Read The Knowland Retribution Online

Authors: Richard Greener

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

The Knowland Retribution (37 page)

St. John

The news about Isobel
Gitlin and The Center for Consumer Concerns began to spread after the joint press conference for Alliance Industries and Stein, Gelb, Hector & Wills. Alliance announced their plan to absorb SHI Inc. using a stock switch plan effectuated by Stein, Gelb. Then they shocked the attending press, almost all of whom covered the business or financial beat, when they admitted to culpability in the E. coli disaster more than three years earlier and announced their intention to contribute close to six billion dollars to a new foundation, The Center for Consumer Concerns. They were confident the money would be approved by their directors and shareholders. No specific schedule had been worked out with The Center, but Alliance and Stein, Gelb promised to fully fund their pledge within four years. No one in the room, except for a hulking mass of a man standing in the back, known to a few people there as the Moose, had ever heard of The Center for Consumer Concerns. Questions came furiously. A silence, a pause punctuated by an audible gasp, greeted the news that The Center's executive director was Isobel Gitlin. A murmur that could not be stifled followed the announcement that Nicholas Stevenson and Harvey Daniels served as the foundation's trustees. Before the press conference restored order, Mel Gold left to return to the
Times
. In a heated editorial meeting later that afternoon, he succeeded in having the morning edition of the
Times
refer to Isobel only as “a former obituary writer for the
New York Times
.” He knew she'd be happy with that.

The normal news cycle—especially for the television networks and cable channels—is twenty-four hours. In a day, Isobel Gitlin was old news. Two days after the press conference no one was talking about her or The Center. Alliance Industries, and to a lesser extent Stein, Gelb, had become the darlings of the left. “Corporate Conscience—At Last!” cried
The Nation
. Even the libertarian Cato Institute praised the move proclaiming self-awareness and self-examination the best path toward curbing corporate abuse. Then, of course, they questioned whether such abuse existed or not. The stir in Atlanta lasted a little longer. It was a good local story. Still, by the weekend few were talking about it anymore. Isobel went about her daily life in pleasurable obscurity. In stores, supermarkets, and in the malls, the only stares she got were those always waiting for attractive young women.

Back home, Walter's mood improved slowly, if at all. The walls had fallen, the doors were cracked open. His vulnerability had been an open sore. He called upon more than a half century of resources to repair the damage. He went back to eating breakfast in Billy's. The company of his friends was a gift not to be taken lightly, but he'd been hurt and they knew it.

“Walter, you know that song—you know, that one—it goes,” and Ike loosed his tortured falsetto on Billy's sparse morning crowd. “I found
lo-ove on a two-way-y street and lost it on a lon-le-y high-i-way.”

“Very nice,” Billy said from behind the bar. “You want them all to leave?”

“Yeah, I know it,” Walter said. “I can even recognize it when you sing it.”

“Well, that's what I mean,” Ike said, the smoke from whatever it was hanging from his lower lip blanketing his face.

“So what?” Walter said.

“The thing is, you found love on a lonely highway and lost it on a two-way street. That's ass-backward, ain't it?”

Walter said nothing. He drank his usual drink and frowned at Ike.

“Forget about it,” said Billy, turning away from Ike, mumbling something else.

“No, no,” Ike said. “Don't you never forgetaboutit.” His attempt to imitate Billy was laughable. Billy and Walter smiled at each other. Ike continued, “Keep going, Walter. You'll find it. Damn if you don't find everything else.”

Walter offered no reply. He had nothing to say. The song in his mind was “Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places.”
God, I hate country music, he thought.

Isobel flipped off the cell phone. She dropped the instrument on her kitchen table, right into the pile of real estate brochures. She covered her smiling face with both hands, almost laughing out loud. She should have known. Of course, she should have known. The bank had just called. They said a bank representing an anonymous donor called requesting wire instructions for a contribution to the Center. A few minutes later a bank in Cyprus made The Center for Consumer Concerns richer by thirty million dollars. “Oh, m-my,” she said. “Walter, Walter, Walter.”

St. John

“You got three,” said
Ike, blowing the usual amount of smoke away from Billy out toward where the Poet slept in the square. “Brando, Newman, and Dean. What's more to say? Ain't three better. Ain't three as good.” He looked to Billy, standing where he always did, behind the bar, halfway between himself and Walter. Billy mumbled something as he wiped the already spotless counter. “What?” said Ike.

“Tinkers, Evers, and Chance,” Billy said, this time loud enough to be heard. “There's three for you.”

“Who the hell they?”

“Come on, old man. You're losing it. Tinkers to Evers to Chance.”

“Un huh,” said Ike, the same way his doctor often did after putting down his stethoscope.

“Chicago Cubs infield,” Billy went on. “Best double play combination there ever was.”

Ike said, “Oh, yeah. Now I hear you. Couldn't make out what you said. I heard of them. That was when only white boys played, so we'll never know how good they were, will we? Easy to turn a double play on a white boy. Can't run fast enough.”

“Ahh,” said Billy, waving his bar rag at the old man.

“Brando, Newman, and Dean,” said Ike again. “And they all white. I am no prejudiced man. I recognize talent.”

Billy said, “Walter, you got three for us?”

“Three what?”

“Three anything. Three better than Bran—”

“I heard him,” Walter said. “You too. I'll go with the three ghosts.”

Billy dropped his bar rag on the floor. “The Father, Son, and the Holy—”

“No, Billy. That's only one ghost, if I remember correctly.”

“I think you're right, Walter,” Ike said. “Only one.”

Walter said, “The three ghosts. The ghost of Christmas past. The ghost of Christmas present. And the ghost of Christmas future.”

“The past, the present, and the future,” said Ike. “That's good. That's very good. I'll take the past, if you don't mind. I surely will.”

“I'll take the present,” said Billy, who feared the future and dreaded the past. “That leaves you with the future, Walter.”

“It most surely does,” said Ike. “You up to it?”

“The future,” said Walter, raising his drink in the air. “Gentlemen, here's to the future.”

Billy went to write it up.

THE END

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