Back in my office I considered what I had learned. My former boss, Duke Fararra, the owner of the agency where I’d trained to be a P.I., taught me that sometimes you had to kick the tires to dislodge the rust. I was going do that, metaphorically. On the main floor of my building was a small print shop where one could do some typing and mailing. I used an old portable typewriter they had lying around to compose a brief letter in which I explained I had some information the letter’s recipient needed. For a fee, I’d provide it. The information I had. I could have done the letter on my computer, but I wasn’t good with it for things like this. Besides, I wanted a deliberately low-tech appearance.
I typed that the information was about the recently dead Augustus Molinaro. I suggested they call my representative, detective Sean Sean, and I put in my office telephone number. I signed it, Martin Levy. I addressed it to the Elite Agency in Edina. I didn’t wear gloves, and I didn’t care about other traces I might leave since I just wanted to see if I could break something loose. Rattle a cage or two, so to speak.
Elite knew where my office was, and they knew where I lived. So I mailed the letter and went home. The next morning, after a peaceful night with my cats, a delicious steak and baked potato, and Yo-Yo Ma on the stereo, I sat down at my home computer, a nice, state of the art Dell, and Googled up Mr. Augustus Molinaro. I spent a couple of hours wandering the Internet dipping into various government and media sites, collecting bits and pieces on Don Molinaro. Some of this research had been done before and by others. But I was looking with a different eye. I wasn’t just collecting information, I was looking for clues. I was searching for something like a loose thread I could pluck out of the fabric of this event. What I assembled gave me some clues as to what might be going on. Molinaro came out of a Boston family. He spent some time in New York and then went off to Pennsylvania. I got the impression he was kind of a visiting fireman, or maybe a trusted liaison. In any case, he settled down in Mechanicsburg where he then rose steadily through the ranks to become a kingpin of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mafia.
Mechanicsburg is a small place, essentially a western suburb of Harrisburg in east-central Pennsylvania. It’s on the Susquehanna River. Which wanders through the Tuscarora and Appalachian mountains on its way to Chesapeake Bay. Pretty country out that way. Why is it important? If you drive north along the river a few hours you come up to Milton. It’s an easy scenic sort of drive with the White Deer Ridge rising ahead. You’ll see signs for the town of White Deer and another place called Allenwood. Allenwood has seen a lot of mobsters and other assorted criminals over the years. It’s the site of a large federal prison complex. One of the biggest in the federal prison system. So Mechanicsburg isn’t such a bad place to be headquartered if you function as a kind of inside/outside liaison. And you might acquire a lot of juicy secrets. And if you were a careful Don Augustus Molinaro—greasy Gus—after a while you might just become a liability. Or not. I was going to find out, hopefully not by traveling to Pennsylvania. There was a surprising amount of information, both official and not so official, about Allenwood on the Internet. There wasn’t a floor plan of course, and the maps were a little short on exactitude. So I called the Bureau of Prisons. Yes, under certain guidelines and under the rules for particular prisoners, almost anyone could visit almost any prisoner. If said prisoner agreed.
Now, in spite of what they tell you about security, information flows back and forth. So does contraband. I was getting an idea that just maybe Don Molinaro was targeted for past actions or indiscretions which may have only come to light in recent times. If that were true, knowing what changes had occurred could lead me to the why of the bomb. From there it could be an easy step to the who of it. So the question of the moment became what sorts of information and other illegal goods might the good Don have been handling? I would find out. I went to my office and checked the roof across the street. It was empty. I checked the street. No ice-blue late model Audis in sight. I ran my new blinds up and down a couple of times. Nice and smooth. The telephone rang.
It was my cop friend, Ricardo Simon. “How’s tricks, dude?” he asked. “Okay. I’m still a little jumpy, as you can imagine. Any information for me?” “Not on the Molinaro thing. I’m calling because we got a notification that Mrs. Higgins has been released.” “What, probation?” “Yeah. Good behavior. Thought you’d want to know.” “I appreciate the heads up, but I didn’t take her daughter’s threat seriously, did you?” “Nope. Just wanted you to know,” he said. “Is she staying in town?” “Oh, sure. Her listed address is their place on the south side.” “Thanks. Let’s have dinner one day.” “On you. Take care, Sean.” Simon hung up the phone. Mrs. Higgins. Huh. I’d been instrumental in getting her put away back a couple of years. She’d had an accident on the job at some insurance company. Figured she knew enough to stiff the company for a whole lot of money. Nice older lady, until you got in her way. Then she could turn nasty. I followed her around for a while and discovered her back and hip problems weren’t anywhere near as bad as she and her doctor said they were. I’d testified in court that my pictures and video of her cavorting in the water at Hidden Lake were true and unedited. I guess it didn’t help that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Anyway, when the jury convicted her, she stood up in court and called me some names in most unfortunate language, concluding as the bailiffs muffled her that she’d get me.
I hung up and went to the bathroom. When I got back to my office, the message light was blinking so I played the recording. There was only one call, from Blanche at the retirement home. “Hey, sonny,” she said. “Good recording on your answer machine. Get your buns out here as soon as you can. I got some intelligence for you.” Uh oh. If these imperative calls became a frequent pattern, Blanche could get to be a nuisance. On the other hand, she might have something significant for me. I decided to compromise with myself. I’d go over to Sheltering Limbs tomorrow morning on my way into the city from home, instead of right now...