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CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

Dan savored the last of his fried potato skins. Stuffed to overflowing with sour cream and bacon, the skins made up one-third of the deceptively named Fisherman's Platter. The other two-thirds were fried onions and nachos. The cholesterol extravaganza was his typical order at The Lobster Pot, a cheesy, overpriced airport restaurant and our usual luncheon venue at the Majestic terminal.

He noticed me staring. "What?"

"Does the word angioplasty mean anything to you?"

"Don't start with me, Shanahan." He licked the sour cream off his finger. "This is one of the few pleasures I have left in my life."

The waitress slapped the check on our table while she was yelling something to the bartender. They knew us at The Lobster Pot, knew they didn't have to waste any service on a captive audience.

"What did you want to talk about, boss?"

I looked again around the restaurant, checking the bar and all the corners. "You haven't seen Lenny, have you?"

"Lenny wouldn't be caught dead in a place like this. Besides, I think Scanlon has him running around on something. He hasn't been here much."

I gave silent thanks to Bill. I hadn't even thought to ask him for a Lenny distraction. I scooted my chair around until I was right next to Dan. "Crescent Security," I said, "I know what it is."

"And you waited all the way through lunch to tell me?"

"I waited until Victor and his cronies left. They were sitting two tables over."

He checked the tables across the room, now empty. "What did you find out?"

I pulled the computer printout off the chair next to me, cleared a space on the table, and set it in front of him. He began thumbing through it. "What is this?"

"Molly researched the station files for anything on Crescent Security. She looked as far back as the local files go, which is like-"

"Seven years."

"Right. She found nothing. So she called HDQ and had them run a summary of all payments to Crescent Security by either Boston Nor'easter or Boston Majestic. This is what she got."

He turned the pages, running his index finger down the dollar column. "It looks like what, fifty, sixty thousand a year?"

"It averages out to forty grand a year for five years," I said. "Over two hundred thousand bucks in total."

"What's it for?"

"No one knows."

"What do you mean by that?"

"Molly has no recollection of processing a single payment to this company, there are no local records, and yet Crescent received a couple of hundred thousand dollars in payments which were approved out of this station."

"What about Molly's ledger books? Have you ever seen those goddamned things? Even if the files were lost, she would have had it all in there, chapter and verse. That's why she does it that way, so nothing gets paid that's not supposed to."

"I'm telling you, there are no local records. But Accounts Payable in Denver had copies of the invoices." I showed him the faxes Molly had given me, slick paper faxes that wouldn't stay flat. We had to be the last office operation in the world without a plain paper fax machine. "Check these out."

He pinned the pages to the table and searched them one at a time. "Looks like they're coded right. These are the accounts Nor'easter used for security background checks, I think. They should have written that in the comments box. Signed by Lenny, but he would have signed if he was general manager. If Molly didn't code them, who did?"

"Lenny."

He let go of the faxes and they immediately curled. "Give me a break. Lenny would rather break his own arm than code an invoice. I don't think he's ever once cracked a chart of accounts since I've known him."

"Molly recognized his handwriting in the coding box."

Dan unfurled one page and looked again, concentrating on the handwritten account codes. He got the connection; I could see it on his face when he looked up at me. "The sevens."

"Exactly. She says Lenny crossed his sevens like that, European style."

"She's right. Fuckin' Lenny. Wants the world to think, he was born in France. In the meantime, he's from some backwater hick town down in Louisiana."

"He's from New Orleans."

"That's what I said. What did Crescent do for us? Forty grand is a lot of background checks."

"I don't think they did anything. Here's what I think. Lenny had Crescent send these invoices to him directly. He'd code them, sign them, and forward them to Accounts Payable. Molly never saw them, and he kept no copies around for her to stumble over. Accounts Payable would cut the check and send it directly to Crescent."

"But Crescent never did anything for the money and Lenny knew it."

"Right."

"Jesus Christ, you're saying he was stealing?"

"Embezzling."

He sat back and shook his head. "That makes no sense, Shanahan. Two hundred grand is tip money to Lenny. The guy is loaded."

"From the deal."

"Right. He hit the jackpot."

"Why didn't anyone bother to tell me this?"

"I figured you knew."

"I didn't. And besides, this scam was going on before the deal."

"True." He leaned over his plate and rummaged for an onion ring. "You don't know who these Crescent people are?"

"The address on the payments was Elizabeth, New Jersey."

"I know Elizabeth. That's not too far from where I grew up."

"Wherever they were, they're gone now, but I figured out something else, too. Do you know what they call New Orleans?"

"You mean like the French Quarter and Mardi Gras?"

"When you fly into New Orleans at night from the south, you come in over the Gulf of Mexico and you can see the lights of the city. It's beautiful, and it's shaped like the moon-a crescent moon."

He stared at me, onion ring poised over the cocktail sauce.

"New Orleans is known as the Crescent City, Dan. Crescent Security was Lenny. It had to be."

He dropped the onion ring, took the napkin from his lap, and slowly wiped the grease from his fingers. "I'll be damned."

"Lenny was stealing from Nor'easter to pay himself. And I think he was using the money to make payoffs. That's what the stub was doing in Ellen's merger file. Remember the stub for ten thousand dollars?"

"Yeah."

"I'll bet it was a payoff and Crescent was some kind of a clearinghouse for him-a way to make his illegal payoffs look legitimate."

Dan sat staling at the printout. His face was blank. I'd expected more of a reaction than that. Molly had given me the Crescent payments, but the rest I'd figured out, and it all fell into place. I loved when that happened, but he was unmoved. "What's the matter?"

"Do you think this had anything to do with Ellen?"

"Yeah, I do. The way we knew about Crescent was because of the reference in her files. My first thought was that this was the money used to buy the IBG contract. She found out about it, and that's what got her into trouble. That might be the connection."

"But now you don't think so?"

"I'm not sure. The payments started a long time before there was ever any thought of selling Nor'easter. And look at the last page of that printout."

He flipped to the back and almost knocked over the lighthouse peppermill in the process. He was oblivious, but I caught it in time. I pointed at the last entry. "See how the payments stopped in August 1994. Molly told me that the contract vote wasn't until November. She said it screwed up everyone's Thanksgiving, so the timing doesn't work, but even if it did, there's less than thirty grand here for 1994. At first I thought it didn't seem like enough to buy a contract. But then I thought, How would I know? I heard about a guy on the news once who paid a professional hit man five thousand dollars to have his wife murdered. That seemed low to me, too."

Dan was rubbing his forehead, looking worried.

"What's the matter with you?"

"Nothing. It's just the thing is I don't think that's what this money was for. I think that money had to come from somewhere else."

"That's" what I'm saying, too, that this was the everyday fraud fund. There was a bigger one somewhere else for special occasions."

"So, Ellen knew about this?"

"She must have."

"What else did you find out?"

"That's it. I've got Molly doing more research. She's into it now. She's taking it personally that Lenny corrupted her system."

"Yeah, she would."

I paid the check. Lunch was on me to celebrate finding the dirt on Lenny. Dan still wasn't excited enough for me, and he was actually walking slower than I was as we headed down the concourse to the office. "Are you all right?"

"What? No, I'm fine. But I got a call this morning from my ex. Michelle's got the flu. I thought I might fly down and surprise her this afternoon. Take her a milkshake or something. Is it all right with you? You can beep me if you need me."

"Don't be silly. Take as much time as you need. In fact, why don't you stay down there for the weekend? The only thing I have on the schedule is this meeting with the third shift tonight about the bomb."

"Are you going to be okay for that?"

"Sure." He stood there, hands in his pockets, shifting from one foot to the other. He was obviously anxious to take off. "Give me a call and let me know how she's doing."

"I will," he said, pulling away at Mach speed. "Thanks."


CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE | Hard Landing | CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE