Authors: Howard Shrier
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective
“He said he’d think it over. Maybe some text or other will convince him it’s the right thing to do.”
“Man, that was good,” she said, as she balled up the wrapper of her sandwich. “And he ate a whole one?”
“And quickly. Plus soup and a side of latkes.”
“A man of appetite.”
“So you’ll eat well tonight.”
“While I languish here in the hotel.”
“You don’t have to. You could come with me.”
“And crowd your style? I think not. Anyway, I’m still waiting for a callback from Tim Fitzpatrick. Maybe the congressman and his sweetheart wife will invite me to dinner.”
My cellphone showed an incoming call from Hard Driver. I put it on speaker so Jenn could hear.
“Karl,” I said. “How’s it going?”
“Aw, dude, can you believe it?” he rasped. His voice is low and gravelly from years of shouting over the roar of engines; his great passion other than hacking is restoring and racing vintage motorcycles. “I broke my damn foot, man. I’m stuck behind my desk.”
“So you’re working on our stuff.”
“Fuck you, man. I’m in pain. And if Rosa finds out how I did it, I will be in such shit. Just because she’s pregnant.”
“How did you do it?” Jenn asked.
“Racing up at Mosport. My bike rolled over on me. And we’d had a pretty good relationship up to that point.”
“You okay otherwise?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah. They make you wear a helmet at these things.”
“Make you?” Jenn said. “You’d race without one?”
“Do you wear a helmet every time you get on your bicycle?”
“Even to the video store?”
“Okay, no, but—”
“See? It’s all about degree. Personal risk and personal choice. To me, cyberspace is fast, that’s where I live most of the time, but ground speed, man—when that is fast, it is something else entirely.”
“You’re going to be a father!” Jenn said.
“Not for three more months.”
“Jenn,” I said, “let Karl grow up on his own time. He probably phoned about something important, like David’s computer?”
“Right. The poker. Now that took a while, dude—the site he played on had major security. Major.”
“But you got past it.”
“That hurts,” he said. “That hint of doubt in your voice. Yes, I got past it, this is me here. I found his ID, I’ve seen all his transactions and I know his current balance. I’m just saying it took some time. For which you’re going to have to compensate me in full at the usual rate.”
“Doesn’t have to be the eighteen-year-old,” he said. “I don’t want to break you guys. The twelve will do.”
The Macallan that cost a hundred instead of two-fifty. “You’re a gentleman.”
“C’est moi. Okay, you saw the man’s credit card charges. Three fifty-dollar charges to allinpoker, all one word, dot com,
fifty being the minimum buy-in. The first was last September, the next a week later, the third and final one a month after that. Conclusion?”
“He was a quick study.”
“Correct, sir. Each fifty-dollar payment lasted longer than the previous and he hasn’t had to re-buy since the third, so either he stopped playing or he figured out what he was doing. And the answer is, the latter. His account shows activity until a couple of days before he vanished.”
“When did he have time to play poker?” Jenn said.
“The early morning hours,” Karl said. “Usually between one and three.”
“Didn’t he need sleep?”
“Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he couldn’t. I can’t half the time. Anyway, he started off playing five-dollar tournaments and got bounced pretty fast in most of them so he scaled back to one- and two-dollar entries and did better. Started winning the odd one. When he earned house points, he used them to play in free rolls. Learning his game. Eventually he started moving back up to the five-dollar games. Winning those too. And then, finally, starting maybe a month ago, ten-dollar games. That’s as high as he ever went. But the payoffs are good: ninety if you win, forty-five for second, twenty-seven for third.”
“He’d love that,” I said. “Ninety is five times eighteen, which spells life in Hebrew. What kind of player was he, can you tell?”
“I couldn’t see what he played in any particular game—you know, what he went all in with, what he folded—but I can tell from his player stats, the percentage of flops he saw, that he was a cautious type. The kind of player you never hear from until he has a hand for real, then he knocks you out with kings or aces. What we enthusiasts call TAG, for tight-aggressive.”
“Fits everything else about him,” Jenn said.
“What’s his current balance?” I asked.
“Eight hundred and fifty?”
“I know,” Jenn said. “It’s nothing.”
“I wasn’t being sarcastic. I mean wow. That’s almost twenty times his original stake. That can’t be easy to do.”
“Trust me,” Karl said.
“But he never charged back any winnings to his credit card. So as impressed as I am by his learning curve, there’s still no evidence he played for or won large amounts. Imagine if he’d had an actual stake.”
“Maybe he did,” Jenn said. “We’ve been thinking that money in his closet might be winnings from poker. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was a stake he was planning to use and never got to.”
“Someone would have to have given it to him. Someone who knew he was good and wanted to use him to win. And where do you go to play big games?”
“There any casinos there?” Karl asked.
“There must be,” Jenn said. “We’ll check.”
“Is it just me or does this all sound really far-fetched?” I said. “Isn’t it possible that he was just what he was, an overworked, overtired physician in training who needed to do something at night when he couldn’t sleep? It’s too big a leap from what he was doing, this five- and ten-dollar stuff, to gambling for thousands of dollars.”
“I know,” Jenn said. “It’s a stretch.”
“You want a stretch?” Karl said. “You should hear what I told Rosa about my foot.”
Next time the phone rang, it was Mike Gianelli. “That picture you sent me,” he said. “Of the guy you think tried to grab David? I got something for you.”
“Not over the phone,” he said. “Come in and see me.”
“Man, I just got back from Brookline.”
“Sorry,” he said. “I only got the call now.”
So back I went to Brookline, whence I had come. Considering I had never heard of it three days ago, I seemed to be wearing a rut in its direction.
The same big side of beef, W. Kennedy, was on the desk. He looked at me like he’d never seen me before when I said I was there to see Gianelli. At least he didn’t hold up his finger to shush me. Just gave me a flat blue look, then picked up the phone, punched in four digits, waited, said, “He’s here. Okay,” then said to me without looking up, “He’ll be down.” And that was all the energy he had to expend on me that day.
Gianelli came down more quickly this time and led me through a secure door behind Kennedy’s counter to an interrogation room. There were four chairs around a round table. He pointed to the one facing the door. “Sorry we can’t use my office right now, but we’re lucky this one’s free. You want a coffee?”
“Bottle of water?”
“Okay. While I’m going, can I see that licence of yours again?”
I took it out of my wallet and handed it to him.
“Won’t be a minute.”
And he wasn’t. He was more like four or five, during which time I wondered if there was anyone behind the mirror in the wall to my left. There was a video recorder on a tripod in the far right corner, but no red light showed.
When Gianelli came back, he had my water but not my licence.
“Remember what I said about the Boston PD? They’re ready for you now.”
here were two of them, each one uglier than the other. And one was a woman, built like one of those brick houses they put around high-voltage substations. She was about thirty-five, black with a shaved head and round rimless glasses, dressed in a baggy dark purple suit over a black shirt buttoned to the top. She was no more than five-five and probably outweighed me—and I’m carrying 190 now. Her partner was over forty and definitely outweighed me. Be hard not to, given he was a good six-three and not built small. Between them, they could more than handle me. They could stop a bullet train.
“Jonah Geller, these are Detectives Betts and Simenko from the Boston police,” Gianelli said; Betts was the woman. “They’d like to ask you a couple of questions about the photos you emailed me.”
“Why are the Boston police interested?”
“We’ll sort out the jurisdictional issues later.”
“There are no jurisdictional issues,” Betts said. Being short, she maintained an outward thrust of her chin that was probably supposed to intimidate people but just made her look defensive.
Gianelli didn’t seem intimidated. “Like I said, we’ll sort that out later. Geller, you sent me this picture by email, right?” He placed a printout of the Kevin Walsh photo on the table.
There was no point in denying it. The cyberlink was there. “Yes.”
“And this one?”
It was McCudden’s battered face, with blood coming out of his mouth and cheek.
“Handsome devil,” Simenko said.
“You said it was your belief that these men attempted to abduct David Fine on Summit Avenue in Brookline on the evening of February 28?”
“This is starting to take on the rhythm of an interrogation,” I said.
“It’s a conversation,” Gianelli said.
“For now,” Simenko said. He took my licence out of the side pocket of his grey suit coat, examined it and dropped it back in, like that was supposed to make the score fifteen-love.
“You further stated,” Gianelli said, “that they—”
“You told me you caught them following you yesterday and there was an altercation?”
“That was why McCudden was sleeping,” Simenko said. “You talked him unconscious.”
“Is that the last time you saw him?” Betts said.
“Him or Walsh.”
“Yes, that’s the last I saw of either.”
“No further altercations, verbal or otherwise?”
“There’s that rhythm again.”
“Do you have a firearm here in Boston?” Simenko asked.
“No. I already told Gianelli that.”
“You have a licence to carry one?”
“No. No gun, therefore no licence.”
Betts said, “You’ll submit to GSR testing?”
“I should have asked for the coffee, Gianelli. A bottle of water isn’t worth this.”
“McCudden and Walsh were shot and killed late last night,” she said. “Dumped in the harbour. Which,” she said to Gianelli more than me, “definitely means no jurisdictional issues.”
Jesus, the two of them dead. For screwing up with us yesterday. Whoever they were working for didn’t have a long fuse.
“Can you account for your whereabouts?” Simenko said.
“I was sound asleep.”
“At the Sam Adams.”
“Not with your partner?”
“She has her own room.”
Betts reached into her inside pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. Unfolded, it was an enlarged copy of a photo from Jenn’s investigator’s licence.
“I don’t know,” Simenko said. “If it was me, I’d be sharing one room.”
“Me too,” Betts said.
Hilarious, both of them. At least they’d still be ugly in the morning.
“You say Walsh admitted his part in this supposed abduction?” she asked.
“Apart from the two shots that took the back of his head off,” she said, “he had abrasions and bruising on one leg. That have anything to do with him admitting it?”
“He was entirely cooperative. Plus I found a witness who’d identify at least one of them,” I said.
“The cyclist,” Gianelli said. “We’re trying to get in contact with him.”
“This cyclist didn’t seem to think there was an abduction until Geller told him so,” Simenko said. “Otherwise he would have called it in at the time, right?”
“He’ll say they were there,” I said.
“On the sidewalk with Mr. Fine, if that was Mr. Fine. Maybe arguing. They could have bumped into each other. It could have been a simple grab for his wallet or briefcase.”
“Yeah, there’s a big market for papers on kidney disease.”
“They wouldn’t know what was in it.”
“He hasn’t been seen since and they were following us because we’re looking for him.”
“You don’t know that for a fact.”
“I know they’re dead. So who did they work for?” I asked.
“Right,” said Simenko. “You’re not from around here. Don’t know your locals.”
“But you do, so you know who killed them. For fucking up the abduction and getting taken by us.”
“By you and your feisty partner,” said Betts. “How long you going to be here?”
“Until we find out what happened to David.”
“You renting by the month?”
“Very funny. Do you know who they worked for or not?”
“That’s a conversation for the grown-ups,” Simenko said. “Gianelli, copy us on the file on this MisPer. We’ll be in touch if there’s anything else.”
They were on their way out the door when I said, “Hey. My licence.”
Simenko shrugged and tossed it on the table. “Ain’t worth shit here anyway.”
“You throw a nice ambush,” I said after they’d gone.
“I warned you,” Gianelli said. “I told you to introduce yourself.”
“You didn’t have to lure me down here with a phone call.
You could have told me what it was about, I’d have come.”
“Hey, I did you a favour. They wanted you down at their place and that wouldn’t have been as much fun. They got security at the front door like an airport. Now, you want a coffee or not?”
He took me up to his second-floor office, fortuitously free now, and went and got us each a mug of coffee.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“The man the two dead guys worked for.”
“You’re a civilian, Geller. There’s a limit on what I can tell you.”