Don't Bet on It by Robert S. Swiatek - HTML preview

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The alarm went off and I felt like I had slept much better than the night before. Of course, that’s not saying much. I arose for another day. I hoped that this day would be better than yesterday. I felt that there had to be a turning point sooner or later. Each day brought with it more difficulty and I thought maybe I had reached bottom and things would turn around. Only time would tell.

At the office I continued with my testing and it seemed like things were going well on all the systems, old and new. The atmosphere seemed to be almost void of pressure and it showed in the people. It’s funny but while the situation in the office improved, I seemed to falling into the depths.

I decided to try to reach Annie at home but all I got was her machine and I didn't leave a message. I decided to try her phone at work and got a busy signal. I was thankful that I had worked on all that documentation the night before. With any luck she would have the package by the end of the day.

By lunch I still couldn't reach her. I decided to get away from the office so I headed out for a brisk stroll. The temperature was pleasant enough, not too hot and not too cool. It was overcast and had been all day and probably would remain so for the remainder of the day. When I returned I felt refreshed. I had a 1:30 meeting and it only lasted forty-five minutes. As soon as it ended I dialed Annie’s number.

“Hello.” It was Annie at long last.
“You're harder to reach than the end of the rainbow.” “I'm sorry. Things have really been crazy these last

few days.”
“Can we get together tonight? I have some late
breaking news.”
“I'd love to but I can't make it tonight. How about
tomorrow?”
“Sure. Where and when?”
“How about my place at eight? That will give me
enough time to get all my errands run.”
“Eight it is.”
“Can you find my place?”
“I think I have a pretty good idea. See you then.” I hung up the phone and went back to a problem that
came up. It was no big thing and, by the end of the day, I had
it all figured out. All through the afternoon I kept thinking
that I forgot to do something. I just couldn't figure out what
it was. It was time to head for home so I got in the Honda
and hopped onto the downtown expressway. I felt somewhat
better that I had finally talked to Annie and then it came to
me: I was so relieved to be speaking to her, I forgot to tell
her about the package that Tom was to deliver.
I turned into my driveway and noticed that the garage
door was closed. This time I really had closed it before I left.
I did notice that the garage light seemed to be glowing. I
probably wouldn’t have noticed it except it seemed so dark
and gloomy outside even though it was a while before the
sun was due to set. Don’t tell me I left the garage light on. I was almost positive that I had doused it before I jumped into the car. I didn’t like the thoughts that started coming into my
mind.
I drove the car into the garage and headed towards
the door leading into the kitchen. I turned the key in the lock
and proceeded cautiously. Upon opening the door, I noticed
that the hall light was on. I could leave one light on but I
couldn’t accept the fact that I had left two lights on. Soon I
noticed that these weren’t the only lights now on in the
house. The light in the bathroom and one of the lights in my
bedroom were both on as well. I didn't accidentally leave all
those lights glowing. Someone had been in my house. I only
hoped that they weren't still there.
I was shaken and shaking, but after a deliberate
search, it was clear that whoever had been there was long
gone. I was relieved but just barely. My house had been
broken into and I felt like I had been violated. I was
shivering even though my house was warm but I proceeded
into the living and dining room area.
The sliding glass doors onto the deck were open
about a foot and I figured the thieves used this to exit. I
discovered an open window, which was probably how they
got in. Outside the window were some fresh footprints that
I’m sure weren't mine since they were a good two sizes
smaller than my shoe. I concluded that this window was
indeed their entry.
The VCR was gone, as was my CD player and dual
cassette deck. My old amplifier was still there as was my
1975 SONY Trinitron. It was a good working TV but
probably too old for anyone to steal. The same applied to the
amplifier. No windows were broken but I eventually found
that they broke the lock on the front door adjacent to the
garage door. That door led into the garage, which then
required you to go through another door to actually enter the house. Since this second door was dead bolted, the thieves were dead-ended at this point so they used the window to get
in.
I proceeded cautiously to the study and found my PC
missing as well. Fortunately, none of my investigation
relating to Brown and the LOTTO caper was on the
computer. I had copied it to a floppy disk and the disk I had
put in my safe. The storage device was still there. This was a
small relief, but not much. I wondered if this robbery was an
isolated event or was somebody really after me. I sat down to
catch my breath. I realized that I was in the market for
another PC!
MORE RESTLESSNESS

I called the town police but they referred me to the state police. I dialed that number and passed initial details to them. They said they would send over a detective within the hour.

Detective Frank Johnson’s appearance indicated that he had once played college football. I mentioned all that had been stolen and he checked for fingerprints. When he got to my stereo he saw the proliferation of prints on the glass door, but I cautioned him that the majority of fingerprints there were probably mine. He seemed to feel that the thieves were probably just out to pick up video and audio equipment to sell for drug money. I didn't mention a word about my LOTTO endeavors.

“Will any of the merchandise ever be recovered?”

“By now the stuff has probably been sold. Who knows where it is!”
I didn't add that except for the PC, all the video and audio items were just about ready to be replaced.
“Was any money stolen or jewelry or other valuables?”
“I don't keep money in the house and really don't have any jewelry except for my college ring. It was untouched.”
“College rings aren't worth that much to robbers. The same applies to checkbooks. They don't want to be bothered with that stuff.”
“I guess that's all I can tell you.”
“Here's my card. If you think of anything else, give me a call.”
“I will do that.”
He left my house and I fixed some dinner. I had a small salad and some leftover chicken stew, which I heated. A dinner roll and a bottle of Labatt Ale complemented the stew.
I had just finished eating when the phone rang. By the end of the second ring it stopped, just like the previous night. I was tempted to turn on the machine but I didn't. I turned on the news and ten minutes later the phone rang again. This time it was Tom.
“I had unexpected visitors yesterday.”
“Anyone I know?”
“That’s hard to say. Whoever it was left and took quite a few of my possessions without even asking me.”
“You weren’t there, then?”
“Thank God, no. They came in through the window in the living room as far as I could tell.”
“What did they get?”
“My PC and audio and video equipment.”
“So you're finally going to have to get a new TV and amplifier!”
“No. They left both. I guess they weren't that dumb. Although the CD player and cassette deck were pretty much over the hill as well.”
“Do you think they were after the PC and what you were doing?”
“If so, that PC won't tell them a thing. I left nothing critical on the hard drive.
“Well that’s a relief, though I’m sure you’re probably quite upset. Just hang in there. I have got to get going.”
“See you.”
I didn't know what to make of all that had transpired. I just knew that I was tired. As I lay in bed, the noises returned. The wind was still howling but not like the night before. I forced myself to relax. Eventually I would get over the break-in but that would take time. For now I was restless and it seemed like I wasn't going to be able to get much sleep.
As I lay there I heard it. It was a loud sound and getting louder by the minute, the sound of bass coming from a car radio. I had experienced it on numerous occasions as cars turned onto my street. On those occasions the car may have been out of sight but the deep sound lingered, even past the railroad tracks near my house. Eventually it was gone, just like the vehicle.
But now it was different. The noise increased as I began to think that it would soon be in my house. Then I heard the sound of the train and realized the car was halted at the railroad crossing. It seemed like forever but finally the train was gone and so was the annoying bass sound.
I turned over on my side and tried to clear my mind. Then I heard a gentle tapping on my bedroom window. At first I thought it might be a bird, but they usually don’t come around this late. Maybe it was some other animal like a bat, but then the sound grew louder. I slowly moved out of my bed and eased my way into the hallway. Then I heard the footsteps. I thought maybe it was just a dripping faucet so I cautiously checked the bathroom and kitchen sinks. There was no water coming out of either faucet. I then proceeded down the stairs and determined that the sink next to the washing machine was not the cause. Then the sound of the footsteps intensified and the tapping on the window increased as well.
I grabbed my sleeping bag as I slowly moved to the cellar trapdoor. I opened it and the full moon enabled me to not have to worry about any obstacles in the dark. But as good as that was, it was also bad since I could very easily be spotted. I’d have to take my chances. I climbed the stairs and exited the house and gently lowered the door, not making a sound. It was eerily quiet. I crawled along the ground until I got to the security of the woods.
From my position I could see more light than usual at the front of the house. It was almost as though there were high intensity spotlights on the building. I rolled down my sleeping bag and waited. After what seemed like half an hour I saw lights being turned on in the house, one after the other. Every light seemed to be on. There was no way I would be going back into my home anytime soon.
After a while the lights were turned off, one by one until most of them were doused. Then I heard auto engines being turned over and it appeared that the visitors were driving away. But then I saw flames coming out of my house and soon the entire dwelling was engulfed. I felt overwhelmed but thankful that I was not inside. I closed my eyes, devastated.
STILL ANOTHER MURDER

The alarm went off and I knew that I had far too little sleep. I then realized that much of what had appeared to have happened previously was a dream. For one thing my house doesn’t have a cellar exit. Second of all, there’s no electrical outlet in the woods to plug in my alarm clock. I rose from the bed and got ready for another day at work.

Once I got out on the highway I felt a little better. Obviously my home would not feel all that welcoming for a while. I had to find comfort somewhere else. I was quite relieved to know that my house was not one giant barbeque. That was certainly consoling, but the burglary was troublesome.

Work was no different than usual. I got a call from California and was asked for some assistance with the drug program. I answered as much as I could and promised to phone back with the remaining answers within the hour. I researched the problems and within a half hour was back on the line with the folks on the West Coast.

Recent events were still on my mind but somehow I managed to proceed. I talked to George and mentioned my burglary and he was quite sympathetic. We agreed that you have to make your house as burglar-proof as possible but no matter what you do, if someone wants to get into your abode, they will get in.

“You should put up a small hand-made sign on your door which says, ‘I’ll be right back...went to the gun store!’”
I added, “I saw a similar sign in a small convenience store when I lived downstate. It said, ‘These premises guarded by a 357 magnum three days a week. You guess which days.’”
“That should deter them. Nevertheless, locks are only used to keep your friends away.”
The rest of the day dragged on. Finally it was quitting time so I headed home. I wasn't exactly thrilled about arriving home but I knew that I would have to face reality. The feeling was eerie as I entered the house but my uneasiness was unnecessary. Everything was all right for now. The looters had not returned. I hoped that I wouldn't have to go through this every day from now on.
I got out of my consultant's clothes and put on my jeans and a T-shirt. I wasn't that hungry so I figured that I would wait before I ate anything. I picked up the paper and saw the small headline at the bottom of the page: “Journalist Killed in Auto Accident”.
As I read on, my heart sank. Annie was dead. She had been killed in a crash on the Kensington Expressway. The cause of the crash was still under investigation. Inside the car was found a quart bottle of tequila that was just about empty. The accompanying picture of what was left of the car turned my stomach. I knew right away that this was no accident and that the alcohol was planted. Annie had been done away with because of her investigation.
I dialed Tom but couldn’t get through. All I got was his answering machine and I didn't leave any message. Then I dialed Father Ted at the college.
“John, you don't sound too good.”
“I'm not. I can't talk about it on the phone.”
“Why don't you come over to my office? I'll be here for another hour or so.”
“Thanks. I'll see you shortly.”
“God be with you!”
I hung up and got a few things together. I didn't want to stay at the house that night, or the night after for that matter. I made sure I had my timer set and secured every window and locked up. I got on the Aurora expressway and headed to the college. I thought I was being followed again. I was relieved when he exited on Seneca Street. I couldn't wait to see Father Ted.
I parked in one of the faculty lots and headed to the administrative tower. Father Ted was in and finishing up his work for the day.
“You look like you lost your best friend.”
“Did you hear about the accident that resulted in Annie Dalton's death?”
“Yes. I heard about it on the radio. What a tragedy!”
I proceeded to relate all that had transpired, except for the fact that I used the log-on that he gave me a short time ago.
“I guess the first thing we have to do is get some dinner. Did you eat already?”
“Not yet. My stomach couldn't handle it when I read the news.”
“Well we can go over to the residence and get something. You can rest assured that you're safe here. You don't have to go home. I know I wouldn't if I were in your shoes.”
“Thanks. I'm not sure what I should do.”
“We'll figure that out later. Does anyone know you're here?”
“You're the only one. I made one phone call to Tom Daniel after I read about the accident. I didn't leave a message though.”
We got to the residence hall and saw a few Jesuits partaking in dessert. It was almost 7:30, so most of them were finished with the last meal of the day. We were probably the last ones. Fortunately there was still food left so we had some beef stew, rice pilaf, tossed salad and Frenchstyle green beans. I ate more than I had in some time. I guess I made the right decision by coming to see Father Ted.
“Are you going to leave the area?”
“I have friends in Maine who I haven't seen in some time. Maybe it would be a good time to get away.”
“If you need a car, you're welcome to mine. I rarely drive it so I won't miss it. I can also give you a collar and a black shirt so you can disguise yourself as a priest while traveling.”
“What about my car in the lot?”
“I'll move it into the garage in a little while. If you were followed, whoever tailed you probably left by now. We'll wait another hour or so just to be safe.”
“I think it's best to travel when it's dark. My sister lives in New Hampshire so I could stop in there to rest before completing my journey to Maine.”
“Do you want me to call anyone for you?”
“You could call Tom and he'll make some phone calls to my parents and some other friends of mine.”
“That I can do. What about work?”
“Luckily my boss said I could take a vacation anytime now as everything is running smoothly. I'll call in a little while and leave him a message. I can also call my sister.”
Father Ted finished his coffee and said, “So the LOTTO is fixed! I'm not that surprised. I also figured that Collins had nothing to do with Kathy Pendleton's death. Brown was and still is a crook. He makes Nixon look like a saint!”
“What a sad state of affairs that is.”
“It's amazing how greedy some people can get. They have all kinds of money but still want more. Unfortunately this has been going on for centuries.”
We left the dining hall and passed a few Jesuits on their way to retire for the night.
“You can stay here as long as you want.”
“I think I will head out tomorrow morning at around three or so.”
“Here's my car key. It's the dark blue Chevy Cavalier in the faculty lot. Do you need an alarm clock or anything else?”
“I have a small travel alarm.”
Father Ted got me some bedding and towels and showed me to my room.
I called my sister and warned her of my arrival but I gave her no details of the recent events. Then I called my boss and left a message on his voice-mail. I set the alarm for 2:45 and it wasn't long before I was asleep.
LEAVING THE SCENE

I only got about four hours sleep that night but it was unquestionably my best sleep in days. I washed up but didn't shave and decided to give up shaving indefinitely. I got everything together and left Father Ted a note of thanks, saying I would call to let him know of my whereabouts. I headed out the door towards the blue Cavalier. The city was asleep so I got in and headed to the Kensington expressway.

There were very few cars at that hour and before long I passed the place where Annie had died. There were still remnants of the crash but I kept on going. Before long I got on the New York State Thruway and figured I would keep traveling until I needed gas. Since the tank was almost full, I guessed that I could probably get close to Massachusetts without refilling.

The Thruway was boring but it was the quickest way to get to the Turnpike in Massachusetts and my sister’s house. There were a handful of cars on the I-90, but mostly it was tractor-trailers. They did the greater part of their driving at night. I turned on the radio and found Buffalo's public radio station, WBFO. It was playing some vintage Coltrane and I figured I would only hear this jazz for another half hour before it was out of range. By that time I could probably pick up WJZR, a Rochester jazz station.

As I drove, I pondered my next step. It was good to be away from Western New York. I wondered if Annie had gotten my documents and how much she had accomplished before her untimely death. There was no doubt in my mind that she was murdered. Perhaps they tampered with her car's brakes resulting in her not being able to stop.

The darkness of night was leaving when I reached the Syracuse area. I switched to the National Public Radio station that broadcast from the university and it was relaying the news from the day before. It was the typical news about the President battling the Congress and various other little bits that were already old news. Then came the death of Annie Dalton, which was a result of alcohol. At least that was what was reported. She had won many awards for her valiant work as a reporter. She was what every good journalist should be. I remembered Jessica Savitch. She was another outstanding journalist who had lost her life in an automobile accident.

I had enough of the news so I switched the dial. I came across a few country western stations and some adult contemporary but I kept searching for something else. Eventually I found a classic rock station, so I left it there.

Before long, the fuel gauge was approaching empty and I was getting off the Thruway onto Interstate 90. I would get gas as well as a little breakfast before I got onto the Massachusetts Turnpike. I filled up the tank and paid with cash though I wanted to use my credit card. I didn't want to leave any kind of trail so that I could be found. If they wanted me, they probably knew where I was anyway. I ordered a cup of coffee and two blueberry bagels, paid for it and hopped back into the car.

I entered the turnpike and picked up my ticket for the toll road. It was almost 8:30 and the sun was nowhere to be seen. There was more traffic now but nothing like rush hour. I kept my speed at the limit, as I wanted to avoid being pulled over for any reason.

At the rate at which I was traveling, I figured to be at my sister Elaine's house in Londonderry well before noon. They were close to both the mountains and the city of Boston, which was perfect for them as she loved the outdoors and he craved the city and its excitement. They both loved the restaurants of New England.

It wasn't long before I exited the turnpike and got onto I-495, the outer beltway around Boston. The traffic was heavier now and this was the area where there never seemed to be a let-up. Soon I entered Interstate 93 and I was in New Hampshire. Before long I would be at Elaine's.

I drove into the driveway and she greeted me with a hug.
“I didn't know you got a new car.”
“It's not mine. It's from the Jesuits at the college. It's a long story.”
“Well, I'm not going anywhere so give me all the dirty details.”
“Before I start, call mom and tell her I'm here. Tell her I'm on vacation. I’d call but I’m not quite up to it just yet. I might reveal too much to upset her.”
“All right. Do you want to even say hi to her?”
“No. Tell her I'll call her in a few days from my next destination.”
She called and returned in a few minutes. I started into the LOTTO conspiracy and got through all the lurid details as well as all the recent happenings.
“This is better than a soap opera!” Elaine exclaimed, putting down her coffee mug. Her blue eyes shone with excitement.
“Don't they say that truth is stranger than fiction?”
“You can stay here as long as you want. Mike will be glad to see you too. He talks about you a lot. So do and the kids.”
“I'll probably head out to Maine in two days. I have to call my friend Ed Martin to let him know I'm coming.”
“He's the consultant you worked with a few years ago, right?”
I nodded. “He has fifty acres and his house has more rooms than Buckingham Palace.”
“Do you want to call him now while I get a little lunch together?”
“I'll try, although he's probably at work.”
I retrieved his number from my papers and called. He wasn't in but his oldest daughter was. She gave me his number at work so I dialed that one.
“Hello.”
“Hi Ed, it's John Kuzinski.”
“You must have the wrong number. There's no Kuzinski here.”
“If you hang up now, you'll have to go back to your boring work!”
“I guess you got me, John. I didn’t expect to hear from you this soon. How is everything?
“Let me put it this way. The last few days have been so bad that I would almost rather be at work. Anyway, can you stand a visitor? I'm at my sister's in Londonderry right now.”
“Sure. Come on over. You're welcome to stay as long as you like. Are you on vacation or are you running from the police?”
“I'll give you all the details when I get there.”
“When can we expect you?”
“Sometime Saturday afternoon.”
“That will be great. See you then.”
“See you in a couple days.”
I then dialed Father Ted's office and I was fortunate to get him just as he was leaving for lunch.
“Father Ted Evans.”
“Father Ted, it's John. I'm at my sister's house in Londonderry. Thanks again for last night. I can't tell you how much better I felt at the Jesuits' home.”
“You're quite welcome. I called Tom and told him that you were on your way to Maine. He sends his regards. He said he would call your mom and dad this afternoon.”
“I should be in Maine sometime on Saturday.”
“Well take care. We're all praying for you.”
“Thanks. I'll be talking to you.”
By the time I finished, Elaine came out with lunch. She had some homemade meatball soup and chicken salad sandwiches.
“I owe you for all this and the phone calls I just made.”
“Nonsense. We'll do all we can to help you. I realize what you're going through. It's a tough time but you'll get through it.”
The soup was delicious as was the sandwich.
“So what can you do about this LOTTO plot?”
“I'm not so sure. I really haven't given it much thought. I've been too busy trying to calm myself down and get back my sanity, which I think is slowly returning. Staying alive has also been a major goal!”
“You're up against some pretty powerful people. Do you think the president knows all of what's going on or do you think he just has given carte blanche to his people to do whatever it takes without his approval?”
“That's the question of the hour. It's possible he just approves their actions and really doesn't get that involved. And yet, the whole LOTTO idea was his.”
SEEING STEVE AND KIM

“Hi, Uncle John,” Kim said as she hugged me. “How are you, Kim. How was school today?” “OK. Did you have a nice trip?”
“It was good. I thought you had to wear a school

uniform, or did you change schools?”
“They did away with the dress code.”
“Where's your brother?” I asked
“He's got soccer practice and won't be home until

later. I'll be back out here after I change.”
“She will be busy for a while with her friends on the
phone but you will at least see her at dinner,” Elaine
responded. “
She really has grown since I last saw her.”
“Wait until you see Steve. He's taller than I am.” Just then my sister’s better half arrived, dressed in a
spiffy dark blue suit.
“Hi, stranger. Good to see you. You have to visit
more often.”
“You're right. How's work treating you?”
“You know what it's like working for the
government. There are so many people with federal jobs who
don't do anything and they still complain about working too
hard. Heaven knows that doesn't apply to me.”
“So you're quite busy, Mike?”
“To say the least. So what brings you to New
England? I heard you're on your way to Maine.”
“In a few days, yes.”
“I hope you can stay awhile. We haven't seen you in
some time. Last weekend Steve asked when you were going
to visit.”

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