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Pressure


SIXTEEN

Pressure


Michael closed the file folder on his desk and put it in his brief case. It had been a long night and there were still a few things he knew he must attend to before going home for the night. As he closed his briefcase, Michael’s attention was drawn to the family photos on his desk. The smiling faces of his parents and his daughters served as bittersweet reminders of things that could have been but never quite materialized. He had always wanted to believe that he had done his best to keep his marriage and his family together but deep down he knew that he never really made the same sacrifices his parents had made, sacrifices that were necessary for a family to survive. As much as it pained him to admit, he had a selfish streak, a need to maintain independence, which made him shield himself from really sharing his life with others. It had always been easier for Michael to assume responsibility rather than accept blame for the marriage’s end and he had become an expert at the subtle distinction between blame and responsibility. Blame implied that he alone had deliberately done things to cause the marriage to fail; responsibility meant that he accepted that his actions were the cause. The key to separating the two was in his ability to detach emotionally from the situation.


Michael had become an expert at personal detachment. In his youth, his element of his personality made him a focused athlete and student and during his time in the military service, it had enabled him to cope with the horrors of combat. Michael was a creature of duty and he had worked hard to learn emotional detachment for one reason and one reason alone, if he could disconnect emotionally, he would be in control. Control was the best way to honor his duty, to himself to the law, to his responsibilities. But the one thing Michael could not fully detach from was his humanity. He had a heart and a soul and he had been hurt. He had hurt others and had suffered the consequences for causing that pain, but he couldn’t allow himself to be ruled by sentiment. Order must be maintained. He picked up the photo and apologized to his parents for choosing survival over surrender. A soft knocking on his office door brought Michael’s thoughts back into proper focus. The door opened and Trooper St. Louis’ head appeared in the opening.


“Shift change boss,” he said shyly. “The night Watch Commander was wondering if you had anything else to add before he released the tour.”


Michael continued to organize his things and reorient his thoughts. “Tell him to go a head and release them,” Bimonte said. “There really isn’t anything we need to be concerned about pending the FBI lab reports.”


As St. Louis disappeared through the door, Michael turned his attention to his computer. He accessed his department e-mails to see if the requested files had been forwarded. It had only been a few hours and judging from their previous encounters and Agent Steve Carson’s arrogant attitude, Michael wasn’t surprised that the files hadn’t arrived. Carson seemed less than willing to cooperate with the State Police, and treated any request for assistance as an imposition. If it weren’t for the fact that Bimonte’s St. Regis case was part of the larger FBI investigation, Michael would be looking forward to Gallo’s departure along with the FBI’s involvement in the area. But the attack on Gallo, on his territory made this case a matter of professional pride and Taylor’s involvement with the Gallo Organization made it personal.


As Michael left the barracks and began his drive home, he called Cal’s cell for an update on his surveillance on Taylor. He was certain that Cal viewed his increased criticism and supervision of his assigned duty as a vote of no confidence, but Michael had other motives. Michael knew that if he succeeded in bullying him, if he could make Cal angry enough at him, then Cal would be forced to shift his investigative focus and let his intellect take the lead over his emotions. Michael needed Cal to separate himself emotionally from the players and the events that were unfolding in this drama and it was because he did trust Cal’s abilities that he was forcing Cal to prove to him that he could put his responsibilities ahead of his feelings.


When Cal’s cell phone went straight to voice mail, indicating that he had turned the phone off for some reason, Michael’s intuition went on alert. He left a message for Cal to call him immediately and instead of going directly home, Michael pulled into the Station Street Diner and grab a sandwich. The Station Street Diner was located at a central intersection in town, putting it on the direct route between the hospital and The Mirror Lake Inn. He took a seat at a table near a window facing the street, ordered his dinner and watched the passing traffic with intense interest. He was about half way through his sandwich when he received an unexpected surprise.


“Hey Uncle Mike!”


Michael turned at the sound of his name as Cal’s son, Jack, and a friend made their way to his table. Michael smiled brightly at the pleasant sound of his honorary title of “uncle.” Michael had come to regard Cal and his family as part of his own and he had worried about Jack’s recent problems adjusting to the finality of Cal and Stephanie’s divorce.


“Hi guys,” Michael said rising from his seat. “What are you two up to this fine evening?


“We’re waiting for Mom to pick us up. We just came in grab a couple of burgers before the movie.”


“Movie?” Michael narrowed his eyes trying to look menacing. “Isn’t this a school night?”

“Nope,” Jack laughed at Michael’s acting. “It’s a Superintendent’s Day tomorrow. Teachers have school but we don’t.”


Michael indicated the empty chairs at his table, “You boys want to have a seat? I could use some company.”


“I’m surprised my dad isn’t with you.” Jack’s voice lost a little of its cheerfulness. “Mom told me last week that our plans for Lake George got cancelled because of some case you’re working on.”


Jack’s comment gave Michael pause almost as if Jack was pointing out Michael’s role in the dissolution of his family. Jack couldn’t know that Michael often felt very responsible for what happened between the boy’s parents, more often than he cared to admit to himself.


“That’s true Jack. We are working on an important case right now.”


“We saw some stuff on the news,” said Jack’s friend. “Was the explosion on the lake tonight part of it?”


Before Michael could answer, Jack cut him off. “That’s not something he can talk to us about.”


Jack turned to Michael; in that instant, he looked very much like Cal, very serious, very much like an adult. It was almost as if Jack had realized that he had put Michael in an awkward position and was trying to give him a graceful exit.


“Right Uncle Mike?”


Michael smiled and reached over to pat Jack’s shoulder reassuringly. Before he could answer, Jack’s mother Stephanie appeared at the far end of the dining room and seeing where the boys were, she made her way to the table.


“Michael,” she seemed surprised to see him. “I haven’t seen you in ages.”


Michael got up from his seat and hugged her. “Nice to see you Stephanie, how have you been? Jack and I were just catching up.”


“Good,” Stephanie seemed uncomfortable, eager to collect the boys and be gone. She began to babble. “Busy, you know. I’m sure that you certainly have been busy. I mean with all that’s been in the news lately.” She looked at the empty chair as if she expected Cal to be seated there; he usually was where ever Michael was when they were working a case. “Are you waiting for Cal?”


Michael laughed because, even though Stephanie had no way of knowing, that was exactly what he was doing here this evening.


“I guess you could say that.”


“Well we really have to be going,” Stephanie said in an attempt to finally round the boys up and get going. “It was nice to see you.”


“It was nice to see you too Stephanie, Jack.”


Michael remained standing, watching Cal’s family as they moved toward the exit and taking his seat only after Stephanie and the boys had left the restaurant. He didn’t understand why, but it bothered him to watch Cal’s family moving on, going about their lives independent of him. Michael couldn’t help but wonder if this is what the world saw after Allison had left him. He settled back into his chair to finish his meal and resume his observation of the street outside.

***********

Taylor glared at Cal in response to his condescending tone and Cal wasn’t sure who she was at that moment; gangster lawyer, FBI special agent or embarrassed lover. She didn’t give him long to differentiate what role she had assumed.


“We’re always happy to cooperate with the police,” said Mathew Gallo’s lawyer. “But I hardly think, considering the events of this evening, that the hospital in the middle of the night is appropriate.”


Taylor was now a good distance from the side of the bed and had squared off across from Cal with her arms folded tightly across her chest. Cal couldn’t help but notice the smug smirk on Gallo’s face as he reclined back in his hospital bed, folding his hands behind his head, preparing to watch his lawyer protect him from the police.


“Ms. Bennetto, is it?” Cal’s voice was dripping with distain for the charade they were forced to play out. “I’m sure that given the events that transpired this evening,” He repeated her words mockingly, “Mr. Gallo might like to explain why someone would purposely try to hurt him?”


The smile on Mathew Gallo’s face evaporated. He sat up in his bed and assumed a seated position, looking at Taylor with a mixture of confusion and anger then back at Montgomery.


“Are you implying that what happened tonight wasn’t an accident?”


Cal snorted. “I assumed your lawyer would have filled you in by now. Our preliminary investigation into the explosion tonight seems to indicate that the cause of the explosion may be more than mechanical in nature. In fact,” Cal continued circling Taylor’s position. “We have reason to believe that someone may have been using you,” Cal paused and looked straight at Taylor. “Or your boat for target practice.


“Wait a minute,” Gallo was considering what was said and more importantly how it was being said. “You think someone took a shot at me,” he turned to Montgomery; his face grew serious as his anger began to swell. “With my daughter on the boat? Why would someone do that?”


“I was hoping that you might be able to shed some light on that.” Cal’s voice was filled with sarcasm. He stepped back towards the door again and watched Gallo and Taylor’s reaction to his challenge.


“What exactly are you implying officer?” She hit the word ‘officer’ with exceptional emphasis.


Cal ignored her and took another pass at Mathew Gallo. He produced a notebook from the inside pocket of his sport coat.


“Mr. Gallo, you told us last week that the purpose for of your business trip was to finalize some real estate transactions. Is that correct?”


Gallo glanced quickly at Taylor before responding. “Yes, that’s correct.”


“How would you characterize your relationship with your business associates?”


Mathew Gallo laughed. “You can’t be serious with this? Do you have any idea who my business associates in Lake Placid are?” He could see that Montgomery did not find this information nearly as amusing as he did. He looked at Taylor incredulously.


“If there’s a point to this line of questioning, I would appreciate it if you just got to it.” Taylor closed the distance in two steps from where she had been standing and positioned herself in between Cal and Mathew.


“As Mr. Gallo’s attorney, I can assure you that all of our business dealings here have been conducted in the most proper and legal manner as befitting regulations and zoning ordinances. As to the nature of Mr. Gallo’s relationship with his business associates, again I assure you that our organization has very positive, respectful and cordial relationships with all interested parties. If you like, I can supply you with a list of references.”


Cal looked over Taylor’s shoulder as she wrapped up her defensive of his attack on her client’s integrity and noted that the smug smirk had returned. The intensity of Taylor’s icy stare pulled his attention back to her eyes. What he saw in them gave him pause; they were completely black and devoid of emotion. He’d seen that look before. She looked as if she wouldn’t have a problem flaying him alive and at that moment he did not doubt that she would if she got the chance. He shuffled his feet nervously, closed the notebook and put it back in pocket.


“No,” Cal said regrouping as he prepared to attempt a dignified retreat. “That shouldn’t be necessary. I have your card if we have any further questions.”


Cal was almost to the elevator when Taylor caught up to him.


“You want to tell me what the hell that was all about?”


Cal kept walking until he reached elevator; he punched the call button and turned to look at her. Her persona had changed again and she appeared more like an FBI agent and there was a more human aspect to her eyes. He could tell by the tone of her voice and the stressed expression on her face that he had succeeded in rattling Gallo’s cage and perhaps even knocking Taylor off slightly balance.


Cal issued an exasperated sigh.


“You said someone threatened him. Remember?”


He knew she was trying to pick a fight in order to regain some control over her present situation and he resented the fact that she was trying to put him on the defensive. He stared at the elevator doors willing them to open.


“I was just trying to determine if he had any idea who it was.”


“Why do I get the feeling that there’s more to it than that?”


Taylor grabbed Cal’s arm and forced him to look at her. She stared into his eyes, searching for the answer to her question. “What were you really after in there?”


The doors opened; Cal gently removed her hand from his arm and stepped into the elevator car. He turned and saw that she hadn’t moved; her face still focused on his. Cal felt his resolve start to falter.


“I don’t know T, not yet anyway.” He got into the elevator and the doors closed between them, preventing the conversation from continuing. “But I will,” Cal told the empty elevator.

By the time Cal reached the lobby, the little voice inside his head that had been whispering what an idiot he was for going to Gallo’s hospital room had started screaming as soon as he turned his cell phone on and checked his messages. He had powered up his cell phone just after the elevator doors had closed and the message banner indicated that he had one missed call and one new voicemail. He scrolled through the menu to check the number.


“Shit,” Cal sighed as he accessed the voice mail message.


“Cal,” Michael’s voice was flat and official sounding. “Update me on your status ASAP.”


Cal unlocked his truck and leaned his head against the steering wheel trying to plan his next brilliant move. Michael was expecting him to check in and when he did, Cal was going to have to tell him about this little fishing expedition. It was pointless to continue following Taylor now; she’d be expecting him so he decided to deliver his progress report in person. As he drove towards town he reviewed Gallo’s reaction to the news that someone might have tried to kill him. It was not quite what Cal had expected. Gallo seemed more pissed than scared or surprised. Cal considered that maybe the anger had come from Mathew Gallo’s protective fatherly feelings but decided that was only part of it. Montgomery was sure that who ever had pissed Gallo off earlier was in fact the person who took a shot at him and he was certain that both Taylor and Gallo knew exactly who it was. He assumed that Gallo had called Taylor to begin making plans to deal with whom ever it was to ensure that who ever it was got the message that no one was going to mess with Mathew Gallo, especially in front of his kid and get away with it. Given Taylor’s performance, Cal was certain that she not only knew about Gallo’s operations, she was an active participant in what ever it took to make sure that Mathew Gallo got what ever he wanted.


As Cal made turn onto the main street, he was sure that his ex-wife’s car passed him, going in the other direction as he neared the Station Street Diner. He saw Michael’s car parked in front of the diner and decided that now was as good a time as any to file his report. He expected the experience to be as pleasant for him as his interview with Gallo at the hospital had been for Taylor. He pulled into the parking lot next to Michael’s car and went inside.

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