The parlor’s casually chic furniture was inviting, but it was the view seen through the floor to ceiling windows that captured Jess’ attention. The view of the mountains and the James River in the distance was like a magnet. Mesmerized, she crossed the room and gazed at the postcard perfect scene. With the sun’s rays on the water, the river looked like a silver snake slithering through the valley.
At her elbow, Duffy said. “Beautiful isn’t it?”
“Breathtaking. Is the red roof on my left, Tyler MacGregor’s horse farm?”
“I believe so.”
“I don’t ride, but there’s nothing more exquisite than a horse in motion. When I was a girl, my mom and I drove over to Sanford just to see the horses.”
“I love horses too.
“How much land does the Brookhaven Corporation own?”
“Two hundred acres. Their property is one of the center’s strongest draws. When I was younger, I thrived on the hustle and bustle of city living, but now I much prefer a more idyllic lifestyle. I think most city dwellers feel battle worn by the time their seventy fifth birthday rolls around.”
Jess was fascinated by the center’s history, but Kylie could answer any questions at a later date. She was here on a mission. Despite her reservations about Lawrence Duffy, she needed to take advantage of the opportunity she had been presented. She needed answers. His brogue wasn’t that of a New Yorker, and she questioned that he was in his late seventies. He looked at least a decade younger. Did he have a nefarious reason for claiming to be Kathryn’s friend? Before she got in too deep, she needed to verify his identity.
“You didn’t bring me in the parlor to see the view or to talk about the center. You mentioned Kathryn’s reasons for asking me to take care of moving her furniture, but I’m more curious about why a man of your age sought out the companionship of a young woman half your age.”
“Believe me, our relationship is not inappropriate. I pursued a friendship primarily because of her sad eyes and her resemblance to my daughter.”
Jess’ eyes widened. “Your daughter?”
“I should say late daughter. When Christina was fifteen, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Three months after the diagnosis, she died. I was devastated. She was everything a dad could ask for in a daughter. Brilliant, beautiful and caring. It’s been twenty years, and I still miss her.”
“I’m sorry for your loss. It’s particularly sad when a child dies before having the opportunity to fulfill their potential.
“I asked about your relationship with Kathryn because her other neighbors claimed she avoided interaction. I wondered how you broke through her shell.”
“I happened to be in the manager’s office the day Wayne Springer came in to ask about available condos. His reputation preceded him, so I wasn’t happy about having the man move into the complex. For my own peace of mind, I kept an eye on the condo he purchased. It turned out that it was Kathryn who was in and out of the complex. We had never conversed, but her face was familiar. She was a frequent customer at Dino’s Deli, the deli I owned and managed for twenty years.”
“Your neighbors gave a fairly detailed description of you. Let’s just say, you aren’t what I was expecting.”
“People have a way of seeing what they want to see.”
“I have a good ear for languages, and your accent sounds more like a mid-westerner than a native New Yorker.”
He studied her for a few moments before responding. “Thanks to two years of diction courses. I don’t usually talk about my background, but since you are a friend of Kathryn’s, I’ll make an exception. From your initial reaction to my name, I assume you expected to see another Wayne Springer. My dad was a mobster, but I didn’t follow in his footsteps. To his credit, he didn’t try to dissuade me from taking another path. Instead, he sent me to a boarding school. No one at the school was aware that I was the son of the notorious Marco Cappelli. I worked diligently to eliminate any evidence, including my accent, that I was his son.
“Cappelli? Was your name changed?”
“No. My parents weren’t married at the time of my birth, so I was given her family name.”
“I was told you were raised by an uncle.”
“That’s partially true. I stayed with Uncle Dino during the summer and on holidays. After boarding school, I attended Northwestern University. I didn’t return to New York until I came back to take over for Uncle Dino when he became ill. I was trained as an engineer, so my plan was to return to my job in Chicago after the deli sold. Best laid plans don’t always work out. He died and I inherited the deli. Despite my reservations, I decided to stay on in New York and keep the deli open.
“All of this to say that I spent nine years in the Chicago area. I can do New York speak, but my Midwestern accent is a reminder of the life I left behind.
Jessica didn’t back down. “I won’t apologize for my skepticism.”
“Nor should you. I want Kathryn to have a second chance. What do you want, Jessica?”
“I can’t answer your question until I have more data. What led you to believe that Kathryn needed help?”
“The furtiveness of Springer's entire operation. Young women would arrive looking like streetwalkers, and leave the condo looking like models for Vogue. The same women would return later on the arms of men in business suits. For anyone paying attention, it was fairly obvious what was going on.
“Kathryn always looked like a fashion plate, but the lost look in her eyes tugged at my heart. I had to wonder why a woman with her attributes was working for a man like Springer.
"I made it my business to find out her schedule. With a little careful planning, I was able to arrange casual meetings at the entrance of the complex and in the parking lot. For weeks she all but ignored me, but I continued to greet her. One day I asked if she still frequented the deli. That one question opened a dialog between the two of us. When we parted that day, I handed her a business card.
“The next week she showed up at my door. She said she didn’t want to appear rude, but her boss was opposed to any interaction with other residents. I went out on a limb and told her that I knew who she worked for and was aware that he ran questionable businesses. She was shocked. I didn’t push the subject, and she left.
“Two weeks later, one of her girls was roughed up by her date. Kathryn didn’t want Wayne to know about the incident, so she asked me if I would take Naydeen to the hospital. I did. After the incident, Kathryn often dropped by on Wayne’s poker night. When she finally shared her story, I offered to give her enough money to get out of town. She didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, and she wasn’t ready to walk away from the girls in her care. She was afraid if she left, Wayne would go back to mistreating them.”
“Why did she change her mind?”
“Springer’s employees respected Kathryn. She frequently sided with them when disputes arose. Wayne didn’t like the idea of Kathryn having the power to persuade, so he found a young honey who was more amenable. Kathryn believed it was just a matter of time before he groomed the woman to take her place. She wanted to leave while she still had options.”
“Do you know why she cut ties with her parents and friends? The situation could have been addressed years ago.”
“Initially, Springer threatened to share unflattering photos of Kathryn with her parents and friends.”
“By unflattering do you mean compromising?”
He nodded. “Later, when she realized just how corrupt Springer was, she tried to walk away. He found her and threatened to burn down her parent’s home with them in it.”
“Would he have done it, or was it just a threat?”
“Springer isn’t just corrupt, he’s evil. People are dispensable unless they are useful to him.”
“Kathryn must have been terrified. I can’t imagine living in that kind of fear.”
“Fear ages a person.”
“I’m going to backtrack to your original question. Why me? Why didn’t she ask someone in New York to arrange for her furniture to be moved?”
“She wanted someone close to her parents to know that she was alive. She was impressed with your unwavering loyalty. She believed that you were the one person who could outsmart Springer. If she is pursued and eliminated, she wants someone who cares to know that she tried to get away from him.”
“Is the furniture hers?”
Technically, no. Taking the furniture was her way of thumbing her nose at Springer. If he had paid her what she deserved, she would have had the means to buy three houses full of furniture. She ran his legitimate business, trained his girls and planned the extravagant bashes he put on every year.”
“Was he that tightfisted with all of his employees?”
“Not the men. Initially, he feared Kathryn would betray him, but she convinced him that the business was important to her. He would never have left her in charge if he thought she would run.”
“The crux of the matter is folks who work for Springer are afraid of him. If they cross him, he doesn't forget. You weren’t aware of his reputation, so she was confident he would view you as a tool. She wouldn’t have asked you if she had realized that he would return from the islands early. He was supposed to be gone six weeks. Rest assured, Jessica, you were never in danger. Springer’s hands were tied. The police had him under surveillance.”
“Did you by any chance tip off the police about what was going on in the club’s back room.”
He didn’t give Jess a direct answer. “Springer needed to be out of town for Kathryn to make a move. I made it happen sooner than it might have.”
“Where is she, Duffy?”
“I don’t know where she is. We discussed everything that could go wrong if she chose to disappear, but I didn’t press her for details. If a person truly wants to live under the radar, they make their own plans and don’t share the details.
“She isn’t the same person she was in high school, Jessica. A person can’t live and work with criminals and not pick up a few survival tools. She didn’t need to be told to use a burner phone or to change her identity.”
“Make no mistake, Duffy, the feds will find her because she’s a potential witness in a case against Springer. According to Simon, they are closing in on him. Kathryn’s testimony would clinch their case. Do you seriously think the agents will sympathize with her position?”
“Springer has a vendetta against her. If he finds her, she won’t have a future.”
“So, what are you suggesting, Jessica?”
“Did Kathryn ever mention a man named Simon Enright?”
“Her high school sweetheart?”
“One and the same. He is now a security specialist.”
“Simon is another one of her regrets? Depending on his memories, he might not be sympathetic.”
“You don’t have to worry about Simon. He has a few battle scars, but he’s a pro.”
“Does he work with a private security firm?”
“No. Government. He has friends in the FBI and CIA.”
“Have him call me. Maybe between the two of us, we can come up with a strategy that will protect Kathryn and put Springer behind bars.”