Death by Parking - Chapter 18 - The Tale
We had our in with William Francis Smith. But just what did we hope to get from developing a relationship with the crook? Normally, a long con like this would be after money, but, frankly, we already had money.
As the discussion continued, we realized that the goal was to completely understand Smith’s organization and discover who was backing him, and how he was wired into S and L, the development firm that was building the high rise on Wilshire. Also, we knew that someone was trying to take over May and George Jansen’s bank, or at a minimum, bring it down.
It was obvious that Smith’s greed would ensure that he was on board. He needed, or at least wanted, money and Veronica and Josh had strongly implied to Smith that they had money to invest. His early phone call expressed a desire to solidify the relationship. We knew that Smith’s organization was less than honorable, but we needed to know just how much less.
If V and J could hint that they might look the other way at some activities that might cause interest from law enforcement, as long as the return on their investment was high enough and soon enough, then Smith would open up. Of course, V and J would insist that they knew every aspect of the project, and that would bring Smith’s partners into the picture.
If we were able to clean out Smith’s funding, as well as get a complete picture of his activities, we wouldn’t turn it down.
When planning a con, it’s important to have every aspect planned in advance. We don’t want surprises. The problem with this one was that we simply didn’t know enough about Smith’s operation and that meant that we would have to be able to pivot quickly as things developed. Veronica and Josh had already proven themselves to be able to react quickly to changes in the field, however, I was mainly concerned about their safety. After I ended up in the gutter during my last meeting with Smith, we didn’t want to put our star players at risk.
V and J weren’t concerned about the risk. They were confident that they could handle anything Smith had and frankly, were looking forward to a large payday if they could pull off both sides of the con, get information AND Smith’s funding.
I was concerned that we were a little thin on the ground, and needed backup. Smith knew virtually everyone in our little group except my bodyguard, Mary Ellen McKinney and of course V and J. I expressed this concern when S and L’s Barbara, the administrator of our little band, said she had an idea.
“I have no doubt that you all have some skills in this area, but wouldn’t it be appropriate to bring in some actual professional con artists? You know, someone who could give us ideas and actually step in if it goes off the rails. Surely you must know someone with these skills, Paul.”
She was right, on both counts. We did need some ‘professional’ advice and I knew just the person. My father’s brother, Uncle Richie. He was working a con when he came out of the womb. I hadn’t seen Richie for a couple of years, but I knew how to get in touch. He would be perfect. Not only was he skilled in this area, but he had contacts that might be invaluable should we have problems.
I placed a call to the Magic Castle and left a message. Yes, Richie used magic as a cover. After all, wasn’t magic simply a type of con, misdirection, a way to get people to believe what you wanted them to believe? The Castle was a sort of clubhouse for magicians and I was certain that a message would find its way to Richie. A couple of hours later I received a reply. “Usual Place, 9 p.m., tonight.”
I often wondered just how many ‘usual places’ Richie had. I frequented this one, the bar at Musso and Frank’s, weekly and never saw him there unless we had a meeting. I told the group we would meet again the next morning, and headed out. The sun was over the yardarm somewhere, and I could use some time alone to work out how Richie would fit in
I arrived at Musso and Frank’s around seven, got a table and ordered dinner. Their sand dabs are the best. I took my time and at quarter to nine moved to a seat at the bar. It was reminiscent of the 20s because that was when it was built. Dark wood, mirrors, lots of booze, and a lot of history. One side of the bar had a corner with two seats at the end. I sat in one, and ordered a nice Laphroig, neat. The bartender brought the wonderful nearly clear liquid and also placed a Jack Daniels at the seat next to me. Bogie smiled. Ghosts abounded at Musso and Frank’s. Richie arrived and nestled up to a beer.
I filled Richie in on what was happening, starting with the first death at the job site and ending with the discussion and the beginnings of the con with William Francis Smith. He listened without saying a word, smiled, and then said “You need some help.”
“I know, Richie, that’s why I contacted you. We just don’t have all the knowledge needed to pull this off, and are very low on manpower.”
“This reminds me of a con we did back in the day. We actually replaced the organization of the mark. That might work in this case, seeing as how you need to get inside information, how better to get it than to be inside yourself. You have a way in through your two actors, but I can bring help to carry the project through. You have funding.
“We will need a high-end office with all the trimmings. We can introduce Smith to it and then move his operation to that office. He will be so blinded by the money, that he will not even notice until it’s too late.”
“I don’t know how deep our pockets are. Join us at my place tomorrow at 10. You can meet the rest of the crew and see what they think.”
I left Richie with Bogie who was working on his third whisky, and headed home. The phone was ringing when I walked through the door.
“Paul, it’s Josh, I just got off the phone with Smith. He is in a bit of a panic. Seems his partners are putting pressure on him to get moving. He wants to meet tomorrow. We have to move everything up a day.”
“OK. Tell him you can meet in the late afternoon.”
To be continued... Return to the Summary Page - click here