The Devil Knows You're Dead Page 34

 Chapter 21

 “He was a snitch,” I told Drew. “A career informant, work-ing free-lance. He got his start in Altoona selling cars for his uncle Al.”

 “Uncle Al in Altoona.”

 “He managed to find out that his aunt and uncle were evading taxes in high style. Two sets of books, secret bank accounts. I gather the uncle was a hard man to work for, so Glenn went to work for himself.”

 “He ratted them out to the IRS?”

 “You can make money that way,” I said. “I always knew that, but I never knew what a popular cottage industry it was. They’ve got an 800 number just for snitches. I called it yes-terday and spoke with a woman who told me how the pro-gram worked. I asked her a lot of questions, and I didn’t get the feeling she was hearing any of them for the first time. She must sit there all day long, chatting with the greedy and the resentful.”

 “Plenty of those to go around.”

 “I would think so. Your compensation is a percentage of the take in back taxes and penalties, and the percentage varies with the quality of the material you supply. If you bring in a set of books and make their whole case for them, that’s worth more than if you just point the finger and tell them where to look.”

 “Only fair.”

 “You can stay anonymous, too, and I’m sure Glenn did. His uncle may have figured out who jobbed him, but maybe not. He had to step lively to stay out of Leavenworth. Sold everything he owned and left town in disgrace. I don’t know how much he settled for, but Glenn’s piece of the action was enough to put him through law school.”

 “Did he have to pay taxes on it?”

 “You know,” I said, “I asked her about that. She said they like to collect it in advance, like withholding tax.”

 “They would,” he said.

 We were in the Docket, on Joralemon Street around the corner from Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. It’s a nice room, high-ceilinged, the decor running to oak and brass and red leather. As the name would suggest, the patrons are lawyers for the most part, although the place is also popular with cops. Lunch hour is the busy time. They sell a lot of over-stuffed sandwiches, pour a lot of drinks.

 “Gorgeous day,” Drew said.

 “Beautiful,” I said. “Last time I ate here it was like this. It was in the spring and I had lunch with a cop from Brooklyn Homicide. John Kelly, I saw him at the bar just now when I came in. It was such a nice day that I walked out of here and kept on walking clear out to Bay Ridge. I don’t think I’ll do that today. You know something? If yesterday had been warm and sunny I’d still be wondering where Glenn Holtz-mann’s money came from.”

 “The weather kept you home.”

 “And so I spent the whole day on the phone, and that turned out to be the right way to do it. Once I caught on to how he got his start, it wasn’t hard to figure out who to call next and what to look for. When he passed the bar exam he went to work at a law firm in White Plains. Shortly after he left them the firm fell apart. The partner I talked to suggested idly that maybe Holtzmann had seen the handwriting on the wall.”

 “I bet he wrote it himself.”

 “And didn’t sign his name. I called Jespesson back, that’s the lawyer’s name, to ask what had happened to the firm. The question must have caught him off base, because he didn’t even ask why I wanted to know. It seems one of the other partners represented a couple of drug traffickers.”

 “And the lawyer got paid in drug money and didn’t report it and they sank his boat for it. You don’t know how much I hate stories like this, Matt.”

 “That’s not quite how it went. The firm didn’t do any criminal work, they represented these clients in other mat-ters. And they got paid by check, or if any cash changed hands nobody knew about it. But this one partner developed a taste for cocaine.”

 “Oh, don’t tell me.”

 “He funded his habit by doing a little dealing on his own. Then his partner in one of his deals turned out to be the DEA. They gave him a chance to roll over on his dealer clients, but I guess he figured a federal prison was better than an unmarked grave. By the time it was over it devel-oped that he’d been stealing from clients, too. Jespesson gave me the impression that dissolving the firm was a cinch, that there wasn’t much left to dissolve.”

 “I’m assuming Holtzmann put the DEA onto the partner.”

 “I’m assuming the same thing,” I said. “I can’t call them up and ask. But I think it’s a safe assumption.”

 “I gather the DEA pays informants.”

 “I did call and ask them that. They weren’t as forthcoming as the nice lady at the tax office, but yes, they pay a bounty on drug dealers and a percentage on whatever they confis-cate. I learned more about how it works from a fellow I know who knows a lot about information and its value in the open market.” Danny Boy, and I’d called him at home; the weather had kept him indoors last night, too. “The zero-tolerance policy may not be winning the war on drugs,” I said, “but it’s starting to make the battles cost-effective. The first thing you do when you make a drug bust is confiscate everything within arm’s reach. Vehicles, boats. Drugs, of course, but also the cash if the people you arrested came to buy. If any meetings took place in their houses, or if they stored product there, then you attach that. With so much property up for grabs, you’ve suddenly got a big budget for compensating informants.”

 “The apartment,” Drew said.

 “It’s suddenly obvious, isn’t it? Some Europeans or South Americans bought it for cash under the shield of a Cayman Islands corporation. There’s a dozen other things that could be besides drug money, but it’s certainly up there on the list. And governmental seizure would explain how MultiCircle Productions lost the apartment when there was no mortgage for anybody to foreclose on. And then there’s the US Asset Reduction Corp. I couldn’t find a trace of them because they probably don’t exist outside of a file folder in some govern-ment agency or other. They must be some sort of corporate shell for the liquidation of seized assets.”

 “I thought they liked to get a lot of publicity with their seizures. Show the taxpayers how they’re really socking it to the dope peddlers.”

 “Not always,” I said. “Sometimes they’d just as soon keep it quiet. So nobody in Congress starts noticing how much money’s passing through their hands.”

 “Maybe some of it sticks to the occasional palm.”

 “Not absolutely out of the question, is it?”

 “And Holtzmann? What did he do to get the apartment, and who’d he do it to?”

 “I don’t know,” I said. “My first thought was that he helped make a case against somebody in MultiCircle. But that would leave him with his cock on the block. If any of the people he screwed knew him, and then he’s living in their apartment—”

 “How else would he get it? It had to be compensation for some sort of informing he did.”

 “Say he ratted out Joe Blow and had a six-figure fee com-ing. And somebody said, ‘Look, you need a decent place to live, and here’s a list of confiscated properties up for grabs, why don’t you pick one and we’ll deed it to you?’ ”

 “Virtue rewarded.”

 “It always is.”

 He got the waiter’s attention and pointed to our empty coffee cups. When they’d been filled he said, “So who was Joe Blow? Any ideas?”


 “Look at his résumé. He went from selling cars in Altoona to practicing law in White Plains. Where did he turn up next, this latter-day Jonah?”

 “In the legal department of a publisher. That ship sank when a foreign conglomerate took them over.”

 “How’d he manage that?”

 “I don’t think he had a thing to do with it. From there he went to Waddell & Yount, and he was working there when he died. A publisher’s legal department is a funny career slot for a professional snitch.”


 “Well, I have a theory,” I admitted. “It fits the facts, and I think it meshes with my own sense of Glenn Holtzmann.”

 “I keep forgetting you knew the guy.”

 “I didn’t, really. I met him a couple of times, that’s all.”

 “Let’s hear your theory.”

 “I think he fell into it,” I said. “I think he found out what his uncle was pulling and he felt a mixture of righteous anger and personal resentment. He did a job on Uncle Al and got himself out of Altoona in the process. He didn’t take the IRS money and buy himself a Mercedes, either. He pieced it out, put himself through law school. He said it was an inher-itance that enabled him to get his law degree, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw the money as a sort of patrimony. Maybe he managed to tell himself the money should have been his in the first place, that Al Benziger got the gold mine while Glenn’s mother got the shaft.

 “He went to work in White Plains. Not his first choice, he’d have preferred a firm in the city, but it was the best he could do. He made a good initial impression but he turned out to have less drive than he led people to expect. The same thing happened at Waddell & Yount, incidentally. Eleanor Yount saw him as a possible successor when she took him on, but it didn’t take long before she realized he didn’t have it in him.

 “In White Plains, he found out one of the partners was into coke in a big way. And maybe he was a little disillu-sioned with his job, and with the way his career was shaping up. Maybe his expenses were starting to edge out in front of his income. And here’s this hotshot, using his nose for a vac-uum cleaner, missing meals and doing deals. Glenn remem-bers Uncle Al and how satisfying it was to give him what he deserved. Profitable, too.”

 “So he drops a dime on him.”

 “Funny how we still call it that, considering how long a phone call’s cost a quarter. But that’s what he does. Once again he’s out of there when the shit hits the fan. He gets a job with a publishing house, stays there as long as he can, then settles in with another publisher. He’s not ambitious and he’s no high liver. He’s in a small studio apartment in the East Eighties.

 “Somewhere along the way he sees another chance to make a buck. My first thought was that he met Lisa, decided they needed a place to live, and quick found someone to sell out. But the timing’s wrong. I think he was minding his own business when an opportunity came along and he grabbed it.”

 “ ‘I seen my opportunities and I took ’em.’ ” When I looked blank Drew said, “George Washington Plunkett, Tammany hack of the last century. He wrote this strangely candid political memoir, honest and self-serving at the same time. That’s what he said. He seen his opportunities and he took ’em. I wonder what opportunity our friend saw.”

 “I don’t know,” I said. “If I had to guess, I’d say it had nothing to do with his work. It probably involved somebody he knew in Yorkville.”

 “Because he moved.”

 “That was his pattern, wasn’t it? Screw somebody and then get the hell out. He did a job on someone and had a nice fee coming. ‘Well, Glenn, how would you like the money?’

 ‘Maybe you could pay me in real estate. What’s available these days?’ ‘Let’s see, here’s something nice in a two-bed-room condo. High floor, river view, owned by a Corsican gentleman who only drove it on Sundays. Here’s the keys, why don’t you take it around the block?’ ”

 “Is that how it works? They show you what’s available and let you pick?”

 “I don’t know how it works. But I think that’s essentially how he got the condo. This was right around the time he met Lisa. When that got serious he told them to push the paper-work, and by the time they got back from Bermuda the place was ready for them to move in.”

 “And the money in the strongbox?”

 “Another job, I suppose. Or the same one. My guess is that something shifted for him when he got married, if it hadn’t already. He began to see this sideline of his as a pro-fession, not just something he’d fallen into once or twice. He started looking for opportunities.”

 “How do you know that?”

 “From his schedule. At work he had all he could do to fill eight hours, but he told Lisa stories about a heavy work load that kept him at his desk nights and weekends. I think he was out prospecting. I think that’s why he was interested in me.”

 “He figured he could clip you for tax evasion, huh? What would they seize, your extra pair of shoes?”

 “It was my occupation that fascinated him,” I said. “He told me he wanted to publish my memoirs. Well, that was a lot of crap. His firm didn’t publish originals. What he wanted was to find out how a detective operates. He wanted me to teach him the tricks of the trade. He may have envi-sioned the two of us as partners, digging up dirt on people and transmuting it into gold. I never found out what he had in mind because I didn’t like him enough to offer him any encouragement.”

 “So he nosed around on his own.”


 “Who killed him?”

 “I don’t know.”

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies