DAVID LENDER

Rudiger in the Islands

 

Rudiger in the Islands


Rudiger #2


A White Collar Crime Short Story


by


David Lender

Copyright 2013 © by David T. Lender

Rudiger stood on the balcony of his room at the Blue Moon Beach Hotel, supporting a saucer in one hand, his cup of Earl Grey tea in the other.  He took another sip of his tea and gazed out on the curve of the beach, the clear water extending a few hundred feet from the shore, and then the deep blue Caribbean beyond it to the horizon.

Paradise.

He glanced over at the rocky precipice that extended above the far end of the bay, the concrete foundation and walls of his new house perched on the edge of it.  He could see his construction contractors working inside through the openings where the floor-to-ceiling windows would be.  Pretty much the same as it had been for the last month.  Now he began to understand what they told him about building anything in the islands.  All you needed to do was stand in the check-in line at the airport and you understood how slowly things moved down here.  But he had no complaints.

After a year in Brazil re-tooling himself—undergoing gastric bypass and multiple plastic surgeries to change his appearance and settling into his new identity—he’d moved north to the islands.  He tried Trinidad, Tortola, then Barbados, each for a month.  After a week in Antigua he knew it was the place.  It took him two more weeks to find Blue Moon Bay.

He then chased down the owner of the 25 acres that included the five he’d purchased surrounding the cliff where he sited his new house.

Then another two weeks of learning the ropes and hiring an expediter to pay off the right officials to get his building permits and utility installations pushed to the front of the line.  All the while that process was going on his architect had finished adapting the plans from another home he built for some Silicon Valley computer memory mogul on Aruba.  Now his house was going up.

He looked down at the Blue Moon’s pool.  Even this early in the morning a dozen young women were lathering up with suntan lotion on chaise lounges on the pool apron.  The scent of their suntan lotion mixed with perfume and their high-pitched laughter made him smile.  With its proximity to V.C. Bird International Airport, the Blue Moon received a steady flood of flight attendants from the north-south airline routes to and from South America and North America, as well as the transatlantic routes from Europe and Africa.  What more could a guy ask?

He glanced up again at the cliff where his home was being built.  Everything about Blue Moon Bay was perfect for his new life.  He could hide out here forever from the mess he left behind in the States.

Then he reminded himself, You can’t run from yourself.  In time he’d need to come to terms with the fact that he’d had it all and let it slip away.

He saw the pastel green uniform of the local cop, dark circles of perspiration already showing beneath his arms.  The guy was creepy, skulking around as if he was stalking some murderer hiding in the hibiscus and frangipani bushes.  He always parked his police Jeep on the circular drive in front of the hotel, made his rounds, never smiling, narrowing his eyes when he encountered anyone.  After his rounds he left, usually returning in the late afternoon to do a circuit again.

Rudiger turned to walk back into his suite at the same time he heard the two French kids from next-door roughhousing inside their room.  His fluency in French from his four years in Paris working at the Rothschild’s investment bank allowed him to understand their parents’ elevator conversation the night before.  They’d told the older boy, Philippe, who was about 12, that they were going parasailing the next morning.  When they left the hotel room he’d have to take care of his younger brother, Gabriel, who looked to be about ten.

Rudiger heard a crash from next door, then one of the kids shouting, the other laughing, and then saw them both hurtle out onto their balcony and slam into the metal railing.

Gabriel let out a wail and Philippe rolled off him.  Rudiger felt a jolt of shock as he saw blood pumping from a gash in the younger kid’s wrist, bone protruding from it.  The blood was spurting a few inches from his arm with each heartbeat.  Rudiger dropped his cup and saucer and turned to look for the cop, who was now turning the corner around the pool apron and heading toward the hotel.

“Isaacs!” Rudiger yelled.  The cop froze in place and looked up at Rudiger, the whites of his eyes showing.  “We need you.  It’s an emergency.  Get to your Jeep.”  He spun around and called from his balcony in French to Philippe, “Open the door to your room.  I’ll be right there.”

Rudiger ran out of this suite and into the neighboring one just as Philippe opened the door.  As he crossed the room he grabbed a bathrobe from the bed and pulled the belt from it.  He saw a room service cart and picked up a butter knife as he rushed out onto the balcony.  Gabriel’s face was white, his eyes glazed. Already in shock.

It was worse than Rudiger had thought.  The bone was sticking out at least an inch through the skin directly underneath the kid’s wrist.  Based on the extent of the bleeding he must have cut the artery.

Rudiger wrapped the belt of the bathrobe around Gabriel’s arm below the elbow, twisted it, then wrapped the knife into the belt and used it to twist the tourniquet tight.

Philippe now stood beside him, trembling with fright, tears streaming down his face.  “Stay calm.  He’ll be alright,” Rudiger said to him, again in French, “Hold this as tight as you can.  Whatever you do, don’t let go.”

Rudiger scooped Gabriel up in his arms, said to Philippe, “Stay with me as I carry him and hold it tight,” and then stood up and hurried from the room into the hall.  He took the stairs rather than wait for the elevator, now feeling his own blood pumping, his heart knocking in his chest.  When he got downstairs he pushed the stairway door open with his rump, then turned and saw Isaacs standing outside the front door of the hotel, his hands at his sides, scowling.  Isaacs’ eyes went wide when he saw the blood.

He backed up and stood blocking the Jeep.  He held up his arms.  “Call hospital, send ambulance.”

Rudiger’s anger flared.  He brushed past Isaacs and placed Gabriel in the passenger seat.  He said to Philippe, “Climb in behind his seat and hold onto the tourniquet.” The kid obeyed.  “He’ll be alright,” Rudiger told him again.  “I’ll send your parents to the hospital.”

Rudiger now looked up to see Isaacs still standing in place, watching.  Rudiger strode to him, glared at him with his face inches from his, ready to punch him if necessary.  He said in a loud whisper so Philippe wouldn’t hear, “You want it on your head that you let this kid bleed to death or are you gonna get in and drive?”

Isaacs’ mouth dropped open, then he ran around the front of the Jeep and climbed in.  As he started it up and shoved the stick in gear, he turned and shot a menacing look at Rudiger.  “How you know Carlen Isaacs’ name?”  He burned rubber as he sped off.


#


Rudiger jogged into the lobby and had the front desk radio the parasailing boat to bring the kids’ parents back to shore.  While he waited to explain to them what had happened, he ducked into the restroom to wash the blood off his hands and arms.  When the parents arrived, the mother kept looking from Rudiger’s face to the blood on his clothes as he talked, her face ashen.  The hotel had a driver take them to the hospital.

After he changed into clean clothes—the uniform he’d taken up in Antigua: Tommy Bahama shirt over Bermuda shorts with sandals, shaved head with sunglasses—Rudiger sat at the table near the edge of the pool apron that he’d already adopted as his own.  Estelle came over and he ordered breakfast and more tea, then sat alternately reading his New York Times and Wall Street Journal and looking out at the ocean.  By the time Estelle brought his breakfast his pulse had returned to normal and the adrenaline had stopped buzzing in his limbs.

He heard someone walk up, then the footsteps stop behind him.

Someone said, “Are you John Rudiger?”

“I like to see who’s asking,” Rudiger said.

The guy walked around the table to face him.

“Yeah, I’m Rudiger.  Can I help you?”

“Yes, I think you can.”

The guy was as white as a newborn baby.  He wore a polo shirt with a Ralph Lauren logo on it and shorts in a burnt orange color that said he was probably a golfer.  The guy was short, with skinny legs and ankles like toothpicks.  He looked uptight and out of place, and held an envelope in one hand.

Rudiger motioned to a chair.  The guy sat down.  Rudiger said, “You better be careful with this Caribbean sun, particularly at this time of day.  You’ll get fried to a crisp.”  Rudiger smiled.

The guy didn’t smile back.  He said, “I’ve got on number 45 sunblock.”  And then he added as if it was an afterthought, “Thanks anyhow.”

What a stiff.   He had to be a golfer, and someone in his foursome must’ve stuck a golf club up his ass.

“What can I do for you?” Rudiger said.

The guy cleared his throat and twisted his neck to the side.  Rudiger heard a crack.  He said, “My boss sent me down here to follow up on a lead we got from a man from New York about three weeks ago.”  The guy now leaned forward and put his elbows on the table and paused like he expected a reaction from Rudiger.

Rudiger smiled again, held it, waited.

The guy went on.  “This fellow was an investor in a technology hedge fund—WGC Technology Fund—run by a man named Walter Conklin.”  He paused again, holding his gaze on Rudiger’s eyes.

Rudiger shrugged.

“It seems this man was vacationing down here three weeks ago and stayed at this hotel.  He said he overheard a conversation from the next table while he was having lunch one day.  His back was to the man who was talking, but he swore he recognized his voice as this fund manager, Walter Conklin dead-on.  Conklin was seated at this table.”

Rudiger kept his expression disinterested.

“This man Conklin compelled his CFO to falsify his investment returns so his investors wouldn’t stampede from him when the NASDAQ crashed in early 2000.  The CFO did the right thing—went to the authorities and turned state’s evidence.  When Conklin found out his CFO was talking, he fled the country a year and a half ago before we could nab him.  He left with an estimated $500 million of his investors’ money—obviously including the man who gave my boss the lead.”

Rudiger now let annoyance show in his face and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“No?  You’ve got a lot of expatriate Americans living down here named Rudiger?”

“Not that I’m aware of.  And I’ve been here all my life.  But anything’s possible.”

The guy removed something from the envelope he’d been carrying.  He said, “This investor took a photograph of the man he identified as Conklin from the balcony after he went upstairs to get his camera.”  He placed a grainy photograph of Rudiger, shot from a distance, on the table.

Rudiger could now feel tension in his arms, his pulse elevated.  He started to reach for the photograph and stopped himself by leaning forward to put his elbows on the table.  He looked the guy square in the eye and said, “Is this supposed to mean something to me?”

“In time it will.”

“What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I’m not going away.  This isn’t going away.  I’m down here for as long as it takes to prove you’re really Walter Conklin and extradite you back to New York to stand trial for securities fraud and embezzlement.”

“Who the hell are you anyway?  Some private dick?  You’ve got a lot of nerve interrupting my breakfast with this crap.”

“I guess I should have identified myself.  My name is David Steele and I work for Charlie Holden in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York.  I’m sure you know who he is.”

Rudiger sensed a wave of anxiety trickle from his scalp down his body.  He forced himself to hold his face neutral, waited to see if Steele had anything more.  He kept his gaze locked on Steele’s eyes.

At that moment Estelle walked beside the table into Rudiger’s peripheral vision. “You need anything else, Mr. Rudiger?”

“Yes.  Estelle, this man is harassing me,” he said, continuing to stare down Steele.  “Please get security and have him thrown out.”

Steele smiled for the first time.  Rudiger observed his face, looking for signs of weakness or doubt.

Nothing.

Steele stood up and said, “No need, Estelle.  I was just leaving.”

Steele turned and walked toward the hotel.

Estelle paused a moment, looking confused, then walked off too.

Rudiger sat back in his chair, his hands trembling with anger, his breathing labored.  He took a few deep breaths, willed himself to calm down.

What are the odds?  Some dope on vacation recognizes his voice and calls it in, then Holden sends down one of his dogs.

Unbelievable.

His day starts with the kid next door almost bleeding to death, then this.

So far it’s been a perfect morning.

He remembered what Steele said.  “This isn’t going away.”  Rudiger also remembered Steele’s face the only time he smiled during their conversation.  He held eye contact with no tension, no hesitation.  The guy was a kid, maybe only 30 or so, but his poise and self-assurance at that moment told Rudiger this was deadly serious.

So the fundamental question was, should he run or stay?

What did they really have on him besides some guy recognizing his voice?  His CFO back in New York, Trask, had clearly flipped big time, and when he saw that Rudiger had skipped town, blamed everything on him.  He obviously left out the fact that he cooked the books on his own to goose returns and bring in more investors.  And that when Rudiger found out, he told Trask to keep them cooked for one more quarter until he could manage his way back to those results, then take a hike, preferably off a cliff.  Trask even somehow convinced the Feds that Rudiger had skipped with hundreds of millions of dollars.

What bullshit.

It was mostly the market losses his fund had incurred with the NASDAQ crashing.  Probably half of the losses were after he left town, because the Feds would’ve frozen the assets of the fund, allowed no trading, and the market continued to collapse.

It was ridiculous.  All he left town with was $40 million from Myron Brownstein’s estate’s discretionary account.  Not that you could sneeze at $40 million, but it wasn’t half a billion.

But aside from all that, could they prove he wasn’t John Rudiger?

Then again, other than his phony U.S. passport in John Rudiger’s name, he didn’t have much other than credit cards to prove he was John Rudiger.

If Holden somehow convinced the Antiguan cops to haul him in to take his fingerprints and then ship them back to New York, Holden would ID him in two seconds from his fingerprints on file with the National Association of Securities Dealers.

Game over.  Extradited.

So, despite the fact that he thought he’d settled in here in Antigua, maybe it was time to find someplace else.  Just book a flight and disappear, try Barbados, Tortola or Trinidad again.  They all spoke English there, so it would be easy.

Rudiger glanced over at the rocky cliff at the end of the bay where his house was being built.  He got a sinking sensation.  He already had a lot invested here, not so much the money, but his bond with the place, the calm feeling it gave him.  The year of weight loss surgery and plastic surgeries, working at trimming himself down to be almost unrecognizable from his former self, that was an investment, too.  That wouldn’t be wasted if he ran, but it just seemed a shame to decide to fold up his tent and leave based on one conversation.

He leaned forward and gazed out at the Caribbean.  And, yeah, it was the same ocean all those other places he could go.

But what if he could beat this thing?  Prove he was Rudiger beyond any reasonable doubt.  Or at least to the point where it would counterbalance what Holden had against him, enough to convince the Antiguan cops not to do anything about it.

He sat back in his chair again.

Maybe sleep on it.

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Copyright 2013 © by David T. Lender

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