Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

Tags: #mystery, #fiction, #kit, #frazier, #midnight, #ink, #locator, #bones, #spinoff

The Knowland Retribution (33 page)

“You'll find the amounts for each contributor spelled out on the cover sheet, and the basis for them in the documents in this folder, which I'll leave with you. This will give all concerned the specific details as to how these amounts have been arrived at. These numbers are nonnegotiable. No one at the foundation, or anywhere else, will be authorized to make changes. I appreciate that this amount of money has implications that go well beyond the contributors. I have no desire to see the ramifications damage innocent people. Believe it or not, I grieve for the families of those I've killed. I do. Specific terms of payment—when, where, and how—will be worked out later, but it will be necessary for one half of one percent to be
donated
, in cash, within thirty days, and another one half of one percent within ninety days. After that, arrangements can be made with the foundation for delivery of the remaining funds. There will be a time limit. We're talking about a large sum of money. Assets will have to be divested. I understand that. Nevertheless, half of the total must be delivered within three years. The rest of the money must be in the possession of the foundation within one additional year. If, at that time—four years from now—if the full amount has not been paid, the agreement will be deemed to have been broken. Nathan Stein and Tom Maloney, and possibly others whose bad faith in this matter may make them responsible, will die. These payment requirements are also stipulated in the cover letter. Finally, it's important that all contributors know that any attempt to shift assets to a wife, a relative, an offshore subsidiary, for example, or to any entity, will be viewed as an attempt to avoid payment. Assure them that I will know if they try to bury it in their backyard or stuff a safe-deposit box in Malta. I will know and I will consider the arrangement broken. I will act accordingly.” He paused and looked very carefully at Walter. “Any questions about what I've said?”

“Isn't this extortion?” Walter said matter-of-factly. “You can't get away with this. How can you expect something like this—”

“Extortion is a legal term, Walter. To be extortion I would have to receive the money or the foundation would have to be seen as acting as my agent, with a benefit accruing to me. Neither condition exists. There might be an element of blackmail in it—I grant you that—as it relates to me. It's no doubt accurate to say I'm making ‘terroristic threats,' and, of course, killing someone is always illegal—even threatening to kill someone. But the foundation will not be a party to any of this information. They will just receive the money. No, this is more like a drug dealer getting ripped off by someone who gives the money to charity.”

“That makes no sense at all.”

“Sure it does. Don't thieves, even murderers, give money to charity? If a thief sent the United Way a thousand dollars or a million dollars, wouldn't they be free to accept and use it? Or what if somebody earned money and didn't report it, in fact didn't even file a tax return, but donated ten thousand dollars to the American Heart Association—would they be free to accept and use it? Of course they would, provided they have no knowledge of any illegality that either prompted the contribution or involved the source of the contributor's money. Enron made charitable contributions. Did they all give the money back?”

“And just how do you deal with all this without everyone knowing everything?”

“I won't tell. You won't tell. Stein, Maloney, and the two corporations won't tell. Instead, they will hold very public press conferences, admit to their ill-gotten gains, express their deepest sorrow and remorse, speak movingly of their desire to atone for the sins of previous directors, and then . . . then they will donate this money in the manner I've prescribed. They have stockholders who must support these noble efforts. And I'm sure they will. They must be seen to act willingly, openly, and publicly. Except, however, there will be no mention whatsoever of my role in this.” The puzzled look on Walter's face merely encouraged Leonard to go on. “You will deliver these instructions to Nathan Stein and Thomas Maloney. They face the task of telling the key people—all of whom are named in the documents—at SHI Inc. and Alliance Industries Inc. to do their part. Under the circumstances, I don't think there's any chance at all anyone will name me in this matter. I'm sure the history of my ‘bad acts' thus far will help Stein and Maloney convince their friends.” Walter said nothing.

“As for Nathan Stein and Thomas Maloney,” Leonard went on, “an attorney in New York—a lawyer who knows nothing, not even who his client is—will open a checking account for each of them. Every week he will deposit five hundred dollars in each account. That is all the money Stein and Maloney can use. If they spend a dollar more than that, I will consider that they have used hidden funds, worked for money, borrowed money, or received gifts—none of which are allowed—and I will kill them.”

“Christ,” said Walter, scratching his head, running both hands through his hair and down the back of his neck. “What if they refuse?”

“That's entirely up to them.”

“This is—”

“Revolutionary?”

“Revolutionary? Jesus Christ!”

“I don't think he can help me with this.”

“Help? You seem to be doing quite enough on your own. What about Stevenson and Daniels and Carter Lawrence?”

“Nick and Harvey know nothing. I can't be responsible for what they may think, but they know nothing. I'm sure they'll be cooperative with the authorities. They'll answer all their questions. They have nothing to hide and nothing to offer. Their truthful answers won't change a thing. As for Carter, what can I say? We share a certain immunity, one which I have surely violated and forfeited. But he has not. Carter is a victim. As this unfolds, I'm sure the press will present him in a very favorable light. For law enforcement to pursue and harass Carter Lawrence while the real culprits live and go free—that can't happen. And besides, he knows nothing or almost nothing. He never knew where I was, or when, and he doesn't know where I am now. None of them—Nick, Harvey, or Carter—have any of these details, nor have any of them been privy to my activities up to now. I've never admitted to them what I've admitted to you. I've never discussed it with them. If you think about it, you and Isobel are the only people with specific knowledge, directly from me, about what I've already done and what I plan to do in the future. You heard what Isobel said. What she knows can't be published without your own exposure, and even then, it lacks corroboration. Just your word. This conversation, for example.” Leonard looked around the patio, out toward the open sea, then behind him at the closed sliding doors, shrugged
his shoulders, and said, “We're alone. Just you and me, Walter. No corroboration.”

“Michael DelGrazo,” Walter said. “You might just as well have said Kaiser Zoesay.”

“Do you have any more questions about this?” Leonard asked.

“Did you shoot Pitts with the Walther? Why did you meet Carter Lawrence, Nick Stevenson, and Harvey Daniels in Clarksville, Tennessee? How come—”

“No, Walter. Only questions about this.” Leonard held up the folder with both hands. “You already know the answers to the other questions, most of them, anyway. And in time you'll figure out what you don't know now. But we'll never speak of it. Never.”

“Dr. Roy?”

“Never.”

“You think this is justice, don't you?” said Walter. “You're acting righteously? You believe that, don't you?” Now it was Leonard who chose silence. Walter continued. “Your wife, your daughter, your grandsons—they ate lunch and died. The meat killed them, and there were people who let that happen. What did you do? You killed those people, the ones who could have prevented it. One by one, you shot them down. For their complicity, they died.” A touch of sarcasm, mixed with murky anger, rose in Walter's voice. “Oh, of course, you saved the best for last. The guilty must pay, and pay, and pay some more. What you're doing to Stein and Maloney is worse than death, at least for them it will be. Shit, they go from living on five hundred dollars a minute to five hundred a week. How are they going to do that? They can't live in their homes if their wives own and keep the property, or you'll kill them. They can't use a car that belongs to someone in the family, or you'll kill them. They can't wear the same clothes, make phone calls on the same cell phones, eat the same food, use the same health insurance—God knows what else they can't touch, or you'll kill them. But they can stay alive. That you'll allow. For men like that, they'd be better off dead.” Walter leaned forward across the table separating the two men. Leonard was perfectly still, stoic.

“For Stein and Maloney,” said Walter, “money is like drugs. They're addicts, and you know that. A lifetime of fabulous wealth, and now they're reduced to poverty. They can't make it. They'll cheat. Somewhere, somehow, they will. Maybe Nathan Stein gets some money—a hundred grand, two hundred grand—from one of his kids. You know, kids can have a hard time seeing their fathers suffer. Perhaps Maloney begs his wife to put some money in a Swiss bank account for him.
It could happen, right? They take the money and you kill them. You call this justice? For whom? For Nina? For Ellen? For her sons? I don't think so. Vengeance, that's what it is. ‘Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.' And who the hell are you, God? Whose guilt are you killing for?” Leonard didn't say a word, the expression on his face remained unchanged. “Where were
you
?” Walter asked. “Where were
you
when it mattered?”

Now Leonard seemed about to say something, but instead, he breathed deeply through clenched teeth, sat back, and a small, almost imperceptible, nervous and hostile smile crossed his lips. He would not be baited.

“I know about Barbara Coffino,” said Walter. The smile on Leonard's face disappeared. Walter could see him catch his breath before it choked him.

Leonard broke the awkward silence by asking, “Have you ever killed anyone, Walter? You look like the kind of man who's killed. Perhaps you've considered killing me. I suppose I'll never know. You also look like the kind of man who knows—
who knows
—killing is sometimes the only way. If I'm wrong, tell me. But I know I'm right and you know it too.” They looked at one another, each man keenly aware, whether they liked it or not, they shared a common value, a common judgment, a common past.

Isobel returned to the patio, this time leaving open the sliding doors behind her. Walter could not interpret her look. The expression on her face, the tightness in her cheeks, the lines across her forehead, this was all new to him.

Leonard said, “I hope you'll take it, Isobel. For Nina, Ellie, and for the boys.” He turned to Walter and said softly, “If you'll call a car I'd be grateful. It's time for me to go.”

“Go where?” Isobel asked.

“Home.”

“When is the next ferry, Walter?” Isobel said.

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not sure,” he said, trying to recover himself.

“Doesn't matter,” said Leonard. He knew there was a boat waiting for him in the harbor at Cruz Bay, and a chartered Gulfstream, fueled and ready to fly, on the tarmac at St. Thomas. Walter used his cell phone to make the call and told Leonard the car would be ready in ten minutes.

“If you'll excuse me, I'll wait at the gate. And I'll see myself out. Please don't get up.” He shook hands with Walter, who was still seated at the table, his back to the water, looking in at his own house through the glass. Then Leonard turned to Isobel, where she stood. He smiled and extended his hand to her. When she took it, he covered hers with his other hand and held on to her tightly. “I hope you'll take it,” he said before walking out. He did not look back.

Walter reached over for the file folder Leonard left behind. He opened it and began to read the first page of the first document, the one Leonard referred to as the cover letter. “Holy shit!” he said.

“Holy shit is right,” Isobel said, her attention far away on one of the small, empty islands offshore, unaware of anything Walter was reading. “You don't know the half of it. That was Nicholas Stevenson who called me. When I called him back he offered me a job. He wants me to be the Executive Director for a new organization of which he and his partner Harvey Daniels are trustees. You won't believe this. It's a nonprofit foundation called The Center for Consumer Concerns. He wants me to come to Atlanta to discuss the details. Isn't that a bit strange, don't you think? Leonard Martin's law p-partners offering me a job, especially this sort of job?”

“Well,” Walter said. “It's a foundation that'll have a lot of money.”

“What are you talking about? Is this something you and Leonard discussed while I was away?” He told her everything Leonard Martin had said to him, repeating his exact words as best he could remember them. “And it says how much in there? How much money?” she said, pointing to the folder. Walter nodded. “How much?” she asked.

Walter leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms out as wide as they would go, breathed deeply, smiled broadly, and said, “A little short of six
billion
dollars.”

“Oh, m-my,” said Isobel.

New York

Tom Maloney and Nathan
Stein were still squirreled away atop the Waldorf Astoria, each keenly aware they were the only ones left. It preyed on their minds. It was the evil, ugly monster hiding in the closet, and they were ten-year-olds all over again, afraid to turn the lights out. Nathan couldn't sleep or eat or sit in one place or calm down long enough to simply move his bowels. Maloney could do little more than lay on the couch. They bickered.

“Safe as . . . what the fuck did you say it was? ‘Cows in Calcutta' or some other Godfuckingforsaken place. You're full of shit, Tom. You're fucking full of shit! And it's going to get me killed.” Maloney still just sat there, saying nothing. Stein paced. “Goddamn, MacNeal and Hopman and you—yes, you Tom—you're all getting me fucking killed!” Maloney was past the point of trying to soothe Nathan's spirits. He no longer possessed the energy to play that stupid, fucking game. Pretense had flown out the window and off the penthouse patio, carried by the winds to the four quarters of New York City.

“Fuck you,” Tom mumbled.

All he could think about was Leonard Martin. Where was he? What was his next step? When would the executioner appear? Could Walter Sherman catch him in time? He considered sending more money to Walter, but what good would that accomplish? It would be of no use to him unless he found a way to get out of this mess. Besides, some things cannot be bought, not because they lack a price, but because they just can't be. No amount of money can change the past. How outrageous, he protested silently. Maloney had been a good Catholic boy and now he found himself thinking he was a rich man afraid Leonard Martin was pushing a camel through the eye of a needle. He would go to heaven, wouldn't he? In spite of everything? Jesus Christ had always been his Lord and Savior. Honest, he was. Did Jesus know he was here, in the Waldorf Astoria, in need of help? “Christ, I'm in trouble!” He trembled. He would have given the nun another million if he'd had to. A million? What's another million? His wife was in Switzerland. His colleagues dead. His friend, mentor, boss was half mad. Tom Maloney felt helpless, absolutely fucking helpless. Christ, he'd give anything to be rid of Leonard Martin. He poured himself another bourbon and made for the toilet. Diarrhea plagued him.

Isobel arrived in Atlanta the day after she and Walter met Leonard Martin. Nick Stevenson and Harvey Daniels expected her. She took a suite at the Hotel Nikko and asked that they meet her there. The three talked for more than two hours. The Center for Consumer Concerns was hers for the taking.

“Chase anyone,” Nick said. “Anyone at all. Investigate at your pleasure. You'll be in charge. No limits, no interference.”

“We're the trustees,” said Harvey. “That's for legal purposes. We'll never tell you what to do or how to do it.”

Nick added, “Just be true to Leonard Martin, Carter Lawrence, and all the others like them. Do your best to see there are no more of them.”

Isobel took the job, and it was agreed she would give the
Times
notice through the end of the month. The Center for Consumer Concerns would lease a condo for her, giving her six months to find a place of her own. No problem, they assured her, especially with their real estate contacts. She could hit the ground running. The two trustees, both former partners of Leonard Martin, assured her they had no personal knowledge of the source of the funds with which the foundation would be endowed. All they could say was that they were confident large contributors would appear, and soon. Since she had not been present when Leonard explained the details to Walter, Isobel too had no actual personal knowledge. From a legal point of view the only three people associated with the formation of the foundation came to it with clean hands. Isobel remembered a sociology professor at St. John's who challenged her class to list the things they knew to be true, yet didn't believe were absolute. Love, honor, justice, truth itself. Where are the absolute moral precepts? She could be comfortable knowing how the foundation—her foundation—got its money without actually
knowing
. She called Mel Gold when she returned to New York. They met for a sandwich at Artie's Deli on Broadway. She told him the foundation, The Center for Consumer Concerns, had offered her the job as Executive Director and she had taken it. Her resignation from the
New York Times
would be effective January 31st.

“The Center for Consumer Concerns?” said the Moose. “Never heard of it.” It was new, she told him. Headquartered in Atlanta. Just getting started. He asked no more questions and she offered no more details.

“Put it in writing, kiddo,” he said, meaning, of course, her resignation. “They got great pickles here, you know that?” Somehow, she figured, some way, she had to tell him. She wanted to tell him. Perhaps he saw it in her eyes—perhaps not—but he reached across the table, laying both of his huge hands on hers, and said, “If he walked in here right now you'd know him and I wouldn't, right? And that's been so all along, hasn't it?
Unrecognizable
.” He shook his head and smiled. “That was bullshit wasn't it?”

“Mel—”

“Don't tell me, Isobel. I'll have to print it.” She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek. Mel Gold tried to remember the last time a reporter kissed him. He couldn't.

Walter sat alone on his empty deck. The lights of St. Thomas flickered in the distant darkness. There was a slight chill in the air, for St. John, that is. Clara brought him a cup of bouillon and a light sweater.

“Put this on before you freeze to death,” she said. Hardly a chance of that. “The woman has a great sense of humor,” he thought. In the morning he'd call Tom Maloney and make another trip to New York. The specifics of Leonard Martin's plan were dense and complicated, and a good deal of the data and supporting materials were pretty much incomprehensible to Walter. However, it was his job to bring all this—this most amazing and unexpected turn of events—to his clients. After that, he hadn't the slightest idea what he would do.

Leonard Martin was gone.

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