“You have five minutes to explain why you didn’t tell me that Cardozo is dead. Because that’s how long I’m going to wait before I call the cops. And they’ll be with you five minutes after they find Cardozo.”
“I didn’t know,” Ernesto said.
“Yeah, and I’m the rightful Queen of France. Four minutes ten seconds.”
“I didn’t know,” Ernesto said. “You think I haven’t been questioned before? I didn’t know, and no threats or sarcasm can change that.”
“That’s it, then: we’re done, and don’t come around again, because I don’t want a federal entourage bird-dogging me.”
“Don’t get your undies in a bundle,” Ernesto grumbled.
I heard him muttering in the background, and the don’s lighter, higher baritone muttering in reply. It was Don Pasquale who came back on the phone.
“Did you see anyone else?”
“You mean, like the female occupant of the house, whose existence you didn’t bother to mention? No. And neither of them left as much as an ATM card behind, let alone a passport. Who was she?”
I thought I heard a faint sigh of relief. “Qualcuna di nessun’importanza. Molto bene, molto bene e mille grazie.”
Someone of no importance—Pasquale always spoke Italian to me. He added, as a murmured after-thought, that I could call the police.
Peppy and I had waited until we reached the tollroad before calling the don. I had bought a disposable phone to use in calling the don or Ernesto, but even so, if the FBI were monitoring their calls, they’d be able to get a bead on me if they wanted to. I could only hope that their surveillance of Cardozo’s place was limited to intermittent drive-bys, that they didn’t have a camera installed somewhere that would have recorded my license plate.
Now, driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the keypad, I did that most reckless act—dialed with one eye on the road and one on the phone. I got directory assistance to connect me to the Glen Ellyn police department, and, speaking in my falsetto register, reported a dead body in unincorporated Glen Ellyn. “I don’t know the exact address—it’s one of those mansions off St. Charles Road with a pond out back. The body’s in the pond.”
The dispatcher started to ask questions, but I turned the phone off and flipped it out the window, where the traffic behind me quickly reduced it to rubble. Back in Chicago, I tried to turn my attention to other problems, but I kept the news station on in the background. Finally, at seven-thirty, while I was making dinner, the story broke: Glen Ellyn police had found a body which the Du Page County ME had tentatively identified as known Mob associate Charlie Cardozo.
Cardozo worked in the Pasquale organization, as a driver and general errand boy. His father, Bertrando Cardozo, was Don Pasquale’s accountant until his death eight years ago. Like his father, Charlie Cardozo was a CPA, but it’s not known whether he took over the vast money laundering apparatus that Bertrando ran on the don’s behalf.
“Is that how he afforded that big house and all those fancy cars?” I asked Peppy, who’d decided to spend the evening with me—her gigantic son was downstairs with my neighbor.
She waved her tail slightly: you’re on the right track, V I, go for it.
“Okay. Right after dinner.”
For a time I’d gotten into the bad habit of working at my computer while I ate, which was bad for the keyboard, and took away my enjoyment of the meal. I poured myself a glass of Torgiano and sat at the dining room table with my food.
As soon as I’d finished, I started digging into Cardozo’s life. It didn’t take me long to find his personal Social Security number, but I didn’t know how many fake ones he might have used. Under his own name, he hadn’t gotten married in any of the fifty states, so either he had married overseas, or the JilSander size 6 was “just a friend.”
Looking for his bank accounts was a harder job. On NCIS and some of those other crime shows, they make it look so easy: you don’t have time for a search warrant, so you tell McGee and Abby to hack into the accounts. But that means you have to know what banks the person is using, and then, when you finally—at eleven-thirty—have found the bank, you have to get through the bank firewall.
I set up some ranges of numbers and words for my program to try and started to get ready for bed: the computer would work all night, seeing if it could slip into Cardozo’s account, and maybe have a lovely surprise for me in the morning. I was brushing my teeth when my phone rang.
“Vic! I didn’t wake you, did I?” It was my cousin Petra, her husky vibrant voice as full of energy as if it were eleven in the morning.
“I live for your calls, Peetie.”
“Then can you come over to see me? Right now, I mean?”
“What’s going on that can’t wait until morning?”
“Right now, Vic—great! I’ll buzz you in.”
She hung up, and didn’t answer when I rang back. I pulled my jeans on again and went into the safe in the back of my closet for my Smith & Wesson. Peppy announced she was coming with me.
“You could be a help, or you could get shot, you know,” I told her.
At midnight, my neighborhood is almost quiet, and it took a scant ten minutes to drive to Petra’s place. She was on the look-out for me; she buzzed me in before I even got to the front door. I ran to the fourth floor with my gun in my hand, my finger on the safety. The dog bounded ahead of me and started squeaking before I reached the landing. When I got up the last half flight, my cousin was squatting in the doorway, hugging the dog—clearly not in danger of her life.
I put the gun away. “What’s the fuss, Petra?”
“These guys came, they want to see you,” she explained, stepping back into her apartment.
I followed her inside. Don Pasquale and Ernesto were sitting on her big stuffed couch.