Wanda and Paul looked at one another anxiously and neither know who was supposed to speak first.
“Paul is the head of an operation,” Wanda said.
“An operation,” Charles said, “sounds serious.”
“We think it is,” Paul said.
“What’s going on?” Charles said.
“Dad,” Drake said, “the FBI has been investigating you for about five years.”
“What for?” Paul said. “I’ve never been audited. I don’t even have a traffic violation. I’ve never been interviewed.”
“We’ve looked long and hard at you,” Paul said. “At first we thought you were too clean and come to find out you really are.”
“So, how does a squeaky clean guy come under suspicion and an investigation?” Charles said.
“Do you recall starting a corporation called UniVenture Inc?” Paul said
“That sounds vaguely familiar,” Charles said. “Bear in mind, because I’ve recovered my memory not everything comes back to me in a flash.”
“It was started by you and Ted Abernathy,” Paul said. “From that about another dozen corporations were hatched.”
“This is already sounding not good,” Charles said and added sarcastically. “Are you going to get a Dr. Haverston from Houston to testify that amnesia is fantasy and fakery to escape responsibility and prosecution. It‘s a long story.”
“I saw a Dr. Haverston in your file,” Wanda said. “He wasn’t exactly sympathetic to you.”
“I made a visit to his office a few weeks ago,” Charles said, “nothing’s changed. So what have we got going on here that you need a guy with half a memory to help you with?”
“I mentioned UniVenture,” Paul said. “Tell me what you remember about it?”
Charles lowered his head and rested it in the palm of his hand. “It seems to me I wanted to take profits and move it into another corporation to invest apart from my dealerships. Abernathy indicated it would be a good strategy. That way the dealerships are protected. I wasn’t real keen on the investment aspect, but I wanted to have something in place to add to our dealerships’ retirement fund. Through UniVenture I wanted to increase everyone’s retirement by 20%.”
“Where did the money get invested?” Paul said.
Charles lifted his head. “That’s where Abernathy and I had some sharp differences.”
“How so?” Paul said.
“Foreign investments,” Charles said. “I admit I’m not savvy in that way. I told him that exchange rates would complicate things and regulations of other countries might be far different from ours. We could miss something and end up losing all our investments.”
“Did he ever mention anything about gaming or casinos?” Paul asked.
“Oh, yeah,” Charles chuckled. “Abernathy was a big gambler, loved Vegas. I hated golfing with him; everything was a bet.”
“Have you ever heard of The Delta Derringer?” Paul said.
“A type of gun?” Charles said.
Paul smiled. “How about Monty’s Casino?
“No,” Charles said. “Where is Monty’s?”
“Louisiana,” Paul said.
“What do these have to do with me?” Charles said
“Well,” Paul pressed his lips and leaned forward to get closer to Charles. “UniVenture owns them.”
“I thought we owned a leasing company and some warehouses,” Paul said.
“Yeah,” Paul said. “UniVenture does own some.”
“So this is a little deeper than owning casinos and gambling boats, right? Charles said.
“Yeah,” Paul said.
“I’m a fool, ain’t I?” Charles said.
“No,” Drake said. “There’s nothing wrong with trusting your best friend and w…”
“Wife?” Charles said.
Drake placed his hand on Charles shoulder. “It appears that way, Dad.”
“So what’s going on?” Charles said.
“We became suspicious of Abernathy years ago,” Paul said. “Criminal defense lawyers referred their clients to Abernathy. Abernathy would set up corporations to hide and launder drug profits. It looks like a few years ago he saw the potential for more money. He decided to get into trafficking himself. Having a squeaky clean friend with an impeccable reputation in the auto business is a good cover for moving drugs to other cities.”
“I’m always trading cars with other dealerships,” Charles said.
“Cars would come to your dealership from Miami,” Paul said. “Drugs would be packed into a car that will be driven to another city and your dealership in Atlanta was perfect. Abernathy used it as a hub for his distribution.”
Charles abruptly turned to Drake. “The bullet! The bullet, you found in the wall. That was meant for me. That’s when it all happened.”
“What?” Drake said. “I used an old friend.”
“What do you mean?” Drake said.
“Forgetting, was my old friend,” Charles said. “I was always taught to forget painful things; to erase them. Marcel worked on me for weeks to teach me how to forget. She always said a healthy brain blocks out pain. Pain and bitter memories slow you down. Actors perform through pain. They become characters without pain.”
Charles smiled and stared ahead. “I feel so good. I could gamble and win. Tell me what’ you want.”