16. Confession

Reese drove Evan’s car back to the Russwoods’ mansion, while Evan stared sullenly out the window of the passenger seat.

“So, what are you?” Evan finally asked when the silence became unbearable. “Some kind of private eye? Or a contractor that Fred brought in to impress Jan?”

“I don’t think Mr. Russwood had anything other than his family’s safety in mind when he contacted my employer,” Reese answered. “He kept feeling like he was being watched, so he hired us to check his house for unwanted surveillance devices.”

“Huh. I guess Jan was right – the old man does have eyes in the back of his head… or some weird sort of sixth sense…” Evan’s gaze wandered over to the steering wheel. “You’re not wearing a ring,” he said bluntly. “Did Fred pick you to do this job? It wouldn’t be the first time he’s tried to set Jan up with someone else…”

Reese could not suppress a smile. “Evan, you have nothing to worry about – at least, not with regards to your wife. I’m already in a very committed relationship. In fact, Harold and I were celebrating our anniversary yesterday when we happened to meet the Russwoods.”

“‘Harold’?

Reese nodded. “My employer, partner, and the love of my life.”

Before Evan could fully digest the impact of this statement, they pulled into the Russwoods’ driveway.

Once in the house, Reese set out the remnants of the jade lion and cigar box (along with their respective devices) on the coffee table in the living room, along with Isabella’s stuffed elephant. Janet returned from putting the baby in her bed and was startled to see the toy there.

“This has a camera in its eye,” Reese explained for her benefit. “May I cut into it to remove it?”

“Bella loves her Elly… but of course. We can always buy her another,” Janet answered.

Evan kept his eyes planted firmly on the pattern of the rug as Reese extricated a camera with a transmitter, took its picture, then sent it to Finch.

“Are there any more, Evan?” Reese asked. “I assure you, I’ll find them all, but you can do yourself a favor by helping us now.”

Evan pursed his lips for a moment, then nodded. “The clock… in Jan’s room. I replaced it with the same clock, with the same inscription, only… it’s got a camera and mic in it.”

“Evan! How could you!” Janet gasped. “That was a wedding gift from Aunt Doris!”

Reese left them to argue and went to get the clock. When he returned, Evan was still pleading his case, claiming to have been clean of drugs at the time of his arrest; however, when Reese set the clock down, its back removed to show the wires of the added devices, he fell silent.

“Regardless of your drug use or lack thereof, Evan,” Reese stated, “you need to explain why you would do this.”

“I—I had to,” he stammered, “to make sure Fred wasn’t telling Jan more lies about me! I knew he wanted her to find someone else – oh, yeah, you made it obvious right from the start that you didn’t approve of me!” he bit out at Russwood. “I just had to know that she… she wasn’t seeing anyone else… until I could prove what you’d done…”

“You’re right that I wasn’t thrilled about my daughter marrying you,” Russwood replied, a hard edge to his voice, “but I hardly had to frame you for an arrest to get you out of her life – you’d already done a good enough job of that yourself! And if I’d known that you’d been using illegal drugs, there never would have been a wedding, believe me!”

Reese cut off Evan’s bitter retort. “Give me your cell phone,” he said, extending his hand. “We need to know more about this ‘friend’ of yours who helped you plant these bugs. I think he preyed on your fears and suspicions, Evan, to accomplish his own agenda. We have to find out what that agenda is.”

Leaving Evan to chew on that thought, Reese called Finch.

Hello?”

“Hi, Harold – I’m calling from Evan’s cell. The last number dialed was to his ‘friend’ who helped him install the surveillance devices.”

I’ll run a trace on it right away. How did you get his cell?”

“I found him stalking the Russwoods in the restaurant, and… persuaded him to join us and make a clean breast of it. I’ll turn the speaker on so you can hear what he has to say, too.”

Placing the cell phone in the middle of the table, Reese sat down across from Evan and stared at him until he finally heaved a sigh and began to talk – how he had met the man, Carl Banks, at a friend’s bachelor party and bought some cocaine from him; how sympathetic Carl had been about his trouble with his father-in-law and interested in the Russwoods in general; how Carl had “supported” him after Janet had discovered his cocaine habit and moved back to her parents’ house; and how Carl had suggested planting surveillance devices in the home and coached Evan on what objects to replicate and replace, after installing the devices for him.

“I just thought… Carl thought, that if we could listen in on what you guys were saying, we could get the proof that Fred had planted those drugs in my car and told the Sheriff to pull me over that night. I mean, I was only going five miles over! It had to be a setup…” Evan insisted.

“Oh, I believe you, Evan,” Reese told him smoothly. “I just think it was Carl who set you up, so that in your desperation you would agree to plant these devices for him. After all, you were the perfect ‘inside man.’ But what were you planning to do? Kidnap Bella and hold her for ransom? Then take the money and Bella and escape somewhere where there’s no extradition?”

NO! No, of course not,” Evan cried, shocked. “I would never put my baby girl through that! Besides, I… It wouldn’t be good for Bella to… be separated from her mom. And I would never do that to you, Jan – please believe me!”

Janet pursed her lips and did not answer. She had been weeping wordlessly for most of her husband’s confession.

“Jan,” he pleaded, trying to catch her eye, “I would never hurt Bella! And I’d never put you through anything like that, either. I know I’ve let you down… I should’ve known better than to ever do drugs… and I’m sorry. I’m clean now, Jan, honest! I’ll never touch that stuff again!”

She was not ready to answer, torn between wanting to believe him and being forced to acknowledge what he had already done. In the tense silence, Finch’s detached voice came through on Evan’s cell.

I’ve found Carl Banks, a.k.a. Carl Herschel, a.k.a. Carl Vogler… the list goes on. He’s a professional con man, wanted in connection with several fraud investigations along the East Coast. There’s also a case in Maryland where he was suspected of aiding and abetting a woman, who had lost custody of her children, to kidnap those children and demand a ransom from the father’s family… In that case, he made off with the cash while the mother was arrested for parental kidnapping.”

Reese looked questioningly at Evan, whose face had drained of all color.

“H-He never said anything like that!” he protested. “I wouldn’t’ve let him! Please, you have to believe me!”

“He could have kidnapped Bella and made you an accessory after the fact,” Reese pointed out. “What would you have done if he’d brought her to you? Of course you would’ve taken her, if only to take care of her – you wouldn’t have left her in his care, I hope! But the question is, Evan, if you would have brought her back here, to her mother, where she belongs… or if you would have kept her – safe, of course, but still illegally – until you’d gotten the ransom.”

“Look, I have no need for the money!” he cried. “I’m not as rich as my father, I’ll admit that, but I have enough to get by! It’s not the money I want, it’s my wife and child!

Reese regarded him for a moment longer, staring into his open, distraught eyes, then turned to speak to Russwood.

“I tend to believe him, Senator. Now, if you still want to report him to the police, I think that’s a decision that you need to make as a family,” he said, with a meaningful glance towards Janet, “but as far as this Carl character is concerned, I promise you that we will find him and turn him in to the proper authorities. You should probably hold on to these devices to use as evidence against him.”

Russwood had just nodded in sober agreement when his cell phone rang. He took it out and frowned at the display.

“It says someone from the NYPD is calling. I’d better take this… Hello?”

Hello, Senator Russwood?”

“Yes.”

I’m Detective Carter with the NYPD. Sir, I know this may seem strange, but I happen to know that the man you left the hotel with this morning is a dangerous fugitive.”

“Is that so?” Russwood said, one eyebrow raised as he looked at Reese. “I suppose you already know about the attempted mugging last night?”

Yes, Sir. I don’t know what he told you or why you chose to leave with him this morning, but if you stay in his company, you may be placing yourself in grave danger.”

“Well, Detective, I’m very grateful for your concern, but I’m well aware of his… unique talents. And actually, I asked him to investigate some… other threats upon my person, which he has quite capably eliminated. So if you don’t mind, I’ll decide for myself whom to trust. Good day, Detective.”

Sir—!”

Cutting her off, Russwood nodded at Reese.

“She saw us leave the hotel this morning.”

“Harold, if she saw that—” Reese began, directing his words to the cell phone.

I’m on it, John. I didn’t delete that footage because I didn’t want to call attention to the fact that we stayed there. Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on our friend to be so… thorough.”

“She’s a good cop, Harold. Although I’d like her a lot better if she didn’t keep trying to arrest me…”

Arrest us,” Finch corrected. “I’m afraid she’s already called my… former employer. I’ll take care of damage control. I’m sending you the contact information for my attorney, in case she decides to arrest me. I’m also transferring some funds into your account so you can post bail. I do hope you’ll send Charles to get me before too long. Prison beds are not known to be… kind to back injuries.”

“Harold, what are you going to do?” Reese asked, slightly panicked.

I have an idea. It may not work, but she bought my ‘innocent victim’ act once already – we’ll see if I can pull it off a second time. Oh, and the car is waiting for you at the southeast corner outside of the Russwoods’ driveway. No need to tip the driver.”

“Harold… be careful.”

I will, John.”

“I love you.”

Finch paused, knowing that the entire Russwood family was still listening to their conversation.

…I love you, too, John. Don’t worry, I’ll be all right.”


Finch wished he could believe that, for he felt anything but all right as he limped towards the apartment where Carter had first met and interviewed “Mr. Burdett.” He had left his suit jacket, vest, and tie at the library, hoping to create a more casual impression as befitting a paralegal who had run out to the store for some groceries. He had stopped by the nearest store to pick up those groceries and had – almost on a whim – tossed a box of condoms and a bottle of personal lubricant into his basket as well. When he approached the building, he saw that Carter was waiting for him in a parked car.

“Mr. Burdett,” she called, running up to him as he fumbled with his keys. “Can I give you a hand with that?”

“Ah… Thank you,” he said as she took the paper sack he was holding. “Detective… Parker?”

“Carter.”

“Oh, yes! Of course. I’m sorry, I’m terrible with names,” Finch said apologetically, managing to turn the key. “Ah… Please, come in. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Mr. Burdett… I’d like to ask you a few questions about the robbery down at lockup…”

“Again?” Finch queried, turning to face her with one eyebrow raised. “I don’t mean to be rude, Detective, but I really don’t see what else I could possibly remember…”

“We have some new evidence we’d like you to look over,” Carter said, handing him back the sack of groceries.

“Well, if you think it will help,” Finch responded, placing the sack on the kitchen counter before removing his coat. As he draped it over a chair, Carter took a grainy black-and-white picture out of her folder and showed it to him.

“Do you recognize this man?”

It was a still photo of himself with Reese, whose back was turned to the camera.

“John? Of course,” Finch replied.

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