The State Capitol Building
Two days after his meeting with Piccolo and Tillitson, James Dolan met with State Attorney General Howard Roehrig. Twenty years ago Roehrig was a struggling lawyer in Marbury trying to find new clients to expand his practice. At the time a contractor was suing Connecticut over a dispute involving payments for road construction. Dolan had recommended him to state transportation officials in Hartford and Roehrig ended up representing the state against the contractor. The Connecticut DOT was pleased with his work and Roehrig went on to represent the state, eventually leave his firm and become attorney-general.
Over the years Dolan hadn’t asked for anything in return, but now he was in a desperate situation. His company was headed for bankruptcy. He knew what Piccolo and Tillitson had told him was true. He and Norton Utilities were the reason the shark was threatening the lake. And also the target of whomever was behind the Swiss numbered account.
“I read this morning that another attack had taken place on the lake,” Roehrig said from behind his polished mahogany desk. Dolan noticed that his habits hadn’t changed over the years. The attorney general was impeccably dressed and his desk as neat as a pin. The office was very formal with dark paneled walls and drab furniture. The only splashes of color were the state and American flags on either side of the desk.
“Unfortunately yes,” Dolan said. “I’m sure by the end of the day Norton stock will have taken another hit.”
“And you’re convinced by what Piccolo has told you that whoever is behind the numbered Swiss account is the culprit.”
“Culprit is too soft a word Howard,” Dolan said. “I spent my life building Norton and this…this person is tearing it down.” He leaned back in his chair to appear in control, but anger and frustration were building inside him. “You know the more I think about it this guy’s plan is perfect. First of all he attacks me on the very lake that I built from nothing. He puts a shark in it…God knows how because Piccolo hasn’t a clue…and then spends millions to buy lakeshore property from everybody seeing their property values go down the tubes. But here’s the clever part. Bringing me and Norton down isn’t going to cost him a dime, in fact he’s going to make money on the deal. Because after we’re bankrupt he’s going to remove that shark from the lake, wait until everyone’s comfortable that the threat is gone, and sell everything back at a profit. Can you believe it? The guy’s going to make money on the deal.”
“I have to agree, it’s a clever plan,” Roehrig said brushing an invisible bit of lint from his jacket lapel. “But you’re leaving something out.”
“This person is also guilty of at least attempted murder on four occasions. So we’re not just talking about a civil case here, we’re also talking about a criminal case. Let’s not forget that.”
“I’m not,” Dolan said somewhat apologetically. “I tend to forget about the innocent victims and think about the company. But you’re right. In order to create financial panic, this guys maiming people.
“Yes,” Roehrig said stroking his chin with one hand. Dolan remembered the habit from years ago. It was obvious that Roehrig was thinking three steps ahead now.
“I don’t believe from what you say that Piccolo has anything to tie the shark into the numbered account’s financial activity,” he said. “And that’s critical. Buying up property isn’t illegal even if its intent is to bring down a company. You’ve heard of hostile takeovers. This isn’t much different. But it seems to me that Piccolo is at a dead end in terms of who’s behind the shark. That’s why he’s questioning you on who would have a possible motive. Since you don’t have anyone, he’s at a standstill.”
“So what can be done?” Dolan asked hopefully.
“Well we can’t go to a Swiss magistrate to force a bank to reveal the money’s source at this point. I think the best we can hope for is to appeal to the Swiss on a high level outside their court system.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean through diplomatic channels. There may now be enough media attention bringing pressure to bear on their sacrosanct discreet banking system that they might be willing to relax the rules if approached privately.”
“I don’t know,” Dolan said shrugging his shoulders.
“At any rate,” Roehrig continued, “Senator Matson serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and he thinks maybe some behind the scenes discussion can take place and we can get them to reveal the identity of the account. It’s a long shot, they’re very strict about these things, but sometimes success can be achieved easier unofficially than officially.”
“I know what you mean,” Dolan said remembering how he had leaned on people in the past.
“I understand you had a conversation with Benson & Stanley….with Ms Benson?” Roehrig asked.
“Yes. A few weeks ago.”
“Did you ask her about the account?”
“She doesn’t know who’s behind it. But she did give her contact’s name to Piccolo. The bank holding the account is Union Suisse in Zurich.”
“Good,” Roehrig said making some notes on a pad. ‘I’ll want to speak to the sheriff anyway to get all the details.” He remembered telling Piccolo two months ago he might need the state’s help in the future. Now he was going to get it. The shark in Arrowhead was national if not world news. His involvement in it could help further his career.
“I know this is all very hard on you,” he said to Dolan, “but sit tight while I get the ball rolling with the senator. I know he’ll do what he can. Businessmen from all over Fairfield County have been calling him about lost revenue because of the shark.”
“I appreciate it,” Dolan replied. “I think Piccolo is a little over his head now. This thing’s getting too big for him.”
“Well the shark still needs to be found, but we’ll handle the international financial part from here.”
Dolan came away from the meeting feeling all was being done that could be. Getting Roehrig involved finding the identity behind the numbered account left him some options if the investigation got into areas where his past might be looked into. There were skeletons involved with his development of the lake that he preferred remain in the closet. With Roehrig on the case he might be able to keep them there.
He still didn’t believe the past incident had anything to do with what was happening to him now. But he never believed someone would put a shark in the lake to bring him down either.
Sally Benson drove her new Jaguar XKE into Arrowhead Shores, one of the largest communities on the lake. She passed by the beach that was empty except for a few mothers with their toddlers. There was still fifteen minutes before her next appointment so she pulled into the beach parking area.
She got out of the car and stood looking at the lake. The day was clear with a deep blue sky and very little wind so the water appeared as a sheet of glass with lakeshore homes reflected in it along the shoreline. To Sally it looked as if the shark had literally pulled the homes from the shore into the lake to destroy them. Because in many cases that’s what had happened. The fear of losing one’s life savings had forced owners to leave as their houses sank in value. They might as well have sunk into the lake.
She was benefiting from their grief. Her shiny new Jag was one of the examples and it was only the beginning. She and Beth had made money beyond their wildest dreams. All in one summer that was drawing to a close. Labor Day was just two weeks away and children would be going to back to school. It essentially ended the season at Arrowhead. The water sometimes stayed warm until the beginning of October, but it didn’t make any difference this year. Nobody was going in it.
Sally walked across the carefully kept lawn down to the beach area. It was covered with white sand that the community association put down each season and dutifully raked with a machine every morning. It was one of the nicest beaches on the lake.
Standing under a sprawling elm Sally watched two mothers holding their toddler’s hands as they took them into water barely over their ankles. Even though they were in no danger at that depth both women looked to their right toward deeper water. The threat was there. It had been all summer.
The crystal clear water drew Sally closer. It was so hot that she wanted to take off her shoes and at least get her feet wet. But unlike the mothers in their cut off shorts or bathing suits, she was dressed for business. Business that would take another frightened family from their home and put money in her pocket.
“Hi,” one mother holding her toddler said. “beautiful day isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Sally said. “It certainly is.”
The woman looked her over and her car parked nearby.
“Can I help you with something?” she asked pleasantly. “Everybody always gets lost in here.”
“No,” Sally replied, “I’m just a little early to see a house.”
“Oh my parents have a house for sale just down the street.”
“I’m not buying,” Sally said. “I’m a real estate agent.”
The woman took off her sunglasses to get a better look at Sally. Her daughter splashed in the ankle deep water next to her.
“Are you from Benson & Stanley?”
“Why yes, how did you know?”
“My parents have a meeting with you. The Withers?” She looked at her watch. “In about fifteen minutes.”
“Mr. and Mrs. Michael Withers…yes. And you are?”
“Barbara Franklin, their daughter. I’m staying with mom and dad for the week.”
She glanced out again at the deeper water and then turned back to Sally.
“I had to get out of the house before you got there. It’s just too painful to see them have to sell it. I really couldn’t bear it.”
“I know. It’s hard for a lot of people,” Sally said sympathetically.
“Especially for them,” Barbara said shaking her head. “Mother is ill and her care is very expensive. They’ve gone through most of their savings and now have just the house left.” She shook her head and then added, “I should say about half the house left because that’s about all they’ll get now isn’t it.”
“I’m afraid so,” Sally said avoiding the young woman’s eyes, “people are afraid to buy now because of the shark,”
“Everybody except you and whoever you represent that’s buying up everything.” Barbara’s tone had changed now. It was angry. “And whoever that is seems to be paying whatever he wants.”
“I think he’s paying what the current value is considering the circumstances,” Sally said feeling more than a little guilty at hearing her own words.
“Do you think half price is really fair?”
“A house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it Mrs. Franklin. And right now no one is rushing to buy lakeshore homes except my client. I don’t think your parents will get any more than what he’s paying. In fact I don’t believe they’ll be able to sell the house to anyone else at all.”
“You’re right. They won’t be able to because they’ve tried,” Barbara said, her frustration showing. “But isn’t paying almost half the value a little greedy? Isn’t it?” She looked at Sally in her expensive clothes and then at the Jag parked across the lawn. “And what do you get out of this? A pretty penny I guess.”
“Well I..” Sally started to say.
“Never mind, I don’t want to know,” Barbara said with a brush of her hand. “I’m sure it’s obscene.” She picked her daughter up. “Excuse us. We have to go.”
Sally wanted to stop her. She wanted to explain that at least she had a buyer for the house. It wouldn’t be sold otherwise. But then the same nagging questions came back into her mind. Why was her client so sure he was going to sell these houses back at a profit? How did he know that the shark was going to be caught? Why was the shark discovered at almost the same time he started to buy? Why wouldn’t he buy any Norton property?
If he was trying to bring down Norton, she was caught in the middle. And so were a lot of innocent people like this woman’s parents who were going to lose half the value of their homes. True, she was making a lot of money, but it was beginning to disgust her.
Now she wanted to go into the lake like everyone else, but for a different reason.
She was beginning to feel dirty.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com