.
“I’d like to talk with you about 9-11,” McClure said and searched Caulfield’s face for recognition.
“Certainly, but I spoke with many people from your department many years ago. I’m sure you have my answers to the questions asked then…”
“I do,” McClure said and waited.
Caulfield stepped aside and ushered McClure into his office where he closed the door. Hudson’s CEO stood in front of his desk so McClure also stood – a ploy by someone who didn’t want a lengthy interview.
“Then I’m not sure why you are here. It was a long time ago, tragic and deeply personal. Robert was my friend. A great personal loss and a great loss to the company.”
“And his wife too, I assume,” McClure added.
“Valerie, Robert’s wife, was a very adoring and loving person. They were a special couple. Good people.” This last comment brought a catch to Caulfield’s voice which he covered with a cough.
McClure decided to follow the line he had set. “People liked him?”
“Yes, he was well liked in the company, with the vendors that we used, with the government, with everyone,” Caulfield stood nodding.
“Not everyone. He was murdered,” McClure dead eyed the CEO who was startled at McClure’s response.
Caulfield moved behind his desk and pointed to the chair facing the desk with all the self confidence available from the pool of diminishing self confidence.
“I wish I knew why someone would want to hurt Robert.”
“You have no idea, after all these years, why someone would want to hurt him? Nothing has happened since 9-11 that would shed any light on why?”
Caulfield felt a tightening in his stomach brought upon by the years of collusion with Renfro and his people. He sat, pretending to ponder this very heavy question. Eventually, he answered by shaking his head in the negative; but, he couldn’t speak.
Caulfield let his chair swivel from side to side allowing tension to dissipate. “Nothing. Business as usual,” which he knew was a profound lie. A lie he had to perpetuate for his own safety and that of his family.
McClure was a student of psychology and chalked up the evasive demeanor and the chair swiveling to underlying anxiety. Caulfield, he determined was working very hard to stay calm.
“Business has not changed since Hudson’s murder?” McClure asked pointedly seeking a visceral response.
Caulfield shuddered slightly. “I really hate that word, Detective.”
“What would you call it? He was shot twice in the chest, close range by the reports that I read, dumped on a street moments before the Twin Towers were attacked losing precious time and forensics.” McClure locked eyes with Caulfield who looked away.
McClure waited for Caulfield to look back at him. “Have you had any contact with Mrs. Hudson?” JB McClure was fishing now as he had when he was a boy. Something is in that lake. I want to get it. Something was in Caulfield’s lake. Now he was sure and he wanted to get it.
“Valerie, no, I mean not recently. Why do you ask?”
There it was, the hook dangling in front of the fish’s mouth with a savory worm jiggling in the murky waters.
“Puzzling events have occurred,” he said rising and ending the interview. A big smile from McClure, and his hand sent across the desk startled Caulfield. “Thanks for your time. You’ve been very helpful.”
Caulfield rose, offered a dead fish hand shake, “Puzzling?”
McClure turned toward the door reeling in the fish, “Yeah, puzzling events that don’t seem to make any sense. But, we’ll dig and find the answers. Time is on our side. Right?”
Weakly, “Huh?” Caulfield was left feeling increased anxiety when McClure exited the office and whisked by the secretary’s desk
Before he left, McClure took a mental snapshot of the CEO looking confused and very afraid.
Eric Caulfield stood at his office window looking down at the streets of Manhattan. He had looked out of this window many times and he usually felt the rush of success that it brought to him, a feeling of making it in the big city. He often pushed aside the way he made it, not taking the responsibility for Robert’s death. After all, he didn’t do it. He could not have stopped it. He didn’t know about it until it was too late. It was only when he was contacted by them that he realized what had happened.
Now, it was all rushing back, the same feelings of shame, guilt and most of all fear.
His private cell phone rang from its perch on the corner of his desk. If he could measure his heart rate, seeing an anonymous caller ID, he would see it climbing toward 100 beats a minute and rising. The ringing ended followed by several seconds of silence and then it rang again. This was the signal that it came from them – from FW and was to answer immediately.
“Shit,” CEO, Eric Caulfield exclaimed to the empty office filled only by his presence and an abundance of growing fear.
Instead of answering the call, he waited for it to end and dialed. After too many rings to suit his present state Susan Caulfield answered.
“Susan, you must do as I say and only as I saw. Get the kids and drive to our special place. I’m on my way now. Don’t pack, don’t tell them why…make it a game.”
“They’re at school…”
“Pick them both up. Do it quickly. Please, just do it Susan now.”
He waited for her reply which came in a weakened voice, “Okay, but I don’t understand.”
“I will explain, I promise. I will explain…everything. Now go.” He waited for the call to end then hung up and moved to the office wall safe. He took his emergency kit which had four passports, a small attaché case with lots of cash, four cell phones that he had been paying for several years, a notepad with bank accounts that he opened in Europe and South America where he had surreptitiously deposited funds for years-he rejected the use of digital devices to store his precious information.
He rushed from his office with this kit and attaché case in hand. Grace called as he went by, “Are you leaving?”
Over his shoulder without missing one step he said, “Yes.” He rounded the corner of the corridor and was gone.
Detective McClure felt a rush of excitement when he left the offices of Hudson Manufacturing. Caulfield was agitated beneath the patina of calm that he applied unconvincingly and McClure detected it.
While sitting at a red light in the heart of traffic in the middle of Manhattan, McClure decided he’d call Dieter right away since he had said, “ASAP.”
“Karl, it’s JB, I just spoke to Eric Caulfield,” he began.
Dieter listened intently and waited impatiently for McClure to continue.
“Karl I think he was spooked about something. Can’t put a finger on it. He was nervous about another look from the police and he almost leapt out of his skin when I let him know we are following new leads to the murder of Robert Hudson.”
“McClure, sit on his house, maybe even stop by for a second chat,” Dieter postulated.
“Sure, sounds good. I got it Karl.”
Traffic was stopped. A cop directing traffic at an intersection where the light was not working walked to McClure’s unmarked car when he saw the cell phone to the driver’s ear. Before the cop could reach the car, McClure unclipped his shield and held it up and the cop retreated to his traffic duty.
“Did you hear what I said?” Dieter asked impatiently.
“Sorry, dealing with something, in my car in traffic. What?”
“Keep the pressure on him. Who is next in line?”
“Paul Olsen, COO, but he came on in 2006.”
“Maybe he knows why Caulfield is nervous. JB there’s lots going on here that is well beneath the surface. Stay on top of this.” Dieter paused, “I got the information that you sent to me. Thanks.”
“Okay, I’ll keep you up to speed.”
Dieter ended the call and turned to Barroso, “I’m going back to Valerie’s condo.” He gathered the information that McClure had sent to Barroso and stuffed it into a large accordion folder.
“You going to tell me about the call?” Barroso asked.
“My partner, Detective McClure, met with the new CEO of Hudson’s company, said the guy, Eric Caulfield, was very jumpy, spooked more like it.”
“Yeah, what do you know about the guy?”
“He was COO when Hudson was murdered and became the CEO once the dust settled.”
“You think he was involved?”
Dieter’s face scrunched in thought, “I didn’t then, but my guy is going to apply some pressure, see what happens.”
“You know sometimes the simplest answer is a straight line from point A to Point B,” Barroso said. “A guy wants the top job, so he takes it.”
“Doesn’t feel that way, the math doesn’t add up.” Dieter picked up the accordion file folder, “Maybe the answer is in here. Lots of new numbers to add to the equation.”
Barroso merely nodded knowing that good detective work was often tedious but always essential.
“Thanks for lunch. You’re right about that Cuban restaurant,” Dieter offered.
“Told you, the best in Miami.”
Lindsay met Dieter at the door to Valerie’s condo with a hug. He reciprocated and they held each other for a long moment. Dieter arched his head back and looked at Lindsay. She looked tired and unnerved behind the smile that greeted him.
Lindsay looked at Dieter and cocked her head to one side in mock thoughtfulness, “Better now.”
Dieter leaned forward and kissed her fully on the mouth both to her surprise and delight.
She held him tightly until he asked, “How’s Valerie?”
“Sleeping. She’s sedated. I told her about Cecilia and she reacted deeply. She cried, blamed herself and was basically inconsolable, so I gave her a sedative that the doctor at the hospital gave me for her.” She searched Dieter’s face for a response.
“I’m glad you’re here to help her.”
“Absolutely,” she smiled and they moved to the bar. Lindsay went to the kitchen to get ice and Dieter poured a Scotch and a red wine. Lindsay put the ice in a bucket while Dieter scooped up several cubes and dumped them onto his Scotch.
“Classy,” she chided.
“What, these things?” He held up his wet hand, “Dieter family tongs, always available.”
She poked him playfully in the stomach.
He took a drink of the Scotch and let it rattle around inside bringing the calm that it always did. She sipped from her wine glass. Both felt tension subside slightly.
“Go outside?” he asked.
Lindsay turned and walked to the doors leading to the balcony. She pulled the sliding doors apart and a gust of warm ocean air entered rustling her hair. Dieter noticed and smiled. They exited the condo and stood at the railing and looked out at the ocean’s blackness. A sheen from the half moon splashed across the ocean near the horizon. They each stood mesmerized by the simple beauty of it all.
“Nice,” she mused.
Dieter simply raised his glass of Scotch toward the moon and sipped.
Eric Caulfield, his wife and two teen children were silent as his car glided along Interstate 95 north toward Naples, Maine and a chance for safety. He bought the two year old Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo for cash two years ago in Connecticut and registered it under his wife’s maiden name. He worried about the day when it might all come crashing down too often not to prepare for the possibility. He kept the car in a ground level storage site for two years and paid the monthly fees also under his wife’s maiden name.
Eric glanced at the road sign ahead welcoming drivers to New Hampshire. He made a mental note that they would be in Maine in about half an hour and checked the clock on the dash. The digital readout pronounced the time to be eight-forty-six. We made good time, he thought.
Few cars were out on the road. Local folks didn’t drive the Interstate much weekday nights and there were very few vacationers during the winter months. Eric eased back on the gas and set the Cruise Control for sixty-five miles an hour and relaxed his leg against the console. Out of the darkness in his rear view mirror there appeared two headlights approaching too quickly. His foot returned to the gas and gave it a nudge up to seventy then seventy-five miles an hour. His wife noticed the change in speed and looked over at her husband. His eyes flicked back and forth from the rearview mirror to the road ahead.
“What is it?” Susan Caulfield asked her husband of eighteen years.
No answer came because he was focusing attention on the approaching headlights. He increased speed as the headlights grew ever nearer in his rearview mirror. Fingers wrapped more tightly around the steering wheel and his eyes were now locked on the rearview mirror as the approaching car was four car lengths behind.
“Eric,” Susan exclaimed, “why so fast?”
But he couldn’t look at her nor could he answer. Every nightmare he had about the possibility of this moment raced into his troubled mind. There would come a time when escape was the only way out of the twisted mess to which he had become mired. As much as he feared and deflected thought from that moment he had to plan for it. Now, driving at speed on a darkened Interstate 95 in the cold of winter with his most precious cargo on board, all he could do was pray. And then, in a split second the car and its headlights raced past his SUV and barreled on into the night, red tail lights aglow.
He eased his foot from the gas pedal and returned the car’s speed to seventy miles an hour. Susan looked at the car ahead disappearing in the distance. She reached her hand to touch his on the steering wheel.
“Are you okay?” When no answer came she asked, “Are we okay?”
Eric snapped back to the reality of the moment, turned to look at his wife, “Yeah, we’re okay.”
From the back seat came a muffled, sleepy voice from his fourteen year old daughter, Jennifer. “I’m not okay.”
“What’s wrong?” from Susan.
“I gotta pee.”
“Almost there,” he said.
“How long Dad?”
“Less than an hour.”
“I can’t wait that long. I gotta pee,” she announced plaintively.
“Next rest stop,” he said.
“Could you hurry Dad?”
Eric pushed the gas pedal and the SUV moved along at a more brisk seventy eight miles and hour.
The ride from Philadelphia took almost four hours for Franklin Williams once Chuck Renfro reached him by cell phone from Brazil. Franklin had visited another client, Gemini Inc. Training and Consulting, on the western outskirts of Philadelphia. Its government contracts with the federal Urban Mass Transit Authority were a solid source of income. Income that needed a watchful eye. Franklin moved up and down the east coast visiting clients maintaining a presence with the executive officers with whom he did business.
The phone call came as he was having a really fine interlude with a paid escort in a Philadelphia hotel. Franklin opted not to answer the call until the interlude had climaxed.
“Where the hell were you?” bellowed Chuck Renfro once Franklin returned the call.
Franklin had long ago dismissed Chuck’s rage, “What’s up?”
“Caulfield had a visit from a New York City Police detective today. Find out what he said. Remind him of the consequences.”
“Anything else Chuck?” Franklin answered with his usual feigned indifference.
Franklin Williams was a proud man and former soldier who tallied what was important and what was not important. Renfro’s anger was not important; however, the message about Caulfield being visited by a detective was important and Franklin took it seriously.
“Asshole!” Chuck bellowed and ended the call.
The smell of eggs, sausage and coffee permeated throughout Valerie’s condo. As he lay in bed, the morning sun had just crested the ocean’s horizon and Dieter realized that he was hungry. His last meal was the Cuban sandwich with Barroso.
He rose and washed his hands and face in his bathroom, dressed in shorts and tank top then followed the alluring smells to the kitchen. Lindsay sat sipping coffee while Valerie bustled about the kitchen making breakfast. She turned and saw Dieter and smiled grandly.
“Look what I did,” Valerie cooed proudly. With rapid-fire chatter she continued, “Haven’t cooked anything in years. But today, I awoke with such energy, so I made us breakfast. I hope you are hungry. I made lots of eggs, and ten sausages. I can make pancakes if you’d prefer.” She began looking for pancake mix in the kitchen cupboard.
Dieter looked at Lindsay for an explanation.
“Valerie is feeling fine today,” she put a finger to her lips to signify a secret, “Not unusual….”
Dieter walked to Valerie, closed the cupboard and took her hands, “Thanks, this will be enough. Looks great. Yes, I am hungry. Come let’s all sit down, together.”
“Oh,” that would be nice as though the idea had not crossed her mind. She dished the eggs into a serving bowl, added the sausages to another plate and brought both to the table. Dieter pulled a chair out for her. She noticed and sat down.
“Thank you,” she said as she looked up at Dieter.
“Thank you, this is a great breakfast.”
She giggled and averted her eyes coyly. Dieter noticed and again looked at Lindsay for an explanation. Lindsay saw his face but didn’t respond to his obvious unstated question.
“Join us Karl,” she said.
He did after he poured himself coffee. They sat and watched Valerie who was eating hungrily. Valerie and Karl dug in too.
“Wonderful,” Lindsay said, “Karl…?”
“Yes, my favorite breakfast.”
Valerie’s blue eyes darted at Lindsay and Karl and she blushed.
After the trio had finished breakfast, Lindsay began clearing the table. She motioned to Karl to go, “I’ll clear the table, Valerie. Why don’t you and Karl relax in the living room?”
“That would be nice,” Valerie said to Dieter.
“Yes, let’s do that,” he picked up his coffee cup and refilled it. He began to walk to the living room with Valerie, then she stopped and turned to Lindsay, “Thank you,” as a mist formed in her eyes.
When Valerie entered the living room she stopped momentarily and gazed out through the floor-to-ceiling windows at the brightening sky and deep blue ocean.
They sat, Dieter sipped his coffee. He moved forward on the chair which faced Valerie on the couch.
“Valerie, I’d like to ask you some questions,” he waited.
“About Robert and all that’s happened?” she presented with complete clarity.
Dieter was pleased that she was having some moments of clarity this morning. He needed some answers and they seemed locked up in Valerie’s head along with the troubles of the last days.
“Remember why you asked me to come here?” He searched her eyes.
“Yes, I do. I found some notes in a journal that I never had the need to read. The journal was in the safe,” she choked back fear.
“Good, very good. Can you tell me what you found?”
Suddenly Valerie was energized, “Yes, yes, I can. I found a journal, which I never looked at because it was all business notes. Robert would write these notes when he came here because his mind cleared of the daily business. He would say, I can actually think down here, and he would laugh, a beautiful, happy laugh.” She became quiet.
Dieter worried that he may have lost her again. “You found something important, you said when you called,” he reminded her.
“Yes, on one of the pages near the end of the journal, not with the dated notes he made, but separate as though he wanted to keep it special, he wrote about a problem. Yes, that’s what he called it, a problem.”
“What problem?” Dieter fought off the impatience that was trying to leak out.
“It seems some people had contacted him and they wanted to be a part of the company.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Well, they wanted to be a part of the company and he didn’t want them to be.”
“A financial take over?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why not?” Dieter asked.
“Because the notes mentioned contacting the FBI.”
“The FBI? Why?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. That’s all I can remember.”
“Okay, that’s very good. One more question. Were there any names with the notes?”
Valerie closed her eyes as though to see the pages that were now gone forever. Suddenly, her eyes popped open.
“Further down the page he wrote the name L-E-W-I-S in capital letters ending with several exclamation points.”
Dieter asked, “Who is Lewis?”
“I don’t know anyone named Lewis,” she said beginning a stroll down the darkening corridors of her mind.
Ten minutes later Dieter was on the phone with McClure.
“Check out anyone named Lewis who might be connected with Hudson’s company,” Dieter told McClure spelling the name.
“First or last name?”
“Check both ways.”
“Check employees, suppliers, vendors, government contacts, personal contacts-especially connected to Caulfield, be creative. I’ll get the police down here to help with the searches.”
Two hours later McClure was back on the phone with Dieter.
“Caulfield is gone.”
“Went to his house in Larchmont. The house is dark. Asked a neighbor who was outside if he knew when they all get home from school and such.”
“Said he saw Susan, Caulfield’s wife, leave yesterday. The house has been dark ever since. He didn’t go to his office today either.”
“Yeah, I was the second person looking for them today. When I showed my badge the neighbor asked if they were in trouble. So, I asked him if he knew anyone named Lewis on the block. Negatory on that Karl.”
“You were right about spooking him, JB. Did you get a description of the person who was looking for them?”
“Rough looking black guy is what the neighbor said,” with a smattering of distaste for the description.
“Tall short, what?”
“Tall, muscular, had a military look about him,” and he added, “said he was a colleague, but the neighbor didn’t buy it.”
“Did he say why he didn’t buy it?”
“The African-American guy seemed really pissed. The neighbor gave him nothing.”
“Car, license plates?”
“Black Range Rover but no plate number. The neighbor didn’t think to look.”
“Get a lookout-out for the Range Rover ASAP…”
“BOLO already done.”
“Good work JB.”
“What do you think is going on here?”
“If Caulfield really took off, and not on an unannounced getaway with the family, he might be on the run.”
“I’ll check with the kids’ schools. If they took off for a few days they’d probably let the schools know.”
“Yeah, and if they didn’t…they’re running,” Dieter postulated. “What did the secretary say?”
“She was evasive, didn’t know, but definitely nervous about his absence. When I asked her if he often disappears like this she responded very pointedly that he didn’t disappear. Very defensive, and protective, but she added that this was the first time he didn’t let her know of his plans.”
“He’s in the wind,” Dieter declared.
“Yep.” Each man ruminated on the new events and their possible meaning. “I’ll let you know about the schools.”
While McClure was on the phone with Caulfield’s secretary getting the names of the kids’ schools, Dieter was on the phone with Barroso.
“FBI!” Barroso exclaimed, “Now it’s going to get difficult.”
“Maybe, not sure how accurate Valerie’s memory is about the journal entries. Or even that name Lewis. One thing is sure, Caulfield got spooked and that’s where I got to go next. My partner in New York is working some things now. I’ll keep you up to speed.”
“You leaving Florida soon?”
“Probably. One or two things to nail down here first.”
“Like what?” Barroso asked with a touch of annoyance.
“Got to make sure Mrs. Hudson is safe here or maybe talk her into going back to New York where we can keep an eye on her.”
“Okay, my guys will stay on the investigations of the events that happened down here. Keep you advised.”
“Well, actually you can help if you can spare some research time….”
Dieter explained the possibilities that had arisen from McClure’s work to date, “Can you help?”
Big sigh followed by, “Let me get back to you.”
Dieter knew the true meaning of that answer.
“Captain, Dieter here,” he began with his call to report the newest events surrounding the Hudson cold case.
“Dieter, what do you have?” all business from Whitehead.
Detective Karl Dieter reported to his superior from his notes.
“FBI! Shit, are you sure about that?” he barked.
“No, I’m not. Mrs. Hudson’s memory comes in and out. Checking all possibilities with McClure’s help.”
“Okay, what else do you need?”
“I want to take a careful look at Hudson Manufacturing’s books over these last years. Going to need forensics to give their books a full review.”
“Now we’re getting legal. Need a judge on board.”
“Yeah, I know…”
“Okay, I’ll set it up.” Whitehead continued, “One more thing, get your ass back here pronto.”
“That’s my plan Cap.”
But he didn’t have a plan.
Eric Caulfield stood at the living room window of the cottage on Lake Sebago, Naples, Maine watching the wind whip across the mostly frozen lake. He could see soft snow kicked up and redeposited on the lake’s surface in wind driven swirls. Cold wind seeped through the window near Eric and he made a mental note to caulk it later in the day. A chill ran through his body so he restoked the fireplace with more wood. The dry wood settled into the fire and soon was crackling with sparks of flame.
The early morning sunlight shone on the front of the three bedroom cottage that he bought for cash years ago seeking a private getaway spot on the little patch of lake in Maine. Later, when the sun moved across the sky, over the roof and faced the rear of the house where the windows faced the lake, there would be hints of warmth across the rug that covered the wooden floors.
Now he padded around the room in bare feet listening for unusual sounds outside. He was grateful for the early morning quiet that settled around the cottage. The silence was soon replaced, however, by the shuffling of house slippers as Susan entered the living room from the hallway that led to their bedroom.
Eric turned to his wife, “Morning.”
She came to his side, kissed his cheek and patted his arm. “We have to talk.” She sat on the couch facing the fire and its warmth and wrapped a knitted blanket around her legs. She pulled her robe tightly around her body and looked up at Eric.
Eric joined her on the couch. In whispers, so as not to allow the kids to hear the story, he summarized the events that led up to the moment they sat in hiding.
“Do you remember those terrible days of September 11th?”
Susan nodded with a painful look across her face.
“Robert was killed?
Susan shuddered. “Yes, I remember…”
Eric wished he had expressed it another way, but he continued, “Because he wouldn’t kick back money to a group offering security services for the company.”
Susan jolted forward facing Eric, “Security for what? Do you need…?”
Eric shook his head and searched his mind for a way to explain.
“You mean protection money like in those gangster movies?”
Eric hated the sound of it spelled out in its simplest form as Susan had done. “They wanted between five and ten percent from each government or military contract that we won. All of the payments had to come without a trace to them.”
Recognition crossed Susan’s face. “They killed Robert for that?”
“Yes,” barely audible.
“Why didn’t you go to the police?” she challenged.
Eric’s face saddened at the question. It spoke to his weakness over the years and his fear. “They threatened me…all of us…”
Susan clutched the robe even tighter but the news still brought a shiver to her body.
“Hey. Why’s everbody up so early?” from sleepy eyed son Jake.
Susan stood abruptly, looked at Eric for comfort, but instead moved to Jake and gave him a hug which he rejected.
“Hey, what’s going on?” He looked from one parent to the other, “Dad?”
Susan saved the moment, “Just glad that we could all sneak away for a while,” she turned to Eric, “Right?”
Recovering, “Absolutely,” he walked to Jake, “been so busy that I’ve neglected you guys so I had an idea. Let’s get away, have fun, you know chill out,” he said expansively.
“Chill out?” from Jennifer who joined the family in the living room. “Ugh.” She plopped on the floor in front of the fireplace and held her hands to the crackling fire.
Susan challenged,” Who’s hungry?”
“Can we have pancakes? Lots of pancakes,” Jake announced loudly.
Susan eyed Eric quizzically since he had gathered the supplies together.
“Should be somewhere,” he said and he began a search of the pantry with Susan at his side while Jennifer fiddled with her smart phone.
“Dad,” Jennifer called. “I don’t have any bars on my phone. No service now,” she whined. “Dad I don’t have service here.”
Jake was at the one television in the cabin. “This TV sucks,” he announced as he tried to use the remote but couldn’t.
Eric found a package of batteries in the pantry. “Try these.” He tossed the batteries to Jake who immediately unfurled the wrapping and popped in the necessary batteries. The television came to life and Jake began scrolling through the content menu.
Jennifer began to listen to recorded music from her phone.
Eric looked at Jennifer and Jake, “They’ll be fine,” he said reassuringly to Susan.
With furrowed brows she asked, “Will they?”
“They’re gone,” Franklin said matter-of-factly to Renfro from his car parked with the engine running.
“Gone? Find them.”
“Don’t I always?” Franklin declared.
“Yes, Franklin, you always find the strays,” suffering Franklin’s penchant for braggadocio. “Check in when you do.”
“You got it,” and the call ended.
Renfro, lying in the sand, returned his gaze to la praia and the young women wearing fio dental as the Brazilians jokingly called the dental floss-like bikinis. The summer sun in the State of Rio de Janeiro shone fully on the tourists who fled northern climes in the USA’s winter months to ogle the Brasileiras who proudly strutted their bodies along the shoreline.
Even so, Renfro could no longer concentrate on the young women. He rose and walked toward the promenade feeling very antsy about Caulfield. “I don’t like weak people. They break when the pressure is on,” he had warned Franklin two years earlier. Franklin was in agreement.
Got to find this guy. No telling what he might do.
Franklin put the car into gear and moved through traffic back towards Caulfield’s office. Tracking was the fun stuff for Franklin. He had been trained in the military to track and kill. He did both excellently and he enjoyed both immensely.
He would start, as he always did, in the beginning; this time it would be back at Caulfield’s office. The secretary would give up something to him, he would see to that. At a typically long NYC traffic light he flipped through a stack of faux business cards that he kept in the glove box. He would be affable Maurice Greenwood, a recent business acquaintance to Eric Caulfield. Dark rimmed glasses and a mustache and she’d never be able to ID him, “White folks don’t pay attention to black people.”
Dieter decided to fly back to New York on the Hudson private jet. Valerie called the pilot who arranged for the pick up time and departure from Miami International Airport. Once the trio arrived at MIA’s General Aviation Center and its set of private jet hangars they moved directly to their private jet. The pilot greeted them as each ascended the stairs. He seemed genuinely glad to see Valerie as she was to see him. She gave him a hug upon arrival.
“How is the family, Bill?” she asked Captain William Reynolds.
“Fine m’am,” he answered.
“Now Bill you don’t have to call me m’am, Valerie will do just fine.”
“Old habits from my military days …Valerie, we’ll be taking off in a few minutes. So settle in, buckle up, we have clear skies ahead.”
Dieter felt relieved from the possibilities that otherwise could have occurred if the pilot were involved in the recent events. Their close greeting seemed an assurance otherwise.
Lindsay asked, “Feeling better?”
“Yes, I am, very nice to be with the all of you. I have two strong men on the flight and a wonderful female companion. I’m feeling very well.”
Dieter settled into the seat while Lindsay chatted with Valerie to keep her mind in the present. His plan was to protect Valerie. To that end he asked buddy Kevin Newfield to watch Valerie’s Sunny Isles condo for any further intruders nosing around. He’d get the NYPD forensics guys on the financials of the company-follow the money. He and McClure would locate and meet with Caulfield to increase the pressure that McClure said he displayed. Barroso would move forward with the assault and break-in back in Florida. Maybe we’ll get lucky… find an opening to follow?
The Hawker 850 XP took off on time and its arrival at the Westchester County Airport located about five miles east of White Plains, New York went off without a hitch. They were soon traveling south on the Hutchinson River Parkway toward Manhattan in a limousine car service located at the airport.
McClure phoned, “You need me now?” Dieter had asked.
“No, just checking in,” McClure replied.
“Call you in about forty five minutes.”
Detective Karl Dieter began to fashion a scenario regarding Hudson’s murder, the attacks in Florida and Caulfield’s behavior when McClure told him that new information had arisen. He hoped the financial forensic audit would be worth the cost to the department and to his theory.
Feels like a shakedown gone bad with Robert Hudson. Wonder if it was successful with Caulfield? Is Hudson’s company the only target of the shakedown? What made it a target?
Dieter dropped Valerie at her apartment in the City. He arranged to have a uniformed police officer stationed inside her apartment vestibule with specific instructions to contact him if anything out of place should happen. “Follow your gut.”
He dropped Lindsay at her apartment where he had arranged for a second officer on duty as well.
“Can’t wait to take a shower in my bathroom,” she joked.
Dieter, “Get some rest, I’ll call you later.”
“You going downtown?”
“Yes, got to check in with my Captain.”
Lindsay eyed him approvingly, “You’ll be okay.”
“I know, always am.”
She moved close to him and kissed him gently on the lips. Then she gently pushed him away, “Go, before we get into trouble.”
He turned sharply, “Later,” and he strode down her corridor to the elevator. In the lobby, he reviewed the officer’s responsibilities. Dieter was glad that the officer seemed smart and on top of the assignment.
Once he exited the building he scanned the area in all directions for lingering men trying to look invisible. The cold weather and wind hurried everyone on their way. Check. Another scan for cars parked with engine idling. None. Check and he was in the limousine on his way downtown.
One quick call to McClure, “You in the office?”
“See you in fifteen…”
Captain Whitehead saw Dieter when he entered the squad room and waved him into his office. Dieter held up his suitcase which was still in his possession. Captain nodded and Dieter moved to his desk and deposited the suitcase on his desk chair.
McClure walked toward Dieter, “Give me time with Cap and I’ll be right with you. Lots to talk about,” Dieter said.
McClure watched Dieter as he entered the Captain’s office where he stopped in the doorway and then entered.
Whitehead looked up from his desk which was filled with paperwork in neat little stacks. The Captain waved Dieter to a chair, signed the top sheet that he had been reading and placed it on top of a stack face down. He stretched and focused on Dieter.
“You all right?” was his opening. Dieter was surprised since the Captain was not a warm fuzzy guy.
“Good, so what the hell is going on?”
Dieter walked the Captain through all the events moving rapidly along with the facts as they occurred to hold the Captain’s attention.
“Karl, what do you make of this?”
“Well, the present CEO of Hudson’s company was clearly spooked and may be in the wind with his family.”
Dieter rose and moved to the closed office door. McClure saw him as Dieter waved him to the Captain’s office.
“What?” Whitehead asked.
“JB has some new info, thought we should both hear it.”
McClure came to the door, “Yeah?”
“Did you check on Caulfield’s kids?”
“Yes, both were suddenly checked out of school yesterday. Family matters is all the school had.”
“Anything else?” Captain Whitehead asked.
McClure looked at Dieter, “No Captain.”
“Thanks JB. I’ll speak to you when I’m done here.”
McClure shrugged and walked off as Dieter closed the door.
Dieter sat again, “It’s beginning to look like extortion that led to Robert Hudson’s murder back on September 11th.”
“Why extortion? Maybe Caulfield is behind the murder of his boss? Wouldn’t be the first time that happened.”
“No, it wouldn’t but Caulfield seems clean, family man also well liked and respected. Not the kind of hungry guy capable of murder.”
“Tell me about the company.”
“His company did and still does contract work for the Federal Government. Excellent record, well respected company. Eric Caulfield, who took over the CEO spot after Hudson was killed, got spooked when I asked McClure to review the old case interviews at Hudson’s headquarters. Took his kids and wife, the neighbors said he’s gone.”
“And the extortion angle?”
“Valerie Hudson’s memory of the contents of her husband’s journal in the burglarized safe had a notation FBI.”
“Yeah, I remember you said that.” Whitehead was frowning now. “I hate getting involved with those guys.”
“Well, it’s only a maybe right now.”
Whitehead rose, “Okay let me know when it passes maybe to something real.” The Captain strode out of his office towards the Men’s bathroom. Dieter walked to his desk where he took the suitcase from the chair and sat down.
McClure ambled over, “Hey.”
“How is the forensics accounting review coming?”
“Well, we got people over there but the Hudson people are not making it easy. The CEO is not around and can’t be reached. The CFO is protective of his company.”
“That’s his job.”
“Yes, we should have a preliminary report by end of tomorrow.”
“Tell them I need it by tomorrow morning,” Dieter said.
Dieter took out his cell phone and checked his Contacts list. He quickly rolled through the names and contact information alphabetically and found the name he sought. Burton ‘Buddy’ Philbrick was listed with a number in Pennsylvania. He pushed the 717 area code followed by the phone number. After three shorts rings the familiar voice of former military Sergeant Buddy Philbrick boomed a welcome.
“Hey Karl how’s it hangin’?”
Dieter smiled to hear the still affable greeting from his old friend. “Straight and true and you?”
Buddy Philbrick laughed appreciatively, glad that Karl still remembered the old greeting game from days gone by. “Still chasing bad guys?”
“Yes, that’s why I’m calling you.”
“Really? You need my help?”
“Sure do,” Dieter said, slipping into the folksy style that defined Buddy.
“What can I do you for?”
Dieter detailed only bits and pieces of the case, leaving out the names of the deceased and the company name too. He wanted information regarding the way companies do business with a government agency. Buddy had retired from military life and took a job with a consulting company outside of Millersville, a borough of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was familiar with government and military contracts and how the system worked. Dieter needed a quick review of the process and Buddy was his source.
“Karl, the government spends lots of money on contracts won by private companies that offer services such as preparing training manuals for military folk all over the world. They buy products such as rivets and fasteners from private manufacturers. These companies answer a request for bids or quotes through a formal process called RFPs and RFQs.”
“Don’t some companies have an insider track?”
Buddy laughed into the telephone receiver. “Not supposed to, but yeah some are wired for the job by the nature of the request. You think that’s what you’re looking into?”
“Not sure, but don’t think so. The people involved in my investigation seem okay at least up until recently.”
“What do you mean?”
“The CEO of the company skipped town, vanished.”
“Listen my friend, there’s lots of money involved in the contracts. It wouldn’t take much to strong arm a CEO into sharing some of the profits with the right amount of leverage.”
“You could say that. You did say someone got dead, right?”
“How would the money be paid? Hidden from auditors? I assume there are auditors looking over these contracts,” Dieter stated.
“Yep, some good and some not so good. The money would have to be paid from a company’s coffers and not as part of the contract. From profits not operating money. The place to look is in the company’s books assuming they’re on the up and up.”
“We’re doing that now. Care to tell me what we might be looking for?”
“Gonna cost you double,” followed by a loud, ear splitting guffaw.
“Okay, two beers it is.”
“Seriously, what do you recommend that we look for?”
“Unusual charges for a company of its kind.”
“Unnecessary or high transport fees, consulting costs and phony security fees might be a start.”
Dieter was glad to hear the information from Buddy. It buoyed his own belief that Robert Hudson was blackmailed and didn’t go for it. It also made sense that Caulfield took off with his family because he didn’t reject the extortion efforts. He must have paid the extortion. After all he and his family were alive, Dieter thought.
But who could make a company, with a great track record working with the government, bend the CEO to their will? Anyone, if they believed the former CEO was killed because he didn’t bend to the extortion.
Lindsay felt comforted by the familiar office surroundings as she sat listening to new patient, Carla Weston. Too much time had passed since Lindsay was back in her own life. She reflected on her need to escape and flee her demons for a refresher. She understood now why she had run off to Florida. No regrets however. She did return with renewed wisdom and understanding. Her mind had been partially cleansed in those moments of extreme tension, violence and fear in Florida. She had experienced all that and survived. The demons did not win. Lindsay was back for the most part. She was glad to be with her patients and her life.
Carla sat stiffly in the chair facing Lindsay unsure how far to go with her problem. Lindsay recognized the stage that Carla inhabited. Reassurance and trust were the cornerstones of the early visits. Later, Lindsay knew, the underlying problem would emerge. But for now, she made it as comfortable for Carla while she sat struggling with her words.
When the first session ended Carla became agitated. Lindsay saw it and waited.
“What is it?”
Carla’s face screwed up into a grimace followed by a solitary tear that rolled down her cheek. “There’s so much more to me than what you see before you Doctor Riccardi.” Silence followed.
“Yes of course. Let’s start right there next time. Okay?” Lindsay rose and Carla stood as well. She gathered her purse and coat.
“Same time next week?”
“Yes, Doctor that’s fine,” she wanted to shake Lindsay’s hand, but merely nodded and left the office.
There was time before the next patient so Lindsay decided that a cup of tea would be in order. In her kitchen waiting for the tea pot to announce that its water had boiled, Lindsay’s mind repeated Carla’s last comment. There’s so much more to me.
Me too she answered. Me too. This message buoyed her already upbeat feelings since she came home to her work and her apartment. Strangely, the apartment which was the scene of terrifying violence and death months earlier no longer held the same foreboding dread that had lurked in corners.
There is so much more to me and so much more to uncover. No. Not uncover, to unleash. A satisfying smile opened on her face just as the tea pot whistled its message.
At seven o’clock the last patient who was scheduled for seven-thirty called to apologize.
“I’m sorry Doctor R,” Vanessa Slocum lied, as she held her hand over the cell phone to look back into the bar where she had met a handsome, good looking, short stocky – like her- guy in banking. She was eager to return to him before he was lost for the evening.
Lindsay answered, knowing it was a lie, “Hope you feel better. Next week?”
“Yeah, sure, I promise,” Vanessa clicked off the phone and click-clacked back to her quarry.
Franklin Williams posing as Maurice Greenwood stood towering over the Eric Caulfield’s secretary’s desk smiling with an extended hand to deliver his business card.
“Maurice Greenwood, m’am,” spoke Mr. Affable. “I’d like to see Eric if he’s free. He said when I’m in town to drop on by. So, when I realized I was in his building seeing another client, I thought I’d, you know, drop on by….”
The secretary missed his forced smile because she was busy reading the business card that was thrust on her. Maurice hid his face with nose scratches and eye glass adjustments as he stood and looked around the offices.
“I’m sorry,” she looked down at the card, “Mr. Greenwood, but he’s not here today.”
“Shoot, well I guess I can try another day. Going to be in town for a few more days. Can I make an appointment?”
“I’m afraid not,” she began but was interrupted.
“I hope he is well, not sick, or anything?”
“He’s just out of town,” she said. “Hard to say when he will be back this week.”
“Oh, that’s too bad. Okay, my next trip to town. Thanks,” and he turned, walked a few paces and asked, “Is he at that place he slips away to,” fawned thinking,” you know up in…?”
“Maine? I really don’t know.”
“Okay some other time,” and he headed for the bank of elevators that would take him to the lobby, that led to the street which led to his car and begin his drive to Maine on the off-chance that Eric Caulfield was hiding there.
Franklin Williams loved to drive. His vehicle had become his office and his best friend. A phone call from the car to his researcher brought a cheery, “Hello, Handsome, how can I help you today.”
“Good day, Beautiful,” he spoke to a woman’s voice that was home to a person he’d never met, “gotta track down someone.”
“Okay, when you’re ready, I am…”
“Eric Caulfield, CEO at Hudson Manufacturing, married, two kids, lives in New York City but may have a residence in Maine. Can you get me that information?”
“Will the sun rise in the morning, Handsome?”
“Thank you, Beautiful. You have several hours.”
“Nothing takes several hours.”
“I do,” he chuckled.
“I’m going to test that one day,” with her own chuckle. “Text or email?”
“As you wish kind sir,” another chuckle and she hung up.
Martha, a sixty-seven year old researcher weighing a solid two hundred thirty pounds, began her search for Eric Caulfield’s whereabouts soon after she finished three brownies to ward off the hungries as she liked to call it.
Chubby fingers tipped by raggedly gnawed finger nails flew across the keyboard shunting commands to one search engine after another until each of the three computer monitors sprang to life with scrolls of lists that detailed Eric Caulfield’s life.
By the time Franklin Williams passed the Chatsworth Avenue exit in Larchmont, New York heading north on Interstate-95 Martha had found an address in Maine connected to Eric Caulfield. The address was not in Caulfield’s name but in his wife’s maiden name. She typed out an email to Franklin’s coded email address and another to his cell phone number with the address in Maine.
Williams saw the cell phone light up with the text message and he switched off the CD of James Brown Collectables singing, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Williams punched the buttons on the radio attached by Bluetooth to his smart phone but the text message could not be read.
He took the phone from its perch on the dashboard and read the text message. A quick scan revealed the first words for an address in Maine. I got to stop by and say a proper hello to Martha one day. The hunch from the meager information that Caulfield’s secretary gave him proved worthwhile. The phone was returned to its dashboard holder.
James Brown rejoined him in the car and Franklin Williams sang along with full gusto. Now that he knew Caulfield was in Maine, Williams could retrieve the complete information from the email and text messages when he stopped for gas. This was gonna be easy.
Dieter and McClure entered the offices where NYC’s finest forensics accounting folks played havoc with white collar bad guys and much more. Josh Halbertson met them with his usual, “Hey,” followed by, “I may have something interesting for you guys.” He strolled back to his desk and computer where Dieter and McClure joined him to gaze at the monitor which began to flash one screen after another until it stopped at one particular screen. Halbertson sat back in his chair and looked up at them with great personal satisfaction. Each returned a befuddled look.
“Okay,” he began as he sat forward on his chair and pointed to the screen that showed detailed accounting information. “See this here?” he looked over his shoulder at Dieter. “It’s one of many, payouts to the CFO of the Hudson Company. Several times a year a payout is made to him personally. Small amounts,” he pointed to a line which listed $5,700.
“I don’t get it,” Dieter said.
“There is no business reason to give him these payouts, but he’s the CFO so he can do it. He takes them.”
“What does this have to do with my audit of the books?” Dieter asked with a drop of impatience.
“Well, it does and it doesn’t,” Halberston said, but quickly moved to a series of screens where he stopped once again. The screen showed billing and payouts to RC Consulting, Eagle Security and B&K Transportation.
“I checked each of these companies-due diligence necessary here.” He waited for Dieter.
“What did you find?”
Halberston swiveled around in his chair causing Dieter and McClure to move aside one step. “They don’t exist. No such companies. Not in the U.S., not in the whole world.”
Dieter looked at McClure with satisfaction. “So, where is the money…?”
Halberston cut him off, “…going. Where is the money going? I asked myself the same question.” He swung around back to the monitor, clicked a series of keystrokes and a new screen appeared. This time Dieter leaned in to read the names of several offshore banks.
“Too easy to find,” McClure said which caused Halbertson to eye him with petulance. “I mean, someone at the company should have found this.”
“Exactly, and that someone should have been the CFO, but he was more interested in getting his own hush money to pay for private school tuition for his son. The last payment I showed you for $5,700 was the smallest to date. He’s taken tens of thousands of dollars of the last three years in bits and pieces but mostly in line with dates when tuition or fees were due at the Courtney School for Boys.”
“He knows,” Dieter deduced.
“That’s my guess.”
Dennis Atkinson sat at his desk doing what he loved best. The CFO of Hudson Manufacturing had studied accounting at Rutgers University in New Jersey where his talent and interest in numbers that told a story brought him to his desk where he was preparing the monthly revenue report. To say that he was startled by the two men who stood in his opened doorway would not cover the jolt he felt. His heart rate skipped upwards by thirty points in a millisecond. The heart jumped again when he saw the men hold up their NYC Police Detective badges.
“Dennis Atkinson?” Dieter began. “I am Detective Dieter and this is Detective McClure. We need to speak with you. Your secretary is away from her desk…”
Dennis rose from his desk hoping his legs would not give out. His tall angular frame moved awkwardly as he walked toward the two detectives.
“Yes, I am Atkinson. How can I help you?” He secretly hoped that no one else could hear his beating heart.
“We have uncovered some unique accounting discrepancies in your books.” Dieter said sternly. “We need answers to several questions.”
“Yes,” answered McClure, “discrepancies.”
Dennis Atkinson’s eyes went to his opened office door. His gangly stride took him to the door and back as he closed it against the outer office.
“I don’t understand my books are very carefully…”
“Not so carefully,” Dieter interjected. He had decided that this was going to be an aggressive interview. Time suddenly seemed a concern. He handed the folder with the printout of the payouts to Dennis Atkinson over the last several years totaling nearly $87,000.
Still standing before the detectives he scanned the summative printout. His face blanched, all color evaporating into the air. It was difficult for Dennis to raise his eyes and look at the detectives, but he did marshalling all the self control available. He turned and walked behind his desk and sat down. He motioned for the detectives to be seated. They sat. McClure moved his coat jacket aside to reposition the handcuffs so Dennis could see them. He did.
“How can I help you?”
“That’s a lot of money going to you over these last years for no specific reason. Why did you get that money?”
“Bonuses,” he tried to lie. “I’m on a special bonus plan, yes, a bonus plan if I can save the company money.”
“Really? And you have been saving the company money, lots of money by the bonuses you’ve received.” Dieter stated with irony.
“Well, yes, I have,” his voice caught and he pretended to cough.
Dieter sat forward, hands on the edge of Atkinson’s desk. “That’s just not true is it?”
McClure pointed to the printout that they gave Atkinson. “That’s only part of the story. There’s more. Payouts to non-existent companies for more years than you’ve been here. Large payouts that make your bonuses seem like chump change. Mr. Atkinson, it’s over. Time to end this because if you don’t we will…”
Dieter stood and walked to a table that had a grouping of family photos. He looked from one to another. He turned to face Atkinson, “Nice family. You care about them?”
“Yes,” with a burst of fear.
“You’re a family man. Right?”
“Yes, they mean everything to me,” his eyes flashed to pictures of a young boy at Atkinson’s side, clinging to his father.
“Your son seems to like his dad.”
McClure and Dieter brought their eyes to bore into Dennis Atkinson who sat weighing his options. They let him decide. After a long moment and a deep breath he said, “What do you want to know?”
McClure began, “We did a complete accounting review of your books. Money given to you and money to the non-existent companies.” McClure referred to his notes, “RC Consulting, Eagle Security and B&K Transportation. Let’s start with your bonuses.”
“Three years ago my son, Sean was diagnosed with Asperberger Syndrome, a form of autism that causes difficulties in social situations…and more.” He stopped to control his rising emotions. “After Sean was born we learned that my wife could no longer have children safely. We put all our energies into helping Sean. After a while we realized he’d need special help at school, with therapists and so we did everything we could…”
“And that costs lots of money,” Dieter concluded.
“Yes, we used our savings, my 401K money, investments and then I found a …,” Atkinson paused searching for a word, “discrepancy in the books. Several in fact.”
“What did you do?” Dieter asked.
“I went to Eric, our CEO Eric Caulfield.”
“We know who he is,” McClure advised. “What did he say?”
“At first he tried to deflect the issues that I raised, ‘it’s just business.’ But it was not just business. Finally he said that he’d let me have anything that I wanted if I looked away from the issue. It all happened at a time when Sean was having the most difficult time at school. The kids were merciless…”
The detectives exchanged looks and waited for Atkinson to continue.
“So, I did. I looked away and decided to put Sean in a special school.”
“The Courtney School for Boys,” McClure stated.
Atkinson nodded and continued. “The tuition was very high, more than I could pay, so I told Eric that I would be talking money for my son. He understood and was okay with it, even relieved.” Atkinson looked at the detectives for approval or understanding. Neither came from the detectives.
“What did you find about the fake companies?”
“Only that Eric was paying them for services that we never received. Extortion for something I assumed.”
“Extortion from whom? What sources?” Dieter questioned.
“I don’t know.”
“Oh come on! You expect us to believe that you never found out. No clue. No suspicions on your part. You didn’t try to find out more so you could get more money?” McClure accused.
“No, I swear. Eric was really scared when I found out that something was not right. He offered me anything I wanted, but I just wanted help for Sean. No more than that. I swear. If Sean wasn’t…I mean …”
“Okay, so you know nothing about the three fictitious companies but you certainly monitored the payouts to them. Right?”
“And that makes you complicit!” Dieter said.
Atkinson slumped deeper into his chair.
“Where is Caulfield?” Dieter asked more softly.
“I don’t know.”
“How could you not know where the CEO of the company is right now?”
“He didn’t tell me he was leaving. It was sudden. His secretary called to ask me where he went, that’s how I found out he was gone.”
Dieter and McClure left Dennis Atkinson to ruminate on his situation while they went to Caulfield’s office to speak with his secretary. She remembered the young detective. Her mood was still very somber.
“We need to know where he is,” McClure said after receiving no answers from the secretary.
“I really have no idea,” she stood her ground.
“Did anyone out of the ordinary come looking for him?” McClure asked.
“Yes, yes a business acquaintance came to see him. Said he was in town on business, in this building, and he asked to say hello to Mr. Caulfield.”
“What did he look like?” Dieter asked.
“Big African-American man. Very polite, gave me his card.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Said he was out of town for a while is all.”
“Did he ask you anything after that?”
“No, he didn’t,” and she thought for a second. “Yes, he asked if he went to that place in Maine,” and then her eyes bulged in recognition. “No, I said he had a place in Maine. Oh my god! Is he in trouble?”
“How did you know about the place in Maine?”
The secretary’s face reddened, “I overheard a conversation several years ago about a place in Maine. I just assumed…”
“A conversation? With whom?” McClure asked testily.
“His wife, on the phone…” She sat shaking her head side to side, confusion mixed with guilt.
The detectives sat in the car waiting for NYC traffic to move, “The big African-American guy again,” McClure said.
“He’s tracking Caulfield and his family,” Dieter said soberly.
“We have to get to Caulfield first,” Dieter declared.
The traffic opened allowing the detectives to move the investigation forward.
“Damn it Chuck!” Franklin Williams exclaimed as he stood at the urinal in the Men’s Room at a stop enroute to Maine along the Interstate. Franklin finished his business, washed his hands and took out his cell phone as he exited the Men’s Room.
There was a message from Chuck Renfro. Franklin didn’t bother to listen to the message. Instead he returned the call.
“What’s the update?” Chuck Renfro unceremoniously began.
“Going to Maine to see Eric Caulfield,” was Franklin’s cryptic reply.
“You found him?”
“Yep,” at the least Franklin was confident he could find Eric Caulfield.
“Depends. What do you want me to do?”
“We got to cover our tracks here…again.”
Franklin remembered the day it was decided to resolve the situation with Robert Hudson when he had threatened to go to the Feds instead of paying. Bad day all around for him, Hudson and the folks in the buildings, he thought. As former military, he hated the attack on the Twin Towers. He hated the people who did it and he wanted to get back into the mix to get even. But he didn’t. He couldn’t because of his discharge for hitting a superior officer. The discharge from the military had redirected his life. His anger had invaded every fiber in his being. The military was his life, his purpose and it defined him. He had run into Charles Renfro when he was gone from the military for six months, trying to create a new life. Renfro was retired military with a very bad attitude, angry and greedy.
They pissed and moaned about their bad fortune but didn’t have a route to take to get on a gravy train. That would happen when the third member of the group arrived.
The third member of their group, George Lewis, a disgruntled contracts administrator for the government, had worked with Renfro on military contracts when Renfro was a consultant to several small companies doing business with the government.
Both men were envious of the money that the contracting companies made from the government. Their fees as a consultant and as a contracts administrator giving out and overseeing millions of dollars, they felt, were small change compared to what they should be getting. They devised a scheme based on the experience George Lewis brought from his time working for the government.
“There might be a way for us to get some of the money these companies got from the government coffers,” he had postulated late one evening over a few drinks in a bar within spitting distance of the Capitol Building. “If we stay small and don’t get too greedy we can strong arm medium sized companies into sharing some of their fees, consulting fees, like security…” He had let the possibility sit in the boozy air between him and Check Renfro as each man negotiated the possibilities. Lewis had the know how to find companies that were doing business with the government and Renfro had the ability to intimidate the owners and executives to comply with their demands.
Franklin Williams understood the statement and the addendum “…again.”
“You sure about this?” Franklin asked.
“You got a better idea?” was Renfro’s terse reply.
Franklin’s silence was acquiescence enough for Renfro, but he added, “Keep me up to speed. I’ll be in the States in two days. We should meet.”
“All of us?” Franklin asked alluding to a meeting with George Lewis as well.
“Yeah, I’ll let you know,” Renfro hung up.
Detective Karl Dieter stared at the computer monitor and scowled openly, “If we found Caulfield’s family place up in Maine so easily…so did they.”
“Putting the place in his wife’s maiden name was not too smart,” McClure said shaking his head.
“May be a fatal mistake.”
“You want me to call the locals up there? Have them check out the place?”
“No, I’ll do it,” Dieter said and he began a series of calls to get the necessary phone numbers.
“Eric, the kids have cabin fever,” Susan Caulfield said.
“Yeah,” he smiled as he looked over to his son and daughter sitting bored in their small living room watching the fireplace light the room.
“How about dinner out?” Susan asked to her family.
“And a movie? There’s nothing on this TV,” she said pointing accusatorily it.
Susan’s eyes implored her husband’s eyes as she knew the risk they might be taking going out in the community. New folks always stuck out. Now was the time to stay low key, but….
She clicked her eyes toward their children and he followed her gaze. He saw their demeanor climb when his wife mentioned a night out.
“Okay, why not?” He knew the answer but chose not to share it, not wanting his family to share his fear and the bile that began to climb up his esophageal track.
“Can we get pizza?” his son asked.
“Sure,” Eric said having seen a local Italian restaurant on the road.
In twenty minutes they were on their way south to the restaurant and then later to Portland for a new “…really funny…” movie that Jennifer begged to see.
The family’s mood swept upward as they drove to the restaurant while a light snow sifted through the darkness along the roadway. Eric’s eyes were watchful for any car that passed and turned around in their direction. None did.
Officer Tom Wiggins had received the call from Dieter asking to check out the address on the lake in Naples, Maine. The ten minute drive followed by ten minutes of unfinished paper work and a quick bathroom stop were enough to cause him to miss the family leaving the cabin as he approached from the local police station just North of the cabin.
He drove up the long winding snow covered dirt road which led from the highway. The tracks from a car were visible so he thought it would be easy to check out the family. The cabin was dark, only a hint of smoke leaving the chimney signaled that people had been there recently. Nevertheless, he entered the cabin after knocking, and announcing his presence to no response. Gun drawn he searched the empty cabin seeing only signs of the inhabitants; bathroom counter lined with tooth paste and tooth brushes, hair brushes, wet towels as well as unmade beds in the smaller bedrooms and the refrigerator stocked with fresh food. He concluded that all was okay; showing no signs of foul play he left and closed the door behind him. He’d call the downstate detective to allay his concerns when he returned to the police station. Officer Wiggins would then head over to ex-girlfriend Victoria’s house for a drink and maybe a special moment.
“You sure everything seemed okay at the cabin?” Dieter reiterated his first question when Wiggins had called.
Wiggins answered again, “Yes, Detective, the cabin was empty, everything normal. No signs of anything unusual. They probably went out for the evening.” The moment he said that he was sure the detective would ask him to return to the cabin later that night. Dieter did just that.
Mustering all his credibility, Wiggins said he would check again later but he quickly calculated the timing for his drink, something special and the ride back to the cabin. Victoria might ask him to stay for breakfast but she would not want him to leave and return later. His job was always a problem for her. He shrugged and would have to make the most of things as they were.
Eric and Susan sipped Chianti and played with their pasta. Jake and Jennifer gulped down the pizza followed by soda from cans. The restaurant staff sat at a table in the near empty restaurant on a weeknight with watchful eyes on the Caulfield family. Natalie, the only waitress on duty wandered by a few times asking, “How are we doing?” in her most interested voice.
“Fine, fine,” was Eric Caulfield’s response each time with thumbs up for Natalie’s last trip to the table.
Natalie was bored, so she asked, “You guys visiting up here? Never seen you before.”
“On our way North on a skiing trip,” his eyes flashed to the kids who tried to become invisible.
When Natalie had ambled away from the table Jennifer asked, “Are we really going skiing? I never went skiing.”
Jake gave her a light punch in the arm to which she exclaimed, “Ow! That hurt.”
Susan changed the subject, “How long to Portland?”
Eric checked his watch, “We should get going.” He paid the check and the Caulfield’s left the restaurant heading south along the main road. The light snowfall drifted to the side of the road as their vehicle moved through.
Inside the restaurant Natalie smirked, “They’re going the wrong way,” quickly retrieving the generous tip which she stuffed in her pocket.
Franklin Williams was getting sleepy. Hunger visited his stomach but he had a job to do. The military had taught him to disregard hunger, pain and intrusions that would set aside the goal of any mission. His training pushed him on through the dark roads and light snowfall. He approached Naples, Maine a little after 2230 hours. It took him another fifteen minutes to find the address even with the GPS device telling him that he had reached his destination. The darkness and lack of light poles caused him to miss the small snow covered dirt road that led to the Caulfield cabin. Eventually he followed his instincts and turned down the small road which still showed the car tracks. He switched off his headlights and drove very slowly. Once his eyes were accustomed to the darkness he could follow the tire tracks which led him to a clearing. In the short distance he could make out a structure resembling a cabin.
“Bingo,” he exulted to the air.
He drove the car into a wooded area adjoining the cabin’s property just out of sight. For fully five minutes he sat in the blackness reconnoitering the area. He inserted a clip into the automatic weapon that had lain in his glove compartment. No movement outside or inside the cabin. So he left his vehicle carefully covering the interior light and noiselessly closing the door.
The night air was very cold so he pulled on gloves and gathered his collar close to his neck. Very slowly, he moved toward the cabin. Once at the side of the cabin nearest the chimney he recognized the smell of a fireplace that was recently ablaze. He nodded with satisfaction. The darkened cabin and the time approaching 2300 hours told him the inhabitants were not awake.
Neither movement nor sound came from the cabin. Silently he twisted the door knob to the front of the cabin and the door shifted open. He pulled out his weapon and stepped inside again pausing to listen for any sounds. None came so he moved forward from room to empty room. He too made note of the signs that people were recently at the cabin; one dish in the sink, a coffee mug sat waiting for the next fill up from the nearby coffee maker, a candy wrapper that feel to the floor.
This is their place. They were here, kids too.
He decided to wait in his vehicle even though the cabin’s warmth was inviting. Military training kicked in again. He had waited for a target many times before. Old habits took hold.
“I told you it was supposed to be really funny. It was, wasn’t it?” Jennifer waited for affirmation from her family.
“Yes, Jen it was really funny,” Susan said to her now happy daughter.
Jennifer turned to Jake who agreed, “Yeah, funny but goofy.”
The two teens laughed appreciatively. Eric Caulfield felt better that his family was now relaxed. If only he could join them in the feeling. There was a foreboding of things that might come deep within his psyche. Even the dinner and goofy movie couldn’t take his mind from the possibilities that might lay in the darkness.
Susan watched her husband on the drive back to their hideaway as his eyes darted to the rearview mirror again and again. She was resigned that this nightmare would have to be resolved very soon. She just didn’t know the resolution or the choices she only knew it couldn’t go on much longer.
Franklin’s cell phone vibrated in his coat pocket. A quick glance and it was as he surmised, Renfro sent a text. Update?
Update this! Franklin Williams ignored the text. He never liked being checked on especially when the situation was well in hand. I got this…. I’ll update when it’s over.
The often returning memory from that day in September 11th floated back to him. He could still see the obstinacy in Robert Hudson’s eyes while they walked side by side going South on West Street at the foot of One World Trade Center. Hudson had refused to enter into a mutually beneficial relationship with Franklin Williams and his people early that morning.
“Mutually beneficial! Is that a threat?” Hudson the Vietnam Veteran had said as he stopped and faced Franklin Williams. “Who the hell do you think you are?”
That last belittling thrust at Williams was the final impetus to push him over the edge against this big shot CEO.
Stepping into the space between the two men, he said, “Me? I’m the guy who is sending you on your final journey!” Franklin pulled the trigger of his revolver twice at close range. Two bullets flew into and through Robert Hudson’s chest into his heart. His face never had time to show recognition of the sudden event. Death arrived before he hit the sidewalk.
Passersby would not remember the man falling to the ground but those who survived would remember the shock wave that hit as the first plane flown by terrorists hit the World Trade Center tower above crashing into the building’s structure shattering glass and thousands of innocent lives.
Lights moved across the darkness lighting trees momentarily as Caulfield drove down the road to the cabin. Franklin’s eyes followed the white head lights, then the red tail lights as the white brake lights came on and the vehicle stopped near the cabin. When the vehicle’s cabin lights came on he could see four people exit the car. The first was a young girl who ran into the cabin. A light in a nearby room ignited the shadow behind a shade.
The young boy followed stopping at the entry to take a look around the property only to be ushered into the cabin by the woman. The man locked his car with a click of the remote. He too stood for a few moments scanning the property. When he was satisfied or just too cold, he entered the cabin. Lights flicked on in several rooms.
Franklin having memorized the layout of the small cabin knew where each member was as the interior light pointed the way. He only had one target, Eric Caulfield. Light from the small kitchen displayed husband and wife together in each other’s arms. She moved away abruptly, hands moving animatedly.
She’s pissed, Franklin thought.
Susan Caulfield turned abruptly and left her husband in the kitchen alone. In a moment his son, Jake entered. Father and son stood facing each other talking.
Wish I knew what they were saying, Franklin thought. He shrugged because it didn’t matter. Not any longer.
He waited until the lights were turned off and the cabin settled into rest. After another ten minutes he exited his vehicle and moved toward the cabin. Nearing the cabin he heard a crunching of snow to his right. Franklin moved left behind the corner of the cabin his weapon drawn at the ready. The crunching sound was coming in his direction.
Eric Caulfield turned the corner of the cabin to be face to face with Franklin Williams. Caulfield moved quickly to raise the fireplace poker and strike out against the dark shadow of a man. Franklin moved far more quickly and caught Caulfield’s wrist in midair turning it aside and slapping the weapon against the hand as it opened and dropped the poker to the snowy ground.
Franklin moved in close and spun Caulfield around, putting a strangle hold on him with one hand while the other held the revolver to his head.
“Who are you?” Caulfield pleaded, “What do you want?”
“I need to know what you told the police.”
“I didn’t…” Franklin’s stranglehold tightened. Caulfield gasped for air.
“What did you tell the police?” Franklin released his grip slightly so Caulfield could speak.
“Nothing, I swear. I told them nothing.”
Again Franklin tightened his grip. “Why did you run off if you told the police nothing?”
“We are on a vacation, time off. I’ve been neglecting my family…”
“Bullshit!” Franklin’s eyes widened as he heard snow crunching from behind. They nearly flew from his face as the fireplace poker hit him squarely with the pointed end embedding into the side of his head. Caulfield lurched away to see Jake fully engulfed in rage still holding onto the poker and pulling it and Franklin Williams down to the ground.
Franklin Williams held the revolver but Caulfield wrestled it free and aimed it at the dying man whose blood was squirting from the poker attached to his head. Jake stood over the fallen man and vomited into the snow retching when his stomach emptied.
Officer Tom Wiggins was hell bent on pleasing Victoria. His lovemaking was only slightly reduced by the heavy meal she had prepared and the three beers he drank to wash it all down. His problem was the cabin on the lake and his promise to the Big City Detective to check it out once the folks had returned to their cabin.
Victoria was responding to the foreplay he had learned from the porn movies he watched daily. She was open to new things and he was ready to please and be pleased. First things first, he thought, so he continued with the situation at hand.
Later when they both had been sated he resolved to go to the cabin on the lake before sunrise. Nothing going on up there anyways, he thought. Sleep engulfed him and the lovely Victoria as the cold seeped into her bedroom windows causing her to scrunch closer to Officer Tom Wiggins.
Once Susan Caulfield had attended to her son by calming him down with hugs and ginger ale he fell into a very necessary sleep that helped him escape the horrors at the cabin.
Susan was not so lucky, “What do we do now?”
In their bedroom, Eric Caulfield looked blankly at his distressed wife. His mind was filled with the visions of his son retching and shivering from fear as he stood barefoot in his pajamas in the snow only minutes ago.
“Eric, a man is dead out there in the snow!” She pointed to the window looking out on the front of the cabin.
“I know,” was all that he could say.
“What did he want? Was he a burglar? Please tell me he was a burglar,” she begged.
Eric Caulfield merely shook his head.
“He wasn’t a burglar? So he came for us?”
“No, no, he came for me, not you or the kids. You were never in trouble.”
“Never in trouble! Our son just killed a man who came here to….What? Kill you?”
Tears rose and an all-inclusive anguish swelled in her. She began to tremble. Her knees buckled and she almost fell to the floor. Eric caught his wife and sat her on their bed holding her more tightly than ever before. He shut his eyes but the demons kept coming.
Later as they lay in bed surrounded by darkness, each with eyes opened in thought, Susan asked, “Oh, God, what do we do now?” She involuntarily clutched Eric’s arm with nervous fingers.
“We have to get rid of the bod…him,” he stammered.
“What do you mean?”
“We can’t let the police find the body here.”
“Are you mad?”
“No, I’ll drive his car, which must be nearby, with him inside up north at least fifty miles away. You can follow in our car. I’ll find a place to park it in a deserted area. We’ll have to be careful about being seen and leaving a trail…”
“Stop it,” Susan rose on one elbow facing her husband.
“Susan, you must understand that we have no choices here. This is a big problem.”
“Eric, our son, lying in his bed is our big problem. He just killed a man who came to murder you and maybe all of us because of business matters!”
“It’s much more serious than important business matters.”
“Important! No, Jake is much more important than anything!”
“Yes he is, but the best way to help him is to protect him from this.”
“Too late,” disgust mingled with accusation.
Eric rose from the bed, flinging the covers back violently. Susan scampered up from the bed to his side and held him around the waist. He strained against her and all the guilt that raced through his body.
“We have to help Jake,” she whispered gently.
Frozen in rigidity, Eric said, “The best way to help Jake is to dump the body. End this nightmare once and for all.”
“And do what? Run and hide from the others? Who else will come looking for us?”
“Not us, just me,” he lied.
“What’s the difference? We are all in this now. You, me, Jake and Jennifer.”
“Is she still sleeping?”
“Yes, she heard nothing. You know how she sleeps.”
“Like me, like the dead.”
Susan shuddered in his arms. Eric softened and pulled her closer.
“We have no other choice.”
“The truth Eric…we can tell the truth. Call the police. It was self defense. Right? A stranger came, attacked you and our son intervened.”
“What will happen when the body is found? They will search for the killer. There is a connection to you, to us. Do you want that hanging over our heads? Over Jake’s head? When the police find us it will look like our son committed murder and that we hid the body because he was guilty. He is not guilty, Eric.”
“No, he is not. I am.”
As the wind whistled outside racing from the lake to the cabin seizing entry into the smallest cracks in the cabin’s structure, they stood in the warmth of their embrace. Even so they felt very alone and completely frightened about the choices left for them.
Before Susan and Eric could make a decision about the choices ahead for them, Officer Wiggins made the choice. The headlights on his cruiser fell on the dead body at the corner of the cabin. He braked to a halt. With heart pounding quickness he pulled his revolver from its holster, exited the cruiser with the engine running and slowly approached the body swinging right and left to see if the perpetrator was there.
Franklin Williams’ body lay at a grotesque angle, legs akimbo, his left hand outstretched while the right held the base of the fireplace poker still embedded in his skull. His head was caked in blood. Footprints explained that several people had been there. A pistol lay partially covered by the light falling snow. Officer Wiggins looked around, at the cabin, no lights. He bent down to the body and searched for a pulse that he knew was non-existent. His flashlight scanned the area. A line of footprints in the snow led to the cabin’s entrance. One was barefoot. He called the station announcing the murder and asked for backup. As a mumbled reply returned he called out at the door.
“Police! Open the door!” In the few seconds without a response he kicked in the door. It took two tries but the door gave way and he was met by Eric who was followed by his wife. They stood frozen in the flashlight’s glare. Wiggins’ gun was aimed at them.
Susan responded first, “Officer, thank god you are here.”
“What happened?” Wiggins demanded.
“That man…out there…he tried to kill my husband,” a stream of tears stopped her. “Officer, could you put the gun down, please. We are scared enough.”
Wiggins reiterated, “What happened here?” The gun still trained on Eric.
“That man, an intruder, jumped me from behind after I heard him walking around outside. I went to investigate and he attacked me. He held a gun to my head,” Caulfield said.
“He has a fireplace poker stuck in his head,” Wiggins declared as he eyed Eric with distrust.
The Caulfield’s exchanged searching looks.
“What’s going on?” Jennifer having risen from a dead sleep screamed. Susan ran to her side for comfort.
“Officer, please, the gun,” she begged.
Reluctantly, Wiggins lowered the gun but did not holster it.
“Mom! Dad! I’m scared! What happened? Where’s Jake?” Jennifer screamed spinning around to the bedrooms.
Wiggins aimed his flashlight in the direction of the bedrooms. Jake Caulfield walked resolutely into the room, his face ashen and his affect flat. “I killed that guy.”
Jennifer screamed anew, Susan howled in grief and Officer Wiggins pointed his gun at Jake.
“Hands in the air,” he ordered as he approached the boy with gun aimed squarely at him.
Jake stood stock-still. Wiggins grabbed the boy’s arms, held them back and cuffed him. Eric Caulfield approached quickly. Wiggins saw him and aimed his gun, “Stay right there. Don’t move anyone.”
Sirens filled the momentary silence. Red flashing lights shone through the windows creating an unearthly effect on the disoriented group in the living room.
Two cruisers pulled alongside the cabin followed by a white van with Crime Scene Investigation and SHERIFF Cumberland County emblazoned on the side panels. The CID detail found the body and began its work while the officers from the two cruisers entered the cabin with their guns pointing the way.
Jennifer Caulfield collapsed and Susan Caulfield held onto her daughter on the floor. Eric stood glaring daggers at the police and Jake was whisked out of the cabin into one of the cruisers. Eric tried to follow but was halted by one officer who blocked his way. “Stay here, sir. Do not interfere,” said the officer with his large hand on Eric’s chest pushing him away from the door.
Dieter sat with Eric Caulfield in the Cumberland County Jail in Portland, Maine. Jake Caulfield was taken to The Intake Department F247E Intake Sallyport overnight and was being held until he was fully processed.
Eric Caulfield sat like a man crumpled by life and discarded in a dumpster. His face displayed the same disoriented look as his son Jake did as he sat in a nearby holding area.
Caulfield suddenly ignited with a spark of life. “My wife, my family, oh my god!”
Dieter, “What is it?”
“They’re unsafe. They’re all unsafe now because of me.” He bent forward on his chair and buried his face in his hands.
“Why are they unsafe?”
“Because they will send others. I am the target. They want to keep me from telling everything….”
Dieter, “Everything, that’s exactly what I need to know now. No more deflecting. No more lies. It’s over…”
“Over! No it’s just beginning. You don’t know these people. They found me here…”
“We can protect you-all of you.”
“Who is going to protect my son in a prison cell? Oh, god, what did I do to him!?”
Eric Caulfield, CFO of Hudson Manufacturing, father of two and husband to his college sweetheart, Susan sat devastated by the events that occurred, events for which he felt responsible and, in fact, events for which he was entirely responsible. No solution came to mind. No amount of ruminating with a group of high powered executives could repair the damage that he alone wrought on his family. However, he knew, that something had to be done to protect, maybe save his son from prison or worse-from the others who lurked behind Franklin Williams.
Dieter saw his opening, “Listen,” calmly sans threatening tone, “the only road to take now is the truth. We can protect you and your family if we know where the threat lies and who the perpetrators are. Without that information, our hands are tied to the knowledge we have…and that is just not enough.” Dieter stopped and let his speech sink into Caulfield.
Caulfield’s mind measured Dieter’s words carefully as he had done with thousands of business decisions. None came close to being as important as the one he had to make now. Determination covered his face mixed with extraordinary anguish.
“I need everything, every name, every meeting, amount paid and to whom,” Dieter began and then he saw the anger rise on Caulfield’s face. Caulfield’s lips tightened, eyes narrowed, jaw tightened and his fists clenched.
He’s ready, Dieter thought, so push.
“These people hurt your family, your son will go to jail, maybe a good attorney will break him loose on self-defense…defending you. But…these people are still out there and unless we can track them down with your help it will take longer-maybe never-to get them and put them away. Timing is paramount now,” Dieter finished with a hard stare into Caulfield’s eyes…eyes that no longer showed fear, eyes that profoundly expressed anger.
“Okay, what do you want to know?”
“Let’s start at the beginning. Who approached you and when?” Dieter took out a notebook from his sport jacket pocket and waited.
Caulfield became centered, thinking, organizing like the business executive he had been for all these years.
“About two weeks after Robert’s funeral, once his body was recovered from the rubble at the site of the terrorist attack, that man approached me in the parking garage…”
“The man found on your cabin property?” he asked.
“His name is Franklin Williams, former military, dishonorably discharged.”
Caulfield looked at Dieter with a clenched jaw.
Dieter waited for Caulfield to continue.
“He said he wanted to talk with me about a business arrangement. I told him to call my office for an appointment. He laughed. ‘I don’t do appointments,’ he said.
I shrugged and started to walk away then he said he’d call me…on my cell phone. When I turned to him he recited the phone number of my personal cell phone, not my business cell, but my personal cell for my family and close friends. He stood there smirking at me. “That’s the number isn’t it?” He didn’t wait for an answer, he just turned and left.
“Classic intimidation,” Dieter stated, “that’s what extortionists use…”
Caulfield interrupted, “I know, believe me I know…now. It never stopped. They knew everything about me, my wife, my kids, where they went to school, where we ate dinner once a week at Susan’s favorite restaurant…they knew everything about me, about my family. What else could I do against them?”
“Come to the police,” Dieter said sternly.
Caulfield froze re-evaluating what he did, what he let be done to his family fighting off the bilious guilt that raged in his stomach.
Dieter softened his tone, “Listen these guys are professionals, they know how to intimidate, how to hurt to get what they want…they killed Robert Hudson, and much more…”
“They broke into Valerie Hudson’s Florida condo, and the safe where she had – she thinks – evidence against someone who might have killed her husband.”
Dieter ignored Caulfield’s question, “I need to know all. What happened next?”
“Okay, yes, he called me when I was alone in my car driving home. He knew I was in my car,” Caulfield implored. “He said to meet him on a street off the Bronx River Parkway exit… I think it was MacQuesten…”
“Parkway, I know it. Did you?”
“No, I mean yes, I said no I couldn’t meet him…he said that it would take me thirty minutes to get there…he knew exactly where I was. It was late, after ten at night…and he knew where I was.”
“He was following you,” Dieter stated.
Caulfield’s eyes blinked with recognition and he nodded.
“What could I do? I was… scared. Then I thought he wanted a payoff of some kind, and that would end it. I drove to the spot calculating what might be the right amount of money and how I could embezzle it from the company. I was distraught, nuts! I was planning to steal from the company that fed my family … that offered a great future for us all.” Caulfield sat shaking his head and reliving the events of that night – the night that changed everything forever.
“Detective, can I speak with you,” a uniformed officer asked walking towards the two men.
Dieter rose, looked at Caulfield, “Relax a minute,” and walked towards the officer.
“The Feds are coming up tonight. They’ll take over from here…just want to give you a heads up is all. Okay?”
“Yeah, thanks. How’s the boy?”
The officer moved away and Dieter followed. “He goes from crying to catatonic-like. Shock.”
“You going to help him?”
“Doctor is on his way now. Be here real soon.”
“Someone watching him?”
The officer nodded, “He’s on suicide watch, yeah.”
“Keep me up to speed?”
“Sure thing Detective.”
Dieter watched the officer walk and disappear around a corner. When he turned back Caulfield appeared suddenly ten years older and disheveled in his pajamas, boots and top coat. Little puddles had formed around the boots from the snow that melted.
He looks like shit. Poor bastard.
Caulfield suddenly rose and walked swiftly to Dieter, “How’s my son?”
“Doctor is coming to check on him. Make sure he’s all right. Should be here soon. Routine…” he lied staccato-like and hated it.
Dieter ushered Caulfield back to the seats they had just left.
“Listen, it’s important that you collect yourself,” Dieter said.
“Yes, I know.”
“The FBI will be here in a few hours. Your contracts are with the Federal Government right?”
“Yes, yes, of course but I never let this-all this-impact the contracts we won.”
“They will ask you what you know about this guy and any others too.”
“I never met any other guy … actually only a voice, a cold as ice voice who may run the whole show.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because he calls when there is a whole that he wants plugged, as he calls it…plugged…” Caulfield thought for a moment. “Once when I asked him to stop, to plug the whole – using his language – and let me off the hook he had a very strange reply.”
“He said if he stopped with me and Hudson Manufacturing that would set a very bad precedent.”
Dieter sat forward towards Caulfield, “For others, other companies under his thumb?”
Caulfield nodded and took a deep breath and released it slowly attempting to gain some bodily control.
“I wanted out after many years of pressure, secretly taking money…stealing…from the company and losing a piece of myself each time I paid a percentage of a contract.”
“That was a bad precedent to set?”
“Yes a ‘…very bad precedent’ he said with such contempt that I never brought it up again.”
Caulfield turned to look into Dieter’s eyes. “I was terrified so I continued hoping that somehow it would be all right.”
“Who is he?”
Plaintively, “I don’t know. I really don’t know. He’d just call with instructions…no, with demands. He somehow knew which contracts were awarded before they were announced…the dollar amounts and depending on the amount he would fix a percentage to be paid.”
“How much have you paid?”
Caulfield shuddered, clasped his hands together and held off the bile that threatened to explode from his body, “Millions over the years.”
Dieter wondered how many other companies were paying the extortionists. There had to be someone with the government who knew which contracts were awarded before the vendors were notified, or maybe someone who was part of the government staff that awarded the contracts. Hudson’s murder at that historical moment on September 11th was only the tip of a very large iceberg, one very deep and penetrating into murky waters.
Dieter’s body craved sleep but his mind objected. Too much to digest all at once. The pile is growing. Poor kid Jake…
He had hoped to sleep a little before he went back to New York. Not happening, he thought when his cell phone chirped to life announcing Lindsay’s ringtone.
“Hi…what are you doing up so late or is it early?” he asked after a glance at his watch…4:30 in the morning.
“Late…first tell me how you are?” she declared rather stiffly.
“Me? Tired, a little grouchy but I’m fine,” he chuckled to lessen the tension that he heard in Lindsay’s voice. “Is everything all right with you?”
“Valerie had a stroke, pretty severe too. The stress…”
“Where is she?”
“She’s in the hospital. Her doctor is attending to her, but she was found unconscious in her bathroom probably for some time. Kevin found her when he went to check on her.”
“Is that why you called?”
“Yes, and I wanted to hear from you…”
Dieter didn’t respond, No chance to call.
“Where are you?”
“I’m home now. Kevin is at the hospital. I need a few hours sleep…a full load of patients today.”
Minutes later, just before Lindsay drifted off for a short sleep, a mantra repeated in her mind, “Life keeps getting in the way…” She wondered where this thought came from, but not why it emerged. Life had grown more complicated since she met Dieter, No not Dieter’s fault…Jonathan for sure…and my fault…Andrew, that’s it…his fault for leaving me…hell no, my fault for not recognizing the end of our marriage…life keeps getting in the way…what now?…and her mind released the conscious thoughts for needed sleep.
Chuck Renfro sat in the 767 airliner of TAM Brazilian Airlines planning his next move. The overnight eight hour flight would get into Miami International Airport from Rio de Janeiro’s International Airport at about six in the morning allowing him to get a head start before the morning traffic on the drive to New York. Precaution, precaution, precaution. Better to drive than to fly right into New York he had concluded. The car that he kept in Miami would not be traced while he drove the 1300 hundred miles to meet with George Lewis and Franklin Williams. Franklin’s non response to Renfro’s before-flight phone call was typical of his arrogance. It pissed off Renfro but he had become accustomed to the mind-games that Franklin played. Once the plane was airborne he sat back, sipped a Scotch whiskey and let his mind get to work. His forte in the military was tactical maneuvers. Renfro studied historical battles as far back as the Civil War as well as the modern wars from Korea to Viet Nam where he served.
Problems to be solved, he began a mental list of ways to tie up the loose ends that had unraveled. He dismissed the fleeting thought that it might be time to end the years of scheming as soon as he calculated the millions that he had made. Too much money to walk away from because of a chicken shit CEO. Caulfield is a wimp…wimps can always be controlled. Franklin would take care of the needed leverage…he was good at that…intimidation was his strength.
Lewis was good at weeding out the companies that had won new contracts…not too large…large companies exuded an arrogance short of entitlement; but, the small and midsize companies with good government track records were the prime targets…especially those that were wholly owned. Much easier to control one guy.
A stunning female flight attendant strolled down the aisle her buttocks alternately pointing left and right near Renfro in the darkened cabin. The air behind her left a waft of perfume that excited him momentarily. His mind reluctantly returned to the task at hand when she disappeared in the forward portion of the large airplane.
Build a plan to solve the problem. Franklin would solve the problem with Caulfield, maybe he solved it already. Sure, that’s why he didn’t return my call. He was taking care of business. Franklin always takes care of business. Lewis would know if there were any other problems with the other companies. Since Caulfield’s disappearance Lewis had been in touch with the other companies. He’d have a full report when we three met in New York.
The stunning flight attendant returned and strolled by his seat leaving another waft of her essence and Renfro uncharacteristically relaxed letting his guard down.
Dieter called McClure at six a.m. after a quick shower and coffee to go.
“Hullo,” this is McClure.
“Sorry to call so early…did I wake you,” Dieter asked.
“No,” McClure lied as he tried to gather his wits.
“The guy that Caulfield’s kid killed is Franklin Williams, fits our description of the guy who was nosing around Caulfield’s house and his office. I need you to check him out…full background. Got any military friends in high places? This guy is former military…his accomplices may be likewise.”
“Ah, maybe one guy who served with me. Real smart, a career guy headed for DC. I’ll call him…anything else?”
“I’m going to text you a picture of his driver’s license. See what you can get from that. Get over to his place before the feds do. The Captain will help you with a warrant. If there’s a problem I can call him.”
“I can handle it.”
“Yes, I know you can…and thanks for all the good backup…it’s appreciated.”
McClure’s satisfied smile lingered, “Thanks Karl.”
Valerie Hudson lay alone in her hospital bed that faced west in the darkness while the sun’s rise crept above the high-risers east of New York City. Kevin Newfield, former NYC cop, Dieter’s longtime friend, stood flirting with a once pretty middle aged nurse who covered for a friend on the night shift. Kevin was glad she did. Her sparkling green Irish eyes beckoned him and he felt good…until an alarm went off causing the green eyed nurse to rush from her desk into Valerie Hudson’s room. Moments before Kevin had a chance to get to know the green eyed nurse Valerie’s life succumbed to the never ending spirit that was New York City. Her quest to find the truth about her husband’s murder ended too.
Lindsay rarely took a phone call while in session, but Kevin’s cell phone number beginning with the Miami 305 area code to her personal cell number, caused her to stop the session with Maryanne Simpson who suffered from depression.
“Maryanne, I’m so sorry, but I must take this call…I think it’s very important.”
So I’m less important? Maryanne reflected.
Lindsay left the office to take the call on her cell while Maryanne Simpson once again evaluated her diminishing value in the world.
“Doctor Riccardi, it’s Kevin at the hospital.”
“Is anything wrong?”
“Valerie passed away minutes ago. A team of doctors on call worked on her for several minutes, but she was gone…peacefully in her sleep…I’m sorry, Doctor.”
“I’ll be right down there,” Lindsay said.
“Doctor, I’ll see to her things and the details down here…lots of experience with this kind of thing you know.”
“Sure, yes, you probably do. Karl is on his way back now.”
“I’ll bring her things back to her place later. Do you want me to call Karl?”
“I’ll call him…”
Dieter’s flight, the only flight scheduled from Portland Maine’s International airport, wouldn’t get him into John F. Kennedy Airport in New York until 2:10 p.m. so he took the time to record all the data that the local police had gathered. The FBI arrived with their usual entitlement which pissed off the locals. Dieter had experienced their presence before and he had learned to keep his eye on the ball by getting all the information he could before the walls came down.
The agents questioned Dieter and his connection to the case. They took meticulous notes with the civility of a clergyman speaking to the deceased. Their interviews with Caulfield were different, harsher and more pointed aiming at getting him to divulge his part in the mess. Caulfield’s anger served him well as did his business acumen which returned once he realized that he had to help protect his son and resolve the larger issues that lay ahead.
The local doctor after examining Jake and giving him a sedative which put him to sleep reported, “The boy is in deep shock…somewhat delusional…mostly scared. He’ll be out for several hours now and I recommend giving him to time to recover.”
“Doctor, we don’t have lots of time. We have to speak with him as soon as we can,” Lead Agent Brendan Collins stated.
“Why?” the doctor asked.
The agent’s unrevealing stare was the doctor’s reply so he shrugged and moved away.
“You got a warrant Detective?” Sammie Garcia, building superintendent, eyed JB McClure with his usual dismissive attitude calculated to deter all future requests by anyone who needed any help or questions answered.
McClure held up the warrant wrapped in an official court cover, opened it and flashed it at Garcia with his best take this seriously look.
Garcia shrugged held his pointer finger upright and turned away from the opened door. He returned carrying a set of keys for all the doors and apartments in the building.
“Okay, follow me.”
McClure followed as they walked to an elevator, entered and rode to the sixth floor. The building was erected in 1937 but was carefully maintained by cleaning and repair crews under Garcia’s supervision. He was the boss of the building as he liked to tell family and friends. His pride was evident in the building’s solid upkeep.
They exited the elevator, walked a short distance to apartment 612.
Garcia turned to McClure, “I gotta knock first.”
“No need,” McClure said.
Garcia insisted, “It’s my job. I gotta knock.”
After several knocks and no answer Garcia dug out the keys, found 612’s key and inserted it into the lock. McClure pushed the door aside and entered to a brightly lighted living room. The sparse furnishings heralded the home of a man, a single man with no signs of a woman’s touch anywhere.
Garcia entered behind McClure but was stopped by the Detective, “That’s all I need. I’ll take it from here.” A brief stare-down and Garcia turned and left the doorway ambling with full indifference all the way to the elevator.
McClure walked the medium one bedroom space in the Chelsea District of Manhattan comparing it to his smaller studio apartment in Brooklyn. Crime does pay … Wonder what he’s doing in Chelsea. Culture doesn’t fit this guy.
“Detective?” A man’s voice from behind McClure beckoned. A member of the crime scene investigation team stood at the door.
“Yeah, come in, I’m McClure.”
“Joe Roberts,” the tall slender CSI officer walked in and placed his bag full of equipment in the center of the room so that it touched nothing and did not interfere with the movement in the space. A second and a third member of the team entered. Roberts gave instructions to the team that had been working together for two years and each moved off to work with a nod of seriousness.
“You know about this place?” McClure asked.
“Yes, not a crime scene … suspect’s apartment.”
“Deceased suspect,” McClure corrected.
The unflappable Roberts nodded and began his investigations.
A stash of fire arms was found with enough ammunition to take down a small village; one revolver, three automatic hand guns and three automatic rifles, one military grade hand gun with ammunition, assorted gear including night scope, goggles and an Operational Assault Ground Reconnaissance Exploitation (OAGRE) Tactical Vest, two folding knives and one fixed knife.
An investigator’s camera flash illuminated the rooms for several minutes taking photographs of the weapons before they were packed and carried away.
McClure gazed at the weapons with complete understanding of their intent and capabilities.
“Serious weapons for the most paranoid New York City apartment dweller,” mused Roberts.
“Very serious,” McClure agreed. Too serious. Was he the strong arm guy? Not anymore.
The bedroom had a single bed, corners tightly made military style, no fluffy pillows stacked, in fact no pillow at all. A solitary nightstand held a tall lamp centered on its dark wood face. The drawer slid open to a cache of a dozen condoms, a nail clipper and pocket sized leather bound notebook. The notebook was also military issue.
McClure took the notebook from the drawer after putting on rubber gloves. He flipped through the pages whose notes were penciled in a cryptic format. EC…62,000…11/17; EMR co. … 37,550…12/21; B & B Industries…49,378…01/13.
If that’s payoff amounts, that’s a lot of money in a few months. Different companies for sure.
At the front of the notebook was a phone number with a 215 area code…Philly?
McClure took out his cell phone and dialed the number.
“Research Associates, this is Carolina, may I ask who is calling?”
“New York City Detective McClure, Carolina.”
A short silence, “Yes, Detective,” a little too loud for the conversation but not too loud for the man standing next to Carolina at her desk. She looked at him for instructions. He waved her off.
“Do you have a client named Franklin Williams?”
“Franklin Williams,” she repeated for the man still standing at her desk, “no I’m afraid I don’t know that name.” And then she made a blunder, “Is he a P.I.?”
With that the man standing above her scowled and grabbed the phone putting his hand over the receiver, “Are you nuts?”
“Private Investigations? Is that what your company does?”
Carolina took a deep breath, “I’m sorry Detective … if that’s what you really are … but I cannot give any information over the phone.” She turned to the man for approval but got another scowl. He signaled her to cut off the conversation.
“I’m sorry but I have another call, goodbye.”
McClure listened to the dial tone momentarily. He made a note to investigate Research Associates at the Philadelphia phone number.
“Detective…found a laptop in here,” Roberts called from the living room. “Password protected…but we can get into it downtown.”
“Okay, get me everything on it asap.”
Pretty sloppy to leave a laptop and a notebook around … or just plain arrogant. Who is this guy Franklin Williams? Military records will answer some of it. Maybe the condoms too? Garcia might know the women who came here.
Minutes later McClure rapped on Garcia’s door again.
The door opened quickly, “All done Detective?”
“Not quite. Did you ever see any women come here to visit McClure?”
“A few times I saw a woman enter the building and take the elevator up to the sixth floor. Can’t be sure who she visited.”
“No, not my business.”
“But it was your business to see which floor she went to. Can you describe her?”
A wry smile crossed the unflappable face of the superintendent. “Sure, tall, nice body, young maybe late twenties…dark hair, very well dressed.”
McClure gave Garcia his card. “I need you to come and give a full description of this woman…at the station.”
Garcia frowned and shook his head. “That’s all I know, really. Just saw her for a second…you know…”
“Still need a description.” McClure softened a bit, “You have rental receipts from this guy?”
“He pays cash … always one month in advance … no receipts requested. Good payer always,” he conceded. “Big bills too.” Less defiantly, “You really need me to come to the station? I got lots to do here all day.”
“Yes, I still need you to come to the station,” releasing a soupcon of impatience.
McClure left Garcia shaking his head fully chagrined, but McClure wanted more out of him so a trip to the station would deplete Garcia’s arrogance.
Dieter’s mind raced alongside the plane’s airspeed on the almost empty flight from Maine to New York outpacing the few minutes of needed rest. He felt sorry for Jake, Eric’s son who got caught in a mess of his father’s making. Am I getting too old for this job? Burned out? Never had these feelings before for a perp or a victim for that matter. Always able to compartmentalize the events, the people and the resolutions.
The Captain’s voice filled the quiet, “Flight crew, prepare the cabin for arrival.”
A middle aged female flight attendant walked the aisle checking to see that the few passengers on board were buckled into their seats for arrival. She stopped at Dieter’s seat, smiled an overly friendly smile, lingered for a moment waiting for a response, but Dieter was oblivious of her presence. She moved forward, took the microphone and requested seats be returned to their upright position and all seatbelts buckled. “We should be on the ground in fifteen minutes.”
Once the plane touched down Dieter switched his phone from Airplane Mode to full on. Lindsay’s voice message was listed in recent calls.
“Karl, hope you had a good flight. Please call me when you land.” Followed by a short pause, “Can’t wait to see you,” she added with a slight tremor in her voice.
“Hey, Lindsay, you okay?” once he had punched in Lindsay’s cell number.
“Where are you?”
“Just landed … How’s Valerie?”
“She passed away … in her sleep.”
Dieter waited a moment, “How are you?”
“I’m really tired of people dying.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“You going to the station now?”
“Yes, have to….”
“Okay, call me when you’re finished…I need to see you.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“You look awful,” was Dieter’s greeting from the first Detective in the Squad Room as he entered toting his overnight bag and much more personal baggage.
No response from Dieter. He dropped his bag at this desk, walked to the bathroom and looked into the frosted mirror as he washed his hands and face. He leaned nearer to his image in the mirror, eyed himself more closely, “He’s right you look awful.”
He ran wet fingers through his hair, tucked his shirt into his pants; nothing more to be accomplished so he exited the bathroom. As he approached his desk, McClure appeared, eyed Dieter then began, “Hey, Karl, you know…”
But good old Karl interrupted, “Yeah, I know I look terrible.”
“Oh? Yes you do but that’s not what I was about to say. We found a notebook in Williams’ apartment. Coded probably.”
“Yeah, my guess is it’s a list of companies and money paid … other companies extorted.”
“Seven … we’re cross checking companies with the same initials which are government contract vendors.” McClure waited for Dieter to digest the information.
“FBI will be on this soon if not already on it; they were in Maine when I left. Hudson Manufacturing is a government contractor … that will bring in the FBI for sure.”
“Problem for us?”
“Don’t know, but we might find it more difficult down the road.”
Dieter’s desk phone rang and he answered. He listened for a minute to the voice … scowled, chuckled and scowled again.
“Thanks for the heads up,” he hung up the phone.
McClure waited for Dieter.
“That was Maine Police. It seems the boy, Jake, awoke from his drug induced sleep very disturbed.”
“He was yelling, ‘I killed that guy! I killed that guy!’ They sedated him again. Now Eric Caulfield is freaking out.”
“He’s not speaking to anyone until his high powered attorney gets to Maine.”
“Yeah, but he told the FBI guy to go screw himself.”
Renfro ambled into the small, very kitschy Greek diner in Long Island City. He surveyed the crowd of blue collar workers dressed in company clothes from Telephone Company to Internet providers and several plumbers with shirts heralding their logo, Plumbers go deep to solve your problem.
In the rear of the diner he saw George Lewis who nodded a greeting across the diner and Renfro walked through the bustle of waitresses and customers leaving and arriving.
Lewis sat in front of a cup of coffee his hands in a steeple pose, elbows surrounding the coffee cup. No words, merely another nod and Renfro sat down facing Lewis in a tight, uncomfortable booth.
“How was your trip?” Lewis opened with his usual small talk. “Good flight and drive up here from Florida?”
Renfro, “Yeah.” He looked quizzically at Lewis. “Where’s Franklin?”
Lewis shook his head indicating he didn’t know.
“He likes to play games, but he always finishes the work.” Renfro looked at his watch.
“He’s late,” Lewis advised.
“Yeah, I know.” Renfro took out his cell and dialed Williams. The phone rang with no answer. “Asshole!”
“Well, let’s get started,” Lewis began, as though he was conducting a meeting with his former government contract officers.
“He tracked Caulfield to Maine and was on his way last time I got any info from him.”
“Better not be!” Renfro barked, and then quickly looked around the noisy diner to see if anyone noticed his outburst.
“Okay, what are our options here? What are the possible scenarios?”
“Scenarios are … One … he met with Caulfield and took care of the problem…permanently. Two, he didn’t find Caulfield and is still looking … his pride not letting him call to update. Three … something went wrong….”
Lewis sipped some coffee. A waitress noticed Renfro and came to the booth.
“Can I get you something?” to Renfro who glanced at her briefly.
She turned and moved off.
“Options for each scenario,” Lewis stated, “One…the problem is solved with no more action assuming there is no connection to us.”
Renfro said, “Two … he is still looking and is too pig headed to call but he will once he has finished the job because he likes the ‘At-A-Boy.”
“Most importantly,” Lewis leaned over his coffee cup, “if something went wrong we have to know what went wrong and how we can control the fallout.”
“And save our asses.” Renfro said as the waitress arrived with coffee.
Both men sat in thought. Renfro called Franklin’s cell phone again with no answer. This time he left a message. “Call me, damn it!”
“I may have a new client,” Lewis began, “a small, privately held contractor in Westchester. They do federal and local government work. I have a line on their federal contracts. Small dollars, ten to twenty million tops.”
“How much can we get?”
“Probably five percent…maybe more. Still not chump change. Right?”
“No, not at all, but I’d like to clear up the Hudson thing first before we move on to another company,” Renfro said as his eyes peered out of the window looking for Franklin.
Franklin Williams’ body lay in the morgue on an autopsy table. His head displayed caked blood around the hole where the fireplace poker once protruded. A medical examiner sat nearby writing the report as to cause of death.
A man entered ready to clean the lab.
“Hey, Pete,” Eddie Johnson called. “Pete, can you hear me?”
“Yes, I can hear you…busy here.”
“Can I get in here to clean up now? Not often you get a case of murder here? Right?”
Peter Van Cort, Medical Examiner, looked up at Eddie, “Nope, very rare as a matter of fact. Yeah, sure you can clean up.”
“How’d he get dead?” Eddie asked, while mopping the floor.
“Struck in the head.”
Eddie shook his head disapprovingly. “Baseball bat?”
“Fireplace poker … cracked his skull and entered his brain … died instantly.”
“What’d he do to deserve that? Must have really pissed somebody off big time.”
“Did they catch the guy what done this?”
“Sixteen year old kid ….”
“Oh man. These kids today … I’m telling you ….”
“Detectives said he was protecting his father from this guy.”
Eddie stopped mopping and moved to the body. He took a long hard look at Franklin Williams. “Big tough looking guy … even when he’s dead.” He moved off shaking his head again.
Van Cort mused; The strike from the fireplace poker came from behind. Defense has to prove there was a reason for him to attack from behind. A sixteen year old kid attacks a big bruiser like this guy … kid must have been very scared ….
Dieter read the Maine Coroner’s Reports twice before he put them aside. He read the police reports, interviews and eyeballed each crime scene photo of Franklin Williams’ body crumpled in the snow. The gun partially buried by the fallen snow was still visible. One and one would add up to self defense for Jake Caulfield. He’ll be all right….
Flashes of that night, that life altering night for Jake, commandeered his already overwrought psyche. He could still feel the rage that caused the poker to come alive and sink into that man’s skull. The force, the shock and the gushing blood … oh the gushing blood in rivulets around the body as it laid in the snow…the red blood juxtaposed against the white of the falling snow. Surreal! No, all too real … all too real!
“You killed him!” a disembodied voice repeated, first slowly and then finally into a crescendo so rapidly that all the words blended, then blurred but never lost their meaning. Eyes shut tightly against the visions couldn’t stop the flow of blood. Hands pressed against the ears with such force that even the accompanying pain didn’t override the voice. Nothing blocked the unrelenting guilt … not even the notion that his father was saved from that man … that man who had a gun to his father’s head. Jake could see the terror on his father’s face … the big man’s arm wrapped around his neck and the gun … the gun barrel pressed against his father’s skull! The poker knew there was no time to delay, time to act, to save Dad from being killed.
Jake sat on the slab in the holding cell, rocking back and forth catatonically as the guard peered in at him. Billy Cranston, six years of prisoners crying or screaming in a drunken stupor and much worse, looked impassively at the boy, no shred of empathy existed any longer … he shrugged, moved on and thoughtlessly checked his cell phone and replaced it in his pants pocket.
No one saw Jake curl up on the slab in a fetal position facing the concrete wall with his back to the cell door. No one saw him shudder when his fingernail cut through the skin around his wrist where he had scratched through the vein causing it to bleed … then erupt after continuous scratching each time the blood flow congealed and stopped flowing. No one saw the pool of blood that formed near his crotch where his hands were folded pressing against his thighs. No one was present when the last breath ebbed from life silencing the gnawing guilt, “You killed that man.”
“Detective Dieter,” Karl answered his desk phone to Eric Caulfield’s voice filled with pain, rage and such anguish that Dieter stiffened visibly. Detective McClure who sat nearby noticed and moved to Dieter’s desk with a questioning visage.
“Detective, he’s dead, my boy is dead!” Eric Caulfield repeated his mournful mantra.
“What…happened?” Dieter stammered.
“He’s dead!” with a bellowing scream that McClure heard several feet away. Again, he moved to Dieter.
Dieter didn’t respond. His mind was shuffling through choices for a response.
“Eric, I’m sorry, very sorry. What happened?”
“They found him dead, in a pool of blood between his legs. He’d ripped his veins open on his wrist with his own fingernails and bled to death. Bled to death right there in police holding … those morons didn’t notice until it was too late. He died alone and afraid!”
“Eric is there anything I can do for you?”
Eric Caulfield’s voice found a new register, a new deeply intense tone. Anguish left momentarily and was replaced by a loathing hatred seasoned by the need for revenge.
“I want them dead too! Those bastards who did this to me, to my son, my family, to Robert Hudson and Valerie! I want them dead, dead. That’s how you can help me.”
Dieter heard this same voice from the families of murdered victims many times, the same hatred, the same need to avenge their loved one’s death. But, this was far more mournful, with bottomless hatred.
“I’ll do everything I can to find them…”
“And kill them!” Caulfield shouted.
“To bring them to justice…”
“Not enough! I want them dead! Like Jake. I want them dead!” Caulfield broke down and erupted into tears and sobbing. The phone disconnected.
Dieter put the phone on the receiver.
“Karl, what is it?” McClure asked.
Dieter looked at McClure, shook his head disparagingly.
“The kid, Jake, in a holding cell in Maine, committed suicide. That was his father.”
“Where the hell is Franklin?” Renfro demanded into the air in the rear of an almost empty local bar in Queens, New York.
“It’s been a few days now. Something is wrong,” declared Lewis.
Begrudgingly, “Yeah, big time.”
“We find out what’s wrong.”
“Back to square one.”
Lewis responded, “I’ll go there. You check out Franklin’s place. You have an address.”
“Yeah, I have an address,” with a gob of annoyance.
After a brief silence, Lewis asked, “And then what?”
Renfro flashed a nasty look at Lewis, “We save our asses.”
“Not again. Not again Renfro. We gotta get out of this. It’s over, that’s how we save our asses. We cover them and end this.”
A bitterness rose in Renfro’s face that Lewis had not seen before; the same bitterness that occurred in battle when Renfro lost a man. It frightened Lewis mightily.
“We lost a man!” Renfro shouted.
“We may have lost a man…Chuck, this is not war. It’s business and we have to cut our losses and save our asses…not put them on the line.”
Renfro’s face reddened, his eyes narrowed and he went into fighting mode. “Listen to me. We have no choice here. These people …”
Lewis cut him off. “They have no idea who we are … only Franklin. He was the point man. If the cops have him … shit I don’t know what.”
“If the cops have him he won’t talk. I know that much.”
“How do you know?” Lewis questioned with sincerity.
“Because he is a soldier, a warrior…like me.”
“I’m not fighting in a war. We have to end this. No more people losing lives. Hudson was enough.” Lewis shook with fear.
“How long will you last in prison? Ever been captured…imprisoned?”
“Come on Chuck. What do you want to do…kill everyone we do business with to cover our asses?”
Chuck Renfro didn’t answer. His eyes glazed then blinked to clear his thinking.
“Let’s find out about Franklin before we do anything rash and bring down a shit storm of cops.”
“Okay. You go to Caulfield’s office. I’ll check on Franklin’s place.”
Each man realized that he’d have to formulate a plan to survive if the worst were about to happen; if Franklin had been captured. Lewis thought about his stash of money, fake passports and the route out of this shit. Renfro knew he’d have to clean things up, to sweep things behind him leaving no trail to him. Lewis would be the first then Caulfield.
“Geez, Karl. How? I mean wasn’t he on a suicide watch?”
Dieter glanced at McClure briefly, “Yeah he was.”
“What did Caulfield say?”
Dieter rose from his desk, “He wants them dead like his son.”
The phone on Dieter’s desk rang. His hand automatically retrieved the receiver. “Detective Dieter.”
“What’s wrong,” Lindsay asked after hearing the tension in his voice.
“The boy, Jake Caulfield is dead. He committed suicide in holding.”
Lindsay gasped, following a long silence she asked, “What? How could that be?”
No answer from Dieter.
“How are you?” he asked.
Another long silence, “I really want to see you Karl.”
Detective Dieter looked around the Detective’s room at the host of colleagues on the phone, chatting with partners, doing their jobs. He shrugged, rose and left. I need to see you too Lindsay.
Lindsay’s phone rang and had been intermittently for several hours.
“Hi, doctor, it’s Madge Owens from Forest Realtors…we spoke about a possible listing on your apartment last month…”
“Yes, I remember, but that idea is on the back burner for a while.”
“Oh, I see. Too bad, because I have a client interested in your building…”
Lindsay could not process the idea of selling and moving to another place although she knew it was the smart thing to do. Clean slate.
“Sorry, but now is a busy time and I have many obstacles to clear away…” What? Obstacles. Is that what they are? Obstacles? Things blocking the way?
“Okay, I’ll tell my client that you are not ready. May I call you in the future?”
“Yes, fine, in about one month,” Lindsay offered.
“Great. Perhaps the obstacles will be cleared away,” Madge said cheerily.
Lindsay put her feet up on the couch and thought about her obstacles. Obstacles block one’s path. Paths lead somewhere. Where am I headed? If I don’t know, how can there be obstacles? Why did I say that to the realtor? Well doctor maybe it’s because that’s how you feel? … blocked from progress … another symptom of the traumatic events rumbling in my head? How would I help a patient with these issues? How can I help myself?
Renfro was angry when he entered Franklin Williams’ building. He marched menacingly – two steps at a time – up the stairs to Franklin’s apartment and knocked on the door several times each time with greater insistency and force.
A door opened in the corridor. A heavyset man carrying a bag of trash moved toward the trash shoot. Renfro looked at the man with utter indifference, but the man dumped his trash down the shoot and approached him.
“You a friend?” he asked Renfro.
“Okay, never mind,” and the man turned and walked toward his apartment.
“Wait, yeah, I know the guy who lives here…”
The man turned back toward Renfro.
“He don’t live here no more,” shaking his head side to side.
“What are you talking about?”
“He’s dead,” the man shrugged turned and walked toward his apartment door.
“Dead? How do you know that?”
“Cops were all over this place…heard them talking about him being dead … out of town somewheres … up north, I think. He got murdered.”
“Yeah, they swarmed this place and I heard all kinds of talk each time I went to the trash shoot,” he said sheepishly.
“Shit!” Renfro quick stepped to the stairs and was gone before the man could offer any more gossip.
Outside on the street Renfro walked with his head down but his eyes darted around to see whether there was any surveillance at the building. The parked cars on the street were empty. He did all he could do to control his stride not allowing it to match the frantic pitch that ached at his stomach.
Dieter read the reports from the forensics guys and the list of phone numbers gained from the burner phone found on Franklin in Maine. No identifications, just phone numbers…another burner phone. Dead end.
Dieter dialed a phone number without a response. He dialed a second number and got a response.
“Hi handsome,” came the cheery voice from Franklin’s chubby information connection.
“Who is this?”
“Heh? Oh, it’s me your … who is this?”
“Detective Dieter, NYPD … now … who are you?”
“Yeah, I spoke to a gal at that number,” said McClure after Dieter had told him about the burner cell phone and the number he dialed.
Dieter’s eyes arched in query.
McClure went to his pocket notebook flipped open to a page.
“They’re a company that supplies information to Private Investigators and the like. In Pennsylvania, I think,” he flipped more pages, “…yes, Pennsylvania.”
“Call the local police … see what they have.”
“Already did. Company is on the up and up.”
“Ok. Now find out what they know about Franklin … the gal seemed to know him by his burner phone number. See what she knows.”
“Franklin got calls from this number,” Dieter wrote a cell number on a piece of paper, and handed it to McClure. “Maybe the carrier will have some information?”
“Possible, but not likely. These phones are generally bought and paid for with cash … no way to trace the user except by the phone numbers. I’ll call the numbers you call the local Pennsylvania PD.”
Dieter scrolled the numbers and found one that was called only twice. He dialed the number and a man’s voice answered.
“Franklin, where are you?” Lewis demanded.
“Who is this?”
A very nervous and flustered Lewis returned, “Who is this, please.”
“Detective Dieter, NYPD.”
Lewis stood in the building’s lobby that housed Hudson Manufacturing’s Headquarters. He stared at the phone, discontinued the call and noticed a tremor in his hands. Color blanched from his face and the need to run and keep running grew with each heavy breath.
“You okay?” asked a security guard who was exiting the building.
“Yes, yes, fine.”
The guard left Lewis standing and wondering if that were true.
Renfro called Franklin’s Pennsylvania connection. The once cheery female voice was now a man’s voice steeped in seriousness.
“I need some information,” he began…
“Who is this?”
“A client, Franklin…”
“Franklin?” the man said aloud for the chubby woman standing now at his side.
She smiled, “I know him.”
Reluctantly, the man handed the receiver to the woman.
“Hi Handsome …”
“Where did Franklin go?” barked Renfro.
She handed the phone back to the man, “It’s not Franklin.”
“Who the hell is this?” the man demanded.
“I need to know where Franklin went. He uses your company for information.”
“You a cop?”
“Fuck no!” came the instant reply.
“Franklin is an associate … I’ve lost track of him…know where he went?”
The man placed his hand over the receiver.
“You know any of Franklin’s associates by name?”
“Nah ah,” she shook her head somberly.
The man returned to Renfro, “We don’t have that information.”
“Listen carefully, he may be in danger. I’m trying to locate him. It’s serious … life and death maybe.”
The man looked at the chubby woman, “He says it’s serious …”
“He went to Maine. I have an address, but…”
“Hello, sir, all we know is that he went to Maine. That’s all I can tell you.” The phone clicked off.
Often in the heat of battle Renfro would be swallowed by a calm that allowed him to think, to strategize … that calm wafted over him pushing aside the anger and angst. The strategy would be born and a plan would unfold. Step one was always to know the enemy, gather information, plan then move.
Renfro called Lewis.
The ring on Lewis’s cell phone startled him as he stood immobile in the lobby. Fingers moved spastically to the phone and he answered.
“What did you find out at Hudson’s?” was Renfro’s terse opening.
Lewis moved away from the entrance and stood facing the lobby, hands trembling.
He whispered into the phone, “The cops just called on Franklin’s burner….”
“I can’t hear you.”
Lewis looked around the now empty lobby, “The cops just called from Franklin’s burner phone.”
“How the hell did they get his phone?”
“Shut up and listen. Say nothing more. Destroy your burner. Be at the last place we met in fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, but listen, I’m really…”
“Shut up! Meet me. Go now!” Renfro clicked off.
Icy cold descended on Renfro like the times he pulled the trigger on a target and watched the body fall to the ground. No feelings for the victim. They were the enemy and they deserved to die.
My enemies deserve to die.
“Are you hungry?” Lindsay asked Dieter.
“You know…yes, I am, Chinese all right?”
Twenty minutes later they sat at Lindsay’s dining table, unceremoniously spread with cartons of Chinese food. Lindsay wore black stretch pants under a gray and blue sweatshirt. Her hair was pulled back tightly against her face into a ponytail. She ate using chopsticks, delicately plucking chicken and steamed vegetables directly from a carton. Dieter dug a fork into a carton of fried rice with pork pieces. He ate noisily chomping the food and swallowing with large gulps of water followed by hot Green tea that Lindsay had prepared.
She stopped plucking at her food long enough to look at Dieter and allowed a gratifying smile to form. He noticed, put down his fork and wiped his mouth.
“Nothing … well, yes …something … glad you’re here,” she reached her hand and covered his momentarily.
Before she pulled it away he held her hand and returned her smile.
“Yeah, me too,” he pushed his chair away from the table and rose. He walked to Lindsay, bent down, cupped her face and kissed her mouth.
As he moved away he saw her eyes closed, “Tasty and your Chinese was very good too.”
She swatted him with her napkin. He stopped and turned toward her while she rose and went into his outstretched arms and kissed him fully. They held one another, each enjoying the closeness, comfort and connection that had slowly evolved since the harrowing days of her patient’s murder.
Lindsay pulled back, cocked her head in thought, “Your Chinese food wasn’t half bad either,” she cooed then laughed.
Her response was immediate she pressed against him, cradled his neck in her fingers and kissed him with mounting passion. One piece of clothing at a time was wrestled from each body; first her sweatshirt, revealing a simple white bra. He bent to kiss her neck and trailed down to her breasts which swelled over the bra. Once again, her eyes closed surrendering to the pleasure. After a moment, she stepped away, hastily unbuttoning his shirt. He helped by divesting himself from its embrace. Her arms engulfed him as he unclasped her bra and removed it allowing their skin to touch. They lingered in the moment savoring the warmth of each lover’s body until Lindsay broke free and ran toward her bedroom.
Dieter followed quickly kicking off his shoes and unbuckling his belt.
Within minutes their bodies were entwined, rhythmically matching each other’s passion and need. Their hands and mouths searched, exploring intimately; caressing, squeezing deliciously until in a burst of orgasmic relief each shuddered to finality.
The sleep that overtook them was broken by the cold of the bedroom held in winter’s clutch. Dieter pulled the covers over Lindsay’s languorous body, slipped closer to her and sleep returned to each.
Long before morning’s sunrise Dieter separated himself from Lindsay, covered her warm body and left the bedroom. He found his notebook in the breast pocket of the sport coat that sat on the back of the dining room chair. The cell phone retrieved from his right side coat pocket showed no messages so he was pleased.
He picked up his shirt, put it on and sat in the stuffed living room chair legs sprawled. The notebook was opened to the last entry he’d made that morning. Dieter had learned that questions unanswered left gapping holes in an investigation. He read the questions still unanswered.
Who were the people who attacked us in Florida?
Who hired them?
How did they know we were on the beach walking?
Was there a surveillance team watching us…me? Who else is involved?
Franklin was only the muscle…who is running the extortion ring?
Ring? Or lone wolf?
How were companies chosen?
How many other companies were extorted?
What does the FBI know that we don’t?
Why was Hudson killed? Because he refused to be extorted?
What more does Eric Caulfield know?
After reading the rest of the list Dieter added one more question.
How serious was Caulfield about his threat to kill the people who caused his son’s suicide?
“Hey, you left me,” Lindsay began as she entered the living room, “come back to bed, it’s still dark out.”
However when she saw the look on Dieter’s face the same questioning, serious puzzle solving look for which she had become accustomed, she knew he was not going back to the bed.
“Oh, yes, lots of it, please.”
Lindsay left the living room and entered the kitchen. Dieter could hear her moving about; water flowing, clinking of metal and glass, spoons retrieved from their place in a drawer, mugs and after several minutes culminating in the smell of extra strong coffee.
Lately Dieter’s focus had lessened from the laser like aptitude for which he was known. He knew it and it bothered him. Stay sharp.
Lindsay entered carrying two over sized, matching coffee mugs. Her hair hung loosely around her face and shoulders. The panties which she wore were covered to the mid thigh by a short white, silk night dress. Momentarily, Dieter lost focus and watched her move toward him carefully balancing the mugs lest they spill. Damn she looks beautiful!
“Coffee is served,” she announced sprightly.
She placed one mug in his outstretched hand and sat on the couch, legs tucked beneath her. Gingerly, she sipped the coffee.
He sipped and agreed, “Good strong coffee.”
“What are you doing awake?”
Another sip. “About the case,” a statement.
“Yeah,” followed by a sip of coffee. He sat back against the stuffed chair.
“Lots of terrible things,” she declared sadly. She looked at Dieter quizzically. “How do you do it? I mean how do you deal with all the terrible things on your job?”
“We just do it is all.”
A grimace pawed at her face. “But…how?”
“We have to, it’s our job…”
“Yes, but how do you, Detective Karl Dieter…human being do it?”
“Me?” He shrugged then became pensive. “I guess I don’t think about it…or try not to. I see what it does to guys…”
“Just guys?” Oops, she thought.
“Detectives, men and women alike.”
“What does it do?” asking a question to which she knew the answer and the symptoms from years of her practice, sometimes with police, fire fighters and first responders. She wanted to ask him, to have him face the answers.
Dieter sat forward, cupping the coffee mug in his hands…his fingers tapping against it. “They burn out.”
“They become less capable, less energetic, less focused making mistakes…sometimes irritable…you know…grouchy.”
“Oh yeah, big time…” Dieter’s mind drifted momentarily. Upon its return he mused, “I don’t want to get that way…never.”
“Really? How can you be sure that I won’t become an old curmudgeon?” he joked half heartedly.
“It’s not in your nature; besides I won’t let you.” Lindsay, Lindsay what are doing?
Detective Karl Dieter stared at Doctor Lindsay Riccardi until she became uncomfortable.
“I’m going to hold you to that promise.”
“Okay,” barely audible holding back a lump in her throat.
He rose and walked toward Lindsay, with purposefulness he said, “I don’t want you involved in this case any longer. Thanks for your help with Valerie, but that is over now. It’s merely a police case now. Okay?”
Lindsay sat back against the couch, “Yes Detective Dieter I agree. Now it’s time to catch the bad guys.”
Dieter’s cell phone rang. He looked at his watch…five in the morning. He frowned when he saw the cell number but answered.
“Eric, Dieter here. You okay?”
Eric Caulfield was not even close to being okay.
“Detective I want to kill those people. I can’t sleep, my wife is crying non-stop and my daughter is almost comatose from depression. I don’t know what to do. My son is dead…my son is dead and I can’t do anything about it. He was an innocent kid. I did this to him, to us, to all of my family.”
Dieter’s face soured. Lindsay saw it and rose to his side.
He looked at her with deep sadness, “I may need your help after all.”
Former Federal Government Contracts Administrator, George Lewis, hurried down the street near the Greek diner in Long Island City. The winter air brought a chill to his body. Even so, he was sweating underneath his suit and topcoat.
The NYPD Detective’s voice rang loudly in his ear as did Renfro’s chilling, “Shut up!” Each was the cause of the sweat buildup, but Renfro’s commands carried far more weight just now. Lewis had always been fearful of Renfro and his history of violence. The great sums of money he stashed away for just such a moment when he knew he had no more alternatives were safe and ready for him to escape…running was the only choice left.
The lunch crowd had long departed back to their worksites, their company vans emblazoned with company logos, leaving a sparse few in the Greek diner. Lewis entered, paused and took a deep cleansing breath. He unbuttoned his top coat and purposely stalled near the doorway waiting for control to return to his body. However, out of the corner of his eye, to the far right of the diner, he saw Renfro. His erect military posture and dead cold eyes spoke ominous volumes to Lewis.
Slowly – much too slowly for Renfro – Lewis walked to the booth against an outside window that faced the red brick wall of the adjoining building. He stood looking down at Renfro whose face overflowed with disdain and reproof.
Renfro pointed to the booth, “Sit down,” he ordered.
An instinct deep inside Lewis’s psyche yearned to break forth and bust Renfro in the face, but fear stopped him cold. He sat only after deliberately taking off his top coat hoping for the sweat to retreat from his soaked armpits.
Once seated face to face the two men held each other’s eyes. Lewis broke first when he heard a commotion from the kitchen and his eyes involuntarily moved toward the sound. Renfro saw Lewis’ fear and enjoyed it.
“Did you talk with anyone after that call?”
“No,” Lewis answered feebly and then returned, “did you?”
Renfro had no reason to answer such a foolish question.
“How are we?” Lewis asked.
“Depends on how much we can control.”
Lewis’ response was merely a quizzically ineffectual stare.
Before he began, Renfro scanned the nearby seating for people. Satisfied with the empty area in the diner he leaned forward, “Franklin is dead.”
“How? He is…was a really tough guy.”
“Don’t know, not a hundred percent that he is…but I’ll find out for sure….”
“A Detective has his burner phone,” eyes furrowed with lack of understanding.
“Look, I believe he was in Maine, got murdered by someone…”
Lewis interrupted, “Caulfield?”
Renfro shook his head, “Not likely,” with less than one hundred percent surety. “I do know that the police were at his apartment but I have no idea if they found any incriminating evidence.”
“He really wasn’t a computer guy you know.”
“Yeah that may not be so good…”
“Maybe he was a paper and pencil guy…if he had something with him that’s bad…if he had it in his apartment…that’s bad…but if he wrote anything down on paper and they found it…that’s very bad.”
“Names, addresses of…clients we have.”
“What do we do?”
“We? I got to find out what the police know.”
“Find out?” he sat back in the booth eyes heavenward beseeching answers. “How?”
“Caulfield, I get a hold of Caulfield.”
Lewis shot forward in the booth, “You think that’s wise?” he whispered.
“I said we have to get control.”
Lewis sat shaking his head, eyes blinking against the dilemma. He looked at Renfro seeking an island of sanity in his eyes. He searched but none cleared away from the anger.
“We got to stop now, ‘Save our asses’ as you said.”
“Stop! You mean run right? That won’t do shit. They’ll keep digging until an opening is found. No we can’t afford to run. We have to cut all ties first.”
Lewis instantly understood and was terrified, “No we can’t. Not again! We were lucky with Hudson…the buildings and all the commotion of the attack…but now, there’s no cover.” The body heat returned and began to stream from his forehead.
Renfro noticed and made a mental note to terminate very soon.
Eric Caulfield rocked slowly in his home office chair staring at a photo of his family at a lake in Upstate New York when the two were innocent kids, unspoiled by the dirt with which he soiled his family. He cried all the tears for Jake that his body had manufactured. Anger replaced the deep sadness at this moment. Fantasies flashed across his mind’s eye of barehanded strangulation of the unknown faces which deserved to die to pay for his son’s death. He would pay for the rest of his life, but they must pay…and soon.
The bottom locked drawer of his desk held a copy of his will with instructions for Susan should anything happen to him. Years before when he entered into the clandestine world of secreted payoffs to the people who killed Robert Hudson and who threatened him and his family Eric Caulfield had sought security for his family. Money would be the security. Accompanying the will was a detailed explanation of the extortion over the many years. He had developed a strong desire to come clean to the authorities however that desire was overwhelmed by a penetrating fear for his family. His legacy, he knew, some day would be colored by his involvement with the extortion. The written explanation would not absolve him of culpability and yet the obsession to continue making careful, detailed notes helped to assuage his guilt. It allowed him to strike back with impunity.
“Eric, are you in there?” Susan asked from behind the locked home office door.
“Open the door, please.”
He placed the will into the box, slipped it into the drawer and locked the drawer and rose to let Susan in the office.
“What are you doing in here?”
Susan eyed the empty desk top devoid of papers and files which customarily were scattered about.
“What paperwork?” she pointed to the guilty desk.
“Just finished,” he continued the lie.
“No! What are you doing? Tell me, please.” Tears flowed from her eyes and her face pulsed in spasms.
Caulfield pulled his wife to him and held her, his own tears buried well beneath the anger at seeing his wife crippled by grief.
“Tell me what you are doing?” Her tear stained eyes beseeched him to answer.
He looked away holding onto her more tightly. Finally, she pushed back and looked up into his face, “Please talk to me…we haven’t since….” Tears flowed more as she tried to breathe.
He pulled away, turned and walked toward the sleeper couch then a quick turn to the door and back to his desk much like a lion in a cage moving with great energy and no outlet.
“Please Eric, I need you…don’t run from me…know…” her body shook.
“They must pay for this!”
Caulfield stood bursting with anger and unmatched hatred for the men whom he let into his life.
“What are you saying?”
“Those people must pay for everything they did…”
“How? The police will find them? The FBI will find them? They will be punished.”
“No they will not be punished the right way!”
“Eric! What are you saying?”
“They are alive!”
Susan held his arms tightly. “Look at me, Eric, look at me. Tell me what you are thinking, why you were locked in this room.”
Jennifer’s sobbing crescendoed from the living room. Susan left the office immediately followed by Caulfield.
They found her on the couch in her pajamas arms encircling her knees pulled tightly against her chest.
“Karl, I still don’t understand who attacked you and Doctor Riccardi in Florida.” McClure said, “I mean, I know why…to keep you from getting into Valerie’s safe…give the guy upstairs time to break into it and all but I don’t get the connection with the Asian attackers and Hudson’s murder and Franklin…?”
“Yeah, seems a lot bigger than the extortion of one guy…one company. We get anything on the notebook you found in Franklin’s place?”
“The initials of contractors and probably extortion amounts, but they could be any of a bunch of companies with the same initials and anywhere in the country. We are looking for a connection but the possibilities are too great right now. Need to narrow them down a bunch.”
“Probably on the East coast is my guess. That company in Philly…”
The phone rang on Dieter’s desk, “Detective Dieter.”
“Detective, it’s Barroso in Florida, got some information for you.”
“Good. I need all the information I can get…I’m listening.”
“Okay, we found the names of your attackers…the Chinese women and old man.”
Dieter winced anew. “Still listening.”
“Couldn’t resist…you know how it is?”
“Yeah I do, but let it rest for now. What do you have?”
“The trio comes as a package. They’re actually muscle for hire. Very strange but true…and they are a family. Father and two daughters from two different mothers.”
“Yeah, the old man is sixty-three year old Chu Sung Hi. Long arrest record in China and Taiwan. Linked to Chinese Mafia years ago, now freelance with his daughters who he trained. Elusive, no permanent address anywhere for fifteen years. Always on the move. We believe they are hired via international channels of criminals.”
“Why would international muscle be hired for such a simple task as stopping me from getting the safe open? Who could be connected to them? Who hired them? What was in that safe? This is getting stranger by the minute. ”
“Yeah for sure.”
“Who are these people?”
“The daughters, Li Xiu Ying translated as elegant and brave, we believe she was the tall one and Zhang Min meaning quick, the shorter one…”
“The one who kicked my leg…,” Dieter experienced an involuntary spasm from the attacked leg.
“Probably, they were both trained in a variety of martial arts. Notes define them as psychotic with masochist tendencies.”
Dieter remembered the women laughing and waving his gun in the air as they ran from the beach. He hated it then and still hated it.
“Did you track them down?”
“No, but we lifted finger prints in the car which they abandoned at the airport. It was scrubbed pretty good but not perfectly. We retrieved the old man’s prints from international registers since he had the longest history…the rest was research as you asked.”
“I appreciate the work.”
“No problem…slow crime period,” Barroso joked.
“I owe you,” Dieter promised.
“Yeah, I’m keeping a tab…”
“The Cuban sandwich…”
“Fair enough…thanks. Can you send me that information, pictures if you have them?”
“Sure,” voices in the background intrude, “got to go. Later.”
Dieter ended the call and looked at McClure, “Your questions just got answered.”
Dieter’s face screwed up in thought. “Not all of them.”
“Barroso didn’t say anything about the guy who broke into Valerie’s condo…they compiled a list of his aliases but he’s is still out there.”
“Is he the same guy who killed Valerie’s maid…what’s her name?”
“Cecilia…yeah, probably the same guy.”
“I can check the aliases when the information gets here…I have some former military buddies in high places…seriously, I might be able to help dig him out.”
“McClure you never cease to amaze me…”
“Is that a good thing?”
Dieter sat nodding his answer followed by silence.
“That company in Philly you were saying…”
Dieter looked at McClure, “How about a ride to Philly? Check out these people face to face? Maybe they’re the connection?”
“Sure, when do we go?”
“Not we, you go. I still have plenty to do here. I want to go talk to Caulfield. He sounded close to the edge when I spoke to him. He’s very angry, maybe angry enough to remember more.”
McClure, “I’ll get going to Philly, only ninety miles away. Maybe I can beat the traffic.” He chuckled and left Dieter thinking about Lindsay.
Lindsay’s voice mail answered when Dieter called. After a lengthy pause he said, “I need to talk to you. Call me when you’re free.”
“Free? Who said I’d be free? I get big bucks for talking and listening,” she joked, happy to speak with Dieter when she called. Her last patient had buoyed her mood. A young man, with an addictive personality filled with charm and good humor which he used to deflect the people around him from seeing his daily struggles, made her laugh.
“You sound good…”
“Feeling good…how about you?”
“Yeah me? Fine…”
“Yes Doctor…but I do need to talk with you about the Caulfield’s.”
“Have you been in touch with them?”
“Yeah, Eric Caulfield called.”
“And…how did he sound?”
“Panicky, stressed, vengeful and very angry…shall I go on?”
“And guilty as hell.”
Lindsay’s stomach fluttered. Her guilt still existed fully.
“Yes, a work in progress.”
“Exactly, but I don’t know how to help him or keep him from making a really stupid move.”
“Like getting revenge for his son’s death.”
“But how could he…”
“If he puts himself out in public they will find him and I think that’s what he wants.”
“He wants to kill them or him or whoever it is…”
“Can’t you stop him…?”
Dieter thought for a full ten seconds, “I don’t know.”
“What do you need from me?”
“Not yet, maybe some day…but, for now I need to know what can be done for this family.”
“You know, Karl, their wellbeing is not your responsibility. You shouldn’t…”
He interrupted, “I understand, I’m a cop not a shrink…”
“I hate that word.”
“Sorry, therapist…I’m not a therapist but they need support. They’re experiencing a tragic series of crises that have changed their lives forever.”
“Still not your responsibility Detective…”
“Yeah maybe, but I feel…”
“Responsible, but you are not.”
“If I could have solved this case years ago the kid would be alive…”
“I see…you feel as though you’re at fault.”
“No not my fault at all. Listen I’ve been doing this long enough to know what you say is true. Not my responsibility. Mine is to solve the case…get the bad guys and lock them up.”
“But you feel a part of this case and Valerie died because of these bad guys. Maybe you feel that you let her down somehow?”
“You did not. She had become needy and she leaned on you…maybe the start of dementia from her husband’s loss. You were doing your job as you’ve told me many times. Right? ‘Get the bad guys’ you just said. You are not culpable here…besides you’re the good guy with the white hat,” she attempted to lighten the discourse.
“Before this gets into a full blown therapy session, I agree, but they do need help and regardless of the reasons I’d like to see that they get it.”
“Okay – Detective – I can recommend some therapists. Will that help?”
“Well, I was hoping that maybe you might take them on.”
The sigh that left Lindsay’s lips was followed by, “No.”
“Oh? I just thought because you’ve been involved, connected to the details you might be a good fit.”
“It’s because I have been connected that I am not a good fit.”
More silence from Dieter.
“Karl, the best advice that I can offer is to find a therapist who has worked with patients dealing with a traumatic event. That makes the most sense. I’m in the middle of…”
“I understand,” he interrupted. “I’m sorry…you don’t need more on your plate right now. You have experienced plenty of traumas lately.”
“I’ll put together a list of therapists for them, tomorrow. Okay?”
“Sure … thanks Lindsay.”
“Why do you need a gun Mr. Caulfield?” Sam Waters asked his boss.
“Sam, I just need a gun and fast. I don’t want to go through all the stuff you have to is all.”
“But Mr. Caulfield you’re putting me in a tough spot. You know I’ve been inside…I have a record with the police. If anyone finds out that I got you an illegal gun….”
“When I found out that you were inside prison as you said, didn’t I stick up for you?”
“And didn’t I give you a chance to start over? This job with two promotions and pay raises.”
A grim look on Sam’s face was his answer.
Caulfield watched Sam struggle with the request and the obligation he felt to Caulfield. In the end the obligation won.
“I’ll see what I can do. Okay?”
“Yes, that’s all I ask.” Caulfield stuck out his hand which Sam took reluctantly.
One hundred and fifty year old McSorley’s Old Ale House is a fixture on East 7th Street and still brings in the evening crowds, mostly men from every level of employment in Manhattan.
“You Caulfield?” asked the stocky but athletic forty-five year old man sporting a dark blue pea coat.
“Yeah, that’s me,” with a smart ass grin. “You buying?”
“Sure what do you want? They only serve ale, light or dark.”
“I know dark for me.”
Caulfield inched up to the crowd at the bar held up two fingers and called out, “Two dark Keith.”
Keith Nevins gave a thumbs up and moved to fill two large glasses of dark ale. When he had finished pouring he called out to the men standing at the bar shoulder to shoulder, “Make a hole gents.” They did and he passed the glasses through to Caulfield who dropped money on the counter.
Caulfield looked around for a place to stand.
“Back there,” he pointed to a spot vacated by a group of three men who were leaving.
Caulfield and Jones filled the vacant spot eyeballing each other to get a sense of the man.
“So, you a big shot here in town?”
“I am who I am…just a guy who needs your services.”
Jones smiled and said, “Good enough for me. What do you need?”
“I need to find a guy, maybe a few guys, but one guy for sure.”
“Who is he?”
“I don’t know.”
Caulfield shook his head.
Jones sipped his dark ale and looked out over the crowd. Caulfield watched his face for a sign.
“It’s gonna cost you double to find a mystery guy. My guess is you know something to set me off on a mission. I have found people with vey little information.” Another sip for effect.
“Back in Los Angeles?”
Jones’s eyes shot toward Caulfield. Another sip, “Yeah back in LA.”
“When you were a cop?”
“Okay you’ve done your homework…yeah I was a cop in LA, left the force five years ago.”
Jones gave Caulfield a very hard look, “You tell me.”
“You were dismissed for cause…you beat up a wealthy, very connected real estate mogul who was drunk and very disorderly out side of a gala near Studio City.”
“He was practically raping his escort on the street…and she wasn’t having it. The guy was a pig. Thought he owned the whole city…hell, probably the whole world. Well he didn’t!”
Caulfield smiled a dark foreboding smile, “Good.”
“Good, what the hell are you…?”
“That’s exactly how I feel and why I need your help finding this guy.”
Jones sipped again allowing his mind to process the conversation. Caulfield took a long drink savoring the ale as it slid down his throat.
“Okay, your turn again.”
“My son is dead,” Caulfield paused fighting to compose himself. Another long drink of the ale.
“Yeah me too. I need to find the guy…”
Jones interrupted, “What about the cops?”
“They only want to put him in jail,” was Caulfield’s steely eyed response.
“I see.” Jones became uneasy. Finished his ale and looked at the empty glass.
“Nah, I better be alert for the rest of this story because I want to know everything you know.”
In the ten minutes that followed Caulfield gave Jones everything he knew plus an envelope filled with five thousand dollars.
“Detective Dieter,” Caulfield greeted at the police station the next morning, “thanks for seeing me.”
“How are you doing?”
“Not well but I have to be strong for my wife and daughter.”
Dieter felt there was much more to what he said than appeared on the surface. Caulfield had changed considerably since their last conversation in Maine. There was hardness in Caulfield now that Dieter hadn’t previously seen in the man.
“How can I help you?” Dieter questioned.
“Well, I came to see if I can help you now. I’m calmer now, more in control and maybe I can help you with…something…like identifying some pictures you may have.”
“Mug shots, I guess you call them?”
“Mug shots…no, I don’t have any mug shots. Anyway, if I did we’d have them in custody.”
“Yeah, I guess…. I just want to help.”
“You know I will do everything I can to get these people.”
“There’s more than one guy right?”
“Probably, but you should know since you dealt with them.” Dieter was fishing too.
Both lines were cast in the sea of uncertainty.
“Who contacted you besides Williams?”
“I don’t know. Just a voice on the phone.”
“Yes, you said in your statement. No one else? Maybe someone delivering a message?”
Caulfield thought a moment, “Maybe…there was a name I once heard. Lewis.”
“Lewis? First or last name?” Lewis again. That’s the connection to Hudson. Dieter thought.
“Don’t know, I got a call on my…” he paused deciding what to say, “on my private phone number.”
“The one they used to contact you?”
“Yes. A male voice asked, maybe Williams I don’t know, began by saying, ‘Lewis where the hell are you?'”
“What did you say?”
“When I asked who it was he hung up.”
“Three guys then. Williams, your phone connection and a guy named Lewis.”
Later when Caulfield returned to his home office he realized that he may have aroused suspicion on Dieter’s part by trying to get information from the Detective.
The onset of nervousness caused him to retrieve the keys for the office and his desk. He opened the bottom locked drawer and took out a large metal box. Its weight declared the contents; however, he dialed the keypad and opened the box. The black semi-automatic lay next to the magazine that housed the bullets which Caulfield hoped would soon give him retribution for Jake’s death.
Charles Albert Renfro, born in Stevensville, Michigan on February 12, 1960 stared with mounting fury out from his apartment window in Brooklyn, New York. The apartment he rented, but rarely stayed in was sparsely furnished…just the bare necessities: a bed, a bathroom, no kitchen needed, a coffee pot atop a dresser that sat next to a small refrigerator for beer was enough. Two glasses next to the bottle of Scotch and a coffee mug completed his sustenance. A wardrobe bought at a second hand shop kept shoes and slacks with three clean shirts. Underwear and socks were deposited in the night table next to the twin bed.
There was little that he needed and less that he wanted from Brooklyn but he was never going to be outplayed by a subordinate and Eric Caulfield was definitely a subordinate.
The money he extorted was safe not to be traced because it was not deposited in a bank or any financial institution. At a little non-working ranch outside of Chinook, Montana he hid the first stash of money in a dry well. Another was in Winnemucca, Nevada along with two others in Texas and North Central Florida. No money was to be traced or connected to him. His Spartan life style declared only his monthly military remittance.
Several times each year Renfro travelled to Brazil and Ecuador to deliver money to his homes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Isla Puna, Ecuador two very different cities. The task was challenging to get the money passed security but he had devised a scheme which allowed him to squirrel away large sums of money in each city. In these cities he lived a life far different from the one displayed in Brooklyn. Every convenience, every modern technology and service by locals was at his finger tips including a surfeit of young beautiful women.
As he stood at the window looking down on the bustling street he reviewed a plan that had begun to form. The plan didn’t reduce his fury rather it increased his fury because it would put an end to his years of scheming and extortion. Begrudgingly, he thought, Lewis was right…time to end this…but he hated losing. His anger was a product of this feeling of losing a battle that Caulfield had initiated…and Caulfield would have to pay before the battle ended…and then there was Lewis.
George Lewis had never felt such extreme levels of anxiety that pounded from his head into his chest. Renfro’s piercing eyes at the diner were embedded in his mind. The man’s anger and resolve to “…save our asses” and “…cut all ties” made him question whether he was a loose end to be cut away.
His years as a federal government contracts administrator with the responsibility to oversee contracts let to vendors had long ago drained him of interest. The void had been filled by greed. He saw too much money going to large and small companies for services and products and none to his wallet. Surely he had thought there was room for a few dollars to fall my way. Not much, just a taste as the Mafioso in the movies would say. He never had the courage to seek money from vendors for favorite status.
When he stumbled upon an aggressive Chuck Renfro who consulted with companies on military contracts he saw an opening. He had invited Chuck for a drink in a Washington watering hole. The very different men, after several drinks, commiserated about all the money going out to vendors. Each man was contemptuous of the companies that won contracts worth millions while they paved the way.
A second meeting initiated by Renfro had ended with a plan to take part in the flow of money which was to be redirected to their wallets. Their greed and personal dissatisfaction created a bond.
The men decided that Lewis, with the inside track on vendors, would recommend a company to be approached by Renfro for the final stages of the extortion. Lewis would be the brains he thought and Renfro would be the muscle but Renfro very quickly exhibited his Alpha dog mentality and Lewis acceded to the new hierarchy.
Now as the pounding continued, Lewis knew he had to run. Renfro was out of control and it frightened him. Franklin’s death brought the police into the picture…maybe the Feds, he thought, if Caulfield talked. Too many uncertainties. Too much to fear.
He pulled his laptop from its case and turned it on. The wifi at the local coffee house was open so he logged on to several travel sites. South America was out of the question. Asia seemed too far and too exotic for the truly American Lewis. Perhaps, Ireland, the land of his ancestors would offer him comfort and safety. Safety. Was that ever going to be a possibility?
Lewis’s cell phone vibrated in his pants pocket. His anxiety increased rapidly when he took it from the pocket. He considered not answering the call from Renfro but only for a moment.
“Lewis,” he answered.
“Where are you?” Renfro demanded.
“Having coffee. What’s up?” mustering all the calm available.
“I asked where you were not what you were doing!”
“Chuck, what is it? A problem?”
Renfro’s response was rapid and loud. “Where the hell are you?”
“At a coffee house in the East Village. What is it?”
“I need to see you.”
“Why? Is there a problem?”
“Yes there is a problem! Is it the coffee house where we used to have breakfast?”
Lewis gulped and pushed down the bile trying to escape from his throat.
“Don’t leave…on my way.” The phone went dead.
Lewis involuntarily looked toward the door fearing that Renfro might magically appear but two young people entered laughing without a care in the world.
Lindsay found three names of colleagues who specialized in trauma victims. Yvette Forsythe, PhD. was the first on her list. Alan Cummings, PhD., PsyD. had studied at Harvard and Yale but was at the end of his career in his 79th year. The third choice was Martin Piven, also a PhD, who had come to clinical psychology later in life after experiencing the wrath of 9/11 working near the Twin Towers.
When the Yvette Forsythe’s voice mail response began, Lindsay remembered her carefully measured speech. Lindsay had characterized Yvette as calm, directed and unflappable. Discourse at the convention rarely became confrontive or aggressive but once when a chauvinistic male therapist spoke dismissively to a young female therapist who responded with her brand of aggression seeking to protect her ego, Yvette had intervened and defused the situation amicably for both therapists.
“Doctor Forsythe this is Lindsay Riccardi, we met at last year’s NYSPA convention in the workshop for Individual Therapists. I’d like to speak with you about a referral.”
Lindsay liked Yvette. They had eaten lunch and chatted openly about their practices, the business, insurance industries’ intrusions and the growing need to help trauma patients. Yvette was smart, up to date with new research as a result she had developed insight into the future of PTSD therapy. She seemed a good fit.
Yvette Garon Forsythe was a French Canadian who met American Claude Forsythe in Paris. Their courtship was carefully worked out between Quebec and New York where he was an equity partner at one of the most successful law firms. Before they were married they had each earned many thousands of frequent flyer miles and spent too much time waiting in airports for winter’s weather to subside and takeoff to begin.
Lindsay’s message was simple and to the point. Referral was the key choice word for Doctor Forsythe. Lindsay understood that personal non-urgent messages like hers to colleagues were often returned after the last return call to patients at day’s end.
Margaret Blanchard arrived to Lindsay’s office a few minutes late and a little frazzled as usual.
Thirty-six year old Margaret worked for a hospital downtown as a patient’s advocate. Her daily task was to walk the hospital patients through the process of intake and follow through care when needed. Many patients spoke little or no English. Spanish was the predominant language with smatterings of Russian and Chinese. The job and its responsibilities weighed heavily on Margaret. Her former husband had often referred to her as a sensitive soul when he wanted to politely dismiss her client stories.
“Sorry I’m late…again Doctor but I had to finish with my last client,” she offered to Lindsay who had heard this excuse many times and accepted it as the truth.
“Please sit down,” Lindsay said.
Margaret’s pretty face had begun to wear since her divorce. She started to see Lindsay soon after their final separation. In that first session she said, “…it was harder than I thought it would be.” Lindsay knew the feeling and the stages that she would have to complete to move forward. Anxiety reigned supreme in her world, not anger, but simple anxiety initiated by the question, “What do I do now?”
Three more patients arrived and departed without extraordinary incidents allowing Lindsay to complete her notes and follow-up phone calls.
The TV news played to deaf ears. Lindsay sat, feet curled under her on the couch while her fingers drummed absently on the wine goblet in her hand.
She thought about her last conversation with Karl and his request to help the Caulfield family. Her life had changed drastically in the past year. Complications piled onto more complications building a mountain of very complex problems that sat at her doorstep.
Perhaps it all began with her feelings for Detective Karl Dieter. He saved her life and solved a murder case that had intruded into her life causing guilt and a new level of anxiety not present before. But, most importantly, he did ride in on a white horse-the good guy- and he made her feel valued again. When Andrew left for a younger woman the loss of her marriage questioned her self worth. Jonathan, a younger man, had come into her life at moments of vulnerability. She knew that now. He was a tragic mistake. But, Karl Dieter, tall good looking and smart was no mistake. He was real and he made her feel connected once again; connected to life and the world around her, but a world defined by more tragedy.
She realized that she needed him in her life not to complete her but to share whatever was in store for them. And yet, when he asked her for help with his case she reverted to a safe place. I’m too connected to this case to be able to help these people. Whatever level of objectivity I could have had is gone. She debated with herself about the decision to find another therapist. More guilt? Should I be feeling guilty about not helping? I am helping aren’t I?
The answer came with the ring of her phone.
“Doctor Riccardi, this is Yvette Forsythe, nice to hear your voice. It’s been a while. How are you?”
“Yes it has, about a year. I’m well,” she lied. “Thanks for returning my call.”
Their conversation lasted forty minutes. Talk of the referral – a family deep in trauma with immediate need for help – led to Doctor Yvette Forsythe’s acceptance of the referral if it should come from the family.
“Lindsay, may I ask you a question?” Yvette asked.
“I appreciate the referral but I’m curious as to why you aren’t taking on this family?”
“I’m too close to this case.”
“I see…and you’re all right?”
Lindsay’s chuckle belied her true feelings, “Yes, thank you.”
Lindsay called Karl after the phone call from Yvette.
“Hey everything okay?” he began.
“Yes, can’t a woman call her man?”
“I just spoke with a therapist for the Caulfield’s. She will be available if they decide to use her.”
“Thanks and listen, I should have understood that you were deep in this case too. I guess since I’d come to rely on your help with Valerie and…”
“No apology needed, please…”
A delicate silence followed.
“You want to get a drink?”
“I’m comfy here on my couch,” she answered.
“You can come here for a drink…I have a bottle of Scotch.”
The next morning Lindsay momentarily awoke nestled against Karl’s body her hand resting on his chest. Sleep returned taking her to Serenity Isle.
Chuck Renfro, fuming testosterone, surveyed the diner and marched toward George Lewis.
“Problem?” Lewis said mustering a soupçon of machismo.
“Yeah, we have a problem.” Steely eyed now.
Lewis waited while his left leg nervously bounced up and down under the table.
“This guy Caulfield is the problem.” His right hand forefinger aggressively pounding into the table top.
“His kid is dead, Chuck. Did you know that?”
“Not Franklin, he didn’t…”
“No, I mean I don’t think so…”
“How do you know?”
“I searched the Internet using two keywords…Caulfield’s name and Maine…a news story came up about Franklin’s death. The kid killed him.”
“Yeah while Franklin was attacking Caulfield. He was arrested and the kid died in custody. It’s over Chuck. No more. We got to…”
“Got to! We got to clean this up is what we got to do!”
Lewis stared at Chuck Renfro and wished he’d never met him.
“The Feds are involved.”
“How the hell do you know that? Did they contact you?”
“No. The same news story mentioned it.”
Renfro’s unblinking eyes locked onto Lewis.
“Did you ever personally contact any of the other vendors? Do they know who you are?”
Lewis’s spine froze. Once in 2000 he met Bruce Babcock the CEO of Babcock Mechanical a small company in Maryland just outside of Washington, D.C. where Lewis had worked as a contracts administrator for the government Contracts Office. Babcock was one of the first to retain the security services of their new venture. He was a struggling manufacturer about to go bust when approached by Lewis directly. The new relationship with an inside guy saved Babcock’s company and made him a bundle of money.
“Quid pro quo, something for something,” Babcock had said after he agreed to pay a percentage of the money from contracts that Lewis wired for him.
“Exactly,” Lewis had replied to Babcock.
“No I never met with anyone personally,” he lied to Renfro.
Renfro leaned forward accusatorily, “Are you sure? No one. You never met with any vendors over these years.”
“I said I did not. Why the hell would I meet with a vendor and put myself in jeopardy?”
He knew exactly why he did meet with Babcock. After all the years of being a cog in the government wheel and seeing huge sums of money going out to losers liked Babcock he needed to feel important even superior and he wanted someone to know it was because of him.
“Okay, I believe you,” Renfro lied dismissively. He became silent which scared Lewis more.
“What do you want to do now?’
No answer from Renfro. Resolve took hold; decisions were being put into place…actions would follow.
Lewis rummaged through the possibilities that may have been roving across Renfro’s mindscape.
“The Chinese? Are you thinking about calling the Chinese again?”
Renfro rose suddenly and looked down at Lewis who sat looking terrified at the one man who scared the life out of him. With an uncommunicative shrug Renfro turned and marched from the diner.
Lewis stood on unsteady feet, paid the bill and exited the diner while his heart pounded violently. By the time he reached his parked car shaking hands fumbled with the remote until he successfully pushed the open icon releasing the door lock. He sat in the car for several minutes unable to move.
Chuck Renfro watched Lewis from his car parked on the opposite side of the street and several car lengths away.
“He’s going to run,” he muttered to no one.
The Chinese may not get here for a few days. No time. Sorry George…
FBI agent Donald Brosnan in charge of the investigation into the death of Franklin Williams read through the notes he had been compiling for six months. The Internal Revenue Service had found discrepancies in the filings of a manufacturing company in New Jersey. The CFO was called in for an audit by a zealous IRS agent who “…smelled something very fishy…” and had gone fishing hoping to catch a shark that could catapult him to higher ground in the IRS landscape.
Brosnan was assigned the case and soon smelled the same fishy odor. It wouldn’t be the first time that a company was strong armed by outsiders seeking to feed at the government’s table. A big black guy, military type was connected to the smelly company. When Brosnan was alerted that a murder in Maine of a man fitting the same description who was connected to the CEO of Hudson Manufacturing, a government vendor, he decided to go fishing. The same smell emanated from a very angry Eric Caulfield.
J.B. McClure drove the ninety miles to Philadelphia with a clear purpose. He knew there was a connection to Franklin Williams and now he had to uncover that connection.
The tiny office space of Research Associates in a four story building nestled on a side street were surprisingly organized and professional looking. McClure had expected sleazy. The sleaze however came from the duo that ran the office. Martha Crampton a real life version of Miss Piggy, Franklin’s connection, nearly choked on her second donut when Detective McClure flashed his badge. She immediately punched the intercom for Raymond Eggers’ adjoining office.
“Detective is that an NYPD badge?” Eggers asked.
“Yes. A problem?”
“No Detective. What brings you here today?”
Martha busied herself pushing papers around opening and closing the desk drawers as though looking for something important. She had become so nervous that she put her favorite cream filled donut aside.
“Franklin Williams,” McClure eyed both for recognition. Eggers was far more adept at hiding his response than Martha who involuntarily reached for the donut and almost knocked over the huge coffee mug.
“Who?” Eggers stood shaking his head.
“Franklin Williams, he made a bunch of calls to your office phone number.” McClure directed his gaze at Martha, “Did you speak with him?”
“Me?” She looked at Eggers for support.
Eggers intervened. “Detective we get many calls from people asking for research on a wide range of matters.”
“And? Did either of you speak with Franklin Williams?”
“Hard to say. Some folks are up front with their names and some are not.”
McClure hardened against the deflections, “One more time…did either of you speak with Franklin Williams? What did he ask about?”
Eggers shuffled a bit but Martha nearly exploded with anxiety. McClure saw it.
“M’am this is an NYPD homicide investigation. Do you understand? Last time, did you speak with Franklin Williams?”
“Oh my god! Is he dead?”
Eggers shot daggers at Martha which she couldn’t feel.
“Yes, he is dead. So you knew him?”
“Yes, I mean, no,” with a pleading look at Eggers, “I only knew his name and voice on the phone.” And she added, “He seemed very nice.”
“What did he want?”
Martha Crampton didn’t hear McClure’s question. Her mind had receded to the flirty phone conversations that she enjoyed with the disembodied voice of Franklin Williams.
“Karl, I spoke with the people at Research Associates. The worked for him several times, mostly finding people.”
“Like Caulfield when he left town?”
“Yeah, a gal there traced him to the Maine address using his wife’s maiden name.”
“Oh yeah. Franklin used them to find other people, companies and background stuff. They work mostly with private investigators.”
Traffic slowed to a sluggish thirty miles an hour. McClure knew he’d take more than an hour to get back to the station. His next call would be to Sandra to cancel dinner at Angelo’s Ristorante in Brooklyn.
“Franklin was the point guy for the extortionists.”
“And the enforcer,” McClure added. “Didn’t work so well for him in Maine.”
“Not at all. Can you crosscheck those companies with the list we got from Franklin’s computer…the initials and see if anything overlaps? Maybe we can uncover the brains behind the extortion and murder of Hudson.”
“Sure, when I get back to the station.”
The respite that Lindsay enjoyed at Serenity Isle evaporated and was replaced by the moments of extreme violence that she experienced in her apartment months earlier. The cacophony of those life ending gun shots burst from her memory in galloping crescendos causing involuntary muscular reaction in her arms and legs. Her fists and arms moved protectively battling the sounds that attacked her sensibilities until she awoke confused and scared. Clenched fists stood at the ready. Lindsay’s aggravated breathing remained, her chest rising and falling with each exaggerated breath. Eyes wide open roamed the canvas of her bedroom seeking the cause of her anxiety but the room and its tranquility portrayed no threat. The true threat lay dormant waiting to be recalled when more recent bouts of violence were added. It resounded and rebounded inside her.
She rose, leapt from the bed and walked quickly to the bathroom sink, splashed cold water to her face like a boxer being revived from a near knockout. When she was satisfied she stood tall, looked into the mirror and cried.
The bedroom digital clock displayed the time on the ceiling 2:36 a.m. on a blustery night with winds hammering at her bedroom window. Lindsay moved to the bedroom window, felt the chill from the opening, closed the window and locked it against any enemy that could scale the building and intrude into her already troubled world.
Sleep would remain elusive and when it returned it was fleeting and short lived. So at 4:43 a.m. by her clock’s digital readout she rose, slipped on her bathrobe and walked through her living room putting on all the lamps and overhead lighting and found herself in the kitchen staring into the open refrigerator like some teen ager hoping for something delicious to appear. Nothing did. She closed the refrigerator’s double doors, shrugged and took down a wine goblet from a cupboard, found an opened Pinot Grigio and indulged herself.
As was her pleasure, she sat legs tucked under her body and sipped the wine. No television, no newspaper no escape lanes … merely time alone.
I am so very tired these days. My energy has dissipated; no it has been reduced by the calamity of the world around me. My world … what is my world now? Funny it’s hard to find my world, my place. My patients, Karl’s upside down violent world…that’s not my world. Where is my world? What has happened to the Lindsay Riccardi who used to live in this skin?
She pinched herself to see if she felt anything. She did.
Some patients spoke of a distancing from their worlds disconnecting from the harsh realities that tormented them. I knew this intellectually but now I understand it viscerally. It is debilitating and yet it doesn’t really hurt nor does it help. It just is. I don’t want to be like this, to feel this way; but, do I want the world that Karl inhabits? Can I handle the constant barrage of pain and violence? Strangely enough I do feel safe with him. Conflicting stuff Lindsay. What now?
Her emptied wine goblet allowed Lindsay to snuggle into the couch and fall into a deep rejuvenating sleep before sunrise.
Detective Dieter met Agent Adam Fieldstone in the New York offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation promptly at 8:30 a.m. as requested. Agent Fieldstone looked military from head to toe. Shoes polished to a face mirroring shine, slacks displayed a sharp vertical crease and posture of an officer in the armed services which he was having served with McClure in Afghanistan. Dieter smiled and put out his hand to the agent.
“Adam, I’m Karl…” he began but was interrupted.
“Agent Fieldstone,” with matching stony face and firm grip on Dieter’s hand.
“Agent,” leaving off the last name, “thanks for agreeing to meet with me this morning.”
“Not a lot of time. How can I help you?”
Dieter, who was not a major proponent of small talk didn’t like the Agent’s overly formal, dismissive attitude.
“It seems we’re working on the same case.”
“I doubt it.”
“I’m referring to the Hudson murder case.”
“We’re working on a much larger case with federal implications.”
That was enough for Dieter who took two steps toward the Agent and scowled openly.
“Do we have to do this pissing contest before we get down to sharing information?’ Followed by a very hard stare.
Agent Fieldstone took one step forward and smiled. “Just busting them on you Karl. JB said you had no desire to come down here. I asked why and he said that you didn’t want to get the runaround from me. Sorry, man I couldn’t resist,” and showed a mouthful of pearly whites.
“Really, so JB set me up?”
“No, no. It was my idea to have some fun. Come on I’ll buy you a cup of lousy coffee and we can get down to business.”
The two men walked to a small kitchen area which housed a refrigerator, a sink and a large coffee pot surrounded by the fixings. Several cabinets sat atop of the counter. Agent opened one cabinet, reached in and took down a paper coffee cup and handed it to Dieter. The men filled their cups with lousy coffee.
“You’re right,” Dieter said after a sip, “this is lousy coffee.”
“Told you, now you know you can trust me.”
Agent Fieldstone took Dieter back to his desk and the two men sat sipping coffee.
“You know JB and I served together. Good man, good soldier. If I needed someone to watch my back I’d pick him.”
“Which? Pick him or need someone to watch my back?”
“Neither, we were lucky. Limited engagement and what was engagement was – in the scheme of things – not so bad for us anyway.”
“Maybe that accounts for why he seems okay. You know?”
“Okay? He was the most okay guy out there. Always on top of things, nothing too difficult, complicated or too challenging for him…a good soldier.”
“He’s still that way.”
“Good for him. Not everyone came back okay though.”
Dieter waited for Agent Fieldstone to get down to business.
He reached into his desk side drawers and pulled out several thick folders which he stacked compulsively tapping the sides of the files to align with each other.
“We have been investigating two companies in the Northeast who we believe have been paying extortion to a group who have been in the shadows until now.”
“What brought them into the light?”
“The murder of Franklin Williams. He was a person of interest for almost one year. While we investigated the companies who were paying what we believed to be extortion, one of the CFOs contacted us about a guy who was around the small company from time to time. Didn’t work there, wasn’t on payroll but seemed to have a connection with the CEO. When the CFO questioned the CEO about the sometime visitor the CEO denied even knowing such a guy.”
“Such a guy?”
“A big, tough looking black guy.”
“We thought so when the information came to us about a killing in Maine done by the son of the CEO of Hudson Manufacturing … we paid attention. We found out that the former CEO was killed on the street outside of the Twin Towers…you know the rest … you caught the case.”
“Yes, I caught a really tough one on a really tough day.”
“Okay Karl, you start with that case and we’ll move forward and compare notes.”
For the next half an hour Dieter detailed the events form September 11th and Robert Hudson’s murder. Agent Fieldstone asked several questions and Dieter answered from memory promising to deliver a summative file to Fieldstone.
“Now how about the recent information from the new CEO, Eric Caulfield?”
Dieter explained his connection to recent events including the request by Valerie Hudson, his trip to Florida, the attack by three Asians, leaving out the embarrassing information regarding their age and gender. When the name Lewis came up the Agent interrupted.
“Lewis, L E W I S, that name came up in our investigation.”
Fieldstone flipped open one folder after another until he found his quarry. “Here, that same CFO who came to us found a reference from his CEO about a guy named Lewis…a government employee.”
“Connected to Franklin Williams?”
“Don’t know. We tracked every government employee for the last fifteen years named Lewis, first and last, men and women…took a big chunk of time and manpower.”
“No one ever saw this Lewis?”
“We could have filled a four drawer file cabinet full of Lewis’s trying to connect that name to our CFO.”
“A couple dozen who worked in Government Contracts Administration over those years. We believed that connection was our best bet … still do.”
“We believe that Hudson’s company was not the only one being extorted,” Dieter began. “When we searched Williams’ apartment after his death we found a list of what we guessed are clients and money paid.”
Fieldstone’s eyebrows arched upward. “A list … more than two?”
“JB will get you the list. He’s trying to connect names to the initials that we found, no names, just initials and numbers.”
Fieldstone reached out to his desk phone looked at Dieter, “I’d really like them now.”
Dieter nodded approval and Fieldstone dialed from a file card on his desk.
“He buddy just found out you’ve been holding out on me. You know the list of initials and numbers of those companies….”
Fieldstone listened as JB McClure responded.
“Karl here says it’s okay to send those over to me. It’ll help us big time. Great, thanks buddy. How’s your dance card for a brewski sometime soon? Catch-up time? Great, sounds good to me, later.”
Fieldstone hung up smiling, “Had to bust his a little too. Listen Karl, you know we have two very different things going on here. You have a couple of murders…”
“Three murders,” Dieter corrected including Cecilia in Florida.
“… and we may have a really big extortion case involving government contractors paying money to the same group. Maybe Chinese? Could be much more than extortion here.”
“Could be, but I don’t get that impression. Nothing international I’m guessing.” Dieter knew that his Asian attackers were hired help only.
Fieldstone rose signaling the end of their tete a tete.
Both men promised to keep the other apprised of new developments in their respective cases knowing that there probably would be some things proprietary for each.
Renfro tried to calculate the time it would take to resolve his problems, Lewis and Caulfield; too many unknowns with Caulfield, maybe Lewis too. Renfro noticed strength in Lewis that he hadn’t seen before. He believed it came from the fear of being caught and sent to prison where Lewis would not survive. Lewis knew that he couldn’t survive in prison. His only choice was to run.
Renfro would have to take Lewis seriously now. Regain his confidence and come up with a plan that would ameliorate Lewis’ fears causing him to drop his guard.
If I ask him to meet me again he will bolt, maybe he has already. Going to appeal to his greed…money is his primary interest. Not me. Power is mine. I have enough money stashed away for two lifetimes…there is never enough power over others…never.
Agent Adam Fieldstone headed the team of FBI agents as they entered the office building startling security and people moving in and out of the corridor. The Building Security Agent nodded approval to Fieldstone after a brief conversation and returned to his computer screen right after he called management. Whispers commingled with aghast gazes. Some people watched the line of agents cross the lobby and enter the elevators while others scurried out of the lobby into the streets never looking back at the commotion or its outcomes.
Two elevators opened to the Hudson Manufacturing floor and the FBI agents emptied out to the company lobby. Receptionist Delia Thompson’s eyes bulged as the line of agents passed her desk and marched right into the offices after buzzing the door open per Agent Fieldstone’s orders.
By the time she gained composure and called Eric Caulfield’s secretary to inform her of the intrusion the small army of FBI agents had arrived.
Caulfield’s secretary’s desk was surrounded by the supervising agents Fieldstone and two others while the gang of agents opened file cabinets, dumping files into boxes followed by a labeling system to organize the data. It happened so fast that entering employees found their desks emptied within minutes of the agents’ arrival.
“Eric Caulfield we are subpoenaing all your files,” said Fieldstone and he handed the profoundly agitated CEO the court documents.
“What the hell …?” Caulfield’s eyes were ablaze. “This is a place of business …”
“Not today sir. We are officially shutting you down until our investigation is complete.”
“We have government contracts in place in operation … we have deadlines to meet …”
“Until we have completed our investigation …” Fieldstone began.
Caulfield scanned the area and saw the faces of his employees as they watched the drama unfold and he didn’t like it.
“May we speak privately in my office?” Caulfield asked and motioned to his office door.
“Good idea,” Fieldstone marched right into the office as though he owned it an intimidation trait he picked up in the military. He stopped at the foot of Caulfield’s desk and waited for him to enter and move behind his desk.
“Agent, please have a seat.”
“No time.” Agent Fieldstone faced Caulfield displaying a full intimidation stance; penetrating eyes locked onto Caulfield’s.
“It’s about the extortion?” Caulfield’s averted his eyes momentarily and sighed.
Caulfield suddenly felt relief. The worst thing in his life already happened with the death of his son Jake. This would lead to legal retribution against these monsters. He would still exact his own retribution against the people responsible for his grief. Maybe the FBI will help lead me to the bastards he thought.
Chuck Renfro waited impatiently down the street from George Lewis’s New York City apartment. He watched the passersby for Lewis returning home. For an hour and a half he sat, rigidly at attention, seething as each thought penetrated his anger.
What the hell happened in Maine? Did Franklin screw up? How the hell did a kid kill him? The cops and the feds are involved now! Shit!
Lewis is right. Time to end it but first I have to cover my tracks. Caulfield can lead the feds to us. He’s gone! Lewis is first! Where the hell is that fool?
His question was immediately answered as Lewis came down the steps to the brownstone where he rented an apartment. He moved quickly, carrying a small black briefcase, and clicked open his car using a remote. Lewis popped into the car, started the engine and drove off rapidly to the Westside of Manhattan. Renfro darted out from his parked space not seeing the middle finger salute from a driver in an old Toyota that nearly clipped his rear.
Once again Renfro was on the hunt. The kill would soon follow leaving one more obstacle to be overcome.
The stop and go traffic allowed Lewis to go through a green light but caused Renfro, two car lengths behind, to stop at a red light. The driver in front of him maddeningly was texting when the light turned green. Renfro furiously pounded his horn several times until the driver looked up and drove through the intersection with Renfro on his bumper.
Fortunately, Lewis was stopped at a light when the texting driver caught up with the traffic. Renfro had the quarry in his sights again. When traffic moved the texting driver turned left heading south downtown. Renfro kept a safe distance from Lewis. He lowered the sun visor to block his face from view. But he easily kept eyes on the rear of Lewis’s car.
Lewis turned right onto West Side Highway heading north in the increasingly heavy traffic. Renfro followed with mounting impatience with the traffic and with Lewis’s erratic lane changing driving.
After twenty minutes Lewis continued past 79th street as the West Side Highway turned into the Henry Hudson Parkway toward the Bronx.
“Where are you going!?” shouted an angry Renfro into his empty car.
With all patience evaporating quickly Renfro moved closer to Lewis on the Parkway. Lewis drove into Westchester onto the Saw Mill River Parkway and exited very slowly.
Did he see me?
Lewis speed up and turned down a street that was residential at first but soon became spotted with abandoned houses and closed store fronts. His car turned down a very narrow side street and vanished.
Renfro stopped at the entrance to the side street and decided to park his car and travel the rest on foot. The narrow street strewn with debris and uncollected trash smelled of rotting food, urine and marijuana.
Renfro retrieved his gun from his rear holster and moved quickly through the street. There was no sign of anyone in the windows that looked down onto the street. Darkened windows displayed occasional broken glass at the lower floors.
Near the middle of the street Renfro saw the red tail lights of Lewis’s car with his engine running. Lewis sat in the car scanning the area facing forward away from Renfro. Quickly with all the stealth he could muster Renfro ran ducking behind any obstacle he could find to conceal his approach.
Lewis sat with the engine running planning his escape from New York. He was startled by the pounding fist at his window. Renfro’s grotesquely angry face glared at him. The gun aimed at his face almost stopped his heart.
“Get the fuck out of the car!”
Lewis scrambled out of the car almost falling to the pavement.
“What are you doing with that gun?” Lewis asked, the smell of fear overpowering the street’s stench.
Before Renfro answered he noticed a briefcase sitting in the front seat.
“What the hell is in that briefcase?”
Lewis looked at the briefcase with such fear that Renfro screamed, “Give it to me!”
Lewis leaned into the car, reached across the driver’s seat and pulled the briefcase from the car. Renfro grabbed it and shoved Lewis back against the side of the car. Lewis was shaking uncontrollably. Renfro placed the briefcase on the car’s hood and opened it.
Lewis squealed involuntarily at the stack of money in the briefcase; money he had carefully counted, all twenty five thousand dollars, as part of his get-away money.
“Going somewhere!?” Renfro growled.
“Chuck, listen to me. I can’t stick around here. I’m not like you. I got to go, get out of the country.” He pleaded with trembling hands. “Take it.”
Lewis reached over to the briefcase and began to give stacks of money to Renfro. He purposely dropped a large stack of hundred dollar bills. The moment Renfro’s eyes were averted to the fallen stack Lewis grabbed an envelope from the briefcase. Quickly he tried to push the envelope into his sport coat pocket but fumbled and it fell to the ground at Renfro’s feet.
Renfro’s eyes nearly exploded from his head when he picked up the envelope and opened it. There was a photo of Renfro, a piece of paper with his address and contact information, and a hastily scribbled note. Complete the job asap! Urgent!
“You son-of-a-bitch! You’re going to kill me!” with such complete incredulity.
“No, no. It’s not like that. I needed a way out of the country,” Lewis lied unconvincingly.
With lightning speed Renfro grabbed Lewis by the collar and pulled him face to face their breaths mingling; one pair of eyes ablaze with anger and one pair drowning in fear. He pushed his gun into Lewis’s forehead pressing Lewis against the car and bending him backwards.
“You stupid, cowardly fool!” was all Renfro got off his chest before the bullet that hit him in the ear and pounded through his brain killing him instantly.
Lewis pushed Renfro off his body crumbling to the ground. The blood that splattered across his face caused him to swipe his hand over his face. The sight of the blood covering his hand caused him to wretch and throw up on Renfro.
“Give me the bag,” a voice from the shooter said.
Lewis stood trembling and closed the briefcase, and handed it to the shooter.
“Is this the guy?” the shooter asked.
“Yes,” Lewis barely whispered.
“Good, then our business if finished. We will never see each other again. Now, get out of here.”
While Lewis stood frozen, the shooter left and turned to walk away but stopped, “Now, get out of here right now. Go!”
“Karl, when will the killing stop?”
Detective Karl Dieter looked at the woman he had come to love and felt her vulnerability.
They sat facing each other in Lindsay’s kitchen their coffee mugs centered the small round glass top table. Lindsay’s bare legs were crossed and visible beneath her white bathrobe belying in a far more carefree manner her true emotion. Dieter reached out his hand and held hers. She looked at him and offered a tiny self deprecating smile and a shrug.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
Lindsay stiffened momentarily. Dieter held her hand and stood with her hand in his. She rose and went into his arms. After a moment she began to rock from side to side as though in a catatonic state. He pulled her nearer and she pressed against him wanting all her fears to evaporate.
“Lindsay, if I could only turn back the clock,” he began.
“No, no I don’t want that. That would mean we wouldn’t be here now at this moment. We wouldn’t be together. I know it’s selfish but…” she looked up at him through misty eyes. She shook her head, “No…”
“How would we have met?” he smiled hoping to deflect the mood.
“Yes, how would we have met? Where?”
“Where? Yes, we could have met in the supermarket,” she smiled. “You could have been at the fish counter and could have been standing next to you.”
“I could have asked you which is your favorite fish…” he played along.
“Or you could have asked what is a Branzini – a more specific question…”
“We ate Branzini in Florida,” he remembered.
“Yes we did at dinner with Valerie,” the moment was broken for Lindsay.
She leaned into Dieter once more restarting her rocking motion. “When?” she asked meekly.
He didn’t answer but thought about the question. What will happen now? Are the extortionists hiding in a foreign country with bags full of one hundred dollar bills?
Eric Caulfield stood at the kitchen sink looking out the window at his backyard. The winter had stripped the trees of their leaves presenting a naked landscape. He pulled the glass of orange juice to his lips and finished the last of it. Absent mindedly he placed the glass in the sink and turned the water on it eyes fixed on the barren trees that once flourished. He remembered long past summer days looking out of the window watching Jake kick a soccer ball around the yard with his friends. At least once a week the family and neighbors would gather for a barbecue. Parents enjoyed cocktails in shorts and tank tops after an often fun-filled meal while the kids played and chased lady bugs once darkness arrived.
“Looks cold outside,” Susan said at his side.
“Yeah,” short of sounding dismissive.
“It’s all so awful,” she lamented. “Yesterday was, just …”
No answer from her husband. After the FBI barged into his offices, and after the files were cleaned out Eric Caulfield was taken out and interviewed at the local FBI headquarters. Charges would be filed and he’d have to pay for his part of the federal crime. His lawyers were busy working on a response to the possible charges that could be filed. Lots of dominoes were falling banging into one another all instigated by the murder of Robert Hudson on September 11th.
Eric Caulfield could not erase the guilt at his weakness in the face of the extortion. If only I had gone to the authorities…things would be very different. Jake would be alive!
“Mom, Dad? What are you doing?” Jennifer asked entering the kitchen.
When she entered Jennifer saw her parents staring out of the window, standing side by side not moving.
Susan turned and managed a smile for her daughter. Jennifer was barefoot in her pajamas
“Morning Baby. Hungry? I can fix you pancakes.” As soon as she said it her shoulders slumped forward and she broke into tears remembering how much Jake loved pancakes.
Jennifer bolted from the room and they could hear running up the stairs followed by the clap of her bedroom closing.
Susan moved to follow her but Eric held her near. “Let her be right now,” he said, “she needs time to sort things out too.”
“Sort things out?” She pulled away from her husband. “Sort out which things? That our son lies in the ground? That all this,” with expansive hands outstretched,” could have…no, should have been avoided.”
The virtual knife with which she struck Eric’s heart squirted bits of virtual blood and such pain that he held his chest involuntarily. Susan didn’t notice her husband’s reaction through the streaming tears that flowed. She left the kitchen and slowly walked upstairs to Jennifer’s room.
Who are these people that destroyed my family?
George Lewis checked two bags at the kiosk outside the terminal at JFK International Airport in New York. He paid the extra fees, gave the porter a generous tip and entered the terminal.
The monitor listing all the International and Domestic flights from the terminal reported that his was on-time. Perspiration dribbled down his under arms as he approached the security line.
Lewis’s mind was held captive by the unreal sight of Renfro’s body at his feet since the hired gunman killed him in the stench-filled alley. Franklin’s killing and Renfro’s growing anger and paranoia were now completely overshadowed by the vision of Renfro’s head exploding inches from his own. The gunman’s demand echoed repeatedly, “…get out of here right now. Go.”
Lewis swiveled left and right seeking suspicious eyes aimed at him. He saw none.
“ID and boarding pass,” the security agent announced with a scowl to the man who was holding up the line. He fumbled with driver’s license and boarding pass and watched as the security agent scanned his driver’s license and scribbled on his boarding pass. He was through, next the body scanner and freedom.
His gait quickened allowing him distance from security. When he felt comfortable that he was long past security concerns he slowed to a casual pace.
Plenty of time.
Later, after boarding, he sat in the first class section of the plane that would take him to Ireland which would be his first stop. His plan for the first six months of freedom was to keep moving from country to country; Ireland first followed by Italy and France then back to the Americas, South America and ultimately to tiny Uruguay.
Who would ever look for me in Montevideo?
The crime scene was cordoned off around the blooded body of a male in late fifties with no identification. Police vehicles blocked each end of the alley. A CSI vehicle parked near the body allowed its crew to complete the onsite investigation before the body was removed. Two detectives were busy reviewing the information to date.
A young boy riding his bike through the alley to his friend’s nearby house had found the body. His first stop was at his friend’s house to declare his find. The friend’s grandmother overheard the boy’s excited talk and called the police.
Both boys with hovering grandmother stood transfixed at the excitement surrounding them; police, and crime scene investigators worked the area.
“You can go home now,” Detective Jerry Gibbons, a short, round but sturdy detective said to the boys and grandmother.
The detectives ambled away from the body, “Looks like a military type to me,” said Detective Michael Milliken, the short haired detective whose physique was still trim and solid since his recent tours of duty in the Middle East.
“The body has been here for at least eight hours. Blood is dried on the victim’s face and clothes. It looks like the perpetrators stepped in the blood over here and here,” a CSI officer said. “Two different men’s shoe sizes might mean two different men or someone stumbled onto this and took off. We’ll see.”
Detective Gibbons said, “My take? Two guys held him up, this guy resisted, one shot him close range and then emptied his pockets of everything; no wallet, cell phone or cars keys … nothing. Plausible?”
“Yes, very plausible in this neighborhood. We get any information on the car parked near the other end of the alley?” Detective Milliken responded turned and pointed in the direction of Renfro’s car.
“Not yet. I called in the plates, they’re running them now. Probably not his car.”
Detective Gibbons laughed, “Because it’s still here. If it was his car and they took the keys it’d be long gone. Plausible?”
“Yes, plausible I suppose.”
“Hey Karl, it’s Adam Fieldstone I have an update for you as promised.”
“Adam, this is a first.”
“FBI coordinating with NYPD.”
Long pause, “Okay, are we even now?”
“Yes, the score is tied. Okay, couldn’t resist … as you said once …”
“You know we went to Hudson Manufacturing and began an investigation of all their files?”
“Yes, what did you find?”
“Still digging, but I had several interviews with Eric Caulfield before we were going to charge him…”
“You’re going to charge him…? The guy is hurting and very angry.”
“I know and that’s why we’re not charging him? Not yet anyway. Listen, he was very upset when I said he’d have to spend a few days in jail. I thought he’d flip out right in the office.”
“You blame him?”
“Not really, I understand about his son and all but ….”
“You needed leverage ….”
“Yes and we got it. He promised to do anything to help with the investigation.”
“What’s the update?”
“He is out, back to his closed offices, waiting for the phone calls”
“He believes there are other CEOs who are in the same boat … maybe try to reach out to him … find out if they are vulnerable. This has been all over the news outlets … even the broadcast business television. ”
Dieter realized that Caulfield just set himself up as bait for the extortionists and Adam Fieldstone knew it too.
“You going to protect him?” Dieter asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.
“I thought you’d like to protect him since you caught the original case.”
Dieter did not want any more harm to come to Caulfield or his family. The man’s guilt still reverberated against a background of rage and the need for revenge. A dangerous landscape.
“I’ll speak with my captain …”
“Yes, I know time is money.”
“We narrowed down the name Lewis to one guy who was linked to Hudson Manufacturing before September eleventh. George Lewis worked for the US General Services Administration for more than ten years. Three years after September eleventh …”
“You mean after Robert Hudson was killed … ”
“Yes, after the CEO of Hudson Manufacturing was killed, George Lewis quit his job foregoing any pension rights and benefits.”
“Maybe he had something better.”
“That’s what we think. Why would a guy quit a government job, lose benefits and just walk away unless all the companies were set up for the extortion. No further records of employment.”
“Checked out a small house in Maryland not far from Washington D.C. where he worked. Neighbors said he was rarely there.”
“Where is he now?”
“Ireland? He’s on the run. He’s our guy.”
“Probably. The trail ends at Dublin Airport. After that no trace.”
“Hotels, car rentals, car services? Nothing?”
“No, at least not yet. We did get a maybe from Caulfield though.”
“What do you mean?”
“He spoke to someone just before he took off for Maine with his family. He didn’t think it was Lewis because the guy sounded really very tough – like in charge – and our background on this guy Lewis doesn’t fit with Caulfield’s take on the voice.”
“Not him Caulfield said. He met Williams once when he was first approached. Not the same voice as the guy on the phone.”
“We have three guys, Williams, Lewis and a mystery man.”
Quentin Daniels sat with legs crossed wrapped in a blanket that he stole from the shelter where he had slept and ate his last meals three days earlier. Times were very bad for him since he left his mother’s house in New Rochelle less than twenty miles from his new home in the abandoned building situated on the street where the police had found the dead body. He didn’t cry for himself or his problems. Things were much better out here, alone and safe from the abuse both physical and emotional that he endured for more than two years.
One month earlier he had fled with nothing but his clothes and a coat. His mother’s in-house boy friend who helped pay her rent had redirected his sexual needs to Quentin. Under threats to keep his mouth shut Quentin had been sexually assaulted when his mother was not home. Her boyfriend, a huge burly, scary and angry man stared Quentin down with harsh looks whenever Quentin entered a room.
His single parent mother was never sure who his father was nor did she care to know since they were all one night stands more then sixteen years ago. Her bouts with depression and drinking brought her to the seediest bars and clubs when she had the money to go out and seek company for the night.
The years had not been kind to her nor to Quentin who ironically was gifted with a keen intelligence by one of the one-nighters. He often wondered what his father was like. When he asked her about his father she became angry often cursing him.
His personality could have been drawn to angry boys his age but his intelligence kept him alone with his fantasies of better times.
That night when voices below his fourth story window entered clearly allowing him to hear the conversation between a very angry man – a tone he recognized all too well – and a very scared voice, he rose from his make shift bed of the blanket atop several cardboard boxes flattened to inscribe a bedroom area, he was drawn to the window.
Earlier that day he found a cell phone on a nearby street, maybe a run-a-way from a woman’s purse. He didn’t know. What he did know was that the phone was his companion. It was his escape while the battery lasted. He viewed pictures of a family together at Christmas and a birthday party neither of which had he celebrated for years.
When he looked out of the window and saw one man pressed against a parked car, cringing against the force of a second man who was shouting and threatening, he pressed the video on the cell phone and recorded what followed.
He had played the video many times of Chuck Renfro’s head exploding from a bullet that knocked him sideways and twisted to the ground where he had lain motionless. A third man had appeared whose back was to the cell’s camera. He spoke calmly with the cringing man, scooped up a briefcase, ordered him to leave and then disappeared. The cringing man stood over the body frozen for a minute then entered his car and drove away. The car’s license plate number was out of sight of the cell phone’s lens.
In the gathering darkness of the Quentin’s room he fantasized about the murdered man thinking that he saw his mother’s boyfriend’s face explode from the gunshot and his huge body crumple to the ground, but it was not him. The dead man was not huge but they shared the same rage.
Quentin shut the phone off when he saw that the battery had thirty one percent life. In the blackness that encircled him he devised a plan for the video; a plan he would set in motion in the morning.
The sun didn’t shine directly into Quentin’s world but it did permeate enough light for him to see. He saw the squalor surrounding him. The empty room whose door hung from a broken hinge was propped in a semi-closed position. The floor, once covered in old fashioned oil cloth, was populated by bits of newspapers, rags and beer cans from former tenants like him who sought shelter. Quentin had amassed very meager belongings while staying in the room. They included a knapsack with a copy of a travel magazine that he found, an empty water bottle waiting to be refilled, wrappers from two candy bars that still had bits of chocolate and nuts to lick. A solitary unbroken closed window allowed light and turned away harsh nighttime winds that swirled through the alley way.
Mornings were difficult for Quentin. He needed to wash, and use the bathroom. He could not allow himself to be relieved in the room or in the building anywhere so each morning he would adjoin to the nearest fast food restaurant and slip into the bathroom to start his day. The difficult part was the smell of food inside the restaurant that he could not afford to buy; stealing was out of the question.
Before his trek to find an available bathroom he powered up the cell phone and turned on the video once more. His eyes clicked around the small screen gaining knowledge each time he viewed the killing. Seeing it on the phone was more like watching a movie than seeing the real killing happen. However, the horror of it lingered.
What am I gonna do with this? Scary! What if the killer comes back? Did he see me looking down at him? Maybe I should show someone? No, then I will be in trouble. I could say I found the cell phone and ‘no I didn’t take the video. No, not me.’
Maybe I could get a reward? Money. I got nothing.
The need to relieve himself overwhelmed his thoughts so he left the building and trotted very gingerly to a fast food sandwich shop one block away. While standing at the urinal he decided to give the phone to the first police officer he saw.
“Hey Sarge look at this,” Officer Delgado said to his precinct superior.
Officer Ramon Delgado handed the cell phone that a kid on the street had given him less than a half an hour ago.
“What, more naked pictures of your conquests Ramon?” Sergeant Francis Cronin joked.
“Nah Sarge, check this video.” Delgado handed the cell phone to Cronin.
Cronin smirked at Delgado shrugged a what-the-hell shrug and played the video. He watched it with mounting interest once. Then played it again with Delgado at his side.
“I think that’s the alley where the guy got murdered the other night.” With raised eyebrows and head cocked to one side he asked, “What do you think?”
Cronin was thinking rapidly. Could this help get me to the Lieutenant’s level?
“Should we go to the Captain?” Delgado asked.
We? Nah, I’ll go to the Captain. You go back to the street.
“I’ll call the Captain … see what he thinks. Thanks, you get back to keeping the streets safe,” with an at-a-boy slap on Delgado’s back he was dismissed.
Captain Gordon Jenkins listened intently to Sergeant Cronin as he described what the Captain was already seeing on the cell phone’s screen.
“Yeah Cronin, I can see.”
Cronin stepped back a bit to give the Captain some space as he replayed the video.
“Where’d you get this?”
Cronin moved closer again, “From an officer on the beat.”
Begrudgingly, “Delgado, sir,” adding the ‘sir’ to soften the hard stare he was getting.
“Get him in here.” Followed by a ‘what are you still doing here stare.’
Captain Gordon Jenkins dialed the Homicide Division.
“Hey Gordon, what’s up buddy?” answered Homicide Captain Carson Burk.
“I have something you need to see.”
“The killing in the alley.”
Burk reviewed the video several times once he arrived at Jenkins’s office.
“How’d you get this?” Burk asked Jenkins.
“One of my officers was given it on the street.”
“Who gave it to him?”
“Where is this officer now?”
“On his way here.”
A broad smile crossed Burk’s face followed by thoughtful nodding.
“Okay then,” he sat in a black faux leather chair, “we wait.”