I got the phone call at 4PM. I am sure that the judge had been giving it some really deep thought all afternoon. I could check back, but I would bet that court was not in session that afternoon. No matter how it played out, he got one point for sheer balls. He wasn’t hiding out and hoping it would just go away. Of course he knew it wouldn’t, and then there was that good ole male ego. I could always count on male ego to make men act like teenage boys.
“Ms Stone this is Judge Timmons,” the voice on my cell phone said. It was a number not everyone had, so the judge had connections to some of my friends. The number by no means was a deep dark secret, so it wasn’t necessarily sinister that he had it. It just meant he could get to me. I suppose he wouldn’t mind me thinking that way. He could issue a search warrant and have my place searched for dog turds, if he wanted. Before Jennifer could stop the cops, my blue barrels would be items on a police evidence list. Every bit of that ran through my head before I answered.
“What can I do for you Judge Timmons?” I asked.
“I would like to hire you,” he said.
“We can discuss this after the current thing I am working on is over,” I suggested.
“Actually, I need you to start on my problem immediately,” he said.
“Judge you know that I am a private investigator and all my calls are recorded, so please be careful what you say. I would prefer you not incriminate yourself.” I suggested.
“Thank you for the warning, but I really don’t need it. Your employer knows that I am calling. She and I agreed to go by what you discovered. I want you to find who really beat my wife. It can only clear me, since I did not do it,” he said.
“That charge really shouldn’t be of great concern to you. If it was a first for the two of you, and I assume that it was, then let her have the divorce. She can’t prove you are the one who gave there the matching set of shiners. So go do a little anger management and it’s over,” I said explaining the obvious to him. “Give her what she wants and it ends, unless there is more to it than meets the eye. I am sure Jennifer explained all this to you, so why do you need me?”
“Because her demands are unreasonable. She is a young woman her life will go on. There is no reason for me to give her half my wealth, half my future earning for life, and half my pension,” he said.
“Surely you know a good divorce lawyer,” was my reply. “Again she can’t prove that you did the damage to her face. It is going to be a he said, she said unless there is more?” I made it a question.
“There is nothing else, I promise you that,” he said.
“I don’t understand what you think I can do?” I made that a question as well.
“You can prove I am not the one who beat her,” he said.
To give him his due again, he had not even hinted at the bribes at all. Either he didn’t know that she knew, or he didn’t think that she has spilled the beans yet, or it just wasn’t true and he didn’t realize that he had bigger problems than her bruises.
“So you want me to investigate my client?” I suggested.
“Actually Jennifer is your client,” he said. I was always surprised by the fact that everyone, friend and foe called her Jennifer. It was a very informal way to address an attorney.
“That is true enough. I will make you a deal. I will look into your past to see if there is a motive for you to harm her and in doing so, I may find out who assaulted her. But let me warn you, I will not hide what I find either way. It will all come out, if it is relevant to this case in any way.”
“I see I will need some time to think it over.” he said.
“That’s fine, just call me when you have decided,” I suggested.
After the call from the judge I drove the truck back to the bluebird house to take another look at the container. I made sure no one was following me and I made sure the house was not under surveillance as well. Then I called Jerrod from the driveway.
“Jerrod I have to get rid of those barrels. So here is the deal, I can hand over yours tonight or I can convert it to diamonds, when I do mine.” We were standing inside the container when we spoke.
“What do you mean convert it to diamonds?” he asked.
“I have the name of a wholesale diamond merchant, who deals directly through the holy land. I am going to turn my barrel into something a little easier to store. I am sorry, but you have to decide today. I need to get them the hell out of my apartment today.”
“I will need to convert them back, how do we do that?” he asked.
“Levi buys and sells,” I assured him. “He is honest. He only works for the good guys. I have my money man’s word for it. He knows that if he screws me, it will not be fun at all.”
“Alright do it, but bring me some cash back please. At least enough to do something with those two leeches.” He was at least smiling.
When I got back to the downtown house, I made sure it was not being watching, at least no more than usual. I used the burn phone to call Levi Goldman.
“I have been expecting your call. Our mutual friend said that I could trust you.” he said in a heavily accented voice.
“Good, so I would like a meet and to make a deal.” I said carefully.
“How large a deal?” he asked.
“I am not sure what you consider to be large sir, but what I need is two lots of almost one big one each,” I suggested. “You will need a very large bag, something like an army duffel bag maybe.”
It was at that moment that I put all the hints together. Levi was Mossad. Their 10% broker fee would go a long way to finance off the books operations. So even in Israel it was about the money. I felt a lot better about the operation after I came to that conclusion.
“So as I understand it, you provide me with an appraisal from the world diamond center in Antwerp?” I asked.
“It’s in Amsterdam actually, but the appraisal was a fair wholesale value when the stones were there. The date is on the appraisal it is all above board. I have revalued them based on todays market value, wholesale prices of course. As you know there is a10% brokers fee in addition to the diamond price.,” he informed me.
“Yes, that is my understanding,” I replied. “I would like all the stone to be between one and one and a half carats. They need not be excellent, just above average and of course priced accordingly,” I said.
“I understand that this is an investment not a jewelry store purchase. The value of each stone will be between $8,000and $20,000. Plus my broker fee of course,” he said.
“Of course and those are my exact requirements,” I said.
“They are the common requirements for an investor’s purchase,” he said.
“So where and when can we make the arrangements. As you know I wish to deal in cash,” I said risking the phone conversation being just a little detailed.
“I understand you do not wish to come to New York. I have your email address I will send you a number,” he said.
I hung around the house waiting for Levi to send me the contact information. It came at 9PM. It was nothing but a phone number with nothing else. I used a burn phone, to place the call to his burn phone. A mechanical voice said 2PM tomorrow in the parking lot of McDonalds in West Nyack New York. My only thought was that it wasn’t New York City at least.
“I loaded the barrels into the truck before I called Jarrod to be absolutely sure the he was okay with the exchange. “Yes Maxine I am fine. Just do what you are doing with yours and I will be fine with it.” he said.
It was all I needed. I knew that I would have dragged my feet on the exchange even longer had not the Judge worried me a bit. I needed to do it regardless, so I was doing it just as quick as I could.
I swapped the 10mm Glock for the .38 just for the extra rounds, should it come to that. I also carried the derringer and the box opener. One never knew when a blade would come in handy. I might want to open a box of crackers or someone’s throat.
The drive was over 14 hours long, but at least I didn’t need to sleep. I drove all night right up until noon the next day. The only thing that bothered me was that Levi knew I would arrive exhausted. Or at least a normal person would. If they planned a rip off, that would be a great beginning. Then again, it was good operative craft to get all the advantage you could and to keep you opponent off balance.
I was surprised that the old truck did as well as it did. I didn’t much like how it sounded when I pulled it into the parking lot of the fast food restaurant, but I made it there so I couldn’t complain too much.
The black Mercedes pulled up beside me and a dark man with a beard got out. He went inside while I sat waiting. When he returned, he had a bag and one of those cardboard coffee holders. He came to my truck before he went back to the Mercedes. Ms Stone please get into the car.
“I have these two barrels to bring along. I don’t go anywhere without them,” I said softly.
“Of course not,” he said in agreement. First he handed the bag and coffee through the window to an older man, then he helped me load the barrels into the trunk of the Mercedes.
I got into the front seat where it would be very difficult for me to make a quick deadly move. “Levi Goldman?” I asked smiling at the older man wearing the black hat even in the car.
“Please do not speak until we tell you to do so. Also keep your hands were I can see them at all times.” the younger hard man said.
I nodded my agreement. I rode in silence I didn’t bother paying attention to where we went. There was no calvary to rescue me. I did try to relax.
The actually exchange took place in a motel room. They had arranged the place and it suited me just fine. If it went sideways, I had two hard men and the old Jew to deal with. Pretty damn good odds, I thought.
“Would you surrender your weapons please?” the older of the hard men asked.
“Would you?” I asked in return.
“Not willingly,” he said turning me around so that he could search me. He took my Glock and the derringer. He didn’t recognize the feel of the box opener in the rear pocket of my jeans.
“Usually a man has to buy me dinner to get his hands on me that intimately,” I said with a smile.
The old man sat down to count the money from the barrel that I had previously broken open. “$942,600 dollars,” he announced more or less asking me to confirm it.
“Sound pretty much right,” I agreed.
He took a stack of tiny plastic envelopes from his briefcase. He ran the total up on his calculator then announced, ”$850,000 in stones,,,85,000…for the broker and $7.500 in cash makes it right,” he said. I nodded. I didn’t count the stones but it look like between sixty and seventy. He put the stones in a larger plastic bag wrote the number 850 on it then dropped it into the Mcdonald’s bag.
The old man stopped to eat an apple pie from Mcdonalds before he started on Jerrod’s barrel. He broke the seal, then handed me Jerrod’s share of the gold coins, which had been on top of the cash.
“$998,520,” he announced after his count was complete,
“That sounds right to me as well,” I agreed.
After he did his calculator thing he informed me. “$901,000 in stones.,,$90,100 broker fee …$7.421 cash and we are right.”
“Yes that is fine,” I picked up the Mcdonald’s bag then said, “It has been a pleasure.”
I did not mention my suspicions about the Mossad. I rode back to my car in silence. I got into my old truck in the parking lot with the intention of heading home.