Pain & Gain, Part 2

Miami's Sun Gym gang developed a taste for blood and money. The police could have stopped them before they killed somebody. But they didn't.

Ed Seibert's career included stints as a Washington, D.C., homicide detective and an agent for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. After retiring he freelanced as a security consultant in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Colombia from the mid-1980s through 1991. He'd planned logistics for the Nicaraguan contras and worked as a ballistics expert and weapons instructor for pro-democracy movements. Now he maintained a quiet life in Miami and was active in his church.

As Seibert read the Schiller memo on the way to Mese's office, the brutality of the Sun Gym gang reminded him of his years in Latin America, where such incidents were the common consequence of business, ideology, or drugs. This doesn't happen in America, he thought. Then he adjusted his thinking: This is Miami. Everything goes. But like Du Bois, he noticed something odd -- there was no ransom request. Schiller, it seemed, was completely disposable.

As usual Du Bois didn't carry a gun. As usual Seibert carried two. The detective already had checked out the building's entrances with his own investigators, whose cell phones were programmed to speed-dial the police and emergency services. When everyone was in place, he and Seibert walked in for the appointment.

Mese asked Du Bois and Seibert to wait in the reception area; Lugo and Delgado hadn't arrived. A short time later Mese strolled through to announce Delgado was on his way. Du Bois pulled out a photo of Schiller and asked Mese if he looked familiar. No, Mese couldn't say for sure this was the guy who came to his office with the documents for notarization. "Ed," he laughed, "you know all those Latins look alike."

Delgado arrived alone and Du Bois quickly sized him up. His demeanor was meek; he possessed few if any of the ingredients that establish a strong first impression. He was thin even, certainly not the goon they were expecting. Mese made the introductions, ushered them into an empty office, and left.

Delgado asked to see Schiller's letter as well as the house deed and the change-of-beneficiary form. He took his time inspecting them before handing the papers back to Du Bois. "This is all over a business deal," he said languidly, as if he were dismissing the matter and there was nothing more to say. His tone, his attitude began to grate on the detective.

"Well, is it customary in your business deals," asked Du Bois, "to kidnap someone, keep them hostage for a month, beat them, torture them, try to kill them, and blow them up?"

"I'm not going to comment on that," Delgado replied, growing edgy.

Du Bois jabbed a thick index finger in Delgado's face. "It finally dawned on me as to what really happened here."

"Yeah, really? What?" came the challenge.

"Had you killed Marc Schiller that night, as you had intended, this would have been a perfect crime," Du Bois hissed. "You had his cash, property, cars, home, plus a two-million-dollar bonus if he died. You had his family leave the country, him playing a role about a young girl and a midlife crisis. You had his phone calls diverted from his home to the warehouse, where you had him chained to a wall."

No response.

"If he died you would have been successful," said Du Bois, now sneering. "But guess what, asshole? Schiller is alive and well, and we are going to put your ass in jail!"

Delgado flushed slightly.

Mese rejoined the discussion now, and Delgado, who suddenly was conciliatory and seemed to want out of the room fast, suggested another meeting. He'd bring in Lugo tomorrow to explain the whole situation. They'd meet at Mese's branch office in Miami Lakes.

The next morning at 9:00 Du Bois and Seibert arrived in Miami Lakes. The detective decided to drop his back-up team simply because Delgado had cut such an unimpressive figure. Outside the building he glanced at the tenant directory. A mortgage firm, JoMar Properties, was on the third floor. It was Delgado's company, a holdover from the days when he and Marc Schiller were partners.

Mese was late, and neither Delgado nor Lugo were there. Mese's office was open, however, so they went in. The reception room was dominated by a popcorn machine topped with a glass bubble, and chess sets everywhere -- wood, brass, marble, onyx. Du Bois beat Seibert in two quick games. Growing bored, the detective stepped out to the balcony for some fresh air. Seibert decided to take a walk through the office complex. He went upstairs to check out JoMar Properties. The office was closed. Odd for a weekday, he thought.

Mese finally showed at 10:30 a.m., and expressed surprise to see them. "Gee, Ed, what are you guys doing here?" he asked. It was as if he'd stumbled into fellow members of an Edison High School alumni group while touring Calcutta.

"Listen, John," began Du Bois, noticing that Mese was sweating. "We had a meeting scheduled at nine o'clock. We set it up yesterday, remember? Now where are Lugo and Delgado?"

Mese hastened to assure him the two were on their way. In the interim the detective could go over his client files on Sun Gym, take whatever notes he needed, and request photocopies of anything important. He escorted Du Bois and Seibert to a vacant room and seated them at a desk cluttered with an overflowing ashtray and two champagne glasses stained with the sweet residue of a cordial. Then he left them alone.

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