The Twinning Factor
Joseph McGee Private Investigator: Book Seven
McGee Faces A Conundrum
By Carl Douglass
Neurosurgeon Turned Author Writes With Gripping Realism
Jason cradled his iPhone on his chest anxiously awaiting the call from James. The seconds crept by like the passage of months. Sleep was out of the question. He had set out the keys to his car, his wallet, and his boots, on his bedside table ready to go. He went over the plan numerous times until he thought his brain was being scrambled, and he would not be able to think and act as necessary when the time came. 01:30. Really? It had to be almost 04:00 and seemed like it was really past noon. He reassured himself that it was dark. Would it be good to get a head start and to receive James’s text when he was only a block or two from the trafficker house? He decided against that idea because it would only draw unwanted attention to him. He checked his chronometer again. It was 01:33. What was wrong with his watch? He shook it several times, checked the room clock. It was now 01:34. He was sure he would go crazy if he did not gain control over himself.
He got up and made a thermos of coffee and a buttered croissant for himself, and the same for James, except that he added a donut for James’s sweet tooth. 01:46.
For James, the time was flying by, and he was afraid he would not have all the girls out of the house before it started to get light. He was sweating profusely. He had to carry half the girls down the shaky rope ladder and get them into the stinking refrigerator truck. Thankfully, the other half could get down on their own. Ruth Rabinowitz was a great help, and she enlisted twenty-year-old Susan Peterson from somewhere in Utah to assist her. Hardly any sound was made by the now fully committed girls, and no one had ventured into the alley to relieve himself or to transact some illicit business.
He had the girls sound off their names, “Is that everyone? No one left behind?” he whispered to the girls even though the inside of the truck was—for all intents and purposes—sound proof.
Ruth and Susan reported that—so far as they could tell—every kidnapped girl was inside the truck, safe and sound.
“Good. Great, in fact. I have to attend to one more thing; take maybe half an hour, then we will take off like a Nascar racer for better places. Hang on. It’s almost over. You have all been champs.”
He slipped into the night. This time, he went around to the front, checked on the ladies of the night in the front yard and was glad to see them still in their alcohol and chloroform induced sleep. Then, he ran as quietly as possible up and down the stairs and hallways laying down trails of gasoline and thermite [for its intense heat]. He was by now very winded and fatigued. He knew that a lot of that was just from stress, and he smacked himself to get over that unmanly condition.
One last look around, and he lit a roll of newspaper soaked in gasoline into the entryway into the house and instantly had to throw himself out onto the yard to escape the explosion and fireball.
James raced to the truck; and, without bothering to announce his presence took off like a proverbial bat towards the rendezvous point a few blocks away.
As soon as he parked the truck among some old and dying Sycamore trees, he texted Jason: “Done. Come to the place.”
It was now 0355.
Jason forced himself to drive at the speed limit. It was only a few blocks to the rendezvous. He saw the truck waiting. It was backlighted by a huge fire coming from the direction of the Fulton Fish Market. He did not have time to concern himself about that and shelved the matter into the back of his mind for later. Both vehicles drove away from the fire and the Market as quickly as they could. All traffic was coming in the opposite direction including a dozen fire engines and even more cop cars.
The twins waited until it appeared that the 41st precinct had emptied out, then they brazenly marched the now overjoyed young women to the front door of the station house.
“See that officer sitting at the big desk? Walk right in, tell him who you are and what has happened. Tell him that a whole group of masked men in black got you out. You could not even tell whether they were black or white, big or little, fat or skinny; it all happened too fast. Take care. You are very precious to your families.”
The girls started to rush James for hugs and expressions of gratitude, but he held them off, “Time is of the essence. You have to get in and talk to the desk sergeant right away. I wish you health and safety. Take good care of yourselves. You are loved.”
With that, he disappeared into the inky darkness. The twins abandoned the fish truck and their mafia apartment and headed out onto I-80 for the twenty-two-hour 1,350 mile nonstop, trip from New York to Ames, Iowa. Jason’s car was packed with enough extra gas cans that they did not have to stop in a service station and get a record of having done so. They ate sandwiches Jason had prepared beforehand and drank two Diet Cokes a day during the rushed trip.
A week later, Jason received a text from McGee’s Manhattan office requesting that he come to New York “to discuss recent developments.”
James went in Jason’s place because Jason had to see an office full of patients. It was no problem for the twins because they talked everything over ad nauseum to be certain of the past, present, and future, to avoid awkward or even incriminating minor mistakes.
The timing was important–as it turned out. McGee had scheduled every member of his unit of the national task force to a separate thirty-minute meeting. He had gone so far as to ensure that none of the members ran into each other. James recognized what was going on immediately and revved up his brain to meet the challenge.
“Jason, come and take a seat. How are things going?” McGee asked.
It seemed quite awkward to James.
“Fine, no problems. How about you, McGee?”
“Okay, except for lack of progress in taking down traffickers. Too few and far between for my liking.”
“I take it that there is some success, is that right?”
“There is. In fact, that brings us to the reason I asked you to fly out to Manhattan to see me. There was a case here in New York last week. The Bronx, to be exact.
James was a poker player. He gave no tell by his body movements or on his face.
“I’m very curious. Sounds like good news. Tell me about it. It’s no big secret among those of us in the task force is there?”
“Not really. I’ll tell you this. We had good intel about a traffickers’ house in Bronx by the New Fulton Fish Market. We didn’t know for sure, but ten days after our meeting here in this office, some twenty kidnapped girls showed up in the Bronx 41st precinct building and told all about being saved by a bunch of ninjas. No information about the heroes otherwise. That same night, the address we had under suspicion burned to the ground and killed about thirty-five men. A few presumed prostitutes were found in front of the house, all unconscious. The lab proved that they had been chloroformed.”
“Were the shady ladies part of the kidnapping/trafficking ring?”
“Not sure. Probably not. None of them remembered anything after midnight. They talked about drink and drugs, and such, then not waking up until the cops and firefighters carried them out of harm’s way. Every one of them denied knowing anything about young girls, kidnapping, trafficking, or even the names of the johns they served. There was some sort of big party at the house that night. Some kind of monthly thing.”
“Arson, I presume?”
“That’s the obvious thinking. In fact, we know for sure because there was evidence of accelerant residue, and even a burned-up gas can.”
“You sound less than ecstatic, McGee. Do I detect a sour note?”
“More of a sour question, Jason. I have to ask, where were you the night of the fire.”
“A week ago?”
“That’s right. Sorry, but I have to ask everyone. We are the only ones who know about that house, and I don’t believe in coincidences. Someone in our unit used that knowledge.”
“Or someone who supplied us the info. Or maybe those nice gentlemen had inadvertently rubbed someone in their circle of upstanding citizens the wrong way…?
“I know you did not mean to distract me. Where were you that night?”
“I have to say, I rather resent the question; but, I was at a yearly meeting of a group of rather special people from my U of Iowa special graduating class.”
“In what way, special, Jason?”
“Geniuses, and mostly very well-known ones. Got a pen and paper? I’ll give you names, and cell phones for every one of them. I hope that will put an end to my being suspect. It rubs me the wrong way, and I really want to work to stop the traffickers of the world or at least to be a real impediment to them.”
“I’m ready,” McGee said, pen poised.
“I might miss one or two, but here are several I can remember off hand:
There was William James Sidis, a guy in his twenties who had been a freshman at Harvard at age eleven.
Elizabeth Benson, a 12-year-old who was about to enter college whose high school principal said she was twelve going on thirty.
Nathalia Crane, a precocious poet of 12.
Winifred Sackville Stoner, an author, lecturer, and gifted self-publicist, who engineered the party. She even created an organization called the League for Fostering Genius.”
He recited off the telephone numbers and addresses, current occupations, and names and addresses of employers, parents, and university monitors. McGee was appropriately impressed.
“I’ve heard something about William Sidis. He was from New York, wasn’t he?”
“Still is. Lives out on Long Island. He was born here, the child of Russian immigrant parents, both high achievers. His grandfather was a noted psychologist and protégé of the philosopher-psychologist William James. Sidis was named for him.”
“I seem to remember that he was quite the mathematician—wrote some book that no one but him could understand.”
“He’s still around and not all that old. His book is called The Animate and the Inanimate, in which he speculates about the origin of life in the context of thermodynamics. I can tell you from my experiences, that his linguistic skills are the equal to his mathematic ones. I can also tell you from talking to the man that he could read The New York Times at 18 months. By age eight, he had taught himself eight languages–Latin, Greek, French, Russian, German, Hebrew, Turkish, and Armenian. He even invented another one, which he called ‘Vendergood’ that no one but he could understand.”
“I can’t even imagine all of that genius functioning. Geniuses seem almost like aliens to me.”
“I can remember the name of the cabbie who took me to and returned me home from the party and even his cab number.”
James quickly gave the information to McGee; too fast, actually; so, he had to repeat it.
“I’ll check them out. If they confirm your presence at the Waldorf, we can just forget I ever asked and look for someone else in our group.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t jump to conclusions, McGee. We should look at all the angles. From what I’ve heard, instead of making this guy or woman or gang out as criminals, we should throw a ticker-tape parade, give them the key to the city, and a twenty-one gun salute.”
McGee saw to it that Jason–as he supposed–was treated to a very good lunch at the five star Gramercy Tavern on forty-second and twentieth. Jason thought he might just as well go whole hog; he was hungry; so, he started with minestrone, white kale & cabbage salad with hakurei turnips, pecorino and Fresno Dressing, then for the entrée, fried Carolina gold rice, grilled shrimp, delicata squash, and cauliflower, for dessert, his new favorite as of that day, New Amsterdam Dutch apple crumble with cinnamon flavored thick whipped cream.
Jason was sure that he had carried off his end of the interview well and would not be a suspect for anything until or unless something new and more threatening turned up. He knew full well not to underestimate McGee; his reputation had not come out of nowhere. But—if it came to it—he presumed he could fairly easily match wits with the famed private investigator. He determined never to feel or to act smug.
McGee had a lurking doubt about Jason Richter, something he could not reconcile. Maybe he was just trying too hard to pin something on the guy. He did have what the cops call, “MOM” [Motive, Opportunity, and Motive] which should be enough for any court. But there was the obvious deterrent to any thought of an arrest; the man had a watertight alibi from unimpeachable witnesses. Period. McGee was going to have to accept a decision that was one of the most frequent excuses from criminals TOGDI [the other guy did it]. It was painful, but unavoidable. He decided to forget about his whim regarding Jason Richter.