It's a pins and needles kind of week at home and in the office. At the end of the week, a man the FBI believes to have been involved in at least six killings will be released from prison. I helped put him there, and the last time I saw him he threatened me. I can't help but wonder whether my family or I will be the next notches on his belt.
I met the man in the most extraordinary case of my career. My client answered the front door to his apartment one evening and was met by a masked man. Muzzled flashes lit the night, and my client was shot in the stomach. He collapsed as the masked shooter ran away. He survived, but suffered a lot.
Police had no leads in the shooting. They investigated my client's wife, and questioned his business dealings. We were hired to keep the police off of his back and to focus them on finding the person responsible for the shooting.
Because my client was visible within his industry, trade publications reported his fate. One day my client received a letter from a prisoner in Florida. The prisoner read about the shooting and told the client that his cellmate boasted of involvement. I hopped a plane to interview the cellmate. It turns out he was the masked shooter. He had been paid by another man to do the job. He didn't know my client. It was just business, you see. He was sorry for what he had done.
We learned the identity of the man who paid the shooter. We had very good reason to believe that the payer was merely an intermediary for a former business partner of my client's. I went to see the middle man in another prison, where he was doing time on an unrelated crime. I noticed his deposition in a dismal place called the Glades Correctional Center in Florida.
"I know who you are," the man said, hiding behind his sunglasses and looking every bit the tough guy. We were sitting in a mess hall, beefy guards standing nearby.
"How's that?" I asked.
"You think you're a tough guy," he sneered.
"No, just determined," I said.
"Yeah, well just because I am on the inside doesn't mean I don't have friends on the outside," he said. His voice was pure menace. I kept thinking of the meeting I had had with an FBI agent, the one who told me this man was a suspect in a number of killings in the Southeast.
What to do when so challenged?
I did the only thing reasonable under the circumstances.
"Is that supposed to be some kind of threat?" I was trying to act tough. "Well, I've got news for you. I like my pussy in skirts, and by the looks of you, Bubba and the boys have about worn you out." The man lunged for me, and we were separated by guards. Needless to say, he never told me who paid him.
We made out our case with the middle man's cooperation and ended up collecting a fat sum from my client's former business partner after years of bitter litigation. When the former business partner sought to avoid trial by filing bankruptcy, we challenged the bankruptcy in an adversarial proceeding. The case settled before the judge could rule.
The business partner was never charged with a crime, however. But his name turned up on the middle man's visitor's list at one prison or another. And the middle man was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in Connecticut for his role in the shooting. That sentence ends this week. Because he never relented and told who paid him to hire a shooter, he has been offered no parole. Fifteen years of silence, and this week freedom.
Am I scared? Yes. I've had to discuss this with my wife, a woman who deserves far more peace than my tempestuous ways have yielded over the years. But I am not sure what else I could have done. We played a hard game with dangerous men to seek out those responsible for nearly killing my client. We tried to bring folks to justice.
This week I am worried about revenge, worried, but resigned. I have always believed that one is defined by how one responds to fear. My style is counter phobic. Walk into the center of the storm, I say. Thus far, I have always survived; I justify my ways by saying the running is a form of death. It is better to face the end than to flee. It is, after all, appointed unto all once to die.
That sounds heroic in the abstract. Tonight it feels a little like foolish bravado. I hope that in the weeks and months to come I have a chance to reassess things, and that a vicious man has long since forgotten me.