The Mentor

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Chapter 6

Back in Barnaby’s Bar Luke continued his discussions with the old man…

Luke extended his hands to the side. ‘Appears to be a straight forward robbery and murder…The perp killed the vic before stealing his possessions. Problem is…I have no idea who did it. There are no witnesses…the gun has never been found. Ballistics identified the slug as a nine mill,’ Luke said. ‘Being so close to the Projects the perp would more than likely reside in there, or was a visitor there, but of course…nobody from the projects saw, or heard anything.’

The old man watched as Luke told his story and nominated his suspicions.

‘You think it was a robbery…?’ the old man eventually asked.

Luke nodded. ‘Aha.’

‘Why’s that…?’

Luke regarded the old man with confusion. He frowned, puzzled by the question. Haven't you been listening to the story of events…? I don't think I could have told the story any more clearly.

’Why do I think it was a robbery-murder…?’ Luke repeated.

‘Correct,’ the old man said. ‘Could it have been a hit…an execution…?’

Luke shook his head. He didn’t want to be condescending or rude to the old man.

‘Everything was stolen…’ Luke bent back a finger. ‘The vic’s phone,’ he bent a second finger, ‘wallet,’ he bent a third finger, ‘watch and shoes…’ Luke said tapping a fourth finger. ‘He was an easy target in his fancy BMW.’

'Then why did he stop near that park…?’ The old man asked. 'You said he drove through the area to and from work…so why did he stop on this occasion…?’

Luke glanced at the full shot glasses at the end of the table. I could do with a shot right now. He sighed heavily as he sat back in his chair.

‘I don’t know…maybe he was flagged down by someone…then ambushed. Does it really matter at this stage…?’

The old man shook his head. His expression was one of apparent disappointment. ‘Everything is not as it seems,’ he began. ‘Yes, I agree it certainly looked like a robbery – murder…but how well has that theory gone for you so far…?’ the old man asked rhetorically, before continuing. 'The reason why he was there is completely relevant. Could he have been meeting someone…?'

Luke shrugged. ‘Don’t know. How could we know unless that person came forward? His wife said that she thought he was at work.’

The old man jabbed a finger at Luke. 'Exactly…He was supposed to be at work – as far as his wife was aware, yet he wasn’t. His vehicle was found parked near a local park.’

‘Where are you going with this?’ Luke asked.

‘Well…you mentioned that his wife said his cell phone was a part of him...I think you said.’ Luke nodded in confirmation. ‘Well, did you check his TELCO for phone records or SMS messages? As I understand it, they are kept for about six months?’

Luke shook his head. ‘To be honest I didn’t think I needed to. After all, it appeared to be just a robbery during which the vic was shot and killed. Maybe he didn’t cooperate or something. I don’t know. The TELCO would probably lock the phone once it was reported stolen anyway.’

‘Check the phone records, son…’ The old man was direct in his advice, as though it was an order. ‘You’ll find the answers you seek from the TELCO phone records.’

Luke thought about the old man’s comments. They were not completely out of left field. Sure, he was doubtful, but there could be some merit in checking the phone records.

‘If it wasn’t a robbery…what was it then?’ Luke asked.

The old man shrugged. ‘I can’t answer that, son…’ he said with a shake of his head. ‘But the evidence trail will… Follow the evidence...’

‘OK…I’ll look into the TELCO records to see if that goes anywhere,’ Luke said. ‘Certainly can’t hurt now can it?’

The old man returned a satisfied smile. ‘I think you will find there is more to it than what first appears.’

‘How can you be so sure?’ Luke asked. ‘How can you sit there and make these bold predictions so confidently?’

'These cases you are telling me about… the ones that are troubling you…I have had almost identical cases to each of these over my thirty-five years son…almost identical,’ he reiterated. ‘I have years of experience to draw on, son…You only have six years, and a strong enthusiasm.’

Luke sat back on his chair. He couldn’t really argue with that.

'OK,' the old man started. ‘If I am correct there is still one more case that is troubling you.’

Luke checked his watch and then leaned onto his elbows. ‘Correct…there is one more case,’ he said. 'It involved the murder of a woman who was found in a hotel room in Downtown Brooklyn…

Claire O’Connor sat at her desk in the corner of the open plan office with an intense look of concentration. A telephone receiver was wedged between her shoulder and ear while she scribbled down notes.

Such was her focus on her call she had completely blocked out all the intrusive sounds from her colleagues in New York’s Daily News Journalists’ bull pen; the unrelenting tapping of computer keyboards, the continual ringing of telephones and the usual loud discussions that all blended into an indiscernible low level din.

When she eventually ended the lengthy call her face filled with a smile. She immediately accessed her computer to verify some of the information she had just received, scribbling down notes as she went.

At thirty-eight Claire was a fearless, confident and experienced investigative journalist with The Daily News, one of New York’s most popular newspapers. She had been divorced for over five years now, which was an unfortunate by-product of her industry and job dedication.

Having earned a fearless reputation over the years, Claire’s name was synonymous with hard hitting, relentless investigative journalism that struck fear in anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in her cross hairs. Such was the implied status of her reputation she continued penning her hard hitting exposés under her maiden name after she married.

Over the years Claire established numerous confidential sources spread throughout the city in various positions inside government and council offices. These people reliably fed her with information and leads on matters of public interest.

Her passion was political corruption and crimes committed by city officials and holders of high offices. She thrived on the thrill of the chase, and once she got the sniff of a story, she was like a ravenous dog with a bone.

Depending on the case, Claire could spend months researching and interviewing on-the-record and off-the-records sources, as well as anonymous sources and whistle-blowers.

Due to the high profile of her persons-of-interest she had to be certain of her facts. Allegations that could potentially ruin the career of a city official would always be aggressively challenged and denied, so she had to be 100% factually accurate. To run with anything less would not only question her reputation and integrity, but would almost certainly result in litigation against her and the paper she represented.

Like most Journalists of her ilk she kept her cards close to her chest. You would never hear her openly discussing a lead with any of her office colleagues. She worked in a dog-eat-dog industry where every Journalist craved for their next story to be a ground breaking exposé, or maybe even a Pulitzer.

Careless handling of her confidential information could not only place her sources at risk, but it could even result in journalists from rival newspapers usurping her hard work and breaking her story ahead of her. And in this game, it’s all about exclusivity and being the first to report on a major story or incident.

Seven weeks ago Claire received information from one of her sources that clearly excited her. As a result she had been working on that particular matter for several weeks, researching and investigating the accuracy of the allegations raised.

This morning another of her confidential sources provided her with what she believed was incriminating evidence against a person of considerable status in New York City.

Once her frantic note taking and most recent research was completed, Claire pushed herself from her desk and stood. After collecting her cell phone and notepad from the desk she dropped them into her over-sized purse, lifted her jacket from the back of her chair and slipped it on. Claire was on a mission as she made her way towards the office exit.

After a short walk Claire arrived at a café that had been purposely selected. She chose a discreet table in the rear corner where she waited.

The contact from her earlier telephone call had some vital documents he believed she would be interested in and requested a meeting at the café in which she currently sat.

Claire checked her watch for the third time since arriving. She had almost finished her coffee when a male person wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses approached her table.

Without any greeting he slid in to the chair opposite her. She had never met this source in person before today. Although his face was partially hidden by the sunglasses, the male appeared late fifties, thin built with a graying moustache.

The mysterious male leaned in towards Claire and rested on his elbows. ‘Claire O’Connor?’ he questioned quietly.

‘That’s right…’ she answered.

The mystery male sat back in his chair. He checked over each shoulder, reached inside his jacket and removed a large beige colored envelope, which he placed on the table in front of himself. He slid the envelope across the table to Claire.

Claire watched the man’s secret agent style actions with curious interest.

The man tapped the envelope twice. ‘Be very careful with that information,’ he warned. ‘These are very influential people you are dealing with.’

‘Thank you for the advice,’ Claire said as she lifted the envelope and placed it into her purse on the floor beside her.

Without saying a word the man stood from the table and quickly exited the café.

Claire grinned to herself as she watched the man until he left the café. She made a curious scan of the café patrons. Everything seemed normal.

Once she finished her tepid coffee Claire returned to the relative privacy of her office to examine the contents of the envelope.

Back at her desk she was surprised to find that the envelope not only contained what she considered were crucial documents, but it also included several ten by eight inch black and white photographs of her subject in various compromising positions.

Claire collapsed back in her chair. Her eyes locked on the envelope contents spread out on the desk in front of her while she considered the enormity of this investigation.

The documents she received would require her to travel to Brooklyn for interviews and verification inquiries. Her eyes lifted towards her Editor’s office.

After a brief pause Claire accessed her computer and made some Brooklyn accommodation inquiries. She then completed a travel and accommodation request and made her way to her Editor's office.

Claire's boss, Lucy Carmichael was aware Claire was working on something big, but Claire’s loyalty and sworn trust to her informants and sources prevented her from disclosing any names at this stage. She only updated Lucy on the progress of the investigation – but no details.

Claire knocked on Lucy’s closed door before peering through the glass wall. Lucy motioned to Claire to enter.

Lucy was a pocket dynamo. She was short in stature but had a booming voice when she wanted to make herself heard. She was a powerful woman with a strong personality. She spoke with confidence and implied power that commanded respect, possibly even a little fear amongst her staff.

All staff knew that you cross Lucy at your own peril. The reputation of one of New York’s most popular newspapers was under her management and it was a responsibility that she didn’t take lightly.

‘Claire…How are things coming along…?’ Lucy asked.

Claire slid into the chair opposite Lucy. ‘Very well actually, Lucy,’ she replied. ‘I met with one of my sources this morning and he gave some new evidence.’ Claire slid the travel request across Lucy’s desk.

Lucy slipped on her glasses. ‘What’s this?’ Lucy asked.

‘I’m going to have to spend some time in Brooklyn over the next couple of days.’

Lucy’s eyes lifted to Claire. She removed her glasses and held them in her hand while she regarded Claire. ‘Have you made your due diligence to verify the accuracy of information you received this morning?’ Lucy said.

‘I have…’ Claire said. ‘From what I can ascertain it all appears to be legitimate. But that is why I need to go to Brooklyn…I need further information to support this,’ Claire said.

Lucy chewed on one of the arms from her glasses for a moment of brief contemplation. ‘How long do you think you need down there…?’ Lucy asked then slipped on her glasses to re-read the travel request.

‘Well…based on this information I received…’ Claire began. ‘And considering the number of people in Brooklyn I will need to interview and the other inquiries I will have to make, I was thinking of staying for two nights while I sort it all out.’

Lucy nodded as she listened.

‘Most of the people I have to interview will insist on the meetings being confidential and private…so I was thinking if I had a hotel suite, or a room with an office, so I can conduct the interviews in private, in my room…What do you think…? I’ve already checked online. The Marriot in Downtown Brooklyn has rooms that would be suitable…and the rates are quite reasonable.’

Lucy's eyes dropped to the travel request. Her firm gaze lifted to Claire. ‘OK…Do it. Make it happen, but keep me updated,’ Lucy said then quickly scribbled her authorizing signature on the travel request. She then handed it back to Claire.

Claire smiled as she stood up from her chair. ‘Of course,’ she said, accepting the document from Lucy.

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