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Consumed

Consumed

Page 33

“Here, I’ll open it for you.” She put the bag on her desk and took out a wrapped-up object. “Unless you want to do the honors?”

“He’s threatening to go to the mayor and complain.”

She shrugged. “On what grounds?”

“He said you demanded a meeting with him? Wanted to see proof of insurance? Were harassing his executive assistant. What the hell are you doing? You think you’re a cop?”

Probably not a good time to remind Don about his pursuit-of-justice pep talk.

Anne unwrapped the white mug and turned the thing around so the black lettering faced him. “Ta-da!”

Don took the thing. “ ‘World’s Greatest Boss’?”

“You’re my Michael Scott.”

“I’m thinking about firing you again, FYI.”

“But it’s for a much better reason, right? Now you’re frustrated that I’m taking the job too seriously, so this is improvement.”

Don’s lids dropped to half-mast. “You are my punishment for sins in an earlier life.”

“More like virtues. Anyway, I went down to the registry of deeds this morning.”

“So I can expect a call from them as well? The private sector always moves faster than we in government do, which was why Ripkin got to me first about you.”

“Ripkin Development has purchased three of the six warehouse sites in the last twenty-four months. You don’t think there’s a connection?”

“He’s buying cheap real estate to develop. That’s what developers do. Hence the title of his company. And nothing devalues even depressed sites more than a good a fire.”

“He bought those warehouses before the fires.”

Don frowned. “The structures weren’t worth much. I mean, you want to make some money doing insurance fraud, you torch a mansion to the ground. Not a dilapidated warehouse.”

“What if you wanted to clear the land and not have to pay for it? You burn what’s on it, cash in the insurance policy, use the proceeds to clear what’s left in terms of debris—which is considerably less than even the rotted shells that were there first. It pays for itself—not that bad a strategy.”

“You could get away with it once. But you try that two or three times and it’s like an engraved invitation for fraud charges.”

“What if you had different insurance companies. The properties are all owned by different entities. It wasn’t until I went on a wild-goose chase through layers of incorporators that I discovered Ripkin owns them. He’s covering his tracks about a lot of things.”

There was a long silence. And then Don shut her door. “Listen, about Ripkin.”

“Do not tell me I can’t go talk to him. I reject completely the notion that rich people should be granted special privileges. He’s no different than any other witness or interested party.”

“I agree.”

“But . . .”

“You recall that fire at Ripkin’s oceanfront estate. It was about, what, just over a year ago?”

“I responded with the 499 to it.”

“I remember from the report.” There was another pause. “I put a really good investigator on the scene, a guy named Bob Burlington. He was doing a thorough job.”

“You’d accept nothing less from a subordinate.”

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