Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Case 2 - Episode 18 - Felicity follows Florenz to a building on Broadway

When Florenz didn’t stop at City Hall, what Felicity thought was the most likely destination, she thought that perhaps Florenz had discovered she was following him, and this would end up a wild goose chase.

But, when he continued walking slowly up Broadway towards Times Square, she began to think perhaps he was just out for a morning walk to his next appointment.  In the short distance past the entrance to the park, he had stopped to look at his watch, then his cell phone, as if he was checking one against the other.

Then, as he started walking again, he bumped into a man who was walking quickly, making the collision more than it might have been.  Florenz dropped his phone, the other man, who had staggered a few steps before regaining control, turned and told Florenz to watch where he was going, then continued on his way at the same breakneck speed.

Florenz turned to watch him leave, then started scanning the path behind him, and then his eyes coming back up the other side of the road where Felicity, thinking quickly on her feet, moved into a doorway that made her look as if she was going into the building.

That action lost her a valuable minute, and when she came back out onto the street, immediately looking where he was last standing, he’d gone.  Then, she looked further up the street and saw him, just, crossing the next intersection at Reade Street.

It looked to her like he had almost run to get that far in such a short time. 

Or he considered he was late for that appointment, and just walked fast.

She took the calculated risk of almost running herself to catch up, stopping still some distance from him, having to wait for traffic lights at both Duane and Thomas Streets, and by the time she crossed Thomas Street, Florenz had stopped at the Worth Street intersection and was checking his phone.

At least it was a good morning for a walk.  Rain had been predicted, the clouds were scudding by overhead, getting darker by the minute, and she was hot from the continuous exercise of walking fast, then slow.

By the time Florenz checked his phone, she had caught up and was now seriously considering a sandwich, or coffee.  Had she more time she might have, but she had to cross and then dodged some scaffolding almost walking into it her attention so intent on where Florenz was.

It was a moment where losing concentration, by the time she looked up, he was gone again.

Damn, this fellow is slippery.  Or he knew he was being followed.

But a few seconds later she realized he had crossed the road, dodging several cars and taxis, a lot more dangerous than if he crossed at the lights.  Or had he just realized he was on the wrong side of the road?
At the intersection, Franklin Street, the scaffolding ended, and the next building would provide no cover.  She was maintaining about 20 yards distance between them, and she stopped when he did at the lights.

When they turned green, he didn’t immediately cross, but turned around and looked directly back towards her.  She almost missed his movement and, in her haste, to backtrack to the start of the scaffolding and a store she had seen there, she ran into a woman who was coming out of the store.

It caused the woman to drop a package.

All Florenz would have seen if he was looking in her direction was her back and a red-faced woman accepting a package.

He would not have heard her say abruptly to Felicity, “You should watch where you’re going, young lady.”

Nor hear her apology, in her meekest tone, “So sorry.”

The woman continued on her way, and Felicity followed behind her slowly, scanning ahead to see if she could see Florenz.  

For the moment he was missing.

Felicity caught up with him at Canal Street, once again the traffic lights her friend in need, the lights just changing and there he was, at the head of several others crossing the street.

She kept back until the lights just changed, then walked quickly across, and then stopped.  

Florenz had disappeared.

© Charles Heath 2020

Thursday, 22 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 17 - Sykes has a chat with Ned Blines

 It was like an archetypal stand-off in the middle of a dusty western town, two gunmen eyeing each other off, waiting to see who drew first.

Ned had seen Sykes approaching but didn't move.  Instead, he kept his eyes on the Detective whilst nonchalantly smoking his cigarette.

Sykes stopped about fifteen feet from Ned.  After a few seconds, he said, "Hello Ned."

Ned gave him a long hard stare, blew smoke into the air, and took another puff.  He knew Sykes, and the two had sparred before.  "What are you doing here.  This is private property."

A technicality Sykes thought, but as an officer of the law, he had the right to enter if he considered a crime was being committed, or about to be.

"It's also a crime scene, so I could ask you the same question."

Ned flicked the cigarette butt into the air and watched it land about six feet away in a pothole in the road surface.

"You or that other detective find who killed Theo.  The other detective reckoned it was a woman whom he surprised when she was snooping around."

"She wasn't snooping around, and no, she did not kill your brother, someone else did, one of your many enemies, Ned.  You and Theo are not very well-liked."

"By the cops maybe.  You find the girl?"

"Yes.  And she was not responsible for his death.  Theo had five bullets in him.  One stray, and harmless shot, by the girl, and four from the killer.  It was a professional hit, Ned, so you and Theo are working for the wrong crowd this time.  Just what are you, and Theo before you, doing here?"

Sykes had noticed Ned had stopped leaning against the car, resisted the urge to have another cigarette by putting the pack back in his pocket, and stood ready for what might come next.

"Doing my job.  Why are you here?"

Sykes noted that it was not exactly a welcoming tone or stance.  He took a moment to check, mentally, if he could get to the gun quick enough if Ned rushed him.  Borderline.  He made a mental note to get in some more practice at the gun range.

"Is that the same job your brother Theo was doing?  Exactly what was he doing that got him killed?"

"Nothing wrong.  It's a simple security guard gig, watching over the property and make sure no one affects an illegal entry, more for their safety than anything else.  The property beyond the fence line to the water is unsafe."

'Effect and illegal entry'?  That, Sykes thought was Ned's brother Willy speaking.  Ned's vocabulary was limited, as was Theo's.

"Have you checked it yourself?"

"Why would I?  Didn't you just hear me tell you it's unsafe?  My job is to stop people from hurting themselves and hitting the owners with a huge insurance bill."

It was a simple set of instructions Willy had given them, but nothing like the truth. It was a case of keeping it simple stupid for his brothers 

There was another reason for their presence which no doubt Willy knew so it would have to wait till he saw him.

Sykes pulled out a card with his name and number on it, took the five or six steps to reach Ned's car, and put the card on the end of the bonnet.

"You call me if you see anyone snooping about before they try to shoot you, too.  Or if any girls turn up.  And a word of advice, Ned, so you don't end up in jail for life, Theo's killer was not the girl so if you or the equally dim-witted brother, Willy, try anything, I'll know and you will both be the first people I call on."

Ned said nothing, just stood silently, glowering at Sykes.

"Good," Sykes said.  "I'm glad that's settled. Say hello to your brother and let him know I'm coming to see him."

Ned glared at him for a few seconds then went back to leaning against his car, totally ignoring the card Sykes had left for him, and lit another cigarette.

He waited until Sykes had left before getting out his cell phone to call his brother.

© Charles Heath 2020

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 16 - Sykes revisits the dockland crime scene

 It wasn't the first time Sykes had been down to the docks, especially this section that had been scheduled for reclamation for at least 10 years, but a series of setbacks had seen it put on hold or the subject of lawsuits, takeovers, and government red tape.

But that was only part of the story.  

There were a plethora of ownership claims, from gangsters to allegedly crooked businessmen, to multinational companies whose origins were wrapped up in so many trusts and shell companies that the owners were all but completely obscured.

Sykes' forensic accountant was only two levels back in the tangled web, and not likely to find much in a hurry.  Perhaps a little old-fashioned police work might yield results quicker.

He made sure that he left his destination with the desk officer in case of running into trouble.  He was also given the benefit of the colleague's advice, take someone with him, or get eyes on the back of his head.

It appeared everyone had a bad story about the docks.

Even in daylight, the disused docklands were eerie, and the place sent shivers down Sykes's spine.  It was still reputedly the burial ground for a long list of missing persons, sometimes gangsters who got caught in the crossfire, informants who all lived on a precarious edge, or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He walked the half-mile main frontage, feeling that there was more than one set of eyes watching him, and took in the details.  

There were old warehouses on one side of a wide street some all but falling.  On the other, there were large signs posted everywhere about the hazards of venturing past the chain wire fences, highlighting the fact the wharf was rotting and very dangerous, and the buildings near the wharves were equally subject to imminent collapse.

Back to the street and the fencing, five gates were all secured with new chains and locks over rusting metal fencing. It may have looked old and decrepit, but when Sykes tested it, it felt extraordinarily strong and sturdy. A closer inspection of parts of the fence showed signs of recent repairs.  What was intriguing was that someone had gone to great effort to make the whole structure look like something it wasn't.

He crossed the road and walked alongside the more sturdily constructed warehouse buildings made of brick, with mesh-covered windows and thick locked doors that would withstand to the pounding of a ram.  He knocked on a few, discovering they were very thick and the locks on the doors were new too.

A glance at the step showed under some of the doors, showed the door hadn't been opened in a long time, because of the lack of scrape marks.  Except for one, two buildings from the end where the door showed signs of being recently opened.

This had to be the one where Felicity had run into Theo.  Sykes conducted a methodical search within 50 yards of that doorway, and it led him to the point where Theo Blines had died.  Felicity had told him she had accidentally shot Ned close to the doorway.  There were still drops of blood on the steps, but none on the ground heading away from the doorway, showing that Theo Blines had been carried from the doorway and the building as if to remove an association from it.

That had been either mistakenly or intentionally omitted in the report Sykes had received. So, a new fact, Theo Blines had been moved and likely killed in that spot.  He would have to check the medical examiner's report again.

He went back to the doorway and pounded on the door.  He was not expecting anyone to answer, but it would be remiss of him if didn't try.

Back out on the street, he could hear a car coming, slow down as it approached the building, then stop.  It sat there for a minute before he heard a door open and close, then nothing.  Still in the doorway, it would be difficult form the car occupant to see Sykes, but poking his head out from the wall Sykes could see the occupant was standing beside their car, not looking in his direction, but instead smoking a cigarette and infrequently looking in one direction, then the other.

Even from that distance, he could recognize the form.  Ned Blines, taller and meaner looking than his younger brother Theo, a man with the gift of belligerence.  First to start a fight, and usually, the last man to leave with the least amount of damage.  Not someone to take on alone, not unless he had a gun, which, by a quirk of fate he was carrying.

He waited until Ned finished his cigarette, then stepped out from behind the wall.

Sykes had covered 50 yards before Ned saw him, turned, and stood waiting for him.  The fact Ned hadn't jumped in his car and fled meant he thought he was not doing anything wrong.

Technically, he wasn't.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday, 5 October 2020

Case 2 - Episode 15 - Old Adversaries

 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

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Case 2 - Episode 14 – Sykes get acquainted with Theo Blines

Detective Albert Sykes had his proverbial finger in several pies.  One keeping an eye on Walthenson, one keeping an eye on Felicity, the girl who had inadvertently stumbled upon Theo Blines, and another chasing down the recent work history of said same Theo.

His information about Walthenson was that according to the cleaner of the building where Harry had his office, Harry’s father had gone missing, or so Harry’s mother had said in a reasonably hysterical manner according to the cleaner.  Sykes was not sure, having met the woman, that she could muster hysterical in any circumstances.  She was, Sykes thought, a very cold fish.

His information about Felicity was that she wasn’t looking for another suspect to shoot, but oddly wandering around the city.  First, she appeared to be following Harry’s sister Corinne, which made sense to Sykes because of what foolishness Corinne had done in going to the docks.  But it was her movements in the city that piqued his interest, because it looked as though she was following several subjects, one of whom was Harry’s mother.

Did they suspect Harry's mother had something to do with the father's disappearance?

What was disconcerting about this operation was the fact a man named Florenz was involved, and Sykes had a list of charges but no convictions against him, all of which revolved around financial transactions, and suspected money laundering.  An exceptionally smooth operator according to his boss, who, when Sykes mentioned his name in passing, got a stern order to leave him alone.  Florenz apparently had golfing friends extremely high up in the department.  He was going to tread very carefully with that investigation.

But it was the Theo Blines trail he was most interested in, offering to assist Detective Wallace in his investigation that had gone cold through lack of evidence and leads.  Sykes, however, had a confidential informant who had put the word out and was now ready to tell Sykes what he’d discovered.  

Sykes had picked a reasonably secluded spot in Central Park to meet his confidential informant, a character named Joel Whittaker.  

Whittaker used to be a top-notch reporter who broke several very large stories concerning corruption in high and low places, but succumbed to the headiness of his success and went one step too far, landing a scoop that, in the end, wasn’t.  Payback for the people he had betrayed, and lucky to come out of it alive.

Nowadays, he was not the most reliable man on the planet, but he was walking on the other side f the street, with enough street cred to worm his way into any illegal operation or know a friend of a friend of a friend of just about every criminal in the city.  People told him stuff because they knew he could never use it against them, no one would believe him.

That’s what made his such a good confidential informer/

He always looked undernourished and had what he himself described as an on and off relationship with drugs, which Sykes took to mean that he used whenever he had any money.

For this meeting, Sykes had brought him a couple of donuts, a pretzel, and a cup of weak coffee.  For himself, he had an Americano.  A few minutes after sitting down, Joel appeared and sat at the opposite end of the seat.

Sykes pushed the tray of food towards him and he grabbed it.  Sykes first impression, Joel had not slept in a week, still in the same clothes he'd last seen him wearing and was starving.  All the signs of a man on the edge, and in need of a fix.  He knew where the contents of the envelope under the tray would end up.

He let Joel have the first of the donuts, then asked, "What have you discovered?"

"That you should walk away while you still can.  These people, they're connected, if you know what I mean."

“The Blines?”

“They’re the tip of the iceberg, you don’t want to start digging too deep.”

He knew what he meant.  Corruption, the sort that never saw the light of day because it went a long way up the ladder.  His boss had already issued a veiled warning.

"And if I don't?"

"How's a dip in the Hudson sound?"

"Cold for this time of year.  It's not the first time I've been warned, Joel, and it won't be the last.  But I suspect you're not going to name names."

"Not those at the top of the pile because I don't know who they are.  But the small fish, the Blines brothers, they're bottom feeders.  Theo had a simple surveillance job, so simple they can't believe he got shot.  Ned, his brother, wants the shooter, and word is it's a girl, which makes it a vengeance job.  Doesn't know who she is yet, but they have friends in the police, so I suspect it won't take long.  You know her, tell her to leave town."

"Or I could just bust Ned.  Who's he working for?"

"Ostensibly himself, but we all know some it’s other people who own the vacant land at the docks.  Nothing on it, but someone seems to think it means something to someone.  Ned's now looking after the surveillance.  No one is willing to talk about it, so that means there's money involved, and if there's money involved, 'The Banker' is involved."

Sykes know of this 'Banker', a man who was reputed to broker deals for criminals, terrorists, and anyone else who wanted money, or those who couldn't get finance from legitimate sources because of their credit rating, places similar to but now defunct, Outtel.  

With the name Florenz popping up, it seemed to Sykes that it might just be him, or of not, someone he knew, so investigating Florenz further was one option on the table.

"You know of a guy called Florenz?"

"He plays golf with the Mayor, and a few other city luminaries, and others of less repute but men of consequence none the less.  Not a man I would be looking at once, or sideways.  Why?  You planning to take up golf?"

Golf was one of those games Sykes had no time for, like chess, and tennis.  Chasing a little white ball around an arduous course meant exercise he didn't want, but desperately needed.  That's what gyms were for.  But he did know that the golf course was where a lot of deals were made, and large sums of money were won and lost.  What better place was there to broker shady deals, away from prying eyes and hidden microphones.

"Not yet anyway.  You wouldn’t happen to know of these so-called men of consequence?"

“One or two.  One is apparently missing, a chap by the name of Xavier Walthenson.  You know his kid I’m told.  Nearly died not minding his own business.  You might drop a hint it wouldn’t be wise to go looking for a man who doesn’t want to be found.”

First Sykes had heard of the elder Walthenson’s disappearance.  Harry should have told him rathe than finding out this way.

“Some people have an insatiable curiosity.”

“Just remember I told you it killed the car.  The other is someone whom you may recall from the old days if ever there were such halcyon days.  James Quirk.  Councilman, soon to be DA if the word on the street has any credence, a man with much ambition.”

“And a lot of history to erase.”  An interesting connection for a man like Florenz to be acquainted with.  But the name James Quirk opened a creaky door in his brain, and he didn’t think he was going to like what was behind it.

Joel had finished the donuts and coffee and had pocketed the envelope.  The interview was over.  "Some free advice; leave this alone.  Too many heavy hitters involved.  All I would do is protect the girl.  Ned's not the sharpest tool in the box, but he does get a little carried away when dishing out retribution.  There's another brother, Willy, got more sense than to be involved with the dunderhead brothers, but I suspect he's the one who throws them bones when he can.  He might be worth having a chat to since he works with some of those City Hall types."

He stood.  "Take care."  A few minutes later he had disappeared.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday, 3 August 2020

Case 2 - Episode 13 – Once a suitor, always a suitor?

Felicity was no longer interested in Alicia Wentworth.  Well, not for the moment.  When she and Florenz parted, with more than just a public display of simple friendship, she decided that Florenz would be the target.

She suspected Alicia would get the chauffeur to take her onto the office, so that would not lead to anything useful.  Harry would have that covered, by talking to Giselle, after she sent him a text about the latest development.

No, Florenz was on foot, so she was hoping he’s lead her to his office.  A long shot, but one worth taking.

And, it seemed, he was not in a hurry, though he did look at his watch twice as if he was pacing himself for another meeting, and trying not to get there early or late.  A man of punctuality and could be an indicator of other eccentricities.

It was a leisurely stroll up Broadway past Park Row, but just before Barclay Street he stopped on the corner and appeared to be waiting for someone.  Was he early or late, Felicity looked at her watch.  Three minutes to the hour.  He was early.

The hour ticked by, then another five minutes.  A look of an impatient man crossed his face, then, a relaxation in posture.  His companion must be in sight and coming down Broadway from the other direction.

It took another minute for the companion to appear through the pedestrians, and she got another shock for the morning.

His companion was none other than Harry’s mother, Elsie Walthenson, once known as Elsie Wilkinson, one of the Boston Wilkinson’s, a rather interesting titbit that Felicity had discovered when she read the caption accompanying that photo of Harry's mother with Florenz back in school days.

And, back then, it was interesting to note that Florenz was nobody in particular.  Or so the caption said.

Felicity hoped that Mrs. Walthenson would not recognize her from the fleeting meeting they had in Harry’s office, that she had been too wrapped up in her husband’s departure than to bother with her.

She waited until they went into a Starbucks nearby, and then followed them in and found a seat nearby, after getting a coffee herself.  They were not near any windows, but not in a position where they could see anyone coming and going.

Not that they were interested in anyone else.  There seemed to be a stronger connection.  Was she more to him than just the wife of a golfing partner?

She tried not to be obvious in listening to their conversation, not that it was going to be easy because of the white noise around them, but she did get to hear a number of snippets.

The first, “What on earth did you get that son of yours to look for Xavier?”

“What was I supposed to do?  I was angry.  Leaving me that note, running off with another woman.”

“Not that.  You know Harry’s a lot smarter than he looks, and you’re not going to be able to be very convincing if you’re going to be lying to him.”

“Why?  You told me he was hopeless at being a detective.”

“Perhaps, but he’s been snooping around places he shouldn’t be.  Like Xavier.  When Xavier asked me my opinion about Shawville, I told him not to get involved, but he didn’t listen.  Seems Argeter shot his mouth off about the money involved, and it was like a red rag to a bull.

“How much does Xavier know?”

“Nothing.  His mother wisely destroyed the files and told him to leave well alone.”

“What did she want in return?”

“You know what she wants.  Alicia Wentworth’s hide, and it’s going to be hell on earth bringing that to a conclusion.  I still can’t believe the mess old man Walthenson left behind, simply because he was besotted by the one thing he couldn’t have.  Or tried.  Killed him in the end.”

“Do you know where Xavier is?”


“Do you care?”

“No.  What if he doesn’t come back?”

“You know the answer to that.  It was a mistake I made all those years ago, and I’ve had time enough to regret it.”

She reached out and touched Florenz’s hand.  No need for words.  Felicity knew the answer to that question.

Nor did she want to hear any more of the conversation.  She felt sorry for Harry.

© Charles Heath 2020

Monday, 27 July 2020

Case 2 - Episode 12 – It’s not what you know, but who

Felicity already hated Alicia Wentworth long before she started her surveillance on her.  Harry had given her the details on the woman, and a lot more than was normally required, but it was clear he thought she was a person of interest in her husband’s untimely death, and the kidnapping, if it was that, of his father.

Not to mention the years of torment played upon Harry’s family since the grandfather’s death.  It was an interesting tale, but one that had more than a few loose ends.  And dangling at the end of them, what appeared to be a woman who would do anything for wealth.

Just a quick check showed she had come from the backblocks of LA, her mother a movie extra who missed her shot at becoming a star, her father, any one of a hundred stars, directors, and other film luminaries who promised her everything and gave her nothing.

But a child who had to fight for everything she wanted and more.

It was almost straight out of a film script.  Joan Crawford could have played the mother, and the daughter, well, she wasn’t quite sure who would fit the bill.  But it would be a star-making role if it ever came to the big screen back in the day.

Alicia Wentworth lived in the grandfather’s house.  It was a sprawling mansion that was looked after by a housekeeper, a maid, a cook, a groundsman, and a chauffeur.  That meant the house was never empty, so it was going to be impossible to search.

Unless she found a way of getting the incumbents to leave for a while.

She’d work on that later.

There were plenty of places she could take up a position to watch the house, without her activities being investigated or noticed by the other residents.  The other residents kept to themselves, behind their high walls and quest for privacy.

The neighbors were a who’s who of the city’s luminaries and watching them come and go, and who visited, was as interesting as that of her primary target.

This was the second day of her stakeout.  This morning she was doing the early morning jog, the one that ran the length of the street and back, the one that kept Alicia’s house in sight the whole time, thanks to some special headphones, and glasses.

Her father had some of the best surveillance equipment in the business, and she was compiling a list for Harry so that he might keep up with the latest equipment because sooner or later he was going to need it.

Nothing happened on the first leg.

Three residents departed in their cars, an Audi, a BMW, and a Hummer.  The most interesting was the Hummer.  It was the size of two cars, and she was seriously considering buying one.  Perhaps talk to the owner if the opportunity arose.

The third leg had her meet with the strange lady two houses along, a thick Russian accent, and a medium-sized dog, the breed of which she was not sure.

“You are new,” the woman said, stopping.

Felicity stopped too, breathing hard.  She was a little out of shape.

The dog sat, but it was growling.  Perhaps it didn’t like strangers.

“Just visiting my aunt who lives around the corner.  I’ve just got back from Berlin, and she said I could languish there while I assess my options.”

“What do you do?” the woman asked in fluent German.

“Translator, multiple languages,” she replied in Russian.  “Don’t need a translator, do you?”

The woman shook her head.  “Good luck to you and your exercise.  It’ll no doubt kill you in the end.  It’s what happened to my husband.”

The woman tugged on the dog leash ready to continue her walk.

“What happened, heart attack?”

“No.  His enemies knew he went for a jog every morning, lay in wait, and shot him.  He wasn’t a nice man.”

Then she shrugged and left Felicity still gasping for breath.

“I hope you don’t have any enemies, Miss.”

Not yet, anyway, Felicity thought.

Behind her, she could see the gate to Alicia’s property opening, and a minute later a car drove up to the road and stopped for a moment.  Felicity bent down to look as though she was tying her laces as the car then turned right and headed up the road away from her.

She noticed that Alicia was in the rear, being chauffeur driven in the Audi SUV.  She memorized the license plate and model of the car.  It was another because the previous evening Alicia had returned home in her red Mercedes coupe.

When Alicia’s car turned the corner, Felicity knew she had at least a minute before the car could turn off the road.  It was lucky this time that Felicity’s car was only seconds away, but still it took nearly a minute and a half to get in, start it, and get moving.

Luck was with her, she caught up just as the Audi turned off, heading towards what she assumed would be the main road back to New York.

Forty-five minutes later, the Audi dropped its passenger off near Wall Street, and Felicity tarried long enough at the intersection to see which building Alicia had gone into.  And get a photo of the man she had met outside before going in.

She didn’t recognize him, but that didn’t matter.  Most of the tenants in this part of the city were financial advisors, stockbrokers, and a new variety of con men out to fleece the people who wanted to get into investment but didn’t know-how.

Perhaps she was just cynical.

She found a car park, parked the car, and bet on the fact Alicia would not have concluded her business by the time she got back to the building.  Not far away was a cafĂ©, and where she needed a well-earned cup of coffee.  Now she knew why she would never drive into the city and rely on public transit.

She might have to jostle with thousands of other passengers, but it beat the traffic jams, and cabbies who were very quick to blow their horns of you were in their way.

She watched for an hour, playing a guessing game of who was who going in and out of the building.  Rich people predominantly, who probably knew more than anyone else how to play the game, and then the players, those traders in their expensive suits and swanky manner.

Then there were lawyers in even more expensive suits, playing a different sort of game.
Some met outside the building before going in, some others met outside the building, but couldn’t afford to go in, or were not allowed in, a politician or two, faces she had seen in the papers, probably working on their permanent campaign to stay in office.

And then there were the tourists.  They stood out and viewed the whole place as just another collection of tall buildings.  The bull was nearby, so was the memorial to 9/11.  This part of town was just a stepping stone for them going to another place.

So, it was not going to be the man she went into the building with, it was always going to be about the person she came out with and showing a little more than just a friendly gesture when parting.

None other than Harry’s fathers golfing friend, Florenz.

© Charles Heath 2020