And Things Get Worse; or Matt Tomlinson On Ice

Lynn-Florida-gets-worse

Image by Cusper Lynn with elements from: cliff1066™.

And Things Get Worse; or Matt Tomlinson On Ice

by

Cusper Lynn

“You did this on purpose!” I shouted.

The allegation was met with a stony silence.

“At this point, with everything on the line, you decided this is the time to throw a power play?” I resumed. “I kept up my end, did everything I said I would but you said, ‘Screw you Cusper, time for paybacks.’”

I paused, but there was no response, no admission, no denial, just silence. The silver Saturn Ion can hold a grudge like no one else I know. Despite the oil change, the seat cover and the new hub caps, it had not forgiven me for our argument in the driveway when I had stripped out its relays. So it sulked and I was forced to call a tow truck.

“I hope you’re happy,” I snarled at the immobile car. “That’s money that could have paid for a new wiring harness, tires, spark plugs and brakes.”

I may have imagined it, but I thought I saw the Saturn give a petulant shrug.

Three hours later, I was awaiting a cab at the garage.

“What do you want me to do with your car?” a large man with the name “Dan” sewn onto a clean blue shirt asked me.

I looked from Dan to the Saturn. The Saturn was looking smug, backed up against the garage’s chain link fence.

“We’ll talk later,” I said to the Saturn.

“If you want, I could work a deal for you,” Dan offered. “We could give you $150 for the car.”

“How much was the tow?” I asked.

“$275,” Dan said, unapologetically.

“So, I would still owe you $125?” I said, not pleased.

“No, we’d throw in the tow and give you $150 for the title,” Dan smiled.

“An attractive option,” I said, loud enough that my Saturn could hear it.

“Besides, you don’t want to sink any more money into this car,” Dan advised. “Too old, too many miles.”

“Tell you what,” I offered, as I saw my cab approaching, “I’ll go back to my office and find my paperwork. Can I give you a call around 4:30?”

“OK,” Dan said reluctantly. “But we close at 5 and there’s a $75-a-day storage fee for any car on our property that we aren’t servicing.”

“Yes, I understand. Selling it to you seems very sensible,” I said, and got into the cab.

I did not look back as the cab pulled away. I wanted to give the Ion time to think about what it had done.

Arriving back at my Gulf Gate Office, I found I had barely enough money on me to cover the exorbitant cab fare and pay an inadequate and ungraciously accepted tip to the driver. As he sped from the parking lot, giving me the traditional single-finger wave, I reflected that my wallet could be replenished shortly as the check from Mark Tomlinson was credited to my account after 3:00.

Entering my office I was shocked to find Sheila behind the desk in Reception and engaged in something that looked like work.

“Cusper Lynn and Associates,” Sheila answered a ringing phone, “please hold.”

“Where have you been?” she asked me, as another line began to erupt.

“I could ask you the same question,” I shot back.

“It’s been a mad house since I got in here,” she said and dived back to answering phones.

“I’m assuming that means you have been here for 20 minutes,” I said and went back to my private office to escape the expletives and angry denials that were likely to follow.

Arriving in my office, I found that the studio wiring was miraculously completed, and my desk, battered and more shabby for having been tossed the previous evening, was upright, orderly and a parcel was sitting on it. I picked up the parcel and read. It was a legal-size package with some heft to it and was addressed to me. The return address listed “The Oracle Delfina” and the yacht club where the Nuevo Esperanza was currently docked.

Opening the package carefully, I was relieved to find that it neither exploded nor released any noxious powder. Instead, there was a very ordinary joint venture agreement that was three quarters of an inch thick and a small purple envelope attached to it by a paper clip. I slipped the envelope from the paper clip and saw my name written on it in a very elegant cursive script. The envelope was not sealed. I removed from it a folded piece of purple paper and began to read.

Cusper,

As promised, the contract arrived at your office before you did. I am sorry that you will be without your car. There is little in the way of useful advice that I can offer at this point as you will ignore it either intentionally or accidently. But, as I am partial to futile gestures, I would suggest you remain very relaxed. The chemicals released by the body in periods of extreme stress accelerate aging and hasten death.

I considered this advice. It seemed to me reasonable and something I could apply immediately. So I resumed reading.

It would also be advisable for you to avoid accepting any phone calls for the next few hours. No good news will come via phone and it will only result in . . .

The speaker on my desk buzzed and I answered it. “Mr. Lynn?” an authoritative voice asked.

I closed my eyes and considered hanging up. Sheila had sent a blind transfer call back to my office. After several seconds, my blood pressure having risen several points, I decided to accept the call.

“Yes,” I admitted.

“This is Jill Wasserman,” the voice announced.

“Ah, yes, Ms. Wasserman,” I said enthusiastically. “How is my favorite bank officer?”

“Concerned, Mr. Lynn, concerned,” she said, without the slightest hint of the familiarity of our normally cordial exchanges.

“Why concerned?” I asked, absolutely not wanting to know.

“A deposit you made Mr. Lynn . . .” Ms. Wasserman said.

“A deposit?” I asked, wishing she would stop being cryptic and get to the point.

“Two of them, actually, Mr. Lynn. Checks drawn on the account of one Matt Tomlison,” she announced.

Cold sweat beaded on my neck and brow. “What about them?” I managed.

“The most recent one was denied by the issuing bank,” Jill Wasserman informed me.

A bounced check from Matt Tomlinson. Not good news, but not the end of the world. “And the other?” I ventured.

“The other is being reversed by the bank it was drawn upon based on a federal court order,” she said, her voice dropping to a sepulchral rattle as she delivered this information.

“I . . I . . am . . shocked,” I managed to sputter, my chest seizing with a piercing pain that seemed to exit between my shoulders.

“As are we. Your account is overdrawn, Mr. Lynn, substantially overdrawn,” she said, with a dead calm that assured me the number was high enough that she did not wish even to utter it.

“I see,” I said, cold nausea following the waves of pain now twisting my heart and crushing my lungs.

“Given the extraordinary circumstances, we must insist that the entire overdraft be made good by Friday or we will be obliged to turn the matter over to our attorneys for civil action and a referral for criminal prosecution,” she informed me.

“But . . .” I began to protest.

“It is only because of the extraordinary circumstances that we are extending you the courtesy of Friday, rather than an immediate demand,” she explained.

“That is very considerate of you,” I mumbled, then hung up.

After several seconds of heavy breathing, I felt my heart rate drop into a more regular cadence. I was not, much to my chagrin, going to die after all.

I picked up reading where I had left off.

. . . extreme stress. But, as I know you will not heed this advice, I hope it will comfort you to know that people rarely die when they would find it convenient to do so. Despite some of the painful moments you are going to experience you will, as I previously observed, survive this project.

I found myself cursing The Oracle Delfina. The only thing that had got me through the conversation with Jill Wasserman was the sincerest hope that the pain wracking my body might kill me. Having informed me that this would not be the case, the Oracle was denying me all hope.

It will benefit you to know you will be visited by Mr. Tomlinson and that killing him is not an option. Also, you will be visited by two more gentlemen who will bring you more news. It would be prudent to remain civil and calm. It will not improve anything, but it will avoid making it all much worse.

I have written a phone number on the back of this letter. It will prove useful, later. In the meantime, do not worry about your car as it is too late.

Always wishing you the best!

The Oracle Delfina

I crumpled the letter in aggravation and went through my wallet to find the number for the garage.

Dialing the number,I had not even begun to form a strategy as to how I was going to get my car back or obtain any kind of working transportation when a young woman’s voice came on the line, “Silver Streak Towing. What is your towing need?”

“I’m sorry, I must have dialed the wrong number. I was trying to reach Dan at . . .” I hesitated and turned over the card.

“Dan Sandclaire,” the young woman informed me, “has forwarded all his calls to our shop.”

“Ummm . . . what?” I asked, having never experienced this sort of arrangement before.

“Dan’s shop is closed and he forwarded his calls to our . . .”she resumed.

“When you say closed,” I cut in a fast peek at a wall clock, “do you mean for lunch?”

“No, for the day,” she answered unperturbed.

“But it’s not even three o’clock! They’re open until 5,” I protested.

“Yes, that’s correct. But Dan had a family emergency, so he had to close early,” she said patiently.

“When will he be back?” I asked, hearing the $75-a-day charges starting to multiply.

“He said that he might be back Monday,” she said.

“Did he, by any chance, leave another number? I need to get my car,” I said calmly, thinking about how I would get the Ion out of a locked and closed lot, assuming it would even start.

“No, I’m sorry, he didn’t,” she said.

“Can you take a message and let him know Cusper Lynn called at,” I looked up at the clock again, “2:47, and wanted to pay for my car.”

“I’m sorry, this isn’t an answering service. This is Silver Streak Towing. We can help with your towing needs.”

I had a flash of inspiration. “Great, then you can tow my Saturn from Dan’s to my office?”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but Dan’s is closed and there is no after-hours number for them. Please feel free to call us in the future if you have other towing needs,” she finished and hung up.

I cradled the phone and considered the words of The Oracle Delfina: “In the meantime, do not worry about your car as it is too late.”

What exactly did that mean? Had I, in a fit of pique, thrown aside my trusty Saturn Ion? Were we to be permanently parted from one another? Also, what exactly did she mean by “Survive” this project? Would I possess all of my limbs and digits? Would I enjoy my basic freedom? What was survival, after all, and was it really something worth aspiring to?

I drew another deep breath, mastering the rising chaos and panic that now assaulting me. All it was going to do was make me older and hasten my death. I willed away those useless chemicals and considered my present situation.

First, I was without money. This was not a novel situation, but it was an experience I’d been hoping to leave behind as a misfortune of circumstances and past poor choices in personal relations never again to be revisited as a specific challenge.

Second, I was without transportation. This was, upon consideration, a more pressing issue, as I needed to get out and discover where the other members of this misbegotten project had fled. Then, in a slow and dawning realization, it occurred to me that I might very well be without the basic means to pull off this webinar despite everything I’d done. I did not know the whereabouts of Gadget, Abby Norman, Gene (whose presence was of only marginal significance) and Matt Tomlinson (who I’d resolved to strangle). This realization filled me with a cold and paralyzing terror.

“Jesus, what an asshole!” Matt Tomlinson said, staggering into my office and throwing himself into a seat across from me.

I stared at him, wondering if he was quoting Pontius Pilate and mind-boggled by the fact that, in a day going so horrifically wrong, the universe should deliver to me the one person I could take out my anger on with absolute impunity.

“You!” I roared.

“Me?” Matt said, bewildered by my ferocity.

“You!” I rose from my desk, feeling pure and murderous intent coursing through my veins. “You bounced two checks on me! You’ve left me overdrawn, broke, and facing absolute bankruptcy!”

“I had nothing to do with that,” he said, rising from his chair and retreating toward the doorway.

“You knew that check was no good!” I snarled.

“No, I swear I have money in the account!” he quailed.

“Bullshit!” I barked.

“Seriously, Cusper,” he said, raising his hands in defense, “after I left here this morning, I went back to my office and an FBI agent was waiting for me. He delivered a notice that all my accounts were frozen pending investigation. It’s about Abby! He’s absolute poison! The Feds are looking at anyone who’s even been seen with him.”

I realized what Matt was saying and my rage ratcheted down slightly. “Where is Abby?”

“They picked him up last night for questioning,” Matt said, returning to the chair.

“For what?” I said, taking my seat again.

“I don’t know!” Matt yelled. “One minute, I’m going into my office to get a drink and take a nap; next minute I’m locked out of all of my accounts and I have an FBI agent asking me about Abby and the break-in at your office.”

“The break-in?” I asked in shock.

“Yes. They wanted to know where I was when it happened. Who else might have been there . . .”

“They asked this after they gave you the notice?” I asked.

“No, they asked me a bunch of questions and then gave me notice that all my accounts were frozen,” Matt said irritably.

I thought for a moment. This did not make sense. “Did they know about the partnership agreement?”

“What?”

“Did they know about the partnership agreement between you and Abby?” I repeated.

“No . . . I don’t think so,” Matt said slowly.

“So why did they freeze your accounts?” I asked.

“How would I know? They just handed me this paperwork and, when I called the banks, they told me my accounts were all frozen,” Matt said, pulling a thick folded packet of paper from his pocket.

Flattening it out on my desk, I began to read.

“What does it say?” Matt asked, as if legal documents were now composed in some language foreign to him.

“The beginning makes a lot of references to the Patriot Act, National Security and the RICO Act,” I said, summarizing what I’d managed to wade through so far.

“What?!?” Matt said.

“The current order to freeze assets of one Matt Tomlinson has been filed and has been attested to by an agent of the Department of Homeland Security. The assets of Matt Tomlinson are being used to advance a fraud against the government of the United States of America and to aid in the continued criminal activity of a fugitive being sought by the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal agencies whose affidavits are attached in Schedule C and warrants are attached in Schedule D,” I read.

“What does that mean?” Matt demanded.

“It means that someone . . . is writing a damn long sentence,” I observed.

“Cusper!”

“A forfeiture hearing of these assets is to be held on . . .” I continued further down the page.

“Forfeiture?!?”” Matt said, now on his feet.

“Yes, forfeiture. You’re going to need a damn good lawyer,” I said, setting down the court order.

“Damn Abby!” Matt said, with the same passion I myself had felt only a few moments earlier.

“It’s not about Abby,” I said flatly.

“Of course, it’s about Abby,” Matt said falling back into the chair.

“It said ‘Fugitive’ and Abby is right here . . . or wherever they have him right now.”

“All right, so it’s a screw-up and I’ll get my money back in a few weeks when we go to the hearing,” Matt said, irrational hope rallying in the face of all evidence.

“No, at the hearing you will have to prove that your money was never used in the advancement of criminal activity, fraud or the fugitive status of a person who is never specified in this court order.”

They have to prove . . .” Matt said indignantly.

“No,” I cut him off. “You have to prove it, and you have to do it in Federal Court under rules that all but exclude due process.”

“Damn it, Cusper, this isn’t Russia! We have rights; we have a constitution!” Matt said waving aloft the tattered remains of his denial and his mail order knowledge of law.

“And you can read the Bill of Rights and the Constitution while the Federal agencies argue about who gets your money, your house and your building,” I said, feeling no twinge of guilt about giving Matt this news.

“Oh God, my life savings, my home,my business,” Matt sobbed, his face turning from puce to Naples Yellow. “I, I, I think I’m going to be sick.”

I jumped up and grabbed my trash can. “Then do so in the bathroom.”

Guiding the heaving marketing guru down the hall, I began to formulate a plan of action.

“Matt, where are your car keys?” I demanded of Matt, who was now clinging to the commode with both arms.

“Wh . .wh . .why?” he asked weakly between heaves.

“Because I need to move it out of the parking lot to somewhere it won’t be easily seen,” I explained.

Between waves of nausea, Matt managed to fish the keys out of his pocket. I plucked them from his damp hand.

“Do you have any cash on you?” I asked.

“What?” Matt said.

“Dosh, moolah, green-backs? Do you have any money?”

“Why?”

“Because I have a plan and I need to do a few things,” I said, omitting to mention who the intended beneficiary of this plan was to be.

“I have a little. But what will I do?” he asked.

“You’re going to lay low here for a while. Sheila will bring you some water when your stomach settles,” I said with no real hope of this happening. “Then, if you need it, you’ll find a fifth of Jack in the hall closet. I’ll be back in a while.”

Matt struggled to get his wallet from his pocket, tossed it behind him, and resumed vomiting.

Walking back to my private office, I thumbed through the contents of his wallet. Matt had ten Benjamins and two Jacksons, neatly folded. I took the lot. Then, I dropped his much lightened wallet into my desk drawer and, without thinking about it, retrieved the balled-up note from The Oracle Delfina.

Leaving the office, I paused to tell Sheila to bring Matt some water. She rolled her eyes and continued to answer phones that were still erupting. I then made my way to the parking lot where I found Matt’s car, a flawless black Infiniti, parked sideways across the designated handicapped space. Settling into the leather interior, I felt no guilt whatsoever about my plan. I now had transportation and money. So, with two of my three problems solved, I was going to figure out exactly how to extricate myself from the awful mess.

Heading west on Gulf Gate Drive, I started to work through the current situation. The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security—and seemingly every other federal agency—was after a “fugitive” unspecified. The warrants covered fraud, money laundering, international terrorism and other unspecified crimes. Abby had been pulled in for questioning and Matt’s assets were frozen. I needed to sit and think. Passing Gateway Avenue, I was sorely tempted to pull over for a pint at the Sarasota Brewing Company, but I knew that, on a day such as this, one would be too many and three not enough. So I forced myself to drive on to the coffee shop at the far end of Gulf Gate Drive.

The lot was packed so I was obliged to park over half a block from the shop. Entering the coffee shop, I was not surprised to find the line for the barista winding all the way to the front door. Taking my place at the end, I set my mind to that idle state of unfocused wonder that is necessary to avoid the development of violent resentments.

As individuals dithered over cream and caramel, as companions quibbled over who would pay, as a mother of three asked for a nutritional chart on frozen mocha lattés, I maintained my composure. It was when I was only two back from the counter that I began to emerge from this graceful state of equanimity to wonder how stupid someone would have to be to stand in line for 15 minutes and still not know what he or she wanted.

It was then that I saw two men approaching me. They wore nearly identical suits that were entirely inappropriate for the state of Florida at this time of year. Odder yet, each was holding an iced coffee.

“Mr. Cusper Lynn?” the shorter of the two men addressed me.

“Yes?” I said, my resentment rising quickly.

“I’m Agent Mayers and this is Agent Trimbull,” he said, taking out his Federal Bureau ID with his free hand. “You need to come with us to answer a few questions.”

Feeling the balled-up note from The Oracle Delfina in my pocket, I considered her injunction to “remain civil and calm.” I smiled at Agent Mayers and said, “No, you need to buy me a Venti Iced, Caramel Macchiato Latté (calories, c. 240) with whipped cream and a cream cheese brownie, and then I will need to come with you and answer a few questions.”

Both agents stared at me in stunned silence. Then, looking up and down the length of the line, Agent Mayers nodded at Agent Trimbull, who left to grab a booth for us. For the next seven minutes, we stood in silence until we arrived at the counter. Agent Mayers ordered my drink and brownie without any noticeable resentment, nor did he take offense when I slid across my membership card to get my drink points. I was beginning to like this fellow, though I was certain the conversation was going to be unpleasant and pointed. On the balance, I had my (free) coffee (which I’d fully intended to buy for myself) and a brownie (which I had not), and still had all Matt’s Benjamins and Jacksons.

“Mr. Lynn,” Trimbull began as soon as we sat down in the booth, “how do you know Abby Norman?”

I considered the question, “I know him as a washed-up, alcoholic reprobate who pissed away a real-estate, publishing and information products empire.”

“What is your connection to Mr. Norman?” Agent Mayers asked.

“I was asked by Mr. Tomlinson to see if I could jump-start Abby’s stalled career,” I said truthfully.

“Why?” Agent Trimbull said.

“Abby had a hard landing after his company cratered. So Matt suggested I look him up and see if I could help,” I said.

Thinking back over the circumstances of my initial meeting with Abby and Matt’s less than committed position to this project it did, now that I came to talk about it, seem my efforts on Abby’s behalf were a little disproportionate.

“Have you ever met with Stephen Pencheco?” Agent Mayer asked.

“Who?” I asked, genuinely clueless.

“. . . or Alberto Mariche,” Agent Trimbull cut in.

“No idea who that is either,” I said, wondering how many more random names would be thrown at me.

“Perhaps Barenth Ahearne rings a bell?” Mayer suggested.

“No,” I said, taking a sip of my coffee.

“Mr. Lynn, we have reason to believe that you have worked in the pay of a foreign power to influence domestic policy,” Trimbull said coldly.

I then nearly blew iced, caramel machiatto latté out both nostrils.

“You what?!” I managed to sputter, struggling to keep coffee and cream out of my sinuses.

“You’re a lobbyist,” Trimbull stated.

“No, I am a legislative analyst, and only part-time at that,” I countered.

“You used a network of connections to . . .” Trimbull continued.

“I sat in a bar up in Tallahassee and kept track of health care legislation. It was easier than going to the hearings and more efficient than trying to ask the leaders and their aides what they were doing since most of them went to that bar,” I said.

“We will need a list of your clients,” Trimbull cut in.

I gave him a long hard look, sipped my coffee and considered telling him to go to hell. Then, once again, I felt the Oracle Delfina’s note cut into my thigh.

“Agent Trimbull, Agent Mayer, what exactly is this about? I worked a medical facility consultant and a part-time legislative analyst for doctors up until recently, when I decided to go back to working with motivational speakers and infopreneurs. What does any of my work for a bunch of doctors who are getting hammered by the governor and his cronies have to do with foreign governments, fraud or . . .” I paused. “Wait, are you finally investigating the governor?”

“We investigate everyone,” Agent Mayer said.

“But this is not about health care.” Trimbull added.

“Look, I’ll help you out in any way I can,” I offered.

“You can start with the car keys,” Trimbull said.

“Car keys?” I said, confused.

“You have Mr. Tomlinson’s car. Please give me the keys.” Trimbull said.

“I’m sorry. Why would I give you his keys?” I said.

“Because,” Trimbull said, taking a folded paper from his jacket, “we have a court order to take possession of his car.”

I looked over the court order and absently retrieved the keys from my pocket. The document was remarkably similar to the one that had frozen Matt’s accounts earlier that day, the only difference being that it listed other assets and was signed by the judge only three hours previous.

I pushed the document and the keys across to agent Trimbull.

“OK, how else can I help you?” I said, following The Oracle Delfina’s advice to the best of my ability.

“What is your involvement in Liberty Reserve?” Agent Mayer asked.

“I have no idea what Liberty Reserve is,” I said.

Both agents were silent for a moment and exchanged a freighted glance.

“Your office was broken into last night?” Agent Trimbull inquired.

“Yes, it was,” I said, deciding to volunteer nothing.

“Do you know who broke into it?” Agent Trimbull continued.

“No.”

“Is there anyone who you suspect?” Mayer asked.

“I suspect everyone,” I answered, trying not to sound glib.

“Everyone?” Trimbull asked.

“Everyone except Gadget and, at this point, I have to rule out Abby, Gene and Sheila.” I conceded.

“Why?” Trimbull followed up.

“Sheila was in Clearwater with at least a hundred eyewitnesses as to her whereabouts and about what she was wearing. Abby and Gene were doing an interview at the time, and Gadget has no motive.”

“What about Matt Tomlinson?” Mayer asked.

“Matt is too lazy and too easily distracted to be able to focus on something as mundane as breaking into my office. Something bright and shiny would cause him to wander off before he even got started,” I answered truthfully.

“Then why did he write you a very large check that you attempted to deposit this morning?” Mayer asked.

“Because I am very close to finishing the Abby Norman re-launch and he wanted to help out,” I said.

“What is his relationship to Abby Norman’s business?” Trimbull said sharply.

“You would have to ask him or Abby. My only involvement is to try and get Abby back in business.”

“You are aware that Abby is under investigation?” Mayer said.

“Most people who have Abby’s reputation are investigated when they have a setback.”

“Not everyone has Mr. Norman’s connections,” Mayer said cryptically.

“Mr. Lynn,” Trimbull said in a tone that suggested all of this had been a pleasant prelude to something much more ominous, “have you seen this man?”

The color photo on the table before me was a candid picture shot at some distance. The subject was a man in his early 40s, fit, clean-shaven, and with short black hair.

“I can’t say that I have,” I answered.

“Perhaps this picture might jog your memory?” Trimbull laid another picture of the man on the table.

This photo was slightly grainier than the first and appeared to have been taken at an intersection. The same man, wearing glasses, with a goatee, sat behind a steering wheel, speaking on a cell phone, and smiling.

“No, have never seen him with or without the goatee or the glasses,” I said.

“So you recognize this as the same man?” Trimbull said.

“Unless you’re going to tell me they are twins. This,” I pointed to the first picture, “is the same man, clean shaven, and the other is him on one of those intersection cameras.”

“But you’ve never seen him before?” Mayer asked.

“No. Who is he?” I asked.

“A person of interest,” Trimbull said, sliding a folded pack of papers over to me.

“What’s this?” I asked nervously.

“The court order seizing Mr. Tomlinson’s car. You’ll want a copy to give to him when you next see him,” Trimbull explained.

“Oh good,” I said, taking the paperwork. “I was afraid it was a notice freezing my assets.”

The agents exchanged another meaningful glance. Then Agent Mayer said, “Mr. Lynn, you don’t have any assets to freeze.”

I considered this, and found it to be absolutely true.

“However,” Trimbull said, reaching into his jacket and retrieving a slightly smaller folded document, “we do have this for you.”

I accepted the document and read over it.

“It’s a subpoena to appear at the Federal Prosecutor’s office in Tampa next Tuesday,” Trimbull said, just ahead of my reading of the notice.

I folded the document up without comment as I did not believe I could remain civil under the circumstances.

“If you recall anything that may assist us in our inquiries or if you see the man from the picture, call us.” Agent Mayer passed a business card across to me.

“I will,” I said, taking the card.

After the two agents left, I poked at the brownie without any real interest and inventoried my situation. I still had the money in my wallet, but I no longer had transportation. I was being accused of being involved in some sort of international conspiracy, and I was going to have to spend time with a Federal prosecutor in Tampa. I considered calling Sheila and having her pick me up. But the odds of her doing that were about as good as her giving Matt Tomlinson a glass of water after he finished throwing up.

So, what with one thing and another, it was clear that I would be walking the two miles back to the office. I decided I would put the walk to good use and make a few calls, starting with Blake Morgan over at the newspaper.

 

 

 

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