"Several people from her family have called me very concerned, offering beaucoup bucks to get her out of there," Glass said.

"That is certainly something I'm going to look into," Steckel responded. "But again, that is between me and you, and I don't want you to share that with her."

"No, no," Glass said. "And please don't let them know I told you that. I'm trying to give you a way to recover because I don't like what they've done. They have made me look like a fool, too."

As the conver-sation continued, Glass summarized the problem for Steckel: Was the return of his valuables and the location of the dumped briefcases more important to him than prosecuting Lisa, Melissa, and A.V.? "You've got to make the choice of, Is it worth walking away from these guys?" Glass concluded.

"Well, put it this way," Steckel answered. "Do I really have a fucking choice?"

"No," Glass said. "Unfortunately you don't. You're in the stage now where you have to minimize your loss. And you can get your revenge. You can do what you have to do. And please don't let me know about it. I don't need to have a Bar problem on this one. And I've already probably developed one because I've been helping you."

"At this point I've got to get back whatever I can get back," Steckel repeated.

"Do me a favor, though," Glass interrupted. "As your word as a gentleman, don't tell them what I've told you."

"How am I gonna tell them?" Steckel asked incredulously. "It's not like they are going to call me up tomorrow."

The next day, December 30, Stephen Glass and Joaquin "Wacko" Agrenot were sitting in Glass's white Mercedes in the parking lot of the Waldenbooks store on North Kendall Drive near 111th Avenue. All morning Glass and Steckel had exchanged calls, firming up final details of a trade: the jewelry for an agreement from Steckel not to pursue prosecution of Lisa and Melissa.

Steckel pulled into the parking lot in his silver Cadillac at about 3:30 p.m. Initially he had been "wired" by investigators so his conversations with Glass could be recorded. But at the last moment he ripped off the wire, fearing it would be discovered.

"As Simon shows up, we see he's being followed by what I presume are police," recalls Glass. "These guys are like Keystone Kops; they were right on his tail. When he turns, though, they miss the entrance, go half a block down, skid in the street, turn around, and come back into the parking lot, where they hide behind some bushes in their car. It was so obvious! So I get pissed off at Simon. I figure I'm doing everything legitimate."

As Steckel walked over to the Mercedes, Glass and Wacko got out of the car and Glass handed Steckel a package containing most A but not all A of his jewelry. Wacko then passed long a message from A.V.: The briefcases are in the canal at 129th Avenue near Miller Drive. In return, Steckel handed over a form from the State Attorney's Office verifying his commitment not to press charges against Lisa and Melissa.

But Steckel had pulled a fast one. The form had not been filled out. It was blank -- and useless to the two women. Although he clearly hadn't kept his end of the deal, Steckel still wanted Wacko to show him exactly where the briefcases had been dumped.

At Glass's prodding, Wacko agreed. While Steckel followed in his Cadillac, Glass drove Wacko in his Mercedes. "We get into the car and start driving, and I see this other car following," Glass recalls. "I'm now fit to be tied. I'm being put into the middle of this and I'm just tired of it. So I pull the car over." Steckel followed suit.

As automobiles loaded with post-Christmas bargain hunters whizzed by, Glass marched over to Steckel's car and demanded to know what was going on. Steckel said he had no idea what Glass was talking about. Using his car phone, Glass then called Andy Hague, the assistant state attorney in charge of the case. Hague, according to Glass, denied any knowledge of police surveillance. For nearly an hour Steckel, Glass, and Wacko remained parked by the side of the road, arguing about the bizarre situation. Finally Wacko, afraid he was about to be arrested, began screaming that he wanted out and that he now refused to guide Steckel to the canal.

At last Steckel and Glass parted company. A few hours later, shortly before 7:00 p.m., Steckel called Glass to discuss the day's events. Once again Glass was unaware that his words were being recorded.

His voice was frantic. He claimed that after the botched trade, A.V. was looking to get even with him. "Right now I'm in trouble with these people. I'm in trouble," Glass cried. "And believe me, I haven't been paid anything. This kid is wild now. I've got three threats already." Glass added that he was even afraid to drive his Mercedes because A.V. could identify it: "I'm driving my fuckin' Lincoln so I don't get killed!"

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