“So?” Bryce asked as he slid to a stop in front of Madison, who was re-folding sweaters that didn’t need to be re-folded.
“Where are your shoes?” she asked.
“My feet just want to be free,” he replied.
Madison rolled her eyes.
“So? What did we learn about Mr. Black?” Bryce asked.
“A lot,” she said. “He went to American and Georgetown Law. He went to work for the EPA as one of their first lawyers. Did you know the EPA didn’t even exist before 1970?”
“I didn’t. Also, I didn’t care. Still don’t,” he said.
“Anyway… So he got the job there to be in-house counsel, writing contracts and stuff. Got married. No kids. His wife died a few years ago.”
“How’d you learn all that?” Bryce asked.
“He was interviewed a couple times. And I found background about him when he went on non-profit boards and stuff. So as I was saying, he started in the EPA when it was pretty new, and then his job got bigger and bigger as the agency grew. Always doing contracts stuff, but more overseeing big groups of lawyers, rather than doing contracts hands-on.”
“Makes sense,” Bryce said. “I can see how they’d put a guy like that in charge of the old folk’s posse. So why is he here in Illinois of all places?”
“He retired several years ago, around when his wife died. And then he did those non-profits. And in the last couple of years, nothing. He is still listed on some of the boards. I checked—”
“Of course you did,” Bryce interrupted.
“Of course I did. But he hasn’t been in the news at all for a couple years. My guess is that’s when he moved here to do whatever it is those people are doing.”
“And what are those people doing?” Bryce asked. “Any clues?”
“Not a damn thing,” she said.
“What kinds of boards was he on?” Bryce asked.
“Bunch of different things. Boys and Girls club. Some environmental ones, like, not Greenpeace, but kind of like that. Wildlife preservation. Conservation. My guess is he knew a lot of people, and they liked having him on their boards for the influence and money his friends had.”
“So what’s next? How are we going to find out what they are doing with the lawyers, guns, and money?” he asked.
Madison shrugged. “I was thinking maybe I just ask him.”
Bryce looked shocked. “What? You can’t be serious!”
“Why not? He seems like a harmless old man. I bet this is nothing. We’ve just built it up in our minds like it’s a big deal.”
“Didn’t you tell me the other day that they are smuggling shit across the border? And that one of them said going to Chicago to buy guns on the street wasn’t going to work because they need fucking machine guns?”
“Well, yeah,” she conceded. “Semi-automatic assault rifles, technically.”
“I think it’s possible that he’s a nice old man who is nonetheless involved in some really dangerous, shady shit.”
“I suppose you’re right. Maybe instead of asking him directly, I could make something up. Invent some other reason to talk to him and then try to trick him into telling me what’s going on.”
“You’re going to try to trick a seventy-year-old contracts lawyer?” Bryce asked, eyebrows raised.
“What could possibly go wrong?” Madison said with a smile.