CHAPTER FOURTEEN

"Antonio Scarpelli?" questioned Don, fear in his voice. There was also fear in Marie's eyes.

"Actually, Antonio Scarpelli is my grandfather," said Scarpelli. "I was named after him and my father. But, yeah, that's who I am. I see you've heard of me."

"Everyone knows the Scarpellis," said Marie.

"Then you know what family means to us," said Scarpelli. "Stryker works for me. When I found out the two of you were involved in this I asked him to find out what you knew. He called me this afternoon after you had met with this young woman and told me about your deal with her. So I asked him to stick around and find out what you knew about my son."

"They apparently sold him, Mr. Scarpelli," said Stryker. "I don't know to who."

"I see," said Scarpelli. "Very efficient. Kidnap the child to sell on the black market and get rid of the mother so she doesn't cause a stink. You only made one mistake."

"Mr. Scarpelli," said Don, "we had no idea it was your child. If we had we would never have taken it. We don't want any trouble with you."

"That was your mistake," said Scarpelli. "You didn't make sure who the father was. Now, I'm afraid, you've left me with little choice. Where is my son?"

"He's in California," said Marie. "We sold him to a family in Sacramento. Our lawyer has all the information on them. It should be very easy to get him back. We'll be more than happy to do it for you."

"This lawyer," said Scarpelli. "What's his name?"

"Peter Cochran," said Don. "He's been brokering babies for us for years. We get the babies here and he finds parents for them in other states."

"So he was in this with you," said Scarpelli.

"Well, part of it," said Don. "All he did was prepare the paperwork on the babies we found. And arranged for them to be delivered to the adoptive parents and to have the money delivered to us."

"He didn't have anything to do with killing Alexandra?" asked Scarpelli. "That was your idea?"

Don and Marie just looked at each other. Neither was sure exactly what to say.

"Listen, I don't care about Alexandra," said Scarpelli. "She was a fling. Not my first. But she made the mistake of getting pregnant. I couldn't care less that she's dead. But the baby is my blood. My family. That's what I'm interested in."

"Yeah," said Don eventually, "getting rid of the woman was our idea. Like you said, we couldn't have her coming back and making a stink about it. We figured if it looked like a suicide no one would dig too deep into it."

Suddenly three more men appeared at the front door. One was Alex and one was Preston. The third was holding a gun on them.

"Mr. Scarpelli, I found these two in a car down the block," said the third man. "They have some kind of listening equipment in their car."

"Alex?" questioned Becca. "Preston?"

"But you're dead," said Don. "We got the call. We paid the money. Garibaldi promised us you'd be taken care of."

"So, you're Alex Young," said Scarpelli. "My sister speaks highly of you. I find it very coincidental that you should be here at this particular time. Especially with listening equipment. What's your racket?"

"We figured out that the Sharpton's had conned us into stealing the baby for them," said Alex. "Then they tried to have us killed. We were just trying to get some evidence on them that we could use in court against them."

"Very creative," said Scarpelli. "It seems everyone is double crossing everyone else. But these people crossed me. And kidnapped my son. I'm not about to forget that. I'll deal with them in my own way."

"Mr. Scarpelli," said Preston, holding up a small recording device, "we have their entire confession on tape. The penalty for kidnapping is 50 years. And when you add the murder to that, it becomes a capital crime. Which makes them eligible for the death sentence. There's no reason that anyone has to get hurt here tonight. We can turn them over to the authorities and they'll get what's coming to them."

"Unless they get a high priced lawyer who cuts them a deal," said Scarpelli, looking at the Sharptons. "Or gets them off completely. I've seen it happen. All they have to do is recant later. Say they were coerced into confessing. There's no guarantee they'll do any time."

"What if we agreed to plead guilty?" asked Don. "To the kidnapping, the murder, all of it. No plea agreement. We plead guilty and take whatever the judge gives us."

"And why would you do that?" Scarpelli asked.

"To keep from ending up in a vacant lot somewhere," said Marie. "Or in the foundation of a building. Look, like Don said, we didn't know it was your child. We would never have gone after if it we had known. You said yourself you didn't care about the woman. Mr. Scarpelli we can get the child back. All we have to do is call Peter and he can arrange for it to be brought back on the next available flight."

"The people you sold it to are just going to turn the child over to him?" questioned Scarpelli. "Without so much as a complaint?"

"At least let us try," pleaded Don. "Give us a chance to make this right."

Scarpelli looked at the Sharpton's, then at Alex and Preston. It was obvious he thinking about it. He looked around at his men holding guns for a moment.

"Okay," said Scarpelli. "I'll give you just 48 hours to get my son back. One of you will go to your attorney and arrange to have him brought back from California. The other one will stay with me. And I'll have someone watching you the entire time just in case you get any funny ideas.

"You get my son back to me in 48 hours and I'll let you plead guilty. No deals. No recanting. As long as you keep our bargain I won't bother you. But just remember one thing. People can have accidents. You never know when or where they might happen. And I don't like people who cross me."

"You don't have to worry, Mr. Scarpelli," said Don. "Marie will go to Peter first thing in the morning and make all the arrangements. We'll have your son back here as quickly as is humanly possible."

"You'd better," said Scarpelli. "Mike, Larry. Why don't you escort Mr. Sharpton to one of our warehouses where he can wait for his wife to return? Greg will wait here and go with Mrs. Sharpton to see the lawyer. Just to make sure that everything is on the level. Once the arrangements have been made take her to the warehouse. Once my son is back where he belongs we'll see about turning these two over to the authorities."

"Thank you, Mr. Scarpelli, you won't regret this," said Don. "You'll see. You'll have your son back very soon. You have my word."

"I'd like something a bit more substantial but right now it's all I have," said Scarpelli. "You just better hope things go smoothly. You'll regret if they don't."

"What about us?" Alex asked.

"I have nothing against you, Mr. Young," said Scarpelli. "Or against your associates. From what my sister has told me you try to help people. I figure that's all you were trying to do. It's not your fault these two set you up. As far as I'm concerned, you're free to go."

"Come on Becca and Harry," said Alex. "Let's get out of here."

Cautiously Becca and Harry moved to the front door. The men holding the guns stepped aside and let them pass unhindered. As they left the house Alex stopped in the doorway.

"Anna tells me that the Scarpelli's are people of their word," he said.

"That we are," said Scarpelli. "If a man doesn't keep his word he has no honor. And a man without honor is not a man."

"Then I'll expect you to keep yours if they keep theirs," said Alex. "If anything happens to them I'm going to come looking for you."

"Don't worry, Mr. Young," said Scarpelli, looking at Don and Marie. "As I've said, my only concern is getting my son back. As long as they stick to our agreement I will consider the matter resolved."

"Just see that you do," said Alex.

He looked at the Sharptons and then followed the others out of the house.

The next morning at 9:00 a.m. Marie and Greg arrived at Cochran's office. As they entered the office they saw Alex and Dustin waiting in the outer office.

"What are you doing here?" Greg asked.

"Just making sure everything goes as planned," said Alex. "And that you don't throw a monkey wrench into the works."

"We have a deal with Scarpelli," said Marie. "You think I'm about to go back on that? You have any idea what happens to people who cross the Scarpellis?"

"I have a pretty good idea," said Alex. "Let's just say I'm here for my own peace of mind."

"Judge Bryant?" questioned the secretary sitting at the desk. "Are these the individuals you were expecting, sir?"

"Yes, they are," said Dustin. "Would you see if Mr. Cochran can see us now? I am running on kind of a tight schedule."

"One moment please," said the secretary as she picked up the phone.

A moment later she put the phone down as Peter Cochran came out of his office.

"Judge Bryant, it's a pleasure, sir," said Cochran. Then he noticed Marie and a strange look crossed his face. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"If we might speak in your office," said Dustin. "This is somewhat sensitive."

"Of course, of course," said Cochran. "Mrs. Sharpton I'll be right with you."

"That's okay," said Dustin. "This involves her, too."

"Very well," said Cochran. "Abigail, hold all of my calls."

"Yes, Mr. Cochran," said the secretary.

"Now," said Cochran after they had all been seated in his office. "What's this all about?"

"It's about your little baby selling ring," said Dustin no emotion in his voice.

"Baby selling ring?" Cochran said, trying to feign ignorance. "I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about, your honor."

"Peter, they know," said Marie. "They know everything."

"Your honor, I don't know what this woman has told you," began Cochran.

"Save it, Cochran," said Dustin. He pulled some papers out of his coat pocket and laid them on the desk in front of Cochran. "We have it all. Dates, places, amounts, all of it."

Cochran looked at the papers and recognized them as some of the files from his own computer. Files that Becca had downloaded. Even considering they had been gained illegally it wasn't difficult to see what they actually were.

"Your honor," said Cochran, "I can see how you might be confused. Taken in the wrong context of course these look incriminating. But I can assure you there's a perfectly legal explanation for them."

"It's no use, Peter," said Marie. "They know it all. And it gets worse. That last baby? The one that went to Sacramento? It's the son of Antonio Scarpelli."

"Antonio Scarpelli III," corrected Greg.

"And you would be?" questioned Cochran.

"I'm a business associate of Mr. Scarpelli," said Greg.

"I'm Alex Young," said Alex. "After the Sharptons conned me into stealing the baby for them they tried to have an associate of mine and me killed. To cover up their crime. We have their entire conversation on tape. Including implicating you in the entire sordid affair."

"I see," said Cochran, visibly shaken. "So why are you here?"

"Mr. Scarpelli wants his son back," said Marie. "They're holding Don. He says if we don't have his son back in 48 hours he's going to kill us both."

"In all fairness," said Alex, "he never mentioned killing. He only said he'd take care of it his own way."

"And we all know what that means," said Marie. "Peter, we have to get that baby back. The Scarpellis don't mess around. He says if we get his son back in 48 hours he'll forget the whole thing."

"With a couple of restrictions, of course," said Dustin. "Once the baby is safely returned the Sharptons are going to turn themselves into the authorities. They'll be charged with kidnapping and murder to which they will plead guilty."

"A murder in connection with a felony?" questioned Cochran. "That's a capital offense. It could mean the death penalty."

"I've talked with the ADA who will be handling the case," said Dustin. "He's agreed not to ask for the death penalty. The deal is they plead guilty to all charges and they do the maximum time. No parole."

"That's at least 50 years," said Cochran. "That's tantamount to a life sentence."

"At least it's life," said Marie. "It's more than we'd get from Scarpelli."

"I see," said Cochran. "But I had nothing to do with either the kidnappings or the murder."

"No one is saying that you did," said Alex. "You're going to represent the Sharptons. And you advice is going to be that they plead guilty. That way the law is satisfied and there won't be any chance for an appeal or to have the verdict overturned."

"After which," said Dustin, "you're going to retire from the law. You'll voluntarily surrender your law license here in New York and in California. And in any other jurisdiction where you're licensed to practice."

"Give up the law?" questioned Cochran. "That's absurd."

"Not when you consider that you can be prosecuted as a co-conspirator in both crimes," said Dustin. "You know as well as I do that you can be charged with conspiracy. Not to mention collusion, fraud, and as an accessory. You also know that even if you're not convicted of the crimes the Bar isn't going to look kindly on your activities. Especially when I turn over all of your records and show them just exactly how deep you're in this."

"Records that were obviously obtained illegally," said Cochran. "They'd never see the inside of a courtroom."

"The State Bar is a different matter," said Dustin. "Not to mention what just the allegations will do to your reputation."

"Your honor, if I may?" questioned Greg.

"By all mean," said Dustin.

"Counselor," said Greg, "I can tell you that if you don't agree to what the judge here is offering that Mr. Scarpelli would be very, very displeased."

"This will never hold up," said Cochran. "Once it becomes known that I was threatened. . . ."

"I heard no threats," said Dustin. "I heard Greg mention that one of his business associates would be displeased. That's hardly a threat. Lots of people are displeased with how court cases turn out."

"That was a threat and you know it," said Cochran.

"You'd have to prove it," said Dustin. "He made no specific threat of violence or bodily injury. Under the law, it's not considered a threat. And if Mr. Scarpelli chooses to be displeased at your actions, well there's not a whole lot I can do about that, is there?"

"This is blackmail, your honor," said Cochran.

"I would beg to differ with your choice of descriptions," said Dustin. "You call it blackmail. I call it negotiations. No one's forcing you to agree. But," he glanced at Greg, "should you choose not to accept, I can hardly be held responsible for the actions someone else might take.

"I will tell you this. You choose not to make this deal and I will do everything in my power to destroy you. I'll see to it that you're charged with any crime even remotely connected to this case. I have the IRS audit you all the way back to the day you got your law license. I'll check every case that your name even appears in for even the smallest impropriety. And I'll talk to every judge on every case you've ever worked on. And I'll make sure the State Bar is made acutely aware of every single instance that is even the least bit questionable. You really want to risk all that?"

"You don't have the time or the manpower to do that," protested Cochran.

"I do," said Alex. "And I would be more than happy to devote the resources of my entire businesses to make sure that it happens. I would imagine under a microscope like that even the most honest person would have cause for concern. I can only imagine what we'll find in your closet."

"Not to mention that Mr. Scarpelli would be very, very upset, as I said," said Greg.

Cochran was now beginning to sweat. He looked at Dustin for a moment.

"No charges?" he asked finally. "No audits? I do this and there are no repercussions?"

"I want you out of the law," said Dustin. "This is the most expedient way to do that. You do what I've said and it's the last you'll hear about it. Provided you never again try to get a law license. In any jurisdiction in the United States. You will be permanently retired."

"I suppose I don't have much of a choice," said Cochran.

"Good," said Dustin. "Now. The day after tomorrow, assuming the baby is returned unharmed, the Sharptons will be arraigned on charges of kidnapping and second degree murder. You'll be there to represent them. You'll have plenty of time to confer with them so that it all looks normal. When they are arraigned they'll plead guilty to all charges. Once they're sentenced you'll announce your retirement from practicing. Say it's for personal reasons or reasons of health or whatever you want. I don't care what the reason. Then you'll disappear from the courtroom forever. Are we clear on this?"

"Perfectly clear," said Cochran.

"Oh, and one more thing," said Alex. "I would hate for any of this to be made public. So as far as anyone is concerned, this conversation never happened. You're not to breathe a word of it to anyone. Ever."

"I understand," said Cochran. "Don't worry. I'll keep up my end. Just make sure that Scarpelli knows I cooperated."

"Don't worry," said Greg. "As soon as he hears you've retired you'll never hear from him again. Provided this stays our little secret."

"I suggest you start farming your current cases out to other attorneys," said Dustin, standing up. "I'd prefer you didn't appear in court again unless it was absolutely necessary."

Without another word Dustin turned and left the office. Alex, Greg, and Marie followed close behind.

"I'll let Mr. Scarpelli know he took the deal," said Greg. "I guess Cochran is making some phone calls right about now."

"I wouldn't be surprised," said Alex. "Just make sure he sticks to his agreement. He gets his kid back and he leaves the Sharptons alone."

"He'll keep his word," said Greg. "As long as they keep theirs."

"Come on, Dustin," said Alex. "Let's get out of here."

Alex and Dustin got into Alex's car and drove back to the shop.