Death by Parking - Chapter 17 - We Begin the Conversation
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I heard my name from a long distance away. Like it was coming from the end of a tunnel. Then someone grabbed my shoulders and shook me.
“Dammit, Paul, wake up.” I recognized the voice; it was Mary Ellen McKinney. I opened my eyes and sure enough, there she was, kneeling over me, just about ready to begin mouth to mouth. I smiled and told her that I was OK.
“You don’t look OK to me. Those two gunsels dragged you out the front door of Smith’s building and tossed you into the street. I pulled you onto the sidewalk just before a bus would have turned you into mashed Manning. What the hell happened?”
“The SOB drugged my coffee. That’s all I remember until I opened my eyes and you were trying to French kiss me.”
“Get over yourself, Manning. I was trying to decide if you were worth saving with a little mouth to mouth. Thank heaven you woke up in time. I had pretty much decided to let you go.”
“OK, OK, let’s get out of here.”
She helped me to my feet and walked me to my car. “Are you sure you can drive?”
“Yes, the fog is lifting quickly. Meet me back at my place. It’s time to take this to the next level.”
I got back to the house and called Barbara at S and L and told her I needed to have a meeting, ASAP. She said she would call back and asked where we should meet.
She called back and said that the three women and her fine self would be at my place at noon. Not bad since it was 11:15. Mary Ellen showed up, and I made coffee.
When the women arrived, Mary Ellen told them what happened and they all started talking at once. I always find it strange that women can all talk at once, but understand each other completely. I let that conversation wind down and then began to speak.
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“I think it’s time we let William Francis Smith know that we are serious. I have an idea, but I need your support and some funding to make it happen.” They all nodded their heads.
“I think we need to con Smith into believing that he has won and that S and L and the bank would soon be his. When he finds out about the con, he will be in a position where no matter what he does, he will lose. Smith is greedy, and cons work on greed. We will need some cash to sweeten the pot, and a couple of people Smith doesn’t know. People who can act the part.”
Maryann Leyman was the first to speak. “I have some contacts in the motion picture industry. Perhaps I could call on them. What do you want – two men, man/woman, two women?”
“I think a couple would do it, with English accents. And a limo complete with driver. They will have to be dressed to the nines. And they will meet with Smith a few times.”
“I’ll see what I can do.”
Mary Ellen made a phone call and within an hour we had two professionals who looked just like they stepped out of central casting.
Of course, they did. I explained the roles they would have to play and that there would be considerable extemporaneous unscripted dialogue.
We decided to begin in two days. We used their real names, Veronica and Josh. I figured it would be hard enough without having to remember other names.
First, we would set up an accidental meeting.
Smith liked to dine at Chasen’s on Beverly. We checked and he had reservations for four at 8 pm on Thursday. Perfect. We made reservations for our actors for 8:30. The limo dropped them off at 8 and they went into the bar to await their table.
From the bar, they could see Smith and Co. being seated. There was an empty table nearby and a nice tip to the Maître ‘d ensured our stars would be seated at it.
Josh and Veronica were not only and elegant couple, but lookers, too. V had on a silk number that just touched her knees and left little to be imagined on top.
J was in an Armani suit that turned heads. As they walked to their table, Smith nearly dropped his spoon in his soup.
J ordered a bottle of Mumms (he did have an expense account from Mary Ellen, after all) and they sipped the champagne while they looked over the menu. They completely ignored Smith.
When Smith’s dessert was delivered, Veronica got up and walked toward the Ladies Room. When she passed Smith’s table, she pulled a thread and dropped her diamond broach on the floor. She walked right over it and continued to the restroom. She gave Smith five minutes and then returned to her table.
Josh noticed that her broach was missing and they started looking around the table. At that moment Smith approached with the broach in his hand.
He handed the piece of jewelry to Veronica. She was effusive in her thanks. Josh insisted that they send a bottle of the best champagne to Smith’s table.
Smith said that the rest of his party was leaving, but perhaps he could join them for a post dinner drink. The hook was in the water.
We had planned that assuming Smith took the bait, Josh and Veronica would say very little. Their goal was to get Smith to talk about himself and his activities.
Although his tongue had been loosened by high priced booze, he played his cards close to the chest.
He talked about his ability to help companies with problems at city hall and also with funding, if necessary.
Josh noted that they had no problems in either area, but certainly would like to keep in close contact.
Veronica did mention that they were on the board of directors of a British investment bank that was interested in dropping a few pounds in the U.S. They were looking for a project or two that had promise. She left it at that.
Smith said nothing, but they could feel his interest across the table. The champagne finished, the three walked to the porte chochere where Josh and Veronica’s limo was waiting.
They offered to drop Smith off at home but he demurred, saying that he had some work to do and took Uber to his office downtown.
Josh and Veronica returned to my place where the team from S and L eagerly awaited their debriefing.
We concluded that it couldn’t have gone better. We decided that it would be best to await Smith’s call.
At 10 the next morning, the phone we had set up as the contact for Josh and Veronica in the U.S. rang. Josh answered.
It was Smith.
He wanted to set a meeting, the sooner the better. Josh said they were extremely busy and three days hence was the best they could do.
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