Evil Town, an Excerpt
“You are being too modest. I know your husband leans heavily on you for advice. Therefore, it is important for you to know that we need a man of his integrity in office, which gets back to your contention that he would be the first one to want any irregularities reported. His credentials are impeccable and there is much he and I could do together to keep our state and country prospering. I just need to make sure that you and your husband share my vision.” Bremen leaned forward in his chair. “I understand from Senator Dawkins that you find Washington tiresome.”
Joanna’s eyes widened.
“Ah, I see the light is dawning, Mrs. Caffery. I need your help as an influential adviser to your husband. I need you to advise him to make that run for the Senate.”
“The light isn’t dawning. What the hell is going on here?”
“We have mutual interests, you and I.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” Joanna stood. “And we don’t have mutual anything. My findings will be reported to the proper people at the Department of Justice.”
“By whom? You?”
“By the company, of course, with me acting as its agent.”
“Oh, I doubt that,” Bremen said, pointing Joanna back to the chair. She remained standing. “Richard and Ted understand they would gain little taking that approach. Bremen Enterprises is an important client for K and B. The important client.” Again, the arched eyebrow and slight nod. “Problems for us would spell very serious problems for your firm. Neither Richard nor Ted would want to lose my business, and I would be forced to look for another firm if K and B acted against my interests.”
“They know about all of this?”
Bremen shrugged. “Specifically, no. But they understand the value of keeping a client happy. We have reached understandings in the past. I assured them that you and I could work together. Now, please, give me five more minutes to clarify the situation. You seem confused and this is very important to you.” His blue-gray eyes were flat, cold, and when he pointed to the chair again, Joanna found herself sitting.
“I have always admired the strict code of confidentiality that is respected by your firm.” Bremen lifted the binder off his desk. “Only two copies of the report exist. Mine and the final one you gave to Richard.”
“And yours, of course. Pardon me. I should have said two other copies of the report.”
Joanna could feel herself trembling with anger and fear. She gripped her hands tightly in her lap.
Bremen placed his forearms on his desk. “If you decide not to help us steer your husband in the right direction, I will instruct my own lawyers to take this report to the Justice Department. An option you yourself proposed, only with a slight twist. They will make a show of mea culpas and negotiate the appropriate fines. Those should prove light considering my willingness to make amends. Lighter still when we reveal that you had plans to extort the company for a rather large sum of money in exchange for hiding your findings.”
Joanna shot forward in the chair. “That’s crazy. You’ve got nothing to prove that.”
“I’ve got Richard and Ted,” Bremen replied calmly.
“They’ll never….” The words caught in her throat.
“As I said, we have worked well together in the past.”
“And this is about me getting Clegg to run?”
“Your role does not even have to be that overt, Mrs. Caffery. Presently you are standing in his way. Simply withdraw your objections to remaining in Washington and my guess is your husband will gladly take the plunge.”
Joanna straightened in her chair. “There are a lot of reasons Clegg and I have discussed for not running. But we…he sure as hell wouldn’t be intimidated into it because of some lame blackmail attempt by you. I’m going to take what I know to Justice.”
“Unfortunate. I was so hoping to reach an amicable understanding with you, but every good plan has a fail-safe mechanism. I hate to bring something else into play now. In fact, it was going to be my bridge of understanding with your husband once he was sitting in the Senate. But what the hell, it has a long shelf life.” Bremen jutted his chin forward. “Ask your husband about Co Luy.”
“C-o L-u-y. It is a small hamlet in Vietnam. Your husband spent some time there during the war. I am sure he will recognize the name.”
Joanna stood and walked to the door, where she turned. “I would have expected a more subtle approach.”
“Would that have worked?”
“Of course not, but you’ve proved to be nothing but a common thief.” She opened the door and started through, turned again and pointed at the wall behind Norman Bremen. “You’re going to need every one of those friends by the time I’m finished with you.”
As the door closed, Bremen pushed himself away from his desk and walked to the bookcase. He dragged his hand along the bindings of a row of books as he paced, then pressed against one of the shelves, which swung open revealing a wall safe. He twirled the combination lock and the door released. Bremen lifted out a manila envelope and returned to his desk, where he pressed the intercom button on his phone. “Moira, please ask Mr. Squier to step in here, will you?”
As Bremen sat down in his chair and swiveled it toward the windows, a large, thick man entered the office. He carried himself with authority and stopped next to the chair where Joanna had been sitting.
“Mr. Squier?” Bremen’s voice was strained, his eyes focused on the darkness outside. “I think it would be a good idea for you to pay Mrs. Clegg Caffery a visit at home this evening. She should be headed there now and will be alone. You will not be interrupted. The House has an extended session tonight.”
Bremen swiveled in his chair and extended the manila envelope toward Squier. “There are some photographs in here. Ask her to review them, please.”
“No, please bring the photographs back with you,” he said, only then releasing the envelope.
Bremen added, “She will have a black binder like this one.“ He indicated the one on his desk. “Bring that back with you as well.”