CHAPTER SEVEN

A few miles away, Philip sat dejectedly in a motel room. Bedeviled by his wrongdoings, he berated himself for disgracing his family in the eyes of the world. His reckless actions had caused the death of his wife. He wanted to ask for forgiveness, but he didn't know who to ask. He had never been on intimate speaking terms with God, and if he did pray for forgiveness, God would ask him to confess to embezzlement. He couldn't allow his Swiss funds to be taken from him. Perhaps if Althea were alive, he'd consider it, but now with her gone, and his own life a shambles, he needed a small fortune to escape from this developing nightmare.

       His agonizing guilt deepened when he saw the disbelief and sadness on Jenny's face on the day she was allowed to visit him. The authorities had transported him to another motel for the day, for her visit.

       "Tell  me something, Dad. Why did you decide to go through this?" Jenny swung her arm to indicate room. "Why not go to trial and be acquitted?"

       "Brody advised me to plea bargain."

       Jenny protested. "But if you've done nothing wrong, Dad, I don't see..."

       "My attorney said it's the only way. It won't be forever, you know. Are you still attending the trial everyday, as you did before...?"

       "Before Mother died?"

       Philip closed his eyes and nodded.

       "Yes."

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       "I wish you wouldn't. You're so alone."

       "Bruce often comes with me," Jenny murmured.

        "Good." Philip paused. "Jenny, let me ask you, do you love Bruce? I ask because I don't sense the spark between two people crazy in love. Althea lit up my life by just walking into the room, and I hope that kind of love for you."

       Jenny didn't respond and in that instant Philip knew. He leaned over and touched her hand. "Honey, promise you won't marry Bruce or anyone unless and until you love, respect and care for them more than life itself."

       After Jenny left, his own words filled Philip with remorse. Had he loved Althea more than his own life? He had jeopardized everything they held precious. Though he'd justified his actions as longing to hand Althea back her silver spoon, he had committed a terrible wrong.

       The trial lasted three agonizing months. When it was time for the jury to deliberate, Philip and Jenny waited in the motel room where they'd met once before. When the jury returned with a verdict after five hours, Brody telephoned the agent who guarded the room.

       A few hours later, Brody came to the motel room. He was beaming. "Good news, Philip, Berkowitz and his men are guilty on all counts."

       Philip exhaled a relieved sigh. He couldn't bring himself to ask his next question.

       "You've been cleared of all charges for witnessing against the mob."

       Philip reached for Jenny and they embraced, their tears mingling.

       She whispered. "Thank God, Daddy. I knew you would never do any thing wrong." He felt a shiver of guilt. How would she react if she knew the truth?

       Daniel Brody touched his shoulder. Father and daughter broke their embrace. "The bad news is that you must leave for the Witness Protection Program immediately."

       "Is it really necessary, Mr. Brody?" Jenny's voice wavered.

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       "Your dad's life isn't worth a nickel if he stays in town. He must be under protective custody, I'll leave now so you can have a few minutes together. The U.S. Marshalls will be here for you soon, Philip."

       "Thank you, Mr Brody," Jenny took his outstretched hand. "Thank you for everything."

       Daniel Brody cleared his throat, clasped Philip's hand and called for the guard. Before he left, he turned and gave father and daughter a long look. "Take care of yourselves both of you."

       Jenny didn't think of his last words as a warning until later. For no, she looked up at her father, her eyes brimming with tears. "I wish you hadn't testified against them, Dad."

        "Jenny, we've been over this. You know my only options were to become state's witness or spend years in prison."

       "Where will they send you?"

       "They won't tell me and they won't tell you."

       "Oh, Daddy," Jenny wept, her head on her father's chest. "I can't bear the thought of our being separated. May I come with you?"

       "It's no life for you, Jen. The best gift you can offer me is to continue running the bookstore and get on with your life. Have Charlie list the house. Since he's been staying there during the trial, he has the key and can deal with the realtors. I don't want you to go near the house unless someone is with you. And don't let anyone know where you live."

       He leaned forward and squeezed her hand, "Be careful. Promise?"

       "I promise, Daddy, When will I hear from you?"

      At that moment, the motel door opened and two U.S. Marshalls appeared. They stood before them without a word of greeting.

       Philip turned to Jenny. "Mr. Brody told me I'll be allowed to call you once a month. A U.S. Marshall will be in the next room. Don't be sad honey, I assure you that somehow, someday we'll be together again."

       Philip turned to follow the Marshalls who had moved toward the door. Jenny followed close behind. She embraced him and waited until the car had turned the corner and disappeared.

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       "Where will you take me first?" Philip asked as the car pulled away from the motel.

       "You have a half-hour at your house," they informed him. "Pack all your clothes, you'll be gone for a long time."

       "Is it safe?"

       "Safe?" the Marshall in the passenger seat called back. "We have a few of our men guarding the house to make sure it's safe."

       Philip cleared his throat. "May I use your cellphone? I'd like to call my brother."

       "What for?" The driver asked.

       Philip shifted nervously. "He's been staying at my home, and I want to make sure he's there. I need to have a few minutes alone with him to discuss the sale of the house."

       Permission was granted and a cell phone was handed over the seat to him. Philip dialed his home phone. Charlie answered.

       "The feds have been all over the place, Phil," Charlie said, "I'm looking out the window right now and I can see them parked in three locations on the street."

       "We're on our way. Charlie, listen. I'd like for you to handle the sale of the house. I'll give you the papers when I get there."

       "Thirty minutes is all you'll get to pack and get out, Lansing. We'll be in the next room, the older Marshall said.

       "Hear that?" Philip asked his brother.

       "Yeah, I heard. I'll hang around town until I list the house, then I'm off."

       "I wish you'd stay until it sells."

       "Can't. I'll get it listed and give them Jenny's number. She can handle the closing when it sells."

       Philip sighed and handed the cell phone to the Marshall.

       When Philip arrived at the house, he led Charlie into his bedroom, opened his wall safe and handed his brother an envelope. He placed his

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finger to his lips. "Here's the paper for the sale of the house," He said aloud, then lowered his voice. "You're the only one I can trust Charlie."

       "There's a bundle of cash hidden in the bookstore wall safe along with the key and code to my Swiss account. Here's a key to the bookstore and the code for the safe. Be sure and go after Jenny leaves the store."

       Dumbfounded, Charlie stared at his brother. "I'm amazed. Honest, Mr. Do-right Phil, the epitome of Mr. Perfect? You stole drug money?"

       Philip's face reddened. Glad for the distraction of packing, he didn't look at his brother. "Sorry to disappoint you, Charlie. You heard how they threatened me. I had no choice. But I'm paying a price." His voice broke as he reached for a silver-framed photograph of his family. I'm trusting you not to tell Jenny. If she finds out, I'll lose her too."

       A voice called from the next room. "Five minutes, Lansing."

       Philip snapped his suitcase shut and faced his brother, "I'm going to need money. Someday I'm leaving the country and begin a new life."

       "How much money is in the safe and how much did you send over there?"

       "I'll cut you in when this is all over, I promise," Philip said without answering his question. "Now listen to me, Charlie. After the money's deposited, place the key instructions in an envelope. Seal it tightly and give it to Jenny. Tell her she's to keep it in her apartment under lock and key and under no circumstances is she to open the envelope until I give the order."

       "My God, Phil, you're amazing."

       Philip frowned. "Keep your voice down. Those guys probably have their ear to the door. I've thought it out carefully. I deserve something for what they've done to my family. Think what I did for the government. I got those criminals out of Chicago."

       The brothers, identical in height, with fair thinning hair embraced at the door.

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       "We've never been especially close, Charlie," Philip said, "and I'm sorry. I judged you for what I assumed was a reckless life, traveling around the world when I thought you should have helped me in the store. But I admire you for following your dreams."

       "I've waited a long time to hear that, Phil." Charlie paused. "Do you know where they're sending you? I may have to contact you, if anything happens..."

      Philip opened the bedroom door and raised his voice. "Call Agent Tim O'Reilly. He'll get in touch with me."

       "Will they change your name?'

       Philip nodded. "I'll have a new identity, I'm a different man from this day on. I'm allowed to contact Jenny once a month... with my babysitters in the next room."

      Charlie walked beside Philip as they followed the Marshalls to the police van. He stood with his hand on the open door until his brother folded his long legs in the back seat.

       Leaning forward, Philip tapped Charlie's arm. "Keep an eye on Jenny, ok?"

       "Right." Charlie watched the van as it sped away.

       Still unmarried, Charlie ten years Philip's junior, had always known his older brother was the favored one but he'd never verbally admitted his intense jealousy of the handsome, intelligent, college educated Philip. Now as he watched the Marshall's car turn the corner, he let out an astonished breath. During the past months of the trial he had been amazed that his exemplary brother had become involved with the Chicago mafia, even under threats, but had never suspected even for a moment that Philip would have absconded with their drug funds.

       He walked slowly into Philip's house. His mind was racing. What was in the envelope under lock and key at the bookstore? And why couldn't

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Jenny open it until Philip gave the orders. He glanced at his watch and figured the bookstore would be closed. Now was as good a time as any to see for himself.

*       *       *       *       *       *

       After a sleepless night at a suburban motel with a watchful guard at his door, Philip awakened in the morning to a loud rap at the door.

       "Get up, Lansing. O'Reilly will be here within the hour."

       Fifty-five minutes later, Philip and the two Marshalls stood when O'Reilly walked into the room and waited until he motioned them to be seated. Special Agent Tim O'Reilly had only to walk into a room to command attention. His close-cropped hair was graying and beneath severe brows his eyes held wells of compassion for shattered lives. He'd sent many men and women into the Witness Protection Program and found it difficult to remain detached. He knew the oppressive life they would face. Somehow he felt an unusual empathy for Philip Lansing. His once ordinary life had become deplorable. He'd lost his wife and was losing the comfortable life he'd known. A life he could never recapture.

       "Lansing," O'Reilly leaned over the oak table and handed him a large packet. "Everything you need for your new identity is in here, There's cash in there too. I've talked to your publisher about forwarding your royalties to me. I'll pass them onto you in a safe mail drop.

       "Your name is John Thompson. We found a furnished bungalow for you in Woodburn, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. It's in a residential district and you'll undoubtedly meet your neighbors. Our man has put out the word that his friend, a freelance writer from Los Angeles will be renting the house to work on his book. Everything about your fictional background is in that envelope with brochures and maps of Southern California. Study the restaurants, the theaters, streets and freeways. Don't ever mention Chicago. You've never been there." He pulled a

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large briefcase from the floor. "In here are glasses and a fake beard. Put them on now and wear them when you're out of the house until you grow one of your own."

       The three men watched Philip attach the beard and slip on the glasses. Looking in the mirror, Philip's despair deepened. He'd been robbed of his very person.

       O'Reilly nodded with satisfaction. "You no longer look like Philip Lansing."

       "I guess I am no longer Philip Lansing, " Philip mumbled.

       "That's right. You're not. The moment you decided to testify against the mob, you lost your identity."

       Philip's eyes burned. His cheeks itched.

       O'Reilly wasn't finished. He nodded at a gentleman seated next to him. "Meet Fred Campbell. He's our Security Inspector. He'll fly with you to Portland, rent a Toyota for your use and drive with you to Woodburn where he lives. He'll be your contact man and give you further instructions." O'Reilly stood and held out his hand to Philip who grasped it. "Call when you're settled."

       O'Reilly walked with them to the hotel lobby. "There is one thing," Philip said, "I must keep in touch with my agent."

       O'Reilly frowned. "No chance."

       "I must. Writing is my life."

       O'Reilly stared hard at Philip. "It was your life."

       Philip repeated. "I must have a way to contact him."

       "Then you'll contact him through me. I'll need his name and phone number."

       When Philip handed O'Reilly his agent's card, he pocketed it and shook Philip's hand again. "That's all for now. And Lansing," his tone softened. "I'll keep you informed about your daughter on our safe phones. We'll keep an eye on her."

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       Fred Campbell was a taciturn man and their only conversation on the flight to Portland was to exchange a few pleasantries about the balmy September weather.

       At the airport, Campbell rented a Toyota, took the wheel and sped on the freeway to Woodburn. Philip leaned back and gulped in the fresh clear air. Oh, the euphoria of knowing he'd been acquitted. Ah, the ecstasy of freedom. Well, not exactly freedom. At least, once he settled into his new house, he'd be rid of this watchdog. He'd disliked him from the moment they met.

       Campbell parked a block from Philip's assigned safe house, got out of the car and leaned down to the open window.

       "Take over the wheel. The car is yours." He handed Philip his card. "I've passed the word around town that my friend, a writer, is moving into the neighborhood. No one knows that I work for the government. I'm also employed for a Portland computer company. I have a wife and a dog. That's all. My wife doesn't exactly know about my work with the government. When I stop in to check on you, the neighbors will think it's a friendly call. Your house is one block over. Here's the address." He smiled for the first time, but to Philip it seemed chilling. "The rules are simple," Campbell leaned further into the window. "I'll be at your house the last Friday of the month when you call your daughter. This is a tight community so be smart. Don't make friends. You'll find everything you need within a few blocks. There's a supermarket on the next street." Philip released a sigh as he watched Campbell walk away. Taking the wheel of the Toyota, Philip drove a short block and found the address he'd been given. The house was a port war bungalow, not unlike the house he'd left in Chicago.

       After he unpacked, hooked up his computer and printer in an empty bedroom, Philip walked slowly through the five room bungalow. His depression deepened. He'd never imagined how one step downward could spiral him into a life of deception, one he could never escape. He sank into a worn flowered sofa. Oh, God, what a lonely man he would

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be. He couldn't express the melancholy of his soul, of all he had lost. A quote he'd read played over in his mind, "money never made anyone rich." He had wanted wealth for Althea to prove his worth and now his sweet girl was gone. He closed his eyes and tried to envision a future bereft of all he loved.

       Someday at the appropriate time, he'd send for Jenny, empty his Swiss account and begin a new life with her in Europe. How he'd tell her the reality of his misdeeds and persuade her to go with him, he couldn't imagine.

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