Death by Parking – Chapter 14 The Judas Goat
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Now I had two Jiminy Cricket consciences on my back, one that materialized when I had a quiet lunch, and the other who was real and seemed to know everything. Mary Ellen McKinney was smart, quick and to the point. I knew exactly what she meant with her reference to Bogie and I had known Bogart, at least his ghost, long enough to know what he was thinking, even though he didn’t say a word.
It seemed like everyone involved in this case knew my every move.
But I still wasn’t convinced. Let’s face it. I was a PI. Most of my jobs related to peeking in windows and catching someone ‘in the act.’ I was no Pinkerton man. That 25 large that Dandy gave me was a bribe, sure, but if I kept to my morals and didn’t do what they wanted, why not keep the money? There was no reason I couldn’t play both sides of the street. Wasn’t there?
It was time to take a look at the money behind S and L and their new building on Wilshire. Maryann Leyman had told me that the money came from the largest bank in California. But she also added that the money actually was a personal loan from the Bank’s CEO, George Jansen. However, in reality the money was old money from New England and came from his wife, May. Why not go to the source?
I called Barbara in S and L’s office. She knew everything and everyone, besides she was running the case. I asked for May and George Jansen’s home address. I could hear her spinning the rolodex. She gave me the address but with a caveat:
“May won’t be there. She plays bridge every Wednesday afternoon at the Wilshire Country Club. She should be finishing up around 4. You could probably catch her there and maybe she would buy you a cup of very expensive coffee.”
I thanked her and got back in the car wondering just how Barbara knew so much of what I was doing. It seemed like everyone involved in this case knew my every move. Even before I did. Maybe I should look into that. Have you heard the term “Judas Goat?”
“Ah, Mr. Manning, I have been expecting you.” May Jansen seemed on top of the situation, too. I don’t know why I kept up interviewing folks in this caper. I could just phone it in.
“Hi, Mrs. Jansen. Yes, I’m poking around and was hoping you could fill me in on some detail about the bank and S and L. I have been told to ‘follow the money’ and that trail leads right back to you.”
“You play the fool, Mr. Manning, but you are a smart cookie. OK, I’m happy to fill you in.
“Yes, it’s true that the money behind this project is mine, not the banks. In fact, the bank isn’t as liquid as the largest bank in the state should be. I have been propping it up for years. George is a wonderful guy, but a smart banker, he is not. I finally decided, with some urging from Maryann, to put a stop to this. I told George that this would be one final investment. It was make or break time.
“I’m not too concerned, as I know Maryann and S and L to do world class work. The project will be successful, and we will have enough profit to shore up the bank and allow George and me to live comfortably for the rest of our lives. However…”
“Yes, Mrs. Jansen, it’s the “however” that brings me into the picture. There have been too many issues over at S and L. “Accidents” on the job site, contracts going to the wrong suppliers, ‘adjustments’ made here and there that will bring the job in late and give the competition a leg up. There is no question something is wrong. Someone doesn’t want this project to succeed and its failure will mean failure for you and the bank.”
“I said you were a smart cookie, Mr. Manning. I am extremely concerned. And growing more so daily. Maryann and I planned that little dinner party you attended to assist you in your research. Your reputation precedes you, however, we are a couple of women that don’t leave a lot to chance. I hope you understand.”
“Heh. You know, Mrs. Jansen you two could have filled me in from the beginning and saved a lot of angst on my part. I’m not used to close supervision, particularly when the supervisors are requiring me to do research on data that they already know. Now, is there anything else I need to know or should know before we proceed in this matter.”
Yikes, I sounded like a lawyer.
“I have already been nearly killed on the job site, threatened by the Mob, twice, followed everywhere I go, and frankly am unsure exactly where everyone sits in this complex situation. I get the feeling that between you, Mrs. Leyman, and Barbara at S and L, I’m on a pretty short leash. I’m certain of only one thing. I don’t like that.”
“Why Mr. Manning, do I feel a bit of misogyny showing? You don’t like being managed by women.”
“No, Mrs. Jansen. I don’t like being managed, period. You hired me to do a job. It’s time for you to give me all the information I need to do it and then allow me to do it. It’s obvious that there is more here than just finding out who is behind the problems at S and L. People are dying. The Mob is involved. The future of one of the largest financial institutions in the country is at stake. Someone is moving on S and L and is moving on your financial wellbeing. I discovered all this in the first three days I’m on the job. You already knew it. Think how much further ahead we could be if you had simply filled me in from the beginning.
“You are treating me like a Judas Goat. I am sniffing around and collecting possible suspects and herding them into your pen. Sorry, ma’am, I’m smarter and more valuable than that. I bring nothing to your party if everything I discover you already know. It’s time to resolve this problem, or for you to find yourselves another guy.”
“Wow. That was quite a speech, Mr. Manning. There is more to you than one sees on the surface. Barbara was right. You are the real thing. OK. I’ll call Barbara and Maryann and we will set a meeting for this evening. We will tell you everything we know and perhaps you can tell us what we are doing wrong and how to fix it. Call Barbara at 5 and she will let you know the time and place.”
It felt good that I was right about something. My ‘Spidey sense’ was working. They did know what I was doing in advance and were using me to confirm what they already knew rather than letting me get on with investigating and finding the answer to their problem. It took me three days to get to the bottom of what their problem really was.
Barbara told me to meet them at the Brown Derby on Wilshire. There were some tables that could be made private with curtains, and we would not be disturbed.
When I got there, I found a bottle of 25-year-old Laphroig sitting on the table in front of the only empty chair.
“Just our way of saying we are sorry, Mr. Manning,” said Maryann Leyman. “We have taken advantage of you and will not make that mistake in the future.”
“This is unnecessary, but thank you. Oh, and one more thing.” I took the envelop with the 25 large out of my jacket and laid it on the table. “I’m sure you can find a good use for this. It’s been pressing pretty hard on my soul for the past couple of days. If you need an explanation, Maryann, ask your friend Bogie. Now let’s get this investigation under way.”
To be continued…
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