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فصل 11

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Chapter eleven

O’Neill’s story

At Police Headquarters, Oldenberg led us up to his office. I’d sent Stella home - at least one of us should try and get a good night’s sleep. Mrs. O’Neill wouldn’t leave her husband.

Inside Oldenberg’s office, it couldn’t be more different from the offices I’d seen at Ocean Star. The walls were a dirty green color and there was no carpeting on the floor. “Basic” was the best word to describe it. Oldenberg had ordered coffee and sandwiches for everybody. At least the NYPD coffee tasted better than it used to when I was a cop.

“You have a story to tell us, Mr. O’Neill,” said Oldenberg. “I want to know everything about you, Steinmann and Ocean Star.”

“OK. Two years ago, the old department head moved to another firm,” began O’Neill. “I’d worked at Ocean Star for over eight years and I thought I had a good chance of getting the job. I was wrong - the president, Lorraine Houston, had decided to bring in someone new. Someone who didn’t care who he hurt.

“So I went on with my work and did what was necessary. With Steinmann as head of department, the firm was making even more money than before. Houston thought he was wonderful, but people who were working with me thought the opposite. Steinmann loved to push people hard.

“A year ago, I asked Steinmann how the firm could continue paying so much money to its clients. The money our department made from clients’ investments wasn’t that high. I did the math again and still didn’t understand. Where was the money coming from? I was worried, but Steinmann promised me that there were no problems. He said, ‘Just do your job and don’t ask too many questions. She knows what she’s doing on the top floor.’

“The ‘top floor’ is where Lorraine Houston has her offices. Steinmann hoped to get his own office there some day. It seemed impossible to talk to him, so I kept my mouth shut. Time passed and Ocean Star went on paying out big money to its clients. Then, on Friday morning last week, I received the information that could destroy the firm and send Lorraine Houston to jail.

“It happened by chance. I got a letter from Houston’s office. At first I didn’t understand why I’d been sent a hard copy of the accounts - usually everything like that is sent through office email. I soon realized that it had been a mistake. Houston’s personal assistant had sent me an envelope which was meant to go to the vice-president.

“I knew I shouldn’t, but I continued reading. As I read, I was more and more surprised. Now I understood that the public accounts weren’t the truth. These were secret accounts, which weren’t on computer. They showed that Ocean Star was using the money from its new clients to pay the old ones. Now I understood how Houston had so much to spend on her cars, homes, clothes and vacations.

“I didn’t like the idea, but I thought I should talk with Steinmann. I knew I had to be careful, so I made a copy of the accounts to show him. What about the ones I’d received? How could I get the information out of the building safely? I had an idea - I put the accounts in an envelope and addressed it to my old friend Frank Van Zandt. Then I left the building for five minutes and dropped the envelope in the nearest mailbox.

“Later that morning, I spoke with Steinmann, and gave him the copy of the accounts. He was immediately very interested. He laughed and said, ‘So that’s how she does it. You’ve done the right thing. I’ll go straight upstairs and talk with Houston. With this information, I could make a lot of money. Maybe I’ll share some with you.’

“His plan was to ask Houston to pay him to keep quiet. I became really angry with him and tried to make him change his mind. But he refused. He wouldn’t listen to me and went up to the top floor. Now I knew that I could be in real trouble because Steinmann had gotten the accounts from me. I wasn’t sure what to do, but my first move was to get out of the office quick.

“I told my personal assistant that I’d had an awful headache all day and had to go home. Back home, I waited a couple of hours, then made some phone calls. First I called Steinmann’s personal assistant. She told me that Steinmann’s desk was empty and his computer was gone, but she couldn’t tell me anything more. I sent Steinmann an angry email to his home computer. I wrote something like, ‘I didn’t think you could be so stupid. I can’t believe what you’ve done.’

“The next day, I felt bad about what I’d said in the email, so I tried to phone Steinmann. His wife answered and told me that he hadn’t come home, and she was very worried. That night, I stayed up late thinking about what I should do. Just before midnight I got a call. Someone said, ‘You have information which belongs to the firm. Return this information to Ms. Houston by midday tomorrow if you want to stay alive.’

“How could I return the accounts? They were in the U.S. Mail. So I thought the safest thing to do was to hide. I wrote a note for Joyce and left in the middle of the night. Looking back, maybe it wasn’t the most intelligent decision. I packed a bag, left by the back entrance, took a cab to Frank Van Zandt’s place. I can promise you I left my car on Henry Street. I told Frank to expect the letter with the accounts, then I checked into a hotel. On Monday morning I took out $10,000 from the bank so I wouldn’t need to use any credit cards. I think you know the rest of the story.”

“Thanks, Mr. O’Neill,” said Oldenberg. “That’s very helpful.”

Oldenberg led me to another office. He thought for a few moments, then said, “Marley, I need some advice. My problem is this - if I accept that Houston ordered Steinmann’s murder, how can I show that it’s true?”

“If you’ll allow me, Captain,” I said. “I got an idea that just might work.”

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