After some thought on who to see next, the notion of questioning what essentially was a blunt instrument considering Ned Blines was as daft as his younger brother, it was clear that it was a better idea to go to the eldest brother Willy, and see what he had to say first.
Whoever it was that sent them on the surveillance mission must not have known they were pushing the junior brothers to the upper limits of their capabilities. Sykes doubted Willy was masterminding this operation, his responsibility would be limited to finding work that was supposed to keep them out of trouble.
Willy was the smartest of the three, but that didn't mean he could see trouble coming, or know that the work he was being given could lead to unexpected results. Unlike his brothers he had a day job, working as a property manager for one of the councilors who was reputed, through a series of shell companies, the owner of a lot of decrepit buildings that were about to be rezoned.
Where there was money to be made, James Quirk was at the front of the line. Once a prominent defense lawyer, he inexplicably changed sides to become a DA, and then an elected Councillor. Joel may not have made the connection, but Sykes did.
Quirk’s ambitions, as everyone knew, didn't stop there, and he was now looking at the state legislature. The only thing holding him back was the necessity to keep fighting brush fires, the likes of the rezoning scandal just one of many. And those skeletons in the closet, lie Sykes, and what he knew of him.
Despite Quirk’s best efforts his affairs on the down-low, rezoning, for one, had made the news, but with some deft sidestepping, and another scandal involving a rival candidate surfacing at just the right moment, made Quirk’s problems just as quickly disappear. That and the news of Willy Blines suddenly put his hand up and tendered the necessary ownership documentation. There was no law against a city employee owning property, so long as he had no influence over decisions regarding that property.
For Blines part in alleviating Quirk's problem, he got a nondescript job in City Hall, and the rezoning proposal was shelved to take the heat out of the discussion. It was an election year, and rezoning scandals were the last thing any of the incumbents rerunning for office needed.
The story at the time had piqued Sykes' interest, not only in that it was about a man, that very dame James Quirk, with whom he held a grudge going back many years, but also that it might have something to do with the docks. With several areas up for possible residential rezoning that land would go from worthless to worth billions overnight, and a reason for corruption if ever there was one.
Sykes also had a history with the Blines brothers, having known them from the early years when they were the muscle for the penny and dime crime bosses who organized 'protection' for the shop keepers and aa collection agents for the loan sharks among the poorer tenants of the city. Sykes himself had grown up in those very same apartment buildings, in that very area where the low-income families eked out a living in substandard housing and inconsistent employment.
After his parents had both died in a tragic fire, Sykes had escaped and moved to New Jersey. A lot of those he'd grown up with hadn't.
It was, in it's purest form, the survival of the fittest, and the Blines had always known which side of the law was most beneficial to them, as gad their father and his father before him. For the Blines and their ilk, it had always been the wrong side of the law.
Sykes picked the right, and as soon as he could, he signed up to become a cop, and as soon as he'd completed training he vowed he would come back and clean up the streets, and the old neighborhood.
It didn't take long for Sykes to realize that it needed more than good intentions and a large dose of enthusiasm, it needed assistance from those who were in a position to affect a change. Inevitably he had to concede, eventually realizing they were part of the problem.
Which, of course, led him to this point in time, still working the area as part of his beat, and had been for quite a few years now, with the same intentions, and still being one step behind. The players were the same, only they were prospering, and his cold cases were mounting.
It was easy to see why. Tracks were being covered, alibis being handed out, and the money trail was getting murkier and murkier.
But, mulling over the developments arising from talking to Joel, Sykes realized that he might be moving into very dangerous territory, particularly if he was going start accusing a candidate for the DA’s job of corruption.
And now he had a new piece to the puzzle, Walthenson senior. A cold fish if there was ever one, but he didn’t look, to Sykes, to be a master criminal. He seemed to be more like the right man in the wrong place and then finding himself in a dilemma that he couldn’t get out of. So, if he could find Walthenson, perhaps that might become another lead, and perhaps connect a few dots.
Perhaps a little more desk-bound investigation might be wise to see who else might be involved, before he started digging a very big hole for himself, one that he might not be able to get out of.
© Charles Heath 2020
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