Seven Little Girls

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Chapter Five

I actually consulted with Harold on breaking the Ponzi story. We needed access to the movers and shakers of the financial community and they were mostly his contacts. As Tori said, it was his family heritage.

“I anticipated you Nicholas,” he said. “If it were an accusation or an open question silence might have been the better course. But Tori’s research pretty much nails the lid shut here. You saw how easily Jeffrey Cozwell helped out and took your young friend into the fold. Trust is a big part of their business and sorting out the bad apples, the fact that the press does it, helps their credibility. Cozwell and Fredricks will make a lot of money holding accounts for the Confidential staff. Confidential busts bad brokers, haven’t you heard?”

“So, it’s a good story. I was worried we’d stop getting access on the Street.”

“Quite the opposite really. They’re afraid not to talk to us. A ‘no comment’ to us right now could get very expensive.”

I had a solid core to my article. And between Ed and Chavy Compton I had some super photos, all that remained was the final performance of CDC to ring down the curtain on it.

The Confidential box held ten, one of three that large. The others belonged to Brian’s old brokerage house and a VIP box.

In our box, usually nearly empty, Tori and I brought Kat and Ken Holder, a couple that may or may not get explained. Ken and Kat had an affinity when Kat was thirteen. They showed up together often. The same might be said of Deena and Ed Michaelson, Annandale’s worst kept secret. A black and white couple that hid, with almost no reason to do so. Ali brought Brian, so a snide reporter with the Inquirer snapped us all and next week the liberal bent at Confidential got an ’Oreo” label for that week’s supermarket edition. They missed the biggest gap as Jewish American Hispanic Princess Jen brought along Brooklyn Irish Jerry Considine.

Ken and Jerry Considine were bodyguards, in fact two of the best. They’d served together in Vietnam, which is where I met them. Ed had been part of the same rifle squad, which, in a way, left Brian odd man out. Four of us shared life and death experiences.

As with a lot of modern dance the performance was very athletic but without the rigid confines of ballet. I have to admit, I prefer the ballet. The rigidity of the form, and my familiarity with it, allows me to anticipate more, and some modern dance seems jarring, out of place and pace, because of that.

The blast came during the final piece, in fact the shotgun was apparently timed to be partially hidden by the music. Still, in the box next to us, it was apparent, as were the screams that followed it. Jerry and Ken were in motion almost instantly. A second blast almost caught Ken as the gunman retreated. I’m not usually armed, my wife makes up for that however and I followed them with Tori’s .357 in my hand. Ed followed me, I didn’t know whether the gun he carried was his or Dee’s.

The gunman hit the alley door and went through, Jerry was the first to hit it a couple seconds later and was cut down by four or five guns. The three of us spread out a bit and drew a bead on three men jumping into a late model yellow Ford sedan. Kat stepped out behind us with her gun in hand. We all emptied our guns at it.

Ken looked at the three of us. “Take care of Jerry,” he said in a tone reminiscent of his squad leader days and Ed and I moved over to where Jerry was lying in a pool of blood. Ken ran back in.

Ed picked up Jerry’s gun and checked it, while I tore off my shirt and tie and began pressure bandaging three nasty holes. Kat actually reloaded standing behind us.

It seemed forever before the paramedics arrived, but it was, maybe five, six minutes. Tori was at my side a moment before and Deena was holding on to Ed. Kat was directing everything, and no one questioned it. I later learned Ken had taken over the same post at the boxes in the theater.

When Jerry had been loaded and on his way to the hospital a uniformed police officer approached me.

“Remember me. Nick?′ He said.

Despite the chaos I recognized him. We’d met twice before. “Guess this will take some explaining Fred,” I answered. As the officer’s name was Fred Crowley.

“Downtown?”

“Hospital, Fred. And aside from chasing someone with a twelve gauge who shot at me, I really don’t know much.”

“Then you’re going to be very surprised.”

“How is that?”

“Eli Gold had his head blown off in the box next to yours.”

“Shit, yeh, I can see why we’ve got to talk. Do me a favor, though; get a room in the hospital. We’ll want to be there, for Jerry. Make sure you get Tori, Ali Washington, Brian Ericson, and Jenni Ackerman, there, they worked the story. Get Deena Pappas too. ”

“We’ll want the four of you.”

“And our guns, I know. ”

“You’ll wait?”

“Not for long.”

“Won’t take long.”

It’s tough to be the boss. I had about zip to do with the Ponzi story, but when it’s architect got his head blown off, who did they come to?

Fred was as good as his word. Tori and I had barely settled on finding a phone before he was back.

“You have a room on the Critical floor. We’ll get everyone there. ”

“Who’s leading this Fred?”

" Hasn’t been assigned.”

“We need phones.”

“I’ll arrange it.”

The hospital was Jerry first. My bandages and some good paramedic work had Jerry semi-coherent. I caught him as they wheeled him into the operating room.

“Fucked up, Nicky, forgot you had my back. ”

“Painful lesson,” I said as a nurse stopped me from walking alongside the gurney, so I yelled, “Don’t do it again!”

“No way,” I heard it trail off.

Back in the room, Ken showed up with Kat.

The police let us alone for a while, but Ken took me aside and set up a “buzzer” which defeated any listening device.

“Joe, Aaron, Jack are on the way. This doesn’t pass.”

“Jerry fucked up,” I said, “he just said so, to me. If he survives he calls it.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

“Then we roll until we get a strike.”

“You’re in then.”

“We’ll know the pins, then we’ll roll.”

“You care?”

“The bastard who got his head blown off had a lot to pay for. Jerry should have waited. The shotgun isn’t the best choice, but you ask before you shoot. Our governments aren’t perfect. But you give them the first shot.

“Do we know anything?”

“We apparently got four of five men. The car only made it six miles. There were four bodies and one blood trail, so we hit all of them. Jerry got off two shots, and the four of us emptied high caliber pistols into the car,” said Ken.

“Any clue as to why?” I answered.

“Maybe I have the answer to that,” said a voice from over my shoulder.

The man walking up to us was middle-aged, a little on the heavy side and Hispanic. “You’ll find out soon enough as it is, so I’m not giving you a scoop. I remember how you kept us in the loop with the ripper case, we expect that here.”

“How far up the food chain are you now Hector?” I answered. Hector Ramos had worked vice with Gwen’s husband George before George went to the NYPD, we had a few years of history.

“Chief Inspector, homicide, which this has worked out to be in quantity. Not often we deal in it wholesale. Your friend could be five or six. You got three, and one more in critical condition. One apparently got away. Though he can’t be in great shape.

“The hit was Gold, obviously. The hitter eventually was Javier Gonzales and the Sonoran cartel.”

“The Mexican drug king? Gold was a laundry?”

“That’s our best guess. The cartel lost a pot full,” he chuckled at the double entendre.

“Good news for the other investors I guess, when it all shakes out the cartel’s recovery will go to the other clients. All the gunmen we have are cartel. So that’s the conclusion.”

“So, I have to get back to the office,” said Tori, who had followed Hector over to us. “Let Jen and me go and you pick up signed statements in about an hour?” She addressed directly to Hector.

Hector agreed. He had a steno with him but statements from all of us would take a while, so he was coming out ahead.

When he walked away I said to Tori, “What’d you load? We almost took out all of them, through a car body.”

“Dee and I use Silver-tips. Both you and Ed should have shot through the car. Kat’s twenty-two Mag will penetrate a car.”

“I’ve got wad-cutters in a .44 mag, so did Jerry,” said Ken. “The car wouldn’t have been much cover. Probably why there wasn’t any answering fire. I’m amazed the driver survived. Thought you stuck with a forty-five Nick.”

“I was going to the ballet, wrecks the line of my tux. The gun was Tori’s.”

“I put my shots into where I thought the gas tank was,” said Kat. “Obviously hitting it didn’t blow the car up. Another Hollywood myth exploded,” she chuckled, “or not.”

“Got to get to work,” said Tori. “We might have stepped in it here. I don’t think we want a war with a drug cartel. When you get out of here you hit your contacts. John Shao comes first. This happened in his town, what happens on Earth happens in Heaven. Gwen has Joe, Jack and Aaron on the way. We’ll check in.”

I had them take Ali’s statement first. Of us she was furthest from Jerry, having met him only once before. I wanted her on the story. Ali and Brian finished first and I instructed Ali to get to the office as soon as she said good night.

Both Ken and I finished rapidly, having given statements before. It flustered Ed a bit, a tractor dealer from Annandale; it wasn’t familiar territory. Dee finished almost as rapidly as Ken and I had. Kat was quick as well. I was proud of her, she grabbed the situation and handled it well.

Joe Colson arrived first, just as Kat was finishing. Jack Michaelson was next. He was in his Annandale police chief’s uniform, a post he’d held two months. Aaron Costello had driven in from Annandale and was still in his mechanic’s coveralls. With Ed, Ken and Jerry we were what was left of Don Early’s rifle squad. We bonded in the jungles of Southeast Asia. All six of us owed the other five our lives in one way or another and Jerry was one of us.

It was a long night and a longer day. None of us had much to say. It was about six the next day that the doctor came out to say Jerry hadn’t made it.

Joe Colson looked at me. “This doesn’t pass Nicky. You know my number, I expect a call.”

“Ditto,” said Aaron.

“Guess I’ve got my first official investigation,” said Jack. “I’ll hang around. Bunk with you?”

“In the loft, you got the couch next to Ken,” I answered.

Dee who had been there when the word came just looked over at Ed. “My daybed,” she said quietly. Ed just nodded.

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