T he train is leaving the station,” William Peterson told defense attorney Sid Lavender. Peterson propped his legs on his desk, leaned his oversized ergonomic chair back to its limit, and locked his hands behind his head. “Sid, your client better get on board.”
“Come on, Billy-boy, I’ve been taking these cases to trial for twenty-seven years. No way you’ll convict Ed Granger, relying on Matson and Zink. Zink couldn’t investigate a plumbing leak. Why do you think he never got promoted?”
Lavender loved the game and loved to go to trial. He’d rather go to trial than have sex, eat prime rib, hit a hole in one, or win the lottery. In fact, trial was his lottery except the odds always were that he’d win. White hair, chubby face, playful smile, everybody’s favorite uncle. Juries adored him and prosecutors could never bring themselves to hate him.
Lavender unbuttoned his suit jacket, took a sip from his Starbucks latte, then grinned at Peterson.
“How do you spell impeachment? M-a-t-s-o-n,” Lavender said. “Granger’s got lots of stuff on Matson. Lots and lots. You’d be better off taking the case civil.”
Peterson slipped his feet off the desk.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Sid. Let Granger kick all the dirt he wants at Matson, they’ll both be covered in dust.”
“Who’s kidding who?”
“Okay. Whom. You’ve got to prove that Granger knew what Matson was up to. It’s he said, he said. You got Granger’s signature on anything? He own any of those companies? You got his name on a single overseas wire transfer? Can you even trace any of the shares to him? No, no, and no. How many was that? No. He was just an elder statesman offering a little advice to a guy he thought made a good product. All he got were consulting fees. Not even a quarter mil. Trust me, he feels betrayed…No, heartbroken…” Lavender sighed and placed his hand on his chest. “That’s it, heartbroken and betrayed.”
Peterson waved him off. “Save it for your closing argument.”
“You don’t really have anything. At least anything solid. I know it and you know it.”
“Sid, Sid, Sid. I’m not giving you a peek at my case unless your guy wants to do a Queen for Day about what he knows.”
Lavender set his cup down on Peterson’s desk, then leaned forward, reaching out his hands, palms up.
“Hypothetically speaking-get that? Hy-po-thetically. Who’s left for him to give? You got Matson. Granger never even sat down with Burch.” Lavender drew back. “What? He’s supposed to roll down on a bookkeeper at SatTek? What’ll that earn him? Two days off a ten-year sentence? Four days off twenty?”
“I think you better have a heart-to-heart with your client,” Peterson said, tapping his middle finger on a file folder bearing Granger’s name. “This isn’t the first time he’s come up on the radar. As soon as he stops lying to himself, you’ll be knocking on my door. If he doesn’t come in, it’s dasvedanya, baby. I hear Lompoc in the fall is just lovely.”
“That’s the last word?”
“Which one?” Sid grinned. “Lovely or dasvedanya?”
“You’re enjoying this too much, Sid.” Peterson slid aside the file “Anyone else on the agenda for today?”
“Nope.” Sid rose to leave. “But put on your trial suit. Granger won’t come crawling in. I think he’ll roll the dice in front of a jury.”
“It’ll be fun,” Peterson said. “We always have fun in trial. Just don’t use that peel-the-onion metaphor again to describe my case-it’s getting old and smelly.”
Sid spread his arms like a farmer showing off his crop. “But for jurors it conveys the aroma of spring planting. And don’t forget, it takes a little manure to grow something really tasty.”
Peterson smiled and shook his head, “Sid, Sid, Sid.”
Zink was sitting in Peterson’s office when he returned from escorting Lavender to the exit.
“Is Granger coming in?” Zink asked.
“Nope.” Peterson dropped into his chair. “At least not right away.”
“I’ve traced a few million dollars of Matson’s and Granger’s money to Liechtenstein. It all went through Blau Anstalt. The authorities froze the accounts but Granger’s nominee directors are fighting our bank record demands in court. They can tie it up for years. All it would take is for Granger to tell his people to back off and we could give it all back to the shareholders.”
Peterson had fought with Liechtenstein before, but never won-and didn’t expect to this time. He knew that their economy depended on keeping exactly the kind of financial secrets the U.S. Justice Department had an interest in exposing.
“How do you know that Granger is behind Blau Anstalt?” Peterson asked.
Zink shrugged. “That’s what Matson says.”
Peterson thought for a moment. “Granger just may be one of those guys we need to indict first, unless you’ve got something new to spook him with.”
“Nothing more than what Matson’s given us. I’ve leaned on him every which way I can, but all he’s come up with is that Granger was the connection to the guys pushing the stock at Northstead. I feel like I’ve been digging well after well, but coming up dry.”
“Sticking it to brokers isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need Granger to roll up, not down.”
Peterson saw in Zink’s expression that he’d had enough of this particular little snitch. Peterson made a college-try fist, then said, “Let’s give it one more shot. But this time, go heavy on him. Push him hard. Maybe Granger bragged about some deal or somebody he knows. We just need a little leverage.”
Peterson’s eyes narrowed. “Granger is what? Late sixties?”
Peterson looked at his wall calendar. “We just need to get him doing the numbers. Say he goes to trial in sixteen months. Ninety days until he’s convicted, and gets sentenced ninety days after that. Say he gets twenty years. They let him out when he’s what? Almost ninety?”
“Yeah, if he lives that long.”
Peterson nodded slowly. “With a little push, he’ll run the numbers and come in. He’ll have no choice.”
“You know how Fitzhugh and Granger hooked up, don’t you?” Matson asked Zink, as he balled up a potato chip bag and dropped it into a wastebasket next to Zink’s desk.
They were meeting in a temporary office Zink had set up a few blocks from the Federal Building.
“Why don’t you tell me?”
“Through Burch.” Matson pointed at Zink’s uneaten sandwich. “You want that?”
Zink shook his head, then got up and walked to the easel. He drew an arrow from the box containing the name Burch to one containing the name Fitzhugh.
“I thought it was obvious,” Matson said, tearing off the plastic wrapper. “Granger and I didn’t know anybody in London who could run the holding company or handle the money we were running through China and Vietnam. I thought you understood that.”
This guy’s a dunce, Matson said to himself. How did he get into the FBI?
“That’s what led to the Irish software deal. Burch hooked us up. I figured you didn’t ask me about that because you already had it covered.”
“There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle. I hadn’t gotten to that one yet.” He turned back toward Matson. “You have any proof?”
Matson nodded. “Sure. I’ve got paperwork in a box of junk in London. Let me have my passport back and I’ll go get it. And there are guys over there who worked with Granger before. I can see if they’ll let something slip.”
Zink’s step was lighter as he walked back to the Federal Building to get Peterson’s approval. He’d gotten what the prosecutor wanted: an angle on Granger. He smiled when he realized that the source of Matson’s enthusiasm wasn’t the possibility of success, but something else: The weasel probably hasn’t gotten laid since that last time he saw his Ukrainian love bunny.
It didn’t make any difference to Zink what else Matson did over there as long as he brought back the leverage Peterson needed.
Anyway, Zink thought, there’s nothing-absolutely nothing-he can do that I won’t find out about in the end.