'I had planned to drive out…'

'…to Chino,' she interrupted. 'A two-hour drive to Chino prison to see Howard. After all, you certainly wouldn't want to miss your Saturday visit with him. You've gone out there every Saturday for the past year. Every single Saturday… Incredible.' She shook her head.

'We could go somewhere on Sunday,' Carr said.

She stared at the bedroom mirror. 'Sure. To wherever I want. You, as usual, never have any ideas. For once I would like to go somewhere that we both want to go… Though I'm sure you'd much prefer to be sitting at a bar in Chinatown drinking with your pals.' She said 'pals' as if it were a curse.


Carr's mind wandered as he drove on the Pomona Freeway toward Chino. He pictured Norbert Waeves (known as No Waves), the pipe-smoking Los Angeles special agent-in-charge, puffing smoke and reading aloud the one-inch newspaper article about Howard. 'Howard Dumbrowski, a special agent of the U.S. Treasury Department, pleaded guilty to manslaughter today in Superior Court. Accused of murdering his wife after finding her with another man in their Glendale apartment, Dumbrowski declined to make any statement in his own behalf before being sentenced to two years in state prison.' Jumping for joy, the SAIC had tossed the newspaper in the air. 'Hooray! He pleaded guilty! No trial! No more bad publicity!'

The visiting-hour trips to Chino were rough at the beginning-forced laughs followed by embarrassing silences.

Carr turned off the highway at the green overhead sign CALIFORNIA CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE, CHINO. ONE MILE.

The visitors' area was in the open. Metal picnic tables surrounded by a high chain-link fence. It reminded Carr of a grammar-school lunch area. At the tables sat blacks and Chicanos talking with sadly dressed wives. Restless children in T-shirts and tennis shoes wrestled on the yellow grass like bear cubs.

Howard, with a gray crew cut and starched denims, still looked like a cop: stocky, blue-bearded, piercing blue eyes.

During the past year his eyes had seemed to become more deep-set.

Carr sat down. Howard smiled. He began dealing gin rummy, a ritual that had started as a compromise to avoid the hurt of conversation. Howard had nothing to talk about any more, and Carr knew that shop talk, even about the old days, brought a sadness to Howard's eyes.

'I got a letter from my daughter yesterday. She told me about Rico de Fiore.'

Carr hesitated. 'I was his cover. The guy who did it got away from me. He jumped out the motel-room back window.'

'Rico was a sharp kid. He had the touch,' said the prisoner.

Carr nodded. They looked at each other for a moment.

Howard shuffled and dealt the cards. 'Pick up your hand,' he said.

At the end of the hand Carr took a small notebook out of his sports-coat pocket, turned to a fresh page, and recorded the score of the fiftieth game.

'I'm going to Eugene, Oregon, when I get out,' Howard said. 'Lumber-mill job. With the conviction, I figure that's the best I can do. I know I would have beat the rap if I'd gone to trial. Catching her in the sack and all, you know…temporary insanity…But I didn't want to embarrass my daughter with a trial. You can imagine how the press would have played up the whole thing, how it would have looked to her college friends.'

Nothing was said for a long while. Eventually Carr took over as dealer, Howard as scorekeeper.

'Partner, there's something I gotta say,' Howard said. The blue eyes flashed. 'There were rough times in here, particularly the first few months. I had to fight every day. Once, I found out they were going to put ant poison in my chow. I didn't eat until I found out who it was. A big husky guy. I caught him in the yard and kicked his teeth out. Got almost all of 'em.' He hesitated. 'I guess what I'm getting at is that I don't know if I would have made it without the card games. I know I can make it now.'

'Pick up your cards,' Carr said.

'There's something else,' Howard said. 'Since the day I was arrested, you're the only one who's stuck by me, and you've never asked me one question about it. I really appreciate that…But I want you to know. A year ago I walked into my apartment with a few drinks under my belt and my old lady is fucking the next-door neighbor. I killed her because I had my gun on. I was a federal cop and my gun was right there in a holster on my belt. Now I'm in the joint for it…but I'm the same now as I ever was, and like you and everybody else in the whole goddamn world, I'm never going to change…My wife is dead and I'm alive and one year older. It's as simple as that. A set of circumstances.'

A bell sounded. A guard opened a gate in the chain-link fence, and visitors began to depart.

Howard stood up and put the deck of cards in his shirt pocket. They shook hands. 'Drop me a line when you get your transfer orders,' Howard said.

The Treasury field office was located in the stodgy-looking Federal Courthouse on Spring Street, just a few blocks up from L.A.'s skid row. Jack Kelly waited in the technical shop. He gazed out the window.

The view from the field office was clear, up to a point. Things over a half-mile or so away were blurry. Boyle Heights was in haze the color of oatmeal.

Below, on Spring Street, the 'Blue Goose,' a large police van, headed toward the tenderloin. Years ago, when Kelly had been on the force, the old-timers used to make the recruits drive the Goose, to avoid the body lice.

He looked at his watch and sipped coffee. For some reason he thought of the Timmy Fontaine incident.

He remembered being on the duty desk the night a young ponytailed hitchhiker marched into the field office and told him about how she was picked up by a 'Timmy,' who drove her to his Malibu bachelor pad, which had giant stereo speakers.

After she posed for photos in the bedroom, Timmy masturbated while standing over her (Kelly remembered her describing this as being 'far out') and then showed her a suitcase full of phony ten-dollar bills. Probably to show off.

Later, the brass said that before Kelly went to a federal judge and obtained a search warrant, he should have determined who Timmy was. The second-guessers figured that if Kelly had known that young Timmy was the son of the Honorable Augustus Fontaine (D., Calif) he might have handled it differently.

That's where they were wrong. Jack Kelly wouldn't have cared if it had been Prince Charles with the suitcase full of green. He would have done exactly the same thing. Filed the search warrant, knocked on Timmy's door, announced his purpose, kicked Timmy's door down, found the suitcase, and arrested Timmy for possession of funny money, just as though he were any other street punk.

Just that alone would have started a major flap, but it burst into epic proportions when Timmy made the mistake of punching Kelly on the side of his head, during the arrest, breaking a manicured thumb. Kelly counterpunched the unfortunate Timmy on the point of the chin, breaking the attached jaw in two places and causing Timmy's mouth to be wired shut during the trial.

The pressure from above hadn't worked on the judge, and Timmy was sentenced to a year in Lompoc, which Kelly attributed to the fact that the judge had been appointed by a Republican administration.

The honorable congressman got back at them by having one of his old law partners sue Kelly and Uncle Sam in a trumped-up civil-rights and personal-injury case. They even alleged that Kelly broke Timmy's thumb in order to make him talk.

The suit failed, but Kelly ended up in cold storage indexing counterfeit notes and answering calls from bank tellers about what to do if 'In God We Trust' was missing from the reverse of a twenty- dollar bill.

After a year he was offered a chance to return to field duties, but he told the agent-in-charge thanks anyway, but that he got the same pay for pushing a pencil as for cracking heads, and that he preferred to remain behind the desk.

Вы читаете Money Men
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату