“Helen, I’m being held at the police station and the coffee is horrid here. I know this is a terrible imposition, but do you happen to have a few cups laying around that you could get someone to bring here. Before you ask, I don’t need a hacksaw blade in it.” I said into the cell phone.
“Of course I have coffee, how many people do I bring it for.” She asked.
“Just me. Oh yeah and Jen is on the way. Let the rest of these guys drink the crap they have. Well bring one more cup for the Detective in charge. He seems to be okay,” I admitted.
“And of course, you always need a friend,” she said with a laugh.
“Something like that, but I will never have as good a friend as you,” I said.
“Sure you do, Lady Skeeter is always going to be a better friend,” she said.
“Not even her,” I replied.
“Well let me load your coffee, and I’m on the way,” she said.
Not before you call around to tell everyone I’m here, and to get their status, I thought. No, Helen wasn’t any kind of operative, she was just the kind of lady who couldn’t help being concerned. In so doing, everyone wanted her to know just everything about their lives. God I wished I was like that.
“Well it’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” Jen said with a happy grin. She just loved to live vicariously through my misery.
“You are just too kind,” I said with a smile. “So how much shit am I into.”
“Let’s see you are complicit in the death of one James Smiley. Who by the way died with his pants down of all things. If you knew the Chinese gentlemen were planning to kill him, and left him tied up like a Christmas present, you might be in a spot of trouble.
However, if we put Mr Smiley on trial at your trial, you might get some kind of award for community service. He was certainly not a very nice man.” she said.
“Well this one is going to wind up a pro bono case ,or whatever you call the freebies,” I said.
“Now you know better than that. I have already dropped an IRS tip. Also I have a claim filed with the court against his estate. This is going to be so challenging. God I love you girl.”
“Now could we concentrate on getting me the hell out of here?” I asked.
“Okay, the cop killing thing is not going to be a problem. They know the guy who did it was a local thug. Well one of those New York kind of thugs down here for reasons yet unknown.” Jen said.
“Maybe I can help with that, when I start talking,” I said.
“You keep your mouth shut till I negotiate a deal. It might take the rest of the day. You might even spend a night locked up,” she said.
“Well Jen sweetie this place is like Mexico, don’t drink the coffee. Fortunately for you, the detective is ambitious, so he let me use my cell phone to call Helen. She is on the way with real coffee.” I said.
“So what did you have to promise him?” Jen ask suspiciously.
“Nothing yet,” I replied.
“So, are we ready to do this?” she asked.
“What’s this we shit paleface,’ I said with a smile.
“Okay Tonto, let’s do it,” Jen said grinning.
Jen went to the door to call Detective Dawson into the room. Once he was inside she began by saying, “You return my clients possessions or you charge her with something.”
“Anything that isn’t capable of being used as a weapon, I will return first.” Dawson said.
“Yeah you keep her emery board just in case she decides to file your nails to death.” Jen said laughing at him.
“I had that cutesy little .38 in mind,” he said. “And of course her cane.”
“Ah the one with the 8“ dagger inside?” Jen asked. “You really consider that a weapon. I thought it was there in case she wanted to slice an onion. So yeah keep those, but the rest she gets back, then we talk.”
All I really wanted was the hidden microphone. I wanted the conversation on tape. I was sure Earl would be in the parking lot with his recorder and monitoring tools.
“Okay, so let’s talk.” Jen said, after my personal items were again in my possession. “What do you want to know first?”
“Let’s start with why you thought the cop was bad?” Dawson asked.
Jen nodded so I answered, “I saw that his uniform was too big and it was sloppy. The closer I got to him the more wrong he looked. He was way too skinny. Then he spoke and it was pure Ghetto Thug.”
“He went for his piece first. He fumbled and I didn’t, that’s all there was to it. After I had him on the ground and hooked up, I had Lucas call 911 and we all waited for you guys.” It is on the surveillance tapes.”
“Yes it is and it shows what you said. Actually it shows exactly what you said. Your memory for detail is amazing,” he said.
“So that incident is closed?” Jen asked.
“Well Maxine’s involvement is, but we have a lot to talk to Mr. Sims about,” Dawson suggested.
“If I were you, I would go back to New York and look for a Chinatown connection,” I suggested.
“You think he was working for the Chinese smugglers?” he asked.
“You know what happens to dogs who chase cars, and cops who believe in coincidence?” I asked.
“Yeah they don’t last long,” he admitted.
“So, who are you working for?” he asked me.
“She works for me,”Jen answered for me.
“Okay counselor, who is your client?” he asked.
“Good luck with that,” I said. Jen just nodded.
“I think it is safe to assume she is one of his victims,” Jen said.
“I found fifteen so far, that won’t help you too much,” I said.
“Can we get the list?” he asked me.
I looked to Jen who answered, “That’s work product. It’s covered by client confidentiality. Besides you don’t need it for this investigation. His involvement with them had nothing to do with his death.” Jen said.
“Oh really,” Dawson asked. “Why don’t you let me make that judgment.”
“Whatever,” I said smiling at Jen
There was a knock on the interview room’s door. “There is a very sweet lady out here raising hell. She has coffee and the mayor on the phone.”
“Helen?” Jen asked me.
“Yes,” I replied. “I guess the chief of police wasn’t home, or she would have him on the phone. She catered his daughter’s wedding almost free.”
“Damn, it pays to have friends,” Dawson said. “Let her in.”
“I brought coffee for you Maxine,” she said obviously uncomfortable in those surroundings. “Lucas and the cameraman are parked in the bank parking lot across the street. They said they would wait till you are released and drive you home.”
“Thanks,” I said. It sounded harmless, but what it told me was that Earl was monitoring my microphone, and that he wasn’t leaving till I did. It was what I wanted to happen, so it was good news.
Helen made sure that Jen and I were both in good spirits before she gave Dawson any coffee. I was amused by their interaction. He reached for a coffee cup before she had determined he was a friend. The look she shot him should have melted his badge. Once I nodded that he was okay, she relaxed.
“I need to get back to the kitchen, these new people are a blessing, but I still have to make the decisions.” she informed us. “I do miss Cheryl, but when she returned my call this afternoon, she said that she had other plans for her life now.”
“It’s good that you stay in touch. Please tell her not to worry about me. Things have a way of working out as they should,” I admitted.
After Helen left Dawson began again. “Okay, I admit this coffee is a welcome surprise, but let’s get back to it. Why do you think Smiley was killed?”
“I know why he was killed, somewhere in this world there is a Chinese Gentleman who speak English with a Harvard accent. He is in charge of the smuggling operation. Whether he is the top dog, I don’t know. I do know he called to tell me all was forgiven, but then he sends a local gun thug to whack me. So it looks like, the all is forgiven, was just a ruse. These guys never leave living witnesses. Witnesses have a tendency to come back to bite you on the ass someday. So they want me and Lucas dead.
“I’ll buy that, but why Smiley?” he asked.
I looked at Jen she nodded. “I was running a sting on Smiley. We have a lot of information that says Smiley was a pedophile. Lots of witness statements, but all of them were kids at the time, so a smart lawyer could raise a doubt. These days even a stupid doubt can sway a jury.” I said.
“Yeah look at Florida,” Dawson agreed.
“While we were digging we found that Smiley, a CPA, was also living beyond his means. He had lost a ton of money in the stock market. He was putting escrow money into an off shore account and more or less gambling on the market with it. There was enough escrow money to cover his loses and even enough to cover honest withdrawals for the time being. It was like a legal Ponsi scheme. As long as the escrow account kept growing he had an unlimited supply of cash to play with. In his mind I’m sure he expected to get even at any minute.”
“So you are telling me Smiley had the Chinese drug money in that account. They somehow found out, while you were running the sting, and killed him?” Dawson asked.
“When you say it that way it sounds a bit far fetched. However that really is sorta the case. Our sting was to do a pretend blackmail. Once he came up with the money, we could use the payoff as evidence in a trial. We were headed for the DA, just as soon as he made the payoff.’
“He told me during the original meeting that he had some bad ass friends. Lucas and I both thought it was bullshit. Then three of them came to visit us instead of Smiley.” I said.
“The false fire alarm?” he asked.
“Just a lucky coincidence,” Jen demanded.
“Yeah, I’ll sign off on that,” Dawson said smiling. “At least there wasn’t a bloodbath.”
“It’s still early in the week,” I said smiling. Might as well get a little TV drama mileage out of it, I thought.
“So how did they find out Smiley was skimming on them. I might have given one of them the account information.”
“And Smiley?” Dawson asked.
“I have no idea what happened to Smiley. He was alive, when we left him.” I said.
“That’s all we are saying about Mr. Smiley,” Jen said firmly.
“So now what?” I asked Dawson.
Before he could answer a young well dressed woman knocked on the interview room door. Dawson went out to meet her.
“FBI?” Jen asked.
“That’s my guess. I bet there are two more outside. The always travel in packs like coyote.”
“Yeah, I noticed that as well,” So when did you call Anya?”
“Just as soon as I found out there were heavy hitters involved. These must be locals to be here so fast.” I said.
“Damn it’s going to be interesting. I called Swamp Thing, when Lucas called to tell me the worst of the worst were gunning for you.” Jen said not looking a bit worried.
“Now, we just need, Ivan, the CIA, and the Ghost of the Gunny and we will have the baddest bunch of mother fuckers the world has ever seen all in one place.’ I said with a laugh.
“Maybe Swamp Thing won’t show up?” Jen said.
“You are kidding. For a shot at his kind of TV coverage, they are going to be all over this.” I said.
“Could be they need to counter the bad press of that murder thing in the sandbox,” Jen said trying to sound tough. I shook my head and she added, “What?”