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OPERATION TRIKKENSCHWINDLE

“Hey, that horse is eating my bra,” screamed the man.

By Jack NanuqPublished 3 years ago 15 min read
OPERATION TRIKKENSCHWINDLE
Photo by Cameron Smith on Unsplash

“Hey, that horse is eating my bra,” screamed the man.

“It’s not a horse silly, that’s a mule, his name’s Blue,” responded the child.

The animal, more gray than blue looked up from his snack. Black licorice-like fabric hung from both sides of its mouth, well lubricated and sudsy with mule spit. The fabric had formally been attached to the front of a bright red sports car. It had once formed a protective barrier between the grill and road debris. In the lexicon of car buffs it was known as a bra. Half of it was missing and now resembled an eye patch.

“I don’t give a damn what his name is, get it away from my car, that’s a Lamborghini Diablo!”

“Whoa Mister, that’s no way to talk to my granddaughter.” The older man was sick and frail but waved a cow cane menacingly.

“Sorry sir…it’s just…it’s just that’s my baby and I paid a lot of money for it.”

“I’ll write you a check, to cover the damage. Bunny, you take Blue back to the barn and make sure he stays there.”

“Okay Poppi,” she acknowledged as she waved a rapidly melting creamsicle toward the animal. Orange and white streaks leaked down her fingers and dotted the ground. She held out the treat and the animal followed her to the barn.

The old man grinned and then turned to the younger man. “I’m right sorry about that son; Blue is a bit of a Houdini…is always escaping. I can’t reckon what possessed him to chew on your car. I’ll cover the damage.”

The younger man took in the surroundings. They were standing on the porch of an old farm house. The house and farm had clearly seen better days. There was no indication the older man could write a check to cover more than a cup of coffee.

“No that’s okay, I’ll take care of it. You have enough to consider. Please think about my proposal.”

***

Michael Hale’s car turned onto Route 11 and headed south to Philadelphia. A torn piece of fabric kept waving in the wind. It was right in the middle of his view, and he wondered if the world was giving him the finger. He returned the gesture and replayed the meeting in his head.

“Call office” he spoke to his Blue Tooth and a few seconds later a voice came from the speaker; “Hale and Company, oh afternoon boss.”

“Amy, tell me again what we know about the Adams property and Old Man Adams.”

“Not much to tell, really…As for finances; he has a pension from the Dept of Agriculture, Social Security benefits, some mutual funds and royalties from a small gas well that sits on the property. The well is almost played out and the royalty checks barely cover his property taxes. The farm is a little over 800 acres and used to house race horses. It’s been in his family about 30 years. He is a widower, raising his 10-year old granddaughter Bonnie and dying of cancer. How’d the meeting go?”

“Not as planned, maybe things will shake out later. I’ll be back in a few hours, take the rest of the day off.”

Michael Hale thought about Fred Adams and the young girl. He had offered the old man 8-million dollars for the property and Adams never even blinked. The old man just said, “I’ll have to think about it.” Hale hated those words, as if a high school sweetheart had just told him, “Let’s be friends.”

He had trotted out his entire Dog and Pony Show. Brochures and paperwork showed the property converted into a Bed & Breakfast destination resort. He assured the old man that the integrity of the horse farm would be protected. The resort would provide jobs to locals and enhance the economy. He also inferred he knew the man was sick and a trust fund could be set up for his only living heir. The man had just nodded his headed and kept saying this is a lot to take in.

Three hours later Michael Hale walked through the maze of cubicles that led to his conference room. The area was as quiet as a morgue. A desk clock read 6:47 p.m., all the staff had left and none of the cleaning crew had arrived yet. Five impatient men were waiting for him inside the conference room. All were hard-edged and some wore guns. Satellite images and maps were scattered across a huge table.

“Gentleman, we need to talk”. He then told the group about his meeting with Adams. “Maybe we should just burn them out”, volunteered one of the visitors.

“Relax… let the geezer digest the offer. He’s sitting on about 200-million dollars in natural gas, but he doesn’t know it. We don’t need that much attention. We’ll just let him think about how his farm is gonna be a quaint little resort. We need him to buy that story.”

The Torch spoke again. “Are you sure about that estimate? We got a lot of Syndicate money riding on this deal.”

“Yeah, I am; everyone in Carbondale is cashing in on this fracking boom. This time next year we’ll be sitting on a pile of money. And the best part about is it will take 30 years to drain all the gas. All we have to do is sink a well and we’ll be living on easy street.”

“Just because you say it with conviction doesn’t mean shit to me.”

Michael’s brother Donald then ushered the men out. When they were gone Don turned to his younger brother.

“What’s it gonna take to close this deal? Those boys are jumpy. Do you think we should tell Grandpa about our deal?”

“No way! Not until the checks start rolling in. Then we’ll show him that more than one Hale can make a fortune in gas. Relax; let Adams sleep on our proposal, he doesn’t have many options and he knows it.

“I don’t know, I don’t like those guys. They aren’t someone to mess around with. If this thing goes sideways my kids are without a dad.”

“I got this, stop worrying. Nothin’s gonna go wrong. You just go back to your bank and make sure the money is there when we need it.”

“Don’t I always.”

*** .

Fred Adams sat in his kitchen. The brochures littered the table, but his attention was focused on a square of black fabric. The Cordera was stained with orange and white streaks. He snickered as he thought about Bonnie’s little prank. Adams then pulled out his iPad and googled Hale and Co. Various articles told how they were a real estate development group. A handful of articles described Michael Hale as a self-made man. One article told of how he had cut most ties to his family; a family that had made a fortune in oil and gas. Another article told of how at 35 years of age Michael Hale was Philadelphia’s most eligible bachelor. A photo showed him standing next to his beloved car. Fred fiddled with his chemo port as he continued the research.

He was bothered by something. Why someone would want to develop a resort in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, USA? Not exactly the French Riviera. The only real development was the current natural gas boom. Carbondale sat in the middle of what the locals called Frack Central. Hydraulic Fracturing was his area of expertise, but this was a closely guarded secret.

“Bunny, come in here, we need to talk”. Her real name was Bonnie but since she was cute as a button and always hopping around everyone called her Bunny.

“Coming Poppi.”

An hour later Fred had laid out everything that had been discussed with the stranger. The child was only 10 but wise beyond her years. Both her mother and grandmother had died more than five years earlier and she had grown up fast. It was a shame that she had to become an old soul. But this had facilitated a unique bond with the older man.

When Adams was sure his Bonnie understood the big picture he changed the subject. “You got to promise me one more thing.”

“What is it?”

“The next time Mr. Hale pays us a visit, you can’t paint his car with your Popsicle.”

“It was a Creamsicle.”

“You know what I mean. I admit it was funny but we shouldn’t agitate him needlessly. I’m feelin kinda nauseas. How about you make some of my special brownies?”

“Sure, can I have some ice cream?”

“I think you’ve had enough ice cream for one day; how about some apple pie?”

“Okay.”

“While you make the brownies, I’m gonna make some phone calls.

Three rings later a woman answered the phone. “Sierra Club of Central Pennsylvania, how can I help you?”

“Is Maggie Wemmberg in, it’s Fred Adams?”

“Please hold.”

“Uncle Fred, how are you doing?”

“I’ve been better. How about you, the kids, Larry? Is he still chasing bad guys?”

“We’re fine, Larry’s a SAC now and spends too much time behind a desk.”

“What a sack?”

“Special Agent in Charge, he got the promotion about a month ago and now he’s a glorified paper pusher. He misses the field and wants something he can sink his teeth into. He’s driving me crazy.”

“How about I offer you guys a little distraction? Any chance you could come up this weekend? You can bring the boys.”

“Sure… Is everything okay, is Bunny okay?”

“She’s fine, growing like a weed. I wish she had more playmates her own age, but she’s fine. We’ve had a little development and I’d like to run it by you. It’s a bit complicated to discuss on the phone.”

“Are you sure everything’s okay, we could come up this evening?”

“No…no, everything’s fine, it can wait until the weekend.”

“Alright, see you on Saturday, at noon. Take care Fred.”

“Roger that.”

***

Maggie hung up the phone and thought about Fred. He wasn’t really her uncle, but he was as close to family as one could be. Fred and his wife, Julie, were like a second set of parents when she was young. Her parents and the Adams live next door to each other in Georgetown. She spent as much time at their home as she did at her own. She now only saw Fred around the holidays. It was a shame because she knew he was sick. Her twins were Bunny’s age and the kids always had a great time when they got together. She then called Larry and told him about the trip this weekend.

“It’ll be good to see Fred again,” Larry told her.

***

Two nights later, on their way back to Harrisburg, Maggie turned toward the rear seat. Both boys were sleeping soundly; Bunny had run them ragged. She then turned toward Larry.

“This is a lot to take in, what do you think?”

“I know we can do it, and we owe it to Fred. It’ll be fine, everything will be fine. I’m honored he wants us to adopt Bonnie. But I’m bothered with being responsible for 8 million bucks in in the Cayman Islands.”

“Don’t worry, it’s not a tax dodge, it’s just a hiding place. I thought you understood,” Maggie said.

“Yeah, yeah, I know Fred told me to pay all the taxes, it’s just…it’s just a lot of money.”

***

Two days later Michael Hale woke to a ring tone. He disentangled himself from a nameless blonde and grabbed for the phone. He glanced at the readout but didn’t recognize the number. The clock read 8:55. “Hello?”

“Mr. Hale, Peter Schwartz here, I represent Fred Adams. Do you have a minute, am I calling too early.”

“No, no, not too early at all; what can I do for you?”

“I’ve taken a careful look at your proposal and I discussed it at length with Mr. Adams. He feels the offer is fair but he would like one concession. It’s a little thing really.”

“What’s that?” Grimacing visibly.

“He likes the closing date of August 1st, but he’d like to remain in the house for 30 days after that. As you know he’s sick and doesn’t think he can be moved out before then.”

“I understand, we can agree to that. Is that everything?”

“That’s it, I’ll overnight the documents to your office. Have a good day.”

“You too.”

***

On August 31st, Michael Hale pulled into the driveway of his newest possession. There were a number of cars present but no moving van. The front door was open and Hale knocked on the frame as he walked through. A group of people turned in his direction, as he entered. The mood was festive but everyone stopped when Hale came in to view.

Fred Adams was sitting at the dining room table with a stack of photo albums, and a plate of brownies. “Mr. Hale come in, we were just talking about old times. I’ve got some photos you might be interested in; come sit down.”

Hale had a sickening feeling as he took a chair. Nothing had been moved and the house was exactly as he found it on his first visit. “Mr. Adams, what’s going on, I thought today was moving day?”

“Oh, we’ll get too that, just humor me a bit. Here have a brownie. Someone…someone get Mr. Hale a cup of coffee. Make it an Irish coffee.”

Hale occupied the time by nibbling on a brownie. The treat was tasty with a hint of an herb. He washed down the snack with coffee that was half Jameson’s.

Adams opened an album with the Marine Corp logo on the front. The first page held Polaroids of a young Adams in Viet Nam. “Here take a look at this photo and see if you recognize anyone.”

“Is that you with the machine gun?”

“Sure is, Khe Sahn 1968. You recognize the guy standing next to me.”

“He looks familiar…Where’s this going?”

“That’s your grandfather dumb ass. Burton Hale, now one of the richest men in the world; CEO of Burton Hale Limited, the largest oil and gas distributor on the planet. He’s a big shot now but you know that. Back then he was a ground pounder grunt, like the rest of us.”

Adams then opened another album. The photos were newer and glossier. The cars in the background were mid to late 70’s models. One photo showed Adams and old Man Hale in front of Langley, CIA Headquarters.

“We could have gotten into a lot of trouble had we been caught taking this picture”. “After college we both went to work for the Agency. Not exactly James Bond type stuff but clandestine, nonetheless. I was a geophysicist and your grandfather, a petroleum engineer. That was an interesting time, with the oil embargoes and everything. We were young and full of piss and vinegar back then, running around the world developing energy projects. Your grandfather and I specialized in horizontal drilling techniques and hydro-fracking. You’ve heard of fracking, haven’t you?”

“Yeah, I know a little about it.” He was now on his fourth brownie and feeling a buzz.

“Here’s another photo you might find interesting.” It showed a drill rig on this very farm. Adams and old man Hale were standing in front of the rig. “You’re looking at one of the first horizontal wells in Pennsylvania, 1985.”

“What? That looks like this property?” disbelief spread across his face.

“That’s right the government wanted to see more domestic wells so the CIA purchased this property and signed it over to my wife and I. They then moved a drill rig in, and we sunk a well; all at taxpayer expense. They couldn’t hide the well so they disguised it too look like a shallow vertical well. I can’t believe that was 30 years ago. That well is about played out”

Michael Hale’s head was reeling and it had nothing to do with the pot in his treats.

“You feelin okay, you don’t look so good?”

“I think so, why are you telling me all this? Maybe, I should be going?” This was just fear turned into words. Hale knew he couldn’t leave; terror had locked his legs in place.

Adams turned the page of the album, and another photo showed a large tank truck in front of the new well.

“This is that last day I had anything to do with your grandfather. I wanted distilled water pumped into the well and he pulled a fast one. I was out of town, and he had a witch’s brew of toxic chemicals ready to be dumped into the well. My wife and daughter were standing nearby but had no idea of the danger. A hose burst and they were sprayed with that…that…that shit!” he coughed some phlegm into a hanky. “It didn’t kill them right away. I almost wish it had. They both fought so hard. You know what it’s like watching them fade away over two decades. Of course you don’t. You Hales don’t give a shit for anyone but yourselves.” He coughed again and it was as if his body was expelling the venom, he felt for the Hale family.

“I hold him personally responsible for taking them from me. I wanted to kill him and was bitter for years. It wasn’t right that your grandfather took so much from me and he wasn’t gonna have to pay for it, but I had to let it go. Wanted revenge I did, but I had to put it all behind me. I needed to…for Bunnies sake. I knew that if I let it eat me up. I’d be gone sooner than later. I needed it to be later…for her sake.”

“Then fate delivered you to my doorstep. It didn’t take long to figure out you were as greedy and deceitful as old Burton was. Bed and breakfast resort my ass. Your little presentation was pretty slick, brochures, powerpoint, all the bells and whistles. The apple don’t fall too far from the tree, I’ll say that. You sure you’re okay? You don’t look so good.”

Hale glanced around the room; the crowd was riveted, and everyone was staring at him. He had a quick thought I bet they’re laughing at me.

“Why are you telling me all this?”

“That’s a valid question…and I’ll answer it in a bit.” Adams grabbed another scrapbook and opened it too newspaper articles. Black and white photos showed a little girl was holding some type of small lizard.

“Look here, my granddaughter is holding a rare salamander. Matter-of-fact, the only place you in the whole wide world can find this little guy is right here on this farm. Had you done any research you’d have found out Sierra Club got this little guy on the endangered species list.”

Adams brought the handkerchief to his face, but this was to hide his smirk. “Let me say that again. This little guy is on the Endangered Species list. And it only lives here. So no development project. Do you hear me? You will never be able to break ground.”

The color drained from Hale’s face. “That’s bullshit, I’ve got powerful friends; we’ll fight this. You can’t do this, we…we…my group that is gave you millions for this farm. You can’t keep it from us. We’ll sue. Who you gonna sue? A dying man that hid the money offshore? Besides, I’m not keeping you from the farm, it yours. As well it should be. You paid for worthless land poisoned by your grandfather. I think they call that irony.”

“And since you mentioned Court, I think you’ll have enough legal drama that you won’t be able to fight to hard…Larry, hand me that envelope. By the way…have you met my nephew, he’s with the FBI.”

Adams shook a stack of documents from a legal envelope. “These should look familiar; they all have your signature on them.”

“What are they?” There was a noticeable tremor in Hale’s voice.

“Student loan documents…seems most of your developments projects are funded with student loan dollars. You got 23 loans, for a total of 6.5 million dollars. Pretty slick getting your brother to okay the loans. Sounds like bank fraud to me, and money laundering…sounds like a big trouble for both of you. They say the sins of the father are visited upon the son, but I guess in this case it will be the grandsons. Take note…God don’t like ugly.”

And as for your powerful friends…maybe you should have said dangerous friends. You guys climbed in bed with the Mafia. They won’t appreciate you squandering their assets on this project. You should have done your…your…What’s the word I’m looking for?” He turned toward Maggie.

“Due diligence,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s it. Due diligence.”

Panic grabbed hold of Hale and bile rose in his stomach. He launched himself toward the front door. “I’m gonna be sick.”

The crowd parted like the Red Sea and within moments everyone heard the unmistakable sounds of hurling. No one bothered to look or offer assistance. Within minutes they heard the engine rev. The car spit gravel everywhere as 500 horsepower took hold of the driveway.

***

The headline in the next day’s paper read TROOPERS SEIZE LAMBOGHINI AT DWI CHECKPOINT.

fiction

About the Creator

Jack Nanuq

Mr. Nanuq makes his living as a Private Investigator, hence the avatar and pen name.

Author of “Parabellum; When you Live in Peace, prepare for War”

JackNanuq.com

Writes, just for the hell of it.

Enjoys walks in the woods, with a chainsaw

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