Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Case 2 - Episode 38 - Someone is watching, but who?

Harry got as far as his car in the carpark before he could feel an itch on the back of his neck.

Someone was watching him.

This would be the moment to pull out a cigarette and take a moment to reflect on that conversation with Robert, but he didn't smoke.

Perhaps he could feign that there was something wrong with the car.  He unlocked the car, got in tried to start the car, and then got back out again after popping the hood.

The car park had CCTV cameras that covered the whole area, and someone would be monitoring the feed.  That was not the eyes on him that were bothering him.

While looking at the engine, he also did a slow scan of the parked cars, until he reached a black SUV, like those used by the FBI, sitting in the last row, reversed in so whoever was sitting in it could see the whole carpark, and coincidentally in direct line to his car, and him.

He could not distinguish who it was behind the tinted screen, but it was recognisable by the burning tobacco of a cigarette, followed by a gush of smoke out the side window.

Another PI?  It couldn't be the FBI, or could it?  He had no idea what trounce his father was in, or whether the surveillance was on his father or someone else.  After all, there was any number of other scoundrels who were members, and more eligible for a federal investigation.

Bonnet down, back inside the car, he hid the items he'd found under the carpet under his seat, then got back out and headed for the front door.

Cecil needed to know there was a strange car in his car park.

Cecil looked surprised to see him.

"Change your mind?"

"No.  You've got a visitor outside surveillance the car park."

"How do you know?"

"Itchy neck.  Black SUV, in the back row."

He went to the door marked "Private, authorised personnel only", unlocked the door and went in.  Harry hovered in the doorway.

There was an array of about a dozen screens on the wall, the bottom, the last screen that of one view of the carpark, and to one side, the vehicle in question.

Cecil switched to that screen then focussed on the car and zoomed in until a face appeared behind the windscreen, the cigarette, and the fact he was wearing a suit

"Is that a Fed?"  It was a name I'd heard my father use for an FBI agent, who had come to the club expecting cooperation.

"That or a PI, but more likely an FBI agent."

He got up from the chair.  "Let's go see what he's about?"

I followed him out to the car park and could barely keep up as he strode towards the vehicle.  When he was within fifty yards, the engine started, and the vehicle drove off.

Cecil stopped and glared at the departing car.  "Not FBI, they would have stayed and given me a lecture, so one of your lot, Harry.  Pretending he's something he's not.  If he comes back, I'll give him what for."

And Harry had taken the car registration plate.  It would be interesting to know who it was.

 

Back at the office, Harry was alone, walking into a darkened and quiet room.  He had been expecting both Felicity and nnn there, and glad they were not, because he would have to explain the documents he'd discovered in his father's locker at the Club.

He wasn't expecting any great revelations, starting with the folders.

The first had spreadsheet printouts of accounts, in names he had not heard of, but cryptic enough to indicate they were shelf companies' bank accounts based in the Caymans.

The balances were not earth-shattering, but it indicated, if they were his, he was reasonably wealthy in his own right.  Interestingly, deposits of the same amount, 11.35 million, were made into each of five accounts, on the same day of each month.

Blackmail. Services rendered, or something else?  The question was, were the accounts his, or was he checking up on someone else?

The book was a notebook, a diary of sorts, but not for a particular year, but a member of years.  The first page indicated it started his first day of university.

It was not day by day, more each significant event, and not 50 pages in was the story of how his father became enmeshed in the machinations of Alexnder Argeter.  The whole sordid story, showing that his father had miscalculated, and Argeter had taken advantage of a fortuitous, for him, situation.  But, at the time it could have had serious consequences for his eventual career.

It also had the story of his relationship with Harry's mother and the eventual marriage.  It was an interesting story if it was true.  Harry had to wonder, if he shared it with his mother, what her side of the story would be.

But those were not the only revelations in the book, one, when he came across a single sentence, heavily underlined as if he was angry at the time, that simply said, "Harry is not my son."

It did say who the father was, but it was still enough to make Harry's head spin, and instantly regret having read any of the information in it.  Such revelations, Harry told himself, were best left inside the metaphorical Pandora's box.

But, now it was out there, and it bothered him.  Did his mother know his father knew, did his real father know, and had his mother maintained the deception from the say he'd been born?

And if Harry thought about it, it made sense.  His brothers were exactly like their father, he was not.  

He allowed himself a moment to speculate on the ramifications, then shoved it to one side.  His job was to find Xavier, everything else could wait.

...

© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Monday, 3 October 2022

Case 2 - Episode 37 - A discussion with Henry, a look in a locker

The bar was often referred to by its regular patrons, the men who really didn't want to go home to their wives, as the 19th hole.  It was an in-joke that had long lost its comedic value.

Robert was propping on the end of the bar, the end that overlooked the 18th hole, where sometimes there was a little excitement as the scorecards were tallied and money changed hands, sometimes a lot of it.  There had also been a few heated arguments.

Their father was a great believer in having incentives to do their best, putting wagers on the outcome of a hole, something Harry never took up because he would always end up with the most strokes, and Robert accepted because he thought he was better than everyone else, and invariably proved otherwise.

His IOU to the father amounted to thousands, and Harry doubted he would ever pay up.

But Robert was a golf fanatic, getting a round in with his cronies who had nothing better to do, nor had a job to go to, whenever they called.  They didn't work for a living, but Robert never let the fact he had a job interfere in his leisure time.  Harry couldn't see Robert's friends, and since Robert was dressed in a suit, there had to be another reason why he was propping up the bar.

Harry slid onto the stool next to his brother.  Robert gave a sidelong glance then went back to staring at the amber liquid in the bottom of the glass.  He picked it up, swirled the glass so the ice rattled, and then drank.

He put the glass noisily on the counter and signalled for another when he caught the barkeeper's eye.  When the barkeeper looked at Harr he just pointed at Robert's glass.

No need to start a tab, the barkeepers knew everyone, and the drinks went on the bill automatically.  Harry shuddered to think what Robert's bar tab would be like, the club was his second home.

"You are a fish out of water, Harry."

His general expression for his brother when he embraced the trappings of a family Harry didn't really want.

"You should be at the office."

"I work my own hours."

"When Dad's not there, you mean."

Robert looked sideways again at his brother.  "What's Sherlock Holme's dumber brother doing here?"

Yes, Harry thought, that joke was getting a little tired, but it humoured his brothers, all of who had contempt for his chosen profession.

"On Dad's trail."

"In case you haven't noticed, he's not here."

"We're you here a month back when he had a brain fade after a phone call?"

"If it was here, it was probably an irate husband, in fact, there are only two types of calls he gets these days.  Irate clients and irate husbands.  Then we all have to clean up the mess."

"Things not going well?"

"Who knows.  It's a war between Dad and that dreadful woman Grandfather left behind.  Neither of them will do anything unless it outdoes the other.  To be honest I'm sick of being caught in the crossfire."

The bartender dropped the two drinks in front of us with a nod.  A bit early to be drinking, but if I guessed correctly, it would be the equivalent of liquid gold.

Harry took a sip.  Liquid gold, indeed.  And a hefty dent in his bar tab.

"You know of anything he's been working on currently that might be, say, complicated?"

"You know Dad.  All cloak and dagger, to him.  The last time he was Luke this, he was seeing that Argeter chap.  Never liked him, cheats at golf, and that sets the mark as far as I'm concerned.  Why Dad tolerates him is anyone's guess."

Harry had seen him from time to time. And his mother was equally adamant the man was bad news. And, exactly what he was after.  A lead.

"I'll look into him."

"You want my advice, don't.  I reckon he has some very dangerous friends, none of whom would take kindly to a private investigator snooping around."

"All the more reason then."

"Your funeral, Harry.  I thought the last time you stared death in the face you'd come to your senses.  Apparently not."

If he was looking to get Harry to leave him alone, he had touched the right nerve.  On top of his brother’s contempt for Harry's chosen profession, he seemed to think Harry's recent brush with death was a wake-up call to return to the fold.  It hadn't, and paradoxically, had only made him more determined to excel."

"Perks of the job Robert.  You could also finish up on the wrong end of a gun yourself if you follow in Dad's footsteps.  Just think about that."

Harry finished his drink, gave his brother one last glare, and then left.

 

The locker room was not the most awe-inspiring place.  Harry had a collection of mixed memories of the place, where men gathered in groups in various stages of dress, on their way to and from the showers, most without any sense of decorum.

Others spoke in disparaging yards of their wives, girlfriends, work colleagues, and life in general, a place where they believed they could speak freely.

Harry had always been surprised by it all, learning all too quickly that the world was never quite what it seemed behind the polite discussion and sympathetic smiles.

Today or was almost too quiet, with the odd golfer on his way out onto the course, and no brash conversation.  Ideal, in fact, for what Harry intended.

His father was one of those members who had his locker out of view of the CCTV cameras, put there because of a flare-up after one afternoon's rather intense u sportsmanship spilling over into the room.

Members were divided on the measure, but when the insurance company threatened to pull its cover, they agreed to limited access.

Harry had the door open inside a minute, and took another three, to analyse its contents.  He had assumed his father would use this sacred space to hide anything he didn't want anyone else to see, and, to a certain extent, he was right.

A shoe box, at the bottom. Under several old pairs of shoes, a box no one would give a second look.

He pulled it out, lifted the lid and saw a book, what looked like a diary, and several folders.

Not the place to take a look.  He'd brought a plastic zipper bag and placed the items in it, then tucked it under his shirt, smoothing out the wrinkles, so that it didn't look as though there was something there.  Everyone except Cecil.  He'd noticed Harry had suddenly put on weight, so he'd have to use the back exit.

Box back, door closed, he was in and out under five minutes.



© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Saturday, 1 October 2022

Case 2 - Episode 36 - Harry looking for Henry at the golf club

Harry never understood his father's obsession with golf, nor his desire to equally enthuse his sons to play the game, introducing each at the age of 12, like his father before him.

There was a lot to be said about tradition.

Of course, it was not so much about playing the game as it was being an essential tool in the businessman's armoury. 

Even so, Harry had never seen the reason why anyone would lose, just to make a deal, or get a favour.  Perhaps that was the reason why he was not a businessman.

His brothers took to it like ducks to water.  Needless to say, it was not because it was a tool. It was more about the prestige, and therefore bragging rights, of belonging to a very elite club.

And it was.  Just the annual membership fees were eye-watering, certainly more than he had made over the last year, and had it not been for his father, he would not be a member.

It was the one thing his parents paid for him, or, more likely, his father had forgotten to cancel when Harry walked away from the practice.

Originally, the building was a huge sprawling exquisite colonial style mansion, and, over the years added to so that now, it had the distinction of making the top of Architectural Digests 10 worst buildings three years in a row.

It just showed that too much money, little understanding of ascetics, and a committee made up of stockbrokers, lawyers and bankers could do.

Despite that, Harry thought it was quaint, and it had instilled a desire in him to one day if he could afford it, buy or build an old colonial house of his own.

He shrugged.

The one thing he did remember was the obscene display of wealth and privilege, outside, with all the prestigious cars, except his, and inside, with the antiques and expensive furniture.  He had never understood the desire of the wealthy elite to surround themselves with the trappings.

Most mortals never made it further than the foyer, a few feet in from the front door where a large guard by the name of Cecil, the greeter, met every arrival.  There was no sneaking in the back door, everyone had to present themselves at the main entrance.

If it wasn't Cecil, it was an equally voluminous man named Occo.  Both were the sort of men who could repel all invaders single-handed.

It was Cecil's day, and Cecil knew Harry.

"Well, if it isn't Harry Walthenson, infamous private detective.  Heard you were involved in the Jones Brother's murder cases."

Cecil was also reputed to have an ear to the underworld, which was not surprising given a small percentage of members were criminals wrapped up as businessmen.

"Only as much as I was present when the bodies were found."

"Nearly got killed over it, so they say."

Harry wanted to ask him who 'they' were, but all he'd get would be a benign smile.

"They, whoever they may be, seem to have interesting sources.  If you have any idea who they might be, I'd like to know."

He shrugged.  "So would I.  I don't take kindly to people who harm our members.  Now, it's been a long time, and I don't think you're here for a round of golf."

"You're right.  It's about my father.  Have you noticed anything unusual about him in the last week or so.  I know he was here Monday, which is unusual."

"Not as unusual as you'd think.  You know your father dies s lot of business out on the links.  Been costing some new visits, and prospective members."

"Anyone we know?"

"You know I can't tell you that, I've probably said too much already.  No, none of our business really.  Now, staying or going?"

"I think I'll wander around a bit, it's been a while."

"Your brother Robert is here by the way.  He's probably in the bar."

"Bit early?"

"Not for him.  You have your membership card?"

Fortunately, he did, remembering the rules, not that the card left his wallet unless it came time to replace it.  It was so long since he'd used it, it was sticking to the leather insert.

He swiped it in the machine, and it brought up the last time he'd visited, two years before.  That time it was at the behest of his father, to meet a new client, one that had a daughter that his mother considered 'the right sort of young lady he should be associating with'.

Cecil passed the card back.  "You might want to look in on your brother.  He seems a bit lost at the moment.  Your father was a little harsh with him about a week ago, a job he was supposed to do, and didn't."

Cecil was the sort of person who knew everything that was going on but rarely said anything.  Perhaps he was worried about Robert, though my experience, admonishment usually rolled off him like water off a duck's back.

On the other hand, it might be linked to his father's departure and warranted further investigation.  Checking out his locker would have to wait a little longer, not that Harry expected to find anything.

"Worth a moment to check up on him.  Mr Walthenson can be a bit of a bastard at times."

"Only recently Harry.  Got a phone call, out on the verandah about a month back.  Turned purple some said, and then threw the phone against the wall as hard as he could.  No prizes for guessing what that was about."

With the knowing look, Harry thought better than to ask, because, given a direct question, he'd cite privacy, but letting him talk, as he was wont to do, some days, he could inadvertently let slip some very useful information.

That was useful.

"For you maybe, for us that live with him, he can be a bit like a firecracker on the fourth of July.  I'll pop in and see Robert."

Another member came along, and Harry lost the focus of his attention.

Harry made a note to self, get his father's phone records, and check the dates, find out who the caller was.

He waved to Cecil, but the man didn't notice, now deep in conspiratorial conversation with the member who'd just arrived and headed towards the bar.


© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Thursday, 29 September 2022

Case 2 - Episode 35 - An interesting discussion

Mandy Prenderville went over to her high-backed chair behind the desk and sat down carefully.  She had motioned me to one opposite her, and I took the middle seat.

Harry thought he’d better open the conversation.  “How did you know I was coming?”

“It wouldn’t take you very long to discover the connection between your father and me via his golf.  I take it you are looking for him?”

“How could you possibly know that?”  OK, so curiosity got the better of him.

“He is missing, isn’t he?”

“The question still stands.”

“I happen to be looking for him too.  An outstanding matter he was working on.  I’m not used to people up and disappearing on me.”

As much as Harry hated to think it, according to some of the reports on the Prenderville’s, that’s exactly what happened to rivals and those who got in their way.

He didn’t bring that topic up for obvious reasons.

“My mother seems to think he had left her for another woman, which I might add, seems to be the thinking of a number of others.  I have a hard time believing that might be the case, this time.”

It was difficult to say what sort of expression she had, but it changed suddenly, to very dark, like Harry had just trodden on her toes.

“You have a different theory?”  Her tone had lost some of its geniality.

“I have no real theory at the moment other than going around and visiting his business and golfing associates and asked them a few questions about him and their relationship with him.  Yours, you say, is golf.  From what I’ve read about you, golf is hardly a sport I would associate you with.”

“Playing, yes.  It’s a bit tedious walking around hitting a little white ball.  But it seems it is a great medium for charitable outings, and, as you are no doubt away, I do run a Foundation, and we are always looking for new ways to raise money.  Your father, though you may not believe it to be the case, was very good at organising golf weekends for the foundation.”

“And now he’s gone will that fall to Emil Florenz.”

Expression changes again, hard to incredulous maybe.  Harry was not very good at analysing people’s expressions.

She took a moment to assess, in her mind, what she was going to tell Harry.  Then, after what could be called a shrug, she said, “Well, you have been a busy boy.  Your father once told me you were a failure at everything you tried, but I put that down to the fact you had just walked away from a promising legal career, the career he wanted for you.  I don’t think he ever appreciated your more interesting talents in the private investigatory area.  I assure you I will not make the same mistake.  Florenz is a golfer, and a friend of your fathers, and therefore by proxy, known to me yes.  And yes, he might have to organise the golf events while your father is away.  And before you ask me if I know where he is, I will reiterate, he was doing a job for me, and my people are trying to find him too.”

There was no doubting their connection was golf, she said it enough times.  But in watching her closely, and those facial expressions, Harry thought he had worked out when she was lying and when she was telling the truth.  And for the last few minutes, Harry believed he hadn’t heard one word of truth.

His father was more likely to be doing a legal consultation of some sort for her.  It might even have something to do with that portside block if she was the mysterious owner.

He could ask her, but Harry was willing to bet hr would not get further than her door before the security guards dragged him off.

But Harry still couldn’t tell if she had anything to do with his disappearance.

Change of tack.  “Do you know my mother?”

A half smile perhaps.  “In a manner of speaking.  She had attended a number of Foundation functions and been a contributor to our cause for a number of years.  Ever since I’ve known her I really couldn’t understand why she married your father.  You do know she is very wealthy in her own right, and she doesn’t need anything from either your father or his business.  And no, she had never put a penny of her family money into his practice, a sore point with him I can tell you.”

The fact Harry's mother had money was something she had told Corinne and him, but not necessarily his brothers, but not to the extent that it would make a difference.  He had checked it out when he had some idle time, and the sums involved in her parent’s businesses, and that of her fellow siblings made the Rockefellers look cheap.

She had lied and he’d never understood why.  She could also have invested in Harry's private investigator venture, but she refused that too, telling him that like his father he had to find his own way in the world.  It was a variation on the, ‘if I give you the money you won’t go out to work for it’ speech.

He could ask more about that, but it would only be from a third-party perspective, if at all.  Better to move on.  “What was my father doing for you?”

“A legal matter.”

“Couldn’t elaborate?”

“Perhaps if you were one of his lawyers I might, after signing a non-disclosure agreement, but as you are not, I can’t tell you?”

“A hint then, criminal or civil?”

“Your father doesn’t do criminal unless you think he was defending me.  I read the papers, and they do not like me.  I don’t know why, I’m out there every day looking after the homeless, and those who can’t afford proper medical help.”

“Perhaps it’s the reputation your brothers brought to the name Prenderville.  Perhaps if you changed the name of both yourself and the foundation…”

Advice, by the look on her face, was not sought.

“It might, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I do that.  Now, that’s all I can tell you, except for one observation, your father spent a lot of his time at the golf club, and I suspect it became his proxy office.  Dig a little, and see if he has left anything there.  You never know.  Now, I don’t expect to see you again.”

There was no doubt in Harry's opinion, the meeting was over.


© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Case 2 - Episode 34 - The Prenderville Foundation

The Prenderville Foundation was in a building off-Broadway, not far from where the twin towers used to stand.

It was not far from Wall Street or City Hall, and when I looked at my phone, I saw that Felicity was not far away, having followed Florenz from the Starbucks near the Woolworth building to City Hall.

It was an interesting place for a man of his profession to go.  Perhaps he was trying to drum up business among the civic leaders.

Was it significant that Mandy had set up her business in this district, not far from Wall Street, and Civic Hall, where a lot of her most ardent admirers were located?

To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in where the Foundation's money came from, it was much the same as those ex-presidential foundations, always flush with funds, but you’re never sure what those funds are being used for, and the newspapers, every now and then made allegations which quickly died as fast as they rose when rich and powerful lawyers start arriving at the chief editor’s office in numbers.

I was just interested in whether she knew my father, and if she did, what their business relationship was.  Of course, I fully expected to get bundled out the door by two burly bouncers long before that happened.

That was how I found myself outside the front door, looking in.

A gust of cold air brushed me as I stood there, and for a day that had been still and warm, I had to take it as an omen.  Nothing good was going to come of this.  I should take heed, turn around, and walk away.

For about five seconds I had the resolve to do just that.

On the sixth second, I took a deep breath and walked through the doors.

I had been expecting a soup kitchen or something similar, with lines of homeless people gratefully accepting food and a place to sit in relative comfort and warmth behind the shaded windows.  It was anything but that, with a counter, a wall, and a door.  I assumed if you had a good enough excuse, you could get through the door, and to the other side.

I walked up to the counter and stood there, waiting.

There were two people behind the counter, dressed in clothes that told me they were Foundation workers, a uniform of sorts, and both were talking, a conversation that was not about work, but an upcoming party at the weekend.  One had been invited, the other not, and the not was wondering why.

Visitors clearly weren’t a priority.

A quick check at the ceiling level showed two cameras that would cover the whole foyer.  It would certainly pick up my face, and it was probably being viewed by a faceless security guard in a small room somewhere, assessing if I was a threat.

Still, the invitation-less employee was bemoaning his bad fortune.

I looked at my watch.  Three and a half minutes.  I was considering making them aware of my presence, but I decided this would be a game, betting mentally with myself on how long it would take before they realized I was standing on the other side of the counter.

Five minutes.  The phone rang, and the nearest staff member picked it up.

There were a number of changes in facial expression, from annoyance, to surprise, to fear, and then astonishment.  Then he replaced the receiver and turned.

“Miss Prenderville is sending her personal assistant down to collect you.  She said to say she’s been expecting you.”

OK, my turn for a surprise then astonishment.  “You don’t even know my name yet.”

“You are Harry Walthenson, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Then we do know who you are Mr Walthenson.”

The side door opened and a Chinese woman of indeterminate age came out.  “Mr Walthenson, I presume?”

I nodded.

“Then come this way please.”

Without another word I followed her through the door that led to a corridor running down a long wall, to an elevator lobby.  An elevator was waiting for us, one with a driver, we stepped in, he closed the door, and we went up.

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven.  Stop.

The door opened and we stepped out.  We walked along another corridor to what I thought was a corner office where the assistant knocked on the door, opened it, and motioned for me to pass through.

Once inside, the door closed behind me.

I was the only one in that room.  On two sides there were windows that looked out towards the Hudson, and, if I stood in the right position, I could see the Statue of Liberty.

It was largely empty except for a desk, three chairs and several sideboard cupboards.  Down the side to my left was a doorway, closed.

The room had CCTV cameras as had each of the corridors, so someone had been watching me from the moment I stepped into the building, or even as I approached the building.

I stood in the centre of the room and waited.

After two minutes, the side door opened and a woman I recognised as Mandy Prenderville came into the room.  She looked different from the photos I’d seen of her, then she had been about 200 pounds, now she was no more than 80.  It made a considerable difference, especially if I were to use some of the facial recognition software.

She came over to me, hand outstretched.

It’s good to see you, Harry.  You look just like your father at that age, you know.”

I shook hands which felt strange.

“Sit, let’s talk.”


© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Monday, 26 September 2022

Case 2 - Episode 33 - Mandy Prenderville

Harry always tried to make out that computers and he didn’t get along. 

The truth was, he didn’t like them, not because they had suddenly become a universal tool on every desk, in every house, and now in everyone’s left or right hand, but because of the impact they had on your privacy.

And the fact, now, in the age of computers, you had none.

Unless, of course, you chose not to have a footprint, which was Harry s first choice.

Ellen had convinced him otherwise.  She had completed a computer course in college and said she could ‘put them on the map’ with a website.  Harry initially said no, but she worked on him, and in the end, persistence won over, and he left that side of the business to her.

On the strict proviso that little personal information found its way there.

He let Ellen set up a website for the investigative business, and she had spent days, if not weeks, finding a website host and reading a large number of books about programming.  Every day he’d come in, he picked one up off her desk, flicked through the pages, and put it back down again.  There were very few words that he understood.

Still, at the end of the first month there was something quite interesting to look at, and, the very day it went live, Ellen had taken two calls, one of which led to a job.  One she kept reminding him, that paid for the whole of the web sites costs.

He had to begrudgingly agree computers were going to be useful.

 

The one on his desk had lain ideal for months, and, today, he decided to turn it on.  The previous one had been stolen in the break-in, so this was new and different.  And Ellen had yet to set it up properly for him.

But he did know how to load the web browser and typed in the name of his father’s legal practice, and it went straight to the website.

He’d seen it before, and thought it very bland, but what he expected from a group of lawyers.  They left the impact of wealth and power to the visit to the office, not a flashy website.  All it had was small bios on everyone who was anyone and the types of law they handled.

There were, of course, closed areas of the site that needed a login, one which he didn’t have, but he was going to ask Giselle if he, or Ellen since Giselle knew her, could be granted access.  He vaguely remembered his father saying there were areas set up for each of the partners to keep a record of their activities, and notes on cases.

Perhaps there might be a clue in his files.

Harry had also noticed that Ellen had set up areas on their own website where each of the employees could log in, and she had left a post-it note on his desk with his login and temporary password.  There, she noted, were folders for each of his current cases.

When he logged in, he saw he could add new cases, and create case notebooks, so he created one for his next target, Mandy Prenderville.

 

About a minute after he created the file, Ellen was in the doorway, knocking on the door jamb to get his attention.

“Yes?” he said, looking up.

“Mandy Prenderville?  Seriously?  In what lifetime do you think she would have anything to do with any case you were investigating?”

She had a serious expression, and a look of fear in her eyes.  She obviously knew who Many Prenderville was.

“It’s one of the leads we’ve uncovered.  My father apparently had some connection to her, perhaps in a charity sense, but I have to find out.”

“Are you mad?  You know who she is?  Don’t believe everything you read about her in the papers.  My grandmother can tell you stories about her that would make your hair curl/”

“I know.  Tread carefully.  Since I’m not all that good at searching for information, can you have a look, and let me know what you find.  I’ll just poke around the edges.”

She shook her head and stopped short of saying ‘it’ll be your funeral.’  But I could read lips, and that’s what I thought she said.  It also could have been, you are a complete fool.

 

There were several different directions to go in relation to searching for information on Mandy Prenderville, the first, was to follow her brothers on an odyssey of drugs, crimes, and death.  The other, was that of a woman who was striving to make up for the shortcomings of her brothers, by running a charitable institution that had won everyone who was anyone over.

Except for one lone voice in the wilderness, a person with the internet handle of @downwithevilprendervilles, who made one simple statement, she was taking from the poor and giving it to the rich in the form of bribes.  Why else would anyone believe that sob story that she is trying to redeem the Prenderville’s.

Dangerous words to a very dangerous woman.  I wondered briefly if the person behind the handle had adequate protection.  I’d have to ask Ellen if she could track down to who the handle belonged to.

I went to the Prenderville Foundation page and it didn’t have a lot to say about the foundation or it’s principal.  The bio spoke of her in only glowing terms, and any reference to her brothers, or the criminal activities the family had been accused of over the years was sadly lacking.

I typed in the name and it came back with the father’s name at the top of the list.  He’d been killed in a gangster shootout, one family trying to gain the ascension over the other, and the Prenderville’s lost that day.  Several months later the head of the rival family was found floating face down in the Hudson, but no killer had yet been found.  And for the lack of evidence and witnesses, the Prenderville father’s killer had got away with it.

Next was Jason, the dead brother, and after reading three articles on his record as a master criminal, it was fair to say he was anything but.  Three jobs, three disasters, in fact, each of them vied for a spot on a show called ‘the world’s worst criminals.  But, as guilty as he seemed, they’d got him on charges that did not relate to his criminality.

Clever.  I would call that the Al Capone factor.  Careless though, an old rival in the jail they sent him and his brother, shanked and killed him.

The same assassin tried to kill Mason and failed.

Mason Prenderville was a different kettle of fish, as the saying goes.  He was squeaky clean, had others do his dirty work, and ruled by fear and intimidation.  Anyone questioned him, they were dead within 24 hours.  But in one instance, one that defied explanation, he had gone totally off book and killed a rival in front of witnesses, witnesses he could neither intimidate or buy.  Now he was serving a life sentence, or more than one.  He had only one lifetime and that’s how long he’d be staying in jail.

On whether they were guilty or innocent, Mandy had always maintained they had both been framed, and it was illogical that Jason could be guilty, despite the five independent witnesses produced to verify where he was and what he did.

She had bought the best lawyer, and the best lawyer couldn’t get him off.  The best lawyer was now a lawyer with a limp.  And not so many customers for his services.  I added him to my list of potential people who could tell me about Mandy, especially if he hated the family so much, he would waive his professional integrity.

I made a note of that particular lead and closed the file.

It was time to go and pay Mandy a visit.

She was going to be downtown at the coal face of her charity, meeting and greeting the needy.  1 had to wonder, though, what sort of needy people would turn up to a downtown storefront.



© Charles Heath 2020-2022

Saturday, 24 September 2022

Case 2 - Episode 32 - – Giselle and her secrets

His mother’s email was sparely used, had various references to her charity work, and communications with the likes of Florenz, and others.  Florenz, it seemed, was happy to report on the activities of her husband.  It was clear that to him she had married the wrong man.  But there were no declarations of love between his mother and Florenz, nor anything that could be construed he disliked Xavier Walthenson.

Argeter didn't figure in any conversation.

But there were others, some of whom Harry knew of rather than knew personally, and one in particular, his mother's younger sister, and most vocal against Xavier from her side of the family.  Harry knew his aunt, had once been on a trip to Vegas with both women, and learned then his aunt was a drunk, drug addict and a sleaze, and whose bad conclusions about his father were borne from being rejected by him before he married her older sister.

He hadn't seen Aunt Betty for a few years, the last he'd been told was she was going through another stint of rehab and trying to dodge five to twenty years in jail for killing a passenger in her car, her last husband.  Perhaps she'd finally been jailed, not that it would do much to help her.  By all accounts the man had been a brute and was mixed up is some very dodgy business.

That Xavier was in charge of her defence was telling, because he didn’t have much time for the scornful, if not evil sister whom he had made an obvious mistake getting involved with.

And then Harry saw it.  An email from three days ago.  From the sister, Betty.  She was in town, at the Ritz Carleton hotel on Central Park, requesting a visit.  Just like her to issue commands, and expect to get her way, like the queen bee.

Another note in his book.  Room number, and there was no date she was leaving.

Harry was tempted to look at his brothers' emails but that could wait for another day.  He heard voices at the top of the stairs, one of them being Giselle, so he shut down the computer and moved to the sofa opposite her desk and sat down to wait for her arrival.

 

When she saw Harry sitting in the chair, she looked, momentarily, surprised, then covering it well with a slight stumble.

“Harry?  Tell me you haven’t stopped to sneaking up on people?”

“It’s my business to be both invisible, and stealthy.  But, no, not here, and definitely not with you.  Unless, of course, you have something to hide?”

“Me?  No.  An open book, as you know.”

She sat down behind the desk.  “But me thinks you have questions, perhaps about the Prendevilles'?”

Getting ahead of the narrative, Harry thought, and a sure sign that she wanted to control this interview.

“When you dropped that name, I’m sure you weren’t implying my father was having a relationship with Mandy.  I did some digging, and it seems she has a similar passion for charity events, perhaps trying to change public opinion of her.”

“She would like to think so.  Your father’s connection is only by way of charity unless of course, you have uncovered something else.  Have you spoken to her yet?”

“It’s on the list.  How much do you know about my mother and Florenz?”

She smiled.  “You have been a busy boy.  They are part of a tightly knit group from university days.  I don’t think you should be judging her given the antics of your father, I’m not surprised.”

Harry viewed his grandmother, the woman who was his father’s mother, the woman who had been scorned by his grandfather, in a new light, one, up to now, he would never have thought possible.  Quiet and unassuming, blending into the fabric in the background, always watching, always learning, Harry was sure she knew everything that was going on, and why.

And that somewhere in her armoury was that long knife she was going to stick in Alicia’s back at the appropriate time.  Perhaps she had one for all of them and was just biding her time, down in the basement, the metaphorical spider's web.

“You may not know where my father is, but you know why he’s not here.  And, don’t tell me it’s because of another woman.  He’s got himself mixed up in something that impinges on that group you were referring to, and I’m guessing Argeter is involved.  Mother really doesn’t like him.”

“Your mother had him worked over very early on when he tried to shake her down.  He’s not very endearing, and I always believed he had some hold over your father who was rather reckless in his younger days.  You might want to investigate what he got up to back in university.  But a word to the wise, be careful around Argeter.  He knows some very bad people.”

A name that needs to be moved up the list, perhaps Felicity could make discreet enquiries.

“Any chance I could see the file you have on Alicia.  I’m betting it’s the thickest in your filing cabinet, and nothing complimentary in it.”

“That’s for me to know and for you to find out.  I’m not going to make your job any easier for you.  Alicia is a special kind of animal in this jungle, and you really don’t want to make an enemy out of her.”

So, things learned, Harry thought.  There is a file, somewhere.  Giselle knew everything and everyone.  And, there was going to be a day of reckoning.

“If there’s nothing else, Harry, I’d better start justifying my presence here.”

“Don’t leave town.”

“Oh, I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon.  Believe me.”



© Charles Heath 2020-2022