This week Joe faces a tough situation. When we left him last week, he was on the phone to the authorities ready to alert them about the illicit arms deal about to happen in his company’s warehouse. The story is coming to a head. I hope you are enjoying it.
If you want to catch up on the previous installments of this serial, you can click on these links:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13, Part 14, Part 15, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, Part 29, Part 30, Part 31
Joe disconnected the call. He had to think this through. Bringing in the authorities would certainly shut down this operation, but it would also bring him down as being complicit in the crimes being committed. He wasn’t as worried about himself as he was about the rest of his family. Instead of calling in the authorities, he would try to kill this deal himself. Even though he wanted to avoid problems for his family, he didn’t want to supply guns to gang members in Chicago. Joe got out of the SUV and went back into the warehouse. He would have to act quickly, there wasn’t much time until the deal was supposed to go down. He walked quickly across the warehouse floor and climbed the steps back up to the office and through the door where Johnny was hunched over the desk.
“Joe. What is it? Did we forget something?”
“We have to pull out of this deal,” Joe said. “I just got a call from someone I know and our buyer might be under surveillance by the FBI.”
“What? That’s impossible. We’ve been doing business with these guys for a long time.”
“Well, it may not be true, but I don’[t want to take any chances. We need to call the buyers and tell them the deal is off.”
“They’re not going to be happy. Besides, what am I going to tell them?” Johnny asked starting to panic.
“Just tell them there’s a problem with the supply. They’ll think you’re doing them a favor.”
“Oh man. I knew this deal was too good to be true,” Johnny said as he started to punch in a number on his cell phone.
“Hello. Yes, this is Johnny Provenza. Is he in?”
Johnny paced as he waited for the other person on the line.
“Yes. Hello. This is Johnny. I’m sorry about this, but we need to call off the deal today.”
Johnny paused and Joe could hear a loud voice on the other end of the call despite the phone’s proximity to Johnny’s ear.
“Yes, I know. Yes, I thought so too. It’s just that, the supplier apparently damaged several of the units and did have half-baked repair job. We found it during a last-minute inspection.”
The volume of the voice seemed to drop a bit on the other end of the call.
“Yes. We should have caught it earlier, but at least we caught it. I don’t know. We might have to find a new supplier or get a deep discount on the next shipment. Yes, of course we’ll keep you informed. Okay, okay,” Johnny said and then held his phone at arm’s length.
“What happened?” Joe asked.
“He hung up on me,” Johnny said.
“Did he buy the story?”
“I think so, but he was pissed. They were about to leave and now he has to tell his buyer’s the deal is off. He was not happy.”
“Well, if the feds moved in during the deal, nobody, except the feds, would have been happy,” Joe said.
“Who was your source?” Johnny asked.
“Someone I trust who’s on the inside,” Joe lied.
“Well, I hope it’s someone reliable.”
“Oh, it’s someone I’ve known for a long time.”
“So, what now? What am I going to tell my father? He’s not going to be happy at all.”
“I’ll take the heat for this,” Joe said knowing there would be plenty of heat if the senior Provenza had the same temperament in this timeline. “I’ll head over to see your father now. You can come with me if you want, or stay here if you don’t want to get pulled into it.”
“I’ll come with you. I want to hear exactly what he has to say. I’ll follow you over to his house.”
It occurred to Joe that, even though the elder Provenza lived in the same general area as he and Sophia, along the lake, he didn’t know exactly what house was the right one.
“Why don’t I ride with you. My SUV has been acting up. I’m going to have Eric bring a mechanic out here to look at it.”
As they descended the stairs to the warehouse, Joe was a bit disturbed at how quickly and easily lies were popping into his head. They crossed the warehouse floor and exited to the parking lot. Unfortunately, their cars were not the only ones that waited for them. Four black sedans and three Langerton police cruisers waited were in the parking lot with personnel emerging for them with the obvious intent to enter the warehouse.
“Put your hands on your heads and face the wall of the building,” one of the men that emerged from the sedan said to Joe and Johnny.
The man nodded to the Langerton officers who came forward and quickly patted them down. They found Joe’s cell phone in his pocket and a small pistol strapped to Johnny’s leg.
“They’re clean, now” one of the officers said.
“Turn around,” a voice said.
“Hey, that gun is registered and I have the proper permit.”
“That’s fine. We’ll find out if it isn’t.”
The police officer handed the gun and phone to the man in the suit who set them on the hood of his sedan.
“What’s going on here?” Joe asked.
“Are you the owner of this building,” the man from the sedan asked.
“Who’s asking,” Johnny said.
“I’m Special Agent in Charge McWorter,” the man said. “I’ll ask again, is one of you the owner of this building?”
“Can we see some identification?” Joe asked.
McWorter fished his badge from the jacket of his dark suit and showed it to Joe and Johnny.
“One more time,” McWorter said. “Is one of you the owner of this building?”
“Our company owns it,” Joe said. “Is there a problem?” he asked, knowing there was.
“And who are you?”
“I’m Joseph McLean, CFO of RPM, the company that owns this warehouse.”
“And who is your associate?”
“I’m John Provenza, Senior Vice President of Operations for RPM.”
“Wow, a couple of bosses slumming it at a warehouse. That’s interesting.”
“Are we done here,” Johnny asked. “We have the right to be in one of our properties.”
“We received a call to our Pittsburgh office with information that there was criminal activity happening at this location,” McWorter said. “We were able to trace the call using the GPS functionality in the caller’s phone. Do you mind if we look around?”
“There’s nothing going on here,” Joe said. “This is a private warehouse owned by RPM, one of the biggest companies in this area. There is no criminal activity going on. I’m one of the principals in the company.”
“Well, someone from this location called. We’d really like to look around and be sure. If you have nothing to hide, that shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Do you have a warrant,” Johnny asked. “Last time I checked, you needed one to search private property. How do we know you won’t plant something once we let you inside?”
“Oh, we can get a warrant with a little leg work. I was hoping you wouldn’t put us through that. Is there anyone here with you who might have put through the call?”
“There is no one else here,” Joe said. “It was probably some kid playing a prank.”
“Maybe so,” McWorter said. “We can all just wait here until the warrant comes through.”
“I’d like to call our attorney,” Johnny said. “You can’t just pull a warrant based on some crank call. You don’t even know who called it in.”
McWorter broke into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Johnny Provenza was basically right. He would likely have a very hard time getting a warrant to search a private building belonging to a respected company in the community. Then, another dark suited agent approached McWorter and whispered something to him. This caused the special agent’s smile to spread to his eyes. He took out his cell phone and looked at a text that he received. He then punched a number into his cell phone.
Joe started to feel himself sweat. Then his worst fears were confirmed. His phone, which was on the hood of McWorter’s car, started to ring.
“Now that’s interesting,” McWorter said. “I just dialed the number that phoned in the tip and it seems to be ringing in your pocket, Mr. McLean.”
Johnny looked at Joe with a questioning look. Joe could see the anger and betrayal starting to rise in his face.
“I can explain,” Joe said. As he said this, he was hoping he could. What he really wanted was to be in any timeline but this one at this moment.