The Damp, Gray Gone Ch. 03byRehnquist©
Introduction. So here we go, the final installment. As I told you all up front, this is my (concededly boring and long winded) take on the Rambo Revenge Scenario. If you're still with me through this final part, thanks for taking the time to read it all. If you're starting here, get your ass back to Part 1 so you know what's going on.
Also, please remember to take a few moments and comment on the story. I don't really care if you vote, but I do read all comments, and even try to respond to many of them. They really are the only payment we writers receive for hours of hard work.
Whitney's disappearance, and the resulting delay in the LaBruzzi heroin trafficking trial, was front page news in the Register. I read the article twice, looking at the pictures on the front page of both Whitney and of the LaBruzzis' defense attorney, Lawton Dunlop. He looked like a typical narcotics defense attorney, the type in all the television shows. Expensive blue suit, white shirt with French cuffs and diamond encrusted cufflinks, square jaw, wide smile with perfectly capped teeth, and hair perfectly coiffed and held in place with so much hairspray it could catch a bullet. He oozed slime from his pores.
Just as when I woke up, something in the article started that little worm in my brain going all over again. Something about the bare facts that Whitney had disappeared and Lawton Dunlop's demands for an immediate resumption of continuing the trial or declaring a mistrial, which he claimed would end in the permanent dismissal of all charges against his client.
When I held the paper up, exposing the front page to Kyle, the bombshell dropped.
"Why's Mommy in the paper?" he said. "And Charlie?"
I lowered the paper, my eyes narrowing. "Charlie?"
He pointed to the pictures on the front page. "Sure. Charlie. He's a lawyer like Mommy. He came over on Sunday morning while I was eating."
I flipped the paper back to the front page. Lawton Dunlop. I pointed to the picture.
"This is the man she called Charlie?"
"Yeah," he said, then went back to reading his comics, forgetting about his initial questions.
I, though, sat there dumbstruck. Charlie. Charles Lawton Dunlop. CLD. CLDLaw@lincty.net. It wasn't the e-mail address for Cahill, Levine & Dunleavy; it was Charles Lawton Dunlop's e-mail address.
Whitney had been fucking the LaBruzzis' defense attorney.
While the case was pending.
And now it was in trial--with a strong case, by all appearances--and Whitney had disappeared.
Sorry, folks, but it doesn't take a fucking rocket scientist to figure out why Whitney was suddenly missing.
I left the table to go find Gavers's business card so I could share with him my newfound information. Card in hand, I picked up the phone and stepped out onto the deck to make the call away from Kyle's ears.
Just before I started dialing the number, though, another series of thoughts began tumbling through my brain.
When did Dunlop begin going after Whitney? Presumed answer, once she was assigned to the LaBruzzi prosecution.
Why did he go after her? Presumed answers, to get inside information on the prosecution's case; to somehow get her off the case and get another, less able, prosecutor assigned; to conspire with her to throw the trial; all of the above; or some combination of the above.
If so, if he was already their defense attorney of record, why did Whitney even allow it to happen? That would've created a scandal that would've derailed her career.
Before dialing Gavers, I needed to do some research.
"What're you doing, Dad?" Kyle asked, putting his bowl and glass into the dishwasher.
"I'll only be a few minutes," I said, rushing to the den and clicking onto the net.
A search of the Register's archives gave me all the information I needed in less than ten minutes. When the LaBruzzis were initially arraigned, they'd had some attorney named Leland Smithers. Smithers had stayed on the case until three months ago, at which time Dunlop's name started appearing in the papers as the attorney for the defense. Three months ago, well after our divorce was filed.
My eyes stared at the screen, the anger surging through my veins.
That sleazy fucking prick had set out to destroy my marriage so he could get an advantage in securing the acquittals of a couple of fucking lowlife heroin dealers.
Driving Kyle to school, I reached my decision: Fuck Gavers and fuck the police and fuck Charles Lawton Dunlop.
This was personal, and I wanted my revenge.
* * * * *
My Thursday classes were both morning classes, and the second was finished by noon. To this day, I don't really remember much about the classes. I just stood there and rambled on about the whatever-the-hell-was-in-the-books-first issues, gave terse answers to questions posed, and damned near sprinted to my car when the second class was finally finished.
"Luke," I heard Doug calling from behind me.
I didn't stop, though. Instead, I waved, hopped in my car, and tore out of there. I needed to think, to formulate a plan. And, of course, to get as much information as humanly possible in the next five hours. I didn't want to rush off half-cocked and act on presumptions while discarding any facts that disagreed with my hypothesis. There was, I suppose, a chance that Charles Lawton Dunlop was not the mystery man. Still, the chance seemed slim. If nothing else, the additional information would give me the planning-stage intelligence vital to a successful operation.
* * * * *
Three hours later, I was in my den, head back, deep in thought. My research had turned up some interesting facts.
First, Charles Lawton Dunlop had been an attorney for fourteen years, and he was just shy of forty. He had been practicing criminal defense law his entire career, first with the Public Defender's Office, but on his own for the past nine years. His record on cases that went to trial was somewhere around fifty-fifty, which seemed awfully damned good. Most of his cases never went to trial, though. Rather, they were frequently dropped for no apparent reason. Moreover, the newspaper accounts of his trials strongly suggested that several of the jury acquittals were out of the blue.
Thus, it seems Dunlop had a shady background, which led to the obvious questions: How did Whitney not know about his background, and, assuming she did, why would she ever succumb to his advances without being more wary? That, of course, led me to the more depressing conclusion that she was ripe for the picking. That our marriage was already dead so far as she was concerned.
Second, the LaBruzzis were Carlo and Vincent. They owned a string of fourteen pizza parlors throughout the Chicago suburbs, and the news accounts strongly hinted they were connected to, if not made members of, the Chicago Outfit. In the newspaper pictures, Carlo was around fifty, short, chunky, and bald. Vincent was the younger by a few years, also short, but lean and wiry with thinning hair combed straight back and acne scars covering his cheeks and chin. Carlo looked like a waddling Porky Pig with fat lips; Vincent like a ferret-faced thug with thin lips. In both pictures, though, they looked dangerous; something about the way they impassively stared at the booking camera gave me the chills.
Third, the LaBruzzis were being tried in state court for distributing heroin through their pizza parlors, but the state court case was a warm-up for a larger federal indictment for RICO violations. The indictments for that had only come down the previous month and were predicated on the theory that the drugs were being shipped into the country--and then across state lines--with pizza-making inventory. Most speculation was that if the state case failed, the LaBruzzis would still go down on the federal case. Still, if they didn't beat the state case first, the results of the federal case would be irrelevant. They'd get fifty years plus on the state charges.
So I had a scumbag mob lawyer and his two mob clients. I had to figure out what they'd done with Whitney and, assuming she wasn't already dead, how to get her back. In the process, I had to connect Dunlop to the kidnapping--and maybe murder--without anyone finding out I'd done anything. Sure, Carlo and Vincent LaBruzzi had at least a hand in Dunlop's scheme that ended my marriage, but I still didn't want to run afoul of the mob. It would be nice to snare them in, too, but not a priority.
And that's when I began to have some serious doubts. If I was caught here, I was putting Kyle's life at risk. I didn't need a bunch of gangster assholes gunning for me and catching Kyle in the crossfire. I also didn't need to be on the run for the rest of my life, shooing my son from secret location to secret location.
I was about to give up when the doorbell rang.
"Professor Patterson," Lieutenant Gavers said when I opened the door. "May we come in for a moment?"
I looked at my watch. Ten after three. Kyle would be home any minute.
"This way," I said, leading them to the back deck. "Kyle doesn't know anything yet, and I don't want him to find out anything until we know what's going on."
Gavers, with the pretty Sergeant Adams in tow, followed me through the house to the back deck. I let Sun Tzu charge out ahead of us, then slid the door closed behind us when they got out.
"Heard anything yet?" I asked.
He paused, then turned to Sergeant Adams.
"We have a few follow-up questions," she said, flipping open her notebook.
I waited, glaring at them.
"Did your ex-wife wear any jewelry?"
I closed my eyes, picturing her. "Yes. A round, gold locket on a gold chain. There was a picture of Kyle inside."
She nodded, then made a checkmark in the notebook. Then she sighed and looked at Gavers.
He looked at her, his eyes narrowing, then turned to me.
"Why did you get divorced?" he asked.
"None of your business."
He sighed. "I'm afraid it is my business, Professor. It's very much my business. And unless you want us to arrest you and take you in for questioning of a more formal nature, you'll answer my question. Now, why did you get divorced? We know you filed. So why?"
I looked from him to her. Adams's face showed embarrassment at the whole thing, but Gavers's just showed patience. I looked at Adams when I responded.
"Because she said she didn't love me anymore. After all our years together, she just didn't love me anymore. She was bored. 'In a rut,' she said. I don't know why. I didn't beat her, I make good money, take care of the house and Kyle and her." I felt the emotion rising in my throat and fought to hold it down. My final words were a forced croak. "I still don't know why."
Adams looked at the ground, stock still, when I finished.
"Was she seeing someone else?" Gavers said, plodding forward.
"I don't know," I lied, then softened the lie. "Maybe. She wouldn't tell me. Just that there was someone, but it wasn't romantic. That's what she said, at least."
"Do you know who this somebody may have been?"
I turned and looked at him. He was staring at me intently, and I forced myself to maintain eye contact when I answered.
"Not a fuckin' clue."
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, his right eyebrow rose.
I shook my head. "Could've been anyone. Someone she works with, something like that. She worked long hours. She was always coming home at seven-thirty or eight. She had plenty of time."
He just stared at me. He knew I was lying. As much as I tried to hold it back, there was something in his face that all but forced the smirk on my lips. The smirk that told him, 'Yeah, I know you know I'm lying. Now try to do something about it.'
"You know," he said after a moment, "this paints you in a whole different light."
"She was cheating. You're divorced now, but you're still pissed. Furious, even. Furious enough to maybe wanna kill her."
"Really," I said.
"Really," he agreed.
"Good luck provin' it," I said, unable to keep from sneering at him. "I have a rock solid alibi for the whole damned night, and you know it. I saw the uniforms interviewing Sally Romescu next door when I got home. Or didn't you speak with them yet?"
"Maybe you got someone else to do it for you."
I laughed, a bitter, impatient laugh. "Yeah, right. I did a quick internet search for hit men who kill cheating wives, paid the retainer, and they came right on over."
"Wouldn't be the first time," Adams said, rejuvenated by Gavers's aggressive questioning.
"I know," I said. "Family member or ex-husband's the first one you look at. Makes sense. But you've already looked, and you know it's bullshit."
"You know," Gavers said, trying a different tack, "if you're withholding something--anything--you can be charged with accessory."
"Nice try, Lieutenant, but no dice. And fuck the obstruction of justice charge you're gonna threaten me with next, too. Good luck on both of 'em."
He just stared at me, his jaw finally flexing with his frustration and anger.
"So if we're done here," I said, seeing the front door open, "I think my son's home."
They both glared at me, but then Sergeant Adams recognized the futility of further questioning when I walked past them and back into the house.
"Hey, little man," I said, scooping him into my arms while they walked past me and let themselves out the front door.
We spent the next hour getting his homework done, then Kyle went outside to play with the Romescu kids and Sonny.
I spent the time thinking the whole thing through.
* * * * *
Point Number One: If I told the cops what I knew, they'd only bring Dunlop in for questioning. He'd never crack--c'mon, he's an attorney, for Chrissake. Worse, assuming he didn't crack, his only recourse would be to kill Whitney and hide the body somewhere it could never be found.
Sorry, but police rules favor the criminals. I, though, was under no such constraints.
Point Number Two: Yes, Whitney had apparently cheated on me and--worse, in my eyes, and the real reason for the divorce--rejected me, but that didn't mean I wanted my son's mother do die a horrible death. Assuming she was still alive, I had to save her. Also, I had to make damned sure I wasn't killed in the process. Sure, I wanted to live, but my bigger fear was leaving Kyle as an orphan.
Point Number Three: Assuming I could find Whitney and she was still alive, I had to accomplish all of this without anyone finding out--or even having the slightest suspicion--I was behind it. The mobsters scared me more than the cops, but both scared me plenty. Getting killed was bad, but going to prison for a long stretch was nearly as bad.
Point Number Four: I had to do all of this on my own. Conspiracies are only as strong as the weakest conspirator. Thus, the more people involved in any way, the more likely I'd get caught by someone.
That's when I went to the basement and opened my weapons safe, the beginning of a plan forming in my head. I pulled out the Colt AR-15 I'd owned for years. Laying it on a table, I field-stripped it, then spent the next fifteen minutes thoroughly cleaning and lubing the disassembled weapon. Next, I loaded three twenty-round clips with ammo, then stacked them next to the rifle. Next, Glock 9mm came out, and I repeated the process of cleaning and filling clips. Finished in little more than thirty minutes, I placed them all in a duffle bag along with a black ski mask, black sweat pants, black shoes, socks, and sweatshirt. I hesitated before deciding against the black shoe polish for my hands. That would be hard to explain away if I was caught, and it would be damned near impossible to thoroughly get off of my hands for a few days at least.
By the time I was done, the plan was almost fully formed. And that's when I remembered something, something I'd been ignoring and decided to check on just in case it yielded anything of value.
Strangely enough, it yielded a bonanza.
And it all but confirmed my hypothesis.
* * * * *
Once logged in, I clicked on the sole remaining e-mail, 'Luke, I'm So Sorry.'
"Dear Luke," she wrote. "By now you know it all. You know I lied. You know I cheated. You may have even figured out who he is. If you haven't, his name is Charles Dunlop. He's a lawyer, and a good one.
"I don't really know how it all got started. I remember being upset with you. With me, really, but I blamed you. I was feeling guilty. Guilty because you do so much, so many of the things that I always wanted to do. Taking care of the cooking and cleaning and Kyle. Those were things I should have been doing, things I should have at least been helping you a lot more with. On the other hand, I was a hair's breadth away from the top slot in the office. Chief of the Criminal Division. After ten years, I was so close to realizing my potential, and I felt guilty that I was realizing it at the expense of my family.
"So how did this become your fault? Because, I now realize, I blamed you for taking up the slack I left to pursue my career. I know: It doesn't make any sense. I see that now. But at the time, I was thinking that if you'd stood up to me more, if you'd have at least bitched about having to take care of everything, then I'd have been forced to cut back at work and spend more time doing the things I should have been doing all along. Pretty fucked up, right? Just writing this, it still doesn't make sense to me. I was blaming you because you were supporting me and my goals, and I was giving you very little in return.
"I don't know how Charlie spotted this, but he did. He saw my unhappiness, and he went out of his way to cheer me up. And to seduce me. And I let him.
"I wish I had an excuse, a justification that could somehow make all of this your fault. I don't. None of it was your fault. Your sole mistake was to be there for Kyle and me, to always give 110% without complaint.
"I know now the enormity of my mistake. Actually, I knew that Saturday I left you with Kyle to meet with Charlie. That's why I broke it off that day, and I wanted to come home and somehow get you to forgive me. But you didn't. I don't blame you for any of this. If the roles had been reversed, I'd have never forgiven you, either.
"I do know a few things, though. For example, I know my biggest mistake wasn't cheating on you with Charles. Sure, that was probably unforgivable. Nor was my biggest mistake refusing to just come clean and tell you everything, which was also unforgivable. No, my biggest mistake was in ever telling you that I didn't love you anymore and didn't want to stay married. The first two mistakes were probably deal breakers, but the third mistake was the super glue that sealed the death of our marriage.
"I want you to know that I will never forgive myself for any of this. For cheating on you, for refusing to come clean, and, worst of all, for ever allowing you to believe that any of this was your fault. The fault was mine and mine alone. So many times, after you filed for divorce, I wanted to tell you all of this. But I saw your pain every day, the pain I'd caused you. Looking at that pain, I knew I didn't deserve you back and that you deserved someone who would never do this to you. To this day, I can barely stand to look at you without my shame overwhelming me.
"In closing, Luke, I know that what I have done has ruined my marriage, my husband, my son, and all of us as a family. I wish I could take it back. I sit alone in my apartment every night dreaming of the past, and wondering what the hell I was thinking. I just wanted you to know, though, that I have one last trial coming up, and it's a biggie. I'm going to win it, and then I'll be offered the position I've always dreamed of--Chief of the Criminal Division. When they make me that offer, I'm going to resign. I'm going to re-dedicate myself to being a mother to our little boy. I only hope you won't prevent me from doing this. It is the only dream I now have to keep me sane, and I want to do my fair share so you can take the time to re-build your own life after my betrayal.