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CHAPTER NINE

"I can't believe the balls on those scumbags, showing up like that." Dan slid down into the chair where first Little and then Big Pete had sat earlier in the day and started drumming the armrests with his fingertips. He'd called in just as the hearing had broken up. Once he'd heard that he'd missed all the fun, he'd spent most of the afternoon in the operation. "What else did they want?"

"Two things. For me to bring Angelo back and for you to stop your nightly surveillance."

"What did you tell them?"

"That I wouldn't bring Angelo back-not yet, anyway-and that you would stick to the day shift from now on."

"Why'd you make that deal?"

"Because I wanted to show the union I'd work with them, which I'm willing to do up to a point. Besides, I don't think we gave up much. It's dangerous for you to be lurking around the airport in the middle of the night, and you weren't finding anything anyway."

He was wounded-his finger tapping ceased-but it passed quickly. He started again almost immediately.

"Why is everyone so hot for me to bring Angelo back? He seems pretty small-time to me."

"Who's everyone?"

"Lenny wants me to deal him back. Now these guys are trying to turn the screws. The more people try to make me do it, the less I want to, and I don't even know the guy."

"Lenny's just a lazy bastard trying to make nice with his buddies in the union. Big Pete's trying to show you and everyone else that he's in charge. As far as anybody else, Angle's been around forever. Everybody knows him and his wife, knows she's been real sick. He's got these baby grandsons. They're twins and they're so cute, these kids. A lot of us went to their christening last year."

"You sound sympathetic."

He shifted his weight and started bouncing one knee in rhythm with the tapping. "I got no problem with what happened to Angelo. To me, stealing is stealing. By the same token, the thing you've got to understand is the guy's been doing it for years, ever since he's been on midnights, anyway. Dickie Flynn and Lenny before him, they knew what he was up to, but they couldn't be bothered."

The sharp vinegar flavor from the garbage still hung in the air. I joined Dan on the other side of the desk, taking the second guest chair and getting some distance from the smell. "Dickie Flynn was the guy Ellen replaced?"

"Yeah. He was the last Nor'easter GM."

"Did you work for him?"

"He had my job when I first got here from Newark, and I worked for him as a ramp supervisor. Dickie worked for Lenny, who was still the GM. Once the Majestic deal closed, Lenny moved up to vice president and down to D.C. Dickie and I both got bumped up."

"What was he like?"

"Dickie? A walking disaster. The guy was in the bag ninety-eight percent of the time. It's a miracle the place was still standing after he left."

"And Lenny put up with that?"

"Molly and I covered for him. She ran the admin stuff and I ran the operation. Besides, Lenny never saw the worst of it. It wasn't until after he left for D.C. that the hard boozing started."

"He had to have known."

Dan shrugged. "I never try to figure out what Lenny knows."

"What happened to Dickie?"

"His wife left him, took the kids, he lost all his money. Same things that happen to a lot of people in life, only he couldn't handle it. Started hitting the bottle."

"No, I meant why did he leave the company."

"Poor bastard got stomach cancer and died about six months ago."

"That's sad."

"A goddamned waste is what it was. I never met a better operations man than Dickie Flynn when he was sober. What I know about the operations function I learned from Dickie."

"Was he as good as Kevin?"

"Better. Dickie started out as an operations agent, then he went to the ramp and then freight. I think he also did a stint on the passenger side." He shook his head. "What a waste. The guy was a mess right up until the day he died."

"What about Lenny? Did you ever work for him?"

"Not directly."

"Why did you say the other night that he doesn't like you?"

"Because he doesn't. What do you want to do about Angelo?"

I laughed. "If you don't want to tell me, why don't you just say so?"

"It's not that. It's a long and boring story and not all that important and I'm tired."

"All right, let's talk about Angelo. He's sixty-three years old with a sick wife and forty-one years of service to the company. With a story like that, no arbitration panel is going to let a termination stand. Lenny wants me to bring him back, so I should do it before the panel does it and takes the credit. I score points with my boss and the union."

"You're probably right."

"Then why don't I want to do it?"

"Because you're stubborn."

"Are you sure he's harmless?" I asked.

"He's harmless."

"And you don't have a problem with it?"

"Not me, boss."

"All right."

"So you want me to bring him back?"

"All right means I'll think about it some more."

Dan laughed at me, then segued into a big yawn, which made me yawn and reminded me of just how long this day had been. I stood up to stretch. "Let me ask you something else. If Ellen did find something out about Little Pete, does it stand to reason Big Pete would be involved?"

"Little Pete wouldn't know what shirt to put on in the morning if it wasn't for his old man."

"That's what I thought. I was speculating on how things might be different around here if we could blow both Petes out the door. Victor is incredibly annoying, but I'd still prefer dealing with him over Big Pete. And I can't think of one good reason to have Little Pete around. He's scary."

"I told you."

I went over to the window and shifted the angle of the blinds so that it would be harder to see inside the office, if anyone had been so inclined. It was already dark again. I hadn't left the airport once in daylight. Come to think of it, it was dark in the morning when I came in. I was beginning to feel like a vampire. "Do you have any idea what Ellen may have had on father and son?"

"Drugs."

"Really?"

"I was thinking last night after I got home how out of the blue one day, for no reason, she starts asking me a bunch of questions about the Beeches."

"The Beechcraft? The commuter?"

"Yeah. Those little mosquitoes we fly down to D.C. three times a day. Our last flight of the day connects to the Caribbean."

"Southbound is the wrong way for drug trafficking."

"It connects on the inbound, too. Her questions were all about the cargo compartments, capacity, loading procedures. I think she was trying to figure how much extra weight they could take. Maybe where you could hide a package. She also asked me for a copy of the operating procedures for the ramp."

"Wait a second" I went to the overhead cabinet of my credenza and opened it. "She had her own procedures manual. It's right here. Why would she want yours?"

Dan came around the desk and pointed at the logo emblazoned across the manual. "Those are Majestic's procedures."

"Not surprising, considering we are Majestic Airlines."

"We weren't always, not here in Boston, anyway. She wanted my old Nor'easter manual. I gave it to her and now it's gone."

"That's very odd." I slid the manual back onto the shelf. "You haven't been Nor'easter for over two years."

He went back to his seat while I turned around, opened the file drawer in my desk, and thumbed through the plastic tabs. "Something was in here the other night having to do with Nor'easter here it is." When I reached down and pulled it up, all I had was an empty hanging file with a label. The Nor'easter/Majestic Merger file was missing. It was the only one that was. I showed Dan the empty file.

"Could mean nothing," I said.

"Nothing around here means nothing."

I left the file on my desk as a reminder to ask Molly about it. "I don't know about the merger or the Beechcraft or the procedures manual. What I do know is that you could go to jail for running drugs, to say nothing of losing your job."

I smiled at Dan and he smiled back. "I like the way you think, Shanahan."

"Are you free tomorrow night?"

"Friday night? Are you asking me out on a date, boss?"

"I got a call this afternoon from Human Resources in Denver. Ellen's Aunt Jo in California was named as beneficiary in Ellen's life insurance policy, and they were missing some information. Lenny wasn't around, so they called me and I in turn offered to contact Aunt Jo for them. Jo Shepard is her name. She's the older sister of Ellen's late father. Did you ever talk to her?"

"No."

"How did you know where to send the ashes?"

"Lenny left me a message. He's been dealing with her from the start."

"Yeah, from what I gather, Aunt Jo is older and doesn't travel much. When Lenny called to inform her about Ellen, he offered the company's assistance in handling her affairs. Selling her car, getting rid of the furniture, paying final bills. She took him up on his offer, had a power of attorney prepared and sent to him."

He slumped back in his chair and groaned. "We'll never get into that house."

"Not so. She's overnighting a copy to me. It should be here tomorrow."

The spark came back into his eyes. You could even have called it a gleam. "Are you shitting me?"

"I explained to her who I was. I told her who you were and that we were here in Boston and we wanted to help, too. I figured it was worth a shot. She was more than happy to have all the help she could get, and since the power of attorney designates 'authorized representatives of Majestic Airlines' as her proxy, it will work for us, too."

Dan was shaking his head, taking it all in. "Jesus Christ, Shanahan, I can't believe you did that. You're all right, I don't care what anyone says."

"I hope Lenny feels the same way when he finds out."

"Who cares what Lenny thinks? Better to ask forgiveness than permission. That's what I always say."

"I care what Lenny thinks, and look how well it's worked for you."

He bounced out of the chair and headed for the door, looking as if he had things to do and places to go.

"I've already talked to Pohan," I said, calling after him. He stopped just outside the door. "You call the landlord. We'll need to get a key. And see if he knows how to change the code on the burglar alarm. If he doesn't, call the security company. If you can get that done tomorrow, we can go tomorrow night-that is, if you're free."

I could have seen his ear-to-ear grin in the dark. "I'll clear my calendar."


CHAPTER EIGHT | Hard Landing | CHAPTER TEN