The Book I Wrote: Manifest Destiny Chapter 6
A few days had passed since dinner with Chris, and I became preoccupied with what he might have dug up on my father's case. I tried to keep my mind away from speculating, by fixating on work. I was an accountant for a small New Jersey law firm called Wolfsheim. There were only 2 partners, a couple part time paralegals, and a secretary. I was the youngest in the firm by 15 years. The business was aged, drab, not making much money. But no one gave a damn. The partners hardly landed the big money cases because competing with the large New York firms never worked in our favor. There was never much to do there, so I was pretty liberal with my time off.
As the partners saw it, I could have as much time as I liked. Either I was there, got paid and did little to no work, or I wasn’t there and didn’t get paid and roughly the same amount of work would get done.
For me, it was a perfect fit, relaxed, easy, and the pay was inflated for what I did. Only a year into working for the firm, we landed a huge case, way out of the realm that any lawyer could hope for. There was no way our small outfit was an ideal choice to handle a case of that caliber, but we worked around the clock for months to retain it. Normally, litigation of that caliber would have been handled by a large New York firm, but one of the partners’ friends was the plaintiff in the suit.
The plaintiff was suing a neglectful owner who choose to build new upscale apartment complexs instead of fixing the problems with the old ones. While we poured over testimonials and photo evidence it was alarming how dire the situation was leading up to the disaster. The complex's decrepit state was criminal. Molds, poor pluming, broken fixtures, faulty heating, rat infestation, the complaints and violations went on and on. Most were serious problems, but the gas lines were pressing. At 110 years old they were long past needing replacement and were leaking into the building for months. Despite complaint after complaint, there was never any indication the problem would be fixed. Most tenants couldn't afford to move and were essentially trapped there. After weeks of pleas and demands, the owner so courteously scheduled a repair over the weekend.
Only on the Friday before the lines were to be inspected, and most likely condemned, one of the leaky gas lines led to an explosion in the apartment complex. The blast rocked two apartments on the first floor and one on the second. Both lower units were vacant at the time, but the second floor was not. The apartment that belonged to our plaintiff contained his wife and newborn son. The blast killed the two while he was at work. The preceding fire engulfed the rest of the building, but all other residents were evacuated safely. We won the case but victory wasn’t much of a consolation for the father. I could only begin to imagine losing one’s entire family that way. And though no amount of money could bring them back, we fought for every last cent.
In the end our side settled with Iscariot properties, which had complex's all over the country, for $22 million, 9 of which was commissioned for the firm. Even subtracting the enormous cost of litigating the case, the partners were set, and handed out generous bonuses to the staff. Raises followed that year. I became grossly overpaid, but the owners seemed to care little as we were keeping busy from the publicity generated by the case.
As for the man who lost his family and home. He spent his money traveling the world. He sent us postcards over the years and it seemed as though he tried to put the past behind him. The last postcard was from Sweden, where he informed us he met someone who taught him to love again. It read, “I’ve learned to live with the demons and bury the hate I have for them.”
The phone rattled on its consul, breaking up the monotony of my typically boring day. I reached for the jittery plastic.
“This is Nick Jacobs, accounting at Wolfsheim and company, how many I help you?” A chuckle greeted me at the other end.
“Nick, that you? You sound so official.” It was Chris of course.
"Yah bet your sweet ass it is. What can I do you for?
“Well not so much what you can do, but I got a little update for. Remember I told you I would look into your father’s case"? I put down the invoice I was handling.
"So I did a little digging.” He paused as if looking for a confirmation he should continue. I had my ear pressed tightly against the receiver. What could he have possibly found? The killer!? My silence must have been an invitation to divulge what he found.
“And well, your father was stabbed once in the chest, there did not appear to be a struggle in the house. The only items stolen were cash and your father’s Rolex....” His voice trailed off
“Okay…” I questioned, “Is that all” I felt a mix of impatience and disappointment.
“Hold your horses Nick, gimme a second". He took a moment to collect his thoughts.
"See they investigated this guy called Alvin Dupont. He got busted for a string of robberies in that area. Unfortunately he swore he had nothing to do with the murder, and there was no evidence linking him to the scene. The murder weapon was a kitchen knife, and although there were no usable fingerprints, two different blood types were recovered from the weapon. One, presumably your fathers, and the other unknown, but most likely from the assailant.”
He went on about using DNA analysis on the unknown sample. That he would need DNA from a suspect to run an identification match. Back at the time of the murder DNA hadn't been discovered, but now since it was available, the case could progress. "The technology gave a possibility of finding the assailant.” That last sentence lingering in my ears; ringing as though an echo in a long-abandoned dungeon. There was a chance.
I was hanging on every sentence; my heavy breathing had condensed on my hand. I wiped the moisture on my pants; I was already consumed by the news and the potential to find my father's killer, but in the same token I was also a bit discouraged there were no concrete answers, only leads. My hope rest with this Dupont bum. Either he did it, or hopefully he had useful information to share.
“Where is this Dupont guy now?” I asked.
“Already ahead of you”.
Chris really did his research. “He bounced around prisons for a while, mostly for petty theft. His current stint is at Rikkers.” I could hear his deep inhale from the other end of the line.
"Though Nick, I have a feeling, he didn’t do it. With no history of violence, it’s rare to see someone like him escalate, then de-escalate…, but it’s possible.”
“Well I’ll find out soon enough,” I said.
Chris continued that he could have the lab in New York run the comparison, but he would need five samples to run against for accuracy. He suggested I make a stop at local pharmacy and pick up sample swabs and plastic bags to preserve the DNA. Then with luck and some of my charm, persuade Dupont to volunteer a saliva sample. He paused to enthrall me with his wisdom.
"Now if you can't get the sample with his blessing, don't do anything drastic Nick, there are other avenues”.
Chris offered to volunteer his, his wife's and one of his kids’ for comparison also. Between thanking him profusely he warned me, that I better know what I was doing. He wanted to help me, but would pull the plug if he didn't think my mind was in the right place. I heeded his warning hanging up the phone and pausing a few moments to get my mind in the right place. A minute later, I dialed the number to Rikkers.
After a wait on hold that consumed nearly my entire break time I finally reached a secretary. Posing as an amateur journalist, I asked for an appointment to visit Alvin Dupont. I wanted to ask him questions about his life for an article I was working on. She didn’t seem to care what the excuse, and penned me down for the following Wednesday at 5:00pm. She informed me that Alvin had the right to refuse, but I knew he wouldn't pass up the opportunity to talk about his crimes, and possibly make the paper. I thanked her, putting the phone down, and reclining in my chair to admire the ease in which that was.
Suddenly, another rattling phone call. I answered with my usual introduction, but was Interrupted.
“Hey Nick it’s me again.” Chris was back on the line. “Well I'm a few days behind on the paper, and apparently Nancy Paperman was murdered. I just thought I’d call you about it because if I remember right she was one of the names that kept popping up at your mothers’ nursing home.” He didn’t sound suspicious, and he wasn’t questioning me, but it was worrisome that he even made the call. I couldn’t decipher his angle.
“Oh ya,” I replied, hinting in my voice a vague naivety. Sounding slightly surprised and pausing ever so slightly as to indicate I was searching my memory for the name.
“I think I remember seeing that too...she was the wife of that famous banker?” I don’t know what to think about it, it's pretty sad I guess. I never really bought into her being related to any of that nursing home stuff.”
“Okay, ya of course, I never thought anything like that, I just uh...well really I’m not sure. Guess I just found it interesting and called to tell you about it. Sorry to bother ya bud get back to not working, talk to you soon.” “click.” A deep sigh left me as I settled the phone on its consul and tilted back in my seat. I was certain he suspected nothing, and why would he? With that said Chris was blessed with a type of instinct, part of what made him such a great cop, and it wouldn’t take too many connections to start suspecting something.
Despite those concerns I barely gave the conversation a second thought after my workday. Arriving home from work with carry out Chinese in hand, I saw I had a message on my machine. My sister called, waning to have lunch the next day. I quickly dialed her number and she answered on the first ring.
“Hello?” she asked.
“Hey Mary it’s Nick. How’s it going?” She answered fine, but her tone was delightful and excited. I took her up on her offer for lunch, in which her voice jumped an octave. She was so cheerful and eager I was beginning to wonder what was up. It was rare that my sister and I visited outside of holidays, not because we had any rift between us, but we were never too close. She had even rougher teenage years then I, and battled drug addiction for a stint. After my father died she got help and has been clean ever since. She now was successful, married, and had a son named Will. Her husband was a successful marketing executive and raked in the big money with overseas deals in China. 11 year old Will was quite the kid, and it was a shame I only saw him a few times a year. He had hazel eyes, brown shaggy hair, was slightly on the chubby side and had a personality that could warm even the coldest individual.
She suggested a small cafe down the corner from her house and I obliged. We had eaten there once before, and it wasn’t bad, but it wouldn’t have been my first choice. It’s the kind of place that rich housewife's of the neighborhood frequented. Overpriced and low on options, every menu item sounded unnecessarily fancy. In anticipation of an un-fulfilling meal I planned to grab McDonalds and eat on the way. Before the conversation ended my sister asked if I wanted to join her and Will at the Wild Springs amusement park on Saturday for his birthday.
“Of course that sounds like a blast” I blurted. “I wouldn’t pass up that opportunity.”
“Oh thank you, that would be great! I was worried you wouldn’t want to. Will will be really excited. Nate has a business trip to China, so he can’t make it, plus I’m not much of a roller coaster person, but I thought you would be.” Her inclination was far from the truth. I dreaded the steel traps dating back to my childhood days of visiting the parks with the family. The only way I rode coasters was when my dad coerced me on them. Only then would I venture onto those twisted deathbeds. That was when I was young though and I counted on at least being able to tolerate them, or it would be a long day.
After hanging up the phone, I smiled; my week was shaping up. I then returned my attention to the Chinese food. Sesame chicken, fried rice, and egg foo hung, ohhh how delicious it was. I wondered if Asian people ate like this all the time. They couldn’t, they were usually so skinny. Either way, their food was the heavenly, and I reclined in my cloud. Lazy boy recliner at my back, food on my lap, and reruns of M.A.S.H in front of my eyes. I dozed off shortly after.