James Dolan had insisted that Piccolo and Tillitson come out to his house in New Redding for the meeting they had called for. “If we’re going to talk about the lake, why not be looking at it instead of the four walls in some meeting room,” he had said over the phone.
Piccolo knew the house having seen it from afar. The twelve room mansion stood on a high hill looking down on Arrowhead. Any boat near the middle of the lake had a view of it, perched above the tallest trees.
Now Piccolo and Tillitson sat out on Dolan’s patio amidst the spectacular view. They both drank ice tea while Dolan had a martini. “You boys may be on the job, but retirement has its privileges,” he said raising his glass.
Piccolo smiled. If Dolan was losing millions in Norton stock it wasn’t showing. He had just finished a game of tennis on his private court, and the house up close was more impressive than Piccolo had imagined. The side facing the lake was almost all glass and he could see that the furnishings inside were nothing short of lavish.
Dolan himself looked very relaxed dressed in his tennis clothes with reflecting sunglasses that Piccolo hated. He wanted to see people’s eyes.
“So what do I owe this visit to?” Dolan asked getting down to business. Piccolo hadn’t volunteered any reason for the meeting in his phone call, except to say they wanted to share where they were in the investigation with him.
“We still haven’t found the shark,” Piccolo said, “or figured out how it got into the lake, so we’re concentrating on why someone would have put it in there and what their motive might be. We’re hoping that’ll lead to a suspect.”
“You’re not looking at me as a suspect I hope,” Dolan said with a cynical smile.
“No we aren’t,” Piccolo said quickly dismissing the idea, “But we think you and your company may be the intended victim of all this.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Because many people are losing value on their homes, but you and your company are losing more than anybody,” Tillitson said bluntly. “You’ve lost more in land value and your stock is falling every day. We think someone may be out to bring down both you and Norton Utilities.”
Dolan put his glass on the table.
“And who do you think that might be?” His hands were folded across his chest now as if to dare that anyone might think he had enemies.
“That’s what we came here to ask you,” Piccolo said, trying to sound a little less intimidating than Tillitson. “Is there anyone you think might want to hurt you or your company financially? Maybe a competitor, past or even present. Or a disgruntled former employee. In fact anyone you can think of who might fit the bill.”
“Gentlemen,” he said as if addressing a gathering before him, “I’ve done nothing but good throughout my career. I’ve gotten involved with the community, served on Marbury’s board of education, and helped the youth of the city. In business, I’ve always been fair, promoting from within wherever possible. My employees seldom left Norton and many worked there all their lives. As far as my competitors are concerned, I have respect for them and I think the feeling is mutual. Hell, I’ve known some of them socially for years.”
Tillitson could see what Piccolo meant when he said Dolan was a proud man. But they hadn’t come here to hear him pat himself on the back.
“We know of your service to the community and your commitment to your employees, Mr. Dolan,” Tillitson said, “but people in your position often leave others jealous. Or you might just have offended them without even knowing it.”
“Not me,” Dolan countered. “I’ve always been on the up and up. People always knew where Jim Dolan was coming from. I was direct without pulling any punches and that has always served me well.” He picked up his glass and took a drink. Tillitson thought it looked like a toast to his life.
Piccolo could see it was going to be difficult to get Dolan to admit any flaw or enemy, at least directly. So he switched to a different tack.
“Let’s talk a little about the lake,” he said gesturing to the beautiful view behind Dolan. “Tell us about how you got the idea for it and how you created it.”
Dolan’s reaction to the question was immediate. He smiled and turned in his chair slightly so he could see the view.
“You know I never would have thought of it if it hadn’t been for my wife Lucille,” he said. “It was forty five years ago and we were living in Marbury. She knew I loved to fly, so for my birthday she gave me a gift certificate for a one hour flight from Marbury Airport. They strapped me in the co-pilot seat of this little Cessna and the pilot took me for a ride over Maplewood Valley. Well in those days it was nothing but farmland surrounded by beautiful hills. There were houses here and there and roads winding through the valley. Also a couple of ponds, one large enough to have a small wooden bridge over it to get here to New Redding.”
He paused for a moment recalling more of the details.
“The pilot flew over the whole length of the valley and then turned to come back. On the way I noticed the Pawcatuck River flowing parallel with the valley and our relay power plant in New Haddam. I also saw two reservoirs over the mountains in New York State that I knew had been man made in the twenties.
“Well the plane landed and it wasn’t until my feet were back on the ground that the idea hit me. Why not flood the valley and create a lake that could also serve as hydroelectric power for the New Haddam plant.
“When I got home I got out a map of the whole valley and drew the shape of what a lake would look like if it were flooded. And you know when the surveyors finished their work a year later it was pretty damn close to what I had drawn.”
“So how did you go about purchasing all that land in the valley?” Piccolo asked encouraging Dolan to go on with the story. He didn’t know where it might lead in terms of finding someone with a motive but what the hell, at least it was information about the lake.
“That was the hard part. First of all I had to convince Norton’s board of the idea. The cost would be high, but I did my homework. I had engineers determine how much water the valley would hold and roughly what that would mean in terms of dollars worth of generating power. It turned out to be a lot and that convinced the board to go ahead with the project.”
“So you had to go out and buy the property from the farmers?” Tillitson asked rhetorically.
“Yes and we offered up to three hundred an acre which was a lot of money then. Some of those farmers made out very well.”
“And everybody sold?” Piccolo asked.
“Right down to the last one. After that we set out razing every building, cutting down telephone poles and tall trees. We had bulldozers and trucks working for weeks. Three dams were built, along with the aqueduct to the New Haddam plant. That took two and a half years. Then on August eighth, nineteen sixty nine we started pumping water up through the aqueduct from the Pawcatuck and flooded the valley. Took almost a month to get it up to full level. Six million, seven hundred and fifty eight thousand gallons.
“Every few days I used to drive up Chilton Road from New Haddam which took you up high over the lake to see how much the water had risen. I gotta tell you, it was something to see. What had once been a beautiful valley had turned into an even more beautiful lake.”
“Yeah it sure is pretty,” Tillitson said, “and now we have a shark in it ruining the whole thing.”
Dolan looked at him like he had poured oil into a fresh glass of water. “Yes, I’m afraid that’s so and you think that someone has done it to destroy both me and Norton Utilities?”
“Right now, that’s our feeling,” Piccolo said. He paused for a moment and then continued. “We understand that you had a conversation with Sally Benson relating to the possible sale of Norton lakeside property. Is that correct?”
“Yes, I wanted to get an idea of what the current price per acre would be and if her client, who’s been buying up practically all residential properties for sale was interested.”
“And was he?”
“And do you know why?”
“Ms Benson said he felt residential property had better resale value if and when the situation on the lake returns to normal.”
“What did she say Norton’s land was worth?”
“About forty percent less than three months ago.”
“Before the shark.”
“Do you know who the client that’s buying up all the lake property is?”
Dolan put his drink down. He was paying strict attention now.
“It’s someone hiding behind a numbered account in a bank in Switzerland,” Piccolo said bluntly.
There was a puzzled look on Dolan’s face.
“This anonymous numbered account has currently spent over forty million dollars buying real estate through Benson & Stanley, yet…” Piccolo said pointing his finger toward Dolan, “he refuses to buy any of Norton’s land and as a result Norton’s stock falls dramatically almost every day. Now what does that tell you?”
When Dolan didn’t answer, Tillitson did.
“The guy, whoever he is, is trying to bring you and Norton down.”
The thought had obviously crossed Dolan’s mind. But hearing it directly from Piccolo and Tillitson made it even more credible. Also, the fact that it was a numbered account with seemingly unlimited funds made it even more ominous.
“So if you have any idea who this person could be, it would be helpful to us,” he heard Piccolo say. “Sally Benson doesn’t know who he is, the Swiss aren’t going to say and by law they don’t have to unless we can tie him to a criminal act. So far we can’t. So we need you to think of who could possibly want to destroy you and Norton financially.”
“I don’t know,” Dolan said shrugging his shoulders. “Like I said, I’ve always been on the up and up. I just don’t know.”
“Well you need to think about it, and hard,” Tillitson said. “Nobody’s perfect Mr. Dolan. Everybody has a few enemies in their life, people who are jealous or just out to get them. You’re a powerful guy. Along the way up you must have stepped on a few people’s toes.”
“Not anyone I can think of,” Dolan said taking the last sip of his drink.
Piccolo heard resignation in his voice. The last ten minutes had told him something about Dolan. He may have a tough exterior, but it was only a thin veneer. Underneath was a guy who truly loved the lake he had created. The question remained though, was he being honest about there not being any skeletons in his closet? Was he really someone without any enemies at all?
Dolan knew he had one. It happened over forty five years ago but he wasn’t going to dredge it up again. He had taken great pains then to cover up the whole incident. There was no need to stir it up again. Besides, whoever was behind this numbered account had millions of dollars.
Far more than the man he had betrayed.
Georgetown, The Cayman Islands
A vice-president of the Grand Cayman Bank Ltd. watched as a fax machine printed out a wire transfer from a U.S. bank. As usual the transfer was in the amount of twenty million dollars, the second inside of a month.
Instructions on the transfer indicated that the money was to remain in the Cayman account for the required twenty-four hours where it would then be transferred by wire again to numbered account 1537-92939-T with Union Suisse in Zurich, Switzerland.
The Cayman official checked the signature against one on file and found they matched. Everything was in order.
He entered the data into his computer that would automatically make the transfer to Union Suisse once the required time had elapsed. His only other duty now was to contact the issuing bank to verify that he had received their transfer.
The issuing bank was in Greenwich, Connecticut. The money that Benson & Stanley would ultimately receive via Switzerland had been deposited in a bank just two miles away from them.
Other ebooks by Bob Neidhardt are
Kill The Author, Mr. Best Selling Author and Tarnished Bronze.
All are available on Amazon.com.