Home Chapter 9

Just to the windward of the law

 -The Ghost, Charles Churchill

 

“So where did you lose them?”  Dunn asked before Morrissey fully crossed the “Pit”.  The senior agent’s spectacled gaze, cool and jaded, didn’t even lift from the paper he was reading.

Marc Morrissey, still panting, felt like a fool.

How the hell did he know?

Dunn sat at his desk, three down and two from the door, the head of the seven-desk area designated theirs for now.  Morrissey had only joined the “Influence Task Force” after it had switched from the “Impact Task Force”.  Both investigated Gabriel Sol, but now they focused on where his power, money, and influence had spread.

Morrissey was still learning his way around the Pit’s crowded, buzzing area.  Even in the crammed room full of agents, Dunn’s desk was always easy to spot.  Many of the other work spaces teetered on the edge of chaos.  Dunn’s remained clear except for what he was working on at the moment, fenced on one side by files, all uniform and orderly, despite their different dimensions and densities.

Morrissey stood wondering if he should say anything, yet knowing the chew-out was coming.  Everything seemed to lull—the ringing phones, typing fingers, the talking—waiting on Morrissey’s explanation.  His shirt was starting to chill from his sweat.   A couple of the other agents, Hardy, Link, and Galway, circled around to hear.  Marc was going to have to account for himself in front of the class.

No use putting off the lashes.

“They slipped us.  They walked straight into the Landmarks Building.”  He didn’t say no one expected that.  They should have expected anything.  “Reznick and Nelson were sure they got all the other exits, but we didn’t see them come out.  Maxwell is back at his office—that’s confirmed.   But where she is, nobody knows.”

Dunn didn’t seem at all surprised.

“Well, what did you expect?  A coffee date?  Her phone number?  Maybe a map?”  Dunn took off his glasses and poked a wire arm into Morrissey’s chest while adding, “Don’t tell Robertson you lost her.”

Robertson, the SAC[i], would have a kitten; he was right about that.

Dunn had survived more purges and directors than most of the agents in the Bureau.  He knew the system, reaction times, and what was expected.  You didn’t listen to him at your own peril.  That being said, sometimes shiny apples hid flaws you only noticed on second inspection.   Dunn needed glasses for reading, yet for some reason he was still supervising as a lowly GS13.  It seemed New York SACs were cut of a different cloth than Frank Dunn.   His confident foreknowledge was impressive, but off-putting somehow.  Maybe that’s why he hadn’t risen higher in the ranks.

“If Robertson asks, tell him we’re biding our time, trying to gain trust with the witness,” Dunn said.  The oblique language got a snicker from Hardy.  Morrissey tried to smile to fit in with the group, but one month wasn’t going to get him in with these guys.  He was beginning to doubt one year would.

That’s what I tried to do with Maxwell and Chandler, “gain trust”.  It’d be a lot easier if you didn’t treat them like suspects. 

But Morrissey didn’t say it.   That would go too far, and he didn’t want to make enemies in the office he’d worked his whole career to move up to.   They might be suspects.  This was New York, after all, the city for organized crime, like Washington for counter intelligence.   If he had to tiptoe around Dunn to be here, so be it.

It wasn’t like he didn’t know how Dunn operated—get in, get what you need, get out, move on.

They had worked together briefly during The Pizza Connection[ii] days, Morrissey’s first major investigation, back when he was still in the Newark office.  Dunn gets it done was the senior agent’s reputation; ironically, not a whole lot different from Chandler’s.

On paper Catherine Chandler seemed like the fighter of the good fight.  She brought down a lot of bad guys—child molesters, dirty foster homes, wife beaters, child killers, even the ultra-rich ones like Richard Nolan.  Relentless, angry, righteous—Dunn and she seemed a lot alike, not that Morrissey was about to point that out.

There were just two camps in C.I.D.[iii]: agents like Pistone who respected the players, understood them, and others who despised them—no in between.  Dunn seemed firmly entrenched on the hate side.   Morrissey didn’t doubt Dunn believed everyone was guilty of something, and he wasn’t wrong about Catherine Chandler.  She was lying about a lot … but also telling the truth about a lot.

Morrissey had investigated drug dealers, money launderers, “made men” and their wannabes, talked to their victims, gotten their employees and even some family members to testify, but he had no idea what to make of Catherine Chandler.  Dunn had put Morrissey on researching the victim/perpetrator, and if there was a bigger enigma wrapped in an extra helping of riddle than Chandler, he didn’t know one.  She didn’t fit into any mold—high-class, but with no sense of entitlement; high-powered, but not cut-throat, not ambitious.

There weren’t a lot of people left from the District Attorney’s office who knew her from the beginning, but those that hadn’t burnt out in the last few years all liked her, and the detectives, by and large, were on her side.  Detective Ferrell out of the OCCB[iv], was a well-known and well thought of team player with the F.B.I., and he had only praise for her undercover work on the “Fatal Diamonds” case.[v]  Detectives Parker, McQueenie, Denelli, and Hughs all thought she was exceptional, but Hughs had worked the 1900 6th Avenue scene, so was already under investigation himself, and there was something strange about Jerry Denelli, just like Chandler, open and closed at the same time.   Morrissey was still working on her social contacts, but so far, the missing person’s report was right.   Other than her charity work, she kept low and quiet.

Gabriel Sol had his fingers in a lot of pies and a lot of people, including the D.A. of New York.  Gabriel was the puppet master.  We’re here to find out who let him take control, when, why, and for how much.

That’s what Dunn had told them just after they’d all been picked for the task force.

Morrissey’s job was to figure out if there was a deeper connection between Chandler and the man she’d killed and, if so, how that tied in with Moreno.

Morrissey’s double major in economics and psych had gotten him in the door at the F.B.I. Drug dealers of a certain rank knew how to use money laundering and tax havens; you follow the money, you find the people, and you find the crime.  He wasn’t a forensic accountant, but he understood their reports and how they related to the players involved.  That was Marc’s specialty, and, in this case, money flowed from Gabriel to John Moreno, but not to Chandler—at least, not that they’d found yet.

The interrogator side of Marc Morrissey understood people either wanting to talk, or people wanting to stay quiet.  She was stuck somewhere in between.

Her initial reaction to the “walk us through” sounded a little too rehearsed, although each retelling had a smattering of the type of detail most people couldn’t make up—the building, the cars, the weapons of choice in Gabriel’s operation.  With those types of specifics, it was easy to see where she glossed over others.   She deflected, especially when they asked about the book—“I’m not certain where it is now”—and her escape with the help of a nameless guard sounded too vague and didn’t gel with the evidence.  Strike one and two. But she gave them a full narrative from the start—getting the book from Maxwell, to Moreno’s involvement in her alleged abduction, to when she killed her suspected kidnapper—and that was at least a base hit.

“Did you kill Gabriel Sol?”

“Yes,” she said, no emotion, no evasion, no excuses.  She went on to describe the murder in particulars that hadn’t been released—the office, the knife—and the most gruesome fact: how she stabbed the man’s throat out.   Stabbed, not cut.

She was ready to take the consequences; few people Morrissey questioned were ready for that.  But then, when they asked about the other specifics, she got all tight-lipped again.  Dunn didn’t seem to care, so maybe Morrissey shouldn’t either.  They were going on the assumption that there was a kidnapping and Moreno was definitely involved, although proving it was going to be a bear.  Right now, all they had was an unreliable witness and a large deposit into the Luxembourg account a day after she disappeared.

Chandler was such a contradiction.  She wanted Moreno behind bars.  When they mentioned his name, there was the crusader again—taller, poised, all professional. It was Morrissey’s best way of connecting with her, one law enforcement agent to another.  But there was something—or someone—she was hiding.  When Dunn or Morrissey got too close, she acted stupid.

“Why do you think they kept you alive?”

“I don’t know.”  Fairly straightforward.

Then he asked the more direct question, “Did they ever tell you why they kept you?” and she hesitated.  Her uncomfortable body language—the turning away and nod down as she answered, “Why would they?”—betrayed her, even when her words didn’t.

A person can control their words, but controlling the body’s reaction, that was harder.  Most people weren’t practiced in it.

And then there was Lynn’s story.

She just lost it, right there in the hallway.  She wouldn’t get out of the elevator at first.  Maxwell had to drag her out and then hold her down so she wouldn’t freak out.  Really—be careful.   She doesn’t look like she’s all there.

Lynn was a gossip and flirted outrageously with every unmarried agent in the bureau—today her concerned hand inched its way down his arm while she talked—but there was something in her story, and he wouldn’t dismiss it.  If Chandler’s version of events was true, that she was kidnapped and kept in solitary confinement high up on Sixth, she might panic in tall buildings.  And, of course, the other question was why?  It had to be the book, but why and how did she keep it secret for so long?  They’d seen some of Gabriel’s other victims, what small pieces were left of them after his interrogators were through.  Why did they keep her alive?  Why was she still hiding it?

And what if she decided to beat it to a less vertical skyline?  She had disappeared before, on a number of occasions.  Talk about the SAC having kittens.  Should he ask about her passport status?  It was Dunn’s case to supervise.  It wasn’t a good idea to second-guess a senior agent.

Not that Morrissey hadn’t been second-guessing him the whole morning…

Dunn had made them wait, taking his time on busy work.   When they’d finally got to the meeting room, Chandler had seemed ready to hightail it, and instead of relieving the created tension to gain trust— a pretty basic interrogation tactic—Dunn kept upping the stress levels.   He asked over and over about the kidnapping, kept her through lunch, barely let her go the bathroom.  Dunn didn’t get base reactions—didn’t ask questions they already knew the answers for.  What was he playing at?  What did he know?

Dunn had been in the Organized Crime division since God started writing the rules on rocks.  He’d worked every major case of the five families for the last twenty years, so he knew the Mafia, but Gabriel distinguished himself from the “fuhgeddaboutit” boys, and not only because everyone used just his first name.  Cruel, cold, and high-class—he was as major a player as they’d ever investigated.  More Teflon than Gotti, more ruthless than Riina, Gabriel had been an outlier, a cut above his compatriots, just like Catherine Chandler.  Could that be a coincidence?

“Morrissey.” The senior agent brought him back to the present.  “Don’t lose her again.  Link and Galway, next time she comes in, you follow her too.  I want to know who she’s staying with, who are her contacts.  Robertson and everybody above him want her tied up and delivered before Memorial Day.”

That wasn’t long.  “She’s not exactly easy to pin down.  I can try—“

“Get me your notes before we see her tomorrow,” Dunn interrupted, and then added, mostly to himself, “She looked like hell.  Like she’s strung out or something.”

Dunn had noticed too.  It was like she was missing something, or something had been taken away.

They needed everything about her and quick—before, during, and after her disappearance.  Jesus, if she wasn’t an open book now, she was going to be.

He was dismissed with a swivel of his Dunn’s chair Henderson’s direction.  “I need an update on Judge Farrell…”

While the other man got the question and critique method, Marc Morrissey, tired and famished, sat at his desk in the back of the row and started looking through his notes.  Would Dunn be satisfied with just his impressions?  Kristin might have the fastest fingers in the office, but the morning’s transcription wouldn’t be ready until well after six, and if he wasn’t back home by 7:30 tonight, without homework, there’d be hell to pay.

From out of the corner of his eye, he saw Agent Sweeney enter the Pit, a brown file in his grasp, looking around.  Who does he want was instantly answered when he saw them.

Sweeney held a photo from the folder.  “We got another one.”

Shit. 

No one was going home tonight.

 

———————————

 

[i] Special Agent in Charge

[ii] Pizza Connection Investigation

[iii] Criminal Investigation Division

[iv] The New York Organized Crime Control Bureau, which houses the Manhattan North and Manhattan South Narcotics Division

[v] “The Alchemist”

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