Fashionably Late (For My Funeral) Pt. 05byCromagnonman©
The Avenger is about to strike.
Not for the Avenger the skin tight outfit with underwear on the outside, designed to show the world at large and in particular the female population, everything that he had to offer, instead the Avenger looked for all the world like a Stock Broker, in a dark suit and neatly trimmed beard and hair, and as such was able to mingle inconspicuously with the Wall Street crowd.
One of the things I missed out on in my youth was the comic books that people of my age devoured voraciously. I missed such superheroes as Superman and Batman, those caped crusaders who fought for truth, justice and the American way. The Avenger was the 'Capeless Crusader'.
The thing that these heroes had in common was that they had an identity behind which they could withdraw when duty wasn't calling. I was about to follow in their illustrious footsteps.
So that I can carry out my task and make sure that those responsible for this operation receive the justice that they deserve, I will have to allow everyone to believe that I was killed in the car explosion. I was aware that those closest to me, Sendi, Ruiz and Phoebe would suffer un-necessary grief in this belief, but there was nothing else for it.
What remained of the flaming red Porsche now sat surrounded by sheer chaos. It was now a blob of molten metal that had sunk into the charred remains of the bitumen road surface. There could be no human remains in this funeral pyre, not even a tooth. Anything flammable within a fifty foot radius was engulfed in flames, bodies lay on the pavement, some still, some writhing in pain. Some of the still bodies would soon join the writhing in pain bodies while others would remain still. Every window in that same fifty foot radius was shattered and those people standing behind the glass were now bleeding from multiple wounds.
Those people not affected by the carnage divided themselves into two groups, the helpers and the spectators. The helpers attempted to treat the wounded with what little equipment was available to them until the paramedics arrived, while the spectators got in the way. I decided that I form a third group of one, and get the hell away from the scene, after all if the person or persons that planted the bomb in the car saw me hanging around he or they would know that the mission had failed and have another attempt at killing me. Much as it hurt to leave the suffering behind me I simply had to.
I was getting good at leaving scenes undetected. It was made easy by the attention of the people at the scene being focused on the sirens and flashing lights that announced that the cavalry had arrived. I walked quickly and unobtrusively to the nearest subway station, I was just another tourist stupid enough to catch the subway instead of a cab.
I caught a commuter train to my old neighborhood. I would be able to lease a small apartment that will serve me well as a base of operations.
First of all I needed to secure my money. The way I had it figured, the bank, when it heard that I had been killed in a car bomb would freeze access to my safety deposit box and I wouldn't be able to access my funds. I caught a cab to the bank and taking the money from the box I walked a short distance to another bank and opened an account under my real name, I still carried papers that identified me as Wilbur Smith.
"Not the author Wilbur Smith?" The clerk asked as she filled my details into the computer.
"I'm an author and my name is Wilbur Smith," I said for the thirty thousandth time, "But I'm not that Wilbur Smith. He beat me to the punch so I have to write under a pseudonym."
"Oh." She lost interest completely.
Leaving the bank I walked to a letting agent and took out a lease on the smallest, least obtrusive apartment I could find and in this I stashed my few remaining possessions. I then went to a small gun shop and bought, without having to show ID, a Browning automatic complete with silencer, (He didn't even ask why I wanted that) and two spare magazines along with several boxes of ammunition. I then bought a computer and printer, I needed to access the records on the disk I had taken from Paulo's office to see if there was some way that I could use it to achieve my goals. I loaded all of this into my latest rental car, leased in my real name of course, and headed for my new home.
In New York Ruiz had been acting quickly. He used all of the resources at his disposal to make as many arrests as possible before the criminals had a chance to escape. Those arrested made their preliminary court appearances as soon as the paper work had been completed.
The judge was enjoying himself immensely, there were some prominent names among the steady stream of clients. He was taking it on himself to ensure that he gained the maximum publicity for himself. "Next!"
"Antonio Pellegrino!" A small dark man stood up.
"What is the charge?"
"Trafficking in Cocaine."
"How do you plead?" Judge Smithson asked the defendant.
"My client pleads 'not guilty'." A tall and distinguished man dressed in a dark suit stood at the defense table.
"Thank you Mr. La Bianchi." The judge showed no surprise at the appearance of the defense counsel who was well known as the reason that so many organized crime figures were not gracing the state's penitentiaries.
"The evidence?" He addressed the prosecutor in his own style of shorthand questioning. He was a firm believer in 'cutting to the chase' and eliminating any unnecessary legalistic 'bullshit'.
"Your honor, the defendant was apprehended in an operation that was the culmination of months of investigation. At the time of his arrest he had on his person a considerable quantity of cocaine. When a search was made of his home the police found equipment that could be used to cut, process and package the cocaine for distribution. The quantities seized, ten kilos were significantly more than that we would expect the defendant to have had for personal use. This amount constitutes trafficable quantities of cocaine and we will oppose bail in this matter. We will be able to prove beyond doubt that the defendant is part of a much bigger operation."
"Has bail been discussed?"
"As I just indicated the prosecution strongly opposes bail in this instance."
"Does the defense have any submissions in the matter of bail?"
"We are applying for bail. We feel that if our client was incarcerated pending the trial he will be significantly disadvantaged when it comes to mounting a defense."
"While I can't see any reason why he can't be released on bail, I feel that I should issue a warning to anyone else who contemplates the course of action that the defendant has embarked upon. I set bail at one million dollars." He banged the gavel on the bench.
"That is ridiculous! Where can my client possibly find that amount of money?"
"Not my problem. Next!"
It was a big day for the local media. Not only did the arrest of the DA grab the interest of the local population who had little idea that he was as corrupt as it now appeared, but the syndicates were clamoring for any news they could get.
This news was being overshadowed by the news that the well known crime writer Jason Feldham was thought to have been incinerated in an explosion that had totally destroyed his Porsche. The explosion had also caused considerable human and property damage, the extent of which was yet to be determined.
Ruiz rang Phoebe when the news broke that I had been blown up. "Listen, I have some bad news."
"Jason is dead. Now get your things together, I'm picking you up in twenty minutes and we're going to drive to their house in Maine. I want to be the one to break the news to Sendi."
Twenty minutes later he walked through the door into her arms. Five minutes later they were driving away from New York.
Life was not going to get any easier for the DA. He appeared before the Judge Smithson, who didn't really like him, for his arraignment hearing. "It gives me no pleasure" (It was lucky that the judge wasn't himself under oath.) "to see you here before me charged with these very serious offences. I have reviewed the evidence and have found there to be sufficient evidence to warrant you standing trial for these crimes. Your lawyer has put forward an application for bail. For a respected public official to be involved in such matters defies comprehension, and so that you will have ample time to ponder your future I have set you bail at five million dollars."
"What! Where am I supposed to get that sort of money?"
"That is not my problem." Markham was escorted from the courtroom as his attorney scurried through the front door in search of a bail bondsman who could raise that amount.
I sat in front of my new computer scrolling through the columns of names and figures before me. To suggest that I was amazed was an understatement, some of the most respected members of the establishment were involved.
I couldn't be sure if they were involved with their knowledge or not, so I was about to find out, and the first person I would call on would be Perry Markham. Finding his address was not a real problem, getting there by car was. Traffic at that time of the night was heavy and cars were running red lights. It appeared that one didn't stop at red lights unless it was impossible to avoid it.
Felicity Jamieson-Markham was a still stately woman in her forties, I guessed, she didn't answer the door but allowed the butler to admit me when she heard the nature of my visit. "I'm interested in what you have to tell me, I know so little of my husband's work."
"I wonder if you are aware that the police have made several arrests this afternoon in connection with the importation of cocaine into this country." She nodded her affirmation. "Well it appears that your husband was a significant contributor to this enterprise."
"I was not aware of that. You have proof of your allegations?"
"Of course. This was taken from files belonging to the accountant who ran the financial side of the operation. He has been arrested and will most probably be divulging this information to the police. Now your husband has invested a considerable amount of money in this, I need to know whether you were aware of his involvement and whether you, with or without your knowledge, contributed to it."
"I most certainly did not give him any money for this. We had separate bank accounts and the terms of our pre-nuptial agreement were that what was mine before the wedding stayed mine and vice versa. I don't know the terms of his will but I assure you that if he leaves me money that has been gained illegally I shall most certainly give it to charity rather than tarnish my, or my family's hands with it."
"Very well I accept your explanation. As for your husband, I think that his disgrace will have a profound effect on all of those around him. Do you know any of his close friends or business associates?"
"Not too many, I recall being introduced to a James Craigmore, a man to whom I took an immediate dislike, but I understand that he is dead."
"Do you recall him talking about a Guido Costanzo?"
"That name rings a bell but I can't be sure why."
"It doesn't matter. Will you be going to see Mr. Markham in jail?"
"I suppose that I should just to keep up appearances, although, after what he has put me through over the past couple of years I could be tempted to hope that he rots in Hell."
"What sort of things has he done to you?"
"He has cheated on me with many, many whores, so many that I no longer care about it."
"Then why don't you divorce him?"
"After my first divorce I vowed that I would never put myself through that pain again."
"Then why the pre-nuptial agreement?"
"It was more of a marriage contract, just to ensure that he would never be able to get his hands on my money should I pre-decease him."
"One of the first things you should do is to contact your Attorney and to distance yourself as far as is possible from this mess."
"I think that I shall take your advice. In fact I won't even wait until morning."
I left her to her thoughts and went to visit the next person on my list, Felicity's father Jonathan Jamieson.
Now this man had presence. He was one of those men described as 'larger than life' by those in the business of placing labels on people. He came from a line of wealth stretching back several generations to the slave traders, and with that lineage came power that he wielded with great authority.
I was ushered into a room that was lined from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with thousands of leather bound books. I could safely bet vital body parts on many of them being valuable first editions while the others were such light reading as legal tomes and other reference works. I calculated that at my pace of reading I would need at least three lifetimes to wade through this lot.
"With what can I help you?" I gathered from his tone that helping me would sit comfortably low down on his list of priorities.
"I am investigating the financing of illegal activities and have managed to obtain a list of people who have put money into a venture that is involved in the importation of cocaine from Colombia."
"And just how do I fit into this investigation?"
"Your name appeared on a list of contributors that I obtained from the accountant in charge of the operation."
"Can you be sure that I was aware of my involvement?"
"No I can't. In fact I would hazard a guess that your involvement was through a third party."
"You mean James Craigmore?"
"Yes. Were you aware of the nature of the investments?"
"Are you investigating this in an official capacity? If so I would like to see some form of identification."
"I am not acting in any official capacity, in fact I am in the same situation that you could be in, and I was unaware of my involvement until recently."
"Did you have anything to do with his death?"
"What would you do if I were to inform you that I was very much aware of where my money was being used?"
"Yes but I challenge you to prove it."
"I don't think that I need to prove anything."
"Oh? And just what are you intending to do about this?"
"I would have to ensure that you get your just rewards."
"How do you propose to achieve that?"
"Answer me one thing, did you knowingly contribute to the financing of the importation and distribution of cocaine into this country?"
"Are you recording this conversation?"
"Of course I did. Do you think that I'm stupid or something? I knew from day one that James was using my money to finance drug shipments. What can you do about that?"
"Plenty." I took my pistol from its holster in the waistband of my trousers. "Would you be so kind as to lie face down on the floor with your hands behind you back."
I backhanded him across the face with the barrel of my pistol and he fell in an untidy heap on the floor. I turned him face down and, using a roll of gaffer tape, bound his ankles together, pulling them as far up his back as I could. I then gaffer taped his thumbs together, then his forefingers and finally, his wrists. I then took a cord from my pocket and looped it around his neck and, pulling both hands as far up his back as I could, I tied the cord to the tape at his wrists and ankles, he wasn't about to move and if he struggled he would choke himself. Satisfied I rolled him on his side and gagged him with more tape. I then pinned the account sheet that I had printed out from the disk, and that I had signed 'the Avenger' onto his chest. I fired a shot into the floor beside his head, I then crossed to the telephone and dialed 911.
When the 911 operator answered I said quickly that I was walking close by this house and heard a shot. I gave the address and left. He was stirring and the look in his eyes spoke of the fear that he was now feeling.
A siren wailed in the distance as I drove away.
Guido was on the warpath. "What do you mean you can't find that bastard Ruiz?"
"He's disappeared. Our contact at the station doesn't know where he is. The official explanation is that he has gone on vacation to Puerto Rico but we don't buy that."
"Because he hasn't left the country in the last twenty four hours. He moved his wife before the apartment was bombed and now we can't find either of them."
"Don't stand there telling me that you can't find either of them! I want them found and I want them dead do you hear me!"
His men left for two reasons. The first was to carry out his orders while the second reason was self preservation.
The Avenger was on the warpath. I worked my way through those of New York's society whose name appeared on the sheets. My methods were the same in each case, I established, as far as possible, the guilt or otherwise of the person. If I was convinced that the person didn't know of his or her involvement, I would suggest that they contact their attorney in the morning and file an action against the deceased James Craigmore for fraudulently using their money for illegal purposes. If I felt that they were guilty I would truss them up and dial 911, always leaving the printouts signed 'the Avenger'.
The prominent on the list included doctors and business executives, professional educators, members of the religious hierarchy and socially prominent party goers, the one common denominator in all of them was greed. Some were not aware of the means by which their wealth was expanded and most of this group didn't really care as long as they saw a steady increase so that they could maintain their chosen lifestyle.
Those that were aware of the source of their wealth ignored the pain and suffering that the drugs caused to those addicted. One of those summed up the prevailing attitude when he said that the only way that these people could be kept from rising up in force to challenge the wealth and status of the few, was to keep them continually under the influence of drugs. I enjoyed leaving this one for the police.
I had worked well into the night and was about to make what I had decided would be my last call for the evening. This one would be interesting, her name was Judith Craigmore.
She was in her thirties and attractive and I wondered if she fitted into the life of James Craigmore. "No I am not aware of how my money was being used. I gave it to James and he assured me that it would be used legitimately. I think he felt a little guilty because a few years ago I gave him money and he lost it in that huge stock market crash and he saw this as his opportunity to repay me for that loss."
"What is your relationship with James?"
"I'm his wife. I kept very much in the background of his life."
"I wasn't aware that he was married."
"Oh he chose not to reveal that fact, he said that it was beneficial to his business enterprise for his clients to continue to believe that he was single. He said that it allowed him to considerable status with his clients, the males were jealous of his freedom and saw the acquisition of wealth as giving them the option of pursuing that lifestyle. He introduced them to business associates that operated clubs and bars where they could live out their dreams and fantasies."
"The fact that he was 'single' allowed him to get close to the women as well. I think he saw himself fulfilling their dreams as well. I'm sure that he slept with many of them because he used to stay out all night at times, claiming that he had an apartment in the city that enabled him to save the journey home after late business meetings. I didn't care, really, he was a good provider for me and our children. I didn't ask questions."
"Why not? Surely you were curious as to how he could live that lifestyle."
"I used to ask but he would either say it wouldn't interest me or that he played the horses or something like that. I could never get a straight answer from him so I gave up asking."