FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
DEA Special Agent James Edgar Hoffman had heard a lot of absurd things in his twenty-nine years on this planet. There was the time a perp tried to talk him into believing aliens were responsible for the ball of Coke shoved up his ass. Or the time his great-uncle decided to divorce his wife of sixty-two years because she had ‘burnt his damned Spam for the last time’. Or just about anything on FOX News Network. But a cop with a mobster for a father had to take the cake. Or was it a mobster with a cop for a son? Either way, it wasn’t possible; there were policies against these things. Weren’t there? Four generations of Federal cops in his family, one would think he ought to know.
“Tommy, get in the car. I need to talk to you about your brother,” Downey demanded.
Aaaaand there it was. Confirmation that his new partner wasn’t who he said he was. Or he was, and he had just left out a few pertinent details. Like whether he was a good cop who happened to have an alleged mobster for a father or a mob plant wearing a badge. And to think James had just chewed Agent D’Amato’s ass for ‘sowing seeds of discontent’ before they left FBI headquarters. Man, he loved phrases like that. English had lost a lot of its aplomb with all this slang everybody used these days.
He looked at the interplay of emotions Detective Gates was struggling to hide from his face, and some of his initial shock and anger dissipated. No, he hadn’t been wrong about Tommy. Sometimes as a cop one just had a feel for these things. No other explanation, James just sort of knew. And he knew Tommy Gates was Team Law Enforcement. Even only knowing him a week.
He could practically feel the gears turning in the minds of Dino and Ginny behind them. He decided to take a gamble. Stepping completely in front of Tommy, he extended his hand towards the limo window.
“Hi. Special Agent James Hoffman. Nice to meet you,” James said.
Hard to say whose demeanor held the most shock, Downey or Gates. But Downey’s shock was quickly replaced with a speculative gleam.
Ahhh mobsters, James thought, so predictable.
Downey smiled, all practiced charm.
“Is that a Chicago accent I detect, Jimmy?”
“It’s James. Actually, you can call me Agent Hoffman. I mean, we haven’t actually been formally introduced,” James said, turning slightly to Tommy and meeting his stunned gaze with raised eyebrows.
Shaking his head slightly, Tommy said, “Uh, we need to get back, so…”
“Actually, we haven’t had lunch yet. You’re welcome to join us,” Ginny suggested.
Ah, Ginny was going to take his lead and run with it, good girl, James thought. Not Dino, though. He was all but vibrating with rage behind them.
“I’ll order in,” Dino gritted out through clenched teeth, then turned smartly and walked back towards Headquarters.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Tommy mumbled with a glare at his father and followed Dino.
James sighed. So much for Plan A. But as he and Ginny turned to go, the quickly masked look of longing and frustration on Downey’s face had him thinking this gamble just might pay out yet.
“Back from lunch already?” Jack Underwood greeted them with a smile when they filed in to the small conference room. He was seated in front of the wipe boards at the head of the long table, case files spread out and iPad in front of him.
“Oh, yeah, it was full of grins and giggles, but I lost my appetite when Detective Gates’ dear old Dad showed up,” Dino sneered as he headed towards Jack.
Standing up quickly, Jack looked worried.
“What’d Downey want?” Jack asked, all cheerfulness gone.
“So you knew?” Dino exclaimed. “How could this guy even be allowed on the police force? How could you assign him to this task force knowing he has connections to organized crime!?”
“Calm down, Dino, I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation,” Ginny said, pointedly looking at Tommy.
She sat down next to Jack on the opposite side of the table and looked expectant. But Tommy still wasn’t talking. He was looking a little pale, like he wanted to vomit, standing and staring out the windows lining the left side of the room. Agent Underwood opened his mouth, but James sent him a silent ‘I got this’ look. James sat down nearest the door they had just entered to better keep an eye on all the players, then leaned back in his chair and propped his feet up on the table.
Nothing like engaging in a spirited debate with a closed-minded individual, he thought, and prepared to enjoy Dino’s frustration.
“Technically,” James drawled. “Downey’s never been convicted of anything.”
“He was charged with nine counts, including racketeering, fraud, extortion, money laundering and—”
“Yeah, some twenty years ago,” James interrupted.
“And since then he has only moved further in the ranks, piling up conveniently disappearing enemies and money making schemes! Just because—”
“There’s no indication he is currently engaging in those alleged activities, for the last several years. In fact, word on the street is he’s retired—”
“He moved to Chicago! No one in the Mob ‘retires’ to Chicago!”
“—and he could be useful,” James continued, still using his deliberately bored, speaking to a child tone he knew irritated Dino.
Tommy whipped around and stared at James. Dino looked like he was about to pop a vessel.
Yep, this is going to get good, James thought. Too bad he didn’t have any popcorn.
“First, I shouldn’t have to remind you that our mission here is to isolate the players in this particular human trafficking ring,” James continued. “How they’re moving product, who’s collecting vig, so on and so forth, and determine the best way to proceed towards a win-able case.”
James held up a finger up as Dino opened his mouth to interrupt again. “And we have to use every means possible to cultivate as many… contacts… on the other side as we can. As you say, Agent D’Amato, Downey lives in Chicago, where Gates and I will be working. I personally don’t care how Tommy managed to slip through the background checks preventing cops with known mafia connections from getting on the force. All I care about is stopping these sons of bitches any way possible, and his father is in a position to provide us with—”
“NO,” Tommy all but shouted.
Everyone looked at Tommy.
Hmmmmnn, interesting, James thought.
“Look…” Tommy paused and ran his hand through his hair, panicked eyes darting between Jack and James. “Look, you know how these guys operate. There’s no way he would agree to help, it would be suicide. Retired or not, he exists only as long as he keeps the current players happy. Even if I agreed to ask, which I won’t, I barely know the guy. We’ve interacted maybe five times in my entire life. And to answer your question…”
Tommy paused again and turned towards Dino. “It’s not a secret. My mother and I were in Witness Protection so the records were sealed in his old case files. After mom left the program and we took our names back, it still wouldn’t have shown up in the police background check because my birth certificate didn’t indicate him as my father. When I applied to the Police Academy, I didn’t indicate a known Conflict of Interest on my application because he wasn’t a part of my life. Still, Jack – Agent Underwood – decided we should talk to Internal Affairs anyway and asked whether having any association with my siblings in the future would present a problem. He explained the situation since he was one of the original agents who worked the case and helped facilitate my mother’s testimony and placement with the Marshals. The commission and the board decided, based on his recommendation, that as long as I never worked any cases involving my father – not hard since he was living in New York at the time – there would be no issue. So, while it’s not exactly common knowledge, it’s not a secret either.”
“But, by your own admission, you have had interaction with him since you became a police officer and he apparently is familiar enough with you to call you son and demand your help,” Ginny interjected, though not unkindly.
“And those interactions still should have shown up in our files unless someone was actively suppressing the information,” Dino added with a withering look at Agent Underwood.
“Last I checked, you and Ginny don’t work on Gambino cases so it’s perfectly understandable you missed it,” James said disingenuously.
Jack moved to stand next to Tommy and placed a bracing hand on his shoulder, clearing his throat in an imperious manner. James sat upright at the table and Ginny leaned forward intently. Even Dino stopped glaring at James long enough to pay attention to what Jack was going to say.
“Only a few people knew Tommy was Mickey Downey’s son at the time of his trial twenty years ago,” Agent Underwood said calmly. “Downey kept Tommy and his mother in a Brooklyn brownstone and though a few of his close acquaintances knew Mary Gates was his mistress, he never publicly acknowledged that Tommy was his, to keep things smooth with his wife and his boss, who was also his father-in-law. There were whispers, speculation, nothing more. After they disappeared off the radar, there would have been no reason to bring it up in surveillance. I transferred to the Omaha division for personal reasons not too long after the hung jury, but whenever I would check in on Downey’s case, he was making every appearance of the devoted family man, no mention of a missing child in his circles.”
Jack took a deep breath and rubbed his face before continuing, “I know it goes against protocol, but I had kept in contact with Mary, visiting her from time to time in a safe location. I was known as ‘Uncle Jack’ to Tommy. When Mary chose to leave the program, her caseworker and I agreed that it was only a matter of time before Downey found them. From everything we knew of the man there was no way he had stopped looking despite appearances. So my wife and I reached out to her and suggested she move to Omaha where I could keep an informal eye on her and Tommy. It was less than a year later that Downey showed up. I believe it would have been sooner, but I think he waited until he could be sure his ducks were in a row after Giovanni Anastasio’s death.”
James looked at the frustrated frown on Dino’s face and he thought, playtime over, time to address the elephant in the room. Looking Tommy in the eye, he tried to make his body language say, ‘hey, I’m on your side, give me something to go on here’.
“It’s easy to see why an isolated event may have slipped under the radar, alleged mobsters make business trips all the time.” James said. “But if Downey’s been in contact since you’ve been a cop, however briefly, and you’ve acknowledged a relationship with your siblings, then Agents Pitney and Jackson will have known about it. So would everyone else working on cases regarding known associates of the Gambino crime family. It is a little odd that such a thing has never come to our knowledge, or the Press’s knowledge, even if we aren’t directly involved in any cases regarding Downey.”
“Pitney and Jackson do know about it,” Tommy replied. “They’ve been known to have men in unmarked cars just happen to drive by whenever these rare events occur. As far as the Press goes, I think if you looked at Gangland News, the New York Post, or any of the other Mob-watcher blogs, you’d see it’s not a secret at all that Kiki and Joe Downey have a brother from the other side of the blanket. It’s just not brought up because, as you pointed out earlier, my father was supposedly retired by the time I started interacting with my brother and sister on an occasional basis. Almost all the people who could still hold a grudge about my mother’s so-called betrayal are either dead or out of the country. I’ve never shown up in New York to open up old wounds and get the tongues wagging. It simply wasn’t news worthy. Maybe if he’d retired to Omaha it might’ve come up again, but he picked Chicago. For what it’s worth, I think my father did his best to squash any mention of me to all but a few in his circles when he was still king of the mountain, and when he ceded command, it just became… a non-issue, so to speak. As for your circles—”
“Our circles,” Ginny interrupted with an encouraging smile.
James was gratified to see that Tommy seemed to be relaxing somewhat under the unspoken tag team that he and Ginny were employing. He needed Tommy on board, not on the defensive.
“Our circles,” Tommy sighed in agreement. “Like I said, Internal Affairs knows about it, so do people keeping a watch on all things Downey and Gambino. I’m not working any cases that remotely involve him. It’s not a matter of suppressing information, it’s a matter of whether the information is pertinent, and it’s not in this case.”
“Unless Downey is not actually retired and is involved in this trafficking ring, and then it could compromise our case,” Dino pointed out.
“I don’t think that will be an issue, or I wouldn’t have assigned Tommy to our subgroup. And the Director must agree since he approved the request. Each of you brings a strength to this team. Why do you think I mentioned on the first day that he has unique contacts in the underworld? I had no intention of hiding this fact from you, I just wanted us to be further along before we played that card. Tommy deserves to be measured on his own merits, not that of his father’s,” Jack said, firm tone closing the matter.
Well said, James thought.
He was still waiting for that day himself. He’d had plenty of experience dodging expectations and resentful murmurs when he worked with the FBI on cases. James’ father was a well-known FBI agent in counter-terrorism, his grandfather was one of Hoover’s best men in the heyday of the unfettered wiretap, and his great-grandfather was a Pinkerton. James’ half-assed idea of bucking expectations was applying to the DEA, instead of the FBI.
He could still remember his dad’s outrage; ‘Anybody with a high-school diploma can become a DEA agent, it takes smarts to work for the FBI!’
To which James had rightly pointed out that several of his dad’s closest friends were highly intelligent and well-trained DEA agents, and further (since it irritated his father to be reminded of this and he loved pushing his buttons), that had it not been for certain prescient DEA agents, La Cosa Nostra would not have been exposed for what it was under a purposefully myopic Hoover. Still, debates in the Hoffman household were of degrees of law enforcement. He couldn’t fathom trying to navigate being a cop and the son of such an infamous gangster, even if said gangster was supposedly now retired.
James let the soft drone of the others’ voices slide over him as he kept picturing the longing look on Mickey Downey’s face and the conflicted one on Gates’. He’d bet his badge there was more to this story than Gates or Underwood were letting on, but every instinct in his bones was screaming that Downey had the potential to be a very valuable chess piece in this trafficking case.
Here they would be flying out to Chicago at the end of the week, right where Downey currently lived, and yet Downey had come to DC to see his son. James felt like somebody had dumped one of those thousand piece puzzles right in front of him, tied his hands behind his back and turned off the lights.
Good thing he liked a challenge.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
Read on… Chapter Three, “Kiki”
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