There’s a legal crisis of monumental proportions brewing for Peter Napoletano and several of his friends and associates. To deal with that crisis he’s decided to lean on Catherine Duvall, to get her to tell him everything she knows about Jonathan Tyne, particularly, how to find the remote ranch in Oregon where he lives. Peter needs help from his business partner Arthur Rhoades, a man secretly in love with Catherine. Rhoades listens to what Peter proposes but balks. As morally compromised as he is, he can’t bring himself to hurt Catherine. He has no qualms about killing Tyne although he himself is incapable of dropping the hammer on Tyne or anyone else, but hurting Catherine is another matter. He believes, with good reason, that once Tyne is dead he’ll be able to persuade Catherine to come back to him, catch her on the rebound as it were, since once upon a time they were boy friend and girl friend. He still hungers for her and regrets letting her get away. It’s imperative that she not learn the role he is playing, helping Napoletano get Tyne.
This piece is from my novel Rogue Elephants, the fourth novel in my historical tetralogy about the Tosca/Tyne War. Enjoy.
An excerpt from Rogue Elephants
Peter Napoletano had a problem and he needed Arthur Rhoades’ help solving it. Late yesterday he’d received a phone call from an associate in New Jersey who had a contact in the Justice Department. This person claimed that a laptop computer owned by a mutual friend of theirs named LaPone, who has not been heard from in more than a month, was being shopped around Washington by a Portland, Oregon attorney in return for immunity from state prosecution in Oregon and California. Neither the client’s name nor his whereabouts were mentioned but Peter could connect the dots that Jonathan Tyne was the client trying to save his ass by selling LaPone’s computer to the feds.
Peter had some exposure here, as did Jimmy Tosca but according to the New Jersey caller, some eastern associates of theirs who would remain nameless, had a much bigger exposure unless LaPone had been smart enough to sanitize the computer by erasing certain provocative e-mail messages. Did Peter have an opinion as to whether he had?
Sorry Peter said, he had simply functioned as a buffer between Jimmy and LaPone. He had no idea what LaPone’s computer practices were, other than that the man used encryption, and he reminded the caller that all he did was provide Jimmy with a name when, after the untimely deaths of Francesco Tosca and Tony Dellacroce, he was asked for help with the Tyne matter. Peter had sponsored Jimmy to Tino Cassili, so that Jimmy could pitch the commission on using LaPone to neutralize Tyne, but when the secret vote was taken had advised against Jimmy. He had argued that the Tyne matter could be dealt with much more cost effectively with a simple open contract. Jimmy, fearing his credibility was slipping the longer Tyne remained among the living, particularly with his new Russian partners, had been willing to meet the commission’s demand for a rather large up-front payment plus LaPone’s sizable fee, so the five wise men had ignored his advice. Had the caller contacted Jimmy with this information, was how Peter had left the matter? Twenty minutes later he received a second call, this one from a very anxious Jimmy Tosca who pleaded with Peter to make this problem go away.
He could think of at least three ways to make such a problem go away; the first was relatively simple but had an unfortunate downside that would cause his partner some personal distress. He needed to question Catherine Duvall about the exact location of Tyne’s ranch and was afraid that if he confronted the woman directly he would alarm her sufficiently that he would have to hurt her to learn what she knew. Not that he cared that much about hurting her but right now she was bringing in a great deal of money to the restaurants Rhoades and he jointly owned and he held out a modicum of hope that he could persuade the woman to talk to him without destroying this lucrative arrangement. He certainly was not above threatening to hurt her and a subtle threat might be sufficient to make her tell what he was convinced she knew about Tyne’s ranch. But in the final analysis, he would not hesitate to hurt her if she was stubborn and if he hurt her enough, then he would have her killed to conceal having to hurt her. It was, he rationalized, up to her to determine how much, if any, she was hurt and whether she lived to reflect on the very dangerous game she was playing. He was convinced she was clueless as to the ways of the real world but intelligent enough to quickly grasp her own self interest when that self interest was made plain and he needed Rhoades to help him help her see exactly why she needed to answer his questions, fully and completely.
The second way was much more complex with not even the possibility the woman would survive. If he could discover whether Tyne had feelings for the woman he would use her as a lever to compel Tyne to give up LaPone’s computer and then dispose of them both.
The third was probably a waste of time and money but Jimmy was paying so it wasn’t as if it was coming out of his end; he’d increased the surveillance on Duvall to twenty-four seven and Frank Rizzo had assured him that the bug in her apartment, damaged when she’d spilled coffee on her phone, would be replaced not later than end-of-business this very day.
So on a rainy and unusually cold Friday in May, two days before the end of Catherine’s four-week gig performing at Cassiopeia, Peter mentioned to Art that they needed to talk, before Catherine finished her second act. Art, when he was in town, was still performing the nightly introduction to Catherine’s cabaret so he agreed to meet with Peter right after she began singing. Peter watched Art render his ritualistic introduction from his usual table and a minute or so later left the dining room and knocked on the door to Art’s private office and entered without waiting for permission.
The office had once been a storeroom but a few years ago Rhoades had remodeled it and now it was an elegant masculine space of mixed purpose with knotty pine planks set at a forty-five degree angle on the walls, oak parquet on the floor, faux but rich looking Persian rugs and an eclectic mixture of both functionally utilitarian and traditional furniture. The desk was an oversize and massively heavy 19th century antique constructed of solid oak. It had been made in England and carried around the Horn to San Francisco in a clipper. Rhoades had found it at an estate auction in Marin County. It was one of his most prized possessions. In contrast to it, the modern ergonomic executive desk chair, upholstered in expensive calfskin leather, was almost delicate by comparison and might be something more likely to have been chosen by a high-paid computer nerd. The file cabinets, six of them, were solid oak. Not quite in the center of the room was an upholstered sofa and matching occasional chair, both covered in expensive authentic lambskin suede leather, the two separated by a low, vaguely Chinese black-lacquered table while directly in front of the desk were two comfortable upholstered armchairs.
Along one wall was a built-in bar made from Philippine mahogany while the other was Art’s ego wall, fronting his diplomas from the Universities of Michigan and San Francisco and countless photographs of Art schmoozing with celebrities or important California political contacts the man had cultivated over the years. Peter thought Art’s taste sucked, his own tastes ran to ultra-modern teak and chrome Scandinavian furnishings, and he was a knowledgeable collector of western art and had eight expensively framed examples of Howard Terpning’s long vanished Native Americans, but Art made lots of money for him so he ignored the, in his opinion, absurd furnishings, except for the stylized charcoal caricatures of familiar celebrities – Sinatra, Dean Martin, Kirk Douglas, Sammy, Marilyn, Gable, Dietrich and Bogart, which he liked. Peter never tired of looking at these.
Tonight Peter was dressed as he almost always was, in a good cashmere jacket and cashmere turtleneck sweater. He must have had a closet-full of them, as Rhoades could not recall ever seeing the same jacket twice. The one he was wearing tonight was dove gray, the sweater a pale blue that matched his eyes perfectly. He must have spent hours each day, Rhoades thought, at least those days that were sunny, working on his tan and the contrast with his thick, almost white hair was striking. Instead of sitting in the chair in front of Rhoades’ desk Peter sat in the upholstered occasional chair off to one side after first pouring for himself at the bar in the sideboard a glass of Rhoades’ brandy. He sat with his legs stretched out in front of him, ankles crossed and he pushed the table out of his way to make room for his legs. Rhoades could see his feet were fashionably bare inside very expensive Italian leather slip-ons. Rhoades chose Bushmill’s whiskey instead of brandy, and so that he would not have to shout at Peter from behind his desk, sat in the matching sofa opposite Napoletano. He had to step carefully over the man’s legs, as he made no effort to accommodate Rhoades.
He didn’t have to wait long for Peter to get to the point of the meeting. After taking a healthy swallow of his brandy Peter said, “I need you to do something for me, tonight, and go along with what I intend to do without making a fuss.”
“Haven’t I always supported you? Why should tonight be different?”
“Because you may have to watch me hurt someone I think you care for and I don’t want you playing hero. It would be very unwise.”
“I assume you mean Catherine Duvall, since you said we had to talk before she finished her second act.”
“Yes, that’s whom I mean.”
“Why on earth would you have to hurt Catherine?”
“To get her to tell me what she knows about Tyne.”
“I thought that situation was under control? Isn’t your man LaPone dealing with Tyne?”
“Yes, except I haven’t heard from him in six weeks.”
“Is that so unusual?”
“It’s not unusual that I haven’t heard from him but no one else has heard from him either, and that is most unusual. If LaPone doesn’t want to be found no one is going to find him but he always leaves a channel open for us to get messages to him and that channel is also not working. Worse still, there is evidence the target is alive and well when he shouldn’t be.
“His last e-mail message to me contained photos of a man he thought was Tyne for which he wanted confirmation. At the time I was flying here from New Jersey and couldn’t take his calls or respond to the e-mail. Jimmy verified that the photos were of Tyne but he didn’t ask LaPone for any details so unfortunately we don’t know what he learned about the location of Tyne’s ranch. After I landed and Jimmy filled me in we both made bad assumptions about who was handling this thing. Because Jimmy authenticated the pictures of Tyne I expected LaPone would make contact with Jimmy and Jimmy thought LaPone would contact me so neither of us followed up with the man. Now people are calling me and asking where the fuck is LaPone? I’ve heard nothing and calls to his cell phone and the cell phones of the men who were with him go unanswered or to voice mail and LaPone has not responded to any of my e-mails including that fail-safe channel I mentioned. That is very uncharacteristic of the man, to say the least.”
“Could Tyne have survived an encounter with LaPone?”
“It’s unlikely but yes, it’s possible.”
“But I thought LaPone and his protégé DiSalvo were the best?”
“They are but Tyne has had similar training and when the shooting starts, anything can happen.”
“What does all this have to do with Catherine?”
“I think she knows how to get to his ranch.”
“When I asked her about Michael Ware, before I knew for sure he was Tyne, she said she was severing her relationship with him because he had AIDS. Why do you doubt her?”
“When was this?”
“Right after the fire at Di Giorgio’s.”
“You told me she specifically said he did not have AIDS, only that he was HIV positive. Which is it?”
“What’s the difference?”
“There’s a big fucking difference. If he’s HIV positive but he does not have AIDS, then that could mean he’s a carrier and might never actually get the disease or it could just mean that he hasn’t got it yet.”
“Well, she said he was HIV positive but I assumed that means he has AIDS.”
“Well that’s a bad assumption so unless she said he actually has AIDS, I think its best to assume only that he has the virus. That means he isn’t sick, probably has no symptoms and is not physically impaired and if he’s not impaired, then he could have survived an encounter with LaPone.”
Rhoades was silent as he considered carefully his next question. The question itself scared him but what Peter was hinting at scared him even more. Finally he said, “Peter, just between you and I and the four walls, is Tyne really worth all this trouble? I mean Jimmy is old, ancient really and not very effective if half of what I’ve heard is true. Why are all the really important people paying so much attention to his stupid vendetta against Tyne?”
“You know, the bosses in New York asked that very question when they were discussing whether to authorize the use of LaPone, and I can tell you, it cost Jimmy a bundle. But since they have it no longer matters whether it was smart or not and worse still, LaPone is now my responsibility since I’m the one who made the case for using him. If Tyne killed LaPone and the two who were with him, and the longer it is that we don’t hear from him the more likely that’s what happened, and I let Tyne walk away, then sure as shit I’ll get whacked.” This was a lie; Jimmy was responsible for LaPone but Peter wanted Art’s help and if Art thought Jimmy was the one at risk and not him he would balk at doing anything that would harm the woman; he hated Jimmy with a passion.
“Perhaps they’re on the move, getting out of the country and that’s why you haven’t heard? As soon as they get where they’re going they’ll contact you.”
“Except they rented a car in Portland that they have not returned and they all had airline reservations that have not been used, cancelled or rescheduled. They did check out of the motel where they were staying but what that tells me is that they intended to leave the area after dealing with Tyne.”
“And you think Catherine knows something about all this?”
“It’s doubtful that she knows anything about LaPone. I’ve had her watched round the clock since last Wednesday and her phone in Alameda has been tapped since the first of the year. I can’t tap her cell phone but any calls she makes using it from her apartment are recorded. So far there’s been no contact with Tyne, no suspicious activity of any kind, but I do believe she knows how to get to his ranch.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I believe she stayed with him there over Christmas. You don’t need to know how I know but I intend to confront her tonight with the facts.”
“I wish you wouldn’t hurt her. I’m not sure I can watch her being hurt.”
“She won’t open her legs for you but you’re still looking out for her. I don’t understand you.”
“No, but we are good friends. We… we were… we were more than friends a few years ago, after her divorce. I think she’ll eventually remember what we had and come around. But there’s a practical reason too for not hurting her; she makes a lot of money for us. So far her second act in both Bellevue and Berkeley have sold out every night. That’s twenty weeks and at that rate, if her popularity continues we’re looking to gross at least $1.6 mil this year from the cover charges alone. It’s not easy to find someone that consistently popular with the crowds we attract.”
“Yeah, I hear you, that money is sweet but there’s another problem even more important than Tyne, at least in the short run. LaPone was carrying a laptop computer that has information on it that under no circumstances can be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. If Tyne did kill LaPone then he has the computer. And worse still, a contact we have inside the Justice Department got wind that a Portland, Oregon attorney has offered LaPone’s computer to the feds in return for a grant of immunity in Oregon and California. I have no choice, I have to recover LaPone’s computer as well as get Tyne and I believe she’s the key so how much we make from her act is irrelevant. Why didn’t you tell me you had the hots for her? That she won’t put out for you is an even better indication she’s saving it for him. I’ll fix you up with a Vegas showgirl half her age that will make her look like the worn out pig she is.”
“Well, can’t you question her without hurting her?”
“That really depends on her, how smart she is. Her career is doing quite well and it could do even better if I became her producer. I have an interest in a restaurant in Chicago and one in Manhattan where her act would be well received but she has to give him up. If she will do that we can all stay friends and we can all continue to make money, especially her. But if she won’t play ball…”
“I can’t believe she’ll betray him for money. She might not help him but she won’t help you either.”
“Well that’s too bad because I have to get Tyne to leave his ranch and if she won’t listen to reason I think working her over might get him to come here. That’s why if it comes to it I want you to take some pictures of what I do to her. In fact, I want you to do exactly what I do. Don’t worry, I won’t take any pictures of you that show your face but I want you to fuck her, roughly, with no finesse, really hurt her like she was a piece of trailer trash, and so will I. I’ll go first and when I get tired, then you can fuck her and when you get tired, I’ll fuck her again, all night, and we’ll take lots of pictures… and maybe I’ll let Slick fuck her too. Hey you said you want to fuck her, this is your chance. You can do anything you want to her and there isn’t a goddamn thing she can do about it.”
“That means you intend to kill her when we’re finished?”
“No, I want her alive so she can call him to come to her aid but if he won’t come she’ll have told me how to get to his place which is almost as good.”
“But if she’s alive she’ll go to the police?”
“No, I have an ace in the hole that will prevent her from doing that; I know where her mother lives.”
Rhoades was close to open revolt with Peter but his basic instinct for survival kept him from saying what he was thinking, except… “You know Peter, we’ve been friends for a very long time, something like twenty years, and because of that friendship, I think you often take me for granted, make assumptions and take liberties that no one else would, like now… with Catherine Duvall. So, I’m now going to say something that may offend you but remember we’re friends and also remember you do it to me all the time.”
“This is interesting, Arthur Victor Rhoades, alias Andrew Carr, successful author and entrepreneur, finally standing up on his hind legs and complaining. You’ve got my full attention.”
“How old is Jennifer now… thirty-five?”
“And you two have been married for, what… five years?”
“Six, in November.”
“She was a dancer, right?”
“Does she still dance?”
“Not professionally, but she still has the moves.”
“She works out regularly… stays in shape… because she knows that’s what you like?”
“Yeah, like I said, she still has the moves. Works out every day. She’s even thinking of opening a studio. What’s your point?”
“You guys thinking of having kids?”
“I’ve got two from my first marriage and that’s enough. Jennifer hasn’t made any noises like she wants to be a mom but it could happen.”
“And if she does, you’ll accommodate her?”
“Yeah, I suppose, if I can’t talk her out of it.”
“Okay, pretend it’s ten years from now. You’re sixty…”
“… and she’s forty-four and she’s looked after herself, still has all those moves, still as gorgeous as she is now, only better, because she’s more mature. Are you going to kick her to the curb and trade her in for a younger model? Isn’t that what you did to your first wife?”
“Not if, as you say, she’s gotten better, or at least, stayed as good as she is now. My first wife got fat and I hated fucking her.”
“Well, if you can see yourself sticking with Jennifer despite her getting older, why can’t you understand why I don’t want to see any harm come to Catherine?”
“You didn’t seem to mind much when Dellacroce disposed of that Oregon cunt for you… what was her name… except you were fucking her.”
“Sharon Robinette, but that was different.”
“Robinette was my mistake and I accept that…. except I couldn’t hurt her… I don’t get off on hurting women.”
“Nor do I… except I do what has to be done. It’s called taking care of business; something you still need to learn.”
“Yes, well, I don’t want it to be at Catherine’s expense.”
“Except Duvall’s not with you, she’s with him. It appears that she’s bet the farm on him and that means I can have a go at her. If she was with you, then I’d be more careful. I’d still want to talk to her, to find out what she knows but I probably wouldn’t hurt her. I say probably because I’m under a great deal of pressure to resolve the Tyne matter. I no longer have the luxury of time.”
Rhoades thought about all this for several moments, then steeled himself and screwed up his courage even further, sighed heavily and said, “No, I won’t do it. I can’t stop you from doing this but I won’t help you. She’s very intelligent so I think threatening to hurt her will work just as well but afterwards, when you’ve finished using her, I want to be able to deny that I was part of it.”
“You think she’ll continue to work for us after I’ve dealt with Tyne?”
“She doesn’t know she works for us; she thinks she works for me.”
“Wasn’t she your manager in Bend?”
“Yes, but I never told her you and I are partners in the Bend restaurant. Hell, Lydia doesn’t even know you are one of the owners.”
“So, if I do this you won’t squawk to Jimmy or the commission as long as your hands are clean. Is that what you’re saying?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying, but don’t do it here. Take her to your place, the Bull Shot, anywhere but here.”
Peter stared at Art for a long time and finally shook his head and said; “You’re just as pussy whipped as Tyne over that cunt, more so since at least he fucked her. Okay, I’ll try it your way, at least once, but make no mistake; I have to get my hands on that computer so if I have to waste her doing it, you’ll just have to choke it down. Don’t worry; once I fix you up with a Vegas bimbo with tits out to here you’ll wonder why you wasted even a second on this Duvall cunt. Hell, I’ll get you two and they can take turns wailing on your cock.”
Rhoades nodded and smiled but he wasn’t really interested in a Las Vegas showgirl, even if her tits were out to here but the thought of Catherine wailing on his cock was something he could wrap his mind around, and thought of, often.