Authors: Austin S. Camacho
Gorman called them that same day and hired them the next morning, after first having Gunny make sure that there was nothing in their records that would stamp either of them as a thief or untrustworthy.
For their part, both Stone and his huge white partner, Steele, seemed happy to have some work to look forward to. It was instantly obvious to Gorman that they had taken early retirement on almost a whim without worrying too much about how they were going to live. This was not much of a problem for Steele who seemed to be a low maintenance bachelor, but Stone had a wife. There was
probably some other reason behind their retirements, but Gorman never asked about it. He didn't have to. His connections let him know of this pair's intolerance for lazy investigators and for the casual way that some policemen take advantage of their status. Whatever had triggered the actual decisions, he figured that as long as they were clean, it was their own business. Since then, Gorman had grown to appreciate not just their toughness and their street smarts, but also their absolute commitment to making the bad guys pay their bill. A lot of cops pretended to have that attitude, but not many really did. Stone and Steele were the exceptions.
It had been a blistering hot day in August when Gorman called them into his office. They came in as policemen so often did, suspicious and wondering about the circumstances. Usually they got their assignments from Gunny; talking to Gorman himself was out of the ordinary. And both of them were a little in awe of Gorman.
“Either of you know Irving Jerome?” he asked.
him,” Stone said.
“A dirt bag lawyer, always dumping on cops,” Steele said.
“That's our boy,” Gorman said. “Did you read the papers over the weekend?”
Stone shook his head. Steele said, “I wanted to, Boss. I really did. I had the paper and I was trying to read it but he was jabbering so much over the coffeeâ¦he uses three sugarsâ¦that I didn't get a chance to even read anything. I would've read it though if I had the chance without all the noise.”
“Oh, shut up,” Stone said. “The only thing you read is the sports page and just doing that takes you three hours.” He looked at Gorman and said, “He started the
New York Post
crossword puzzle once. It's only got eight words in it and he's been working on it for four years and hasn't finished it yet.”
“I'm waiting to find a four letter word for
African-American ingrate,” Steele said.
Gorman stifled a smile. He had been listening to their dog and pony act for the last year. The hard fact was that they had something only the very best of partners ever had, absolute, total faith in each other. He also knew that if God ever told him that he, Gorman, would have to march into hell, he could do worse than have Stone and Steele at his side.
“Let me bring you up to speed,” Gorman said and told them of the drug dealer being turned loose after a hung jury.
“For your ears alone, that juror was named Anthony Benedetto.
“And you're not going to tell us how you found that out,” Steele said.
“That's exactly correct. But what I am going to tell you is that this is the third time in the last year that our friendly neighborhood barrister, Irving Jerome, has gotten some goon off who should have been sent up. All three times with just one unyielding vote for acquittal.”
“He's buying jurors,” Stone said.
“Or renting them,” Gorman said. “Look, Jerome is slick. He's a dirt bag, but he's a sharp lawyer. Most of the time, he wins his cases by chopping up the police witnesses against his client. A lot of times, the judge dismisses the case before it ever goes to the jury. But the ones that get to a jury always seem to get tossed.”
“You're not a lawyer, are you, Boss?” Steele asked.
“No, thank God. Why do you ask?”
“Because this Jerome is just one crooked lawyer in a city of crooked lawyers. Why him? Why now?”
“Because after getting the acquittal last week, he filed papers with the court and the district attorney demanding that the police witness be investigated for perjury. This isn't the first time he's done that. The policeman involved is obviously worried and it was brought to our attention. It turns out that this Mister Jerome isn't satisfied with just
winning his cases. He hates cops and one day, somebody's going to get killed and he's going to figure out a way to pin it on a policeman who was just doing his job. I don't want that to happen.”
“You know anything about this juror, Anthony Benedetto?” Stone asked.
“Just his address in Staten Island,” Gorman said, not surprised that Stone, who rarely missed anything, had remembered the man's name after hearing it just once. He slid a piece of paper across his desk to the black detective. Stone looked at it, put it in the pocket of his well-tailored suit, and stood up.
“You have any ideas on how to do this?” Steele asked, as he got to his feet too.
“If I had any ideas, why would I have to hire you two?”
Both men grinned and nodded. “Leave it with us, Boss,” Steele said. “Irving Jerome's ass is now officially grass.”
Gorman stood up behind his desk. “Be subtle,” he said. “Remember, nobody knows who Beyond Blue is or what we do. Let's keep it that way.”
“Subtlety is what I do best,” Steele said.
The job was made a little easier because Benedetto, apparently exhausted after his three days on jury duty, had taken his wife on a weeklong Caribbean cruise and was out of town and thus not likely to see that two detectives were on his trail.
For the cost of a couple of drinks, Steele had found out from a pretty young travel agent that Benedetto had paid in cash for the cruise, an end-of-season special at $3,999.
Stone found out that neither Benedetto nor his wife had withdrawn that kind of money from their joint checking account. This led them to believe that Benedetto kept a stash of money hidden in his house, or somebody had put the cash to pay for the cruise in his hand.
They eliminated the first prospect by breaking into Benedetto's house one night and spending three hours searching it. The only hard cash they found was $67 in a
cookie jar in the kitchen and judging by the shabby furniture, they doubted that Benedetto had ever had $4,000 hidden elsewhere in the house.
The next point of attack was the juror's place of employment, D'Elia's Cartage, where he was a dispatcher for a large fleet of odd-job trucks. Benedetto was not a favorite of the workers there because he was a cousin of the boss and therefore fireproof. In fact, Benedetto had gone on the trip to celebrate his promotion to head dispatcher. And the promotion had come through right after he was finished with his jury service.
The background of D'Elia's Cartage was their next target and it finally took a trip to the state capitol in Albany, with Stone complaining all the way about Steele's suicidal driving, for them to learn that D'Elia's was bought, paid for and controlled by the Cardona crime family.
This was the same crime family that employed the drug dealer who had been set free by Benedetto's jury. But the missing link was a connection between Irving Jerome and the Cardonas. And that was what had brought them to Jerome's office on this chilly September day.
Their idea today was not to toss the place but to find what they wanted without anyone ever knowing they had been there. That was the work they did for Beyond Blue Investigations. Find the dirt, give it to Paul Gorman, and then move on to the next job.
As Stone laid various ledgers and books on the desktop, Steele began taking pictures of the pages with a small digital camera. They expected the receptionist to be back in twenty minutes; they wanted to be gone in ten, leaving nothing behind but footprints in the carpet.
Steele finished clicking and opened the left side of the desk. “Look at this,” he said. “Courvoisier. Havana cigars. Isn't it against the law to have Havana cigars?”
“Only in Cuba. Shut up and keep looking.”
“Bingo,” Steele said. “Look at this.” He brought out an accordion folder that was in the back of the open drawer,
behind the Courvoisier. “A list of money and some names.”
Stone looked over. “Recognize any of the names?”
“Just our traveling truck dispatcher from Staten Island,” Steele answered with a grin.
“Goddam, good for you, buddy,” Stone said. “Take the pictures and let's get the hell out of here.”
As Steele mechanically photographed the pages, he kept up a soft running commentary. “I'd still like to get Jerome's checkbook. See if there's been any cash transferred to either Benedetto or D'Elia's. That would nail it.”
“If we got it,” Stone said. “And if not, we do it the old fashioned way.”
“Lean on Benedetto until he gives us Jerome.”
“Works for me,” Stone said.
Their heads snapped up as if pulled by the same string to focus on the doorknob, which was turning slowly. Stone grabbed the folder and they both darted into the nearest office. Stone pushed the door nearly closed, then crouched to look out. The trio walking through the door wore conservative suits and ties, but otherwise they must have been on loan from that World Wrestling outfit. Stone didn't like to deal with big guys with no necks, but these guys were particularly dangerous. Their tread was light, and they weren't talking, just looking around. The smallest guy, only a little bigger than Steele, pointed to the smaller offices while he drew a pistol and headed for Jerome's office. The biggest guy nodded toward the room Stone and Steele were in.
Stone felt Steele crouching beside him, and heard him whisper, “We are so fucked.”
When Chastity Chiba finally closed the main office door behind her, Gorman leaned on Gunny's desk and released a gentle sigh. “From this I have to go straight to a meeting with Ruby Sanchez.”
a long briefing to get her spun up on that case,” Gunny said. “And with Ruby Sanchez and Steele and Stone on cases too, it gets to be like herding cats, don't it?”
“Yeah, sometimes,” Gorman said, allowing himself a small grin. “But a particularly talented bunch of cats indeed, old friend. Now if there's nothing else pressing, I really do have to go meet the most challenging of them all.”
As Gorman walked out the door, Gunny looked down at his personal notebook where he had jotted down a few words from an earlier conversation. There, in his neat printing, as precise as a typewriter, was everything he knew about the man he spoke to that morning. Gunny's instincts told him the man was in serious trouble, so deep undercover that he had started thinking like one of them. He said he needed to talk to someone he could trust about getting out of his situation, but Gunny knew that what he really needed was an anchor, someone to remind him of his true self.
Or, he was lying through his teeth and it was a set up to bring down the head of Beyond Blue Investigations. Gunny picked up the phone and punched in the numbers to the mysterious mobster's pager. He wasn't ready to let Gorman put himself at risk on this one. Gunny would meet the man himself.
Gorman pulled himself out of the taxi at two minutes before ten and waited for the light to change before he crossed Madison Avenue. When he moved forward, it was with a military posture and the gait of a man who was not in a hurry but knew exactly where he was going. The wind whipped his dark hair like the mane of a charging lion.
From his left, he saw Ruby Jackson Sanchez approaching. He allowed himself to admire the long, shapely legs growing down out of her suede coat. How in the world did she walk in those spiked heel boots?
“Hey, sailor,” Ruby said when she was close enough. “You new in town? Buy a lady a drink?”
Gorman grimaced and pulled the door open for her. Ruby stepped into the little coffee shop and headed for a table in the back. Men's eyes turned toward her as she walked, which Gorman would have predicted. Ruby's hair rolled across her head in natural ringlets, and hung just past her shoulders. Her smooth skin reminded him of the sweet shell of a Dove bar. Her waist was as slim as Chastity's, but she was more robust in the areas where a woman should be robust. Her eyes teased every man they touched, inviting him to try, at the same time telling him he didn't stand a chance. Only a blind man would fail to turn as Ruby walked past.
At the table, Ruby stood beside the chair with its back to the corner, facing the door. Gorman followed, but pulled out the chair on the other side of the table, waved toward it, and waited.
Ruby seemed to weigh her options. Finally, she said, “I keep forgetting that you used to be a cop too,” and moved so he could push her chair in.
“Girl, I was a cop when you were still spitting up your baby formula. Now you get comfortable. I'll watch the door.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ruby said. “I feel all safe now, I got you watching me.”
A waitress sauntered over and Gorman ordered cappuccino and biscotti for them both. He liked this place. The background chatter was loud enough to insure privacy, yet low enough that they didn't have to shout.
“So, you're meeting the mark,” he said while they waited. “Not sure I like it, but I understand the need. What do we know?”
Ruby planted an elbow on the table, and planted her chin on the back of her hand. “I know I got the man. Rafael Sandoval, sure as shit. Colombian immigrant who meets other people coming into the country a couple times a week.”
“So you got yourself in as a baggage handler,” Gorman said. “If this man's bringing in contraband, there must be an inside man getting his bags through the inspection points. And you said his brother is a security inspector. Is he involved?”
“Not on my shift, sugar,” Ruby said. “Anything I see come in from South America, I make sure they get the full treatment. Got to be coke, right? But the dogs don't catch it, and nothing shows on the scopes. You know, I could just accidentally drop one and bust it open.”