The Not Entirely Complete Works of Peter Schulman

©2010 Peter Schulman

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Insubordination

Chapter 1

This may have been a catastrophically unwise decision. If so, it will dramatically affect the rest of my life, which, in all likelihood, will not exceed sixty seconds.

Frank Ryan had his arm extended pointing the barrel of a gun at me. He wasn’t ready to shoot me yet.

“Go on. Take the gun and shoot Mickey.”

I twirled a finger. “You know, customarily a gun is handed over with the barrel pointed away from the recipient.”

“Just take it and let’s get this done.”

“I’m afraid I have to decline on principle. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it’s against my philosophy to commit any more crimes than absolutely necessary.”

“Yeah, well, Mickey needs killing and I’d feel a lot more comfortable if you’d prove you’re not a cop.”

I would have expected Mickey to be leaving the building about now, but Frank’s two humorless associates were holding their own weapons.

I was unlikely to get off two shots before one of them shot me from less than six feet away.

“Don’t be stupid,” I said.

I’ll grant that’s not the customary form of address to a career criminal in charge of myriad underlings. But I had some dynamite, follow-up material.

“I know the movies love that if-you-make-a-mistake-I’ll-kill-you crap, Frank, but you’re too smart for that. How could you ever get anyone to work for you?

“Just imagine the job posting: ’If you ever make a mistake or if things just go wrong, I’ll kill you. Low-wage, high-risk opportunity.’

“You think they’re going to be lining up at the door for that?

“I’ve got to assume this is just a test anyway and I’m hurt that you feel the need for confirmation. Do I act even remotely like any undercover cop you’ve ever met? No. I stand out.

“I shave every day. I don’t have a record and there aren’t any cons to vouch for me because I stay under the radar.

“Did you ever meet an undercover cop who didn’t have some phony background including prison time? No.

“Did you ever meet one who didn’t at least have some low-level bad guy to vouch for him? No.

“Did you ever meet anyone at all who refused to commit minor crimes he thought were unnecessary? No, you haven’t.

“How many undercover cops have you met who don’t drink? None?

“There may be some cops with my redoubtable language skills, but I’ll bet you never catch one using them.

“And to top it off I use a name guaranteed to arouse your curiosity: John Smith. Really, Frank, it’s like I’m wearing a red shirt with a target and my hair dyed pink to say, ’Look at me!’ What would you do if one of your guys did that?”

He laughed. “You mean if I didn’t have him killed?”

“Right.”

“I’d probably have him killed.”

“The Department brass wouldn’t be too thrilled about a cop like that either.”

I might be dead soon, but at least I hadn’t shown any weakness. Show weakness and you lose your credibility on the street.

Frank stood there for a while. His face gave no indication which way he was leaning.

“Do you want us to shoot him, Mr. Ryan,” said the smarter of the two guns. Maybe he was the dumber one; it was too close to call.

“Not today, boys,” said Frank. He put his gun away and started to laugh. His think tank followed his example.

Frank headed to the office and we followed. He sat behind the desk and put his feet up. The rest of us took seats.

“I’ve yet to figure out what you are, lad, but for sure you’re not a cop. I think you’re a lunatic, but that’s your problem,” said Frank.

“I’m a movie critic, Frank. Honestly, when I see that kind of scene in a movie, I’m thinking: if I were one of his crew I’d better put a bullet into his head before I make a mistake.”

Frank laughed. “I think you are a movie critic. Anyway, let’s get down to business.

“You’ve shown some decent planning skills so far, but it’s been pretty small stuff, John. We got a very big score coming up. We’re going to grab a truckload of legal narcotics. I’ve a man on the inside tipped me off when they’re being shipped. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the drivers tied up, so we’ve got to come up with a plan.”

“What’s the inside guy’s name, Frank? I need it for my report.”

He gave me a sharp look then started to shake his head. “You are some kind of smartass.”

“Some kind,” I said. “So how long do we have to come up with something? When are we doing this? I don’t mean to seem pushy. But if you include me because of my planning skills, give me a chance to use them.”

Frank hesitated. “Wednesday a week. And if the cops get involved, I know where it came from.”

“You’re gonna make me paranoid, Frank. Too much looking over my shoulder I could become a lunatic.”

He laughed heartily.

“Do we know who’s driving? Maybe I can learn enough about him to get him to work with us.”

“We got guns to get him to work with us,” said the one I had considered smarter. The only thing that made me cling to that opinion was that I had heard the other one speak at length about I have no clue what.

I decided to make an effort with him.

“You want to buy a car, do you go to the bank and fill out some papers to get a loan, or do you bring in your gun and rob them?”

He thought about it much too long. “I get the loan,” he answered.

“Why?”

“I don’t get in no trouble. Besides, I can pay it off.”

“So if I can figure out a way to get this driver let us have the load, do you still think it’s a smarter option to stop him with guns blazing?”

“Don’t bother with him. He doesn’t understand the business,” said Frank. “Sometimes we have guys inside and sometimes we don’t.

“We know what’s being shipped. We know when it’s being shipped. We even know who’s taking it. We just don’t have any relationship with him. And, at this point, it would take too long to cultivate him for this job.”

He started to talk about the possibilities for where we could stop the driver. I wasn’t sure how smart he was, but he knew the hijacking business from many years of experience.

We kicked ideas around for an hour.

“Planning sure is thirsty work,” said Mickey.

“That’s a fine idea, lad,” said Frank.

“Good thing I didn’t kill him,” I said.

“Give it a rest, my boy,” said Frank. But he said it with a smile.

It’s part of the culture to bust each others’ stones. You learn that on the streets.

I’d never been on the streets, but I pay attention.

 

Chapter 2

“Can I have a word with you in private?” I asked.

“I suppose. I don’t like to keep much from my boys,” said Frank.

That had to be disingenuous. “Those two are very fine plow horses, but I wouldn’t want them steering the plow.”

“I’ve known them for a long time. They are very good muscle and they are quite skilled at handing their part of the operation. They aren’t often refused.”

“I respect their skill and your relationship with them, Frank.”

“While you I’ve known only a short time.”

“I hope it’s clear I know how to operate a plow.”

“Aye, but where will you be steering it?”

“Around the big rocks,” I said. “Why don’t you give me the driver’s name? I’ll see what I can find out.” It was the first direct request I had made since we met.

“That’s a dangerous game, my boy. If he recognizes you when we stop him, it could lead back to us. And you’ve said quite often you don’t want to stir up any more trouble than absolutely necessary.”

I took a sip of my Diet Coke. Frank threw down a shot of Irish whiskey.

“I won’t so much as bump into him, Frank, unless I’m absolutely certain I can wrap him up.”

“Let me think about it.”

I slapped him on the back lightly and headed for the bar. “Fair enough.”

I spied an empty table in the corner, wandered over and sat down. I am naturally shy around people I don’t know and, despite the time I had spent here over the last few months, didn’t know many of the patrons.

I had overheard things they said or being said about them so I had a sense of who they were. But I had built no personal relationships.

My shyness had worked for me in this situation. People don’t warm up very easily to someone inserting himself into their conversations.

I met a few of the women when I asked them to dance. I like to dance and I like women, perhaps a little too much for my own good. My inability to resist them led to two divorces by the time I was twenty-seven.

 

My introduction to Frank Ryan and his crew had been provided by a loyal patron of The Shillelagh who supported it by drinking far more than was prudent.

The man grew loud and obnoxious. He was already imposing before he started to drink.

The bartender was having little success handling him. None of the patrons offered to help because he had injured several men during prior bouts of inebriation. I didn’t know that when I got up to help.

I don’t relish the spotlight, but when the guy started manhandling his date, I was unable to control my impulses.

He was unimpressed when I tried to establish rapport by telling him I knew he didn’t want to hurt her. His unusually well-reasoned response was, “Well now I can hurt you instead.”

He had nine inches and ninety pounds on me. There were gasps when he threw his first, and only, punch at me.

I did what any respectable black belt judoka would do. I ducked under the punch grabbing his right sleeve with my left hand and his shirt with my right, turned my back to him, pressed my hip against him, bent at the waist enhancing his forward motion and shot my right leg back against the inside of his left thigh launching him into the air; a very flamboyant uchi mata.

His body peaked at seven feet. Unfortunately for him, there was no mat to cushion him and, having no judo experience, he didn’t know how to break his fall. Tables rattled as his back crashed into the floor.

It knocked the wind out of him. The paramedics later told us the concussion was the reason he did not move.

On the plus side, he behaved much better after that.

The police were skeptical that I had handled him so easily, but the patrons were unanimous that the altercation had lasted less than three seconds from the first movement of his fist to his collision with the floor.

The conclusion of the officer in charge was that they should bring me into the station and “sort this all out.”

“What are you charging me with?” I asked. I was polite and respectful.

“You can start with resisting if you give me any more trouble.”

“You have to arrest me for something before I can resist.”

“Don’t worry, smart guy. We’ll come up with something.”

My control of my temper wasn’t any better than my self control in a wide range of areas. “Then you can add resisting false arrest.”

They wouldn’t do anything in front of this many witnesses. They would wait until I was in the patrol car or at the station.

My hands were yanked behind my back with unnecessary force and cuffed. I had the good fortune to be white. They might rough me up a bit, but if I were black I probably would have been tuned up pretty good.

The desk sergeant asked, “What do we have here?”

“Ag assault; he took out a guy in a bar fight. Guy was taken to the hospital on a stretcher.”

They had cuffed me, but they hadn’t gagged me.

“Don’t forget to tell him the guy was six four and two hundred fifty pounds if he was an ounce. And he threw the only punch.”

The leader shoved me. “Shut up. Nobody’s askin’ you.”

The instant the look came on the Sergeant’s face I understood he agreed with me: these guys shouldn’t be on the force or, at the least, not in his District.

“Let’s not get sued,” he said. The “again“ was silent.

They took me back to print me. That had me somewhat concerned. Despite the disorganized and incomplete state of fingerprint information, they might trip over mine.

If they didn’t, they would lose interest years before they would find a match if they diligently pursued me.

I objected to being printed. I said they needed a reason, like a crime, to print someone. They laughed and told me to shut up.

That worked out well. Somebody reported I was a pain in the ass. I don’t know which side of the law it came from. It enhanced my street credibility.

It was with great reluctance the police finally released me. I returned to The Shillelagh.

Frank came over and introduced himself. “Very impressive, young man. Frank Ryan. Pleased to meet you.” He held out his hand.

I shook it. “John Smith.”

He looked skeptical, but didn’t question it.

“How did you learn to do that thing?”

I told him I learned in college. We had to take some physical education courses and judo looked like fun. I made the college team which allowed me to practice with our heavyweights. This guy had been laughably easy compared to them. They were strong, sober and knew what they were doing.

“I don’t know how you managed not to beat him senseless after you tossed him. I wouldn’t have been able to control myself,” Frank said.

“I make it a policy not to commit any more crimes than absolutely necessary.”

“Is that what you learned in college?” he asked.

“No. I was a biochemistry major.”

“And what does biochemistry major do?”

“He learns the chemistry of living things. He learns the theory and how to work in the lab. It’s a lot of fun, but not all that useful without an advanced degree.”

He got the implication. “So what do you do without the advanced degree, John Smith?”

“This and that. I keep busy.”

My response might seem evasive, but in street parlance it said I was a criminal.

“I hear there are openings for people with your background.”

I smiled. “I wouldn’t turn down honest work.”

“Nice to meet you, lad. Stop in here anytime you want to chat with a friendly voice.”

“I’ll do that Frank.”

After Frank left the table people wandered over to express their admiration and satisfaction that somebody had finally handled the bully.

His date was especially grateful. I politely declined her offer to see her home. A reputation for stirring up unnecessary trouble would not serve me well.

I continued to frequent The Shillelagh. Usually, when I saw Frank, I would wander over at some point to greet him and spend a few minutes of small talk. Then I would retreat to my isolated table.

Often a woman out for adventure would come to my table with her wing woman. There were times I left with one of them, though never both unless it was clear I was just seeing them home.

A few weeks after the incident, Frank came in and waved me over to his table.

“Can I offer you a drink, lad?”

“Sure, Frank. I’ll have a Diet Coke.”

“Are you sure you want to risk something that dangerous?”

“Do you have any idea what they put in this stuff?” I asked.

Frank summoned Mickey to the table with a movement of his head.

“Mick, would you be so kind as to get Johnny a Diet Coke?”

“Sure.” Boss was silent, but I could feel it.

He returned with my drink and one for Frank.

I had an impulse to be polite, but just nodded my head.

Mickey didn’t need to be told to leave us alone.

“Are you keeping busy, my boy?”

“Pretty much. But I like to make time to mingle with these nice people.”

“I have a job you might be able to help me with, lad.”

I nodded.

“I don’t know if it fits in with your biochemistry background. I have some medicine I need tested to make sure it’s the real thing. Is that something you learned in your lab work?”

“Probably. Most medicines are made from living things: plants, bark, even bugs. Aspirin comes from bark. Morphine comes from poppies. Without it, think of the suffering our boys in uniform would experience. It’s a wonderful industry.”

Frank smiled and nodded. “Well, of course, I don’t have any morphine. That would be illegal. You need a prescription.”

“Of course.”

“From time to time I have the opportunity to get some medicine to help ease the suffering of the poor folks in our community. But I need to be sure it’s something that will ease their pain. Would you have any experience with that kind of testing?”

“As a matter of fact, I do, depending on what kind of pain reliever you’re looking for.”

“Come in the back with me. We can discuss this a little more.”

A subtle head movement told Mickey to accompany us.

Frank led us into an office. I couldn’t hear any noise from the bar.

“You’re new to us, lad. I’m sure you’ll understand my asking Mickey to make sure you don’t have any listening devices on you.”

I shrugged. “I expected nothing less. I won’t work for anyone too careless to check. I wouldn’t want to wind up in jail if anyone found some reason to look at our little discussion as somehow being in violation of the law.”

Mickey patted me down without getting too intrusive. That would come in the future when Frank wanted to show me he had the power to do it. He nodded. They were men of few words.

“I’m going to be purchasing a quantity of this medicine soon. Of course, I need to be sure I get what I’m paying for,” said Frank.

I nodded.

“I’ve got a little test kit. This being your first time with us, I’m sure you’ll understand if I ask you to bring one of your own to make me more comfortable with how you handle yourself?”

I made a face.

“Is that a problem for you, lad?”

“Am I on Candid Camera?”

His brow furrowed. “I don’t understand your meaning.”

“That’s what they do on TV and in the movies. You take a knife. You make a cut in the plastic bag, it’s got to be plastic so the viewers can see the color.

“You dip in a finger and taste it. Then you say something like, ’Good stuff.’

“Finally, you take out a little bit on the knife, drop it into a beaker, put on the cork and shake it. Then you show your complete mastery of organic chemistry by saying, ’Ah, what a lovely shade of puce. This is one hundred and three percent pure.’

“That’s not how it works. You have to take a sample back to a lab. And you want to collect small samples from various parts of the shipment to make sure the vendor didn’t try to fool you by adding other crap where you’re not looking.

“If that isn’t how you want me to do it, you might just as well send me to the movies as take me with you.”

“You’re not exactly a shrinking violet, my boy.”

“If you want to engage my services to confirm you’re purchasing unadulterated pharmaceuticals, I want to do an honest job for you.

“You need to know the quality of the merchandise. If it’s one-hundred-percent pure, you’re going to want to dilute it or you’ll kill off your customers. If it’s ten-percent pure, you’ll want to have a serious talk with your supplier.”

Frank thought a while, then said, “Mickey, would you leave us alone for a bit?”

Despite the phrasing, it wasn’t a question.

“You concern me, my boy. When somebody new tries too hard to join my organization or when he suggests radical changes, he’s usually a cop. I’ve got lads who’ve been with me much longer than I’ve known you and I still keep an eye out for them being cops.”

I shrugged. “I can take the work or leave it. But, if I take it, I insist on two things: I try to ensure neither I nor anybody I’m working with gets arrested. They could give me up in a deal. And I do the kind of work that prevents you from coming back later dissatisfied with me.

“You came to me with the job. I’d like to make the money, but I can live without it. I like you, Frank. I don’t want to do anything to cause you trouble. We can call this off now before I know anything that could be a problem. We can work together in the future or not. I’ll still like you.”

That brought a hearty laugh.

“I like you too, lad. Let’s do some business.”

Frank was reluctant to tell me in advance when the meeting would take place, but I convinced him it was imprudent for me to set up a lab that would be available for a spur-of-the-moment call.

I also got an advance to pay for the chemicals and equipment.

Frank’s supplier was reluctant to let me leave with any of the shipment, but Frank wouldn’t do the deal without my testing it.

The pharmaceutical turned out to be heroin, but the purity tested below thirty percent.

Frank had a chat with his supplier.

“I want to thank you, lad,” he told me later. “He gave me a nice discount on the merchandise and on the next deal as well. I wish I’d met you some time ago. I’d probably be getting ready to retire by now.”

Frank brought me in on several deals and paid me a fee that reflected his increased profits made possible by my initial insistence on quality testing his purchases.

 

Chapter 3

I continued to frequent The Shillelagh. I didn’t chase the ladies. Neither did I chase them away.

Liam, the bartender responsible for keeping the peace the night I had the altercation with the big guy, was frequently comping me Diet Cokes. He said he was grateful I had taken care of the big guy because he couldn’t. He also said he had noticed there were rarely fights when I was there. I had become the unofficial bouncer.

Liam helped steer me away from women who could get me in trouble.

I was sitting at a table two days before the first purchase in which I would be involved.

“Do you mind if I join you, John?”

“Please, Maeve.”

“I don’t want to be stepping on anybody’s toes here. I see you leave with Darcy now and then.” She put her hand on my thigh. “But I do have an interest in you.”

I glanced down at her hand and smiled. “Your interest is welcome. And no toes are in danger.”

I liked Darcy, but I didn’t see it as anything serious.

I danced with Maeve. I tried to focus on the slower tunes. It is my sincere belief that an important part of the experience of dancing with a woman is feeling her body against mine. She did not complain.

We also talked. At times it felt awfully close to an interrogation.

“What kind of work do you do,” she had asked me.

“Odd jobs.”

She made a doubtful face. “You can’t make very much doing odd jobs.”

“No, odd jobs; Jobs where it can be difficult to find somebody who knows how to do them.

“One guy wanted me to teach his son how to throw a twelve-to-six curve ball and a slider. He also wanted me to teach the kid a changeup, but I never learned to throw a decent one myself.

“Another guy hired me to stop his kid from being bullied.”

“That is an odd job,” Maeve said. “How did you do that?”

“I ’happened’ upon them around the time the bully usually did his thing. As the bully was approaching the kid I said, ’Hi,’ and asked him if this was the jerk he told me about.

“Of course, I was a lot bigger than the jerk and an adult, so it wasn’t like I could smack him around. The cops would have been all over my ass.

“So, I asked the crowd if anybody would help me demonstrate how to take care of somebody like the bully. No volunteers. ’How about you,’ I asked the bully. He didn’t say anything.

“That would probably have been sufficient intimidation for him to lay off. So I told the client’s kid to come at me like he was attacking. ’Remember how to fall,’ I reminded him.

“He came at me like he was going to punch me. I leaned back a little and swept his feet. He went sprawling, but he broke his fall as he landed and popped back up.

“I gave him a big smile, told him how beautifully he broke his fall and said he should have no trouble with the take downs if he mastered the fall so easily. It wasn’t entirely accurate, but none of the kids knew that. I said he probably didn’t even need me, but he should give me a call if he had any more problems.

“As I was walking away, the bully remembered he had to get home.”

“You’re what, five nine, five ten?” she asked.

“Five eight.”

“I can understand using somebody like one of Frank’s goons for intimidation. But you’re not exactly a scary physical presence, no offense.”

“None taken. That’s part of my intimidation. I’m not imposing. Then, I simply move a foot and somebody goes flying. People think there’s got to be a lot of mysterious stuff I could hurt them with. These were kids, but, believe me, it works with adults.”

“So, how do you just move your foot and somebody goes flying?”

I looked around and offered her my hand. “Come on. I’ll show you.”

We walked down a hall toward the office and a storage room.

I heard Frank’s voice from the office.

“I want you to see if you can find out if he works for the Department. He’s a little strange. I just want to be sure he isn’t cop strange before…“ it became garbled after that as I directed Maeve into a pantry.

I thought I saw something on her face, but it was gone so quickly I couldn’t be sure.

“Did you ever have any pets, a cat or a dog, or even little children crawling around?” I asked.

“I never thought of kids as pets, but yeah.”

“Did you ever find you were about to step on one of them or were starting to step on one of them? They can get under foot.”

“Yeah, I did.”

“And you stumbled or fell to try to avoid them?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I use the same principle to send somebody flying. I block or sweep the foot they’re shifting their weight onto and there’s nothing to hold them up. It’s called a sweep, but you don’t actually have to sweep the foot anywhere; you just have to stop it from supporting the shift of weight. Let me show you.”

She stiffened. “I don’t want to get hurt.”

I put a hand on her thigh. “Would I do that to someone who has an interest in me?”

She giggled.

“You won’t get hurt,” I said.

I put my right arm around her back and took her right hand almost in dancing position. I put pressure on her back to move toward me and swept her left foot a few inches toward her right as she tried to step down on it. She completely lost her balance and would have taken a fall had I not lifted and pulled her off the floor and against me with the arm I had around her back. She squealed.

She regained her composure. “You probably just wanted to demonstrate, but you might have been trying to make a move on me a little too fast. If so,” she kissed me sensually, “it worked.”

I heard a noise behind us.

“Sorry to interrupt you kids. I thought I heard a scream.”

“This brute is trying to have his way with me,” said Maeve. “I may let him.”

“Uh, I’ve got some business to take care of,” Frank said.

He turned and left. He had probably been checking whether he had been overheard.

I eased her to the floor. She leaned in for another kiss.

“I’m not sure who is taking advantage of whom,” I said.

“We can sort that out later.”

Maeve took me back to her place. She was definitely taking advantage of me.

It wasn’t because I liked Maeve better than Darcy, though I did. It was because I had developed the habit of saying yes to any reasonably appealing female who asked. I couldn’t seem to develop the ability to just say no.

 

Chapter 4

I like to dance. I don’t like clubs. That limits my opportunities to dance.

One of the things I dislike about clubs is that they’re noisy and crowded and it’s difficult to hear what anybody is saying, including your dance partner.

On the other hand, the difficulty overhearing other peoples’ conversations can be a distinct benefit.

I came alone, so I had the burden of having to ask women to dance. While I’m shy, that isn’t a problem for me. My dancing is compelling to many women. I’m relaxed, I move as the music inspires me and I’m uninhibited about how I move.

It’s not that I’m imbued with a surfeit of confidence; I just don’t care what anybody else thinks. For dancing, it works. In other areas of my life, it’s not so helpful.

I’ve worked hard at swing and once I get started, women ask me to dance with them.

As the evening wore on I danced with a potpourri of women, several of them for more than one dance.

I had an especially good time with an attractive five foot eleven blonde with two-inch heels. “No names; just wonderful dancing,” she had said.

I whipped her around to the music while she laughed with delight.

We finished off with a slow dance, at the end of which she leaned down and said, “If you don’t come back here and dance with me again, I’ll hunt you down.”

Across the dance floor was a fit, six foot one brunette with five-inch heels and a killer body squeezed into a tight dress. It was a bold statement that she was worth dancing with even if you had to look up at her, which almost all the men did.

She swayed sensually to the music.

I walked up to her and said, “The rest of my night will mean nothing if I don’t get to dance with you.”

She smiled and held out her hand.

I couldn’t have danced in five-inch heels, but she was amazing.

We were drawing way too much attention until we finally got to dance a slow number. Then I noticed we were drawing some smirks. She was six foot six in her heels. I was five foot eight. My head tucked in under her chin.

“Don’t you wish you were about a foot taller so we could dance face to face?” she asked.

“I was just lamenting not being six inches shorter.”

She couldn’t help an abrupt laugh. “You perve.”

I tried to shrink myself with my posture, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

I had thought about what to say to her. I wasn’t sure what direction to take so I went with honesty.

“I overheard a piece of a conversation. Frank was on the phone with somebody asking for information about whether someone was a cop. I’m pretty sure he was talking about me.”

“When was this?” she asked.

“About a week ago. I didn’t ask for a special meeting because I thought I could handle it. Even if they made me they wouldn’t want to rush into anything.”

“Anything? You mean like killing you?” She expressed considerable displeasure in those six words.

“This is a good thing. It tells us whoever he’s working with isn’t in the Department.”

“You’re good. You can do whatever the hell you want and make it sound like a well-thought-out plan.”

I kept the dreamy look on my face that would be expected dancing with her this way. She maintained her amused smile.

“The Lieutenant is not going to be happy with you,” she said.

“Maybe you shouldn’t tell him.”

Lily didn’t reply.

“You have to be able to trust your partner,” I said.

She harrumphed.

“I meant me, not you,” I said.

Either way I meant it, we both knew I was working her.

“So what are you involved in?”

I snuggled a little closer. “We’re hijacking a load of narcotics. But I think this other thing is bigger. If he’s got someone higher than the Department, it’s in the DA’s office, the Mayor’s office or City Council. That would be huge.”

“That could also be a political bombshell for the Lieutenant. He’ll want to think about how it would play out.”

“Well.” I stretched the word out.

“More?”

“Why don’t you tell him about the hijacking, but hold off on the other thing. He’ll be better positioned to know how to handle it when we have an idea who it is.”

“You’re so full of shit,” she said.

I waited for more, but she remained silent.

“I am full of shit, but you kind of like the plan.”

She smiled. “Yeah.”

“That expression looks like you succumbed to my proposition.”

“As if.”

“I don’t think there’s anybody watching me, but let’s go back to your place just in case.”

Lily leaned down and gave me a soft kiss on the lips. “Nice of you to share your fantasy.”

 

Chapter 5

I was at the bar before Richard Taylor arrived. I don’t know why it is, but human nature seems to be that people are suspicious of those who arrive after them, not those who are already there.

I had peeked in a few times before and seen Taylor sitting at the bar in the same spot. I had also done research on his family. My plan was to be as scary as possible.

He sat down at around ten minutes to six and asked me to pass the nuts. I had moved them when I sat down so he would have to ask me for them. He thanked me.

“No problem, brotherhood of the bar nuts,” I said.

He chuckled. “Beer,” he called out to the bartender. He was a regular. There was no need to specify any further.

The lead-in to the six o’clock news mentioned a story about Kim Basinger.

“If only I wasn’t married,” he said. “She was just in Nine 1/2 Weeks. I damn near melted.”

“I prefer Michele Pfeiffer.”

“I’d take her as a second choice,” he said.

“I’m single, but somehow I don’t think my chances are very good.”

“Women,” he said.

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t be much fun without them.”

He nodded agreement with delight in his eyes. “I love the old ball and chain.”

“Kids?” I asked.

“Three.”

“That’s nice. Kids are a great thing. They bring life into perspective. All those great plans you had for yourself when you were young, you’d gladly give them all up in exchange for having happy, healthy kids.”

“That’s the truth,” he said.

“I bet you’d give anything to keep something from happening to Teddy, Lois and Jeffrey. Louise too for that matter.”

I said it as casually as I would mention it was getting dark outside.

His head jerked in my direction. His pale, white face turned paler.

“Perhaps you should follow me out in five minutes so I can explain,” I said. “I’ll be on the corner.”

I finished my Diet Pepsi with a lemon slice to hide the fact it wasn’t Coke, put down two bucks for the bartender and left.

He came out exactly five minutes later.

“Your family is fine,” I said. “It would really upset me to have to do anything to them. I just need a little cooperation from you.”

“What do you want?”

“You’re driving a load next Wednesday. Some dangerous men plan to hijack it. They were just going to shoot you, but I convinced them your family needed you.”

I took out a small, hand-drawn map.

“Stop here to use the bathroom. I’ll tie you up loosely enough for you to work your way out and call in the hijacking. That’s all you have to do. Tell the police we surprised you. We were wearing masks so you can’t identify anyone.”

He didn’t respond.

“If you’re thinking about not stopping: Don’t. We won’t hurt you. You just won’t have a family to support.

“If you set us up with the police, you won’t have a family to support.

“If you hide your family away, we’ll kill you. Then we’ll find them and kill them.”

I rubbed my chin and raised my eyes in an imitation of thinking.

“Did I leave anything out? I don’t think so. To review: you cooperate, everything is fine. You don’t cooperate, well, I don’t even want to think about it. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes.”

 

Chapter 6

Richard Taylor pulled alongside the Atlantic station. He went inside and came out with the key to the mens room.

We pulled up behind him and I got out of the van and followed him into the men’s room.

He handed over the key to the rig. I took out a notebook and asked him for the security codes and procedures.

“You don’t want us caught, Rick,” I reminded him. “Don’t leave anything out and please speak slowly.”

My writing is illegible. My printing can be read if I do it carefully. It’s especially important when I’m writing down numbers. One mistake and we’d set off an alarm.

I asked him to review my notes to make sure I got it right.

While he was reading it I took some rope out of my gym bag.

“It’s okay,” he said, handing the notebook back to me.

“I’m going to tie you up and put on a gag. If one of the gang comes in to check on you, I don’t want them to worry you could get away and mess this up. I didn’t tell anyone else the details of our discussion, so if they get worried about you, they’ll kill you. I don’t want that to happen.”

He nodded his understanding.

I indicated he should turn around so I could tie his hands behind him. “When we’ve secured the load, I’ll come back and release you. Your family will be fine.”

“I don’t want you to hurt them,” he said.

“I don’t plan to. By the way, don’t ever talk to anybody about this. My word you can count on. If the other guys find out you talked, they won’t take it well. They will kill you. What they do about your family would depend on what kind of mood they’re in. You really don’t want to risk that.”

“How can I be sure they won’t hurt us anyway?”

I indicated he should sit on the toilet in the stall. I started to tie his feet. “They don’t get violent for no reason. The only contact you’ll have with them is if you talk.”

He had a worried look on his face.

“I won’t let them do anything,” I said.

I opened the door after I finished and signaled we were ready to go. Frank sent the dumber of the two guns in to check on Rick.

“Maybe I should just pop him,” the well-toned collection of muscle suggested.

“I don’t think you want to do that without, uh, the boss’ approval.”

“Oh, you mean -“

“No names!“ I said. “You can see he isn’t going anywhere. Let’s get going.”

He followed me out.

I spoke with Frank’s replacement driver. I gave him the notebook and explained the procedures. I had him explain them back to me to be sure he didn’t mess it up.

He entered the cab and I got back in the van. Mickey was driving.

We took the lead and everyone followed us to a nearby warehouse. We pulled around the back to an empty dock.

The fleet of vans pulled up. Two men exited each vehicle and started unloading the trailer into their vans.

When they were about two-thirds done, I walked over to Frank.

“I’m going to go back to release the driver.”

“Are you sure he isn’t going to talk?” he asked.

“I made you sound like big, scary mobsters. There is no way he’ll say anything, not that he knows much except doing what I told him.”

“Well, you made this very easy, lad. And you’ve done me proud with the pharmaceuticals. I trust your judgment.”

“I’ll see you later, Frank.”

I took the lone car in our caravan and drove back to the Atlantic station.

I untied the gag first and continued to release him.

I looked at him meaningfully. “I trust it goes without saying.”

He gave me a serious look. “It goes without saying.”

 

Chapter 7

I walked into The Shillelagh at quarter to eight. Frank Ryan waved me over.

“Did you see the news, my boy?” he asked.

“No. I was working on some things.”

“It seems a driver was intercepted with a load of pharmaceuticals. The masked thugs tied him up, but he managed to free himself. The police found his rig abandoned on a side road later. It was empty. They have no leads.”

“I’m confident our men in blue will diligently pursue this. I’m sure they will stop and question every masked man they come across.”

Frank laughed. “You’re a wicked one, you are. It’s a good thing they don’t have to contend with your wit.”

“I tried that the night I took out the big guy. They were not impressed.”

“That’s why they have trouble closing cases,” he said. “Come on back to the office. We’ll talk.”

Frank seated himself behind his desk and let out a deeply satisfied sigh.

“I’ve got to say that you’ve pleasantly surprised me, my boy. You’ve not only done everything I’ve asked of you, you’ve done it quite well.

“I was pretty skeptical of your approach with the driver. But, you did what you said you would and it’s worked out beautifully. He followed your instructions and told the cops exactly what you instructed him to say. I thought he might break. You must have put quite a scare into him.”

“I’ve studied some motivational techniques. I would be stunned if he ever says a word about us.”

Frank raised a glass. “Here’s to a job well done. I know, you don’t drink.”

If he was starting to anticipate what I would say then he was starting to trust me as a member of his organization.

He extracted a fistful of bills from his pocket and counted off a quantity, returning the remainder to his pocket. He extended the hand with the bills and I got up and took them. I put them in my pocket without counting.

“Thank you.”

“You earn every penny of it, lad.”

“Thank you nonetheless.”

Frank tilted his head from side to side. “I’ve some things to do.”

I nodded and left the office.

If I were following procedure, I would count the money, voucher it and turn it in. All the money I had been paid resulted from criminal activity. It could be used as evidence if I accounted for it properly.

What was I supposed to do? Go into the squad on a regular basis so I could turn in the money and fill out reports?

We hadn’t been involved in enough long-term undercover operations to develop procedures that would allow me to follow regulations while staying alive.

I found it helpful to think of the money I was paid as confiscated contraband.

I went back into the bar and ordered a Diet Coke.

I took it to an empty table and sat down to watch what everyone was doing and to hear as much as I could of what they were talking about. What I was really doing was surveillance without the vehicle and the mandatory cup of coffee.

It was pretty much as uneventful as traditional surveillance. Wait and wait some more.

I saw Maeve come in. She came over to my table.

“I hoped I’d find you here,” she said.

“I’m glad you did.” I also hoped she wouldn’t find out why I was happy she found me here.

“Would you like to come back to the pantry with me so we can have a proper greeting away from the gazes of all these judgmental eyes?” I asked.

“What did you have in mind,” she asked in a May West impression, “uh, medium-sized boy?”

I laughed; I couldn’t help it.

I did a W. C. Fields impression. “A little of this and a little of that.”

She went back to May West. “Who could resist such a titillating proposition?”

I took her hand and we headed for the pantry.

We did a little of this and a little of that. It got intense enough that we were bumping into things.

Frank yanked open the door and shook his head.

“Jeez, you two again? Get a room.” He left shaking his head.

“Maybe he’s right, John,” she said.

“Okay. I’ll follow you out in a minute or two so nobody will think we were doing what we’re going to be doing later.”

“Presumptuous, aren’t you?”

“I presume.”

She rolled her eyes and left.

I quickly stood on a shelf, moved a ceiling tile and took out a cassette recorder. I removed the tape and replaced it with one I had in my pocket. I put the recorder back and moved the tile back into position.

That’s what I had used some of the money for. The recorder was voice activated.

Instead of using the microphone that came with it, I had modified a directional mike to plug into it. I had broken in one night to place the parabolic mike above Frank’s office and string the wiring through the ceiling into the pantry.

I couldn’t get the Department to pay for it. Not only are they are too cheap, it was illegal without a warrant.

It seemed fitting that I paid for it with funds from an unlawful activity which I still had because, in contravention of the law, I had failed to turn it in.

Maeve was at the table drinking a gin and tonic when I sat down.

“It might be too obvious to rush off,” I said.

I casually finished my Diet Coke.

“We could have just gone to my place,” she said. “Why start off in the pantry?”

Maeve asked lots of pointed questions. Was she just an accountant or was she working somewhere in law enforcement?

I smiled. “Foreplay. It builds anticipation.”

I don’t know if it was the “foreplay“ that got her fired up, but Maeve kept us going so long I was sure she would have to call in sick to her job.

 

Chapter 8

I drove across the Walt Whitman Bridge to South Jersey and headed down Route 42 toward the shore. It was after midnight and as I made more turns farther away from Route 42 the traffic got pretty thin.

I turned off onto a country road and took it around a mile before making a left turn onto a one-lane road. The motel was a few hundred feet down, on the right.

If someone was following me, they were doing it without lights. That seemed unlikely since the road was not entirely straight. I would have heard them crashing into a tree at some point.

I parked in front of Room Four and walked around to Room Twelve. I knocked twice.

“Your stud’s here.”

Lily opened the door and looked me up and down. She frowned. “Not my stud for sure.”

She stood aside and let me in.

“Have you made copies?” she asked.

“I’ve hidden one away in case of a calamity. The original is in a safe deposit box. I brought two copies for you.”

“Is there anything good?”

“It is smoking hot.”

“Let’s have a listen,” she said.

We could only hear Frank’s voice when he spoke on the phone.

Early in the tape we heard Frank ask, “So you’re sure there’s no way the odd fellow is a cop?”

Lily snickered. “That’s a great nickname. Maybe we’ll call you Odd Fellow when this is all over and you come back to the unit.”

“Let’s turn off the lights. It should be about time for a romp in the sack.”

I had a small flashlight in case we needed to see.

“Okay,” said Frank. “Sure. No problem, Trigger.”

“Trigger?” Lily asked.

“I have no clue. These guys love to talk in code.”

Frank’s was not the only voice on the tape. The office was actually used for the business dealings of the bar. There was no way to tell when any of this took place unless the speakers gave sufficient context.

Frank gave us the required context.

“It’s Frank.”

Since the recorder was voice activated we couldn’t tell how long the person on the other end spoke.

“So, it looks like the driver followed the script? You don’t have any information to the contrary?”

“Good. Do the cops have any leads?”

“What? So the FBI is in on this too?”

“The usual suspects? I guess they’ll be around here at some point.”

“Okay, that sounds really good.”

“No, we’ve already been paid.”

“Don’t worry, Rugs. I’ll send somebody out with your cut later.”

“Yeah.”

“No.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get it to you.”

“Yeah. Thanks for calling and for all your other help.”

Frank hung up the phone. “Damn greedy bastard,” he said.

We heard the door close. Then we heard it close again.

Frank was speaking.

“Here you go Mickey. This package goes to Michael Rows and this one to Thin Albert. When you come back, I’ll have one more delivery for you.”

“Sure, boss,” said Mickey. The door closed.

The next thing we heard was a big sigh from Frank.

“I’ve got to say that you’ve pleasantly surprised me, my boy. You’ve not only done everything I’ve asked of you, you’ve done it quite well.”

It was the conversation we had the evening of the hijacking. That money I’d kept separate. I might need it for evidence. It was hidden away in a sealed plastic bag with notes on how I had come to receive it.

That was the last conversation on the tape. I’d retrieved it shortly after leaving the office.

“Michael Rows and Thin Albert. Frank put this together with the approval of two organizations,” Lily said.

“I was surprised too.”

“You know, we have enough information on this tape along with your testimony to convict Frank and his crew. With that leverage, we may get him to roll over on Michael Rows and Thin Albert.”

“No. That was an unauthorized recording. Frank has the expectation of privacy in his office in the absence of a warrant.”

“God, you sound like a lawyer.”

“I read the cases so I’ll know what I need to do to put the bad guys away.”

“You should go to law school.”

“I’m planning to go to night school,” I said.

“Wow. Well, even without the tape, you were involved in the hijacking and the drug buys and whatever else you guys did. That should be enough to put away Frank and his crew.”

“I guess so. I suppose this will be my last undercover assignment.”

“Why?”

“I’ll be seen in court. There will be TV crews outside the courtroom taking my picture. It will be all over the news. Where am I going to find a bunch of criminals stupid enough that none of them will have seen any of that?”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Lily.

We were each lost in our own thoughts for awhile. Lily broke the silence.

“It might get worse than that.”

“How?” I asked.

“These guys usually stay away from cops. But they’ll know you’re going to testify and that you can absolutely nail them. They might try to stop you.”

“Stop as in kill?”

“Stop as in kill,” she said.

“I’ll have to go into Witness Protection. You won’t be my partner anymore.”

“I’m sure that’s your primary regret.”

She was a sarcastic little thing. Well, a sarcastic big thing. But this was real. I wouldn’t be able to be a cop any more. I probably wouldn’t be able to be a lawyer either. That’s when it hit me, the way it usually does.

“It’s City Councilman Royce Ruggeri. I once heard someone play with his name, call him Roy Rodgers. That leads to Roy’s horse, Trigger. Ruggeri owns a pretty large business that sells and installs carpets.”

“Damn. That sucks. If he finds out anything about this, you’re going to have a target painted on your back.”

“Thanks for the reassurance. I’m feeling much better now.”

Alright, I’m a tad sarcastic myself.

“Even if we can keep me alive until trial, that doesn’t augur well for a conviction. He can bring an awful lot of pressure on the Department and the D.A.’s office.”

“He has clout with some judges too,” said Lily.

“How about you don’t tell the Lieutenant about this until I have time to think about it some more?”

Lily looked at me, exasperated. “Are there any more laws you’d like me to break while we’re at it?”

 

Chapter 9

It wouldn’t be just me. My ex-wives and daughter could become targets used to get to me. If I wound up having to go into Witness Protection they couldn’t possibly come with me. My parents would be lost to me as well.

If I did my job really well, if I collected enough evidence to put them all away, to bring down their organizations, my reward would be that I lost everything.

I knew what I had to do. I would need Lily’s help. I called her.

“What do you mean I never tell the Lieutenant what you found out? What do I tell him? Jonathan was on vacation; he was just fooling about being undercover.”

“Let me finish. There’s a whole lot more to my plan.”

I explained it in considerable detail. I had to. The plan was completely worthless without the detail. I waited for Lily’s reaction.

“That’s far and away the craziest plan I ever heard; no second place. The thing is, I can’t decide whether it’s idiotic or brilliant. I know one thing: if it doesn’t work, neither of us will be a cop when it’s over.”

“I guess it had better work,” I said.

 

I parked in a spot Lily had reserved for me. I could exit quickly. It was around quarter to ten. It had taken me a while to finish being made up.

I walked through the front door of Har Zion Synagogue. I opened my talis bag and took out a knit, designer yarmulke and secured it to my hair with a bobby pin. Then I took out the talis, drew it over my shoulders and wrapped it around my arms. I put the bag in my coat pocket.

I had been given a moustache and a full, bushy beard and a pair of glasses that didn’t do anything but help obscure my identity. I was also aged with some wrinkles.

I entered the door to the sanctuary and stood at the back to survey the room.

The Bar Mitzvah boy had just taken his place in front of the open Torah and was ready to read. The gabbai sang out announcing the first aliyah. The boy’s aunt and uncle sang the prayer and he began to chant the first part of his reading.

I walked down toward the front. I leaned over to ask a man who appeared to be in his forties, “Are you Mr. Feldman?” I pointed to the boy up on the bima. “His other uncle?”

“No,” he said as he shook his head.

I walked back around a dozen rows to a white-haired man.

“Are you Mr. Feldman?” I again pointed to the boy. “His grandfather?”

“No,” he said. “I think the grandfather is up front, but his name is not Feldman.”

“Sorry,” I said. I walked further toward the back.

I leaned over to another man.

“Are you Mr. Feldman?”

“No,” he said.

I shrugged like I had failed in my mission.

“Good. Follow me out in around thirty seconds.”

He came out the door I had just exited.

“Come with me,” I said.

“Look -“ he said.

“Just do it. You’ll get your information.”

We walked casually to the car I had parked there. I got in the driver’s seat. He was the passenger.

I took a right out of the parking lot and turned left onto Hollow Road. I sped to the bottom of the hill and turned left onto River Road. He probably didn’t see Lily pull the barricade across the road. If he had agents following him, they wouldn’t have left soon enough to see her deploy the barricade; it couldn’t have taken more than fifteen seconds to get to River Road.

I pulled into the strip parking lot. People parked there to walk around and enjoy the scenery or to fish from the shore.

“Leave the keys to your car on your seat,” I said.

I popped the trunk.

“Here, put on this coat,” I told him. I put on a coat as well.

We walked down to the riverbank. I stepped into a boat that was tied there. He hesitated.

“Come on,” I said. “I’m just making sure you don’t have anybody following us.”

“We need to establish a little trust here,” he said.

“My experience with the FBI hasn’t given me an awful lot of confidence.”

“I gave you my word.”

“An oral agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

“An oral agreement,” he said, exasperated, “isn’t written on …“ He understood.

I had called the Philadelphia office from a pay phone two days before and asked for the SAC - Special Agent in Charge. They were all Special Agents. Nobody was an Ordinary Agent.

I had given him a synopsis of the kind of information I could provide about a variety of crimes and criminals. He wanted the information immediately and threatened me with all the horrible things he would do if I did not cooperate.

“Blah, blah, blah,” I said. “Give me a phone number at which I can reach you. Be dressed in a suit the next three mornings and ready to go when I call you.”

“We don’t do things that way.” He felt much more powerful with the royal “we.”

“Do it or don’t,” I said. “I don’t care. If you don’t give me a number now, you’ll never hear my voice again. If you don’t show up when I call, you’ll never hear my voice again.”

He gave me his number.

I steered the boat across the river west of Manayunk. When we were underway, I withdrew some papers from my inside jacket pocket.

He began to review them. “This is a written agreement saying what I can and can’t do.”

“Which is worth the paper it’s written on once you sign it.”

He continued to read it.

I steered toward a creek that emptied into the Schuylkill River. I beached the boat far enough down the creek so it would not be easily noticed from the river, which wasn’t far.

We stumbled over the rocks, passed under Nixon Street and headed into the woods that border Shawmont Avenue.

`I got out and headed into the woods.

“You gotta be kidding me.”

“I told you I would take precautions.”

“My shoes are going to be ruined.”

“Put them on the expense account,” I said.

As we walked, I took a tape from my pocket.

“When you hand me the signed agreement you can have this.”

He leaned against a tree and scrawled his signature. I handed him the tape.

“I listened in on Frank Ryan. You can’t use this in court; I didn’t have a warrant. But the information should be very helpful.”

“What do I do if I need clarification or have questions?”

I handed him some folded papers I had taken from my pocket.

“This details everything I can remember from Frank’s operations including things I just heard and things I concluded from the evidence. I lay out the basis of those conclusions as well.

“From all of this you ought to be able to figure out the best way to get somebody into his organization undercover.

“I hope you noticed that you agreed not to do anything to the driver of the rig. I made a threat to kill his family which was completely credible to him. I did it to keep him from being hurt.”

“What is your real name?” he asked.

“I told you I wouldn’t give you that. I don’t want to testify. You’ll see in my notes, I identify myself as the man known to Frank Ryan as John Smith.”

“Very original. You know, it would really help if you testify.”

“You don’t want me to testify either. If I testify, you Fibbies won’t get the credit for putting the case together.”

“Why? Which branch of law enforcement do you work for?”

“The keystone cops. If even my name gets out, it will probably destroy much of my effectiveness in the future. That’s why I want out. I withheld information from my boss. I’ll probably be disciplined or fired if they find out the information came from me.

“Do you see anything in all of this that offers me even the slightest benefit for testifying for you?”

He didn’t have an answer.

“I’ll call you in a couple weeks to see if you need anything explained.”

We emerged from the woods. The car I had been driving was ten feet away. I opened it and took his keys from the driver’s seat.

I tossed them to him.

“Your car is a couple hundred feet down the road.” I indicated it was to our right.

“By the way,” I said, “just in case I was vague: I don’t intend to testify.”

“Except for the part where you don’t follow orders, I could use someone like you.”

I shrugged. “Maybe I could change.”

He started to walk toward his car.

 

“I won’t change.” I don’t know if he heard it.

Lily was waiting down the road.

“Whom did you get to move the car?”

“A friend. I told him you were fishing and would come out of the woods around here.”

I gave her the signed agreement.

“Let’s get out of here and make some copies.”

 

Chapter 10

Sans makeup I arrived at The Shillelagh at seven thirty that night.

As I walked up to the bar, I looked around anxiously.

“Liam, a brew.”

He had been kidding me about not drinking any alcohol. I took to calling my Diet Coke a brew.

“Here you go.”

“Is Frank in tonight?” I kept looking around as if I was worried I’d find the wrong face in the crowd.

“He’s in his office. Darcy was asking about you earlier.”

“Yeah. I haven’t been able to catch her for a few weeks. Thanks.”

I walked back to Frank’s office. The door was open, but I knocked.

“Come on in, lad. What are you about these days?”

“Hey, Frank.” I took a seat. “You know I haven’t been a model citizen my whole life.”

“Ah, you’re talking about before I met you.”

“Right. I’ve been pretty much perfect since then.” I paused for effect. “I have this feeling I’m being watched or maybe followed. I left behind enough of a past that there are people who would like to do bad things to me. Have you noticed anybody new hanging around?”

“No. I can’t say as I have.”

“Well, I’ll try to let you know if they show up. I may have to leave the area suddenly.”

“Well, if you can point them out to me, I could have one of the boys have a talk with them.”

“They’re not very good listeners, Frank.”

“My boys can be very persuasive. I believe they can permanently persuade these fellows you’re worried about to leave you alone.”

“Thank you, Frank. I’ll let you know if I can use your help.”

“Think nothing of it, lad. I’ve got a bit of work to do. Aren’t you supposed to do some womanizing?”

“That was the next thing on my agenda.”

“Could you try to keep it out of the pantry, lad?”

I went back to the bar and sat down by myself at a table.

Shortly thereafter, Maeve came in. When she saw me, she walked over to my table.

I got up to greet her.

She kissed me on the cheek. Something was not right about it.

“So, do we have to go back to the pantry? Or can we go straight to my place? She asked.

“Your place will do fine, Maeve.”

We each took our own car to her place.

She started stripping as she climbed the stairs toward her bedroom. It made me think of that old joke I had told her the first time we had gone to her house.

I had asked if I needed to use a condom. She said she had it taken care of.

“I understand,” I had said. “What do accountants use for birth control?”

She gave it a little thought and said, “I don’t know.”

“Their personality.”

She said, “Shouldn’t you have saved that joke until after we finished?” But she laughed.

I told her she had an atypical personality for an accountant.

That it was atypical was reinforced now as her bra hit me in the face. I started flinging my clothes on the stairs as well.

Maeve had an advantage on me. She could simply step out of her shoes. Mine needed to be untied.

It was our most enthusiastic romp to date. She was especially into it.

I sensed it was leading to something. Was she about to suggest we become a committed couple? I did not do that well.

She went to her bathroom and washed up after we finished.

When she came out naked, wiggling her hips, I realized we were not finished.

This time it felt more connected, more loving. She held me very tightly after we climaxed and didn’t let go for a long time.

When we finally separated, she said, “John.” She took a very deep breath before continuing.

This was it; the big moment. She was about to tell me she wanted to become exclusive. I had been giving it some thought, but I still didn’t know what I was going to say.

She sat up straight. She was ready.

 

Chapter 11

“John, we can’t see each other anymore.”

Not what I was expecting. I made a face; the one Gary Coleman made on Different Strokes.

I asked, “What you talkin’ about, Willis?”

Maeve reached into the middle drawer of her nightstand and took something out. She drew it over her head and turned to me. There was something hanging on a chain between her very lovely, naked breasts.

“I’m FBI,” she insisted when I didn’t comment.

I had been focusing on her breasts. Hanging between them was her FBI identification.

“Oh.”

Why was she telling me? Have I done something that removed me from suspicion of any wrongdoing? Was she about to arrest me?

“Hold that thought. If we’ve got to stop seeing each other, why don’t we enjoy this one more time? I’ve never done it with an FBI special agent in, uh, uniform.”

She looked down at her ID. “Is that what this is?”

She was amenable to my suggestion.

When we finished this time I asked, “Why don’t we start this, whatever you’re going to do, in the shower unless it’s going to involve handcuffs not in a nice way?”

Whatever she had to tell me, I could still make her laugh.

“Is that waterproof?” I pointed to her ID.

“Thanks.” She took it off.

We let the water warm up and then got into the shower.

I washed her hair. I didn’t just let the shampoo suds up, I massaged her scalp.

“Oh, God,” she moaned. “Why did you have to be a cop?”

“It was either that or be a criminal. Would that work out better for you?”

“I’m going to smack you for that when you finish your massage, so take your time.”

I moved to my hands down to her neck and massaged it. I slid them down to her shoulders and massaged. I continued down her arms all the way to her wrists, massaging all the way.

I took a hand and massaged it with both of mine. I did her fingers. Then I did it to the other hand.

I placed my hands on her shoulders and worked my way down her back, massaging from her spine outward.

I massaged her butt. Her persistent moans changed to groans.

“All right,” she almost yelled. “Let’s do it one last time.”

“I wasn’t looking to get laid. I just wanted to make you feel good. I’ve got nothing left in the tank.”

I ran my hands up her sides. “I’m really going to miss you.”

“Me too.” There was sadness in her voice.

I soaped up my hands and started to wash her body. Her arousal was unmistakable so I helped her get over it.

She soaped up her hands and washed my body.

“Not even a twitch,” she said.

We got out and toweled off.

“I was assigned by the SAC to debrief you.”

I looked down. “You certainly did that.”

She slapped my chest playfully.

We started to dress. It was time to be serious again.

I answered her questions and filled her in on everything she wanted to know.

I told her I was sure Councilman Ruggeri was involved and why I thought so.

I explained the recording setup, but did not advise her on whom to lure into the pantry so she could change out the tapes.

She told me they had another person working in Frank’s organization. Neither of them had gotten anywhere near the information I had.

“You did an absolutely amazing job. With the information you’ve given us, we’re going to be able to bring down a lot of people. I’m sorry you can’t be part of it.”

“I’ll survive,” which was precisely the point.

 

Chapter 12

A few days later I showed up at The Shillelagh, sidled up to the bar and requested a brew.

Liam chuckled. It never got old.

I was seated at a table when Darcy walked in. I waved her over. She kissed me on the lips. She was not FBI.

I lied about having been so busy. She pretended to believe me.

She said, “Why don’t we catch up?”

I thought we had been catching up, but then I saw the twinkle in her eyes. I got up, put an arm around her shoulder and headed for the door.

 

I would genuinely miss Maeve. Soon, I would miss Darcy as well.

That was the last time I went to The Shillelagh.

I was on a month-to-month lease. I never contacted the landlord and didn’t take a single thing from my place. I left food in the refrigerator to go bad. I didn’t leave the key.

Two weeks later I called the FBI office in Philadelphia. I left a message for Roy Rodgers. I said he should call his taxidermist.

Maeve returned the call. I knew her voice.

“Thanks for calling, Roy.”

“I hear you’re dead. They don’t have an official time assigned to that, but you disappeared suddenly as if you were coming right back and then you didn’t.

“I asked after about a week and Frank said he hadn’t heard from you, but he would tell you I was looking for you if he talked to you.

“The next time I asked, Mickey said he was afraid you were never coming back anywhere. He was sorry. Those things happen.”

“Thanks for the update.”

“If you need me in the future, we’re keeping Roy Rodgers in place.”

“Good luck.” And goodbye.

 

Chapter 13

“Nobody move!“ I used my most authoritative voice.

Nobody moved.

“I want you all to back the hell out of here! Watch where you’re stepping. It would be nice if we don’t add or subtract any evidence before the CSU guys go over the place. The only people I want in here are them and the Medical Examiner.”

“Very macho,” my partner Lily Beauchamps said from over my shoulder.

“That’s how it’s done.” Just like she had taught me.

The woman’s body was sprawled on the floor, face down. There was a considerable pool of blood which appeared to have started at her head.

Lying in the blood was a crowbar.

Her body was aimed at the front door, from which she likely had hoped to escape her attacker.

I could see the back door from where I stood. It was wide open and there were shards of glass scattered on the floor. The arc of the shards was wider the further they fell from the door, which retained fragments of what had been the window along the edges.

Nothing else in the kitchen seemed out of place. Nor was anything in the living room, where she lay, out of place.

“First on the scene,” I called out.

A bright-eyed young patrolman appeared at the front door.

“Run it down,” I said.

“Nine-one-one call from a neighbor, sir. She came over to borrow some sugar and looked in through the front window when nobody answered her ring.

“The front door was locked and I could see that the back door was open when I looked in so I went around and got in through the back door.

“I stepped around the glass so as not to disturb it and approached the body to check for a pulse. There was none so I called it in.”

“Whose dog is that? It’s awfully loud.”

“It’s their dog. We’re holding it out back.”

“Did you talk to the neighbor?” I asked.

“I did. She confirmed what she said in the nine-one-one call.”

Lily walked down the stairs from the second floor.

“The bedroom is disturbed. The jewelry box is empty, open and lying on the floor. It looks like some stuff was tossed out of the drawers looking for valuables.”

“Is the neighbor here?” I asked the officer.

“She’s outside,” he said.

“Could you get her for me?”

He brought a five foot four, thirtyish brunette. She was a little over her wedding dress weight, but quite attractive.

I dropped my just-the-facts-ma’am voice and switched to a concerned but friendly voice.

I shook her hand. “I’m Detective Jonathan Smith. Were you friends?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Is her dog friendly?”

The patrolman had a what-the-hell-is-he-talking-about look.

The neighbor was a little taken aback by the question as well.

“He’s pretty good around people he knows, but he barks up a storm at strangers.”

“Why did you look in the window?”

She hesitated, but there was no accusation in my voice.

“I thought she might be listening to the radio or the TV and not be able to hear the ring. If I saw her I could ring again or go around to the back door.”

“Thank you.”

The young patrolman guided her away from the door. He returned a few seconds later.

“Have we located the husband?” I asked.

“We’re trying to find him at work.”

“Let me know when you locate him. I want to talk to him.”

He disappeared from view.

I pursed my lips and shook my head. “It’s the husband.”

Lily didn’t say anything.

“It’s the evidence we don’t have. The glass is undisturbed. Somebody breaking in isn’t going to take the time to walk carefully around it. The dog wasn’t barking. Somebody he knew doesn’t have to break in through the backdoor.”

“Yeah,” Lily said.

“Now all we have to do is collect one or two pieces of actual evidence and we can put the prick away.”

She nodded. “You need some work on your people skills, Jon. You gave her your name and boom, you’re asking questions.

“She says they were friends. Some people might say they were sorry or sorry for your loss.

“You asked if their dog was friendly. Most likely the dog is friendlier than you were.

“You do a lot of things exceptionally. Then you forget that other people exist. Just a thought.”

“I appreciate it, Lily. I know you’re trying to help. Sometimes I just seem to jump somewhere else and forget I was doing something completely different before. I don’t get it.”

 

I turned on local news as I smacked the vegetable knife down on a few cloves of garlic.

Our homicide was not the lead story.

There was video of men being led away in handcuffs.

“The United States Attorney announced a sweeping set of indictments today.

“In addition to alleged mob bosses Arthur “Michael Rows“ Como and Theodore “Thin Albert“ Tucci, and their associates, the FBI has arrested City Councilman Royce Ruggeri for racketeering, loan sharking, murder and a host of other crimes.”

I smiled.