The man who had been staring at Willets had been indirectly hired by Edmund Oswald, Nadine’s new attorney and now senior partner of Oswald and Associates, a Legal Corporation and the firm the Board of Directors had just approved as the new Corporate Counsel for King Enterprises.
Nadine had, at first, objected. She said, they could ease Willets out. With Crabtree on the inside of the Corporation, she said, Willets did not present a problem. But Edmund disagreed. Willets controlled a block of stock and if one of the other kids caved in or became turncoat they might join their stock to Willets and then there could be real trouble. He intended to make sure Willets was no threat to Nadine’s control of the Corporation.
And besides he had plans for turning Willets into a weapon against Lenny King.
Edmund smiled indulgently at Nadine. She was in her nightgown, the one she thought he found so sexy, but which he considered silly. She was seated on the couch in her Condo, sipping the martini he had just handed her. Edmund had quickly learned how to push Nadine’s special buttons and he enjoyed doing so.
She was ambitious Edmund knew, but to his mind, she had no idea what real ambition was.
There was a fortune here and a fortune to be made. Edmund had imagined the money that could be made simply by loading the whole business down with debt and then defaulting. Who had time to wait for something to grow when who could leverage it to the hilt, wash the cash through a couple of dummy offshore corporations and then let the whole thing including the dummy corporations go to Bankruptcy? And Edmund was a man in a hurry. A hurry to make money and live the life he desired, the life he deserved. And he wasn’t going to wait until he was Lenny King’s age to reap the benefits of life. The man had been a fool to wait.
All Nadine had wanted him to do was to go head to head with the old man’s attorney, Nick Easley. She thought that would be the easiest way. But Edmund figured it would be a giant waste of time to fight all the legal battles to maintain control of the corporation, and go after a fellow attorney and, unnecessarily make enemies of ninety per cent of the legal profession. Instead, Edmund knew, those same lawyers would be happy to help him with stripping out the assets of the King Corporation, conceal the distribution and eventual routing of those assets into certain select offshore accounts and into lining some local pockets of useful friends in the court system and all the while hiding what was being done behind the Attorney-Client Privilege. All for handsome fees of course. They would all share. Money well spent.
And, in Edmund’s thinking, why go through all that effort only to leave the control of the business to a slatternly twit like to Nadine? Instead he would control her. He knew how. Those other siblings presented no real challenge. The dummy Dylan; that asshole brother, Regan, Edmund would handle them in short order. None of this was going to be easy and it was not for the faint of heart. It took courage to get ahead in this world. It took audacity. It took ruthlessness. All were in good supply in Edmund.
The night Edmund put his plan to work, he and Nadine were sitting in booth in a dark corner of his favorite lounge. She had her hand on his thigh. He didn’t mind. He would put up with it for a while longer. He could put up with a lot of things now he found revolting for the rewards later would be great.
They were waiting for a man Edmund had successfully kept out of prison. And who could afford to continue to pay handsomely for Edmund’s services directed at keeping him free and on the outside.
Keeping this client from a prison sentence had been remarkably easy. A few well-placed bribes had helped, and a series of donations directed to a special campaign fund of the local democratic central committee and which would then be washed through the committee’s accounts and eventually directed by multiple friendly committee chairmen to the District Attorney’s campaign fund.
Once all the funds had made their way to the right hands, it had resulted in a large premium fraud case against Edmund’s client being dismissed. Ostensibly the case was dismissed for lack of proof. But the proof had been clear enough. Had there been a real will to prosecute the case.
Edmunds client was a general contractor. At any one time he sub-contracted the work of eleven different construction crews. They were deployed to various public work projects for building low-income housing. Edmund’s client had prudently populated the crews with illegal aliens. He employed upward of two hundred employees hammering boards, painting houses in a cheap housing track south of the main highway that cut through town.
The law required that the client maintain worker’s compensation insurance on each employee. He had to report the number of employees to a state agency and pay the premium rate established by state regulations. His client had thought that paying all that money for premiums a waste. Instead the reports he had filed listed only ten employees and represented their work was seasonal. The premiums he was required to pay were very low. As a result, not only were the workers uninsured, the higher premiums owed the state insurance commissioner were never paid.
The client had theorized the illegals even if hurt wouldn’t report their accidents out of fear of deportation. He made sure his foremen spread this fear by periodically warning the crews to hide from rumored round ups by Border Patrol agents.
Unfortunately, and unknown to the client, a grant had been secured by some staffers at the D.A.’s office and they had sent out some undercover operatives to ferret out Premium fraud cases. That in return uncovered the client’s scheme. The staffers were excited and diligently worked up an excellent case. They had Edmund’s client dead to rights.
Needless to say, they were surprised when the case was transferred to a different unit, the White-Collar Crime Unit for prosecution.
The team of prosecutors in the White-Collar section was a veteran unit. They had been around a while. They knew the worth of a case and seldom filed one unless they could be sure of a conviction. They were also used to accommodations being made for certain well-heeled individuals who found themselves entangled in the justice system.
After the case had been transferred, the original unit had a difficult time getting over their shock. But they accepted the explanation that the size of the case required the expertise of the White-Collar unit. They were angry and chagrined to hear, months later, the case had gone nowhere. But by then they were on to other cases and the word was put out it was best no questions be asked about this particular case.
Edmund knew his client was a first-class crook. And he knew the apple never falls far from the tree. The Client’s son was currently incarcerated for robbery. And he was a Three Striker. Going down on this latest charge would be a permanent good bye. Twenty-five years to life mandatory. When the client had come to Edmund to see if he could work his magic with his son as he had with the premium fraud case, Edmund saw a way to kill two birds with one stone.
The client’s name was Charles Chester. He was a flamboyant dresser. For a crook. Most criminals Edmund knew of the white-collar variety preferred more of a nondescript profile. They dressed conservatively, supported the Republican ticket and attended every PTA meeting. Chester was different. He was just as likely to show up in a silk green suit as in navy blue pinstripes. His fat neck generally precluded wearing a tie and his shirts gaped at the waist. His pants were inevitably too tight. His shoes were always too shiny, patent leather of various shades, and his jewelry too showy.
At that moment, Charles Chester pranced into the bar where Edmund and Nadine were waiting and took his seat.
“What’s new with my favorite attorney and counselor at law? And who’s this pretty lady?” he said as he slid his bulk into the booth, unconsciously pushing at the table which, because it was anchored to the floor, didn’t move.
“I’m fine. Charles, this is Nadine King. She is the current Chairwoman of the King Corporation.”
Charles nodded knowingly indicating he found that impressive.
“I heard there had been some changes over there. Had no idea you were involved though I can’t say I’m surprised, Counselor. Any opportunities there for an honest businessman?”
When Charles smiled a good tooth to the side and back of his mouth was visible. Nadine found the tooth and the man revolting. She was wondering how she got talked into this.
“Well, there may be.” Edmund said, “There may be indeed.”
Charles looked at Nadine. He smiled broadly and, she thought, lewdly. She looked away from his smile over at the customers seated at the bar and wished she were somewhere else. She even thought of joining the patrons at the bar. Wouldn’t be the first time she had swung her sweet booty up on a stool at a bar lined with “gentlemen.” It always gave her a little thrill to do so.
“So, tell me about this opportunity.”
“Listen, Charles, your boy Kenny’s back in jail and this time he is facing some serious time.”
“Well, he’s in good hands. You’re the best, Counselor. I tell everybody that. I say if you got legal troubles, call Edmund Oswald. Can’t do any better.”
He would have kept going like any salesman buttering up a mark, but Edmund cut him off.
“Well, there may not be a lot I can do for him. You know they have a video tape, don’t you?”
Edmund turned to Nadine to include her in the conversation, “You ever see a jury watch a video of a crime? It’s devastating. Like they are sitting at home watching T.V. It’s not like audiotapes. They frown trying to hear audiotapes. They lose their concentrations. Their minds wander. But not with Video. With video they smile. Relaxed. It’s truth to them. They’ll convict your client before the commercial.”
Nadine wasn’t paying any attention. She looked longingly at an empty bar stool not fifteen feet away. She knew her skirt would ride up when she swung one hip up on the stool. The way she liked it to do. Edmund turned back to Charles.
“Listen, there may be something Kenny can do to help himself.”
He paused to wait for Charles to inquire. Edmund was an old hand at negotiating these types of deals.
Charles said, “Okay. Kenny’s a good boy. Just got too wrapped up with that Meth. Bad friends. Some real bad hombres, you know? I know he wants to go straight now.”
“Yeah, well, think you can get him a message?” Edmund asked.
Charles Chester nodded.
Edmund continued, “See, we have to keep our hands off this, but the D.A. , our friend, and your friend, Charles, you remember?” Charles nodded. Edmund went on, “Well, he has a big, high profile case he needs some help with. There’s a guy in custody down at the county jail. He has some valuable information our D.A. could use. He just needs to be persuaded to help out you know. It would be good for him too.”
He turned back to Nadine who had despite herself started listening to Edmund. Something about his voice always seemed to mesmerize her.
Edmund said, “This guy needs some persuasion. He needs to be convinced it is in his interest to come clean and work with the District Attorney’s people. If he would tell what he knew and agreed to testify, well, he could walk free of the mess and the D.A. would be very thankful to your son, Kenny. Why, I bet he might get the charges amended making him available for Drug rehab. I know Kenny knows what that means. Six months, in house facility, takes the cure, promises to stay on the straight and narrow and he’s out.”
“And all he has to do is talk this guy into turning state’s evidence?”
“Well, like I said, he might need to persuade him, know what I mean? This guy will be standing on loyalty to his friend. Misplaced Loyalty, I might add.”
He turned to Nadine when he said that. “Yes, he will probably be needed to be convinced.”
Charles sat there for a few moments. He sipped his drink. He was considering the import of Edmund’s words.
“And what, would be the benefit to me? I mean, you know, those rehab programs. The after-care programs Kenny is going to need are expensive. I might need some help with paying for them.”
“Well, Charles, you have some very good friends now. Your generous donations to good causes and good local candidates have made you some good friends. Among our public servants. Even more friends if this is sucessful. I’m sure the extra cost you incur can be offset. Your friends have friends of their own who can cover any out of pocket expenses.”
“And this is okay with you?” Charles directed his question at Nadine. She looked at him for a moment, and then said, “Excuse me, won’t you.” She got up and walked toward the women’s bathroom.
“Nice caboose,” Charles said after she left. “Does she ever say anything?”
Edmund smiled at his friend. “The less she says the better. When it comes to her oral skills, well, she’s good at other things.”
Charles smiled back. “I hear ‘ya. You got a deal, Counselor. You know sometimes persuasion can be kind of rough. Limits?”
“Just do what is required. Make him see reason. Understand?”
“I sure do. Take care, Lawyer man. It’s always good doing business with you.”
The fat crook eased out of the booth and walked toward the door with the panache of many big men who don’t realize how repulsive they look.
Nadine returned from the bathroom and slid in the booth. He said, “you weren’t very talkative.’
“That man was disgusting. I don’t know why you wanted me here. And I hope you were clear that Willets is not to be harmed. I don’t think this will work anyway. He’s loyal to my father. Too much history there.”
“Well, let’s see. Let’s see if it works.”
Nadine shrugged. Edmund reached his arm over behind her and pulled her close.
“What do you want to do the rest of the evening?”
She smiled really for the first time that night. “Well, lets’ have just one more drink and then we’ll decide.”
Willets was hungry. It was meal-time at the jail. He could hear the cell doors on his block sliding open one by one. A screeching drag of metal on metal, then a clang as they locked in place. It would be too tedious to tell himself he was ambivalent about dinner.
The food was bad, not appetizing in any way, but he had eaten nothing since the previous day. Willets enjoyed good food. He fancied himself something of an epicure, a gourmand taking delight in serving up his specialties to friends and relatives who cared to dine with him. But he was hungry now, a different kind of hunger, so hungry, he wasn’t particular about the faire he might be presented with much less how it was presented. He just wanted something to eat.
Since the day of his arrest, and after the first meal in the dining hall, he had chosen to stay in his cell at meal times under the mistaken belief that he would soon be released and once at home he could eat whatever he chose. He could have a meal, a good meal without these bad feelings, the nauseating fear that he was going to be hurt. He was hungry, but he also very afraid.
The man he had told Lenny about was going to do something to him. He knew it. He didn’t know what. He didn’t know why. He just knew he was going to do something. He had figured if he stayed in his cell, he would he was relatively safe. Chances are he wouldn’t have to find out what this person had in mind as long as he didn’t venture out into the general population, didn’t go to the T.V. room, the shower, the cafeteria, anywhere other inmates congregated. If he remained in his cell, no one could hurt him and soon he would be out and could deal with his problems. Plus he could eat. He could eat all he wanted. But God, he was hungry now.
Willets hadn’t missed many meals before. In fact, he didn’t remember missing any. Not even as a kid. He might have delayed his lunch a few hours when he was fishing or working on some project. And he had breakfast late or dinner late on occasion, but that just made the food more delicious. The courses more appreciated. The sauces more savored.
But right now, the empty feeling in his stomach, it felt like a canyon, a yawning one, opened up and reaching. It hurt he was so hungry.
And now, in addition to the hunger, he was depressed. And he was discouraged. After this morning’s visit, he didn’t really know when he would be released. Lenny said by Friday, but what guarantees were there? And oh Lord, what if he was convicted. What if they sent him off to Prison? What if this was to be his life forever? He would have to eat. His plan to hold out until he was out of jail, had not worked out. But to eat he would have to leave his cell. He would have to line up with the other inmates and shuffle through the line with his tray and take the food being served by other inmates. It was the only way.
He was starving.
Willets looked down at the cement floor, he let his eyes wander over to the commode, the unwashed, dirty dingy walls. He ran his hand over the bunk he sat on, the rough blanket on top of the mattress. There was no sheet. Just a mattress and a blanket. It was hot in the jail. There was a constant far away rumbling sound of industrial air conditioners laboring to cool the huge facility. It would never be enough. The sweating sweltering bodies just made it more humid. He couldn’t imagine in the winter how cold it would get. The blanket he nightly kicked off, he would be huddled up in the winter. Oh god, would he still be here when winter rolled around?
A hunger pang made him winch. It hurt. He had never had one before, now he knew what it felt like. It hurt. It was an actual pain. He was amazed that the word was so accurate. The books, the lines in plays, someone writing it in a letter. “Hunger pangs.” Such an innocuous phrase, but for Willets, it was real now. And intense. He stood up. He took a few steps toward the cell door. He needed to eat. The only thing to do that was to walk through the open cell door and follow the other prisoners to the cafeteria.
Though he had been disgusted by the first meal he had had here, now he wanted nothing better than to sit down with the plastic tray, loaded with dishes of strange greenish meat and red Jello. He would eat every bite, he knew. He wondered if you could have seconds. It wasn’t a question that occurred to him when he had his first prison meal, but now, well, maybe, they wouldn’t mind if he asked for extra food. Real quiet like, obsequious, respectfully. He could do that.
Willets walked, putting one foot consciously in front of the other through the door. At the end of the cellblock, he lined up and shuffled behind some other guys. The noise was increasing, the din echoing as he approached the dining room.
He followed the crowd inside. He didn’t know if he was imagining it, but he felt like someone’s eyes were on him. He didn’t want to look, but as the line paused, he took a quick glance and he saw him. He immediately looked away, but he knew the man was watching him.
After he got his food he went to the furthest table away from the side of the hall where the man was seated. He did look once more. Quickly. He couldn’t help himself. The man was sitting with two other prisoners. All three were looking at him. The man who had been staring at him mumbled something to the other two. Their looks changed from neutral to hostile.
Had he been experienced about such things, Willets would not have sat down with his back to them. But he was afraid and somehow, he thought, hoped that maybe if he wasn’t facing them they wouldn’t pay attention to them or they would disappear. Besides, there were two guards in the dinning hall. They were standing leaning on the wall in front of him. They, too, seemed to be watching him. He thought he had to be imagining this. He thought it must just be rampant paranoia. He felt rising anxiety when the guards seemed to take one last look at him and move away. They appeared to be crossing to the other end of the hall. You would have thought one of them would have stayed on his side.
As hungry as he had been, he was now sick at his stomach. He didn’t want to eat. But his belly told him he had to get something down or he would get weaker and faint.
He picked up a slice of ham with his plastic fork. He put it in his mouth. The bite was good. It may not have been the freshest meat, but it did have juice in it and his taste buds savored the taste for no other reason than his extreme hunger.
He took another bite before completely swallowing the first. Then there was a shadow; someone standing between him and the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. He looked up into the face of one of the men who had been sitting with the one he feared. He felt someone brush by him on other side. The other man had sat down next to him.
Willets’ just sat there holding his fork in midair. The man reached over and removed it from his hand. Someone else grabbed him and he felt his arms being pinned behind him. One of the men grabbed the hair on the back of his head and pulled his head back. He was looking straight into the face of the man he had so feared and then something was grinding into his eye. The pain was like nothing he had ever felt, and he opened his mouth to scream, but someone pushed a rag in.
He could not move, he could not scream and the grinding kept going on. His eye was gone and in its place was pure red pain. Blood was running down his face and into his mouth. He couldn’t spit it out. He swallowed. He still couldn’t move. Then there were lips next to his ear.
“Listen up, Turd. Your eye is gone. It’s history. No gettin’ it back. But they gonna’ patch you up and you still got one good eye. Going to look like shit. You are going to be one ugly som’ va’ bitch. Better get a patch. Pretend you’re Pirate, fucker, but know this. Some people going to ask you about that asshole, King, you know so well. The big boss man. You better give them good answers. King’s guilty as shit and you better say so. We want him in here and, by the way, when he’s here, you will be let out. We’ll have a little prisoner exchange, like in the Movies, you know? And you may bump into some things. Not going to be seeing too good. Too fucking, bad. But, you’ll be out of here.” He actually heard laughter. The eye was pain, pure pain, but he was hearing every word.
“Now there is another choice for you. You can stay mum and you get to stay in here with us. And we going to, just to keep things in balance like, take that other eye and then you can sit and wait for our little visits. You can listen for us. Every once in a while we will come and take something else from you. Maybe a finger. Maybe something else.” More laughter. “But we will be coming. You gonna’ be in permanent dark, but we can see you, bro and we going to come. And we going to take little parts of you.”
Somebody then hit him hard on the back of the head and his face went into his plate. He was in hell and he couldn’t orient himself to find his way out. He wanted to die, to burn, to spontaneously combust, to run, to jump, to scream, anything to stop the hurt. Dazed, bleeding he pushed up from the table. The strong arms that had moments before had him pinned were gone. He pushed himself all the way up. He blinked open one eye and saw some hard stares from other prisoners as they moved instinctively away from him. Then he fell. He was unconscious by the time his head hit the floor. The blackness was welcome.
The bank at least had come through. The bond was posted. Willets had been released with the bond as bail. His appearances at future court dates was now secured by Lenny’s home, what he always had considered his castle. But it had all come too late. Willets had been attacked. They said at the jail, they didn’t know who did it. No one was talking.
As Lenny sat in the hospital room and looked at Willets and his physical misery, he felt sorry. He felt sorry for what Willet’s had gone through, and was now going through. He felt sorry he had not been able to get him out of custody sooner. Had he taken him seriously enough when Willets express his fear, his inchoate feeling of danger? Not serious enough, he guessed.
But he was at least out of that jail. They said, a guard had got to Willets before some other prisoners could do away with him completely. Other prisoners, not necessarily the ones who had attacked him, might have killed him. They said at the jail, some other prisoner would have murdered Willets, simply because Willets had been lying there without protection. And bleeding. One of them might have taken offense at having to look at the mess and simply cut his throat. Someone would take it as a kill badge. Enhanced his status with the lords of the gangs who ran most things inside the jail.
All this trouble. Instead of Lenny being on the top of the world, enjoying the immense wealth he accumulated, the power he had accreted, here he was looking at the shell of his former best friend and partner, Willets, the mask over half his face, the wires and IVs hooked up to his arms. The set of his mouth, the small flinches of pain that jerked his jaw upward toward the empty eye socket.
There was noise in the hall. Footsteps and then attorney Easley came through the door. The heavyset lawyer seemed to have gained even more weight. He was, as always, decked out in the finest of suits, matching tie, his patent leather shoes shined to a high gloss. But it seemed to Lenny the lawyer had a few some dark circles under his eyes. He wondered how the Easley was sleeping. How could anyone sleep through all this?
“Oh God,” the lawyer said on looking at Willets. “Who did this? Why?”
“He was talking when he first came in,” Lenny said. “The attendants thought it was nonsense at first, babbling and crying. Then an intern started listening closely. He got his cellphone out and recorded it. I have it. I’ve listened to it a half dozen times. It’s about me! What someone wanted him to do to me! You need to listen to it. Here, I’ll play it for you.”
The lawyer held up his hand. “Not here, Lenny. I’ve been told, you may be facing criminal charges. And soon. Let’s do the listening somewhere else. Never can tell who’s hearing what it being said. Who’s recording it and how. Soon as we leave. We will listen. We want to be where it is private, where the Attorney-Client privilege applies. Not here. They would say we waived it even though there is just the two of us.”
“But that’s the whole thing. He’ saying this is about him testifying. Against me for Christ’s sake! But he won’t do it. He refuses to do it.”
“Look. Don’t say another word while we are here. How is he anyway? What’s the Doc say?”
“One eye is gone. They dug it out, Nick. Can you imagine? The Brutality. And they are threatening him. Going to get him again. Maybe now’s we got him out, they can’t. But he’s afraid, Nick. He thinks he might get put back and they’ll get him or somehow, they’ll get to him out here. And I’m afraid. I’m afraid he might be right. Can’t you do something?”
“Okay. Come on. We have to go somewhere else. You can’t keep talking about this where people can hear you. Come on, Lenny. He can’t hear us anyway. They got him doped up for the pain. Thank God. Let’s go down to my car.”
They took one last look at Willets. It was ugly. At least he was out of jail. Thank God, for the pain medication. Even the doctors were sympathetic. Wanted him asleep. Let him get through this they said, put him out and let his body heal the wounds a little. And then they can start the repair. Trying to mediate the damage. Make it seem something that can be overcome. Lenny was thinking he was glad Willets was out and for a lot of reasons. His fear of returning to custody. Always a chance of that happening. And what they had promised him for next time. How would Willets react? What would he do? What was he willing to do?
Lenny and Easley said nothing as they rode the elevator to the bottom floor, walked through reception and out across the parking lot to Easley’s car. Easley started the car and put the air conditioning on full blast. He plugged some ear buds into the phone and inserted them in his ears and hit play. He listened with his eyes closed.
Lenny replayed the recording in his head. But it wasn’t so much what Willets had said. That was bad enough and had shocked Lenny when he first heard it, but it was the tone. The tears, the groans and pain and something else. Willets was embarrassed. Humiliated. And Lenny felt that same humiliation. They had done this to his friend, his partner, his own fishing buddy. Taken his eye. Made him look like a freak. To get to Lenny.
And Lenny couldn’t avoid the thought that came quickly on the heels of it all. His own daughter had done this. His flesh and blood had been behind the attack. He had sired a monster. And how? Edna was too sweet. Nadine didn’t inherit such brutal ruthlessness from her. It had to have been Lenny. He had to have passed on to his daughter the spleen, the make-up that would give her the merciless will to do this, to have it done. To someone she knew her whole life. Who had been like an uncle. But then Lenny had to admit it. He might hate what she did, but he understood it, he understood it all right.
The lawyer had finished listening to the recording. He hit a button on the phone and removed the ear buds. He sat still staring out over the hood of his car, thinking. He shook his head a few times. Everything was still and quiet. Then he repeated the same sequence again. The shake of his head, then quiet, unmoving.
Finally, he looked at Lenny. He half turned in the seat to face him. His bulk made it difficult and awkward. His belly pushed out the buttons on his expensive tailored shirt.
“This is real hard ball, Lenny.”
“Really? You think? Jesus, Nick, they took his eye and are going to do the other one if he doesn’t turn on me?
“I know. What we have to figure out is how they got this done. Exactly who ordered this and how’s it being paid for. This isn’t done for any reason except money. Well, unless its personal between prisoners, but Willets had nothing personal with these people. It had to be money. Well, maybe not cash, but some payment, something of value to someone. And, my friend, they are after you.”
“I know. Do you really think Nadine could have done this?”
Easley thought for a few minutes, ruminated on the question.
“You don’t think, Regan could be involved? He seems the cruel one,” Easley said.
“Gratuitous,” Lenny said. “He does it from opportunity. Never plans ahead. Never connects it to anything, a benefit you know. He just does mean stuff because he likes it. Almost like sex, you know?”
The lawyer said, “I know. And as to Nadine being capable. Yes, but she wouldn’t have thought of this. It’s too elaborate. Would take knowledge and connections in the criminal justice system. I don’t think she has any of that. She might know business. More than we thought she did, but this attack and the other moves have a real legal foundation. I’m putting my money on that Edmund. The lawyer. He’s been ahead of us on every move. They set this up. Boy, they really set this up.”
“Yeah, okay, but how do we get by this? What do we do now?”
“For now,” the lawyer said, “we keep our mouths shut. They will know at some point we have figured this out. But it’s better if we don’t get them there too soon. Gives us some time to maneuver a little. Man, they’ve got the most corrupt elements in the whole justice system lined up. Formidable. But I’ve got a few connections of my own. I do have a few favors to call in. And it looks like now is the time to pull out all the stops. And Lenny, this is going to cost. It’s going to be expensive. Very expensive. You understand? Real expensive. They are putting a lot of money into this. They know a lot is at stake. You are going to have to match them dime for dime and then some.”
“Whatever, it takes. Poor Willets. He didn’t deserve this.”
“No. He didn’t, but Willets is a problem now. What if he turns? He certainly has the motivation to do so now.”
“I just don’t think he will,” Lenny said. “You know, I called his son. He is due to arrive at the airport in a couple of hours. Edgar. Good guy. Stand up. Ex-Marine. Saw a lot of action in the Mideast. He will help his dad. I’ve known him since he was a boy. He gets real quiet and then boom, he takes care of business. And he won’t be letting this type of thing happen again. Not to his Dad.”
“And not to you.”
“Don’t you worry about Willets. He’s stand up too. Where his son gets it from. Loyal. Both of them. They can do a lot to him. He won’t break. He will cry. He will hurt but he won’t break.”
“And you, Lenny? What about you?”
“I’ve been a fool. Sure. But maybe I can figure out how to make things right.”
Lenny paused and thought again of how Willets looked in the hospital bed. He felt his stomach turn. He shook his head to get the nausea out of his system. He didn’t deserve to be sick. He couldn’t purge this by throwing up on the sidewalk. This was his fault. What happened to Willets was his fault. And he needed to make things right. And maybe that starts with Willet’s son.
“I’m going to pick Edgar up at the airport and bring him here,” Lenny said. “He will need to see what they did to his father.”
“He is going to be angry,” the lawyer said. “He will want to take it out on someone. It may be you.”
“And he would be right, wouldn’t he? Maybe it would be best. End it all. End me. Get it over.”
The lawyer paused. He didn’t reply for a few moments. Lenny would have preferred for the lawyer to say something. To tell him not to blame himself, perhaps. Say, maybe, that too many people needed him; everyone depended on him. Lenny would have liked it if there was some effort to encourage him. Tell him to be of good cheer. That it will all work out. But, instead, his lawyer, his good friend, his best bud, remained silent.