Child Protection: A Novel of Deception by Don Rice, Jr.

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September 4, 1993

Irving Robinson looked through the material he had gathered, trying to find a way to put it all together. There had to be some conclusions, at least one anyway, that he could work into an ending that the magazine would find acceptable. They were sticklers for proper form; he knew that from the research he’d done on them before he’d even applied for employment.

As he read the background on the people in the pictures, he couldn’t help but think that there was more to this than met the eye. Sure, he thought, it’s common knowledge that every government agency has the potential for corruption. And most likely more than just the potential. As the old saw goes, power corrupts, and who has more power than the government?

There was a knock at the door. He turned slightly and yelled, “Who is it?” But there was no answer. He turned back to his work.

A minute later, his phone rang. He answered, “Robinson residence.”

“You have the package?”

He didn’t recognize the voice that responded. “What package?”

“The one that was left outside your door.”

“You the one that knocked and didn’t answer? I don’t play those stupid games, buddy. Who are you?”

“You don’t need to know that. But you do need to get that package. I’m sure you’ll find it very interesting. But if not, I can always have it sent to Woodard at the Times, or maybe someone at Rolling Stone. I thought you might be hungry, that’s all. Goodbye, Mr. Robinson.”

“Wait!” But as he said it, he heard the click; the unknown caller had already hung up.

He put his phone back in it’s cradle and almost ran the short distance down the hall to his door. He yanked it open and looked down; there, leaning against the wall, was a large manilla envelope. He picked it up, looked down the hallway in both directions. Seeing nobody, and not really expecting to anyway, he closed the door and locked both the knob lock and the deadbolt.

Back at his desk, he used his old brass letter opener to carefully unseal the flap on the envelope. Then opened the clasp and slid the flap off of it. He spread the open end with two fingers and looked inside. He extracted the folder and opened it, and began reading. It was an account of a secret team within the FBI that was answerable to one man only. There were photocopies of pictures of the six people he already knew about, plus one he didn’t know. According to the account in his hand, this was the man responsible for the actions of the other six.

Granted that they had uncovered several instances where children were used as pawns in some game of control over the powerless, even to support the personal agendas and beliefs of those within the bureacracy as to how children should be raised. Yet everything he’d seen on the subject suggested strongly that these cases were actually quite small in number and frequency. There was nothing, even in the backgrounds of the six operatives, verified that there was anything more than a small contingent of public servants abusing the protective system. And this new information went far in supporting that conclusion.

He looked again at the new photo, studying it. Major Charles Richardson, resplendent in his dress blues at the 1977 Marine Corps Ball at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, with his then-new wife, the former Marissa Montalvo. Also in this picture, on the other side of Mrs. Richardson, was Martin Rothman, then a lieutenant colonel in the base JAG office, standing close on the other side of the young woman.

According to the paper, Rothman had retired from the Service two years later, rather than re-enlist and try for his silver wings, the rank of full colonel. This was apparently a result of the death of his wife and daughter to a drunk driver in a hit and run accident. The driver had been a fourteen-year-old boy who had just been beaten by his step-father a few hours before. The man had been drunk as well; in fact had been arrested repeatedly over the years for public intoxication, driving while impaired, and a variety of other infractions under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants. And nobody had thought to safeguard the boy.

But there was something else the paper alluded to. It seemed that Rothman’s wife, almost a month before her death, had filed for divorce. As part of the filing, she’d claimed that he was physically abusive toward her and that she was afraid he might turn that violence on their daughter.

He wondered briefly why he had received the package. But then he set the question aside and started putting the pieces of this puzzle together. This promised to be the biggest story of the year if he could figure it all out.

September 7, 1993

Charlie paced the floor, fuming. Back in Washington D.C., he’d just been raked over the coals. It had been three months since the arrest and subsequent release of the corrupt officials in Dutchess County, New York. He was told unofficially that he was out of line calling for those arrests. The word had gone out to drop all the charges and release everyone by June 2nd.

Now, three months later, with everything swept under the rug and threats of legal action against his team quashed by backroom diplomacy, Marty Rothman had taken him, under orders, to the deputy directors’ office.

As soon as he’d left the office, he’d called Marissa. “Get the team over to the Alexandria safe house, Mare. Don’t argue, dammit, just do it!”

He was in no better mood when he arrived. In fact, he was in an even worse frame of mind. He was glad they’d all arrived before he did, but that wasn’t enough to lighten his mental load.

He told them what had happened.

The crew looked around the room, catching each others’ eyes, communicating silently. Then Gustavo spoke up. “We sort of figured something like that might happen, Charlie. It’s kind of a gray area, and from what we’ve seen so far, and I know I’m the newest one on the team but I’ve seen some strange shit myself. But we stepped on some pretty big toes. They had to be, to get those people released that quickly, and a high-priced lawyer helping them out too.”

“Okay, Gus. I was thinking along similar lines myself. So the floor’s open. What do we do next? I want to find a way to open this crap up wide. Something stinks to high heaven, and I want to be the goddamn deodorizer. What do you all say?”

Tracy spoke up. “I think we should agree we’re going to work on a plan. But we need to take some time to unwind a bit. Especially you two, Charlie, Marissa. Go home to Charlotte or wherever you made your home together. Take some time off. We’ve all got leave time coming. So call us to you when you’re ready to roll.”

Charlie looked around at each individual; they all nodded in agreement with Tracy. “Okay, let’s do that. I get the feeling you all figured this out beforehand. But it’s the right thing under the circumstances. Who knows how long this next phase will take to unravel? But we’ll also need to keep up with our assigned task, which is investigating CPS corruption.”

“We’ll be doing that, Charlie,” said Roberto. This just takes it to another level is all.”

“Yeah,” chimed Raphael. “It’s still the same investigation, just that we have to keep parts of it quiet, not let the left hand know what the right is doing.”

Charlie turned to Marissa. “You’re awfully quiet. What do you think?”

She looked into Charlies’ eyes, searching. “I think we need to chill for a bit before we go back into this shit. Let’s go home, Charlie.”

He took her in his arms and whispered in her ear, “I still love you, babe.”

She whispered back, “I know.”

Tracy smiled secretively. She was looking forward to going back up to Poughkeepsie....

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