Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chapter 2: Devil and Danny Glassman

Chapter 2.
At first, I thought I was in the middle of a bad dream; that I actually wasn’t standing at my desk on the trading floor with the phone in my hand, but that I was still at home and tucked into bed, passing time in REM 6 mode, and that I’d wake up screaming any second. I don’t remember how long it took to answer Lorna; it seemed like minutes, but it was likely less than two seconds, and all I could think of to say was, “What?? What are you talking about?” Watch enough CSI Miami on TV, and you hear the same witless retort from the prime suspect. With the proper feign of shock and surprise, this is a classic non-committal response that is almost guaranteed to assure the other person of complete innocence.

“They just rang the doorbell and asked if you were here.” The fear was resonating from her voice. “I asked them who they are, and they said that they’re from the FBI. Then I asked them what they wanted, and all they would say is they needed to speak to you and wanted to know where they could find you.”

“Take it slow, honey, try to calm down for a second” I said. I hadn’t called Lorna “honey” in a long time; we’d grown out of affectionate names for each other, so it became a phrase that I more recently reserved for comforting her in moments of real trauma, like when learning that someone close had just been diagnosed with cancer. I suggested that she take a deep breath, and then I tried to sound like I was in control, “Have they shown you any kind of ID? And where are they right now??”

Then the river flowed. “One of them flashed a business card, but it was so fast, I couldn’t even read it. They’re standing in the driveway right now.”  Then she said, “I told them that if they didn’t leave, I was going to call the police and have them removed from the property! Then they said I was free to call the police if I wanted to. Then, the one that flashed the card, said that I was acting as if law enforcement had shown up to the door before!!” She barely took a breadth, “He said it would be “fine with him” to call the police, but before I did, that I should call you. What an asshole!! Who do they think they are?? These guys have a real attitude and they’re being very harassing, Josh. What the hell is going on? What do they want??”  And then the rata-tat-tat-tat stopped.

It wasn’t the first time a stranger had shown up at the door and scared the shit out of her in connection with one of my illustrious experiences. The other time was more than ten years ago, when I found myself in the role of government witness in a case against a bunch of financial scam artists who were running a multi-million dollar, but otherwise bogus securities scheme. One of the gang’s leaders had duped a client of mine, and since I was the introducing broker, I took it upon myself to track down the evil-doers when it was obvious that the Feds were moving in slow motion. It turned out to be a nationwide network that was co-managed by one very sleazy lawyer with a gambling problem and his partner, the disinherited heir to a multi-million dollar real estate fortune. That was a guy who had a real problem controlling his fingers; when they weren’t being used to peel assets from his father’s company, they were busy shoveling cocaine into his nose.  With help from Seth Tucker, a close friend and neighbor that was a Managing Partner at the corporate private eye shop Knoll Associates, I did my own sleuthing and managed to follow the trail of my client’s money, which the rogue lawyer embezzled from his escrow account, and then wired to a bunch of wannabe hoods in Albany, NY. Based on the information I had put together, the feds ultimately rounded all of them up, and I was elected to be the government's leading prosecution witness. 
A few days before the trial was scheduled to start, a big goon showed up at our house, just as Lorna was getting Charlie ready for kindergarten. The goon first pretended to be looking for another address, and before he turned to leave, he said “Sorry to bother you, Mrs. Berman. Tell Josh that I hope everything is good with him.”

When Lorna called me then to tell me what happened, I was more pissed off than I was scared. She was scared too, but even more pissed off than I was. She didn’t flinch before starting to blast me for quitting the “great job” I had been offered after the buyout of my Dad’s firm several years before, and for since getting mixed up with a bunch of crazy people.  Instead of calling the Feds, I quickly dialed up my pal Seth, and he simply said “What a bunch of schmucks. Don’t worry, Josh, since I helped you track them down in the first place, I’ll have one of our guys look into it this.”

You’d have to know Seth, and his background to appreciate that ‘looking into” something usually meant turning the world upside down until he found the culprit. And then, he’d turn the culprit upside down and inside out. Captain of his high school wrestling team in Garden City, NY, Seth had won a scholarship to Cornell, went on to NYU Law School, and then he went straight into the Bronx County DA’s office, where he soon ran all of the mob prosecutions in that borough. After five years, he became known as a current day Elliot Ness, and was appointed by NYC Mayor Ed Koch to spearhead a special, city-wide organized crime task force. Within twelve months, Seth had been credited with the indictments of three dozen mobsters. But prosecuting mobsters had its drawbacks, not the least of which was the paltry salary, and Seth didn’t need to think about it twice when Jimmy Knoll tapped him to join his firm with a Managing Director title, a mid-six figure salary, and stock options that would ultimately be worth more than $10 million.

Aside from the money, Knoll’s resources were incomparable to what Seth had to work with while a municipal employee. Knoll’s outfit uses a much different, and “more creative” approach to solving problems. It took Seth and his firm less than 48 hours to properly address the incident that had unfolded at my home. And right now, Lorna’s live action episode was eliciting the same kind of fear and anger, prompting me wonder whether I’d be having to pick up the Bat Phone to enlist Seth’s help.

In response to her $64,000 question, “What did they want?” the only thing I could think of to say was “Are they’re just standing in the driveway now??”

“Yes… no… wait, one of them is walking back to the door…Should I open it?”, Lorna asked.

I tried to be calm, yet in control. “First, what are they wearing? Second, what kind of car are they driving? And, can you see the license plates?” I figured that if they were real government cops, they’d at least be wearing jackets and ties, and their car would most likely be a typical unmarked Ford, or a Chevy, and would have some kind of Government tags. If they were wearing leather jackets and driving  a shiny, black Caddy, or who knows what, I’d tell her to hit the panic button on the alarm system in the hallway, double bolt the door, than grab our daughter and lock themselves in the basement until the Westport cops showed up with Glochs in hand.

Lorna was getting exasperated with my answering her questions with my own questions. “They’re wearing jackets and ties, Josh. The car is just sitting there. It’s a blue or black four door; it’s too dark outside to tell. I think the license plates are from New York, but I can’t read it from here.” Based on Lorna’s brief description, it sounded like these guys were who they claimed to be. Although I was relieved that Lorna didn’t appear to be in any kind of imminent danger, I was getting dizzy with nausea.

“I don’t know what’s going on, Lorna; I’m sure its nothing. Just relax,” I said.

Of course, I didn’t believe that for a second. With the rash of white collar prosecutions taking place, and the front page perp shot photos and accompanying stories, it’s  rare that the FBI shows up at someone’s house at 7 am unless they are a target of something. Before I could say anything else, I could hear a voice in the background. Lorna had opened the door, but she had wisely kept the chain bolt in place, and one of the “Feebs” was talking to her. It took him about thirty seconds to relay his message.

“Josh, he said something about having tried to find you at The Bank, and he wants you to call him right now. He gave me a cell number for you to call him.”

What the fuck were two FBI agents doing looking for me? And, why were they looking for me at The Bank? I hadn’t worked there in over four years!

After Lorna gave me the phone number, I told her to close the door, lock it, and then try to relax. I told her that I’d call the number and get the whole thing straightened out. After she insisted that I call her right back to tell her what happened, I hung up the phone and glanced around and noticed that other than Mario, the firm’s order clerk and all purpose gopher, the trading floor was empty of people. The daily morning meeting had already started in the conference room, and since I wasn’t in attendance, it would be a problem I’d have to deal with later.

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