The Robbing of the Cradle

Over the next few months, Agent Denahy visited me several times at the rectory.  He asked the same questions in several different ways.  It’s the nature of his business to trust no one.  We became closer after he said his confession.  Our discussions involved more than just the Aragóns.  Denahy shared with me the story of his life.  He left very little out.  In the beginning he shared with me because I was his priest.  Later, we talked as friends.

Denahy's meeting with McKenna had been called for 10:00 a.m.  McKenna was a stickler for promptness.  Walking into the Deputy Director's office at exactly ten o'clock, the last thing Denahy wanted was an ass chewing.  As he entered the large paneled office, McKenna was on the phone.  Peter McKenna impatiently motioned Denahy to sit at the briefing table across the room from his desk.  The office was bureaucratically correct with the Bureau flag and Old Glory behind McKenna’s large, mahogany, glassed topped desk.  As Denahy sat waiting for his boss, he overheard him back pedaling about the Aragón case.

Less than a minute later, a very angry Peter McKenna was off the phone.  “Well, lets here it.”  McKenna demanded in a curt voice.  Handing McKenna his action plan, Denahy began going over the details.  “How long?” McKenna interrupted without emotion.  “You know that bastard on the phone wants answers yesterday.”  By his last comment, it was obvious that Denahy’s boss had just received his own ass chewing.  “We should have some answers within a few days.”  Denahy had made his response as positive as possible, knowing it was a lie.  McKenna was edgy.  Standing up from the desk, he began pacing his office floor.  “Who was this Aragón?” McKenna asked out loud to himself.  “We don't know.”  Denahy commented sounding exasperated.  “He looks clean, too clean if you ask me.  No priors, no traffic violations, and no record of IRS problems.  It looks like we have a friggin saint on our hands.”  Denahy offered sarcastically.  “No saints I know of become millionaires.  People with money make enemies.  People with money cause problems.  That’s how people with money become targets.  Most saints I know of don't have bodyguards who carry automatic weapons.”  McKenna shouted angrily, throwing Denahy’s report across the room.

“I can tell you what we do know.”  Denahy said coldly, not responding to McKenna’s outburst.  “Michael Aragón was a war hero who made it big.  What makes him unique is the fact that he made it big despite a handicap.  He was a Hispanic when it wasn't too popular to be one.  This means the guy was both smart and tough.”  Denahy stopped his briefing, waiting for his boss to respond.  “Obviously he wasn't smart enough.  The Colombians killed him and three of his bodyguards.  To make matters worse, they killed him in some banzai style attack in front of the damn Biltmore Hotel.  No, this wasn’t some upstanding citizen.  War hero or no war hero, he was a lousy Mafioso and we both know it.”  McKenna shouted the angry words to the world.  Then he stopped talking and went over to the office window, staring off into the distance while collecting his thoughts.

“Brian, we need answers and right away!”  McKenna said in a quiet, almost pensive voice.  “This cocaine thing is out of hand and we both know it.  The Latino gangs are operating out in the open.  We can't allow this to continue.  That call was from the Director, telling me that if I can't handle this mess, he’ll get someone who can.  Denahy, my ass is on the line here.  Just remember one thing.  If I go down, I'm taking a lot of you guys down with me.”  McKenna had said the threatening words in a stern tone.  “Boss, I'll give you all I've got and you know it.  But this thing is a political hot potato.  The Latinos vote you know.  They have clout.  This is a Republican President with a lot of IOUs out there in California.  A lot of them have Spanish names on them.  For Christ’s sake, his favorite daughter–in-law is a Mexican.”  Denahy stopped now, not wanting to go too far.  McKenna had watched Denahy closely as he delivered his last comments.  “Brian, I know this is a tough one.  But you're the only guy I have who can fix it.  What happened out there in LA is bad news.  It means nobody’s safe on the streets.  The press is on this one big time.  They've been calling me non-stop.  We need answers and we need them now.”  Looking exhausted as he finished his last sentence, McKenna’s words were said softly.

“Boss, I think we may have something.  There’s a guy named Grover, a known associate of Aragón's.  We have pictures of them together.  Grover’s also a Bureau asset.  Mullen knows him.  I think that's the place to start.”  Denahy knew this would brighten up his boss's day.  “What do we have on him?”  McKenna asked, genuinely interested.  “Nothing now, but I'm going to call Mullen right after this meeting and get some facts.”  Denahy had nothing else to offer, and McKenna knew it.  The meeting was over.

Leaving his boss's office, he went back to his desk.  Opening up his card file, he found Mullen's telephone number.  He called Mullen and the two spoke for several minutes about Grover.  According to Mullen, Grover was a stand-up guy who could be counted on to give Denahy the straight skinny on Aragón.  A long-time asset of the Bureau, Grover had helped break some pretty big cases.  Mullen thought Grover could help.  The second call Denahy made was to Jaime.  The two spoke at length about Romero.  There was a lot there.  Denahy just had to ferret it out.  César Romero was a Cuban exile.  As a relative of Batista, his family was one of the first to go when Castro took Cuba.  Becoming a citizen of the United States in the early 1960's, Romero was connected.  Running with the right people, he was well known on Washington's embassy row.  Romero had many friends in high places.  Jaime told Denahy that Romero knew Presidents Reagan and Bush personally.  Romero was one of those shadowy figures that Denahy had come across before.  The world was an interesting place.  Here was Romero, a Cuban in exile and a close friend of the president.  This same man knew several diplomats from many countries.  And he was also connected to a wealthy West Coast Chicano from the barrio of East Los Angeles.  Though powerfully connected and largely untouchable, no matter how much pull Romero had, this one was too big to sweep under the rug.

Denahy had made up his mind to see Grover first.  Then, he would connect with Mrs. Aragón and her son.  Next, he would see me.  Denahy estimated that these interviews would take him two days in Los Angeles.  Next, he would catch the red eye out of LA for Miami.  His plan was to find out who Romero really was.  The little voice in Denahy’s head told him there were two keys to this case, Romero and Grover.  Both had been close to Michael Aragón; these two could unlock a lot of doors.  Sitting at his desk completing case notes, Denahy was deep in thought when Robertson wandered over to his desk.  The guy was a pain.  A young punk of a kid, one of the Bureau's Yale techno rats, the kid knew everything there was to know about computers.  Robertson and others were part of the Bureau's technology facelift.  New agents had to be computer literate.  It was believed that the Bureau had to attract agents who could easily access computer-based information.  “This kid spent more time banging his computer, than chicks.”  Denahy commented out loud.

“Good morning Agent Denahy.  The word is, they gave you the Aragón case.”  Robertson said cautiously.  “So?”  An obviously irritated Denahy responded gruffly.  “It's just that the case is humongous.”  Robertson replied sheepishly.”  The kid was like a puppy dog.  Giving the kid the once over, Denahy saw a tall, skinny guy with a long skinny neck.  Robertson’s hawk like nose sat on a long, thin, pale face.  Wearing granny style glasses made him look every inch the bookworm.  His short, dark, curly hair reminded Denahy of a college geek.  Even wearing the right clothes, he still never looked quite right.  Robertson’s suits and shoes looked too new and his shirt collars were always to large for his skinny neck.

“I can help if you need it.”  Robertson said, trying to be helpful.  “I have friends at the IRS and in California.  My brother, Samuel, is with the State Police.  They may have something on Aragón or the others.  If you’d like, I can begin to develop a database for you.”  Robertson had chosen his words carefully, wanting to be part of something big.  To him, the Aragón case was a challenge.  Having read the newspaper accounts and watched everything that had to do with the case on CNN, his intuition told him the pieces didn't add up.

Feeling sorry for the geek, Denahy was kind.  “OK, go ahead and look into it.  But remember, it’s unofficial.  Use my name.  Tell your assets that you’re looking into it under my directive.  Don't screw this up kid!”  Denahy barked at Robertson.  “Yes sir!”  Robertson answered, sounding like he was about to wet his pants with joy.  Denahy then excused himself and headed toward the door.  “Where would you like for me to begin?”  Robertson asked thankfully.  “Get me everything on Aragón's family.  Go back as far as you can on the tax records.  I want birth certificates and military records.  Dig up everything you can get on real estate transactions.  I need all bank accounts.  Also, get me everything on schooling.  I want names and dates.  In short, I want a family and financial profile.”  He also asked for everything he could get on me, an Irish priest named Ignatius Michael O’Brien.  The file had me as the lead priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in East Los Angeles, California.

Having buried the poor little son of a bitch under a ton of paper work, Denahy laughed to himself as he left the office.  Robertson wouldn't be bothering him for a while.  What Denahy didn't know was that computer networks were mightier than the sword.  Robertson was a master at investigating on net.  The military had built it and other governmental departments were allowed access.  What he didn't have access to, his friends did and Robertson was obsessed with his new assignment.  Secretly admiring Denahy, Robertson saw him as the last of the true cowboys.  To him, Denahy was a comic book character, the tough honest cop.  They didn't make them that way anymore.  Wanting more than anything else to have Denahy's respect, he was going to earn it.

Denahy's plane left at 2:00 PM.  He’d made arrangements for the Los Angeles office to pick him up.  Agent Aaron Gomez was waiting at the LAX Airport terminal when Denahy arrived.  Young and confident at thirty-two, Gomez was a barrio whiz kid.  Proud of his Chicano heritage, he was ready to take on all comers.  His days were spent bringing down the bad guys, his nights, working out at the gym.  At a solid six feet and two hundred pounds, Gomez was ready for whatever came his way.  A handsome man with olive skin and dark brown eyes Gomez smiled easily.  His thin lips gave way to gleaming perfect white teeth.  Holding up a sign, Agent Gomez was waiting as Denahy deplaned and entered the terminal lobby area.  The sign read, Denhee.  Brian Denahy was decidedly unimpressed with Gomez’s spelling abilities.  Approaching Gomez, he told him that his name was spelled wrong.  Gomez apologized sheepishly for the mistake.

Making good time through the heavy LA traffic, they arrived twenty minutes after leaving LAX.  The two hadn't spoken during the ride to Denahy's hotel.  As they pulled up to the curb Gomez turned toward Denahy.  “Agent Denahy, there’s something I want you to know.  Kiki was my cousin.  He told me that you and he were friends.  If there’s anything I can do to help out while your here, just drop me a line.”  Facing forward, Gomez said nothing more waiting for Denahy's response.  Looking at Gomez, Denahy thanked him for the ride.  “Your cousin was a good man and one hell of an agent.  I'm sorry it ended for him that way.  Nobody should have it end that way.”  Denahy stopped suddenly, getting out of the car.  “Hey Gomez, I'm sorry about the crack I made earlier.  Hell, I can't spell very well either.”  With those words, Denahy began walking into the hotel.  Gomez stayed only long enough to see Denahy enter.

It was nine o'clock at night when Gomez dropped Denahy at the Wilshire Hilton.  He then began his long drive home to the city of Santa Ana in Orange County.  Gomez never moved away from the barrio, he liked it.  It was home.  Aaron was known to everybody in the neighborhood, including the vatos.  Once in a while, he ran into one of them and they had a beer.  They never talked shop or about the Family.  There had never been any bad blood between the Family and him.  As he drove along the 405 freeway, Gomez thought about Denahy.  Years ago, his cousin, Kiki, had told him that the guy was a legend.  His cousin had once said, “If Denahy ever called you friend, you were always a friend.  Denahy’s a stand up guy, the kind of guy that didn't bullshit you.”  That was good enough for Gomez.  But he knew that even a tough guy like Denahy was over his head on this one.  It was no secret that he was here in Los Angeles looking into the Michael Aragón killing.  But out here, Denahy was a fish out of water.  Gomez would have to keep an eye on him.  Somebody had to cover Denahy’s backside.  If he didn't, Denahy might end up in some skid row back alley with a Colombian necktie.  Besides, he owed it to Kiki.  The Eme was not above taking out an FBI agent.  These people were deadly.  The Family was now in almost every major city in America.  And Denahy had come to their home turf.  If they wanted him badly enough they could get to him.

The next morning, Gomez showed up at Denahy's hotel room at five a.m.  Wanting to make sure that Denahy would have no unwelcome guests, he called room service from an empty room down the hall from Denahy.  Let in by the Mexican cleaning lady, he waited until six o’clock.  Ordering two cups of coffee be sent up to Denahy's room, Gomez waited until the room service clerk came into the hall before approaching him.  Calling the boy aside, Gomez had a nice heart to heart with him.  Patting the kid down, Aaron was now sure that the boy was clean.  Gomez didn't want any surprises from a Family soldier.  Taking the coffee from the bellman, he knocked on Denahy's door.  When it opened, no one was standing in the open doorway.  Before Gomez could make a move, Denahy had his weapon leveled at his head.  Knowing the drill, Denahy would allow no surprises.

 “What the hell are you doing here?”  Denahy shouted angrily, “I didn't ask for a baby sitter.  I'm a big boy or hadn't you noticed?”  Denahy spit out the words as he motioned with his weapon for Gomez to come inside.  “I just thought that you might need some company.”  Gomez responded, studying Denahy for any sign of real anger.  “OK, you’re in.  But just for one cup of coffee.”  Denahy’s tone of voice was serious.  Denahy, an early riser, had been up since four a.m., going over his notes and calling D.C.  Room service had already brought up a pot of coffee, which he’d finished.  Denahy motioned Gomez over to a small table.  “Look kid, I appreciate your looking out for me, but I work alone.”  Saying the words as kindly as possible, he didn't want to hurt Gomez's feelings.  Denahy understood professional courtesy.  “Let’s make a deal.  Once I've done my work here, you and I can have lunch and talk about your cousin.  But until then, I don't want a shadow.”  Denahy had tried to be civil.  But that wasn't his style at six in the morning.  “Besides, I owe you for bringing me that hot cup of coffee.”  Denahy smiled slyly, taking the coffee from Gomez's hand.

 “Thanks for the coffee.  I had it put on your tab.”  Gomez said with a laugh and a wide grin.   Denahy laughed hard and the ice was broken.  “You’re a lot like your cousin.  He was a smart ass too.”  Denahy said with a chuckle.  Not wanting to encourage the kid, the two talked about everything but the case.  “Agent Denahy, will you at least let me drive you around town?  I'll stay out of your way.  I'll sit in the car like a good little boy, I promise.”  Gomez had made the request respectfully, but with a tinge of sarcasm.  He hoped Denahy would understand his offer was meant to help.  Denahy liked him, Gomez reminded him of Kiki.  He liked these Spanish guys.   Having worked with several over the years, they’d never let him down.  Different from the Ivy League types, these guys had earned their jobs.  With few connections, they had to be the best.  He saw the Spanish as a people trying to be accepted, but on their terms.  They kept their traditions and language, and Denahy liked that.  But he also liked the fact that they were Americans first.  These Chicanos were solid and knew who they were.  As agents, they worked hard and did their jobs.  Chicanos could be counted on when the going got tough.  Street wise, they knew the ropes.   “Let’s make a deal.  Since I know you’ll tail me anyway, I'll let you drive.  But no bullshit; you stay in the car.  If I get into trouble, I'll call.  Understood?”  Denahy was serious.  Gomez agreed and the matter was settled.  They left an hour later.

 Denahy was on his way to Beverly Hills.  Not having to rent a car or read a map made things easier for him.  Denahy had never traveled well.  His sense of direction was lousy.  Once, he had been late for a raid after getting lost while driving the streets of New York.  No one had ever found out after he blamed it on engine trouble.  Reaching Grover's house by 8:00 a.m., Denahy left Gomez in the car and walked up to Grover's front door.  As Denahy walked toward the house, he was concerned that the trail would be cold.  It had been five days since the killing of Michael Aragón.  Lost in his thoughts as he rang the doorbell, it rang once before Grover answered.  When Grover answered the door, he found Denahy standing there with a newspaper in hand.  “Mr. Grover, I'm Agent Denahy of the FBI.  May I come in?”  Denahy asked insistently.  “Yes, of course.” Rolf answered politely.  Entering the living room, Denahy sensed that Rolf Grover was trying not to show concern.  “I thought you might want this.”  Denahy said arrogantly, handing Rolf the morning newspaper.  Grover showed him through the house and outside to the patio.

 “Mr. Denahy, how may I help you?”  Rolf asked calmly as he seated himself.  “Open up the newspaper, Mr. Grover.”  Denahy recommended with firmness.  “What is it that I'm looking for?”  Grover asked cooperatively, unfolding the newspaper.  “The headline’s on the front page.”  Agent Denahy responded in a cold, flat tone.  Rolf quickly turned to the front page and began to read.  “Are you aware that this occurred?”  The agent asked accusingly.  “Yes, isn't everyone in Los Angeles?”  Rolf answered flippantly.  “Let me be frank with you.  We’re aware that you knew Mr. Aragón very well.  We know you and he were personal friends.”  Denahy stated matter–of-factly.  “Yes, I knew him well.  But so did many other people.”  Rolf replied coldly.  “Look, let’s not get off on the wrong foot here.  We know you two were very close.” Denahy had become almost combative.

 Standing up from the table, Grover walked around behind Denahy until he stood in front of his rose bushes.  Denahy sensed that Rolf was looking off into the distance attempting to formulate a response.  “Mr. Denahy, what is it you want from me?”  Rolf asked cautiously.  “Mr. Grover or should I say Gruber, we want the truth.”  Denahy’s words had sent the message.  “Oh, and what is the truth?”  Rolf responded angrily.  “Look Gruber, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.  It’s up to you.”  Denahy responded in a threatening tone of voice.  “Mr. Denahy, I know my rights.  Furthermore, I have many friends.  In fact, many of them are in your own organization.  If you wish information, you need only to ask.”  Responded slowly and evenly Rolf now ready for a fight.

The two stared at each other across the patio, neither wanting to escalate the situation.  Denahy needed Rolf's help.  Rolf was insulted by this personal attack in his own home, but wanted no further problems.  Denahy was first to offer the olive branch.  “Mr. Grover, we need your help.  The Bureau knows you have contacts that can be helpful to us.  We have information that you were at the Biltmore that night.”  Denahy had dropped the bomb to see Rolf's reaction.  There was none.  “So, you know that I was at the Biltmore that night?”  Rolf responded with disgust in his voice.  “Yes, we do.  We also know you made a phone call to Mr. Aragón's home that night.”  Denahy tried to handle the ruse forcefully, but had done poorly.  Rolf Grover now was aware that Denahy was on a fishing expedition with his questioning.  At that moment, Rolf became aware that the Bureau needed him more than he needed them.  “Of course I want to cooperate with the authorities.  How may I help?”  Knowing his offer of help would throw the agent off, Rolf waited for Denahy’s response.  “Yes, you can be of help.  We just want to know what you know.”  Denahy responded calmly, though confused.  “Would you like a drink, Mr. Denahy?  It appears that you can use one,” Rolf offered, needing time to plan his next move.  “Yes, Scotch will be fine."  Denahy replied with mock civility.

Denahy waited calmly as Rolf took a few minutes to pour the Scotch and return to the table.  Handing Denahy his drink, he joined him at the table.  As they sat down, Rolf began his explanation.  “Yes, I was at the Biltmore that night.  I went there to join Mr. Aragón and his wife for dinner.  I arrived rather late.  I was picking up an anniversary present for them.”  Rolf waited for Denahy's response.  “Did you see the fireworks?” Denahy asked.  “Yes.” Rolf responded calmly.  “Do you know who pushed the button on Michael Aragón?"  Denahy asked, sure that Grover had the answer.  “No, I don't.”  Rolf again answered without emotion.  “What do you suspect happened?” Denahy inquired.  “I believe it was a drug hit.”  Rolf answered flatly.  “Who do you think was behind this?”  Denahy continued, already knowing it was the Colombians.  “My guess is that it was the Colombians.  They have always wished to regain the retail business from the Mexicans.  I assume that they believe the profit margins to be greater there.”  Rolf responded honestly, knowing the agent suspected Aragón's involvement with the Eme.  “Do you have any names?”  Denahy asked without caution.  Rolf then suggested that one name might help him.  The name was César Romero.

After getting them another drink, Rolf explained to Denahy that Romero was a Cuban living in Miami.  He then gave Denahy a telephone number for the man.  Sensing that Grover wasn’t dirty, Denahy was satisfied for the moment with his answers.  As an FBI, DEA, and CIA asset, Grover couldn’t have been too dirty.  Besides, the Cuban was already in the Aragón file.  The whole thing tracked.  After asking a few more questions of little importance, he left.

Denahy had been in the house for only twenty minutes before reappearing.  Walking quickly toward the car, he jumped in.  “Let’s go.”  Denahy said tight jawed.  “Where to?”  Gomez asked cautiously, not wanting to make a bad situation worse.  “East LA, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on Brooklyn Street.  Do you know where it's at?”  Denahy asked irritably.  “Sure.”  Gomez responded coolly.

They had driven for a few minutes.  Gomez could tell something was bothering Denahy.  “What’s up?”  Gomez asked, trying not to push it too far.  He knew that Denahy had a lot on his mind.  “We’re going to see a priest.  I haven’t been to confession in a long time and I know he's going to ask me.”  Denahy was surprised that he had blurted out his concerns.  Denahy always felt like a kid whenever a Catholic priest was involved.  Gomez laughed out loud.  “Don't tell me, you were an altar boy too?”  Gomez asked with a hearty laugh.  “You too?”  Denahy responded with a smug look.  Gomez shook his head, yes and Denahy laughed.

As the ride came to an end, Denahy could see that East LA was a dump.  There was graffiti everywhere.  He couldn't help but notice the poverty, and he wondered where all the government poverty program money had gone.  Denahy was certain that it hadn't gotten this far.  The streets were dirty with trash everywhere.  The houses were painted with bright blues and yellows.  Denahy noticed that the signs were in Spanish, even the billboards.  The place was like an extension of Mexico.  Denahy saw several young teenage girls.  With their long dark hair and olive skin, the girls were as tough as they were beautiful.  It was the way they looked back at him, as if telling him to go to hell.  Denahy liked that, to him it was a challenge.

Arriving at the church by late morning, Denahy left Gomez in the car and came directly to the rectory.  As he walked around the front of the building, he saw me sitting in the side garden.  Pulling out his shield, he introduced himself stating he had come to ask some questions about Michael Aragón.  Appearing embarrassed, Denahy acted like a ten year old child.  It’s the way all good Irish Catholic boys were raised to act around priests.  Unlocking the garden gate, I offered Denahy a seat.  Sitting down, he got right to the point.  “I'm here to ask you some questions about Mr. Aragón.”  By his tone, Denahy was now past the fact that I was a priest.  He wanted information and he wasn't going to take no for an answer.  I quickly understood that I was dealing with a no nonsense policeman.  What I didn't want to share with anyone was that I had lost a friend.  We spoke about Michael Aragón at length.  I was frank with Denahy, telling him what I knew.  Aragón was now dead and there was nothing for me to withhold.  I told Denahy about family matters.  We spoke of Anna and Kenneth.  Talking about the family, I explained there were three children, including Christina and Benjamin.  I told him a lot about Anna and the children, but offered little about Aragón.  Denahy already knew that Aragón was a war hero.  He also knew that Aragón was a successful businessman who owned several companies.  But he hadn't known about the import/export business.  That was a new wrinkle for him.  It soon became clear that I knew more.  I could tell that Denahy felt that most of what I said was standard information.  This Catholic FBI agent was also aware that my vows kept me from going beyond the surface.  We spoke for over an hour.  Finally, having to hear confessions, I excused myself.  As I left, I asked if he were a Catholic.  Denahy answered with a guilty, yes.  Then I asked how long it had been since his last confession, fixing my eyes on Denahy as I asked the question.  “Too long Father.”  Denahy answered, with that tinge of guilt that most fallen Catholics exhibit.  Even this hard boiled agent couldn't escape the grip of Mother Church.  Then Denahy broke off the conversation abruptly, wanting to get out while the getting was good.  He didn't want to give me an opening for an invitation for confession.  As we two began to go our separate ways, Denahy asked if we might talk again.  I agreed with a nod.  Then he left to explore the sins of Aragón and I went to hear the sins of my parishioners.

When Denahy reached the car, Gomez was waiting eagerly to hear what the Priest had said.  “Well, did he ask you?”  Gomez questioned Denahy with a twinkle in his eye.  “Yes.”  Denahy responded, not wanting to be laughed at.  “Well, did you?”  Gomez asked, trying to ruffle Denahy's feathers.  “Did I what?”  Denahy questioned playfully.  “Did you go to confession?”  Gomez asked the question knowing the answer.  “Just drive you crazy bastard!”  Denahy said affectionately.  Both knew by that comment they were now friends.

“Where to next?”  Gomez asked.  “Lunch, I'm starved.  Let’s go get some Mexican food.”  Denahy growled.  Gomez knew of a place nearby where the food was good and the beer is ice cold.  The two spent the next two hours drinking Mexican beer and eating authentic burritos.  Denahy and Gomez talked about Kiki and life as an agent.  After a while, Denahy wanted to talk shop, paying Gomez the highest compliment.  He wanted to know what Gomez knew about the Eme.  This meant that Denahy trusted what Gomez had to say.  Confirming what Denahy already knew, Gomez passed the test.  It was more a test than an exercise in information gathering.  Denahy had more knowledge on the Mexican-American Mafia or the Eme, than any other living agent.  His data included organizational charts, names, dates, and places.  What he didn't have was something on Aragón.  Gomez had only heard the name in connection with community charity groups.  There had never been a hint of illegal activities.  The man was clean as far as Gomez knew.  Gomez also confirmed that a man named John León was the head of the Eme Family.

It was late afternoon and both men were tired.  Gomez offered Denahy a home cooked meal for dinner.  At first, Denahy declined the offer.  Later, as he thought about it, he decided to take Gomez up on his offer.  Arrangements were made.  Denahy would catch a quick shower and shave, and Gomez would pick him up at 6:30 that evening.

Dropping Denahy off at his hotel, Gomez headed back to the Los Angeles Bureau office.  After arriving, he called his wife to let her know that they would have a guest.  Wanting to know about Aragón and his son, Gomez then made a few calls to his assets.  Gomez knew the Family tradition.  The father was now gone, the son would be next in line for succession.  If there was a way to find out anything, he could.  His contacts were family, standing on both sides of the fence.  Some of his own cousins were La Eme.  The words were never spoken, but he knew.

Later, Gomez arrived promptly at 6:30 PM .  Denahy was waiting outside in front of the hotel.  Looking tired, he had jet lag.  The travel and stress of the case were too much for him.  Feeling the heavy weight of the situation on him, he was the Bureau’s point man on this.  McKenna needed him to produce.  There was no time for mistakes, he had to deliver.  Gomez decided not to bother Denahy with a lot of questions about the case.  “How does homemade Mexican food sound?”  Gomez asked Denahy with a grin.  “Great.”  Denahy responded, sounding very tired and preoccupied.  The two drove for over an hour in the heavy Los Angeles freeway traffic.  The cars were bumper to bumper all the way from LA to Santa Ana.  Lost in their thoughts, neither had the energy to carry on a long meaningless conversation.  So they remained quiet during the long drive.

When they arrived in Santa Ana, Denahy observed that it was an upscale version of East LA.  There was the familiar writing on the walls, and the beautiful young girls with there Levis and tank tops.  Their long black hair was worn straight.  Denahy was taken by their beauty, but it was their anger that was the most obvious.  They walked hard.  The girls had the ability to stare right through you.  They were as tough as the barrio in which they lived.

Arriving at the Gomez’s home, it was a small yellow house with a well-kept lawn and brightly colored flower beds lining it.  Anita, Gomez’s wife, met them at the door with their two sons, Roberto and Johnny.  They were young; Roberto was six and Johnny four.  There they stood with large smiles and a keen interest in their guest.  Anita was in her mid-twenties and quite a beauty.  With long black hair and almond shaped brown eyes, her olive skin was clear and flawless.  Reaching out, she hugged Denahy.  Her graciousness wasn’t feigned, it was real, and Denahy could feel it.  Anita then ushered them into the small dining room where dinner was waiting.

During dinner the three talked about local politics and the many problems of the barrio.  Anita was a medical assistant at the local hospital and saw daily, the carnage brought about by gang warfare and drugs.  She talked for a long time about the sense of hopelessness that pervaded the barrio and it’s young.  In the barrio, death had become a casual thing, and murder was an everyday occurrence.  No one was immune to it.  All agreed that the problems with life had become too much for the average family to handle.

It was now 10:30 PM and the boys had been put to bed.  The three moved to the living room.  As they had their coffee, Denahy and Gomez spoke about the case.  Anita saw to the dishes and left them to their shoptalk.  The two talked for a while and called it a night.  Before leaving, Denahy thanked Anita for the meal and said his goodbyes.  The trip back to Los Angeles took forty-five minutes.  There was no traffic and few accidents.  They went over the next day’s activities.  Gomez was to pick up Denahy at eight in the morning.  Their first stop would be the Aragón home in East LA.  They would talk to Mrs. Aragón and her son Kenneth.  Both Denahy and Gomez knew that their visit could cause waves.  After the interviews, Denahy would head back to DC.  Dropping Denahy off at the hotel a little after midnight, Gomez arrived back at his home after 1:00 a.m.

Gomez had spent the ride back thinking the Aragón case over, arriving at the same conclusion that Denahy had.  Aragón had to be connected.  The Colombianos wouldn’t have made such a blunder.  He arrived at three possible conclusions.  First, Aragón could have been directly involved with Eme.  Second, he may have been indirectly involved in a drug money transaction.  Finally, Aragón might have been an innocent bystander.  The most likely was the second possibility.  To him was that Michael Aragón must have been on the periphery of the drug business, investing money with them or owing them money.  This would account for the lack of previous information regarding his involvement with La Eme.  After all, according to Denahy, Aragón was known to have associated with shadowy underworld figures.  It wasn't much of a leap from acquaintance to business partner.  The final possibility was too far fetched.  The fact that an experienced hit squad was sent in to Los Angeles to take someone out meant a very well planned and coordinated hit.  The target would have been watched and followed for days before the hit.  A complete case history would have been developed outlining the subject’s every move, where he went and how often, how he got there and with whom, how often he frequented a certain club or restaurant, and how long he usually stayed.  Each action would have been noted.  Finally, the possibility always existed that there was inside information being provided.  These Mafias went so far as to plant sleepers a year or two in advance of a hit.

In the end, Gomez believed that Aragón's hit was no accident.  There had been no mistaken identity; Aragón was a hard target.  The Colombianos knew who he was and why they were hitting him.  The killing had been planned.  This was a mafia show of force hit.  This hit told the world if the Colombianos wanted someone badly enough, they could get to him.  Not only get to him, but get to him with force.  These were Gomez's last thoughts as he kissed his wife good night and fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning Gomez arrived at Denahy's hotel at exactly eight.  Waiting outside with a big smile on his face, Denahy liked Gomez and his family.  After Denahy got into the car, the two talked about the dinner the night before and the children.  Then they got down to business.  Driving to East Los Angeles, they discussed Aragón's possible Eme involvement.  Both were convinced that there had to be a connection.  The question on both of their minds was how to make that connection.  They knew that if they dug long and hard, they would find it.

They drove to the old large, two story house that backed up to a hill.  While the house was well-kept, it showed its age.  The neighborhood was run down but was oddly clean of graffiti.  The area was quiet when Denahy and Gomez pulled up in front of the Aragón home.  Gomez stayed and waited in the car as Denahy went on to the house.  Climbing the few steps, he rang the front doorbell.  After several rings there was no response.  Walking along the side yard, he peered into the window.  Nothing was out of place.  He could see the dining room table and china cabinet.  Everything appeared to be in order.  He then walked around the back of the house and looked into the kitchen window.  The sink was clear of any dishes.  Again, everything looked to be in order.  It appeared that the place had been kept tidy and that no one was home.  Having no search warrant, he decided to leave.  When he returned to the car, Gomez was waiting.

“Well?”  Gomez asked.  “Well what?”  Denahy responded angrily.  “Was anyone there?”  Gomez asked, wanting to know.  “Yeah, the boogie man and Santa Clause.  That’s why I'm back here with you.”  Denahy responded sarcastically.  Gomez thought it better to ask no more questions.  Denahy and Gomez decided to go back to the FBI field office.  Denahy wanted to call Robertson for the information he’d requested before leaving D.C.  The drive was made longer because of the heavy LA traffic.  Concerned that he had hit one brick wall after another, Denahy’s investigation was going nowhere in a hurry.  He needed answers and he needed them today.  McKenna would be waiting for his written report.

When the two arrived at Gomez's office, an Internet E-mail was waiting for Denahy.  What Robertson found was dynamite.  He’d confirmed the citizenship papers of Anna and Christina Aragón.  Birth certificates were attached.  The name Señorita Anna Duron caught his attention.  They showed the two to have been born in Mexico.  The information on Benjamin Aragón's school records showed his original pre-adoption name to be Benjamin Levy.  LAPD had records dating back to the 1950's, showing that his grandfather had been murdered during a hold up attempt at the family liquor store.  Kenneth Aragón was the problem.  Those documents would be at the hall of records and held on microfiche.  Robertson couldn't get access electronically.  Wanting to know everything about the kid, Denahy would have Gomez do the search while he returned to D.C.  Maybe he was the link to the hit.  Maybe his father was never the target.  “What if it was Kenneth Aragón all along?”  Denahy commented to himself out loud.

Robertson also confirmed the Aragón's marriage in the late fifties.  There was other information that would be in by the next day.  Robertson had accessed a hard copy of Aragón's military records and that of several others serving with him.  He had asked for a preliminary listing of the documents being sent.  There was one document that seemed odd.  It was the last will and testament made by Aragón's commanding officer, a Captain Peter Wellington.

The education information on the three kids was due in within a week.  The IRS tax information going back seven years would take two more weeks.  Bank holdings, trust deeds, stocks, bonds, and other financial data was being gathered by the IRS as a favor to the Bureau.  This would take a few more weeks.  Denahy was pleased with the news.  Robertson was good at his job; he had the instincts of a bloodhound.  Within a few days, he had uncovered an amazing amount of information.  Denahy knew that if this kept up, he would be able to profile the entire family.  Now able to confirm information, suddenly, he felt better about the investigation.  Later, he hoped to confirm some of his hunches.

Denahy decided to take a cab back to the hotel.  Before leaving, he asked Gomez to track down the Aragón family information at the Los Angeles County Hall of Records.  Gomez promised that he would get on it first thing in the morning.  Asking Gomez for one last thing, Denahy wanted him to work with his friends in the LAPD and get everything he could on Kenneth Aragón.  Understanding immediately, Gomez agreed that Kenneth Aragón might be the link.

Packing quickly, Denahy left the hotel for LAX.  Settling in for a long flight, he had lots to think about.  Robertson had uncovered valuable information and his next step was to analyze the data.  Denahy would next direct Robertson to create a database that segmented the information into military, education, financial, legal, time lines, and other.  Flow charts would be developed correlating the data by dates from beginning to end.  What he needed was help to close the information gap quickly.  He would be asking McKenna for something which he’d never done before; Denahy wanted a fire team made up of the Bureau’s best people to ferret out anything that might be of value.  Each would be given a category with Robertson coordinating.  Gomez would act as their West Coast point of contact.

When Denahy arrived in D.C. six hours later, he was tired and wanted sleep.  Leaving the airport, he went directly home.  It was very late when he opened his front door.  Throwing his bags on the living room couch, he went directly to bed.  As Denahy fell off into a deep sleep, he could think of only one thing, those beautiful tough Chicana girls.

Denahy awoke at 6:00 a.m., drank coffee, took a shower, and dressed in a half an hour.  Out the door, he was at his office in forty-five minutes.  The first order of business was his preparation for that morning’s meeting with McKenna.  Arriving, he found Robertson asleep at his desk.  He appeared to have spent the night working on an assignment.  As Denahy looked at the screen of Robertson's terminal, he found an E-mail from the National Security Agency.  Robertson was tapping into every source available for background on the Aragón family.  To his surprise, Denahy found a pile of inter-agency E-mails addressing the Aragón case.  Robertson had found several kindred spirits out there in government cyberspace.

Making a strong pot of coffee, he shoved a cup of the steaming stuff in front of Robertson's nose and shook him into reality.  “Get up, there's work to be done.”  Denahy shouted at a startled Robertson.  It took him five minutes to become coherent.  Going to the restroom and cleaning himself up, when Robertson returned, Denahy was ready to begin work.  They both knew that they were on to something big.  Robertson briefed Denahy on the various E-mails.  Robertson's friend, Roybal, at the NSA had something worthwhile.  Evidently, Aragón was an international corporate type.  Nothing added up about him.  Living in East LA, he owned homes in Beverly Hills, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and Spain.  Recently, he had purchased two estates in Argentina.  Owning construction businesses in Europe, he also held stocks in foreign banks.  The NSA's interest in him was his banking connections.  It might have sounded racist, but what was a Mexican-American from the barrio of East Los Angeles doing with international banking holdings?  This meant transfers of large sums of money.  The Aragón Empire was taking shape.  But nothing about it made sense.  Already having begun a database linking businesses with countries, Robertson had inputted each by date.  The data provided a fairly good idea of domestic holdings.  The second key was an import/export business.  Denahy wanted to know what Aragón was shipping in and out of the U.S.

Leaving Robertson to his research, Denahy had only a half hour to prepare for his briefing with McKenna.  Beginning his briefing paper and arranging supporting documentation, he reviewed his earlier report.  Citing those areas of progress which he had accomplished, Denahy was ready when he got the call from McKenna's secretary.  Walking down the hall to McKenna's office, Mildred, McKenna's old battle axe of a secretary, showed him in.  There sat McKenna looking tense.  The two nodded hello and got down to business.  McKenna wanted to know what Denahy had uncovered in Los Angeles.  After listening to Denahy’s explanation of interviews and findings, McKenna was disappointed with the progress.   It was at that point that Denahy asked McKenna for a fire fighting team.  “Let me get this straight.  You want me to assign you four or five of my best and youngest agents.  You, Brian Denahy, a guy who couldn't get along with Mother Teresa?”  Genuinely shocked, in the five years that McKenna and Brian had worked together, Denahy had refused to work with anyone else.  He had always been the Lone Ranger.  Explaining the areas of concentration to McKenna, he needed the resources to research and analyze the data that Robertson was collecting.  Specific expertise was needed in the areas of international finance, banking, property, tax, and education.  Gomez and he would act as the field agents for the team and others as analysts.  Once McKenna realized what the old warhorse was up to, he was impressed.  Not thinking the old guy had it in him, McKenna agreed, and within a half hour Denahy had his team.

On the newly organized team was Daryl Doami, a young third generation Japanese-American from California, with expertise in international finance and currency movement.  The strong, silent, brooding type, his crew cut hair wasn’t the only conservative thing about him.  Denahy felt that Doami had fallen out of the pages of an Ivy League yearbook.  Doami was a thinker, giving everything he touched a thorough going over.

Kayee Chan, the petite, beautiful young Chinese-American woman, was an expert in banking fraud.  Denahy couldn’t help thinking that she looked too young to balance her own checkbook, let alone a corporate P&L.  Wearing her black hair straight at shoulder length, Chan’s suits were well-cut and conservative.  Everything about her said she was a heartfelt workaholic.

Shonita Stevens, the tall, young, African-American woman, was the picture of dressing for success.  From clothes to car, she was the poster girl for American businesswomen in Vogue.  Her large framed glasses accentuated her beautiful brown-green eyes.  After graduating at the top of her class at Yale, she became a specialist in property and assets seizure.  Stevens was obviously on her way to somewhere, no glass ceilings for her.

Jim Mitchell, the only White guy of the bunch, was in his fifties and the oldest of the group.  His wrinkled suits and white shirts were as well-kept as the rest of his life.  Denahy had been warned about his drinking problem.  Mitchell’s five divorces had left him emotionally and financially bankrupt.  At five foot, five inches tall, with a round bowling ball beer belly, he reminded Denahy of a rumpled dwarf.  But he knew his business.  An expert in tax evasion, Mitchell had hundreds of successful prosecutions to prove it.

Finally, there was Colleen Dunaway, an expert on education.  The tall blonde was known for her accuracy and effective results.  In her early forties, she was a no-nonsense academic.  Denahy liked her and her work.  She was the kind of gal a man could have a beer with and tell dirty jokes to.  There wasn’t a bit of women’s lib in that cookie.

Responsible for the military aspects of the case, as well as total program coordination, Robertson was the point man for the program’s data collection and analysis.  It was his job to tie it all up in a pretty ribbon for McKenna.

Word spread like wildfire that he had requested a team of specialists for the Aragón case.  Everyone chosen knew that this could be a career maker.  All of the Bureau’s staffers wanted in.  But the major one for all was a chance to work with Denahy, a legend.  Each was surprised when they got the call from Denahy.  The team understood an opportunity when they saw one.  The word in the Agency was that he was the original hard nose.  All business, it was well known that Denahy didn't play games.  The team meeting had been called for one o'clock in the afternoon.  No one was late.  All were seated when Denahy arrived in the conference room.  Robertson had prepared documentation for each team member.  When Denahy entered the conference room, the seated group remained silent, almost cautious.  “You’ve all been selected for an important assignment.  Each of you has expertise and contacts that are necessary for the success of this mission.  We are the team that will investigate Michael Aragón's past and determine whether or not he was a part of La Eme, the Mexican-American Mafia.  I won't go into the details about the case.  I know that each of you made calls to your assets about the case before coming to this meeting.”  Denahy stopped and watched the team members for a reaction.  There was none.  “This case will involve a twenty-four hour, seven days a week commitment.  If you can’t adjust your schedules, please say so now.”  Denahy stopped again and looked around the room.  There were no comments so he proceeded.  “Robertson will give you your assignments and act as the library of information.  Each of you will analyze the details and completely research the Aragón family.  You will begin in the year 1941, and end your research on the date of his death.  I expect flow charts, time lines, and summary findings including footnotes.”  Denahy stopped to see if his team followed, they did!  “I believe Michael Aragón was killed by the Colombians because he stood in their way.  Further, I feel that he was an active member of the Eme, if not its leader.  Operating from those assumptions, I expect this team to uncover any and all evidence to prove these assumptions.  Finally, there will be no leaks to family or friends.  If the press is alerted to any of these activities, I will know that the leak came from this room.  Are there any questions?”  Looking around the room at a stunned group, no one had questions.  “This meeting is ended.  Please provide Robertson your full cooperation.  All correspondence in this case is to be considered confidential.  Thank you!”  With those words, Denahy left the room.

The team left soon thereafter, each knowing the case was high priority.  All scrambled to get to work on it.  Robertson was amazed at Denahy's approach.  There was little to say.  He was what he was, a hard nose.  If anyone could break this case, it was Special Agent Brian Denahy and the team.  All selected understood this.  And within the hour, everyone was hard at it.  They were aware that time was of the essence.  Each knew that there would be no excuses.  None wanted to be the first removed from the case.

Back at his office, Denahy made reservations for a five o'clock flight to Miami.  He would go to meet Mr. Romero.  Romero had been close to Aragón and had known the guy for years.  César Romero had knowledge about Aragón's business, his friends, his wife, and his family.  Romero was the key.  Before leaving D.C., he made a call to Romero's home.  Reaching an answering machine, he left a simple message.  Denahy would call on him in the morning to discuss Michael Aragón.

Checking in with agent Gomez, Denahy called Los Angeles, leaving a voice mail detailing his flight to Miami.  Once that was done, he left for his house to pick up a bag.  Arriving at his place by three o’clock in the afternoon, there was just enough time to make it to the airport.  He raced to make it on time.  All he could think of during his drive was Romero.  This entire matter was political.  He had to handle the situation with diplomacy.  If push came to shove, Romero might have some political clout that could hurt the investigation.  Arriving at the airport with only fifteen minutes to spare, he raced to try to make it through the gates.  The gate closed, he had to show his shield in order to make the plane.  Once in the cabin, he could relax.  It was to be another long flight.  Denahy would have to become used to the pace.  For the next few months, he would be on planes every other day.  Breaking this case would take a lot of legwork.  At least with Gomez on the West Coast it made things a bit easier.  His flight set down in Miami on schedule.

Taking a cab to his hotel, it was late at night by the time he arrived.  Hungry, tired, and dry, after checking in at the front desk and having his bags carried up to the room, his first stop was the hotel bar.  Wanting to get good and drunk, he belted down several scotches.  Denahy wanted to do something in his life he could control.  Since he had been handed this case, Special Agent Brian Denahy felt as though everything was in someone else’s hands.  He didn't like depending on other people; they’d always let him down.  But here he was, depending on that pinhead, Robertson, and a group of kids.  “Thank God I have Gomez. He said out loud, as a couple next to him in the bar, stared.  Finishing his last Scotch, Denahy headed up to his room.  After unlocking the door, he shut it behind him and made his way to the bed.  Denahy’s head hurt, his back was bothering him, and his job was a pain in the ass.  Sleep was his cure.

He woke up to one hell of a headache.  It was a combination of jet lag, stress, and booze.  Undressing as he walked to the bathroom, he entered the shower.  Turning it on, Denahy stood under the steaming water for a half hour.  Once the hot water was off, the exhausted agent toweled himself off.  Stepping out of the shower, all he could see was a pair of puffy red eyes surrounded by a face full of gray and brown stubble.  Finally, feeling well enough to attempt a shave, he looked into the mirror.  Agent Brian Denahy shaved with as much care as he could muster.  It was one of those days when a razor became a meat cleaver.  Escaping decapitation, he proceeded to comb what was left of his once full head of hair.  Finished with the impossible grooming task, Denahy put on a bathrobe and headed to the phone to order room service.  After ordering a pot of coffee and an omelet, he went to the hallway and picked up his newspaper.  Turning to the front page, the agent got his second migraine headache of the morning.  The headline was a cover story on Aragón.  The Cuban community was crying out for answers on who killed Michael Aragón.  The article was a plant and Denahy knew by whom.  Someone wanted the Colombians to be front and center.  The real target was the President.  He owed the Cubans a big IOU.  These people had clout.  All Republicans, they voted with the ballot and their checkbooks.  Denahy felt the heat in the Bureau kitchen suddenly go up fifty degrees, and he was in the frying pan.

As he began to read the article, the phone rang.  Answering it, the voice on the other end said, “Good morning Señor Denahy, this is César Romero.  May I join you for breakfast?”  Taken by surprise, he hadn't expected Romero to be this aggressive and self-assured.  “I'll be down in fifteen minutes.  Let’s meet in the hotel restaurant.”  Trying to act as nonchalant as possible, Denahy had failed.  Romero had won round one.  “Very well, I'll see you then.”  Romero responded in an even tone.  As the line went dead, Denahy was left to respond to Romero’s challenge.

Ten minutes later, Denahy found himself face-to-face with a very secure César Romero.  Both men were as pleasant and charming as possible.  Denahy’s experience told him that he was dealing with one of the rich and powerful.  Romero recognized instantly that he was faced with a professional warrior.  Neither would give an inch, and both understood the stakes.  Romero was well rehearsed, ready with canned responses.  Denahy sized Romero up quickly.  Looking past the thousand-dollar suit and ten thousand dollar smile, he found a neatly crafted elitist.  A man who had had things his way all of his life, César Romero was a member of the American upper crust.  Unlike his Hispanic cousins in East LA, Romero was considered more than socially acceptable.  His pedigree had given him access to the nation’s powerful.  He’d been to the White House and had drinks with the President.

Agent Denahy was first to begin the game.  “Mr. Romero, I'm here to talk to you about your friend Michael Aragón.” He said nonchalantly.  Señor Denahy, I will be delighted to cooperate with you.  How may I be of service?”  Romero delivered the lines with the smoothness of a 1930s Latin matinee idol.  Denahy went through the usual investigative approach, asking Romero how long he had known Aragón.  Going through the motions, he spent thirty minutes glad-handing Romero.  For his part, Romero had been very cooperative, answering every one of Denahy's questions honestly.  Finally, Denahy asked the million dollar question.  “Who killed Michael Aragón?”  Denahy watched Romero's eyes.  As he did, Denahy saw hurt.  Romero was smooth, but even he couldn't hide the pain that Aragón's death had brought him.  It was clear to Denahy that Aragón and Romero had been close, the eyes gave it away.  For thirty years, Denahy had been an investigator.  The years had taught him the looks and the moves.  Romero couldn't fake the pain.  “Agent Denahy, you know who killed Michael.  Why do you ask me such a question?  We’re not children.  Ask me what you really want to know.”  Romero gave himself away.  The smooth veneer was gone.  Denahy had touched a nerve.  “OK, let’s talk off the record.  I know that the Colombianos pulled the trigger, but why?”  Denahy had hit Romero where it hurts.  It was the kind of question that no one could be prepared for; it was too honest.  Romero's eyes watered as he began to think back on the death of his friend.  “Michael was a good man.  He had no enemies that I know of.  But he did know many people, some good and some bad.  One man, John León, was to be there at dinner that night in Los Ángeles.  Some say León is La Eme.”  Romero stopped, waiting to see if Denahy had fallen for the bait.  Denahy had heard about León, but he wasn't sure about his connection.  Hearing that little voice calling to him from deep inside, for Denahy, something didn't quite add up.  It was too easy.  “Mr. Romero, I thank you for giving me this time.  I know you’re a busy man.  I think I've got what I need for now.  May I call on you again?”  Denahy asked off handedly.  Romero appeared relieved, telling Denahy he would be available to talk to him anytime.  With those words the meeting ended.  Romero quickly excused himself and left the restaurant.  Denahy stayed to finish his coffee.

After finishing his coffee, Denahy left the restaurant and headed up to his room.  As he closed the door behind him, the phone rang; it was Gomez.  “Hey buddy, I've got something hot for you.  I found it.”  Gomez said excitedly.  “What is it?”  Denahy asked, slightly annoyed.  “Your boy, Kenny Aragón, that’s not his name.  He's adopted.  His real name is Kenneth Wellington.  Michael Aragón adopted him in 1951.”  Gomez said the words with pride, waiting for Denahy to reward him.  Denahy didn't.  He just gave him another assignment.  “Call Robertson and get him on it.  I want to know anything and everything about this guy's old man, his real father.”  Denahy then hung up.  Gomez knew that Denahy was happy about the information; he just didn't know how to say thanks.

Denahy remembered the name Wellington from Robertson's briefing the day before.  Again, the pieces were falling into place.  Needing to understand the family profile, he wanted to find the weakest link in the Aragón chain and then exploit it.  He had to have Robertson and Gomez work on the family records in LA.  Then he would have Dunaway close the loop with their education records.  Wanting to understand what made these people tick; he believed that one of Aragón's children had to know about his real business.  Maybe it wasn't Kenneth Aragón.  Maybe it was his brother Benjamin or the sister, Christina.  But one of them had to know.  They were all in their forties.  Each had private lives.  One of them had to have some dirt in their closet.  If he could get dirt on one of them, they would all talk.

Denahy then called Robertson and asked him how his research was coming along.  Sounding like the walking dead, Denahy asked Robertson to be prepared to meet with him first thing in the morning.  He wanted the low down on the man, Peter Wellington and Kenneth Aragón.  Telling Robertson to push the team harder, Denahy waited for an answer.  Finally, a tired Robertson answered, promising to push the team harder.  Concerned that Robertson was on the edge, Denahy told him to take the afternoon off and get some sleep.  Robertson thanked him and hung up.  Putting on the heat, Denahy had no choice.  Time was the enemy, not him, time and the press.  Within minutes he left for the airport.

His flight from Miami to Washington was long and boring.  Hoping for a breakthrough, Denahy’s thoughts were constantly on the missing pieces.  He knew that finding one missing piece of information could make all the difference in the world.  It was never anything big, it was always that small something that led to something bigger.  It was the little morsel that broke a case wide-open.  Cops chewed and chewed until something came up.  That was the way it had always been.  After landing in D.C., Denahy took a cab to his home.  Once in the door, he made several phone calls to Robertson and Gomez's voice mails.  He used the technology as a things–to-do box.  Every time Denahy had a thought or a lead he wanted to be followed up on, he made a call.

After making his calls, he sat down at his kitchen table and opened a bottle of cold beer.  An exhausted Denahy lit a cigarette and blew smoke rings while going over in his mind what he knew.  Taking a note pad from his brief case, he began to jot down some points on the case.  When it came to Kenneth Aragón, Denahy pushed down so hard on the paper that the point of the pencil broke off.  The pressure of the case was getting to him.  The lack of time and room to maneuver were taking their toll.  He needed a break in the case.  Denahy was wiped out.  As his frustration grew, so did his lack of patience.  Throwing the broken pencil across the kitchen, Agent Denahy decided he needed some sleep.  After finishing the little bit of beer left in the bottle, he tossed it in the nearby trashcan.  Then he turned off the lights and went to his bedroom to catch some shut eye.

The next morning, he was up early as usual.  Showering and shaving quickly, he left for the office.  Out the door by five a.m., his drive was uneventful.  Denahy arrived at an empty office.  As usual, he was first to walk in the door.  Starting the morning routine as he had ten thousand times before, Denahy put on a pot of strong coffee and lit his tenth cigarette of the day.  Then he pulled out his private case notes and began reviewing them.  By the time he’d reviewed his notes, the coffee was ready.  Pouring himself a large black cup, he drank it down quickly.  It tasted like hell.  As he reached for his in-basket there was a stack of memos from his team.  “Ass kissers.”  He offered out loud in the empty office.  Denahy was surprised by what he saw.  The memos were good.  Each had prepared daily briefing reports for his review.  Denahy could see that they were going all out for this one.  Robertson had started a computer-based milestone chart.  Each area was clearly defined with subcategories.  He’d taken their individual reports and created a nodal flow chart.  All areas; finance, banking, real estate holding, IRS , and education were represented.  Denahy was amazed at the details found in the accompanying notations.  One flow chart began with the death of Michael Aragón and ended with the prosecution of Kenneth Aragón.  These people were serious.  The team understood the art of war.

By ten o'clock, Denahy was in McKenna's office unrolling the flow chart for his boss.  Beginning his report, he explained each point.  He watched as McKenna's interest grew.  His boss attempted to remain aloof.  While Denahy provided the details, Peter McKenna nodded his approval of the approach.  “So when do I get the answers?”  His boss asked flatly.  There was no emotion, only thinly disguised rage.  “Push your people harder.  I need a break in the case by the end of the week.  I don't want excuses, just results.  If they can't or won't do it for you, replace them.  Brian, you get to replace each one before you go.  Do you understand?”  McKenna asked in a low, husky threatening voice.  Denahy shook his throbbing head acknowledging his boss's threat.

The pressure was on; McKenna looked as though he hadn't slept in a year.  White House aids were calling the Bureau daily.  Cuban-American activists had angered the President and the bad press he was getting didn’t help.  McKenna wanted answers.  The Director and Congress wanted answers.  Hell, everybody wanted answers.  And they wanted them now!

Completing his briefing, Agent Denahy was preparing to leave McKenna's office.  “Brian, I need you to pull this one off.  Find out who killed Michael Aragón and why.  Don't let me down.”  McKenna sounded like a beaten man.  His ship was full of holes and sinking and the President was threatening a tidal wave that would sink his career.  As Denahy left McKenna's office and walked back to his desk, he was feeling the pressure.  Michael Aragón’s death wouldn’t go away.  The Cuban community was up in arms.  California’s Chicano community wanted action.  Both the President and the Director of the FBI wanted the monkey off their backs.  Looking at the stacks of paper on his desk as he opened his office door, Denahy prayed for a break in the case.

Later that afternoon, a desperate and angry Denahy met with the team.  Each of them was beginning to fray at the edges.  All had been operating at hyper speed for days.  Each had reports in progress.  It was clear to everyone that Robertson's information was needed.  They were analyzing the data as soon as Robertson received it.  But each member wanted the information more quickly.  On the spot, he agreed to press his sources for faster turn-around on the data.  The meeting ended in the late evening with nothing solid to report.  Denahy went back to his desk to go over his private case notes.  Choosing not to share the potential of bank transfer information with McKenna, he knew this knowledge would become a political football kicked all over Washington by the next morning.  It would hurt the investigation rather than help.

Denahy left the next morning for LA.  Gomez picked him up at LAX.  With more news from the hall of records, his study of the microfiche showed formal adoptions of the two boys during the very early fifties.  First Kenneth, then Benjamin.  Records also showed that later, Christina was adopted.  The records also confirmed the marriage of Aragón to an Anna Duron in the late fifties.  Gomez was now chasing down school records for Dunaway.  Briefing Denahy on his progress as they drove to Denahy's hotel, he would be meeting later that day with the LA Unified School District people in Downey, California.

When Gomez informed Denahy that Mrs. Aragón was nowhere to be found, he slumped in his seat.  This meant that the Los Angeles Police Department had been unable to question her.  That translated to no new leads.  Then Gomez laid another bomb on Denahy, Kenneth Aragón’s attorney had shown up in Santa Barbara and announced that his client would be interviewed by detectives within thirty days.  Benjamin and Christina Aragón were represented by counsel and had both issued statements.  Dead-end, after dead-end had been hit.  Denahy had hoped that he could lean on the Aragón children.  But they were solidly sealed off and not easily ruffled.  The Aragóns had money and knew how to use it.  If he pushed too hard, the Chicano Community would come down on him like a lead balloon.  It was then that Denahy decided to visit me again.

After checking in at his hotel, Denahy made several calls to friends in D.C.  He also called Robertson to check on his progress.  There was now another lead.  Robertson had received Aragón's military records.  According to Captain Peter Wellington's last will and testament, he had left two sons to Aragón, Kenneth and a second brother named Peter.  There was no next of kin.  The records showed that Mrs. Wellington had died of cancer a few weeks before Peter Wellington left for Korea.  Wellington had left the children in the care of a couple in Boston.  Robertson had the names and address of the couple.  Both Robertson and Denahy wanted to know what had happened to the second boy, Peter.

Later that afternoon, Denahy called for a cab and made the long drive to East LA.  The streets of East Side were alive with people.  To Denahy, it was like being in some foreign Latin American country.  Everywhere, people were coming in and out of the small stores housed in rundown, two-story stucco buildings.  The streets and sidewalks were cracked and dirty, but none of the people seemed to notice or care.  It was early evening when he got to my rectory.

Special Agent Denahy arrived at the rectory close to seven-thirty.  He knocked on the front door, but no one answered.  So the angry and frustrated agent walked along the side of the building and there in the garden he found me.  I was staring at my chessboard when he called to me.  As I turned toward him, I said very little.  Then I motioned Agent Denahy to join me, offering him a seat at my table.  But I said nothing as I planned my next move on the board.  “Father, can we talk?”  Denahy asked me respectfully.  Still, I didn't answer.  Finally, out of frustration Denahy spoke up.  “We need to talk now!”  Shouting the words with anger in his voice, I looked at him over my horned rimmed glasses and gave him a long hard stare.  “What is it now, my boy?” I asked, as a father would speak to an errant child.  “Father, I need to talk to you about Michael Aragón's family.  I need to understand what they’re all about.  I need to know whether or not Mr. Aragón was involved with the Eme."  Denahy had asked me the questions in a level, but firm voice.  Knowing my vows as a priest, he understood I would have a problem with the questions.

I had known Michael Aragón for over fifty years, more as a family member than the Aragón's priest.  I’d shared their lives, birthdays, sicknesses, and holidays.  In many ways, I had become a part them.  But still, I was a priest.  A man of the cloth with a higher obligation; I had to tell the truth.  The agent had placed me in a difficult situation.  How could I lie?  I wouldn't lie, so I avoided the issues.  My responses were literal.  Since I had no firsthand knowledge of Michael's involvement with Eme, I could be honest.  Never had I seen Michael do anything illegal.  So I responded to Denahy's questions in my own way and kept faith with my dead friend.  I owed Aragón not to endanger Kenneth.

I did speak to Denahy frankly about the family's life in the barrio and about how Kenny had suffered as a little White boy in a Chicano world.  I explained how Aragón had always lent a helping hand to those in need.  By the end of the conversation, Denahy understood the pain and suffering that Mexican-Americans had endured over the past fifty years.  They had been shut out of the system.  Early on, there were no jobs.  The returning veterans of WWII came home to nothing after giving everything.  And later, after Korea, little had changed.  Doors remained closed, jobs withheld.  We two spent hours talking about life and the Aragóns.  I spoke of Aragón's successes and his hard life.  Aragón had never shirked responsibility, nor had he been afraid of hard work and dedication.  Michael had suffered much in his life, loosing his manhood in Korea.  Returning to the barrio with the little boy after losing his friends in violent ways was no easy life.  Later, he took on the responsibility of Benjamin after his grandfather was killed.  Finally, he adopted Christina.  Of these things, I did have first-hand knowledge.  There was also Anna and her beauty.  There was their love for one another.  By the time we had finished talking it was after midnight.  I was tired, and Denahy left for his hotel room.

Denahy was now beginning to understand the man Aragón.  No longer just another case, Michael Aragón had become real and alive through my words.  His family was now also more than a backdrop; they had become people with hurts and pain.  Denahy knew he was no longer dealing with abstractions, but real flesh and blood.  He wanted a family profile and he was receiving it in spades.  His team would do the fill-ins with facts, getting to know the names of their schools and friends with dates.  But he knew them as real flesh and blood people.  These were the thoughts that he had as he drifted off to sleep in the early morning hours.

It was early morning when Denahy heard the insistent knocking at his hotel room door.  Feeling like hell, he was never able to get any sleep.  There was always so much to do.  It was always the case.  His life had ceased to be his own.  Denahy opened the door to find a smiling Agent Gomez holding two Styrofoam cups of steaming hot coffee.  “Don't you ever sleep?”  Denahy asked Gomez with a slight smile.  “Yeah, but only when you’re not in town.”  Both men laughed as they walked over to the sofa.  “Well, what have you got for me?”  Denahy asked, ready to get back to business.  “Robertson and I talked late last night and we compared notes.  The kids were all adopted.  Aragón used his business attorneys to do the legal work.  His marriage to Anna was legit.  Everything I told Robertson has checked out.”  Gomez said almost mechanically.  “But, where is the second kid?  Wellington's other son, Peter.  There’s no information on him at the hall of records.”  Gomez quizzed Denahy.

Denahy asked Gomez a few more housekeeping questions before coming back to the second boy.  Explaining Robertson's findings from the Wellington will, there had been a second son left to Aragón.  But there was nothing there.  Peter had disappeared after Aragón's return home.  Robertson had the names of a couple living in Boston who had taken care of the two boys after the death of Wellington's wife.  While Wellington was off in Korea, the O’Neil’s had cared for his sons.  Gomez explained that they would be in their eighties by now.  “They’re probably dead.”  Gomez commented to Denahy.

This was just one more loose end to tie up.  Denahy would have to get over to Boston and look up the old couple, if they were still alive.  Besides, he hadn't been home in three years.  He could stand a trip back to the old neighborhood courtesy of old Uncle Sam.  Denahy instructed Gomez to call Robertson and get an address on the O’Neil's.  Denahy needed some time off and a trip to Boston would do the trick.


06/08/2016 13:53