Was her father really greedy enough to kill?

More chapters from ToxiCity

A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 77

Stone tracked down Art Newell at the Clean Water Action Project, a non-profit foundation. Now a lobbyist, Newell confirmed Frannie Yablonski’s story.

“Why didn’t the judge allow the witness’s deposition?” Stone asked. “I thought you could do that in civil court.”

“You can, and that’s a good question.” Newell paused. “But he elected not to admit any of it into evidence. Said it was all hearsay. He even tried to close the court records.”

“Why didn’t you appeal? Hire an investigator? Don’t you think someone would have eventually cracked?”

“You don’t know what we were up against. Stuart Feldman has powerful allies.”

Stone remembered the list of investors he’d found in Ricki’s files. Politicians. Judges. Elected officials. All with a piece of Meadow City.

“Who was the judge?”

“Franklin Mattox. He’s retired now.”

Mattox wouldn’t be on the list of Meadow City partners. That would be too obvious. But Stone would lay odds that if he checked the investors of another Feldman deal, he’d find the name of Franklin Mattox. Or his wife. Or a close relative.

“What about the media? They’d salivate over a story like this.”

“Come on, Detective. What do you think?”

“He got to them too?” Stone asked.

“We got some press at the time, but it never caught fire. Feldman hired some PR agency that managed to convince them there was no story. You know how they work. But I gotta tell you, Detective. The truth is we had an even bigger problem.”

Stone had a hard time imagining what else could go wrong.

“We didn’t have enough money to argue the case the right way.”

“You got a grant from some foundation, didn’t you?”

“The one I work for now. But it was only a few grand. It was gone in a few months. After that, my partners told me—repeatedly—they weren’t happy with the cost of the litigation. Or the notoriety. Not good for the bottom line. They showed me the door a few months later.”

“You think Feldman had something to do with that?”

“Do you really have to ask?” Newell paused. “It was—how should I put it—a seamless effort. He got to everyone who mattered. The state, the witness, the judge—and never a whisper of impropriety.”

Stone rubbed a fist across his chin. “So, what did you do?”

“You know that saying about walking a mile in the other guy’s shoes, Detective? There are some things you know to stay away from. I have a wife and two kids. They depend on me. I want to dance at my daughter’s wedding. At the same time, though, I couldn’t let the families down. I warned them not to expect much. I’m not Erin Brockovich. Or what’s his name in Massachusetts. I took the case to a verdict. And you know the outcome.”

After he hung up, Stone started pacing. He knew that Stuart Feldman, friend to the rich and powerful, was ambitious. What he hadn’t known was how far the man would go to fulfill those ambitions. But the families did. Which included Maggie Champlain. And she had pictures of Meadow City under construction.

Stone moved to the window. An early dusk cast purple shadows over dark, hulking forms that a few minutes ago had been bushes and shrubbery. He couldn’t tell Ricki about her father. If she didn’t know, and he didn’t think she did, she’d never believe her father was greedy enough to kill. She didn’t trust Stone anyway; she’d probably accuse him of fabricating it just to close the case. And with Feldman barely clinging to life, the timing was all wrong.

He watched the taillights of cars stream ribbons of red and yellow down the street. Matt wouldn’t believe him either. He’d probably think Stone was trying to sabotage him. But Ricki Feldman was in danger, and her father had put her there. It was time to find Maggie Champlain.

 

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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