The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 87
Rich was at his desk at 5:55 AM and left for the penitentiary at 8:30 AM. Rich arrived in the visiting room at 9:00 AM.
Rich sat at one of the 12 wooden tables in an empty waiting room. Each table had two wooden chairs. Rich waited for five minutes. Mrs. Gaffe was led by a female guard into the room. She was dressed in a dingy grey linen dress. She smiled as she approached the table.
She sat across from Rich.
“Good morning, Mrs. Gaffe,” Rich said unsure of how she might respond.
She smiled politely. “Thank you for coming and good morning to you.”
“How are you feeling?” Rich asked.
“I’m feeling good. The food isn’t all that bad. There are things I miss, but that’s okay. We can’t have everything every time we want it anyway.”
Rich smiled. “You sure look different from the first time we met.”
“That was quite a day. I don’t know what came over me. I’m a grandma.”
“When I looked into who you were I had a hard time believing you were the person that tried to toss a hammer through my skull.”
“I’m so glad you are okay. If something happened to you I can’t imagine the pain that would have cost your family.”
“Why do you want to speak to me?” Rich said.
“There is more to this story,” she said looking around to see if anyone was listening. The guard stood next to the wall, about twenty feet away.
“I know there is,” Rich said leaning forward. “There was so much more I could have written about you; about the charitable work that you did, but Sam was not certain it was newsworthy at the time and the prosecution was leaning on us a little. They were afraid it would only prejudice a potential jury.”
“I chose a plea rather than a jury trial,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “With the jury trial the prosecution would have dug deep.”
“You mean they would have found things beyond the charitable work?” Rich asked.
“Yes,” Mrs. Graffee said.
“So why do you trust me?” Rich said.
“Because there is no one else,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “With all that was done to you by me and my husband you wrote only the truth.”
“But I didn’t write about the good things you did,” Rich said.
“It wasn’t about that,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “Besides, I didn’t want the charities and the people I helped to be investigated. It would hurt further donations.”
“That was another reason why Mr. White, Butch Hagler, and me chose not to write about them,” Rich said.
“I have something to tell you, Rich,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “I will tell you and you must keep it secret. My letter sent to you was not through the regular prison channels. I gave it to someone I could trust. If anyone should ask me or you, the only reason you came here was to get a story on how prison life was treating me. You will tell people I’m mean, cantankerous, and uncooperative. And I will spread the same story inside. Is that agreeable to you?”
Rich nodded. “I can do that.”
“Someday, not soon, weeks from now, go to our house in Port Clyde. Above the garage door on the inside is a key on the ledge. It belongs to a safety deposit box at the Augusta First National Bank, the downtown office.”
“What’s in the box?” Rich said.
“Fifteen years ago we were about to lose our house and the store,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “We had a room over the store. A man from Boston wanted to rent it for one night a month, $100. We were desperate and asked no questions. The meeting was with three other men. When the man from Boston found out we were about to lose our home and the store, he wanted to keep the arrangement with us and wasn’t sure the new owners would be cooperative; he loaned a little money to see us through and offered Seymour an chance to make some extra money. ”
“How?” Rich asked.
“We laundered money,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “We made up all sorts of bogus boating, and docking fees paid for by money from Boston. The money was spent on a lot of stuff that wasn’t done and didn’t need to be done.”
“Things like what?” Rich said.
“You know about the asphalt,” Mrs. Gaffe said, “but we dredged that harbor at least a half dozen times without even using a dredge. We put out fires that never existed. We paid consultants who were nothing more than names from a gravestone or phonebook.”
“So the police only got part of the story?” Rich said.
“You think anyone is going to come forward?” Mrs. Gaffe said. “It was a gravy train and everybody was on board. It is amazing how people will sell their soul to the devil for 10 bucks.”
“So why are you telling me this?” Rich said.
“To clear what little remains of my husband’s name and mine,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “The funny thing about this whole mess is that other than the $100 for the room and a couple thousand dollars we made nothing. Seymour and I funneled all the money to charities. Eventually our business picked up; we didn’t need the dirty money, but we were in too deep. The contents of the box will prove it all.”
“What else is in the box?” Rich said.
“Names,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “People I don’t even know.”
“How do you know the names?” Rich said.
“The meetings in the upstairs room were after we closed the store,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “I stayed to lock up after they left. Right above the stove in the middle of the store is a register for the room. You can hear them talk in that room as if they’re sitting next to you.”
“Are you afraid for your life, Mrs. Gaffe?” Rich said.
Mrs. Gaffe looked down at the table. She breathed deep through he nostrils and pressed her lips tight. “Yes.”
“I’m not going to get the key,” Rich said. “That would sign your death sentence.”
“Thank you, dear boy,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “But as soon as you hear of my death you know where the key is.”
“What if you should outlive Mr. Gaffe?” Rich said.
“He has cancer,” Mrs. Gaffe said. “Six months to a year.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Gaffe,” Rich said.
“It’s time for you to go, Mr. Larsen,” Mrs. Gaffe said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Gaffe,”
“Thank you, Rich Larsen.”
Rich walked to the exit of the visiting room and left the prison. “A story never to be reported,” Rich thought as he steered toward Rockland.