The Brethren - Page 8

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Chapter Eight

Trevor was sipping a carry-out double latte from Beach Java and debating whether to add a generous shot or two ofAmaretto to help soothe away the morning's cobwebs when the call came. His cramped suite had no intercom system; one was not needed. Jan could simply yell any message down the hall, and he could yell back if he wanted. For eight years he and this particular secretary had been barking at each other.


"It's some bank in the Bahamas!" she announced. He almost spilled the coffee as he lunged for the phone.


It was a Brit whose accent had been softened by the islands. A substantial wire had been received, from a bank in Iowa.


How substantial, he wanted to know, covering his mouth so Jan couldn't hear.


A hundred thousand dollars.


Trevor hung up and added the Amaretto, three shots of it, and sipped the delightful brew while smiling goofily at the wall. In his career he'd never come close to a fee of $33,000. He'd settled a car wreck once for $25,000, taken a fee of $7,500, and within two months had spent all of it.


Jan knew nothing about the offshore account and the scam that diverted money to it, so he was forced to wait an hour, make a bunch of useless phone calls, and try to look busy before announcing he had to take care of some crucial business in downtown Jacksonville, then he was needed at Trumble. She didn't care. He disappeared all the time and she had some reading to keep her occupied.


He raced to the airport, almost missed his shuttle, and drank two beers during the thirty-minute flight to Fort Lauderdale, then two more on the way to Nassau. On the ground, he fell into the back of a cab, a 1974 Cadillac painted gold, without air-conditioning and with a driver who'd also been drinking. The air was hot and wet, the traffic slow, and Trevor's shirt was sticking to his back by the time they stopped downtown near the Geneva Trust Bank Building.


Inside, Mr. Brayshears came forward eventually and led Trevor to his small office. He presented a sheet of paper which gave the bare details: a $100,000 wire originating from the First Iowa Bank in Des Moines, remitter being a faceless entity named CMT Investments. The payee was another generic entity named Boomer Realty, Ltd. Boomer was the name of Joe Roy Spicer's favorite bird dog.


Trevor signed the forms to transfer $25,000 to his own, separate account with Geneva Trust, money he kept hidden from his secretary and from the IRS. The remaining $8,000 was handed to him in a thick envelope, cash. He stuffed it deep into his khaki pants pocket, shook Brayshears' soft little hand, and raced out of the building. He was tempted to stay a couple of days, find a room on the beach, get a chair by the pool, and drink rum until they stopped bringing it to him. The temptation grew to the point that he almost bolted from the gate at the airport and raced to get another cab. But he reached deep, determined not to squander his money this time.


Two hours later he was in the Jacksonville airport, drinking strong coffee, without liquor, and making his plans. He drove to Trumble, arriving at four-thirty, and he waited for Spicer for almost half an hour.


"A pleasant surprise," Spicer said dryly as he stepped into the attorney-conference room. Trevor had no briefcase to inspect, so the guard patted his pockets and stepped outside. His cash was hidden under the floor mat of his Beetle.


"We received a hundred thousand dollars from Iowa;'Trevor said, glancing at the door.


Spicer was suddenly happy to see his lawyer. He resented the "we" in Trevor's announcement, and he resented the healthy cut he raked off the top. But the scam wouldn't work without help from the outside, and, as usual, the lawyer was a necessary evil. So far, Trevor could be trusted.


"It's in the Bahamas?"


"Yes. I just left there. The money's tucked away, all sixty-seven thousand of it."


Spicer breathed deeply and savored the victory. A third of the loot gave him $22,000 and change. It was time to write some more letters!


He reached into the pocket of his olive prison shirt and removed a folded newspaper clipping. He stretched his arms, studied it for a second, then said, "Duke's at Tech tonight. The line is eleven. Put five thousand bucks on Tech."


"Five thousand?"


"Yep:.


"I've never put five thousand on a game before."


"What kinda bookie you got?"


"Small time."


"Look, if he's a bookie, he can handle the numbers. Call him as soon as you can. He may have to make a few calls, but he can do it."


" all right, all right."


"Can you come back tomorrow?"


"Probably"


"How many other clients have ever paid you thirtythree thousand bucks?"


"None."


"Right, so be here at four tomorrow. I'll have some mail for you."


Spicer left him and walked quickly from the administration building with only a nod at a guard in a window. He walked with a purpose across the finely manicured lawn, the Florida sun heating the sidewalk even in February. His colleagues were deep in their unhurried labors in their little library, alone as always, so Spicer did not hesitate to announce: "We got the hundred thousand firm old Quince in Iowa!"


Beech's hands froze on his keyboard. He peered over his reading glasses, his jaw dropping, and managed to say, "You're kidding."


"Nope. Just talked to Trevor. The money was wired in exactly as instructed, arrived in the Bahamas this morning. Quincy baby came through."


"Let's hit him again,"Yarber said, before the others could think of it.


"Quince?"


"Sure. The first hundred was easy, let's squeeze him one more time. What could we lose?"


"Not a damned thing," Spicer said with a smile. He wished he'd said it first.


"How much?" asked Beech.


"Let's try fifty," Yarber said, pulling numbers from the air as if anything was possible.


The other two nodded and pondered the next fifty thousand, then Spicer took charge and said, "Look, let's evaluate where we are now. I think Curtis in Dallas is ripe. We'll hit Quince again. This thing is working, and I think we should shift gears, get more aggressive, know what I mean? Let's take each pen pal, analyze them one by one, and step up the pressure."


Beech turned off his computer and reached for a file. Yarber cleared his small desk. Their little Angola scam had just received a fresh infusion of capital, and the smell of ill-gotten cash was intoxicating.


They began reading all the old letters, and drafting new ones. More victims were needed, they quickly decided. More ads would be placed in the back pages of those magazines.


Trvor made it as far as Pete's Bar and Grill, arriving there just in time for happy hour, which atPete's began at 5 P .M. and ran until the first fistfight.


He found Prep, a thirty-two-year-old sophomore at North Florida, shooting nine-ball for twenty bucks a game. Prep's dwindling trust fund required the family lawyer to pay him $2,000 a month as long as he was enrolled as a full-time student. He'd been a sophomore for eleven years.


Prep was also the busiest bookie at Pete's, and when Trevor whispered that he had serious money to place on the Duke Tech game, Prep asked, "How much?"


"Fifteen thousand;" Trevor said, then gulped his longneck beer.


"You serious?" Prep asked, chalking his cue stick and glancing around the smoky table.Trevor had never bet more than a hundred bucks on any game.


"Yep."Another long pull on the bottle. He was feeling lucky. If Spicer had the guts to lay $5,000 on the game; Trevor would double it. He'd just earned 33,000 tax-free dollars. So what if he lost ten? That much belonged to the IRS anyway.


"I'll have to make a call," Prep said, pulling out a cell phone.


"Hurry.The game starts in thirty minutes."


The bartender was a local who'd never left the state of Florida but had somehow developed an intense passion for Australian Rules Football. A game was on from - Down Under, and it took a $20 bribe from Trevor to get the channel changed to ACC basketball.


With $15,000 riding on Georgia Tech, there was no way Duke could miss a shot, at least not in the first half. Trevor ate french fries, drank one bottle after another, and tried to ignore Prep, who was standing near a pool table in a dark corner, watching.


In the second half, Trevor almost bribed the bartender to switch back to the Aussie game. He was getting drunker, and with ten minutes to go was openly cursing Joe Roy Spicer to anyone who would listen. What did that redneck know about ACC basketball? Duke led by twenty with nine minutes to go, when Tech's point guard got hot and nailed four straight three's. Trevor had Tech and eleven.


The game was tied with a minute to go. Trevor didn't care who won. He'd beat the spread. He paid his tab, tipped the bartender another $100, then flashed a smart-ass salute to Prep as he walked out the door. Prep flipped him the bird.


In the cool darkness, Trevor skipped along Atlantic Boulevard, away from the lights, past the cheap summer rentals packed tightly together, past the neat little retirement homes with their fresh paint and perfect lawns, down the old wooden steps to the sand, where he took off his shoes and strolled along the edge of the water. The temperature was in the forties, not unusual for Jacksonville in February, and before long his feet were cold and wet.


Not that he felt much-$43,000 in one day, taxfree, all hidden from the government. Last year after expenses he'd cleared $28,000, and that was working practically full time-haggling with clients too poor or too cheap to pay, avoiding courtrooms, dealing with penny-ante real estate agents and bankers, bickering with his secretary, cutting corners on taxes.


Ali, the joy of quick cash. He'd been suspicious of the Brethren's little scam, but now it seemed so brilliant. Extort from those who can't complain. How thoroughly clever.


And since it was working so well, he knew Spicer would turn up the heat. The mail would get heavier, the visits to Trumble more frequent. Hell, he'd be there every day if necessary, hauling letters in and out, bribing guards.


He splashed his feet in the water as the wind picked up and the waves roared in.


Even more clever would be to steal from the extortionists, court-certified crooks who certainly couldn't complain. It was a nasty thought, one he was almost ashamed of, but a valid one nonetheless. All options would be kept open. Since when were thieves known for their loyalty?


He needed a million dollars, nothing more or less. He'd done the math many times, driving to Trumble, drinking at Pete's, sitting at his desk with the door locked. A lousy million bucks, and he could close his sad little office, surrender his law license, buy a sailboat, arid spend eternity drifting with the winds around the Caribbean.


He was closer than he would ever be.


Justice Spicer, rolled over again on the bottom bunk. Sleep was a rare gift in his tiny room, on his tiny bed with a small, smelly roommate named Alvin snoring above him. Alvin had roamed North America as a hobo for decades, but late in life had grown weary and hungry. His crime had been the robbery of a rural mail carrier in Oklahoma. His apprehension had been aided mightily when Alvin walked into the FBI office in Tulsa and declared, "I did it." The FBI scrambled for six hours to find the crime. Even the judge knew Alvin planned it all. He wanted a federal bed, certainly not one provided by the state.


Sleep was even more difficult than usual because Spicer was worried about the lawyer. Now that the scam had hit its stride, there was serious cash lying around. And more on the way. The more Boomer Realty collected in the Bahamas, the more tempting it would become for Trevor. He and he alone could steal their ill-gotten loot and get away with it.


But the scam worked only with an outside conspirator. Someone had to sneak the mail back and forth. Someone had to collect the money.


There had to be a way to bypass the lawyer, and Joe Roy was determined to find it. If he didn't sleep for a month, he didn't care. No slimy lawyer would take a third of his money, then steal the rest.


***



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