Cyber Antics: Chapter 8

By Penelope Downs, AKA Doc


Disclaimer: The characters are mine and I own the copyright. Use without my permission is prohibited. Any resemblance to a person, dead or alive, is unintentional. If you under 18 years of age, are offended by same sex romances, or it's illegal to read about it where you live, stop now and read no further.

Catherine decided against convening a meeting of the entire litigation team. Neil had been circumspect in his brief phone conversation, but made it clear that it was very important that he meet with her upon his return to the office. She wasn’t quite sure what information he had gotten, but she decided that if it was as important as Neil had implied, she didn’t want everyone on the team to know about it, especially Thomas. Although she liked the young man, he had a lot to learn about maintaining confidentiality.

Even though Neil wasn’t that far from the office, it took him forty minutes to navigate Georgetown’s congested streets. He wished the residents hadn’t refused to allow subways stations to be built in their neighborhoods and wondered if traffic might not be so bad if people had some other means of getting around. Once he had parked his car, he headed straight for Catherine’s office, carefully cradling his treasures to his chest. As he entered the main door near the receptionist, he met Torrey. She smiled at him and, eyeing the bundles that he was holding so carefully, decided to trail along.

Neil, followed by Torrey, approached Catherine’s office. When she saw him, Catherine’s secretary motioned for him to enter Catherine’s office without knocking. "She’s expecting you." Neil stepped up to Catherine’s door, which was open, and cleared his throat to give notice of his presence before crossing the threshold. Catherine looked up from her paperwork when she heard him. She was surprised to see Torrey enter behind him. She had not planned on the woman’s presence, but decided she would let her stay. Torrey was discreet, plus she was a fine attorney who had a good grasp of criminal law and procedure. Catherine decided she would probably need Torrey’s assistance if her suspicion that Neil was about to drop a conundrum on her proved to be true.

Torrey closed the door and joined Neil and Catherine at the conference table. Neil had placed the two packages on the table. One was an ordinary looking manila envelope, the other was a blue, zippered, nylon, handless brief bag, which had been folded and placed inside of a plastic evidence bag. Catherine and Torrey looked that the items and then at Neil, who smiled and began his explanation.

Torrey and Catherine sat enthralled by Neil’s tale. Both found it hard to believe that he had such a string of luck over the past twenty-four hours. Catherine, who was a little superstitious, wondered how they would end up paying for it. Neil himself admitted several times during his recounting of events that it had surprised him, too. When he was finished, Catherine reached for the manila envelope, took out its contents and examined them.

"Even if some of this information is not accurate, it may prove to be useful in determining who ‘Edwardo’ really is. The fact that he had very good forged documents may give us insight in to his background. I take it you know what the contents of the bag are. Do you want to tell us what’s in it—clearly, you felt they are important since you handled the bag so carefully, putting it in an evidence bag."

Neil hung his head sheepishly. "Old habits are hard to break. I still carry plastic evidence bags. Make’s sense, really. If you run across something important, the last thing you want to do is damage it’s potential value as evidence." He turned to look at Torrey, who had picked up the evidence bag containing the items that Ana had given him. He took the bag out of her hands and set it back down on the table, continuing to speak.

"I thought it wouldn’t hurt to put everything inside a plastic bag, even though the nylon bag zips shut. The contents are very, very interesting. I had a look inside the bag, but didn’t touch anything. I think we stand of good chance of getting ‘Edwardo’s’ prints off some of the papers; I’m sure Ana Rodriguez never opened the bag or touched its contents. She has too high a sense of honor and duty to breach a trust."

Neil paused momentarily, causing Catherine and Torrey to say simultaneously, "What’s inside the bag?"

Neil chuckled at their impatience and replied. "Well, there are three passports, one Spanish, one Italian and one Philippine. There appear to be other identity documents, I didn’t want to touch them, so I didn’t get a good look. There also are some letters and photographs. Hopefully some of photos are of Edwardo. Carolyn should be able to confirm whether they are or not."

Catherine had an even greater sense of foreboding. This new information seemed to confirm that they were caught up in something very big, given the international connections. She wondered just what light the contents of the bag would shed on the case. She knew that federal authorities would be very interesting in examining them since they would have evidentiary value.

She spoke aloud to Torrey and Neil. "I’m afraid that we have a real quandary on our hands. The contents of the bag clearly may constitute important evidence in this case. We need to be very careful in how we handle these items. Although my first inclination is to hand this material over to the FBI, I don’t think we should do that. I’m afraid it would take us forever to get any feed back from them. We’d probably be forced to drag it out of them through discovery. However, I don’t want to unnecessarily antagonize the prosecutor or do anything that might constitute a violation of law. That would really complicate things."

At that point, Torrey spoke up. "May I make a suggestion. Why don’t we turn the bag and its contents over to an independent lab that has experience in assisting in criminal investigations. That way we would be able to get the information, which we could share with the feds. They, in turn, would be able to subpoena the lab to testify about the manner in which the evidence was handled and examined. As long as the lab is reputable and follows established procedures, there should be no problem. One of my friends from undergraduate school actually works at such place. It’s located in suburban Virginia; Vienna, I believe."

Neil and Catherine both looked at the younger woman, smiling. Neil spoke first. "I like the way you think. That sounds like a marvelous idea."

Catherine nodded her head in agreement and then added. "I agree. I think that is a viable alternative. However, I want to play it safe. When I met with him, the AUSA indicated that he hadn’t empanelled a grand jury yet, so I don’t think we would have any potential problems with the obstruction of justice statute. I also don’t think our actions would constitute a violation of the statute pertaining to obstruction of criminal investigations since the elements of a violation require willful intent to bribe someone to prevent them from providing information relevant to a crime to a criminal investigator. However, I would like you to do some legal research and confirm that, Torrey. In the interim, I want both of you to witness my securing the bag in the safe here in my office."

Catherine picked up the evidence bag. She then stood up; Neil and Torrey followed suit. She went to the bar, stepped behind it and waited for them to approach. When they were standing beside her, she knelt down and opened one of the doors, which concealed a small safe. Catherine quickly spun the dial and then pushed the lever down to open it. Carefully, she placed the evidence bag in the safe and then shut the door, spinning the dial. Looking up at Torrey she asked, "Do you think you can have your research completed within an hour? I would like to get this material to a lab today. I don’t want to hold on to if for very long."

Torrey grinned. "Yes, it shouldn’t take me long. Should we meet back here within the hour?"

Catherine replied. "Yes. Neil, I’d like you to check out the lab that Torrey’s friend works at. I want to make sure it has a reputation of doing decent work. I don’t want to turn this material over to them if there’s a chance that they could muck things up." Standing, turning toward both Neil and Torrey, Caatherine added, "One more thing. I would ask that both of you refrain from speaking about these matters to the other team members. I want this to remain between the three of us. Is that understood?"

Neil and Torrey both nodded their heads in agreement and then turned and left Catherine’s office. Torrey wanted to get her research completed as quickly as possible. Neil wanted to get to his office to make a phone call to an old friend of his on the D.C. police force.

Catherine looked at her watch when her secretary buzzed her on the intercom. ‘Must be Neil and Torrey,’ she thought. "Yes." She said as she spoke in to the intercom. Kelly Ralston replied efficiently. "Neil and Torrey are here." "Send them in please." Catherine responded.

Neil and Torrey quickly entered Catherine’s office and reconvened around the conference table. Catherine moved from her desk to join them and, looking at Torrey, asked, "What did you discover during your research? Do we need to worry about the obstruction of justice statute or the statute pertaining to obstruction of a criminal investigation?"

Torrey looked her in the eyes when she replied. "No, you were right. With respect to the obstruction of justice statute, it’s critical that a grand jury be empanelled. All of the case law holds that charges cannot be brought under 18 U.S.C. § 1508 if a grand jury is not sitting. Our proposed course of action also shouldn’t constitute a problem under the statute concerning obstruction of a criminal investigation, either."

Catherine responded. "Good. Neil, any known problems with the lab?"

Neil shook his head as he gave a curt answer. "Nope. I checked with local and federal sources, too."

"Alright." Catherine continued speaking as she got up to move to her safe to retrieve the bag that contained the only significant evidence uncovered to date that might identify the elusive Edwardo and, possibly, shed some light on whether they were dealing with an international conspiracy. "I would like the two of you to make arrangements to have the lab analyze the contents of the bag and deliver it to them tonight. Stress to them that they must handle it carefully, and that they should expect to receive a subpoena from federal authorities if their analysis yields the information we think it will. I want them to know up front that they have to handle this as if they were examining evidence for a local or federal law enforcement agency. Things must be done properly."

Once she had opened the safe and removed the bag, she moved back to the table and handed it to Neil. Neil and Torrey both rose and left Catherine’s office, intent on carrying out her instructions. As they left Catherine’s office, Torrey, who was walking behind Neil, put a hand on his back to guide him toward her office. She advised him in a low voice, so others wouldn’t overhear them, "Let’s go to my office so I can call my friend and make the arrangements. Then we can head out to deliver this material to them." Neil silently nodded his consent.

Twenty minutes later, Neil and Torrey departed the law firm to deliver their package to the lab in Virginia. Once Torrey had settled into the passenger’s seat of his car, Neil started it and pulled out of the parking garage. It was a beautiful afternoon, but the hectic pace of rush hour was beginning to set in and there were pedestrians and cars everywhere. Neil was intent on carefully negotiating all obstacles while Torrey cheerfully looked at the passing scenes on the congested streets and sidewalks. Neither noticed the car that had begun following them once they had pulled out of the parking garage. It remained a safe distance behind them to avoid detection.

continue to Chapter 9


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