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About the Author
Brian Freemantle (b. 1936) is one of Britain’s most acclaimed authors of spy fiction. His novels have sold over ten million copies worldwide. Born in Southampton, Freemantle entered his career as a journalist, and began writing espionage thrillers in the late 1960s. Charlie M (1977) introduced the world to Charlie Muffin and won Freemantle international success. He would go on to publish fourteen titles in the series. Freemantle has written dozens of other novels, including two about Sebastian Holmes, an illegitimate son of Sherlock Holmes, and the Cowley and Danilov series, about a Russian policeman and an American FBI agent who work together to combat organized crime in the post–Cold War world. Freemantle lives and works in Winchester, England.
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By Brian Freemantle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1985 Brian Freemantle
All rights reserved.
Becage made a performance ordering the wine and spent a lot of time with the menu as well, while Walter Farr sat relaxed in the paneled room, enjoying the Texan's flamboyance.
Becage was one of the earliest clients, going back a lot of years: there wasn't actually friendship between them but the relationship was more than one of investor and broker.
Becage swirled and then tasted the wine, nodding approval. He kept the glass in his hand while more was added and then raised it toward Farr and said, "To the best investment man in Manhattan."
Farr smiled, appreciating the gratitude. "That's my job," he said.
Becage shook his head. "Cut out the modesty, Walter. Who else in this town has got your track record?"
"Quite a few," said Farr.
Becage pulled back for the food to be served and said, "Not in my book. So how about it?"
"I don't think so," said Farr. "I've thought about it, of course. Actually went out to the West Coast a couple of years back, to see what it was like. Even thought of Dallas. But I'm not interested in getting any bigger. I've got all I'll ever want, and by staying concentrated here in New York and limiting the clients I can go on providing what I always have: personalized, individual service."
"You could make a lot more money," said Becage.
"I don't need a lot more money."
"The complete and satisfied man!" said Becage. The mockery was friendly.
"I suppose so," said Farr. But not complacent, he thought. He maintained the same care with and attention to Becage's portfolios now as he had when they'd first met. Just as he did with every other client.
"I wish you'd think some more about it," persisted the Texan. "I'd back you all the way and I could guarantee as many clients as you could handle."
"I appreciate what you're saying, really I do," said Farr. "But I've already told you, I've got all the clients I can handle. And I like my independence."
"Take Rawlings on, at least," said the other man. "As a personal favor to me. Poor bastard has got badly burned with two brokers and has started to lose faith."
They stopped talking while the plates were cleared. Farr shook his head to anything more than coffee, considering the request. He really could do without more clients but he liked Becage and didn't want completely to reject everything the man suggested. "Tell him to get in touch, so I can find out what he wants. I'll work out a prospectus or two and maybe we can talk about it."
Becage smiled across the table at him. "Thanks, Walt. I knew you'd do it."
"Only as a personal favor," insisted Farr. "And only this time. The list is closed."
"Just this time," agreed the Texan.
Becage took brandy with his coffee but Farr refused. Becage said he had some risk capital available and fancied some commodity futures, maybe grain or pork belly through the Chicago market. But Farr said he thought metals, particularly gold and silver, were going to recover because of people's traditional confidence in gold and silver when the Latin American countries, Brazil and certainly Argentina, had difficulty in meeting their IMF loan requirements, which he guessed would happen in about three months' time. Becage immediately deferred to the broker, pledging 200,000 dollars. The Texan made one last effort to get Farr to consider expanding into Houston and, as firmly as he had before, Farr refused. Becage embarked upon another eulogy of gratitude and Farr sat through it as he had on the first occasion, vaguely embarrassed and glad there was no one else listening. Becage walked with him to the foyer of the Union Club, offering the use of his own limousine, but Farr declined, deciding on impulse to walk a little before picking up a cab to take him back to Wall Street.
He paused at the corner of Park Avenue, staring in both directions along the broad highway, breathing deeply as if he were physically savoring the city. It was one of the early days of spring. The pale yellow wash of sun was not warm enough to make a topcoat unnecessary, but there was no smear of smog, and on Park at least there wasn't the dirt and collapsing decay of the other parts of New York. In fact it looked new and fresh, and Farr breathed in deeply again, finding easy the stir of excitement that the place always gave him. He set out toward the straddle of the Pan Am building, thinking of the lunchtime conversation with Harry Becage and knowing that it would be impossible for him to consider operating out of anywhere other than New York. The Texan's argument that he wouldn't necessarily have to live in Houston or anywhere else where he established branch divisions was valid, of course, but Farr had never liked situations that he couldn't personally control—and from New York he could not have been able personally to control something a thousand or two thousand miles away. Far better to stay as he was. And he was complete and satisfied, he thought, remembering Becage's jibe. Business, at least. Privately it wasn't so, but he thought he'd adjusted pretty well to that. How much different—not just in his private life but maybe in business as well—would things have been if Ann had lived? It was a familiar—practically daily—reflection, the prod of grief as sharp now as it had been in the shaded ward eight years before when he'd sat holding her listless hand and suddenly realized that there wasn't any longer any breathing and that she'd died without opening her eyes for that last time, for him to say goodbye. Maybe he would have expanded, if Ann were still alive. It had always been important, to prove himself to her: for her to be aware of how successful he was. Among all the regrets, he was sorry she hadn't lived to see come true all the dreams and fantasies they'd had, in the cold-water apartment on 34th, where the pipes knocked and the roaches were fearless and Howard slept in the perambulator beside the pull-down couch-bed because they hadn't been able to afford a cot.
Farr paused, waiting for the lights to change so that he could go on toward the Waldorf-Astoria on the cross street. Things would certainly be different with Howard if Ann hadn't died. Farr knew he hadn't failed with Howard—such a fear was clichéd anyway—but he didn't think he'd succeeded either. He'd made a home and done the things fathers were supposed to do with their sons, like camping and sailing and baseball, and there had never been anything the boy wanted that he hadn't got; Farr loved Howard and knew that Howard loved him in return. But Farr had always been conscious of a distance between them, an embarrassment or difficulty that neither could identify or surmount. Farr could not think of anything more that he could have done; surely, to have considered remarrying, to have provided a surrogate mother, wouldn't have helped? Not that Farr had ever seriously thought of it. He had adored Ann with a consuming, all-enveloping love and when she died there had been no love left for anyone else. Maybe that was the problem with Howard. Maybe, despite Farr's thinking otherwise, Howard did not believe himself sufficiently loved. How long had it been? The last letter had been about two weeks ago, although Farr thought it might have been a little longer, and he was unsure if the last telephone call had been just before or just after the letter. Whatever, it wasn't enough. He should make more effort, instead of expecting it always to come from the boy. Boston was only an hour away on the shuttle, for God's sake! This weekend, Farr determined. He'd call, to make sure Howard didn't have anything on, and suggest this weekend. Go up on Friday and make a couple of days out of it—and try to spend more time with the boy, in the future.
Feeling he had walked enough, Farr turned in the shadow of the huge building topping Grand Central Station, seeking a taxi, happy at the decision he'd made about his son. When he got over or around whatever barrier there was between himself and Howard, he would be complete and satisfied. Farr missed the first cab but got the second, settling back for the ride downtown. There was no reason, he thought, why he shouldn't make the call as soon as he got back to the office.
Farr's organization occupied a complete floor on the ninth story of a building with a view of Battery Park and the World Trade Center; it was a rigidly controlled setup consisting of eight other investment brokers apart from himself, each with their own support staffs but ultimately answerable to him. The one directly answerable was a tightly corseted, tightly coiffeured woman named Angela Nolan who had entered the firm of the newly bereaved Farr hoping for more than a career in investment, sadly accepted his lack of interest and long ago reconciled herself to finance in the daytime and a regular Tuesday and Friday night affair with a married stockbroker in Scarsdale.
"Anything?" he said, entering her office, which was linked to his.
"I'm not sure," replied the woman.
Farr stopped, frowning at the oddness of her reply. "What do you mean?"
"There are two men waiting for you in your office," she said. "From the FBI. They showed me their shields, for identification."
"What the hell do they want?"
"They wouldn't say."
Farr thrust into his room. It was a corner suite, with a better view of the twin towers than of the park. One man was quite relaxed in a visitor's chair to the side of Farr's desk and the other was at the window, gazing out. They both turned, at his entry, and the man who had been sitting rose.
"Mr. Farr?" he said.
"My name is Brennan, Peter Brennan ..." He nodded to the man at the window. "My partner is Jim Seymour."
"What's this about?" demanded Farr.
Brennan offered his shield, which Farr didn't bother examining. "FBI," said the man, with strict formality. "You have a son named Howard Farr, a senior at St. Marks in Boston? Hoping to go to Harvard?"
"What's happened to him?" said Farr.
"He's been arrested," said the FBI man at the window. "For conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine."CHAPTER 2
Farr had to concentrate in order to comprehend every word and every implication, but initially he found it difficult. Brennan, the elder of the two FBI men, his already sparse hair carefully arranged over a balding pate, his suit matchingly careful in muted checks, hopefully moved a narrow pencil between his fingers as he talked—as if expecting some revelation from the uncertain broker that would shed light on a difficult point. Brennan was the person who talked, his delivery as precise as everything else about him, while Farr fought against a feeling of unreality, positively holding onto his chair beneath the concealment of the desk edge, as he listened to an account of observation of his son after the seizure of a cocaine delivery and the setting-up of an arrest involving an FBI undercover agent. Farr couldn't believe what he was hearing. Brennan used expressions such as mother ship and snow and cutting and of things going down and paymasters and couriers, and Farr decided that there had been some terrible mistake because what was supposed to have happened to his son only happened to other people's kids. But then he recognized another barrier he was trying to erect—erect for his benefit, not Howard's—and realized that there hadn't been any mistake. Not on the part of the police and interception authorities, at least.
"Surely it was just kid's stuff—experimenting?" he intruded, hopefully, when Brennan paused. "Howard wasn't actually trafficking!"
"It was kilos," came in Seymour, who had moved to a chair adjoining that of his partner. "The full analysis isn't complete yet, but it's coming out at something like seventy percent pure. He was putting $100,000 up front. Cut to street level, he was looking at a million. Maybe more."
"That's ridiculous!" protested Farr at once, imagining an opening. "He hasn't got $100,000; wouldn't know how to get it!"
"He had it," came back Seymour with quiet insistence. "It's obvious to me where he got it, but we can't prove it."
"You mean this wasn't the first time!"
"You got any other idea where he could have got his hands on $100,000? Cash?" demanded the FBI man. Seymour was taller than Brennan and seemed uneasy with his size, frequently shifting in his chair. The heavy spectacles did not appear to help his myopia and he blinked and squinted frequently.
"I've told you there was a previous surveillance, before this arrest," said Brennan, supporting his partner. "It's a pretty thick dossier and your son figures in an awful lot of it."
"Jesus!" said Farr. It hadn't been a cliché to think of failing the boy: he had failed him. And not just Howard; Ann too. The promise had always been, before she got too bad, that he would care absolutely for their son. He swallowed against growing despair. He said, "You certain there can't have been a mistake?"
Brennan sighed at the broker's attitude. "Mr. Farr," he said, with forced patience. "We've had a tap on your son's telephone for the past two and a half months. We've transcripts of conversation between him and a known and convicted drug trafficker in Orlando, Florida. Those conversations openly refer to a ship called the Della Maria. We've got AWAC surveillance data on the Della Maria coming through the Caribbean. Our coastguard service tracked it, too. Right up the East Coast, avoiding the normal offloading places in Florida or the Carolinas. It put in five days ago at Newburyport, just north of Boston. We've surveillance photographs—still, as well as movie—of the entire operation. We followed the car down into Boston and we photographed the handover to an intermediary, a man named Chavez. It was Chavez with whom Howard was arrested two nights ago, in a car parked on Tremont Street, on the edge of the Common. Chavez had a sample from the Della Maria and your son had a hot box ... do you know what a hot box is, Mr. Farr?"
"No," said Farr dully.
"It's a made-for-the-job testing kit," explained Seymour, coming back into the conversation. "The impurities and cutting agents used in coke manufacture burn off at certain temperatures. So you just put your sample into the box, create the temperatures, and it's simple chemistry to work out how pure your purchase is."
"Howard was doing that!"
"Your son's a dealer, Mr. Farr," said Brennan. "He's got all the connections, all the works. And a hell of a marketplace. There's hundreds of kids on the campus of Boston University and Harvard just across the river."
"He was trading in the universities!"
"Where else do you think he was selling!" said Brennan. "An important dealer is called 'The Man' and in Boston your son was The Man!"
"But not a very clever one," said Seymour.
"What's that mean?" asked Farr.
"There are rules, to being a good dealer," said the taller FBI man. "The most important is that you don't start using your own shit!"
"You saying he's addicted?"
"You know what freebasing is?" asked Seymour.
"You snort coke, Mr. Farr," said Brennan. "But you can get a bigger rush by burning off the impurities with ether or with alcohol and inhaling the pure cocaine alkaloid. It's usually done with a water pipe. For speedballing, you need heroin as well. Heroin is a soporific: you go on the nod. Cocaine is the opposite, a stimulant. Speedballing is mixing the two, to get a rollercoaster ..."
"You telling me Howard was doing that? Freebasing and speedballing?"
"Yes," said Seymour.
"When did you see your son last, Mr. Farr?" asked Brennan.
The broker hesitated, making the calculation. "Two months, I suppose. Maybe a little longer."
"He seem OK to you then?"
Again Farr did not respond at once. Then he said, "Yes. Fine. Maybe a little disheveled, untidy. But he's a student. I didn't think anything of it."
"How long were you with him?"
"Quite a long time, over a Sunday. Flew up from here in the morning. We had lunch at the Locke-Ober, drove around awhile and I came back on the afternoon plane."
"He excuse himself from you much? Need to go to the washroom?" asked Brennan.
"I don't know," said Farr, almost irritably. Then the recollection came and he admitted, "Yes. Said he thought he might have some kind of bug. Didn't eat a lot, either."
"Drugs suppress the appetite—heroin certainly," said Seymour. "Sometimes there's a craving for junk food."
"You mean he was ... he was injecting himself? Taking drugs while we were together?"
"He sure as hell couldn't have got through without taking some sort of fix," said Brennan.
Farr felt physically sick and was angry at the feeling because it somehow seemed theatrical. "Where is he?"
"Does the school know?"
"Not yet," said Seymour.
"What's going to happen to him?"
The two men exchanged looks before replying. Then Brennan, who appeared to be the spokesman, said, "That's why we've come to see you, Mr. Farr. What happens to your son really depends upon you."
Excerpted from Dirty White by Brian Freemantle. Copyright © 1985 Brian Freemantle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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