CHAPTER SIX

Decades later as he sat in a barren jail cell Philip lamented over his involvement with Benny Berkowitz. He'd known from the beginning that they were drug dealers receiving shipments from Columbia but fear for the safety of his family had kept him from turning them in. A constant sense of danger pursued him as if all his emotions were on overload. What seeds of destruction had he planted in his personal and professional life?

       Philip's agent hired Daniel Brody, one of Chicago's top criminal trial lawyers who prepared a brilliant defense. He advised Philip to plea bargain.

       "What are my options, Mr. Brody?" Philip asked in the attorney/client visitation room. He sat across from Brody, an Ed Asner lookalike at a small, scarred table. Other than two rickety wooden chairs, it was the sole object in the room.

       "I advise you to refuse to testify against Benny Berkowitz unless you're offered immunity and placement in the Witness Protection Program." Brody stood, pulled a cigarette case out of his crisp white shirt, and began to pace the room. He stopped at the wall of windows, but kept his eyes on Philip.

       "Exactly what will that mean?" Philip asked. "I know what it means to testify against Berkowitz but what is the Witness Protection Program?"

       "It'll get you out of this jail cell for one thing," Brody answered. He lit the cigarette and took a long drag, exhaling slowly. "And it means that

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you aren't allowed in the courtroom during the trial, except when you're called to testify."

       Philip felt a slight surge of hope. "You mean I can go home?"

       "No."

       "Then where do I go?"

       "During the trial you'll go to a safe house. Translated, that means a motel room with agents at the door twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week."

       "And after trial?"

       "They'll give you a new identity, a new place to live."

       "What about Althea and Jenny?"

       "Althea will go with you. It's just up to Jenny if she wants to live that kind of life. I wouldn't suggest it. It's not pleasant."

       Philip cleared his throat. "How long will I have to stay in the program?"

       Brody returned to the table, flicked his ashes into a tin ashtray, then walked back to the wall of windows and peered out. "I can't answer that."

       Philip swallowed. "What are my options?"

       Sam Brody called over his shoulders. "You don't want to know."

       Dejected, Philip agreed. He couldn't fathom spending his life in the penitentiary. Anything would be preferable to such an unthinkable sentence.

       Within twenty-four hours, he was residing at the Park Three Motel on the outskirts of Elmhurst, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. He was perpetually on edge, not certain how safe he was in the appalling place.

       The television set had been removed from his room. He spent endless hours reading books with mediocre plots or trying to catch catnaps as he waited anxiously for Brody's phone call each night.

       When the time came for Philip to testify, Brody came for him and prepared him for the day ahead. Philip could scarcely fathom the tumultuous melee at the courthouse. The media was camped on the steps. Reporters shoved and pushed microphones in their faces and

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cameras flashed as Brody bulldozed a path from their car past the crushing crowd, up the steps and through the doors.

       The second day of Philip's testimony, an investigative reporter from the Chicago Tribune discovered Althea's estrangement and disinheritance from her parents. Headlines blazed, detailing explicit details of her marriage to Philip Lansing and embellishing on the poignant story of the beautiful rich girl who gave up wealth for love. Inaccurate details elaborated on how her sorrowing parents died in an airplane crash without ever seeing their daughter again.

       Brody related the news to Philip. "Althea has been acclaimed for putting love ahead of her inheritance, and trashed for bringing heartache to her loving parents."

       Philip froze in frustrated rage. "What do the headlines say, Mr. Brody?"

       "You're sure you're up for this?"

       "I want to know. I need to know. I'm still Althea's husband and Jenny's father. When I see them, I want to know what to say."

       "The headlines say that your wife's parents went to their death estranged from their only child. I plan to turn that around for you, Philip."

       "How?"

       "After my closing statement, I've promised an interview to the press and a few local stations. I'll shift the headlines from your family and onto you. I'll use this as a platform for reform when a legitimate businessman, respected author, is grossly intimidated and threatened by a band of thugs."

       Brody kept his promise. He was brilliant. He passionately denounced Benny Berkowitz and his mob. "What choice did a loving father and husband have?" He paced before the jury pleading in tearful tones. "This man loved his wife and daughter above his own safety. Here is an innocent man who was unwittingly thrust into a deceptive web." Turning to point on Jenny and Althea who were sitting behind him, Brody's voice became gentle with scarcely a thread of sound as he portrayed the loving and close family.

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       "Philip Lansing is a good man," Brody concluded. "A religious man, a churchgoer, an unblemished citizen who must be acquitted. His name must be cleared of all wrongdoing."
       Later that day, Brody stood at the top of the courthouse steps to talk to the clusters of reporters who had gathered for his statement. Althea and Jenny stood directly behind him.

       "The family of Philip Lansing has asked me to extend their thanks for your support." Brody began. A commotion behind him interrupted his prepared speech and he quickly turned. The unthinkable happened. Althea had collapsed, and a frantic Jenny was calling for help.

       In the ambulance, Althea took her last breath. Headlines were merciless. Undoubtedly, the report read, it was her husband's criminal activities and deception that had led to her fatal heart attack on the courthouse steps.

       Philip was escorted to Althea's funeral by two sheriff deputies. He stood beside Jenny at Althea's graveside. His ineffable sense of loss seemed complete. After the service, two deputies led a distraught Philip to their car and back to his motel. Alone and crushed, he sat heavily on the edge of the bed. His temples throbbed, and his throat burned with remorse.

       Recalling the look of Jenny's face as he'd turned to wave from the sheriff's vehicle brought a flood of tears. It was small consolation that Bruce Hartman, Jenny's attorney friend from her University of Michigan days, stood beside her during the funeral. Philip knew that once he left Chicago for good, Bruce would pester her to marry him. Secretly, he hoped Jenny wouldn't agree. True, Bruce was an up and coming lawyer, but he seemed self-centered and controlling. And Philip sensed that Jenny didn't love Bruce, not the way he and Althea had loved. Of course, now that she was inundated with the family troubles. Bruce would continue his arguing for marriage.

*       *       *       *       *       *

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       Philip's instincts were right. That weekend, Bruce proposed again over dinner at Houstons. "Jenny, it's time to get on with your life." He placed his hand over hers. "I'm willing to put your father's impropriety behind us and begin life together."

       Jenny stiffened. "That's big of you."

       "I didn't mean that the way it sounded."

       "What did you mean?"

       The waitress appeared with their food, a small chef salad for Jenny and a rare New York steak for Bruce.

       After the waitress left, Jenny said softly, "Bruce, when this trial is over I'll think about your proposal. Losing my mother is a tragic blow for us. Dad will never get over it. They were deeply in love."

       "He should have thought of that before he got involved."

       Jenny set her fork down. "Why can't you understand, Bruce. He had no choice. They were threatening us."

       "He should have gone to the police."

       Jenny sat upright and clenched her hands in her lap. "I'd think you would understand his precarious position. Even if Berkowitz and some of his men were arrested, they have a huge mob out there, they wouldn't let my father draw a free breath. I'm honestly surprised he survived the funeral."

       Bruce remained tight-lipped. "He should have gone to the police."

       Jenny reached for her bag. "I'm really not hungry, Bruce. I'd like to go home."

       Bruce softened his tone, "I didn't mean to upset you, honey, but facts are facts. He broke your mother's heart and placed you in jeopardy."

       "You're saying he caused my mother's death. Let's go, please. My mind feels cluttered."

       "Of course it does," Bruce reached for her hand. "Let's enjoy our dinner and we'll talk later."

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       Jenny picked at her salad and avoided looking at Bruce who devoured his steak as if famished. He tried to divert the conversation by relating an unusual case he was handling.

       "This old lady is in a nursing home on the verge of dementia and the family is squabbling about her will. They want me to investigate to see if she was in her right mind when she wrote it. But of course it was done years ago when she was fine."

       Jenny listened without hearing. Nothing, but nothing, would ever convince her that her dad would break the law.

       Over dessert, Bruce broached the subject of her father's trial again. "What will you do after your father leaves town? You should think about selling the bookstore." He laid his credit card over the bill and took her hand. "Jenny, say you'll marry me."

       Jenny looked around for the waitress. She wanted to leave, to get away from the stares of onlookers who had followed the trial. Who could think of marriage at a time like this. And she couldn't hear any more insinuations against her father.

       Impervious to her mood, Bruce smiled and leaned forward. "I'm sorry if it seems that I'm hard on your dad, but I'm a practical man. He made a choice and got himself into a jam. I want you to know that you have an option. If you wish, you can still manage the bookstore after we're married." He paused and grinned, "that is, until the babies arrive."

       Jenny quickly stood and walked ahead of him to the lobby.

       Bruce followed and took her elbow. "Now, you've got your temper up. I only wanted you to know..."

       "Bruce, please, I can't think of anything but Dad now. You know he has a bad heart. God forbid, if the worse happens, I'll continue to manage the bookstore and get on with my life..."

       "I hope that includes me, Jenny." Bruce helped her into his BMW and guided it into night time traffic.

       She glanced at his profile. He was a good man with a brilliant future, and she was fond of him, but a lifetime commitment? Marriage? How

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was that possible when she didn't love him in the heart-stopping romantic way she dreamed of loving the man she would marry?

       At her door, Bruce tried to take her into his arms. She resisted. "Have it your way, Jenny. I'm a patient man, I'll wait for you."

       "Bruce, please don't pressure me. I must concentrate my energy on Dad and pray that justice will prevail."

       With that, Jenny walked into the house and closed the door firmly behind her.

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