Authors: Gary Hastings
“The obvious is overwhelming and I’m absolutely fascinated with the case. It’s clear that Pellegrino is behind all of this, but it’ll be an absolute nightmare to prosecute. With all of these statements by people who are now dead, I’m not sure what we’ll be able to get admitted and what will be inadmissible. However, if we don’t get Daniel Pellegrino behind bars, there will be more bodies piling up. We clearly have probable cause to arrest him. I’ll authorize warrants, and I want to get to work immediately on case preparation. Next week I’ll block out some time to review the case top to bottom.”
Pat was pleased with Tom Bronson’s response. They stood up and shook hands. As they walked out, Bronson pulled Pat to the side.
“Can I have a minute in private, Chief?”
Tom Bronson pulled the door closed and shook his head.
“You have yourself one hell of a case here, Chief. More than that, I want to thank you for pricking my conscience about my need to prosecute a case. That leadership by example statement has stuck in my gut. It hurt a little, but you’re exactly right. I share your passion for justice in this case. Now let’s catch someone for me to prosecute.”
Monday, February 28 - Day 41
Chief of Detectives’ Office - One Police Plaza
Borough of Manhattan, New York
or the past two weeks there had been no new developments in the case. The Manhattan District Attorney had spent hours reviewing the case and had given the detectives some investigative direction in getting the case better prepared for prosecution. The Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force had been relentlessly searching for Daniel Pellegrino to no avail. He was not to be found. They had also assisted in trying to find the former Assistant District Attorney Franklyn Donovan. It was as if they both had fallen off the face of the earth.
Leads had been checked and re-checked, and Pat had even made personal trips to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service. Daniel Pellegrino had a lot of money stuck in banks all over New York, but he apparently had arranged to pay his taxes and as of yet, they could not prove the money had been obtained by illegal means. They had no investigative interest and no idea where he could be found.
Pat decided to pull the task force in for a brain-storming session. He opened the meeting with a question. “Where could Daniel Pellegrino be?”
Wilbur Stone offered a theory. “Maybe the ADA Donovan whacked Pellegrino and flew the coop.”
Pat shook his head. “Not likely since Pellegrino has been seen a lot more recently than Donovan. It had been nine years since Donovan’s whereabouts in California was last determined. Pellegrino, on the other hand, was seen last year. If anyone can think of any databases that we haven’t tried, I’m all ears.”
Karla elaborated on their efforts. “If he has any contact with the sister, we can’t find it, Chief. We have a mail cover, phone toll register and even a pole camera up on her house, but we haven’t had a nibble. I think he’s well hidden somewhere, if he’s still alive.”
“Other than Donovan, is there anyone else who could be involved, even hypothetically? What do you think, Mary?”
“I don’t really know. We still haven’t talked to his old law partner, Roland Brewster.”
“That’s a good point. We’d put that on the back burner. At this point, I think it’s worth a try. Maybe the old geezer will give something up.”
“Do you want to hit him cold or schedule something?”
“Oh, I would go with cold. Lawyers instinctively don’t want to talk to cops.”
“Okay, let’s see what Counselor Brewster has to say.”
Monday, February 28 - Day 41
Residence of Roland Brewster - 1187 Forest Hills Drive
Borough of Queens, New York
ary McDonald asked if Pat would accompany her to talk with Roland Brewster. Pat was familiar with the 80-year-old attorney and agreed that it might help. Brewster lived in a multi-million dollar home on Forest Hills Drive in the ritzy Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens. Pat parked in the circular driveway in front of the three-story stone mansion. He had on his grey wool, top coat to cut the breeze. Mary was wearing a tan, London Fog raincoat, which was the prescribed uniform of NYPD Detectives.
Pat rang the
door bell and in about 30 seconds a housekeeper came to the door.
“Good afternoon. How may I help you?”
“We’d like to see Mr. Brewster.”
“Is he expecting you?”
“No. I don’t think so. We’re police officers.”
Pat flipped out his fancy Chief of Detectives shield. She looked at it very closely.
“I’ll be right back. Please excuse me.”
She closed the door, and in about two minutes it was re-opened, by Roland Brewster. He looked well-tanned, healthy and was dressed in a green sweater, an open collared, yellow shirt and navy slacks.
“I’m Roland Brewster. How may I help you?”
Pat once again removed his fancy shield and flashed it.
“I’m Patrick O’Connor, NYPD Chief of Detectives. This is Detective Mary McDonald from the Manhattan North Homicide Unit. If we could come inside, we’d like to talk to you. I apologize for imposing, but it’s important.”
“It must be to get the Chief out here. I’ve seen you on the tube many times. You’re a hard-working man. Please come in.”
Pat was encouraged by his hospitality. They walked inside, and he directed them to a corner where there were comfortable chairs and a couch.
“Please have a seat. I’ll have Mrs. Wiggins bring us some coffee in a few.”
“Thank you, sir, but please don’t go to any trouble.” Pat said.
“No trouble at all. So, what is this regarding?” Brewster asked.
Pat got directly to the point. “Daniel Pellegrino.”
Roland Brewster was clearly upset by the mention of the name. He just stared at the floor and then spoke with a lot of anger in his tone. “That pathological liar! Why, pray tell, is his name coming up now? I haven’t heard from him in years.”
Pat drove his point home by being direct. “We believe he was selling case dismissals in Brooklyn when he was a partner in your law firm.”
Brewster interrupted. “Am I being investigated for something? Maybe you should talk to my attorneys.”
“No sir. You’re not a suspect in anything. We’re just trying to find Daniel Pellegrino.”
“That maniac nearly ruined my career. He was wheeling and dealing in cases in Kings County and taking money under the table. We thought he was a brilliant lawyer. His success was phenomenal. Then we found out the truth and sent him packing. I’ve always believed the stress he caused Arnold Kemp caused him to have the heart attack.”
“Do you have any idea where he might be?”
“I’m sorry Chief, I wish I knew. He can’t rot in jail long enough for me.”
Mrs. Wiggins brought out coffee and cookies, and they talked about the courts and life in general. Brewster took them into his prize greenhouse and gave Mary a beautiful rose. He promised to let them know if he thought of anything that might help. They shook hands and said goodbye. As Pat got into the black Chrysler, he knew they had gotten absolutely nothing in weeks which resembled a lead on Daniel Pellegrino’s location. It was time to pull a
rabbit out of the hat
as Bryan Flannery often called Pat’s creative development of investigative leads. At this point, he felt as if he had nowhere to go. This had to change soon before Pellegrino found a new Harry Pittsford. There were enough bodies in this case already.
Monday, February 28 - Day 41
Chief of Detectives’ Residence
Borough of Manhattan, New York
at settled into his apartment for the evening. Maggie was in training at the Secret Service Training Center in Maryland and would not be home until the weekend. He missed her a lot, but something else was creating a knot in his stomach. He had practiced his trumpet for an hour, an activity which usually provided a great escape, but the uneasy feeling was still there. He realized this case involving Daniel Pellegrino was taking its toll. The lack of progress was driving him nuts.
He had gone over the case dozens of times. He had read all the reports detailing the activities and investigative efforts of the task force members and couldn’t find any stone that remained unturned. Every investigative trap had been set, but there was not even a nibble in terms of leads. Although the crime had basically been solved (with the NYPD knowing who was behind it) without a suspect in custody, the case could not be closed. Harry Pittsford had been the killer, but the evil plan was conceived by Daniel Pellegrino.
Pat was sitting at the desk in his study. He had his portable on monitoring the city-wide channels. He realized he had been so consumed by this case that he had not stayed on top of city-wide activities as he typically did. Dickie Davis always brought him overnight crime summaries in the morning, but Pat hadn’t had Dickie drive him in almost a month. He knew he was distracted and was losing his edge. He sat down and started to make a
list. He hoped those around him had not sensed his distraction. He was determined to close this case and get back in the game.
Pat was flipping through a stack of business cards. He always tried to enter contacts in his phone, so he would have them when he needed them. He dropped some cards in his
briefcase to add to his contacts later. Almost through, he came across a plain white card which simply said: “Kenneth Helms” and had a phone number. He had to think for a moment, but remembered he was the son of Archibald Helms, an old sergeant Pat had worked for in Queens. Arch had been killed in the line of duty when he walked in on a liquor store robbery. Pat had closed the case in about a year.
Kenneth Helms was Arch’s youngest son and worked for
. He was an officer with the Central Intelligence Agency. Unlike spy movies and novels, a CIA Officer was an employee of the government, while a CIA Agent was a source or informant, a
in NYPD terminology. The CIA was not a law enforcement agency and legally was not even supposed to operate inside the United States. After 9/11, all things changed. Pat knew the CIA had a large office in the city, but he had never interacted with them.
Kenneth Helms had told Pat on several occasions, that if he could help in any way, to call him. Pat decided it was time to reach out. He dialed the number.
“Hello. This is Ken.”
“Good evening, Ken. This is Pat O’Connor, NYPD.”
“Hello, Chief. How are you?”
“I’m great and you?”
“Still chasing shadows, I’m afraid.”
“Are you still in the city?”
“Yep, there’s a lot of work here. How can I help you?”
“I may need your help, if I can take you up on your offer.”
“Sure, Chief, but we better do this in person. My office is probably not a good place to meet, because you’re pretty well-known. I don’t want to overdramatize this, but could you meet me at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan? We can take a boat ride.”
“Sure, Ken. What time did do you want to meet?”
“Let’s make it 1:30 tomorrow afternoon. It shouldn’t be too crowded at that time of day.”
“Thanks, Ken. I hope I still recognize you.”
“Don’t worry, Pat. I’ll recognize you.”
Tuesday, March 1 - Day 42
Staten Island Ferry Terminal
Borough of Manhattan, New York
at O’Connor arrived at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal in lower Manhattan precisely on time. He had spent the morning compiling every speck of information the NYPD had on Daniel Pellegrino. He had photographs, fingerprints, addresses, known associates, police reports and all the possible email addresses the Computer Crimes Squad had produced. He had downloaded it all onto a small USB drive which looked like a poker chip. Now, he really felt like a spy.
Kenneth Helms approached Pat as he walked into the terminal. Pat was wearing his top coat and a suit. Kenneth Helms was dressed in blue jeans and a grey Columbia University sweatshirt. Pat joked about the dress.
“I thought you guys wore trench coats.”
“We can wear them anywhere but New York. We wouldn’t want to be confused with the NYPD.”