Philanthropy Pt. 02

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Philanthropy Part Two

This is the continuing story of Peter Chase, self-made billionaire, and a selfish prick most of the time. He’s used to getting anything he wants in life until he encounters something much more sinister and is swept into danger and intrigue. This style of writing and topic is new to me. I’ve also never written a protagonist who lacks empathy and compassion. I’m already starting to make him more likeable… dammit! I hope you enjoy.

You’ll need to read Part One: The Carvers, first. Go on. I’ll wait.

Constructive comments always appreciated.

Part Two: Building the Case

I parked in a handicap spot and exited my Hyundai Elantra. Two chirps later, I pocketed my keys and walked up to the condo entrance. Inside, I buzzed condo 1213 and an elderly female voice I recognised as that of Alice Cartwell spoke loudly out of the speaker in the entrance.

“Yes?”

“Hi, Alice Cartwell? This is Peter Chase. We spoke on the phone?”

“Ah, yes. The poor man who was beat up in the park. I wasn’t expecting you this soon.”

“Yes, well. I had some free time, and I was in the neighbourhood.”

“In the neighbourhood? Young man, I live outside the city.”

I grinned. “True. Okay, I lied. I couldn’t wait to speak to you. Is now a good time?”

She didn’t release the intercom button, and I heard her exasperated sigh. “May as well. Come on up. Condo 1213…”

In a moment, the door buzzed angrily, and I pulled it open and walked toward the elevators. I looked around the condo entrance and saw the terrible state of maintenance. It looked run down like a cheap public housing complex. Garbage was piled up in a corner and the one waste basket was overflowing with fast food wrappers and what looked like Diaper Genie bags. The entrance stunk to high heaven, and I found myself holding my breath as I pressed the up button.

This place was a shithole, and it stunned me. The condo building had been one of the best in the city some years back. This was before the Carvers had lived here. When my former lawyer Amber had told me the Carvers had sued the shit out of this place, I could see they had salted the earth, too. I was angry seeing the disrepair. This was an area outside the city that boasted the highest realty costs in the city and surrounding area. From outside, the building had looked spectacular—not as nice as mine, but pretty close. Inside, it was… I shuddered.

The elevator dinged, and the doors pulled open, making a dry rasping sound. I was standing right at the door split and surprised a young man holding a small furry animal that looked similar to a dog, but I had never seen one so small or so shaky before. The dog suddenly was snarling and yapping and struggling to get free of the man’s arms, and I resisted the urge to grab it and throw it across the entranceway.

I grimaced and stepped back to give the man and the small angry thing room to get past me. The dude didn’t seem to care his little shit was an annoyance and sauntered past me toward the front doors to the condo.

I stepped inside the elevator car and immediately spied the small pile of dogshit in the corner soaking in what looked like dog piss.

“Hey!” I shouted at the back of the departing man. The elevator doors started to slide shut. “Did your fucking rat shit and piss in here?”

I caught the smirk on the guy’s face as he looked back at me and then the doors closed.

“What a fucking asshole…” I grumbled and pressed floor twelve.

I held my nose and felt the elevator shudder and struggle to rise. In moments, the elevator sped up, and I watched the floor count rise. The car slowed and stopped at twelve with a loud ding and the doors opened. I stepped out and was once again hit with the smell of decay. White kitchen garbage bags were piled up next to the waste shoot leaking fluids into the carpet.

“Jesus Fucking Christ,” I muttered and saw the sign indicating condo 1213 was to my left. I quickly turned left and strode down the corridor. I tested the air, and the smell got less abrasive, and at the end of the corridor I spotted door 1213. I gave it a quick knock and heard a muffled voice inside.

I waited and heard someone on the other side of the door struggling with the security chain. I heard a rasp, a soft click, and then the door opened to reveal an elderly grey-haired lady, hunched over with some sort of back problem. She had to strain to look up at me and adjusted her shawl.

She sized me up quickly and then stood back and beckoned for me to enter. “Well, don’t just stand there, get in here before the stink follows you…”

I smiled at her and moved past her and turned to watch her close her door. She twisted the deadlock and then reached up with a trembling hand to put the security chain back on. I suppose I could have helped her, but it didn’t seem prudent. I could hear her breathing with effort, but she finally slid the chain on and then shuffled to turn around. She started when she found me still standing there.

“Jesus!” ataşehir escort bayan she squawked. “What are you doing standing there? Get inside. Take your shoes off. Hang your jacket in the closet.”

With surprising speed, she moved past me and disappeared around the corner.

“I suppose you want coffee?”

I shucked my loafers and started to remove my black Crombie overcoat. I opened the closet and noted it only contained two jackets for women. A summer one and a poor winter one. I hung up the jacket, closed the closet door, and adjusted my sweater before retracing the steps Alice had taken.

As soon as I turned the corner, I could see her condo. It was decorated exactly like you would expect an elderly lady to decorate her living space. Doilies were everywhere. The couch had an Afghan blanket thrown over it. Flowerpots and plants covered every place you looked. A small flat-screen TV was mounted over the gas fireplace. I noticed the fireplace wasn’t on and even with my sweater on I felt the chill in the air.

I sniffed the air but couldn’t smell any cat shit, but I knew they had to be here somewhere. This was a cat paradise. I hated fucking cats. I looked for signs of cats but found nothing.

The condo layout was not too bad. I looked around quickly and could see the severe state of disrepair. The walls needed repainting and the hardware floors looked abused. The windows barely let any light in from outside. I had a flash of memory of my parents’ place shortly before they passed away. They couldn’t keep up with the cleaning of their place with their age. Poor eyesight led to other issues like hygiene. Alice was living in squalor.

“Um, nice place you have here?” I said a bit loudly, sure she was probably deaf, too.

“You don’t have to yell!” she yelled back, and I followed her voice into the kitchen.

She was adding boiling water from a kettle to two mugs. I spied the instant coffee container and repressed another shudder.

She looked up at me as I enter and put the kettle down. “Cream? Sugar?”

“Yes, please.”

She pointed at the fridge. “In there.”

I opened the fridge and was shocked to see it barely had anything in it. Half a loaf of bread, an old jar of yellowed mayonnaise, a small tub of margarine, some other condiment bottles and a jar of pickles. There was a milk container with a bag of milk and a small container of cream. I picked up the cream and casually looked at the best before date. Now, best before dates don’t mean bad after, but when I saw the date had expired a month ago, I took the container of cream and held it up.

“Your garbage?”

She frowned at me and pointed at the cupboard below the sink.

I opened the cupboard, spotted the garbage, and tossed the cream in.

“What did you do that for?” she raged and moved toward the garbage.

I closed the door and blocked her. “It went bad a month ago, Alice.”

She looked confused but stopped and looked up at me. “A month ago?”

“Yeah. Just sugar will be fine.”

She looked like she wanted to argue, but then I saw her face fall and she turned back to the mugs. With a shaking hand, she opened a sugar jar and spooned sugar into her cup. She looked at me and I held up two fingers, then changed my mind and held up one. She nodded and spooned in a small amount of sugar.

I looked around her kitchen and identified all her kitchen stuff was from that large box store chain. She bought cheap. She had no money. That was clear.

I bit my tongue when my first instinct was to say something snarky. I needed information from this lonely old woman, so I smiled at her when she handed me a lukewarm cup of instant coffee. I took a sip and hid the grimace.

She was watching me like a hawk, and so I smiled brighter.

She snorted and shook her head. “You aren’t fooling me, buster…” was all she said and left the kitchen.

My smile turned real, and I followed her.

She was sitting down in the living room on the couch with the Afghan rug. I selected the armchair and settled down on the edge of the seat and placed my coffee on the table.

She was watching me the whole time, and I felt self-conscious.

“So, you’re friends with Amber?”

I nodded. “Yes. We’re good friends.” I lifted my coffee cup and took a small sip.

“Have you ever fucked her?”

I almost spewed my coffee and stared at her in shock.

She laughed out loud. A genuine belly laugh. I stared at her as she laughed and watched as she wiped her eyes dry. “Oh dear, that was priceless. Amber was right. She said that would shock you.”

I tried to process that and failed.

“She told me all about you, Peter Chase. No secrets here,” and she laughed again.

“You have me at a disadvantage…”

“That I surely do. Feels good for a woman my age.”

I looked around the condo. “So where are your fucking cats? There has to be at least three of them around here somewhere…”

She froze and stared at me with her mouth open and then threw her head back and escort kadıköy really laughed.

She laughed for far too long and my joke started to feel stale to me. Finally, she stopped and pulled a Kleenex out of her shirt sleeve at the wrist and dabbed at her eyes before tucking it away again.

“That, Mr Peter Chase, was funny. Cats. I suppose you’re not wrong to suspect cats, but between me and you I hate the damn things.”

For a moment, I felt a kindred spirit. Then she spoke again.

“So, you want to talk about the Carvers. That about right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I can’t.”

I blinked at her.

“Blink those pretty blues at me all you want. I signed an NDA. Tighter than my asshole, that thing.”

I absorbed her words again and waited. This was not looking promising.

She looked around her condo for a moment. I realised then with her back and neck she couldn’t look up properly. I glanced at the TV and then spied the remote sitting on the mantle over the fireplace. It was covered in dust.

She muttered something under her breath. “I suppose my condo looks like a mess…”

I opened my mouth to say something, but she kept talking.

“Like the entrance to this place. A true shit pit. The whole building is like that. Condo fees keep going up and nothing gets done. The residents of the building have nothing, you see. It wasn’t always like this. I bought this place shortly after my husband died. The big C. It was bad. But he took care of me and left me solid financially. I used to have a girl who cleaned this place for me. Cooked my meals. It was lovely. We all knew each other in the building and threw parties in the common rooms down on the first floor. I rubbed elbows with some prominent people in this city. It was a wonderful time. Then the Carvers moved in.”

She stopped there and sipped her coffee in silence. I waited for her to say more, but she sat in stoic silence.

I cleared my throat. “And?”

She looked sharply at me.

“And, what?”

I stared at her. “Is there nothing else to say?”

“NDA. Can’t.”

“So, the Carvers moved in. When did the condo building start to run down?”

She looked thoughtful for a moment. “I guess you could say it was soon after they vacated the building. The condo owner was suddenly out of money. So were most of the residents. Did you see the news about it?”

I nodded. I had read all there was to read about it. I even reached out to the newspaper reporter who had covered the story. She lived in another city now and had hung up on me as soon as I mentioned the Carvers. “Yeah, I did. I even tried to contact the reporter.”

Alice flinched for a moment. “Katherine Crosby. She was kind. Shame what happened to her.”

“What happened to her?”

“Car accident. T-boned by a guy running a red-light that was an old red light.”

“Old red light?”

“Yeah. Old as in no way they didn’t see it was red.”

“Is she okay?”

Alice shook her head. “Paralysed from the waste down. Two young kids to raise by herself.”

I waited, but Alice said nothing else. “Who hit her?”

“Hit and run. Well, the guy who hit her ran, leaving his car buried into the driver’s door. Never found him. Car was stolen. No one to sue. She’s penniless and writing for anyone who’ll hire her.”

I absorbed that for a moment, my mind grinding the data. “The Carvers…”

Alice said nothing.

A small light turned on in my head. “Was anyone else in the building hurt?”

Alice smiled at me for the first time. “Amber said you were smart. You might want to look into that. By my count, at least six families were hurt or killed outright over the period of two months.”

I gawked at her. “Did you say killed?”

“Accidents. All of them. Investigated by the police and all deemed accidents. Like how your car suddenly has no brake fluid kind of accident.” She glanced at me. “Please tell me the Carvers have no idea you are here?”

I was deep in thought and then heard her last question. I looked up to see the genuine fear there. I shook my head. “No. Rest assured, they have no idea.”

Alice seemed to relax. “You must NEVER, and I mean NEVER, tell them you spoke to me.”

I nodded and then promised her out loud. “You’re struggling here, aren’t you?”

She looked away and didn’t answer me.

“I’m sorry you had to go through that. Why don’t you move? Find a better place? Less expensive?”

She laughed again, but I heard a note of despair in it. “Do you know who now owns this building?”

Another light turned on. “The Carvers,” I said, and she nodded. “You’re locked in here with the NDA, aren’t you?”

She nodded. “Like a vice grip. There are words people don’t say anymore. Old words that people may know the meaning of, but never see anymore. Certainly not in Canada or down south. Look up the word indentured.”

“You’re kidding me? Indentured? That’s not possible! That’s illegal!”

She chuckled in a mournful way, and it sent chills down my spine. “You might think so. There are bostancı escort many ways to be indentured to someone. Ask Amber, she knows what’s going on. I hear she’s gunning for the Crown Attorney job. Is that true?”

“Yes, she’s leaving her firm and accepting a position with the city.”

“Tell her to watch herself. Hire a bodyguard. Watch her back. If you’re somehow involved with the Carvers, I would suggest the same. You know they were the ones behind your attack in the park, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am. One of my assailants said as much before I blacked out.”

“Watch your back, but by the look of you, you know how to take care of yourself. My husband worked out and took all sorts of martial arts. You have the same look. Amber must love being with you.” She looked away. “I miss my John.”

“John was your husband?”

“Yes, the love of my life.”

I had no concept of love but understood the sentiment. Alice was looking at me now and saw my calm look back at her.

“Ah, I know that look,” she said.

“What look?”

“The look of a player. Are you a player, Peter?”

I knew what she meant but never considered myself one. I shook my head.

She snorted. “You’re a fucking liar.”

I had nothing to say to that and wasn’t remotely offended.

She sighed deeply and rose, and I sensed our time was up.

She walked me to the door and watched me pull on my overcoat and slip my feet into my loafers.

“You’re going after them, aren’t you?” she said as she opened the door.

“Yes, I fucking am.”

I moved toward the door when she held up a hand to stop me. “Do you know what LockSur is?”

This startled me. LockSur was a relatively new Internet start-up that provided secure end-to-end encrypted file transfer. What startled me was this elderly woman knew what LockSur was. “Ah, yeah, I do, but to be honest, I’m surprised you do.”

She chuckled. “Peter Chase, you underestimate people. You underestimate the Carvers and they will have you for lunch and put you in the ground.” She looked down at my expensive overcoat and shoes. “Money will not buy you safety.”

“Fair warning. What about LockSur?”

“Give me an email address. One no one knows about. One that can’t be traced to you. Do you have one?”

I nodded and gave her one.

She nodded and gestured toward the door opening, and I walked out.

“Thank you, Alice.”

“Thank me by doing something about them.” She shut the door behind me.

* * *

Later that night my phone dinged, and I opened my phone and saw I had a single notification from LockSur. I opened the application and saw Alice had sent me two files. I opened the first one and saw a spreadsheet filled with names and comments. It was a list of all the condo residents from Alice’s condo. It also identified dollar amounts and had hyperlinks to archived newspaper articles.

I looked at the next file and saw it was an MP3 audio file. I opened it and put my phone on speaker. It started with a lot of scraping noises, and then the audio went dead quiet. I looked at the phone and saw the MP3 was still playing, and so I waited. After about ten seconds, I looked down and saw the recording was over six hours long. I fast forwarded and heard nothing. I tried again with the same results.

Frustrated, I went to my iMac and opened the same app and downloaded the audio file and the spreadsheet. I opened my audio editing software, converted the MP3 file over, and opened it. Once I could see the spikes in the recording, I moved to them and pressed play.

The first voice I heard was Brad Carver mid-sentence.

“… it’s all good. We’ll own the building in no time.” He paused for a moment. “Uh-huh, that’s right…” He paused again, and I realised he must be speaking on a phone to someone.

“Who’s that on the phone, hon?” said the unmistakeable voice of Karen Carver.

“It’s Ron, hold on hon.”

“Yeah, Ron. It’s Karen… calm down… do you think I’m stupid? It’s just her and me in our condo… Ron, don’t ever take that fucking tone with me! I’ll fucking dump your sorry ass in the river, you know I will… That’s better. Some fucking respect! You hear?”

Karen spoke again. “Ask him if he took care of the Browns…”

“Did you hear her? Did you? How? Actually, never mind how. They’re dealt with? Good. Hurt or… Dead? Wow. Okay. All of them? Kids too? Good job. Who’s next? The Dixons. Good. They’re fucking lawyer is a right fucking pain in the ass. Sooner the better… what’s that? Dead, of course! Jesus fuck, are you stupid? Get it done fast. Has to be an accident, I don’t want this coming back to me. Get it done… bye.”

The recorded went quiet then Karen spoke really loudly, and I scrambled to turn my speakers down.

“So, all good? Nothing to worry about?” she said, and I realised she had to be next to whatever recorded this conversation.

“Yeah, Karen. All good. Ron is on it. Half gone already. We’re already getting people to close out our suits with generous amounts. We’ll own the fucking building in no time. We’ll put it under Slice Realty this time.”

“The Cayman one?”

“Yeah.”

I could hear hands rubbing together. “Perfect. We’ll be out of here in a year, tops,” laughed Karen, and her voice was truly starting to grate against my nerves.

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