tagNovels and NovellasCrime & Punishment: The Prequel Ch. 10

Crime & Punishment: The Prequel Ch. 10

byRichardGerald©

Silvia Keenan was normally a woman who exuded confidence, but in her fifty-seven years, she had never come close to committing a crime before. As she walked through the doors of the Commerce Bank and Trust, she was sure that everyone would see how nervous she was, and certainly she would be stopped and arrested. The safety deposit boxes were across the large lobby next to an immense vault and secured behind a set of great steel barred doors. In front was a young bank clerk at a desk with a sign that read "You must sign in." He barely looked at her when she showed the key to box E102.

"Please sign here, and I need two forms of identification."

Silvia signed Maryann McManus' name and produced the social security card and driver's license that Steven had taken from the McManus home. The bank clerk never even bothered to look at the picture on the license. He wrote down the license number and handed it back with the social security card. Silva had been prepared to say how it was a bad photo, a not very good likeness, which anyone could see. Maryann's license bore the typical washed-out image created by the state's newest high-security process.

The desk clerk handed her off to the vault clerk who took her into the security box area. He stopped before a row of large boxes and asked for the key Silva had in her hand. Placing his key and her key in box E102, he pulled the door open and extracted the box. Then he led her to a booth.

"I'll be right outside if you need me," he said leaving the box and exiting the booth.

For the first time since entering the bank, Silva began to relax. She opened the large box and was surprised to see it was almost filled by a Redwell file folder. She sat down in one of the two small chairs and took a deep breath. When the folder was extracted, the box was empty. All it contained was the folder.

Silva suppressed the urge to grab the file and run. When Steven Fitzgerald had explained the situation, she was more than happy to help, but she hadn't fully thought through the consequences. Now both curious and afraid, she inspected the Redwell. It contained five bundles of documents. Each bundle was carefully clipped together by a two-hole binder clamp. Each had a list of the documents in reverse chronological order. It was all very neat and precise. A master index of three pages was at the front of the file.

She was in no doubt that she had the object she was sent to get. She took a deep breath and placed the file into her carry all bag. To fit it in, she had to remove the book she had brought to read in her jail cell if she was arrested. She had selected the hardcover copy of Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. She picked up the Hamilton biography for five dollars at a charity book sale. It was a ponderous and rather dull book, and now it occurred to her, she would need to replace the missing weight of the file she had removed to avoid any suspicion from the bank employee.

She put the book in the box, closed the lit, zipped the file up in her carryall, and called the attendant to help her return the box. Then she exited the bank with a cheery goodbye to the desk clerk feeling the exhilaration of having got away with it. Steven who had been waiting in the bank's lobby followed her out to her car.

"I got it," she said opening the car door, "I was so nervous, but they barely checked."

"I told you. It's just routine," he said.

In her car, Silva gave him the file, "Is it everything you need?" She asked.

He was scanning the index, and the records looked complete, but there was no way actually to know. It appeared that the Index had been updated recently, but you couldn't tell. This was somewhat troubling, but he said, "It looks complete. Thank you. It's a good and brave thing you have done," and gave her hand a firm squeeze. She leaned over and planted a kiss upon his cheek.

"Please just make it count for something," she said.

Steven could see how much she needed to be part of this, to get some redemption for what happened to her son. She needed to purge the guilt that haunted her. It had driven her to walk into that bank in spite of her natural fear and her own morality that told her it was wrong. All he could do was nod and say, "I will make it count."

He realized how shallow his life had been to that point. How much he let an event in his childhood influence him down the wrong path. He used his God-given talent for the wrong purposes. Now he had a chance at redemption; he was determined not to miss it.

****

Lieutenant Ed Brandt of the Van Patten County Sherriff's was seated in Brown's Pub watching the newest waitress Pollyanna Randall playing her part. The woman was, he decided, a definite phenomenon. Had he not known her criminal history as related by Jimmy O'Reilly, he would have thought her an innocent school girl.

Polly looked barely legal, although she was twenty-four. She was flirting with every male in the place, and the way she looked and moved was an invitation to a hard-on. She was giving special attention to a table of black professional men, and one, in particular, Frank Patterson.

Ed was brought into this game by Steven Fitzgerald to provide Polly backup and keep his eyes on her as far as possible while she went about seducing Mr. Patterson. It was not without risk. Ed had arrested Patterson, so the son of a bitch should remember him, but like most people, Patterson didn't remember Brandt out of his uniform. Besides, Frank was too busy watching Polly's hips move, and her nipples poke through her blouse.

Fitzgerald wanted Patterson watched, and figured the best way was to give him a hot new girlfriend. There was no doubt that Polly was hot, or that Frank was interested. Nevertheless, the woman played a great game. It took her mark all night, and a round of drinks after his friends left to get her to give him her phone number. Thanks to Steven, she had a burner cell phone and a new apartment in Guilderland. It all went with her new name, Ann Smart.

The plan was simple, get Polly/Ann close enough to Patterson to watch what he was about. For her part, Polly was glad to give up stripping and whoring for the money Fitzgerald was paying her. O'Reilly did the negotiating. Apparently, Jimmy had some disreputable history with this woman. Not surprising considering O'Reilly's reputation, but the only reason Brandt agreed to help was the tape; they played him. He would gladly see Fitzgerald and O'Reilly pay up for their actions, but Sullivan was a different matter.

Brandt believed that Sullivan was a decent man but in the wrong profession with the wrong wife. A man too honorable to expose the bitch for the slut she was. A man too honest to accept without guilt the dirty compromises that were required by his profession. Right now, he was in a hospital bed the victim of an attempted homicide on election day. Sullivan lost the DA race to his opponent, an incompetent ass hole who happened to be in the right party. It didn't surprise Brandt that someone wanted Sullivan dead, or that a worthless piece of shit like Frank Patterson would be in on the plot.

Polly clearly had Patterson interested and completely fooled. She turned on those big innocent eyes and wiggled that perfect ass of hers, and a certain type of man went brain dead. Patterson had her cell number, and he was getting ready to leave. The big Sherriff's deputy turned away as Patterson passed him. When he turned back, Polly was standing at his table.

"Anything I can get you? Another diet coke or maybe something else?" she said leaning in suggestively. Brandt only rose from the table, "When he calls, let me know," Brandt said.

"Maybe he won't."

"Yeah, no chance of that. Just give me a call right away."

"Will do sir," she said with a little salute and a giggle.

She was one damn attractive honey trap; Brandt thought, and he needed not to get caught in it.

****

Jimmy O'Reilly was trying to work on a divorce case where the plaintiff wife was actually paying him for his services, but he was distracted by thoughts of the governor's business. According to his deal with Fitzgerald, he was responsible for keeping an eye on Patterson and Greco. He had Brandt and Polly watching Patterson, but that left Greco. Tara O'Reilly and her staff of private investigators were doing a good job of following Tony, but it was getting them nowhere. He needed to find out who in the state police Greco was working with before another hit was tried. Sullivan was the easiest target, but Jimmy was betting that the prime target was Fitzgerald. Get him, and maybe some people sleep a whole lot better.

The problem was Fitzgerald didn't seem overly concerned. He refused to carry a gun or take any precautions. He seemed to be going about his ordinary business, but Jimmy was betting the man already had the file and was in the process of flushing out whoever was behind the Patterson/Greco murder plot. It was only a question of whether Jimmy could get Greco before Greco got Fitzgerald.

Jimmy's phone rang, "Hey big brother you will never guess who Tony Greco just met at 677 Prime," Tara O'Reilly said.

"Jose Martin-Prez," Jimmy O'Reilly replied.

"How did you know?"

"Just a guess."

"You want me to put a tail on Jose?"

"No, stay on Greco for now. We need a way to make the principles disclose themselves."

"Where do you figure Jose fits in?"

"He's the banker. They need cash to cover the state cops."

As if to prove the point at that moment, Tara saw Jose pass Greco an envelope. Tony didn't wait for dessert he exited without finishing his steak, and Tara was on his tail.

Jimmy needed a plan. Someway to shakeup thing up and see who popped out of the woodwork. If threatened, Patterson and Greco would run for help. If Steven had the file, it was simply a matter of seeing in whose direction they ran. Jimmy figured that Jose Martin-Pres was being blackmailed. Jose was now a prominent and powerful man. He had gotten his power and position with the help of the Church as a payoff. Jimmy was betting the shoe was now on the other foot, and the conspirators were now reaching out to the former John Martin for help.

The church had taken care of John Martin for keeping quiet about what he knew. They had thrown legal work his way and helped him run for the legislature. Anointed his change of name and never mention his inconvenient Hebrew faith. However, now the wheel had turned. If the church's file became public, Jose's silence would look like approval of the church's actions. The Assembly majority leader was in a bind and was being given the opportunity to buy his way out, but who was the brain behind this? Who was actually calling the plays?

Jimmy secretary, June announced that a Mr. Fitzgerald was on the phone.

"Second floor the Albany Law School library at the back by the bankruptcy treatises in thirty minutes," Steven said and hung up.

The main stacks of the library received little use since the advent of electronic research. The students locked themselves into little computer cubicles to conduct their research online or in bigger conference rooms for study groups. Jimmy found Steven at the back corner where a small sectional sofa was flanked by an overstuffed chair. Steven was seated in the chair with a large brief bag at his feet. O'Reilly took a seat on the sofa facing Fitzgerald.

"What's in the bag," Jimmy whispered.

"A photocopy," Steven answered.

"How do I know it's everything."

"You don't. I guess you will have to trust me."

"And the Governor? He is to trust you also?"

"I guess, he will have to."

Jimmy opened the bag and took a look in. A mass of paper was crammed into the bag.

"I'm not big on research. What are the high lights here?"

"About fifty compromised Judges, Lawyers, and officials, but in particular, ten prominent names with motive enough to kill."

"Into which category does the governor fall?"

"Neither, and as near as I can tell, his father was played for a patsy by a member of his law firm."

"So, he's in the clear?"

"Hardly, his administration is doomed. He either knew and looked the other way or is a total fool. In any case, his days of playing the reformer will be over."

"But maybe no one finds out?" O'Reilly asked.

Steven shifted nervously in the chair, "let them all get away with it? Let my clients down?"

"We both know that more scandal will just raise old wounds. Without a change in the law, there will be no redress. Revenge never helped any victim, and I believe you know that. However, the threat of disclosure can be more useful than the actual revelation."

"That's one argument, but there are others. For now, I'm willing to wait until we know who is trying to kill us because those individuals need to be stopped."

On this point, Jimmy nodded his agreement, "any ideas."

"If you read the file, there are a lot of possible candidates, but something is bothering me."

"What?"

"Why kill Maryann McManus if your intent was to keep the file secret?"

"An accident."

"Did it look accidental to you?"

"No, but..."

"Exactly, you have the same feeling that your client and I do. Someone wants the file out. It's not the names in the file we should be looking at, but the ones that are missing."

"That would be everyone."

"No, only those who know that the file exists and how it got to McManus. That's someone who is inside the conspiracy. A participant who is reasonably sure they don't show up in the record. Someone nominally in the clear."

"Someone afraid enough of the witnesses to want them eliminated as the file sees the light of day?"

"Yes, and we need to smoke them out."

"So, we need a plan," Jimmy said.

"Yes, we need to put pressure on Patterson and Greco and watch which way they jump," Steven said.

"How do we do that?"

"We send them each a copy of that tape you have. I'm betting Patterson breaks first. He's the weaker link. Greco's arrogant with an ego that tells him he is better than we are. He won't run for help until he feels we are closing in. Frank is another matter. He has a substance problem, and he believes that the world owes him success. He will go for help to his backers."

"Ok, Patterson, but I think the Governor can help us put some pressure on Greco. So here is what we do," Jimmy said.

****

As Simone O'Reilly emerged from the surgical building, the equatorial sun was sinking fast toward the horizon. Fourteen hours of surgery left her exhausted. The months of ceaseless work under truly atrocious conditions took away her ability to renew herself. The wife of Jimmy O'Reilly was on the verge of a total collapse. This last stint in the Congo had been the worst, even if the safety conditions were better. The insurgents had been scared off by the latest outbreak of Ebola to the point that they were staying a good distance away from the medical building and its personnel. No impromptu raids at least while the plague continued its current outbreak.

The surgical work, however, was far more intense. Staff was short, and between running a segregated Ebola compound and trying to run a general medical clinic, there was simply too much work. Simone was the only pediatric surgeon, and half their patients were children. The tropical night fell as she walked toward the commissary tent for some food before she headed for a much-needed sleep. There was no twilight so near the equator, no gentle easing into night. There was day, and then there was night, and these nights for Simone were filled with loneliness. She had no permanent paramour to comfort her. She had moved from man to man in a steady rotation for the last several months in a desperate attempt to put from her mind what she knew was going on back home.

Her husband was having an affair with another woman. It was no secret. She had heard from one source after another what was going on back home. It preyed on her mind and bled away her strength. She was running out of the energy to work. She had been feeling ill these last four weeks, ever since Ben Robinson returned to the states. They had only a brief interlude. Ben stayed a week between assignments. After he left, she started feeling nauseous off and on . She told herself she was just generally burned out. It was time to go home and see if she could save her marriage.

The mortar was a gift to the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from The Peoples' Republic of China. The rebels had liberated the long-range weapon along with other gifts from the Peoples' Republic when they over ran a government force. It was a longer-range mortar, based on a US military design which had both long range and accuracy. The first shell fired fell short of the commissary tent, but the second was right on target to kill as many medical relief workers as possible.

The rebels justified their action on the grounds that the medical assistance supported the government. They knew this was a lie, just as they knew their cause was unjust. The medical personnel were providing only humanitarian aid to sick civilians caught between the warring sides. The attacks on the medical facilities came because they were vulnerable targets this made them attractive. The rebels were criminals supported by criminals. The government might be corrupt, but they were not fighting to reform it. They merely wanted their share.

Simone had just entered the tent when the first shell hit, and she had ducked under a table as the second shell destroyed the commissary. A third shell fell but struck nothing. At that point, the insurgents ran out of the ammunition for the captured mortar. They would consider the attack highly successful, having killed so many of the imperialist. It was their vulnerability that made the medical personnel so attractive a target.

Carrie Wilson got the news from a Washington insider friend before it became public or the families of the wounded and dead were notified. In actual fact, the initial news was incomplete. That Simone O'Reilly was among the casualties was known, but her exact fate was not. Carrie could have called Jimmy on the news, but she decided to deliver it in person. However, Jimmy O'Reilly was nowhere to be found.

Carrie placed a phone call to the American Embassy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Using the Governor's name and office, she was eventually transferred to the assistant to the Charge´ D´Affairs.

"Gerald Hawkins," he answered.

"Hello, this is Carrie Wilson. I'm personal assistant to—"

"Governor Kincade. I'm hurt you don't remember me, Carrie Wilson. We met at that K Street function last year raising money for the Democratic congressional committee. Remember my joke about needing friends in low places. They don't get much lower than the Congo."

She remembered the lobbyist fundraiser the governor appeared at to raise money for congressional candidates who presumably could help him in a presidential bid. She also remembered the short, prematurely balding young man with the aggressive personality and a wily sense of humor.

"Oh yes, Gerry. I didn't connect the name, but why would you remember me?"

"I never forget a beautiful woman but tell me, how can I help you?"

"The governor knows one of the surgeons working in the camp that was attacked last night, Simone O'Reilly. He's concerned about her."

"We don't have much information yet, and we are trying to get a complete casualty list before the news of the attack gets out. I hope people can appreciate the difficulty of getting information from a conflict zone."

"The governor fully appreciates the difficulties you face."

"Look I will see what I can do to find out about Doctor O'Reilly. How should I get back to you?"

"I'll give you my cell number, call or text me as soon as you hear anything."

At that moment, Tony Greco stormed into the little cupboard that served as Carrie's office.

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