The Consubstantial Man
by Edward Ahern
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
Forty-five minutes later, a silver gray Escalade pulled into the lot. Four men got out and walked into the diner. Twenty minutes later the same four men were escorted out in handcuffs and put, two apiece, into back seats. The TV crew had just arrived and, with no access to the diner and no real idea was going on, began filming the squirming men in handcuffs.
When the phone rang, the DEA agent picked it up. “Hello?”
“Is this Hello of Hello and Company? Aren’t you supposed to announce yourself as Agent Sterling of the Incorruptible Agency?”
“Don’t try and goad me; we’ve still got your girlfriend.”
“Oh, yeah, her. Put Bernice on, please.”
The agent balked. “Where is it?”
“Ah, so something’s checked out for you. In good time, once I’ve talked with her. It won’t take long.”
The agent waved Bernice over and held the phone away from her ear so he could listen in.
“Are Crispen’s thugs taken care of?”
“Is agent man breathing heavily on your cheek?”
“Yeah, but he’s an Altoids addict.”
“Good, a conference call. Okay, Mr. Fed, the TV lice have been given Bernice’s name, and warned that you’ll try and kidnap her. I’ve retained a lawyer who’ll be calling Ms. Stanton shortly to make sure that her civil rights aren’t being violated.”
“Yeah, Johnny Beckdahl, that the bail bondsmen use. Okay, a deal’s a deal. You guys agree with the lawyer that Bernice is free to resume her normal activities. He tells me you’ve agreed, in writing, Bernice will tell you where the slimy salvation is.”
“Look, Mr. Witt, don’t make it hard. Turn yourself in, it’ll go easier on you and her.”
“Do they still teach you guys to say that? I don’t think I’ve committed a crime. Thank you for your help with the heavies. Now, please back away from the phone.
“Bernice, is he out of earshot?”
She pressed the phone more tightly to her ear. “Yeah.”
“I buried the Cuervo bottle next to the drain pipe under my trailer. The lawyer will hopefully keep you from being drugged. Keep ‘em dancing for a couple weeks, if you can.”
“Sure. The young guy reeks of stud, should be pleasant.”
Bernice hung up, smiling, and turned to the agents. “I’m going to go talk to the TV crew now. If you stop me, I’ll scream. Thin walls, they’ll hear me fine. Don’t worry, I’m just going to praise you for collaring the four guys. If the phone rings it’ll be my lawyer. Just ask him to hang on a minute till I get back in.”
Frank Witt Dossier, FBI excerpt: On day three of the investigation Mr. Witt’s trailer and its contents were deconstructed into small pieces. The ground underneath was excavated to a depth of five feet. A full bottle was discovered next to the drain pipe but was revealed to contain only alcohol.
Four months later, Bernice was briefing her bartender and wait staff when the bar phone rang. The bartender made a move for the phone, but Bernice waved him off.
“Are you just as nicely packed as ever?”
“You son of a bitch! Abandoning me like that!”
“I hear the diner cash register wore out.”
“Yeah, we’ve been full ever since the arrest: mob groupies and weirdos, and they pay, not like you.”
“Sweetie, listen. The Feds will have this line tapped, so I’m not going to tell them anything they don’t already know. Did you ever get it on with the young stud?”
“Nah, he was too married. You owe me a shot of the good stuff.”
“Something else I’m going to have to welsh on. They’ll pinch me if I try and see you, so we’ll have to have phone sex.” Frankie cleared his throat.
“I thought it out, Bernice. You were right. Giving away the tonic would have not only amputated my future income, it would’ve created competition. I drank it all. It’s done things to me, mostly good, some not.”
“You okay, you liar?”
“Yeah, thanks. I’ve got to finish under their trace time, so listen up. I found a corporate protector that treats me like a medical superhero, uses my flesh and fluids for research and treatment. I’m a self-healing golden goose, providing the company with heaps of money. They also sell bits of me to the government, which keeps the Feds less unhappy.”
“So you guzzled down my shot.”
“Yeah, sorry. But look under the rubber mat for serving drinks. There’s an envelope for you.”
“Wait a sec... Damn, Frankie, that’s really my account?”
“It’s twenty percent, like we said. Deposits every month from an offshore account.” His voice changed: “And if you Feds dick with it, I’ll cut off your supply of me.” His voice softened. “I miss you, sweetie, but some of the weirdos post pictures of you on line, so I can see you’re doing okay.”
Frank Witt Dossier, Joint Task Force excerpt: Bernice Stanton had been kept under tight surveillance for seven months when she eluded operatives and disappeared for two weeks. She returned with a deep total body tan and a cheerful demeanor but no explanation to friends, staff or federal informers as to where she had been. No trace of the liquid or Mr. Witt has thus far been found.
Copyright © 2016 by Edward Ahern