Eva, Albert Sr., and John Moody sat at the large conference table in the study. Moody had arrived first. Albert Sr., with his arm around Eva’s waist, entered just minutes later. “Why don’t you sit over there, honey,” he had said, kissing her on the cheek.
“So, John,” Albert Sr. said, taking his seat at the head of the table, “what’s your take on all this?”
“I infer from what you told me on the phone that the end game is to put the Blanco’s in prison, right?”
“For the rest of their lives,” Eva interjected.
Albert Sr. smiled at her. “That’s right, John. So what do you think?”
“I think it’s going to be extremely difficult.”
“Because …? Albert Sr. prompted him.
“Because”—he stretched it out—“they have the governor and everyone in his administration on the payroll. Even back when I was on the state patrol, we could never touch the Blanco’s. They just have too much political juice. They’re smart. They’re ruthless. They have a small army of their own. Anything else I can tell you?”
“There has to be some way we could expose the governor or blackmail him into helping us.” Eva said.
“Easier said than done, honey,” said Albert Sr.
“And maybe pointless,” added Moody. “Even if we could bring down the governor—he’s a first-class pussy hound—excuse the expression,” he said to Eva who shrugged, “Lt. Governor, Harley Higgins, would take his place, and he’s as dumb as a fence post and just as corrupt as Gardner himself. So it won’t make a dime’s worth of difference; the Blanco’s would still be shielded from arrest or prosecution.”
Albert Sr. nodded disappointedly. “See, honey,” he looked at Eva, “we just have no leverage.”
Eva hesitated, searching her thoughts. “What about me?” she said, looking at them both.
“You?” said Albert Sr., scowling.
“I took their money,” said Eva, raising her eyebrows, “I’m sure they’d like to get it back. They’d probably love to get their hands on me again too, teach me a lesson. We can trap them taking the drug money back or something. Couldn’t we use that for leverage somehow?” She directed her question to Moody.
“Too dangerous,” snapped Albert Sr. “I don’t want you anywhere within a thousand miles of the Blanco’s.”
Moody scratched his chin. “I’m not sure I’m following. What are you suggesting? Are you talking about bluffing them into some sort of a mistake by using you as bait?”
“Out of the question!” shouted Albert Sr., slapping the conference table.
“Albert,” said Eva quietly, “I thought you promised to help me?”
“How,” he yelled, “by helping you get your throat cut? Is that what you mean by ‘helping you’?”
“John could protect me,” Eva said, “couldn’t you John?”
Moody raised both of his hands. “We’re getting way ahead of ourselves here,” he said. “Even if we did get evidence implicating the Blanco’s through Eva, it’s still not worth snot unless the state is willing to prosecute, and they won’t be.”
“So the key is still Jack Gardner,” said Albert Sr. “One way or another we have to convince him to play ball with us instead of Carmella and Juan.”
“And he’s totally covered his ass,” Moody said. “There’s nothing on him. Since he’s been governor, there’s not the slightest sniff he’s ever taken a nickel of drug money.”
“What about before he was governor?” Eva perked up.
“What do you mean?” said Moody. Albert Sr. cocked his head to listen.
“Rafael told me that it was Gardner himself who ordered the Mena family off their property, which became the Blanco compound. He was the attorney general when he did that. Isn’t that something we could hold over his head?” Eva could tell that both men were intrigued.
“Possibly,” said Moody, scratching his chin.
“Only if we can prove it,” said Albert Sr. “Only if we could threaten Gardner with a witness who might testify to his involvement back then.”
“I could testify,” Eva said hastily.
“No good,” said Albert Sr., shaking his head. “Your testimony would be inadmissible hearsay. We need a witness who was actually there and could testify that he saw Gardner threaten them off their land.”
“And,” Moody added, “Your friend Rafael and his father are—well—I’m just saying they’re unavailable.”
Eva lowered her eyes and exhaled silently. “Wait,” she said, raising her head after a moment. “What about Rafael’s sister? She was there!”
Moody looked at her blankly. “I didn’t even know he had a sister,” he said.