Who would care? That’s what I thought: Who. Would. Care.
Turned out that someone did care and two of his goons were walking, slowly and deliberately, to where I had trapped myself.
It sounds crazy, I know, because it is crazy. It began the summer before my senior year at a fancy Ivy League college in Massachusetts. No names, but you can figure it out. Math major with a good handle on computers. I was working that summer for a cousin’s accounting firm in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Little stores, some law firms, five or six apartment buildings off Kings Highway. The normal mix for a solo CPA in Brooklyn.
I got friendly with the owner of a pizzeria on Bay Parkway. His grandfather opened the place after coming to New York after the war. I didn’t know it at the time, but the family came from Naples. In my last week before heading back to the unnamed university in Massachusetts, my cousin asks me to stop by to get some bank statements and so I go there on the way home and pick them up. You know, stop there and hop a bus to my parents’ place in Bay Ridge, where I’m staying for the summer, and I’ll give them to my cousin in the morning.
So I get there, get the statements, and leave. As I’m about a block away I see a black SUV at the curb. Guy in a suit opens the door.
“Are you Thomas?”
“Who wants to know?” Yeah I’ve seen plenty of movies, so I’m going to be Mr. Tough Guy.
He laughs. “You’ve seen too many movies kid” and he opens the door. Flashes some kind of badge. “I’m Special Agent Anderson and I was wondering whether I might have a word. Hop in.”
It looked safe enough, but I’m at an unnamed Ivy League college in Massachusetts so I’m not dummy and I’m not getting into the back of a black SUV with Special Agent Anderson.
“No, let’s walk.”
So we walk. His partner joins us. He explains that he’s “concerned” about the pizzeria and whether it’s laundering money for unsavory characters.
He says, “Tom. May I call you Tom?” I nod. “All we’d like you to do is take a look at the numbers from this and a few other establishments every month or so. Just to make sure things look like they’re on the up-and-up. You know these businesses. I cleared it with your cousin.”
My cousin confirms that he’s OK with it. “If those guys are cooking the books I don’t need to get involved.”
So early each month, I got an email from “Special Agent Anderson” with financial statements from the pizzeria and a few other places. I detect a pattern. I report this to him and he puts me in touch with some of their forensic accountants and we go through the documents and by Christmas I’ve pretty well figured out how they’re doing it. Millions of dollars. Uzbekistan.
In retrospect there might have been cars following me when I was home for Christmas. I don’t know. I’d gotten my job at Goldman set up, becoming one of its quants, and things are looking pretty good thank you very much. So I wasn’t paying much attention beyond telling buddies about my job at Goldman.
When I get back on campus, though, I know someone’s following me. I call Special Agent Anderson and he tells me to lay low for a few days, that he’d have someone from the Boston office contact me. So I lay low and wait to be contacted. Before that happens, though, I decide to go for a run along the Charles River. Nice day, no snow or ice on the path, and as I’m maybe a half-mile from my dorm, I see a car pull up beside me. I take a sharp right. I’ve seen plenty of movies and had I given it a moment’s thought I wouldn’t have done that. I was racing down what amounted to a long hallway with light streaming in from one side. Then I realize that it is a dead end. I turn and see two silhouettes at the opening. Just waiting. Till they started walking. Slowly and deliberately. To where I was trapped.