Captain Lee and Mr. Black make some shocking discoveries, and Captain Lee calls home to his mother's family for the first time in 27 years -- to lay down the law!
To get totally caught up on The Posture of Innocence, here are the prologue, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 3.5, day 4, day 4.5, day 5, day 5.5, day 6, day 7, day 7.5, day 8, day 9, day 9.5, day 10, day 10.5, day 11, day 11.5, day 12, day 12.5, day 13, day 13.5, day 14, day 15, day 16, day 16.5, day 17, day 18, day 19, day 19.5, day 20, day 20.5, day 21, day 22, day 22.5, day 23, day 23.5, day 24, day 24.5, day 25, day 25.5, day 26, day 26.5, day 27, day 27.5, day 28, day 28.5, day 29, day 29.5, day 30, day 30.5, day 31, day 31.5, day 32, day 32.5, day 33, day 33.5, day 34, day 34.5, day 35, day 35.5, day 36, day 36.5, day 37, day 37.5, day 38, day 38.5, day 39, day 39.5, day 40, day 40.5, and day 41
On to work, and the forgotten computer, because it had still been working at the time Captain Lee had called a halt on getting the sheaf after sheaf of financial records put where they belonged in all the material around the Soames case. The result awaited Captain Lee when he opened it up, and it surprised him. In “trimming” redundancies, the program used had wrapped all of them into looking like small roots, leaving six huge tap roots and a trunk, which itself split into five main branches with plenty of “leaves” – two branches for Pendleton Prison, one for its corrupt inputs and and one for its corrupt outputs; one for all the murders that had been done to get it built, one for all the cold cases that were actually related to those murders, and one for all the improper police actions known to fill that prison up.
“Now that's a tree with a lot of strange fruit,” Mr. Black said, and Captain Lee smiled sadly.
“My grandfather had the record by Billie Holiday,” he said, “and he made me listen to it and explained what it meant. He told me he would throw me off the side of the Blue Ridge himself if ever I became a young man who could lynch any other man just because his skin color was different from mine.”
“Thank God for your grandfather,” Mr. Black said.
“I do, every day,” Captain Lee said. “I am not a racist, at least not so far as I consciously practice, because my grandfather raised me to know right from wrong, and without him or me ever having a profit motive in the wrong.”
“That makes a big difference,” Mr. Black said as he pointed out the data schematic again. “So many here have a profit motive … the roots feed the branches and leaves and the branches and leaves feed the roots.”
Although he did not say so to Mr. Black, Captain Lee was thinking relieved thoughts about another grandparent … the branch of Slocum-Loftons that was his mother and grandmother's branch was not a major player in the matter after all. His mind had magnified their importance quite a bit out of proportion; the data showed it and he admitted to himself how much the old anger had been playing into that. But that was now over. Proper perspective had been restored in time to focus on the major question.
“So, who's the trunk – who keeps all the money flowing back and forth?” Mr. Black asked. “It's a wide trunk, too – lots and lots of money going.”
“Likely an association of some kind – a whole group of people in finance and politics, locally, who have agreed together to do this wicked thing,” Captain Lee said. “I do not think they would be so unwise as to be an official organization that could be tracked, although it would not be impossible for there to be a front organization that holds a number of the necessary individuals. Lieutenant Longstreet left a note to remind me of the golf club where Officer Cadbury played, for one example.”
“Oh, it could be anywhere that y'all's 'good ol' boys' hang out,” Mr. Black said. “I'm sure you know: your people plan and do this kind of evil everywhere.”
“Yes,” Captain Lee said. “I know. Yet it is impossible to track the everywhere. All my lieutenants are out on assignment, seeking data to bring the everywhere into the here, here where we can strangle it, choking out both roots and branches. Meanwhile, with what we have here, there is a second way to proceed: there must be a key liaison between the six family groups that have provided the major funding and the association or organization that is moving the tens of millions of dollars to and fro. These kinds of families do everything based on time-honored relationships, but also in a hands-off fashion. There is a broker somewhere, trusted by the main six and any number of the smaller feeders, a man who may have actually sold the opportunity to a number of the smaller ones on behalf of the bigger ones – notice how symmetrical the old redundancies are when looked at in this view.”
“A unique kind of private placement offer for investment,” Mr. Black said.
“The pattern here and many of the financial records suggest that,” Captain Lee said.
“Surely would be nice to get a copy of that offering document,” Mr. Black said.
“It is being worked on as we speak,” Captain Lee said, “and I will give some personal attention to the matter later. For now, it may be that this liaison is hiding in plain sight, among the common names in both the police data and the data you have provided.”
“Well, let's run a quick sort and see who we both know and how well we know them,” Mr. Black said.
“You took the words right out of my mouth, Mr. Black.”
The sort was done; the two men started with a list of 46 men and narrowed it down to 12.
“We're looking at him,” Captain Lee said. “I know that we are … I do not remember how I know precisely who it is, but he is there.”
“I suppose when you run the question in Data Master, it will give you a 12-tined fork,” Mr. Black said.
“It may eliminate a few tines, based on it instantaneously being able to summon up data from the sets inputted that we are not holding in the front of our minds right now … I was going to do as you suggest anyhow, so we will see.”
Mr. Black watched as Captain Lee set up the tree trunk question in Speculative Mode and input the 12 possibilities, and then hit the button...
“Nine tines,” Mr. Black said.
“Let's see why three are eliminated... Mr. Baylor is in his ninth month of recovering from heart surgery, Mr. Garner is still in Marrakesh on extended vacation, and … Mr. McGee is dead, and has been for seven months.”
“That last one is a really good reason,” said Mr. Black.
“The best and most surefire reason to not get caught up in a criminal conspiracy near you,” Captain Lee said, with a smile.
“So now we have nine – perhaps the phone records your lieutenants are bringing in will help eliminate a few more.”
“Perhaps,” Captain Lee said. “Perhaps not – the old school way would not be to use the phone or any medium that could be intercepted. Which of these nine men visits in and around our main funders the most – simple surveillance should be able to give us an answer just as soon as some folks make bail. In the meantime, I am deeply interested in what comes in regarding the private placement documents –if they are real or just drawn up at whim by the broker?”
“You were off serving the country abroad, so you could not know – Pendleton Prison was largely built on a bond, so there can't be that many real offers out there.”
Captain Lee started.
“We have to look it up – but, I do see where you're headed, and it ain't a pretty place.”
“Let me call Lieutenant Longstreet – he is working a related angle and it would be easy for him to do this for us.”
The call was made, and Lieutenant Longstreet came back with a round figure and added a promise of the exact disposition of the matter shortly. The figure shocked both Captain Lee and Mr. Black.
“There must have been tens of millions of dollars misappropriated even on the neighborhood level,” Mr. Black said as he found a chair. “The larger family groups either have taken their whole contribution to the scheme out of the smaller family groups and pocketed the rest, or, the broker is feathering his own nest.”
Captain Lee considered this for a long moment.
“Either way, Mr. Black, the corruption, and the danger, is bigger than we thought – and if it is the broker, he must be hiding it very well, because he is in danger both ways.”
Lieutenant Longstreet called back with the exact figure, and another tip.
“The prison's funding comes from that big bond measure and institutional investors only,” he said. “There were no official private placement offerings down to the individual investor level.”
“Very good, Lieutenant, and thank you. Come back to headquarters with your data.”
“Yes, sir, I'll be there shortly.”
“So, the whole thing we see here is a ripoff – no wonder there were redundancies highlighted by Morton Data Master.”
“Yes … far more extra money in the system represented by this massive data set than we thought, being skimmed off somewhere. There is no honor among thieves, Mr. Black, and the higher you go among thieves, the less honor. We strain to catch them with the tools they have built into the fabric of this nation – but they will be caught, all the same.”
Mr. Black noticed the hollowness of Captain Lee's voice and eyes at that moment, and was glad he could not see what was in the captain's mind's eye. There were some burdens the survivors of the freed did not have to bear, while the survivors of the slavers did … .
Captain Lee shook off the fiery visions that had plagued him for 27 years, with thanks to God that his Lee grandparents had taken him from his mother's world into their simple, noble life in the Blue Ridge, and that God had led him to Vanessa Morton, and her family, to make his family by marriage. He again registered the sad fact that he remembered neither of his parents – the sadness was that for him, becoming an orphan as a baby was the greatest blessing he had ever received besides being received into the family of God, in Christ.
And then, with a great sigh, he turned away from the computer.
“We must use the nearest way,” he said. “I know someone I can call who has a copy of whatever was given out, and knows by whom.”
“Oh, that's fantastic!” Mr. Black said.
Captain Lee restrained himself from shaking his head. Of course, Mr. Black didn't understand … he did not have the burden of being related to some of the wickedest people on earth. There was no need to burden the private investigator with the knowledge; Captain Lee just dialed the number.
“Good afternoon, Rebecca,” he said gently to the person who picked up the phone. “Captain H.F. Lee of the Big Loft police force, calling for Mr. Alexis Slocum-Lofton, please. Yes, I'll hold … .”
In the background, Mr. Black heard a male voice give a strangled cry: “WHO?”
Another minute, and the owner of that voice came to the phone and said, with the addition of certain obscenities not reproduced here, “What do you want?”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Slocum-Lofton,” Captain Lee said coolly. “Since you know there has been no reason for us to communicate in a loving family way in 27 years, you may be sure this is an official call of the most grave importance, and you had best hear and understand what I am about to say.
“In your possession there is a private placement document, or something very like it, for the building of Pendleton Prison, dating from around 2008, asking for approximately $250,000 in investment. I require a copy of that document, with the name of the person who presented it to you, as part of a multiple-murder investigation I am engaged in. You have precisely one hour to have your secretary either fax me or scan and email a copy of that document in full, with the name of the presenter, before I come with a subpoena and get it.”
More obscenities best not printed here issued from the other end of the phone.
“Mr. Slocum-Lofton, my call to you represents your first, last, and only opportunity to cooperate with this investigation. You do not want me to put you on the list of perpetrators not cooperating.”
After another stream of unprintable obscenities …
“Sir, although you are completely devoid of even a piece of a conscience that is not seared to a fine crisp, you are not unintelligent. Have you, in our sparse and entirely unhappy association as adults, ever known me to bluff? Do you not know of my military record – and what is in the news about my police record?”
“I thought that would be your answer, Mr. Slocum-Lofton. Since you are a man of intelligence, and deeply interested in self-preservation, may I suggest you put Rebecca back on the phone at once so I might give her the fax number and email address? May I further suggest you utilize said contact point of your choosing in 56 minutes and –.”
Captain Lee checked his watch.
“ – 27.5 seconds?”
Mr. Black muffled his laughter as the silence lengthened and then was terminated by a woman saying, “Hello?”
“Hello again, Rebecca,” Captain Lee said, his voice gentle once again. “Are you ready? Here is the fax number … .”
Ten minutes later, it was all done. The document started coming across, but before then, the solution had come into Captain Lee's mind, for he had been told by the Lancasters exactly who was managing the money. With obedience had come clarity …
“ … Oh, Francis handles all those things,” Mrs. Lancaster had said.
“Francis Lofton is our broker!” Mr. Black said happily as he went to the fax machine. “We've got the trunk, Captain Lee – Captain?”
“My apologies,” Captain Lee said, coming to himself with a start. “Mr. Lofton does seem to emerge from the press of possibilities, for the Lancasters, who also are in the redundancies, told me precisely the same thing. We have merely to confirm his presence in the finances of the rest – and Data Master can do that swiftly.”
Sure enough, Francis Lofton popped out everywhere in the data.
“It's like looking at fingerprints all over a murder weapon, and being able to identify whose they are,” Mr. Black said. “Horrible, but beautiful. Trouble is, catching a Lofton can be complex in Virginia, and especially in this county.”
“Not really,” Captain Lee said. “The Loftons have had a split in terms of injustice vs. justice for 170 years – although General Joseph James Lofton did fight for the Confederacy in his last years because he could not bear to see his younger relatives just mowed down, he never budged personally on the question of slavery, and a great number of his nieces and nephews followed his personal example, backed with his inheritance given to them. That infuriated the Loftons left out, but, too bad for them and their clinging to their filthy cause after defeat.
“Among the decent Loftons, later in the line of course, is Judge Joseph Bane Lofton. There will be no trouble at all getting the warrant necessary, as the two sides of the family delight in clipping the wings of the other when they can, and Judge Lofton will love having the upper hand.”
“You know,” Mr. Black said, “I am all of 55 years old, and I am still amazed by the level of sheer treachery and infighting among y'all of that former slaveholding class. No offense meant, of course, Captain Lee.”
“None taken,” Captain Lee said. “The word on all that has been out since 1860, and since I personally have repudiated all of it, even with the loss of relations with three-quarters of my Lee family and all of my Slocum-Lofton relatives, it does not bother me at all. They have crossed their last double-cross with me.”
“I see that the Slocum-Lofton relatives seem to know that,” Mr. Black said.
“They certainly do,” Captain Lee said. “It has been established for 27 years now. You notice it only took Mr. Slocum-Lofton ten minutes to get that information to me. That entire branch of the Slocum-Lofton unions will not sleep as well tonight as we do.”
“Aw, shucks,” Mr. Black said. “Too bad.”
“Indeed,” Captain Lee said. “Many others have lost sleep, and tears, and grief, and years and decades of life, over their wickedness. It is now their turn. I do not envy them the next few days. Meanwhile, you and I might profitably meet Judge Lofton after I have called Commissioner Scott with the good news, and made some notes for the lieutenants to work with upon their imminent return.”