Sep 10 2011
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The sun was too goddamned bright. The afternoon, for that matter, too cold and windy. The wood plank under him would rattle his bones from their sockets even before Grand Central fell from view, and that son of a bitch Sargeant Greeley was hitting every damned bump and hole in the road. Deliberately.
Still, the day—so far—had more to recommend it than the Mt. Pleasant accommodations he’d said farewell to, hours before. And one hell of a farewell salute it had been from his suddenly sentimental blockmates. His head pounded yet, his stomach rocking with the wagon’s sway. He didn’t know whether to blame the last whisky or the first.
The play of morning light on red-gold leaves and the rushing gleam of the Hudson had only occasionally distracted him from his misery on the train trip downriver. Now, in the half-forgotten territory of home, he raised his aching head to peer through the bars. Manhattan hadn’t changed much. The buildings stood higher than he remembered. Traffic ran thicker and faster; but maybe it seemed so because the only traffic he’d seen in six years were police wagons, arriving with clockwork regularity, and the occasional closed carriage concealing uneasy visitors. But the clamor of the city, the unrelenting dash and whirl that made every day interesting—it reached out to welcome him back. He was home and he was goddamned free.
The wagon clattered to a halt at the foot of the sub-treasury steps and he glanced up to find George Washington gazing back, bronze arm partly raised, as if debating whether an unabashed welcome was called for. Even less friendly were the stares of the two living, breathing men waiting at the curb. As Greeley opened the wagon doors, the older man—a divison chief, most likely—peered inside. “Wynn Gibson?”
“That’s him,” Greeley said grimly, and unlocked the chain that ran through the shackles. “Come on out, you son of a bitch.”
Wynn smiled in the sargeant’s scowling, gray-bearded face. Greeley wouldn’t get under his skin today. A juicier fish waited to be skewered and fried; one self-righteous Secret Service operative by the name of Hugo Foster, who had swaggered into the courtroom six years ago, to swear that only one person in the world could have engraved the fifty dollar plates lying in flawless repose on the judge’s bench.
The case had won Foster fawning accolades from every city official and praise from every journalist. Sentenced to a dozen years in Sing Sing, Wynn had decided that day to make Foster regret the testimony; but not with a fist or a gun—no, he wasn’t going back to prison, not now, with a chance to walk free.
The Treasury officials led the way up the long flight to the doors, and Wynn followed, old General George watching him as suspiciously as the hovering Greeley. No one said a word to him until they had crossed the sleek marble expanse under the vast rotunda and trekked down a labyrinth of corridors to a spotless office tucked among the endless line of them. Cells, too, Wynn mused; if not as dark and narrow as the one he’d called home. An inscription at the door read, “Secret Service Division of the Treasury Department.” Below that, for good measure, someone had thought to add, “Positively No Admittance.” That didn’t apply, by virtue of the information in his possession, to him.