Authors: Gene Doucette
“If it’s not the future,” he complained to himself, “it’s the past.”
* * *
Thirty-Eight Years Past
It had been a very strange year for Violet. But it was a strange year for everybody, so why should she be any different? This was what she told herself whenever the odd moment of lucidity struck. Strange year, strange times. Strange place, too. So there was no reason to worry about it, really. If it was strange everywhere, then strange was normal, and she was no less normal than anybody else under strange circumstances, right? Not being strange would then be considered strange and then . . .
She blinked and looked around, but couldn’t see anything. A farm; this much she knew. She was on a farm. In Maine. How she got there had something to do with hopping aboard a yellow bus somewhere west of Chicago. Possibly, there were drugs involved.
“Of course there were drugs involved, sweetness,” the man lying next to her said. Tyrell. It was Tyrell.
“Was I talking out loud?” she asked.
“You were. What, you think they taught me to mind read at university?”
Tyrell had a funny way of talking. He elongated his polysyllables, which made “university” sound like “you-nee-verr-siddy.” When she was around him long enough, she tended to do the same, even though she tried not to because he usually thought she was making fun of him.
Violet blinked again, still saw no change, and gradually accepted that the room was simply very dark, rather than she had gone blind. It was nighttime and very quiet; she could actually hear snow falling outside in the still moments between wind gusts. Winter wasn’t so bad. It covered up the smell of the manure from the nearby pastures. But it was also cold, and she couldn’t remember if she owned anything warm. This point brought her again to the question of just what in the hell she was doing on a farm in Maine.
Tyrell rolled over and placed his arm over the top of her chest, the stubble from his face tickling the side of her cheek. He mumbled something about love, but as she was not paying close attention, she couldn’t be sure precisely what it was. It didn’t matter, he’d forget it by the time the sun rose. Men Violet found in her bed were notorious in this regard. Violet used to think it was her fault, a character flaw of some sort resulting in her being attracted only to men who spoke of love by night and moving on by day. Recently she arrived at the conclusion that it wasn’t her at all, that men are simply bastards by nature. Oddly, this made things much easier for her.
Such would inevitably be the case with Tyrell, who was by most accounts a beautiful black man with a generous spirit and a soul large enough to hold both of them. That would change. It always did. This didn’t make her sad, although it probably should have.
She lifted his arm from her bosom and sat up slowly, and then her head did a spinny thing that reminded her she’d not been altogether herself for the past several weeks. Memories ricocheted around in a random pastiche that defied all nominal rules of logic. No way was she going to be piecing it back together again. Not much point in trying.
she thought again,
Maine and Tyrell. Stay focused.
Her eyes finally adjusted with an assist from the moonlight reflecting off the snow outside and in through the window. They were lying on the floor of what looked to be a small shack, which had no furniture but lots of blankets. And lots of other people, too. If she turned on a light—assuming the place had electricity—the entire floor would probably jump up and shout. Glancing about for familiar faces, she found none.
“I’ve got to stop,” she said quietly. Tyrell muttered something incoherent in response, slurped up some drool from the side of his mouth, and rolled over again. “No more acid.”
It sounded good when spoken aloud. Not that she hadn’t said it before. But she had responsibilities, dammit. It was time to start accepting that.
Something heavy and sour dropped into the bottom of her stomach.
“Corry?” she called out. “Corry!”
Tyrell sat up. “What is it?”
!” she shouted, and half the room rumbled to attention like so many roaches.
“Vi . . .”
“Where’s my baby?” she cried, in a panic. “
Where’s my baby
“Hey!” Tyrell said, grabbing her arms, mainly because Violet had just begun slapping her own head for some reason. “He’s right next to you, babe. Lookit.”
He reached across her lap and pulled aside the quilt on the sleeping figure on her left. Corry was lying there all right, curled up in a ball. He looked up at her with that expression he always had. Not scared or really even curious. Just watching. She touched the hair on his head to verify that he was really there.
“When did he get so big?” she whispered, burying her face in Tyrell’s shoulder and dissolving into tears.
Little Corrigan Bain just stared.
After having successfully completed the circuit from Corrigan Bain’s Cambridge condo to her Newton apartment and then to her downtown office—walking in only ten minutes late—Maggie felt as if she’d already accomplished enough in one day to warrant, say, a nap. Or at least a little slack from the rest of the department. But that was clearly not meant to be the case, as she then went from eight thirty until one forty-five in one meeting or another, with only short breaks in between for coffee and donuts and other random good-tasting-but-undeniably-bad-for-you concoctions.
A few years back, Maggie had gone on a health food kick to try and stave off the impending sag of age forty, but she discovered that starvation was a major part of the package. Living life from meeting to meeting meant finding edible foodstuffs that could be devoured in a thirty-second walk down a hallway, and there wasn’t anything healthy that matched that description and also tasted good and filled her stomach. One day, Krispy Kreme would invent deep fried celery sticks, and she’d be all set. Until then, she suffered the donuts and jogged every chance she got.
Nowadays, it seemed every day went like this. Here she was, maybe one step below an assistant deputy title, and all she had to show for it—aside from a bank account that was moderately more enriched than it had been when she first started working in the Boston office—was a continuous onslaught of meetings. One task force after another, basically. It was amazing how much FBI work involved basic information gathering, information analysis, and information dissemination via the format of the many-headed meeting. Sometimes it was difficult to figure out how any of them got any actual work finished, given all the time they spent just telling each other what they were working on. And on certain nights when she was feeling particularly cynical, it occurred to her that they never really
get anything accomplished, or at least not the sort of thing she could hold onto with both hands.
Maggie didn’t end up getting back to the case she had shared with Corrigan Bain until well after two and then only because Randall Hicks sat her down in his office to discuss it. As always, his timing was terrible; she’d been on her way outside for a butt, her first in five hours.
“So you talked to Bain?” Hicks asked as he waved her into his chambers.
“I did,” she said as he stepped behind his desk. She shut the door to the office and took a seat without being asked.
“Going against my wishes,” he said. It was not in anger; he was just making an observation. In his world, this qualified as a rebuke.
Randy Hicks had been her immediate supervisor for five years, and Maggie had to admit that in that time he’d proven to be a damn good manager of people in an office full of strong personalities. But he had a few blind spots, and one of them was Corrigan Bain. Still, and to his credit, he gave all of his agents enough room to make their own decisions, whether he agreed with them or not.
“I have reason to think he’d be useful here,” she said.
“Maggie, I don’t even know if you have a real
here,” Randy said. “Seriously, I know these deaths are unusual, but you saw the statistical breakdown. I don’t see where there’s any crime being committed. And if there is, I don’t know how we’re involved at all.”
“You’re probably right, which is why it’s not my first priority.” This was a nod to her perpetually large caseload, which included a bevy of financial crimes that were only slightly easier to prove than the MIT murders.
“Good. I mean I’m all for trusting your instinct, but still. Seems like a waste of the Bureau’s time, and we don’t have a lot of time to waste around here.” He leaned back in his chair, which was an indication that he was getting to the real point of the meeting. “What’d he say?”
“Bain? He’s thinking about it.”
Randy nodded. “You share information about this case and nothing else, all right?”
Twelve years ago, after the bank robbery on State, Hicks had Corrigan Bain arrested on conspiracy charges, arguing that if he knew about the robbery, he was in on it from the start. Corrigan had sat half an afternoon in lockup before his lawyers argued him right out—he had some very good lawyers—and none of the charges ended up sticking. That didn’t stop Hicks from spending six months investigating the man to see if he could connect him to the bank job and then to any other crime in which he could possibly have been involved. Because Corrigan’s one mistake, visiting the FBI as he had, was that he humiliated Randall Hicks.
About four months into that investigation Randy discovered that Maggie Trent was sleeping with his suspect. This did not lead to a very good working relationship between the two of them. Years later, Randy was still pretty much convinced there was something he’d missed, and he was also half-convinced that the only reason he didn’t find it was because of Maggie.
It was amazing, then, that they got along as well as they did.
“It might be tough to justify paying him as a consultant when we can’t really define what sort of expertise he might bring to the investigation.”
“We can’t even define the investigation,” she properly pointed out. “Besides, there are discretionary funds we could tap if we really had to.” Maggie didn’t add that most of the expenditures relating to aid from outside sources had to be approved by none other than Hicks himself—if he wanted to pay Corrigan, he could find a way to pay Corrigan.
“Well . . . not like he needs the money.”
“It’s the principle of the thing. You know that.”
One of the more honored truisms of the investigative field is that in order to truly know a person under investigation, one needed to find out where that person’s money was, how much of it there was, and how they had gone about getting it. That was why every private institution that handled money—banks, and also check-cashing companies, wire transfer remitters and other money service business variants great and small—either reported odd activity or was supposed to be doing so. That reporting increased dramatically after a handful of religious fanatics flew a couple of jumbo jets into the World Trade Center with tickets purchased with funds wired from overseas terrorist financiers, but the reporting mechanism was already in existence when Hicks was looking into Corrigan Bain.
As a “fixer,” Corrigan drew no discernible income, yet appeared to be independently wealthy. A review of his personal background—single mother, unknown father, and a childhood of moderate poverty—did not suggest a Brahmin background of any kind. Nor was there a record of him winning a lottery or any like claim of a gambling windfall. Instead, in late 1985, Bain went from a poor fry cook to one of the fifty richest people in the state, more or less overnight.
Hicks dug deeper. One of the first things he noticed was that this
transformation took place right around the time Bain turned twenty-one. That implied an inheritance of some kind. So he retraced the man’s family history, but got only as far as his mother’s parents. Given they had severed ties with their daughter more than thirty years earlier, and as they were not persons of great means anyway, the money couldn’t have come from there.
Frustrated, he turned to the law firm that had handled the funds for Bain. This didn’t go well. Another truism: if you have to ask a lawyer for anything in order to get your investigation moving, you’re shit out of luck. And that was exactly what ended up happening, as this law firm would only confirm that they handled Corrigan Bain’s affairs for a brief period of time a decade earlier. They would not explain where the money had come from, who had owned it previously, or why Bain had gotten it. To find out more from them, Hicks needed a better case against Bain first, and he couldn’t build a better case without first finding out what the law firm had. So, reluctantly, he had closed the investigation.
Maggie, being intimate with Bain and intimately familiar with Hicks’s investigation, asked Corrigan once where his money had come from, as she was no less curious than Hicks. Although in her case it was less of a professional curiosity than a personal one. All he said was he’d made a few good investments, and then he quickly changed the subject. She’d have brought up details from his windfall year, but that would have been an improper compromise of the Hicks probe, so she did not. She still hadn’t, although she was not averse to dropping the occasional hint.
It was just another one of the things that made Corrigan Bain so intriguing, which she invariably found sexy. If she were to ponder that point in more detail, she might find an answer to why none of her relationships lasted much longer than it took for her to get to know someone well.
Hicks picked up a copy of her case file from his desk. It was sitting on top, which could have meant he’d just been reviewing it. It could also have meant he wanted her to think he’d just been reviewing it.
“What did Bain have to say about Kilroy?” he asked, holding open the file to a photograph of the last crime scene, the apparent accidental death of Jamie Silverman.