Death by Parking – Chapter 13 - Unsolicited Advice
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I have to admit that probably the last person I expected to see in Smith’s office was my old lieutenant. His issues in Korea got me into tahis in the first place. All I wanted to do was find out if he was really as bad as his actions in that bar in the Ville many years ago and then do something about it.
Now, I found myself in the midst of a swirling criminal enterprise that related to the takeover of the largest bank in town, the potential destruction of a major developer, havoc on a construction site, a mysterious maven who enjoyed my interest in Bogie, the mob, and now a ‘fixer’ who, it seemed, was buddy-buddy with my nemesis, Frank Cosner.
I responded to Smith’s introduction with “Sure, Frank and I are old acquaintances.”
“Have a seat, Manning. Can I get you a drink, single malt, isn’t it?” Seems like everyone knows my preference in whisky.
“Sure,” I said. Smith brought me a couple of fingers of Isle of Jura in a crystal glass. It wasn’t as rough and tumble as my usual selections from Islay, but close enough.
“What can I do for you, Manning? Don’t worry about Frank, here. He and I are involved in a number of activities. He may be able to add to the conversation.”
“Well, Smith, I have been hired to look into some activities that don’t seem to be on the up and up at the construction site run by S and L. I am chatting with the folks who were at Maryann Leyman’s last night just trying to get a fix on the players. I’m glad Frank is here, saves me a stop.
“Maybe you can tell me a bit about how you fit into the scheme of things. I doubt Maryann would have included you if there wasn’t a good reason. I understand you have a lot of connections over at City Hall.”
Smith smiled and took a sip of his drink.
“I like a man who doesn’t beat around the bush. Yes, I know a few people here and there and have been able to be of some small help for my friends, from time to time. I was able to get some of the initial permits for the S and L project expedited. It’s no secret.”
“Yes, but I’m told that you weren’t asked to become involved, but did anyway. Can you fill me in on why you used up some of your influence when it didn’t seem necessary?” I asked.
Smith scratched his chin and smiled. “It wasn’t a case of using up influence, but moving it from one place to another. I’m a friend of Maryann’s and I wanted to be sure the project went smoothly. There are always issues dealing with permits on a complex of that size, and I felt if I could be of some assistance, then so much the better and no harm done. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of S and L and see if there was anywhere else I could be of service. For instance, I was able to assist in getting Frank here the contract for the parking operation. It’s a small contract, but important.”
I looked at Cosner. He didn’t move a muscle.
I swirled the Jura in the glass and took a sip. They obviously weren’t aware that the senior management at S and L were not in favor of Cosner being involved, but had the contract slipped past them in a bureaucratic shuffle. Smith may have influence, but he didn’t know all the score.
“Why would you care about something as small as the parking contract, particularly as Frank pointed out to me the other day that it wasn’t going to be profitable until it was renewed in five years, if then. Seems like a pretty big gamble for not a lot of gain.”
Smith began to chuckle. “There are different kinds of ‘gain’ Manning. I have been open with you about my desires regarding S and L. Perhaps you can share what you have discovered in your sojourn with the company.”
There was no way in hell I was going to ‘share’ with this weasel, but I had to give him something.
“It’s early days. I have discovered that there seems to be some interest from our friends from New Jersey. Do you know a chap by the name of Dandy Giovianni? He seems to have a lot of interest in my activities.”
Cosner glanced at Smith who gave the briefest shake of the head. Sometimes it’s what is not said at these kinds of meetings that’s more important than what is said. I realized that I had gotten as much as I was going to out of Smith at this sitting.
“Thanks for the whisky, Smith. I won’t take any more of your time. I’m sure we will see each other around the ranch.”
Smith nodded, and I got up and made my way out of his office. I carefully closed the door behind me. His receptionist acknowledged my presence as I headed for the elevators. As the doors closed, she reached for the phone. I figured I should be a tad cautious as I retrieved my car.
It was the normal routine. A black car pulled into traffic two cars behind me and stayed there all the way back to my office. That fact and Smith’s reticence to talk about my old friend Dandy told me just about all I needed to know. William Francis Smith and Frank Cosner were definitely ‘connected.’
I was pretty sure my tail was not McKinney’s daughter. After all, if she was as good as he said she was, I wouldn’t have been able to spot her so easily.
When I got back to my office, I took the envelope from my pocket and placed it in the floor safe I had had installed a year back when I was working a case that had some sensitive documents involved. I had to give some thought as to what to do with the 25 large I picked up from Dandy. It’s possible that Smith was free with information because he now thought I worked for him. I didn’t, did I?
The deal I made with myself was that I was going to take the money, but continue to work the case for S and L. I’m not sure that’s exactly what Dandy’s masters understood. Was it even what I understood? Maybe I needed another conversation with Bogie.
I walked across to Musso and Franks and sat in my booth. The waiter brough my club sandwich and coke, and a whisky for Bogie. He materialized, wrapped his fists together under his chin and just looked at me. Was it my imagination or did he look a little sad?
“I know I said that those hard-bitten detectives you played always lived by a moral code. Maybe I’m still working on mine. I do know that the 25Gs will come in handy.” As usual, he said nothing, but his entire body (if you could call it a body) was oozing sadness. He was sending a message, and there was no question in my mind what it was.
I must be crazy. I’m sitting here listening to a figment of my imagination tell me what to do. As I thought about this, a woman who looked familiar sat down in the booth between Bogie and me. She had a drink in her hand.
“The car that followed you to your office came from a parking space reserved by WF Smith. The gunsels inside left little to the imagination. They were definitely connected. After you parked, they stayed around for a few minutes, then headed off. No one followed you over here to lunch. You didn’t ask my opinion, but I’ll give it anyway. Follow Bogie’s advice."
She finished her drink and got up and walked away.
To be continued.
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