From what we could piece together it seemed like Patterson had a hold over both Linda and Le Chef. Maybe a criminal record, maybe a drug bust, or maybe Homeland Security had been sniffing around.
I had downloaded all the evidence from my camera onto Janet’s new laptop and printed the contents. We were looking at Linda’s bank statements, but I was still puzzled. ‘These don’t add up. How did Patterson get his hands on the money in Linda’s account?’
Janet smiled. ‘Oh, he was smart all right. Fifty big ones every month would stand out.’
She pointed to several smaller payments. ‘These regular ones … Patterson’s cover names … a few thousand bucks going out of her account each week into each one wouldn’t be noticed.’ She laughed. ‘Linda had a love of fine clothes, shoes and jewelry … and Van Grossman is a billionaire. Provided he could keep his reputation intact, fifty big ones would be chump change to him.’
‘I’ve subpoenaed Patterson’s bank account,’ said Jameson, smiling at Janet. ‘Legally.’
He laughed when Janet waved a few copy sheets at me. ‘I’m sure the statements will match.’
So I was in the clear, pending the DA’s assent. I breathed a sigh of relief, but I still had one question unanswered. Where it all started to go wrong for me.
‘Why did Patterson have Linda killed?’
Janet smiled again. ‘I think he was making one last play for the really big money. A movie of you and Linda high on cocaine, both naked in the mansion, and clearly living the good life would have destroyed Van Grossman.’ She coughed, reached out a hand, and took a sip of water from her glass; waved at me to keep quiet.
‘I think that Linda was forced into a corner; maybe she rebelled, threatened to come clean. She was just a loose end as far as Patterson was concerned.’
A loose end. Just like the others.
And I had been the fall guy.
Janet was on a roll. Her speech had improved, and she looked good, even with part of her head shaved; a titanium plate inside her skull.
‘Linda’s death changed everything. Van Grossman must have been mad as hell. Even if Patterson threatened to expose him, he would have done anything to bring him down. Stern got involved, but it all went wrong for him when Patterson found out you had the evidence, and not me.’
I stared at Janet.
It was my mistake. Did I tell Patterson, or did he guess?
I needed to clear my head. It was a sunny day outside, and my new Sweet Spot board was waiting for me at Sandy’s bar. I was itching to try it out now that doctors had given me the all-clear. I shuffled up the documents and put them back in the envelope and handed it to Jameson.
‘All yours, counselor.’
But I still had one more thing to do before I could paddle my board towards the big breakers. I walked down the corridor to the next room, opened the door, and poked my head inside. I heard a familiar voice.
‘How you doing, brah?’
Smokin’ Joe had one leg trussed up in plaster, but that toothy grin was in place, minus a few. I moved up to his bedside and gave him a high five. ‘Tell me about it one more time,’ I said, resigning myself to a long bout.
Smokin’ Joe’s grin became wider. ‘Those goons knew chicken-shit. No cuffs been built that can hold me when I get mad. I snapped ‘em while the two were at the back of the Chevy pushing it towards the cliff edge. When it began to topple I was out of the side, just like ducking through the ropes, but I slipped on a rock and fell nigh on sixty feet. Bushes on a ledge broke my fall, and I just lay there, winded with my leg busted.’
I held back a chuckle. First time he’d fallen twenty feet, second time it was forty.
‘At night, being black and wearing black, I was invisible, save for the white of my eyes, and I didn’t look up, brah, until I heard cars move on out.’
He skipped over the bit where he tried to get up and nearly fell off the ledge, but I just nodded in sympathy.
‘A dog found me at first light. The owner called out the fire department, and my ass was hauled out of there sweet as a nut, brah.’
We talked some more – mostly about Patterson, who was facing a twenty year stretch and Van Grossman who had compensated me with enough bucks to replenish my bankroll.
I gave a good part of it to the trust fund at the Kona Community Hospital for saving Janet’s life. Two weeks later she was out of hospital and back working. She even offered me a new job – she needed a legman, and I would be perfect
I’ll think about it, I had said.
‘Set ‘em up, Sandy … and one for the kid,’ said the fat one.
I gazed around Sandy’s bar, an empty Bud bottle beside me. Two gays were eyeing me up – a thin one with a hooked nose, and the fat one wearing an outsize shirt with a picture of a shark on the front. He grinned at me, extended a manicured hand. I could smell a mixture of his sweat and classy cologne wafting closer.
‘Hi kid. Want to fuck around…?’
PS. ‘You want to know where I hid the camera? Wrapped up snug as a bug in the freezer with Clarissa.’
Exhibit A at Patterson’s trial.