Denahy came to me many times at the rectory and shared with me his
troubles. He had no one else to talk to. He was a drowning man who
expected a tidal wave at any moment. His was a lonely life without
pleasant distractions, so I became his sounding board. He was under
tremendous pressure to wrap up the Aragón case, and things just weren’t coming together
like he had hoped.
Receiving information from Harvard University and examination
records from the California Bar, Robertson passed on the documents about
the Aragón children to Colleen Dunaway, an expert on
undergraduate and graduate studies. Dunaway was chartered with
development of educational backgrounds of the Aragón
children. Wanting specifics, time lines and courses taken Denahy
expected Dunaway to complete the backgrounds on Benjamin and Christina Aragón
When the report came back, the summary stated that the three Aragón children were excellent students and exemplary
citizens. Their records were clean with no problems while attending
college. The only exception was Benjamin. The file contained a note
regarding a minor altercation with a football player. With further
investigation, it was found that the young man was beaten badly and
placed in the hospital. Oddly, no charges were filed against Benjamin,
and the matter was later dropped.
Denahy shouted at Dunaway and Robertson. “What a perfect
family.” After throwing the report at them, Denahy stormed out of the
conference room. Both could tell that he was under great stress. The
Bureau was under the gun to break this case.
Robertson’s friends at the State of California, Department of
Corporations, provided him with Aragón
corporation records. Providing the corporate files to Mitchell, he
poured over them. Later, he
developed flow charts depicting any interlocutory relationships between
he created a database which showed corporation by industry type and
geographic locations. Crude organizational structures depicting various
boards of directors and officers were also developed. The names of
corporate officers were then matched for service on several different
corporation boards. Mitchell’s findings showed a complex network of
The list of corporate names was then provided to Shonita Stevens
for further analysis. She was to concentrate on Aragón
properties and assets with the intent of seizure. Preparing a listing of
assets was a thankless job. Ferreting out each asset was hard work.
Stevens developed additional computerized flow charts and organizational
structures depicting interlocking corporate relationships. Her initial
assessment agreed with Mitchell’s, many of the individuals listed
served on several different Aragón corporate boards. Within days, Stevens had a
clear picture of the Aragón
corporate empire and assets. Based upon a preliminary assessment, the
man was most probably a billionaire. There were twenty-two corporations,
and several were international conglomerates. These international
corporations engaged in aircraft manufacturing, construction,
engineering, and import/export.
Her findings suggested two things. First, Spain was the most
heavily invested in country. Secondly,
all corporations facilitated the easy movement of capital and material.
Finding that the structure was developed for the easy transport of money
and drugs, while not conclusive, Steven’s findings suggested a
business system modeled perfectly for drug trafficking. Providing her
initial findings to Robertson, by the end of the day, he was one happy
camper. In the recommendations section of her report, Stevens requested
information on two banks in Spain, the Banco
and Banco De Madrid. She also
wanted Interpol profiles on all senior bank personnel. Finally, she
wanted assets and accounts information for both banks.
The following day, Robertson’s friends at the Internal Revenue
Service provided him with five years of Aragón’s
tax returns. The records were immediately passed on to Jim Mitchell to
begin his analysis. The purpose of his analysis was to detect any
possible tax evasion scenarios. The preliminary research yielded an
interesting picture, a series of interlocking corporations providing
services to one another. A call to Stevens quickly confirmed his
assumptions. All corporate declarations had Mel Fienstein as corporate
counsel. Here was the first common link.
Mitchell then compared the developed flow charts and
organizational structures depicting various boards of directors and
officers. Later, he and Stevens compared notes and made the necessary
revisions. The names were also interlocking. Everyone seemed to serve on
several different corporations. Few acted as management. A complete list
of names was developed and provided to Shonita Stevens for further
individual background analysis.
Robertson’s brother, Samuel, a State Police official, found an
interesting tidbit. Unofficially, upon comparing Aragón
holdings to State Police cases, he found a company name, Spain’s Best
Inc., an import/export business. The company had been raided in 1979 by
the Los Angeles Police Department. The reports suggested that an
employee, acting independently, had been suspected of trafficking in
drugs. The raid found nothing. LAPD issued apologies to Michael Aragón and
the matter was forgotten. The LAPD narcotics case files were over-nighted
to the Bureau. The following day calls were placed to the LAPD.
Investigating officers were contacted and debriefed.
The purpose of Robertson’s research was to link gang member
locations, names, and dates to investigations. Three names continued to
surface Vincente Rey, Sammy
Perea, and Roberto Palma. Robertson,
hearing the little voice in his head, checked the list of the dead from
the Aragón massacre. The three men were on the list. The
report showed them to be associated with Aragón as
bodyguards. Robertson immediately contacted Denahy. The second link was
made. The three men could be traced to investigations of drug
trafficking. Even if on the periphery, they were associated.
Robertson’s preliminary strategic planning report to Denahy
recommended that the team’s analysis concentrate on linkage of people
to corporations. Secondly, the research would emphasize the movement of
services and money between entities. Finally, relationships to financial
institutions would be developed and investigated for the purpose of
identifying laundering activities. Denahy
read the report and agreed with the approach. He asked Mitchell to keep
digging for anything, even the smallest detail. As a long-shot,
Robertson had the names found by Mitchell and Stevens run through the
Bureau’s organized crime team. The comparison drew a blank. He then
requested similar information from police departments across the
Southwest. Telephone calls from the team to the police departments
confirmed that all of the corporate names had associations with the
gangs. As the investigation continued names began to surface on the
periphery of Chicano gangs in
the Southwest. In all cases, they were blood relatives.
Only two convictions were found. Both were of a minor nature and
had occurred many years before. While the corporate names couldn’t be
directly linked to the gangs, their relatives could be. In almost all
cases, the names were linked in inconclusive ways to various illegal
activities in barrios. A
pattern of crime families linked to corporate structures run by
relatives was now established.
More organized crime team records were delivered the next morning.
Robertson enlisted Kayee Chan and Shonita Stevens to begin developing
any possible linkages between corporate names and barrios. They spent the next three days and nights working together
in the conference room.
What emerged was a pattern of circumstantial involvement. The two
traced names to addresses, entering the names and addresses into a
database. They then added fields for geography. Associated states,
counties, and cities were also entered. As the puzzle developed into a
coherent picture, a complex network emerged. The web spread across all
major cities in the Southwest. From Los Angeles to New Mexico and Texas,
corporate names and addresses were present. It was apparent that this
was no accident. Linkage mapped to an organized chain of affiliations.
Although inconclusive, it appeared that the Chicanos
had developed an organized crime network with links to legal corporate
Robertson met with Chan and Stevens that week to discuss their
reported findings, conclusions, and recommendations. What Robertson
found sitting in front of him was a potential strategic organized crime
blueprint for the Mexican-American Mafia
in the southwestern United States. While
only preliminary, it had to be called to Denahy’s attention. Picking
up the conference room phone, he called Denahy. Within five minutes, a
team meeting was scheduled for the next morning.
Denahy entered the room ready to teach the little darlings basic
police work. Bringing with him three binders, he began by giving them a
tutorial on Colombian and Mexican international drug trafficking. Citing
names, organizations, dates, and times from the 1970's and 1980's, he
explained the Chicano barrio
organizations and linkages to the Mexican cartels. He went on for
forty-five minutes. Denahy then stopped abruptly, asking the team for
input. Robertson was first to raise the question. Why didn’t the
team’s list of Aragón
associates and names match Denahy’s barrio
gang member reports? Denahy responded by tossing Robertson several barrio
gang organizational charts. Stevens and Chan were quick to rifle through
them. Both agreed that there was no match, not one. It was Mitchell who
asked the million dollar question. What
were the assumptions used in Denahy’s original research and analysis?
Inviting the team to discuss the findings openly, Denahy waited for
responses. Robertson proposed that the DEA was emphasizing interdiction.
Therefore, their angle would have been international trafficking into
the US, not US distribution. He suggested that the DEA would have
concentrated its efforts on the men who were producing and shipping the
products. The others agreed that the findings would have been skewed by
this approach. Chan suggested that the Bureau would have arrived at
conclusions based upon DEA findings and assumptions. These assumptions,
she felt, would have to be faulty, since the barrio
gang member names couldn’t be linked to specific data related to
businesses or financial institutions. Stevens surmised that the problem
was data gathering. She believed that all parties were gathering data to
draw preconceived ideas about the drug traffickers. This, she felt, led
them to the wrong conclusions. Doami
had been very quiet during the meeting. Denahy asked him to comment on
the discussion. His immediate answer was, Aragón. Feeling the key to this case would be a
psychological profile; Doami believed that Michael Aragón
was somehow the link. But he also felt that the team needed a more
complete picture of Aragón,
the man, before it could arrive at any solid conclusions. Denahy agreed,
and ordered Robertson to prepare a military record brief as soon as
possible. The meeting was at an end.
Weeks passed before Robertson finally received financial records
from the Spaniards. The Bureau asked the Federal Reserve Board Chairman
to intervene. In addition to banking records, a bonus arrived. Files of
banking information had been seized by the Spanish government in
relation to a construction company scandal. The file was forwarded to
Robertson. The files arrived in five large cardboard boxes and were
provided to Stevens, Chan, and Mitchell to review and catalog. The three
were also to develop profiles on the banks and the construction company
involved. All transactions would be put in schedule format for review by
The work was difficult at best. The documents were in Spanish. None
of the team members spoke or read the language. A section Secretary, Maria
Oliva, was drafted to work with the members of the team. A tall,
thin, young Cuban-American with strawberry blonde hair and large oval
brown eyes, she was born in Miami. Although raised to read and write in
Spanish, her first language was English, which made translation
difficult. It was Denahy who made the decision to stay within the
Department to ensure secrecy. The team would have to make it work.
Typists were brought in to listen to Maria’s tape-recorded interpretations of the volumes of documents.
The financial data was reviewed and analyzed by Stevens and Chan.
Mitchell acted as team coordinator and report writer. With the research
taking longer than expected, Denahy was being pummeled by the top brass
to move forward with the investigation. Refusing to bring in additional
support, Denahy argued that too many cooks in the kitchen ruined the
meal. His second argument was the need for secrecy.
Daryl Doami, the young Japanese-American from California, was
drafted to identify financial transactions for the purpose of
determining the extent and amounts of international finance and currency
movement between Spanish and American banks. His expertise in
international finance and currency movement would prove invaluable.
Stevens was also assigned to the project. What developed was a complex
chain of transactions in staggering amounts. Shocked when the numbers
passed the billion dollar mark within the first few hours of her
research, Stevens immediately contacted Kayee Chan. She passed her over
the names of the banks and transaction amounts. Beginning her research
into possible bank fraud activities as soon as she received the data
from Robertson, Chan was overwhelmed. The fact that Stevens had provided
Chan with her working notes saved the day. Her information moved Chan
miles ahead of schedule. Fearing
that the people at the World Bank could be bought, Chan immediately
contacted her friends at the Federal Reserve. Immediately, inquiries
began regarding the organizations involved. Banking is a very much
closed society everyone knew everyone. Soon, the return calls began to
flood in. The American banks in question had been under low-level
investigation. Statistically, they fell well outside the norm for growth
and movement of large sums of capital outside of US banks. Almost to a
man, the officers associated with the banks involved were considered
shady. In each case, the bank executives were very low profile
characters. Little was known about them. Shunning the public spotlight,
there were few photographs on file.
This was odd.
Stevens and Chan were working with materials as they came in, hot
off the press. After weeks of research, analysis, and case development,
they finally got a break. A cryptic notation giving only a partial
account number was discovered by accident. The note had fallen between
the folds of a cardboard box. Mitchell found it while moving the empty
boxes in the evidence room. The
notation made in pencil had written on it, BAJ. A figure of $149, 286.00
was listed as the transfer amount, along with a partial account number.
Offering to help, Mitchell reviewed the schedules that Stevens and Chan
had prepared, but found no match. Though frustrated, Mitchell had the
presence of mind to contact the Federal Reserve Bank and ask for help.
It came in the form of a call. People at the Fed had heard about
the ongoing investigation and were willing and ready to help. Mitchell
faxed the note to John Miller at the Fed. Miller played a hunch, running
the partial numbers through a listing of foreign banks. The number
sequence had no match. After spending days looking for a match of
transfer amounts from the US and Spanish banks identified as associated
there was still nothing. He
was at his wits end. The partial number identification had failed. There
was no easy way to match the dollar amount shown on the note. Placing a
call to Mitchell at the Bureau, Miller apologized for being unable to
help. He’d given up. Both men agreed that it had been worth a try. The
call ended as did the lead.
Three weeks later, John Miller had a brainstorm while on vacation
in Acapulco. Sitting in the
pool bar, the Millers were on their fourth margarita
when a young couple by the name of Foster joined them in the water. The
two couples struck up a poolside conversation about vacationing in
Mexico. Swapping the usual vacation stories, they talked about food and
the cost of international travel. Then, the young man, Jeff, asked
Miller if he liked Mexico. Miller explained that this was their first
time. Jeff proudly told
Miller that this was their fifth visit to Mexico in five years. Maggie
Foster chimed in that the Millers would love the desert beaches located
in the Baja California area of Mexico. Suddenly, a bell went off in
Miller’s head. Asking Maggie how Baja
was spelled, she spelled the word for him and that was all it took.
Jumping out of the pool, Miller shouted to his wife that he would
be right back. Racing to his room, he immediately called Mitchell. The
phone rang three times. As Miller was about to hang up a depressed and
defeated Mitchell answered the phone. With news of a gangland massacre
in Chicago still fresh in his mind, the team was under terrific stress.
Becoming impossible to work with, Denahy had become a daily terror.
McKenna was pressing him for answers and Denahy had none. All of the
team’s leads had gone nowhere.
Miller shouted the word Baja
into the receiver, causing Mitchell to pull the hand set away from his
ear. Miller then proceeded
to explain his new found knowledge and hung up. Mitchell let out a yell
as the line went dead. Calling Chan and Stevens with the news, they
began an immediate search for information on banks in Mexico’s Baja
region. Finally, a break came. After
a week of twenty-four hour days and a diet of hamburgers, pizzas, and
Chinese food, the partial number matched five possible banks in the Baja.
A very tired, but elated Kayee Chan called Robertson with the news.
Robertson in turn called a sleeping Denahy. A very tired Agent Denahy
ordered Robertson to dispatch Chan and Stevens to Mexico City to meet
with the Federales.
Two days later, they arrived in Mexico. The two young women were
champing at the bit to break the case wide open. During the flight
they’d made a pact. They would not let down the team. Two highly
aggressive FBI agents, Kayee Chan and Shonita Stevens, met with Comandante
Raul Rodriguez of the Mexican Federal Judicial police. The Comandante
had befriended Rolf Grover
many years before. Rodriguez
had remained close friends with Rolf
over the past thirty years. Rolf
had kept his part of the bargain. His intelligence had helped the Comandante
out of difficult situations many times over the years. Theirs was a true
bond of friendship. Having met Michael Aragón during
a hunting trip arranged by Rolf
Grover, the Comandante came to
know him well over the years. The Comandante
liked Michael Aragón.
While hunting, the two had shared many things about their lives. Rodriguez
liked the fact that Aragón
was a family man dedicated to his wife and children. He was shocked when
he heard the news of Aragón’s
death, and he was truly saddened. His heart went out to Aragón’s
When the young women were ushered into his Mexico City office with
a list of demands in hand, they were polite, but firm. Forewarned by the
Mexican President’s office, Rodriguez
knew the American president had called to make a special request for
assistance in the matter. After
going through the usual round of introductions, the two young women
wasted no time pressing their demands. The Comandante
was gracious and accommodating, asking if they wanted any refreshment.
Both refused. Knowing the type of women they were, he relented and got
down to business. Calling his assistant, Manuel,
into his large office, Rodriguez
barked orders to him in Spanish. The assistant left as quickly as he
came. The Comandante then
informed the two guests that their meeting was at an end. Manuel
would take care of their needs from this point on. His two guests
departed with a curt, “Thank you.”
His nephew, Manuel, had
been instructed to give them all assistance necessary. Insulted by the
women, the Comandante told him
to limit access to files, fight for time, and kindly discourage their
efforts. Over the course of the week, Manuel
did his best to carry out his orders. Finding nothing, the two women
left disappointed with their inability to find the Baja
bank. Upon their return to D.C., Denahy was briefed. Understanding the
Mexican Federales, he would
personally deal with the matter. Conferring with friends in the DEA,
Denahy heard Rodriguez was a
good man. Determined to get
the information, he would use back channels to secure the data.
March of 1990 had been a very bad month for law enforcement. Three
days after Chan and Stevens returned from Mexico empty handed, Denahy
received more bad news from the Santa
Bárbara Police Department. Kenneth
wife, movie star turned author, Rita
Hayland, had been blown to pieces by a Colombian bomb. The Latino community and Hollywood were up in arms about the death. The Santa
Bárbara Police Department had gotten the black eye, not the Bureau.
McKenna did damage control by promising Bureau resources to ferret out
the killer or killers. The only good news was that no one else was
killed. Heyland and Kenneth Aragón
had an infant daughter, but the child was not harmed. But Denahy knew
instinctively that, had the child been in the car, Peter McKenna would
no longer be Deputy Director.
Waiting for Denahy when he returned to the office, Robertson had a
great big smile on his face. When Denahy entered the room he shouted,
“We’ve got him! Doami found the trail. Two banks one in Mexico, one
in Spain.” “So?” A defeated Denahy asked tiredly. “Doami found a
match. A bank transfer from Spain to a bank in San
Diego was made in August of last year. That transfer slip was found
during a raid on the home of a Gallardo
Family member. The boys at the DEA had overlooked the document until
last week. It was at the bottom of a box of evidence taken from the
place. The transferring bank account matches one of Aragón's
accounts in Spain.” Robertson said proudly. Smiling at Robertson,
Denahy sat back in his chair. For the first time since they had known
each other, Robertson was sure he had made the grade. As team leader,
Robertson was basking in glory. “Tell Doami that he gets a gold star.
But first, tell him to dummy up. No leaks. This is our first break, but
it's political. Who else knows?” Denahy asked.
“Me, Doami, and now you.” Robertson responded cautiously.
“Keep it that way.” Denahy responded in a flat tone.
Both men knew that if word got out prematurely, it could be a
disaster for the case. Every other agency would want a piece of the pie.
Failure’s a bastard, but success has a thousand fathers. The
By June, the world began to crash down around the team. Boston
experienced a gangland bloodbath. The Director of the Bureau was now on
a rampage. The law and order folks were up in arms. McKenna became a
madman, wanting action. Requesting daily reports on the team’s
success, his chief complaint was the fact that all leads generated were
circumstantial in nature. Wanting
evidence that would lead to indictments, the Deputy Director leaned hard
on the team.
Denahy needed a break in the case. He was becoming quietly
desperate. At this stage, Denahy understood he was of little help to his
people. In fact, he’d been a hindrance. He decided to get away, to
take a vacation. The decision to visit Senator McKenna in Boston was an
easy one. Missing him,
Denahy wanted to catch up on old times. The timing was perfect. Kenneth Aragón’s
real father, Peter Wellington, hadn’t been investigated. The
investigation of the boy’s past led to Boston. Denahy would have Uncle
Sam pay for the vacation.
It was the first week of August when Denahy boarded the plane for
Boston. Late at night, the plane was packed with people who had little
civility. Pleased to have an isle seat, Denahy sat and buckled in. As
the plane soared into the black sky, Denahy fell asleep. Having fallen
into a deep sleep, Denahy was awakened by the stewardess. He’d slept
through the landing. People
around him were rifling through the baggage bays above the seats.
Everyone was in a hurry to get off the plane and get on with their
lives. Agent Denahy was one of the stragglers, taking his time
After the travelers made their way to the chaos of the luggage
area, Denahy and the others waited another twenty minutes. Finally, the
bags began to spill out onto the moving metal baggage conveyor belt.
Spying his tattered leather luggage, he proceeded to collect the pieces.
A skycap flagged down a cab and loaded his bags into the open
trunk. Tipping the skycap, Denahy entered the cab, quickly barking out
his hotel’s name. As the cabbie sped through the night toward his
hotel, Denahy was sickened by the familiar odor of booze and vomit left
by previous passengers.
Arriving at his hotel within twenty minutes, the Charles Grace Arms
Hotel had remained a beautifully appointed, well-managed, five star
hotel for sixty-five years. Denahy
enjoyed staying at the well-run Boston landmark. The hotel, built in
1925, had served statesmen, presidents, billionaires, and movie stars.
It was one of the few places in America where tabloids had been unable
to penetrate. Privacy was a protected art at the Grace.
Registered and in his room, Denahy was having his first drink
before his bags arrived. Ringing the door chime, the bellboy discretely
entered upon Denahy’s shout. Carrying the bags into the bedroom, the
tall, skinny bellman placed them on the floor. In a hurry to leave, he
gladly accepted the five dollar tip. Denahy had two more Scotch and
sodas before turning in for the night. He was ready for a long, peaceful
Waking early, it was 5:00 a.m. when Denahy called for room service.
Within minutes of the call, they sent up a steaming pot of hot black
coffee and a large Denver omelet with wheat toast, extra butter. Before
sitting down to eat, he removed the Wellington file from his suitcase
and placed it on the living room coffee table. Denahy felt guilty about
his poor eating habits after being told by his doctor that he wouldn’t
see his sixty-fifth birthday unless he changed them.
With a tinge of guilt, Denahy ate it all anyway. The omelet met
his usual low expectations and the coffee was strong and hot. That was
all he cared about.
After his meal, Denahy lit a cigarette and opened up the Wellington
file. According to Captain Peter Wellington's last will and testament,
he had left two sons to Aragón,
Kenneth and a second brother named Peter. Just as Robertson had said,
the records showed Mrs. Wellington died of breast cancer before Peter
Wellington left for Korea. After reading through several pages, the
report stated that Wellington made arrangements to leave the children in
the care of a couple in Boston while on a tour of duty in Korea.
Robertson had given the names as Steven and Colleen O’Neil. The
address for the couple was on the East Side of Boston, 1432 Duncan Lane,
Setting the file aside, Denahy went in to take a shower. Standing
under the hot water for twenty minutes, the bathroom filled with steam.
Turning off the water, Denahy toweled himself off. Before shaving, he
wiped off the mirror and took a long stare it his stubbly face. In his
early sixties, the heavy drinking had taken its toll. Bloated and
overweight, Special Agent Brian Denahy was no longer fit for duty. His
puffy, blood shot eyes told the story. Too many divorces and not enough
love had left him a bitter cynical old man. This case was to be his last
After finishing shaving, he went into the bedroom and dressed.
Putting away his clothes, he looked forward to his week’s stay.
Denahy’s thoughts turned to Senator McKenna and his wife.
Spending many a weekend together over the years, they had become
close friends. The Senator was a good and honorable man, one of the few
real heroes Denahy had left. He missed the Senator. Looking at his
watch, he noted it was 11:00 a.m. He pulled his dog-eared day planner
out of his brief case and confirmed dinner with the McKenna’s was for
8:00 that evening. With hours to kill, Denahy picked up the phone and
called the concierge. He asked him to run down a telephone number for
the O’Neils. The man put him on hold and soon gave him the number and
address. Hanging up, he read the morning newspaper while watching the
news on television. Denahy fell asleep while listening to a CNN story on
the Mexican-American Mafia. The CNN reporter
belittled the Bureau’s efforts on the recent killings in Chicago,
claiming that the FBI had dropped the ball.
Awakened by the ringing of the telephone, Denahy wiped the sleep
from his eyes and answered the phone. The hotel had located a telephone
number for the O’Neil’s. Jotting down the number, he thanked the
caller and hung up. It was now 2:00 PM. The day left only a few hours
before dinner with the McKenna’s. There was little time to do anything
else. Denahy decided to leave the meeting with the O’Neil’s until
He spent the day going over his file notes. It was 7:00 PM when he
left his hotel for the McKenna’s home. As requested, a cab was waiting
in front of the hotel. On time, Denahy entered the cab and gave the
cabbie directions. Knowing the route well, the cab sped off into the
night like a bat out of hell. They were at the McKenna’s within a half
Denahy dressed casually in a white polo shirt, blue blazer, and tan
khaki slacks. His brown penny loafers were scuffed and in desperate need
of a shine. His shaggy gray-brown thinning hair could have used a trim.
As with most of his life, there was little attention to detail. No
longer a young man about town, Denahy had no one to please, but himself.
His life was all work and no play. The hours drifted from work to booze
and then to sleep, there was nothing else.
As the cabbie drove onto the long estate driveway, Denahy
remembered back many years to his first visit. The beautiful house
hadn’t change much over the years. The McKenna’s had always kept
their home painted and the grounds well-cared-for. When the cabbie
pulled up to the big house, two large men in business suits met the cab.
As they walked quickly toward the cab, Denahy could hear the chatter of
radios. “Your name sir?” The larger of the two asked firmly. Giving
his name, Denahy flashed his shield. The man nodded, saying only that
the Senator and Mrs. McKenna were waiting inside. Times had changed, now
even senators had to be protected at all times. Denahy thought to
Getting out of the cab, Agent Denahy was led up the stone steps to
the large front doors of the home by one of the body guards. A young man
in his early twenties, wearing a dark suit with a bulge under his right
armpit, answered the door. Denahy smiled at him, knowing there would be
no response from the bodyguard. Mrs. McKenna was standing behind the
young man. As the bodyguard left, she reached out to him and took his
hand in hers, shaking it vigorously. Mrs. McKenna’s smile was broad
and even, her teeth perfect and pearly white, as they had been those
forty years before. She had changed little over the past years. Her love
for tennis had kept old age at bay.
After a quick peck on the cheek, she grabbed Denahy's hand and led
him from the foyer into the large study. Then Mrs. McKenna poured Denahy
a drink and left quietly. Shutting the door behind her, she was off to
the alert the Senator of Denahy’s arrival.
He drank the large Scotch as he stood admiring the furnishings of
the study. He then walked over to the wall of large bookshelves that
housed hundreds of books. Denahy was still fascinated by the fact that
anyone would have a library this large. Many of the expensive leather
bound volumes were dog-eared from extensive use. The Senator was an avid
reader. After admiring them,
he moved across the large room to take in his favorite oil painting.
Depicting General Washington and his rag-tag company of
revolutionary soldiers; it was a winter scene.
As he stood examining the fine details of the oil painting, the
door opened behind him. Turning to look, there stood Alyson and Senator
McKenna. He was still in good shape, but his once powerful muscular
frame had dwindled down to that of a sedentary seventy-five year old
man. His reddish blonde
curly hair was now sliver gray, and worn short. The Senator’s handsome
face was no longer dominated by the large, walrus style moustache. It
had long since been shaven off. McKenna’s rounded green eyes looked
hollow and dull. The robust appearance, once so much like that of Teddy
Roosevelt, had left him. McKenna was now an old, frail, shadow of his
former self. Old age was
After a bit of small talk and D.C. gossip, the three walked
together into the dining room. The McKenna’s seated themselves across
from Denahy at the massive, thirty-foot long, antique dining room table.
Holding up his wine glass, McKenna offered a toast to Denahy. The
Senator once again thanked him for saving his life, a debt of life was
one not easily repaid.
Spending the entire evening in the dining room, the meal had been
excellent and the wine and champagne of the best vintage. After an hour
and a half the McKenna’s were tired and in need of rest. Realizing
that time had taken its toll, Denahy offered his thanks and said his
Before leaving, he asked if a cab could be called for him. The
McKenna’s had a bodyguard make the call. It would be thirty minutes
before the cab arrived. The Senator excused himself to make an important
call, while his wife entertained Denahy. Seeing that Mrs. McKenna was
exhausted, Denahy recommended he wait for the cab in the study. Mrs.
McKenna was relieved, her spirit was willing, but her body was weak. The
Senator’s fragile health was taking a toll on her, as well.
Kissing him good night, she left Denahy alone in the study. The
earlier flight of the day before and job stress had taken a great deal
out of Denahy. Looking forward to a good nights sleep, he waited for his
cab to arrive. As Denahy browsed through the library, he found three old
and frayed family picture albums. Casually looking through the first
volume, he was taken by what a handsome couple the McKenna’s were.
They had enjoyed a wonderful life. The photographs included many taken
during Peter’s teenage years. There were pictures of skiing vacations,
fishing and hunting trips, and various social events. Peter was a good
looking young man.
Replacing the volume on the bookshelf, he took a second one. Here
he found the earliest photos of McKenna’s son, Peter. The little toe
head was a sight to behold. When very young, Peter’s long wavy hair
was worn in a pageboy. The photos highlighted his mischievous blue eyes.
Turning the page, he found a photo of Peter that had been torn down the
middle vertically. Denahy had never seen it before. Peter couldn’t
have been more than a year old when the picture was taken. The room
where the picture was shot was cheaply furnished and had little of the
sophistication one expected of the McKenna clan.
Denahy was looking through the remainder of the photos when a
bodyguard knocked on the door. Standing up, he walked over to the
bookcase and replaced the volume before opening the study door. The cab
had arrived, and it was time to go. Walking him out and down the stone
steps to the waiting cab, the man apologized for the McKenna’s who had
already gone to bed. As
Denahy got into the cab, he told the cabbie the name of his hotel and
settled in for the ride back. There were few cars on the road at that
hour. The drive back to his hotel took little time.
The cabbie had said nothing the entire trip, and Denahy was
When the cab arrived at the front of the hotel, Denahy gave the
cabbie a twenty dollar tip. The large tip was for his silence. Departing
the cab, he entered the hotel and checked for messages at the front
desk, there were none. The elevator trip up to his floor was quick, and
he was through the door of his suite in minutes. Tossing his wallet and
keys on the bar, he poured himself one last Scotch for the night. While
he downed the brown stuff, Denahy undressed and got into bed. The last
act he remembered before falling into a deep sleep was picking up the TV
remote and turning on a late night talk show. As he trailed off to
sleep, the host was making fun of Colombian
health problems. His last line was, “With friends like the FBI,
who needs enemies?”
The next morning, Denahy awoke to the telephone ringing; it was
Robertson. The alarm clock showed 6:30 a.m. Denahy was quick to ask for
a progress report. Robertson’s news was disappointing. The team was
hard at work, but nothing new had surfaced.
Denahy’s response was to dig deeper. Hanging up the phone, his
next call of the morning was to room service.
After ordering ham and eggs and a pot of coffee, he laid his head
back on his pillow and dozed off. Loud knocking at the door brought him
out of a twilight sleep. He quickly got out of bed and pulled on his
pants and opened the door to his suite. The bellboy was there with his
breakfast. Scribbling his
signature for the breakfast, he handed the boy a ten dollar bill. The
surprised young man thanked him with a smile and left.
The remainder of Denahy’s morning was a lazy one. Eating later
than usual, he spent an hour reading the newspaper. It was full of what
the Bureau wasn’t doing to stop gangland killings.
While smoking a half a pack of cigarettes, he watched the local
morning news station. The news was always the same, stories of the dead
and the dying. Denahy had his fill of bad news and went in to take a
shower. The hot water felt good as it sprayed over his face.
Soaped and clean, he turned the water to cold. Forcing himself to
stay under the cold stream for three minutes, was a sure fire way to
wake him up. After toweling off, he walked naked into the living room
and lit another cigarette. The coffee he poured for himself was cold.
Drinking the cold black liquid, he made a call to the front desk for a
cab. The cab would arrive in a half hour.
He shaved quickly and brushed his teeth. By now, Denahy worked up
the courage to walk over to the dresser and pull out underwear and
socks. Pulling them on, he grabbed a black polo shirt and gray pair of
slacks from the closet. Within five minutes, Denahy was dressed and
ready to leave. Grabbing his dark blue blazer from the chair, he was out
Once downstairs, he waited for the cab in the lobby. He was bored.
So he lit one last cigarette and exited the building to wait for the cab
outside the hotel. Taking a drag of the cigarette, he thought of the old
couple he was about to see. The O’Neils lived on Boston’s East side.
They would be in their eighties now. As he took his last puff, the cab
pulled up to the curb. Denahy slid into the back seat and shouted,
“1432 Duncan Lane, East side.” The cabbie just nodded and took off
down the busy street. The drive took all of twenty-five minutes. Knowing
his business, the cabbie had taken short-cuts saving Denahy both time
The cabbie pulled up outside a very old, run down, five story
brownstone apartment building. The
sidewalks were in need of cleaning, and trash cans remained in the
street uncollected. Departing the cab, Denahy gave the man two twenty
dollar bills and thanked him. As he stood at the front steps of the old
building smoking a cigarette, Denahy wondered what he would find. Both
Robertson and he wanted to know what had happened to the second boy,
The security door had been left open. After reading the names on
the door buzzer panel, he found the name O’Neil. He decided not to
buzz and walked up the stairs. When he reached the couple’s floor,
Denahy walked down the darkened hall to apartment 22 and knocked. There
was no answer. Waiting for a minute before knocking again, the door was
finally opened by a small, wisp of a woman in her eighties. Her hair was
white, and her back was stooped by years of hard work. She wasn’t
happy with his dropping by. In a surly tone of voice, she asked what he
wanted. His only reply was to show her his shield. Once the old woman
heard the letters FBI, the door opened quickly and she ushered him into
the parlor. The odor of decaying cat food and cat urine was heavy in the
air. The apartment’s olive green carpet was worn and dirty; its walls
hadn’t seen a coat of paint in thirty years. The fading yellow painted
walls were peeling.
An older man sat in a wheelchair at a large bay window, looking out
at a brick building and mumbling to himself. The woman introduced
herself as Colleen O’Neil. She commented that her husband Steven was
crippled and senile, as Denahy took a seat on the old threadbare sofa.
He quickly came to the point, asking about the Wellington boys.
Colleen O’Neil explained that she had cared for them over forty years
earlier. Claiming she could hardly remember them or their father, Mrs.
O’Neil then recalled that the father had died in Korea, during the
war. Denahy noticed the old
man turn his head at the mention of the boys. His eyes met Denahy’s
for a split second and then he quickly looked away. The cop in Denahy
was alerted by the look. Pressing
the old woman for more information, Mrs. O’Neil nervously insisted
that she didn’t remember. Then, she excused herself to make tea.
Rushing off into the kitchen, she filled the kettle from the water tap.
While waiting for her return, Denahy couldn’t shake the feeling that
he’d been in the place before. Looking around the room, he saw a few
cheaply framed pictures. Standing
up, he walked over to the wall of pictures. The O’Neils were poor
photographers. Looking at
the last photo on the right, Denahy studied the two very young children
in the photo. Both were
handsome little blondes. Mrs. O’Neil walked back into the room
carrying a tray, breaking Denahy’s concentration.
Concerned that the weight of the tray carrying a tea urn, coffee
cups, milk, and sugar was too much for her to handle, he moved across
the room and took the tray from her. Placing it on the coffee table,
they sat and chatted about the fifties and how life had changed for the
worse. When pressed by Denahy, Mrs. O’Neil continued to claim to
remember little of the two boys. She repeated that it had been forty
years since the boys had stayed with them. Prodding her one last time
for information about the boys, particularly Peter Wellington, Denahy
was insistent. He asked when and how Peter had died. It was then that
the senile old man in the corner shouted, “Colleen, call the
congressman. He knows where Peter is.” Mrs. O’Neil immediately
shouted back, “Shut up, you senile old fool.” Angry, she told Denahy
that her husband was sick in the head.
Hands shaking, she spilled her tea.
Denahy was quick to help wipe up the mess. The scene was
depressing, and the apartment stench had finally gotten to him.
Realizing he’d hit a dead-end, Denahy thanked them both for their time
Once outside, Denahy welcomed the clean fresh air. The old couple
was a testament to out living your welcome.
Hanging on to life for too long could be a mistake. The old
man’s haggard appearance and physical state was a reminder that old
age awaited all, and Denahy wasn’t happy about the prospect. He hailed
down a passing cab and was on the way back to his hotel.
Sitting, looking out of the dirty cab window, Denahy couldn’t
shake the feeling that he had been in that apartment at some time in his
life. He knew it didn’t
make sense. But the feeling lingered.
Denahy was happy to arrive at the clean well-managed hotel. The
agent gave the cabbie a hand-full of dollar bills. Hoping for a tip, the
doorman held open the door for Denahy as he entered. The gesture was
worth a five dollar bill. His
stomach upset as he entered his suite, the morning visit with the
O’Neils hadn’t helped his already ragged state of mind. Pouring
himself a Scotch, Denahy picked up the telephone to call Robertson. When
Robertson answered the phone, he had nothing new to offer. Denahy spent
the remainder of the day in his room drinking Scotch and trying to
forget the O’Neils. The prospect of old age didn’t appeal to him.
The next day, Denahy was up early. Wanting to take in the sights
and forget how poorly his people were doing with the investigation, he
called the hotel front desk and asked about tour packages. In luck, tour
buses came to the hotel twice a day to take guests on packaged tours.
The next bus was due to arrive within the hour. The 10:00 a.m.
tour included a bus excursion of local historical sites and boat ride
around the harbor. Lunch was provided at a famous Boston Harbor eatery.
This was just what he needed.
The bus tour was relaxing. There were five stops and guided walks
through old historical buildings. While
walking through the Revere House, he met a retired schoolteacher from
Los Angeles named Lisa Roman.
A well-dressed petite woman with dark brown hair, Lisa
was good company. Though in her mid-fifties, she was remarkably youthful
looking. Her olive skin was flawless. Lisa’s
brown eyes and wide inviting smile told him much about her. As a
policeman, he could tell if someone was lying by looking into their
eyes. Denahy had never been wrong yet.
Not wanting to pry, Denahy kept the conversation to the history
tour and discussions of the Boston he remembered as a youth. It was Lisa
who asked if he was married. The question was unexpected. Pleasantly
surprised, his ego had been boosted by the question. After answering no,
they both let the matter drop.
They spent the remainder of the day in each other’s company. As
the day ended, they were let off at their hotel. Entering the lobby, she
went to check for messages. Denahy found a reason to visit the gift
shop. Waiting until she left the front desk, Lisa
Roman was pleased that Denahy met her at the elevator. It was Lisa who asked him out to dinner for that evening. Denahy gladly
accepted, agreeing to eat in the hotel at
. They met in the Roosevelt Dining Room. The captain was gracious and
attentive; he could see a big tipper from a mile away. Escorting Denahy
and Lisa to a private booth,
he lighted the romantic candle. Lisa
asked for a Scotch on the rocks as quickly as it could be brought.
Denahy ordered a double. The two, finished three drinks before ordering
dinner. Neither was at a loss for words. The conversation flowed from
history to politics. Lisa was
well-read and open to new ideas.
Comfortable with this petite woman, Denahy liked her. He asked if
she was Italian after noting the name Roman.
Lisa laughed and explained
that people were forever asking the same question about the name. Then
she proudly said, Mexican-American. As she did, dinner was being served.
Her order of steak and potatoes with a salad on the side had arrived.
Denahy had ordered the same. The two spent the evening laughing and
talking about life and all of its failings. Lisa
had been divorced three times, but had never given up on the idea of
meeting Mr. Right. Now made brave by her admissions, Denahy admitted his
failed marriages. Toasting divorce attorneys, the time had passed
quickly. It was 10:00 when Lisa invited Denahy to her suite for a night cap. Once there, he
spent the night. Drinking and laughing, the two had a great time. Denahy
never made it back to his room. The two made love, and Denahy fell
asleep with Lisa in his arms.
He couldn’t help thinking how much he missed the closeness of a woman.
The next morning, Denahy was awakened by Lisa holding a hot cup of coffee. It was 8:00 a.m. and he felt good.
Kissing him tenderly on his forehead, she offered him a complimentary
Hotel terry cloth robe. He jumped out of bed, put it on, and joined her
in the living room. She handed him a newspaper, they both sat at the
small breakfast table reading. They said little, enjoying being in each
other’s company. For the first time in many years, Denahy felt
comfortable with a woman. With Lisa
he didn’t feel awkward or pressed. When Denahy looked at the clock on
the living room sideboard table, it was ten o’clock, time for him to
check-in at the office. Thanking Lisa, he stood up and kissed her gently on the mouth. As he pulled
away, she reached up and held his face in her hands. Kissing him deeply
on the mouth Lisa sighed. As
Denahy went into the bedroom to get dressed, she lit a cigarette. They
smiled and said their goodbyes.
Once in his suite, Denahy called his office. Gomez had left a message saying he had uncovered nothing more.
Wanting a break in the case, Denahy was disappointed. His next call was
to a deeply depressed Robertson. The team was going too slow for his
liking, but it was understandable. The Spanish bank information had to
be translated and cataloged first. Then, the financials could be done.
It was boring work, requiring constant attention to detail.
Denahy uncharacteristically gave Robertson a verbal pat on the
back and then hung up. Denahy knew that the young man needed
The day passed quickly. Wanting
to see Lisa again, Denahy left
several messages. It was late afternoon when she returned his calls.
They arranged to have dinner. Having shaved and dressed his last task
before dinner was to order Lisa
a dozen long stemmed roses. They were delivered to her suite just before
she left to meet him for dinner. Meeting in the Roosevelt lobby, Lisa was glowing. The flowers had done the trick. She looked
beautiful in a red low cut cocktail dress. Denahy liked her matching red
pumps. Lisa was a sexy woman.
Remembering them from the night before, the servers escorted them
to a cozy booth away from the other patrons. After receiving drinks,
Denahy asked her about herself. Lisa
responded by asking Denahy if he could handle honesty. He was surprised
at what she had said. Nodding yes, he listened as she talked about her
childhood. Being raised in the poverty of the Chicano
barrio wasn’t a pretty picture. Wanting to know more, Denahy
ordered two more Scotches and Lisa
began her story. Hers was a typical Chicano
home. Lisa spoke of being a
little girl and awakening in the morning to the familiar smells and
sounds of quiet talk in the kitchen. The kitchen voices spoke what
Anglo's call Spanglish, a mixing of Spanish and English. So mixed were
the sentences that they sounded like Spanish with English sprinkled in.
Some American words were tweaked to sound Spanish.
smiled as she recalled how she waited for her mother to call out her
name. “Lisa, are you up?”
Came the call from the kitchen. Never calm, always loud and familiar,
this was the way her day began. Soon, Lisa
would hear the footsteps coming toward her door. There she was, her
mother. “Move now, step on it. Don't you know the world belongs to
those who can go out and get it!” Her Mama
would say loudly.
recalled how she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, while walking toward
the only bathroom in her home. Shared by eight brothers and sisters, the
ancient room was on its last legs. The plumbing fixtures, long since
worn out, allowed steady leaks. The constant running of toilet water
could be heard throughout the house. The white toilet bowl and bathtub
were cracked and chipped. The tired bathroom walls, in need of paint and
wallpaper, looked a bit like a World War II battlefield. Cracked and
broken linoleum gave way to holes in the wooden floor beneath.
would splash cold morning water on her face before grabbing her old
toothbrush and brushing hard with soft, useless bristles. Next, looking
into the old faded mirror with its dark spots, she saw a tangled mess of
light brown hair. Quickly she ran the large blue comb through the thick
locks. As she did, her mother called out, “Lisa
come on breakfast is ready! Can't you ever be on time?” It was always
the same. Racing back to her bedroom, she would pull on one of her two
good blouses and her hand–me-down skirt. Quickly putting on her only
pair of old worn shoes, she was off to face her mother, the Madonna.
Breakfast was always the same, served hot and in large portions.
Scrambled eggs, refried beans with cheese, and tortillas heavy with
butter piled high on her plate. She was expected to finish it all. Food
was precious, and not meant to be wasted. It was a matter of respect. Lisa was expected to eat everything placed in front of her. Respect
was an important part of her life. Respect
and being thankful for what you had was a constant theme. It began with
the familiar phrase, “Don't you know people are starving in
China?”As a child, Lisa told
Denahy, she knew little of China, only that its people were starving. He
laughed out loud, at the thought of her as a child attempting to
understand starvation in China.
Loud and explosive, the house was alive with shouting. The laughing
and barking of orders to clean up the mess of the night before became a
steady drumbeat. Mama was the
strength behind the family, pushing and prodding, yelling and cursing.
Without her, the children wouldn’t be on time for school.
then related to Denahy a very telling point. As she looked back on her
childhood, Lisa realized the
importance of the word, respect. Feeling it was the key to Chicano
culture, she explained to Denahy the word respect suggested for Latinos
one thing, unconditional compliance. In the Latino
culture, she said, respect had taken on a mystical value. After
ordering a second round of drinks, Lisa
expanded on the essence of Chicano
culture. This acceptance of respect as a value system dictated total
compliance. Denahy noted her sincerity as he listened to her explanation
of Chicano life. Respect for authority was ingrained very early in the
psyche of the Chicano child.
There was no room for discussion or abstract analysis, only the blind
adherence to the concept of respect.
Denahy noted that Lisa
said the words with disillusionment as she remembered back to her
childhood memories. There was anger in her voice as she recalled just
how much respect permeated every aspect of barrio
life. Now on their third round of drinks, Lisa
was waxing philosophical, as she said. “Predisposed as it is to
authority, the Holy Catholic Church found a permanent niche in the Chicano heart. For Chicanos,
the priests and nuns represented the embodiment of God's authority on
earth. The church building with its strong bell tower, confessionals,
cavernous hall, and sacred altar all lend themselves to this grand
vision of a power, worthy to be respected.” “After all,” Lisa
commented, “the Church and its power have been there forever. God had
ordained it, history recorded it, and the people worshiped it for over
two thousand years.” Lisa
then stopped for a moment. Holding Denahy’s hand tightly, she kissed
his cheek. Returning the favor, he kissed her hard on the mouth. The
kiss was deep and warm. Denahy could feel her wanting the kiss as much
as he did. Lisa then giggled like a little girl and began her story again.
“The barrio teachers
and school administrators were another reservoir of power to be
unconditionally respected. These keepers of knowledge came into the barrio to spread the gospel of respect and the inevitable logic of
compliance. After all, these Anglo's didn't have to lower themselves by
coming into the barrio and
teaching, we poor children of the earth. They did it out of kindness,
they said. Or so they thought.” Lisa
said with a smile.
Explaining to Denahy, how much has been made of the patriarchal
nature of the Chicano culture,
Lisa assured him it was only
an illusion. “Whether the father or mother is the dominating influence
is irrelevant.” She said firmly. “Respect for the authority figure
is the reality.” Lisa went
on to say, in her childhood home, one showed respect by action, word,
and deed. Since her mother was the most active authority figure in the
household, she became the object of adoration. Her mother was viewed as
a reflection of the Virgin Mary, the Madonna.
believed that one should accept the beauty of this simplistic notion of
respect. In the barrio, there
was one marching song, one theme, one constant pulse. Slowly and
silently, it crept into every part of the Chicano
community. “In her home,” Lisa
reminisced, “life was made tolerable by this silent enemy. It took the
sting away from the poverty and hopelessness of her life. When fathers
and mothers were continually out of work, they could always rely upon
respect. If the Anglo world outside wouldn’t allow access or success,
there was always the family and its blind adherence to respect. It was a
guarantee, a safe harbor.” Lisa
then stopped and took a long, hard drink.
Denahy learned a great deal about what drove the Chicano
by listening to Lisa’s
childhood memories. She’d given him insight that he lacked. Finished
with her lecture, Lisa excused herself to powder her nose. Gone for five minutes, she
returned to a fourth round of drinks.
Denahy asked her to continue, wanting to hear her out. Explaining
that she had made many powerful points, he wanted to know more. His real
reason was to understand how the Eme
could have such loyalty.
With a wide smile, Lisa
giggled. Telling Denahy that he probably would appreciate her views on
males, the two laughed. Brian Denahy liked this woman. She was the most
real woman he’d ever known. “However,” she said, “the Chicano
male was quite different. For Chicano
males, the family provided dignity. No matter what the outside world
threw at them, they still had their family. One's family, with its blind
adherence to respect, was a safe haven.” Lisa
was on a well-lit roll. She believed children in the barrio were often seen by adults as mindless distractions. “If a Chicano
child is present during family discussion, he or she isn’t given
consideration. It is assumed that these little ones are somehow
oblivious to their surroundings. The
fallacy of this idea, she stated forcefully, is that children operate on
sensory perceptions. Every
movement of the eye or furrowing of the brow is worth a thousand words
to the child.” Denahy agreed.
eyes narrowed as she began again. “Fear, anger, and pain are always
present in poverty, even if disguised by laughter.” Denahy could now
sense her pain. “The child,” she continued, “always senses the
hurt or fears of the parent. He or she learns early in life that these
emotions are the precursors to a tirade. The child of poverty is taught
very early the signs of impending disaster. If it was a good day, there
were no signs of a coming disaster, only breakfast.” Now past the
emotion, she nursed her drink. “That was how my childhood began,”
she said sadly, “a close family to which respect meant everything. And
a larger family of relatives and friends who knew only the barrio. And so it was that we knew only our family, the barrio,
and respect. To people of the barrio,
there was nothing else.” Shifting topics, Lisa
asked Denahy what he did for a living.
He was reluctant to tell her. When she pressed him, he blurted out
the letters, FBI. The reply stopped Lisa
cold in her tracks. As Denahy started to worry that their evening might
be brought to an end, Lisa
started to laugh. Relieved, he joined her. The two were drunk beyond
logic. Giddy, for the next
several minutes, everything was a joke. Tired of being seen as a cop and
nothing else, Denahy was glad she’d accepted his profession without
the usual defensiveness. Denahy
liked Lisa and wanted to see where this thing could go. Finding her sexy
and alive, he was captivated by her honesty and sincerity. So he asked
her tell him more about herself.
Warning Denahy that the scars of poverty were deep and ugly, she
cautioned that he might not like what he heard. But he insisted. Lisa
asked him what he knew of poverty. Denahy replied honestly, he knew very
little. She then offered her belief that no one was born bad. Lisa
felt it took a long time and a lot of pain to become hard enough to do
bad things. “That’s how it was with kids from the barrio.”
She said. Staring off in the distance, Lisa
moved her swirl stick around in her drink. Beginning again, she
explained, “Barrio kids were
much like an onion. One peel grew over another,” she said softly,
“until finally the outside looks nothing like the inside, the surface
covered with thin tissue.” Lisa
looked deeply into Denahy’s eyes as she told him the thin tissue was
the mask that all people wear to cover over the pain within. Denahy
thought for a moment about what she said, nodding his agreement.
“The violence of the barrio
all began as a response to the indignities that we saw.” Lisa commented honestly. “There was nothing but anger and
frustration in the barrio.”
She said unapologetically. “The police came into the neighborhood
looking for anyone who might take on the system. They raced their black
and white police cars around the neighborhood.
Anything that was out of the ordinary was a sign of rebellion to
these pigs.” Stopping for a moment, Lisa
realized she was using the sixties expression. Denahy laughed out loud
at Lisa’s use of the term,
teasing her for using it.
Lisa was serious when she continued. “They came to the
neighborhood as hunters, always looking for prey, someone to emasculate.
To protect and serve.” Lisa
used the words angrily. “This
meant to protect the slumlords and serve up on a platter anyone who
stood up or out.” Denahy hadn’t taken the words personally, seeing
her pain. Lisa had lived a reality he could only imagine. What Denahy saw was
the beautiful, defiant Chicana
in her coming out, much like the young girls he had seen walking in the barrios.
insisted, “your world was so different from ours. Clean streets,
neatly kept lawns, and new shiny suburban shopping centers were a
reality for you. Your children are always well taken care of. They have
the best clothes, nicest shoes, toys, food, anything and everything to
ensure their futures. What’s wrong with America? Isn't it the land of
opportunity? Can’t anyone who works hard and obeys the law become a
success?” Lisa knew she’d
stepped over the line. But
Denahy took no offense. He was fascinated with her honesty and spunk.
Drunk and feeling free to speak her mind, the teacher in Lisa
returned. “In the end, the poor got just what they deserved.” She
said disdainfully. “If a policeman was to kill one of them in the line
of duty, wasn't he just doing his job? Someone had to protect the
property owner from this diseased rabble. Someone had to serve the
slumlords, banks, and insurance companies.” As she slurred the angry
words, Denahy reached over and held her close to him. Lisa cried as he held her in his arms.
Holding Lisa, Denahy
remained silent thinking about her truth. Denahy’s perspective of the
need to protect and serve was vastly different from hers. To protect the
good citizens from the encroachment of unpainted buildings, crumbling
sidewalks, lawns that were unkempt, and of course poverty, was never the
mission. It was to protect society from itself. He understood that the
American dream meant that reality had no place. That was because the
American dream didn’t exist. It was a creation of the television set.
Denahy accepted that many Americans believed that poverty was the ugly
reminder of failure that had to be contained. If poverty was allowed to
creep across the tracks it might soon become a permanent fixture in
their own neighborhoods. In the worst case, it might actually invade
their home. Many believed it had to be contained at all costs. Most
didn’t care what was done to contain it, just so long as it was
How could he explain to Lisa
what he knew? The system of references was created to comfort all. Words
became the system. Words such as disenfranchised, dysfunctional,
societal ills, cultural deprivation, were the catch phrases. These were
the phrases heard on the television news. These are the phrases taught
in school--silk glove to cover the iron fist, a rationalized view, an
objective description. There was never a dirtying of the hands. Always
the sanitizing of the realities of poverty by ensuring that it would not
rear its ugly head close to the hallowed Middle Class.
Many Americans believed that it had been society’s mistake to
educate the poor. In the third world countries this was simply not done.
It just made things more complicated. The outside world viewed the
people of the barrio as
children. The system knows children don't understand the language of
adults. These simple people, these children of the earth couldn't
possibly understand the complexities of the real world. After all, how
could they? They didn't vote. Sure,
there were many Chicano politicos; Denahy had met many. But what could they do? They
were bought and paid for by big business. Everyone knew that they were
rubber stampers. Whatever
the developers wanted they got.
To the developers, barrio
people were no different than the roaches that infested their homes.
To them, these Mexicans were simple people, people of the earth.
They couldn't even care for themselves. “Wasn't that why they were all
on welfare?” He had heard them say. The developers believed they knew
what was best. And what was best, was for these simple people to remain
in a protected state. Denahy could never tell Lisa
his truth. It was far uglier than hers.
He understood real power and those who used it stupidly. It would
just have to remain his secret, his cross to bear. But she was right,
something was very wrong with the system.
In the end, the truth had tired them both out. Leaving the table,
they went up to her room for a night of lovemaking. Lisa held him close throughout the night. Still awake, as Denahy
held her, he became aware that he’d fallen in love with this
beautiful, fiery Chicana from
the barrio of East Los Angeles.
Inseparable, they spent the following three days together taking in
Boston’s sights. It was hard for both when they boarded their separate
flights. Exchanging addresses and telephone numbers, Denahy promised to
see her the following week in LA.
07/26/2016 08:30 AM