I drove blindly through lightening rush hour traffic, going over my conversation with Jennifer Mayer in my head. Wondering about the plausibility of what she had said, and dismayed to find that I couldn’t write it off with certainty.
Had Adrienne killed herself?
John had painted the picture of a woman who would have sat on information that had saved hundreds of lives had she not be forced into conscience by the disappearance of her son Kazeem. And I wondered how far beneath the surface Nadira had existed.
Was it possible that just as Jennifer Mayer had said Adrienne had killed herself to protect Samantha and I?
Adrienne had started receiving blackmailing messages from an IP address I’d already had Murdock trace to a cybercafe in Samantha’s school. Messages asking her to pay twenty million dollars or be exposed as Nadira Al Assad.
Jennifer thought Adrienne in veering off the road en route her rendezvous with her blackmailer had been to keep Samantha and I safe.
Had she been trying to save Samantha and I the hurt of finding out the truth? Or had she sailed off the road and plunged down to her death because she still thought Assad’s cohorts a tangible threat and didn’t want to put Samantha and I in the cross-hairs?
Either way it would mean she had died protecting our daughter and me…
Or had it been guilt? Had she even knowingly plunged down to the ravine in her Ford?
I couldn’t just take Jennifer’s word for it, could I? It was still highly probable she’d been murdered, right?
I wasn’t confused. I was just unwilling to accept the truth.
I felt guilty enough already without having to think Adrienne had possibly ended her life so I could keep mine, but it was apparent to me she most likely had.
I got back to the hotel and took a long, hot shower; getting out only when I was sure the water was never going to be high enough to drown myself in.
Someone had been blackmailing Adrienne. And by God I was going to find out who they were. But before then there was only one thing I could do.
I burrowed under the bed covers and cried myself to sleep.
I got on the jet and headed back home the next morning.
I had Murdock come get me at the airport. I needed him to root for more details on Adrienne’s blackmailer. Perhaps he’d be able to work his magic and obtain e-mail conversations between Adrienne and this person. And maybe even more.
I knew the implications of what I was asking him to do, and what consequences they’d be to pay if he was found out but I was past the point of caring. I had begun a journey I was going to see through to the end at whatever cost.
Murdock was himself unsettled but I did have unfair control over him. And he must have realized I’d never have put him in the ring within earshot of roaring lions if I didn’t think the venture to be of paramount importance.
I checked in for only a few minutes at the office on touchdown. Long enough to place a call to a friend of mine, Leon Rowinger, President of Rowe Bank Ltd., a private savings and loan financial institution Adrienne had banked with. My request was unequivocal: I wanted Adrienne’s statement of account going back two years.
The logic was simple. If Adrienne was being blackmailed for twenty million dollars, there was nothing to say she hadn’t paid the said blackmailer a lesser sum before that.
If she had I was most likely to find unexplainable cash withdrawals or money transfers.
Adrienne had hardly dealt in cash, which would make my sifting a whole lot easier.
I rode back home in Murdock’s hatchback, stopping over at a department store for bags of crisps and ice cream.
Leon had sent me an e-mail to which he’d attached the account statements I’d asked for. And he’d faxed me the same documents to my home line for extra measure.
I got my reading glasses and started to pore over the records of Adrienne’s financial transactions from the year 2011 to the month of her death.
Before long I started to find certain red flags. Monies ranging from three thousand dollars to ten thousand dollars wired to a particular account over the said period.
I called Leon again and asked that he send me some more of Adrienne’s bank statements going back three more years. Also that he send me all the details he could on the holder of the account Adrienne had been making money transfers to on a regular basis as far back as I could see.
He promised to get on with it immediately, taking the time to invite me for a game of golf the next weekend. I agreed.
Whenever Leon Rowinger invited you to a game of a golf it meant he had a proposal. Whenever I went in to play with him I always did so with the mind to let him down gently.
He faxed the rest of the records I’d demanded and there again I found money transfers to the same account.
The first transfer had been in June 2010. On Adrienne’s birthday —at least the one I’d been privy to at the time —June 23rd. And if my memory served me well Adrienne had on that day only just returned from New York where she’d gone for two days “to smell the smells of the big city.” She’d returned home then to celebrate her birthday with me.
Now I wondered if she had visited with John Quincy on that trip. And if she had done more than “smell the smells of the big city.”
Leon came through after an hour and some.
The payments Adrienne had made over a three-year period had been to a Collin Fitch who operated a current account with the Bank of America. And was domicile in New York.
Between Murdock, Leon, the phone book, and I we were able to piece together that Collin Fitch ran a PI firm in Brooklyn and had a female partner by the name Betty Swan.
I had a few ideas why Adrienne would require the services of a private investigator, but there was only one way to be certain…
I made arrangements to have the company’s jet fly me back to New York that evening. Then I got on the road and headed to Samantha’s school.
Later That Day…
‘You have a brother.’