The Associate

Chapter 32

For no reason other than sheer obstinacy, Kyle arrived forty-five minutes late for the Tuesday night meeting at the Four Seasons. He expected to see Nigel, so he was not surprised when Bennie's sidekick met him at the door and pretended to be pleased to see him. "Kyle, old boy, how have you been?" he chirped with a fake smile.

"Marvelous. And your name is?"


"Oh, yeah, I forgot. Last name?"

"Sorry, old boy."

"Do you have a last name, or do you have so many you can't remember which one fits right now?"

"Good evening, Kyle," Bennie said, rising to his feet, folding a newspaper.

"So nice to see you, Bennie." Kyle placed his briefcase on the bed but did not remove his trench coat. "Now, who called this meeting?" he asked.

"Tell us about the room on the eighteenth floor," Bennie said, abandoning any more preliminaries.

"I've already described it."

Nigel fired away: "Ten monitors on ten tables, right, Kyle?"


"And where are the computers themselves?"

"On the tables, next to the monitors."

"The computers, Kyle, tall and thin, short and fat? Give us a hint here!"

"More of a square box, to the right of each monitor."

On the dresser next to the television there was a thin notebook, already opened. Nigel lunged for it and said, "Take a look at these computers, Kyle. All shapes and sizes, various makes from around the world. See anything remotely similar?"

Kyle methodically flipped through it. Each page had color photos of eight computers, ten pages in all, eighty machines that varied wildly in design and construction. He settled on one that looked more like a color jet printer than a computer.

"Yes, rather square," Nigel observed. "How many disc drives?"


"None? Are you certain, Kyle?"

"Yes. These were custom built for maximum security. There are no disc drives, no ports, no way to transfer the data."

"Control panel? Switches, buttons, lights, anything, Kyle?"

"Nothing. Plain-vanilla box."

"And the server?"

"Locked up next door. Out of sight."

"Interesting. And the monitors, Kyle?"

"Basic LCD flat screens."

"Let's take a peek," Nigel said as he opened the notebook to another section, this one filled with an assortment of monitors. "Size, Kyle?"

"Fourteen inches."

"Full-color display I'm sure?"

"Yes." Kyle stopped on the third page and pointed. "This one is very close."

"Excellent, Kyle."

"And printers?"


"Nowhere in the room? Not a single printer?"


Nigel paused to scratch his face and ponder this. "Suppose you're working on a brief or a memo. When it's time to produce it, what happens?"

"You notify your supervisor, who then enters the room, pulls it up, reviews it, and so on. If it is to be submitted to the court, or to the opposing attorneys, it's printed."

"Where? I thought there were no printers."

"There's a machine in a room next door with a paralegal who monitors the printing. Every sheet of paper that's printed is coded and duplicated. It's impossible to print anything without leaving a trail."

"Quite nice, really." With that, Nigel took a sharp step back and relaxed. Bennie took over. "Kyle, how many times have you entered the room?"

"Once a day for the last five days."

"And how many people are normally in the room?"

"It varies. Sunday afternoon I was alone for about an hour. This morning there were five or six others."

"Have you been there late at night when they close the room?"

"No, not yet."

"Do it, okay. Be there at ten one night."

"I can't go there just to hang out, Bennie. It's not a coffee room. Surveillance is constant, cameras watching and all that. There has to be a reason to be there, other than casing the joint."

"Does anyone notice when you come and go?"

"There's not a guard at the door. The key makes a record of each entry and exit, and I'm sure it's all recorded by closed circuit."

"Do you take your briefcase in with you?"


"Are briefcases forbidden?"


"Do you wear your jacket?"

"No. Jackets are not required around the office."

Bennie and Nigel studied each other for a minute or so, both minds hard at work.

"Will you go there tomorrow?" Bennie asked.

"Maybe. I'm not sure right now. It depends on what I'm asked to do in the morning."

"I want you to enter the room tomorrow, carrying your briefcase and wearing your jacket. As soon as you're settled in, take off your jacket. Keep the briefcase under the table."

"Will this work, Kyle?" Nigel piled on quickly.

"Oh, sure. Why not? Anything else? And what if I haul in a box of tacos and drop cheddar crumbs on the keyboard? Where is this going?"

"Just trust us here, Kyle," Nigel said gently. "We know what we're doing."

"You're the last person I'd trust."

"Now, Kyle."

"Look, I'm tired. I'd really like to go - "

"What are your plans for the next few days?" Bennie asked.

"I'll work tomorrow, leave the office around five, take the train to Philly, rent a car, and drive to York. I'm having Thanksgiving dinner with my father on Thursday. I'll be back in the city late Friday afternoon, and back at the office early Saturday. Good enough?"

"We'll meet Sunday night," Bennie said.

"Your place or mine?"

"I'll pass along the details."

"Happy Thanksgiving, boys," Kyle said as he left the room.

ON HIS NEW office door, Kyle hung two waterproof, all-purpose trench coats, one black and the other one a light brown. The black one he wore every day, to and from work and when moving around the city. The brown one was used rarely, only on those occasions when Kyle really didn't want to be followed. At 2:30 on Wednesday, he draped it over his arm and rode the elevator to the second floor. From there, he took a service elevator to the basement, put on the trench coat, and ducked through the rows of thick plumbing pipes and electrical cables and heating units until he came to a metal stairway. He spoke to a technician, one he'd spoken to on several occasions. He saw daylight in a narrow alley that barely separated his building from the fifty story edifice next door. Ten minutes later, he walked into the office of Roy Benedict.

They had chatted briefly on the phone, and Kyle was uneasy about the plan.

Roy was not at all uneasy. He had studied the file, analyzed the facts and issues, weighed the predicament, and was ready to move. "I have a friend with the FBI," he began. "A friend I trust completely. We worked together years ago before I became a lawyer, and even though we are now on opposite sides of the street, I trust him even more. He's a heavyweight here in the New York office."

Kyle flashed back to his last encounter with the FBI. Fake names, fake badges, a long night in a hotel room with Bennie. "I'm listening," Kyle said with skepticism.

"I want to meet with him and lay everything on the table. Everything."

"What will he do?"

"Crimes have been committed. Crimes are in process. Crimes are being planned. And not small crimes. I suspect he will be as shocked as I am. I suspect the FBI will get involved."

"So Bennie gets nabbed by the feds?"

"Sure. Don't you want him locked up?"

"For life. But he has a vast network out there in the shadows."

"The FBI knows how to lay its traps. They screw up occasionally, but their record is very good. I deal with them all the time, Kyle. I know how smart these guys are. If I talk to them now, they'll move in quietly and lay the groundwork. When they want to, they can throw a whole army at the enemy. Right now you need an army."


"I need your permission to talk to the FBI."

"Is there a chance they'll take a look and let it pass?"

"Yes, but I doubt it."

"When will you talk to your friend?"

"Maybe as early as this afternoon."

Kyle barely hesitated. "Let's do it," he said.

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