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New York State: 18–19 July
THE DOOR CLOSED BEHIND HER WITH A SHUDDERING STEEL crash. The corrections officer at the desk looked up once, dropped his eyes to the stack of forms and did not look at her again. "Name?"
"You know my name."
"We get a lot of visitors."
She said, "Anna Pastor. Mrs. Frank Pastor."
He filled in a space at the top of a form, writing with a ball-point. "You're here to see ...?"
"My husband." She took one step forward and placed the visitor's pass on the desk. She kept her hand on it.
It took forty minutes; then she sat in a hard chair at the long table. It ran wall to wall: The mesh partition filled the space from tabletop to ceiling. She had learned how to ignore the flyspecked green walls and the men who stood just inside the doors with their pot bellies cinched up by black pistol belts.
Frank came in and faced her through the mesh in his drab uniform. She smiled at him. He drew out the chair and sat down.
"They all send regards."
"How are the girls?"
"Sandy has a cold. I'm keeping her in bed today. Ezio told me he heard a rumor about your parole."
When he smiled it made her think of the early days. He was still thin but he'd gone bald on top and that had aged him. She said, "We'll have to get you a hairpiece."
"Two months at most. Maybe six weeks."
"Well now." He smiled again; he began to relax.
"It's only a rumor, Frank."
She said the rest with a nod: The parole board had been reached, the petition would be affirmed; the fix was in.
"Eight years," he said.
"Don't think about it, Frank."
"Nothing else to think about. Nothing else to do except think about it." He looked around from guard to guard; his voice dropped. "There was a piece in the Post last week. Page five."
"I saw it. I gave it to Ezio."
"You ask Ezio for me, ask him to find those four gentlemen."
"We'll see if we can't give them to you at the front gate. As a coming-out present. Gift-wrapped."
It inspired his quiet laughter.
* * *
THREATENED WITNESSES LEAD NEW LIVES
* * *
Federal Marshals Provide Protection
* * *
WASHINGTON, July 18—More than 1,000 American families are living false lives under assumed names given them by the U.S. government. Their new identities are all that protect them from violent retribution.
Last week's congressional budget hearings brought to light the formal existence of a federal witness relocation program, a key element in the Justice Department's effort to grapple with organized crime.
When witnesses are threatened by organized crime figures against whom they intend to testify, the government offers to protect these witnesses by giving them new identities, new locations, new jobs, and sometimes even new citizenship if the case is judged so dangerous that it seems advisable to relocate the witness abroad.
The protective service is granted to witnesses both before and after they give testimony: In many cases it is a lifetime service. (Witnesses need protection not only from those against whom they have testified, but also from other criminals who may fear being squealed on by the same witnesses.)
Head of the program is F. Scott Corcoran, associate director of the U.S. Marshal's Service. Interviewed in his office in Falls Church, Va., Mr. Corcoran expressed surprise at what he called "all this sudden interest by the press."
Mr. Corcoran said, "We're not a clandestine organization. We've been on the books of the Justice Department seven years now. We don't hide our budget appropriations under phony headings or classified listings. We're out in the open. The only secret here is the identities of the people we service."
Last week's congressional budget hearings included debate over an $11-million annual appropriation request for the Witness Security Program, a joint operation of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, the U.S. Marshal's Service and the FBI.
"We're surprised but pleased by this sudden attention," Mr. Corcoran said. "I think the publicity definitely helps. A big part of our job is assuring potential witnesses against organized crime that they can avail themselves of our protective services."
Witnesses' names are changed legally, in closed federal court sessions, so that no unlawful acts are committed by administrators of the program. "We're not perpetrating frauds on anyone except the Mob," Mr. Corcoran insisted.
But he conceded that some known criminals, granted immunity from prosecution in return for their testimony, have been relocated under new names without the knowledge of local law enforcement agencies. "We couldn't very well broadcast the witness' new name to every police department in the country," Mr. Corcoran pointed out.
Asked about the program's degree of success, Mr. Corcoran replied promptly, "Our batting average is 998. We've had two witnesses attacked out of more than a thousand we've relocated. There's no binding evidence that either of the two victims was discovered by the Mob—the murders haven't been solved, but they may have been coincidences."
Mr. Corcoran added, "I'd like to point out that there have been certain instances of witnesses refusing our protection. In a large number of cases those people have gone home and been shot to death or blown up when they started their cars. We're providing the only successful defense against that kind of retribution. The program has been very successful in encouraging witnesses to step forward. It's putting a big dent in the operations of organized crime in this country. This program is the main reason why you're seeing a lot more prosecutions of organized crime leaders today."
But he admitted it could be a severe jolt for a witness to start life over again under a new name. "He's got to leave all his friends behind. Sometimes he's got to take a step down, professionally or financially. Sometimes he's got to face his children, confess his wrongdoing to them so they'll understand why they've got to live the rest of their lives under new names. But it's been a great advantage to some of these people. Some of them have done very well for themselves. We've got two witnesses we relocated several years ago who've become millionaires under their new identities."
The program has grown rapidly over the past few years. "Sometimes we process two new families in a single week," Mr. Corcoran said. "People are getting the word—there is a way out of their dilemma, and we're here to help them."
She put the soup pot on the front burner, heard the doorbell and glanced at the monitor screen above the refrigerator. It was Ezio's face, a pattern of gray dots; he stared gravely into the camera.
She pressed the door-release button and saw him walk out of the picture; then she heard the front door.
"I'm in the kitchen."
His wide body filled the doorway. "How's Frank?"
"I haven't seen him smile like that in years. He even laughed."
"Yeah." The cigar had gone out. Ezio snapped his gold lighter. He didn't look at her; he rarely did. She was still the outsider: He did not let her forget she was the second Mrs. Pastor.
She put the lid on the pot. "Sandy's got a cold, I'm making her some lentil soup. Want some?"
"No. I'm on my way to a meeting. Just checking in."
"He saw the article in the Post. He wants the four of them found." She searched his face. "Any progress?"
He was looking at the monitor screen; his answer was reluctant. "You could say so. We're getting close to their files."
"We'll know Thursday, one way or the other."
"Better find them, Ezio."
"I know. Say hello to the girls for me." He put his hat on and left.
She took the lid off. It was bubbling. She opened the cabinet and took down a soup bowl. On the monitor screen she saw Ezio walk away toward the elevator.
The youth had crow's-wing hair and a pointed face. He called himself C. K. Gillespie but Ezio called him Charlie because he didn't like the arrogance of people who used initials in place of a name. He thought of Charlie as a flyweight kid, although Charlie was ten years older than he looked, had a busy law practice in Washington and had done satisfactory work for the Pastor organization.
Charlie came into the office at ten minutes to four. Ezio was reading the Wall Street Journal. "You're twenty minutes late."
"We were in the holding pattern. This place swept for bugs?"
"Once a week. And the jammer's always running. You ought to apologize a little for being late."
"I never apologize for something that isn't my fault."
"It's just good manners, you know."
Charlie sat down. He was slim in the sharkskin suit. It looked vaguely Sy Devore, Ezio thought—something West Coast about it. He couldn't wear clothes like that; from the age of six he'd been built like a beer truck. He had decided he looked best in winter tweed and summer seersucker, and those were all he ever wore.
"And you ought to wait for somebody to ask you to sit down before you sit. It's presumptuous."
"Ezio, I like you a lot but I don't need courtesy lessons from you. I match my manners to the company I'm in."
"Don't patronize me, Charlie, I'm not one of your Texas hillbilly clients."
"No." Charlie smiled a little and that made Ezio wonder how the kid actually did picture him. As a gorilla with an education, probably. Charlie still had a lot of things to learn and one of them was about jumping to oversimplified conclusions.
Ezio said, "Mr. Pastor's anxious for news from Washington."
"I met Mrs. Janowicz this morning."
"The security's pretty tight there."
"We already knew that, Charlie."
"I'd prefer you didn't call me that."
"When you're in this chair you can call yourself anything you want. Right now I'm in this chair and you're in that one, Charlie. Now tell me about that secretary—what's her name again?
"Janowicz. Mary Janowicz."
"Irish. She's married to a Polack."
"Polish-American, Charlie. An important attorney like you shouldn't stoop to ethnic slurs. Only thugs and bigots use words like that."
Charlie smiled again: He didn't rise to it. But Ezio liked to bait him because someday he was going to find out whether the kid had balls.
"She's got a girl friend she loves once or twice a week. She wouldn't want it broadcast. The people she works for are stuffy about that kind of thing."
Ezio made a face. "So am I, as a matter of fact."
"We've got three hundred feet of infrared film. She's a little fat but you could possibly get six bucks a ticket in a Times Square porn house. She got the idea all right. Then also of course we offered her money to cooperate. Enough money to make her start thinking about the possibilities."
"How did you get onto her?"
"We put an investigative staff on everybody working out of Corcoran's headquarters. She turned out to be the apple. All it takes is time and patience."
"They've got their own security checks. If you could turn her up why haven't they tumbled to it too?"
"It only started a few months ago. She's been married three years. The honeymoon wore off and she got seduced by this lesbian after a bridge game. That's how we cottoned onto it—Mrs. Janowicz always stayed behind for an hour or so after the other women left."
"So why hasn't the federal security found out?"
"They probably will, next time they run a spot check on the people out of that office. That's why we've got to get it done fast."
"What's the hang-up?"
"Access. She doesn't work in the file section. She's the secretary to the GS-8 who runs the assignment section."
"What does that mean?"
"He prepares the new identities. New job, name, location, all the details. He's got to get the birth certificate, driver's license, credit cards, all the ID documents. All that stuff has to be legitimate, so it takes time. They've got this one official who does it full time. His name's Fordham, if it matters. Janowicz is his secretary."
"How the hell can they provide a new legitimate birth certificate for a man who's full grown?"
"The same way you get one for a phony passport or license. Graveyard registrations. They take, say, a forty-year-old guy that they need papers for. They go back forty years in a newspaper file somewhere, they find a death notice for an infant. Then they check back to the birth notice for that same infant. They go to the hall of records and they buy a notorized official copy of the birth certificate. That's how they pick the new names for the witnesses—the name originally belonged to some baby that died young. So it's a real birth certificate."
"Charlie, you were going to tell me about the delay."
"Fordham deals only with the new people that come in. Looking after the ones who've already been relocated, that's another department. Bureaucracy, you know, everybody's a specialist. Witnesses they've already relocated go into a standby status after the marshals pull their surveillance off them. It's an active file because they do regular spotchecks to make sure the people are still secure. But it's a different department."
"Then what good does this woman do us?"
"She's got access but it's spotty. When they finish work on a new identity for some family they give the file to Janowicz. She takes it to the filing section and puts it in the appropriate file drawer. The drawers are organized by cross-reference. Both under the new phony name and under the old real name. That's because sometimes they have to call these people back to testify and they need to be able to find them themselves. So all we need is a peek in those files. We're looking for John Doe, say, so we just look up John Doe, and it says, 'See William Smith, four-six-two Chingadera Avenue, Podunk, Nebraska.' Janowicz goes into those files once or twice a week to enter a new file. She's given a temporary onetime clearance each time. It'd be easier for us if they had it in a computer, but they don't." Charlie cleared his throat, crossed his legs and resumed:
"When she does it she's in plain sight of the security guard. She can find a name and address for us all right. But she'd attract suspicion if she opened more than one drawer per trip, and sometimes weeks go by between trips to any particular drawer—maybe even months. They've had this operation seven years now and there are only eleven hundred individuals and families in those files. Figure it out—even if they're doing more business now, entering another new case every few days, there's still a couple of dozen file drawers in there and the odds of hitting the right one are kind of puny. We give her a name, we might get the answer overnight and then again we might have to wait a month or six weeks before she gets into that drawer."
Ezio watched Charlie screw a long cigarette into a silver holder. He didn't prompt Charlie. When the cigarette was burning Charlie spoke again:
"We've got to wait for her to get a new file that fits alphabetically into the same drawer that's got one of the four files we want. Am I boring you?"
"When I get bored I'll yawn."
"For instance we want her to find the file on Walter Benson, right? But she's got to wait for them to get a new file on somebody whose name starts with B. You follow?"
Charlie's smile hardened like a trap abruptly sprung. "I've got Benson for you. She came through with it last night. He's calling himself William Smithers, he's working as an assistant manager in Maddox's Department Store in Norman, Oklahoma, and he lives at one-eighteen Bickham Place in Norman."
Ezio wrote it down. He made a point of showing no emotion. "All right. Now go back and get the other three."CHAPTER 2
Los Angeles: 29 July–1 August
FRED MATHIESON LOCKED THE OFFICE SAFE AND WENT OUT through the reception office. He heard movement across the room—Phil Adler, leaning through the doorway of his office. "Didn't realize you were still here, Fred."
"Got a minute?"
"Jan will roast me if I'm late."
"Only take two minutes. Time me." Adler, red-faced and forty pounds overweight, backed out of sight.
By the time Mathieson strolled into the office Adler had sat down behind the desk, as if to assume command.
"Good thing you caught that sequel-and-remake clause in the Blackman contracts." The air whistling through his nose commanded Mathieson's perverse attention.
"That's what I get my ten percent for."
"The lawyers missed it. You caught it. I always told you you should've been a lawyer."
"That's right, I should have been a lawyer. Your two minutes are ticking, Phil. We've got dinner guests."
"I just wanted to ask you one question."
"Well it's kind of hard. I've been rehearsing how to do this but there just isn't a simple way."
Excerpted from Recoil by Brian Garfield. Copyright © 1977 Brian Garfield. Excerpted by permission of A MysteriousPress.com.
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