The Brethren - Page 33

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Chapter Thirty-Three

Pursuant to Mr. Lake's precise instructions, Jayne drove alone to Chevy Chase. She found the shopping center on Western Avenue, and parked in front of Mailbox America. With Mr. Lake's key, she opened the box, removed eight pieces of junk mail, and placed them in a folder. There were no personal letters. She walked to the counter and informed the clerk that she wished to close the box on behalf of her employer, Mr. Al Konyers.


The clerk pecked a few times on a keyboard. The records indicated that a man named Aaron L. Lake had rented the box in the name of Al Konyers about seven months earlier. The rental had been paid for twelve months, so nothing was owed.


"That guy running for President?" the clerk asked as she slid a form across the counter.


"Yes;" Jayne said, signing where indicated.


"No forwarding address?" No.


She left with the folder and headed south, back into the city. She had not stopped to question Lake's storyabout renting the box in a clandestine effort to expose fraud at the Pentagon. It didn't matter to her, nor did she have time to ask a lot of questions. Lake had them sprinting eighteen hours a day, and she had far more important things to worry about.


He was waiting in his campaign office, alone for the moment. The offices and hallways around him were choked with assistants of a dozen varieties, all running back and forth as if war were imminent. But Lake was enjoying a lull in the action. She gave him the folder and left.


Lake counted eight pieces of junk mail-taco delivery, long-distance service, a car wash, coupons for this and for that. And nothing from Ricky. The box was closed, there was no forwarding address. The poor boy would have to find someone else to help him through his new life. Lake fed the junk mail and the cancellation agreement through a small shredder under his desk, then paused a moment to count his blessings. He carried little baggage in life, and he'd made few mistakes. Writing to Ricky had been a stupid thing to do, yet he was walking away unscathed. What a lucky man!


He smiled and almost giggled to himself, then he bounced from his chair, grabbed his jacket, and rounded up his entourage.The candidate had meetings to attend, then a lunch with defense contractors.


Oh what a lucky man!


Back in the corner of the law library, with his three new friends guarding the perimeter like sleepy sentries, Argrow fiddled with the phone long enough to convince them he'd pulled strings all through the dark and murky world of offshore banking. Two hours of pacing and mumbling and holding the phone to his head like a frantic stockbroker, and he finally came out of the room.


"Good news, gentlemen;" he said with a tired smile.


They huddled around, eager for the results.


"It's still there;" he said.


Then the great question, the one they'd been planning, the one that would verify whether Argrow was a fraud or a player.


"How much?" asked Spicer.


"A hundred and ninety thousand, and small change;" he said, and they exhaled in unison. Spicer smiled. Beech looked away. Yarber looked at Argrow with a quizzical frown, but a rather pleasant one.


According to their figures, the balance was $189,000, plus whatever paltry rate of interest the bank was paying.


"He didn't steal it;' Beech mumbled, and they shared a pleasant memory of their dead lawyer, who suddenly was not the devil they'd made him out to be.


"I wonder why not," Spicer mused, almost to himself.


"Well, it's still there;" Argrow said. "That's a lot of legal work:"


It certainly appeared to be, and since neither of the three could think of a quick fib, they just let it pass.


"I suggest you move it, if you don't mind my saying so," Argrow said. "This bank is known for its leaks."


"Move it where?" Beech asked.


"If the money were mine, I'd move it to Panama immediately"


This was a new issue, a train of thought they had not pursued because they had been obsessed with Trevor and his certain theft. But they weighed it carefully anyway, as if the matter had been discussed many times.


"Why would you move it?" Beech asked. "It's safe, isn't it?"


"I guess;" Argrow answered, quick with a response. He knew where he was going, they did not. "But you see how loose the confidentiality can be. I wouldn't use banks in the Bahamas these days, especially this one."


"And we don't know if Trevor told anyone about it," Spicer said, always anxious to nail the lawyer.


"If you want the money protected, move it;" Argrow said. "It takes less than a day and you won't have to worry about it. And put the money to work. This account is just sitting there, drawing a few pennies in interest. Put it with a fund manager and let it earn fifteen or twenty percent. You're not gonna be using it any time soon."


That's what you think, pal, they thought. But he made perfect sense.


"And I assume you can move it?" Yarber said.


"Of course I can. Do you doubt me now?"


All three shook their heads. No sir, they did not doubt him.


"I have some nice contacts in Panama. Think about it." Argrow glanced at his watch as if he had lost interest in their account and had a hundred pressing matters elsewhere. A punch line was coming, and he didn't want to push.


"We've thought about it," Spicer said. "Let's move it now.


He looked at three sets of eyes, all looking back at him. "There's a fee involved;" he said, like a seasoned money launderer.


"What kinda fee?" Spicer asked.


"Ten percent, for the transfer."


"Who gets ten percent?"


"I do."


"That's rather steep;" said Beech.


"It's a sliding scale. Anything under a million pays ten percent. Anything over a hundred million pays one percent. It's pretty common in the business, and it's exactly the reason I'm wearing an olive prison shirt and not a thousand-dollar suit."


"That's pretty sleazy;" said Spicer, the man who'd skimmed bingo profits from a charity.


"Let's not preach, okay We're talking about a small cut from money that's already tainted, both here and there. Take it or leave it." His tone was aloof, an icy veteran who'd cut much larger deals.


It was only $19,000, and this from a stash they'd been certain was gone. After his 10 percent, they still had $170,000, roughly $60,000 each, and it would've been more if treacherous Trevor hadn't raked so much off the top. And, besides; they were confident of greener pastures just around the corner. The loot in the Bahamas was pocket change.


"It's a deal," Spicer said as he looked at the other two for approval. They both nodded slowly. All three were thinking the same thing now. If the shakedown of Aaron Lake proceeded as they dreamed it would, then serious money was coming their way. They would need a place to hide it, and maybe someone to help them. They wanted to trust this new guy Argrow Let's give him the chance.


"Plus, you do my appeals," Argrow said.


"Yes, we'll do the appeals."


Argrow smiled and said, "Not a bad deal. Lemme make some more calls."


"There's one thing you should know;" Beech said.


"Okay"


"The lawyer's name was Trevor Carson. He set up the account, directed the deposits, did everything really. And he was murdered night before last in Kingston, Jamaica."


Argrow searched their faces for more. Yarber handed him a copy of the newspaper, which he read very deliberately. "Why was he missing?" he asked after a long silence.


"We don't know;" Beech said. "He left town, and we got word through the FBI that he was missing. We just assumed that he'd stolen our money."


Argrow handed the paper back to Yarber, and crossed his arms over his chest. He cocked his head, narrowed his eyes, and managed to look suspicious. Let them sweat.


"How dirty is this money?" he asked, as if he might not want to get involved with it after all.


"It's not drug money," Spicer said quickly, on the defensive, as if all other money was clean.


"We really can't say;" Beech replied.


"You've got a deal,"Yarber said. "Take it or leave it." Good move, old boy, Argrow said to himself. "The FBI is involved?" he asked.


"Only with the lawyer's disappearance," Beech said. "The fells know nothing about the offshore account."


"Let me get this straight.You got a dead lawyer, the FBI, an offshore account hiding dirty money, right? What've you boys been up to?"


"You don't wanna know," Beech said.


"I think you're right."


"No one's forcing you to get involved"Yarber said.


So a decision had to be made. For Argrow, the red flags were up, the minefield was marked. If he went forward, then he did so armed with sufficient warnings that his three new friends could be dangerous. This, of course, meant nothing to Argrow But to Beech, Spicer, and Yarber, the opening in their tight little partnership, however slight it might be, meant they were admitting another conspirator. They would never tell him about their scam, and certainly not about Aaron Lake, nor would he share in any more of their loot, unless he earned it with his wiring prowess. But he already knew more than he should. They had no choice.


Desperation played no small role in their decision. With Trevor, they'd had access to the outside, something they'd taken for granted. Now that he was gone, their world had shrunk considerably.


Though they had yet to admit it, firing him had been a mistake. With perfect hindsight, they should've warned him, and told him everything about Lake and the tampered mail. He'd been far from perfect, but they needed all the help they could get.


Perhaps they would've hired him back a day or two later, but they never had the chance. Trevor bolted, and now he was gone forever.


Argrow had access. He had a phone and friends; he had guts and he knew how to get things done. Perhaps they might need him, but they would take it slowly


He scratched his head and frowned as if a headache was coming. "Don't tell me anything else," he said. "I don't wanna know"


He returned to the conference room and closed the door behind him, then perched on the edge of the table and once again seemed to be firing calls all over the Caribbean.


They heard him laugh twice, probably a joke with an old friend surprised to hear his voice. They heard him swear once, but had no idea at whom or for what reason. His voice rose and fell, and try as they might to read court decisions and dust off old books and study Vegas odds, they couldn't ignore the noise from the room.


Argrow put on quite a show, and after an hour of useless chatter he came out and said, "I think I can finish it tomorrow, but we need an affidavit signed by one of you stating that you are the sole owners of Boomer Realty."


"Who sees the affidavit?" Beech asked.


"Only the bank in the Bahamas. They're getting a copy of the story about Mr. Carson, and they want verification about the ownership of the account."


The idea of actually signing any type of document in which they admitted they had anything to do with the dirty money terrified them. But the request made sense.


"Is there a fax machine around here?" Argrow asked.


"No, not for us," Beech replied.


"I'm sure the warden has one," Spicer said. "Just trot up there and tell him you need to send a document to your offshore bank."


It was unnecessarily sarcastic. Argrow glared at him, then let it pass. "Okay, tell me how to get the affidavit from here to the Bahamas. How does the mail run?"


"The lawyer was our mail runner," Yarber said. "Everything else is subject to inspection."


"How close do they inspect the legal mail?"


"They glance at it," Spicer said. "But they can't open it."


Argrow paced around a bit, deep in thought. Then, for the benefit of his audience he stepped between two racks of books, so that he could not be seen from outside the law library. He deftly unfolded his gadget, punched numbers, and stuck it to his ear. He said, "Yes, Wilson Argrow here. Is Jack in? Yes, tell him it's important." He waited.


"Who the hell's Jack?" Spicer asked from across the room. Beech and Yarber listened but watched for passersby.


"My brother in Boca," Argrow said. "He's a real estate lawyer. He's visiting me tomorrow" Then, into the phone, he said, "Hey, Jack, it's me. You comin tomorrow? Good, can you come in the morning? Good. Around ten. I'll have some mail going out. Good. How's Mom? Good. I'll see you in the morning."


The prospect of the resumption of mail intrigued the Brethren. Argrow had a brother who was a lawyer. And he had a phone, and brains, and guts.


He slid the gadget back into his pocket and walked from the racks. "I'll give the affidavit to my brother in the morning. He'll fax it to the bank. By noon the next day the money will be in Panama, safe and sound and earning fifteen percent. Piece of cake."


"We're assuming we can trust your brother?" Yarber said.


"With your life," Argrow said, almost offended by the question. He was walking to the door. "I'll see you guys later. I need some fresh air."


***



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