The sheriff’s department had been cooperating with the Justice Department for the past year. Iowa’s Attorney General, Robert L. Larson, had been involved as well. Once the case had emerged, Larson had set about investigating exactly who in the legislature and city government had links to Toffer French and exactly what those links were. Had he contributed campaign funds? Had he thrown his weight around to get them elected?
Larson had found out more about Toffer than he really wanted to know. Death threats. Murder. Assaults. Nothing was ‘going too far’ in the eyes of the vile little toad. Between the state and federal departments, there was a mounting case. The Iowa Department of Revenue also had a strong case.
As news of the growing case spread, other state officials, such as William S. Beardsley, the governor, also began working with the Attorney General on the case. Giving depositions, testimonies, being character witnesses, or whatever was needed, each soon helped give a picture of a very violent and corrupt individual in the person of Toffer French. With the new evidence, Larson met once a month with McGrath to give him more details.
Only McGrath and Larson knew where the long list of witnesses and living victims were being kept. This kept these individuals extremely safe. Such secrecy was not always needed but in this case, it was of the utmost importance. If Toffer was to learn of these people, he would try to arrange for their death.
Neither Larson nor McGrath could afford the loss of a witness. Larson rubbed his eyes. Too bad there wasn’t some form of protective program to place witnesses into to keep them safe. It would make it a lot easier to prosecute people like Toffer.
But there wasn’t and that made it hard. Too hard. He hoped that Toffer never found out where the witnesses were. He hoped that his department didn’t have any leaks.
Beardsley put his head in his hands. He had known about the corruption embodied in Toffer French, but had turned a blind eye to it as well as a deaf ear to those who had complained. Now, it was under investigation and he didn’t want to be included in the long line of people that Toffer was bound to take down with him. He didn’t want to incriminate himself. Lord, no. It could ruin him.
But he wasn’t the only one. There were several in the State House that owed Toffer for helping them get into office. But they were all abandoning the toad, thinking it would save them. Yet, scandal never left behind any who had a hand in creating it. Never.
For two years, he had run a tight ship. If he played his cards right, he could continue to do so for another four-maybe five-years. He rubbed his eyes. He could only cooperate with the investigation now. Make it seem as if he didn’t really know what Toffer had been doing. Act surprised at the extent of damage the toad had caused the state.
Perhaps if he did that, they wouldn’t know. Even if Toffer tried, vain gloriously, to insinuate him. Maybe they would believe that Toffer’s claims were simply lies made up in an attempt to pass a part of the blame onto someone else. He could pray that would be the case.
He rubbed his eyes. Had any of his cabinet been present, they would have been able to recognize the fact that he’d been crying. Most would have taken this as a sign of guilt. Still, it was not. He’d been reading the file on Toffer that Larson had loaned him.
He couldn’t believe that anyone could be so cruel, so callous. How could anyone do such horrid acts, and under his nose? Why had he been so eager to turn a blind eye to all that had been happening in his city? How had he been such a fool?
Heck Ross had been smart. He’d only remained in office for a year. Sure, he’d been forced out, but leaving had been the smartest thing he’d done. Even he knew that.
Heck had refused to bend to Toffer’s level. The smartest thing he’d done. At least he would not be facing any interrogation about this case. A.B. Chambers might, though, Beardsley wasn’t sure. All he knew was that anyone with any sort of connection would be called. That is, if they hadn’t already been called.
But now, Des Moines was engulfed in a scandal that threatened to go national. The media would go nuts over this. After all, it was newsworthy. And anything newsworthy usually went from the newspapers to television in no time flat.
The only thing Beardsley could do now was start on damage control. He had to keep things muted for a while. It didn’t matter whether it would cause him to lose popularity, it had to be done. It was part of his job.
Added to the French fiasco was this new legislation that threatened to tear the city apart. He was not overly fond of Senators McCarran or McCarthy or their ideals. They were madmen wanting to take control of the country through spreading their “Red Scare” throughout the population. What alarmed him was that their tactics were working…a little too well. Everyone, even Republicans, were being accused of being communists. That was not good for the country. It made a toxic environment where madmen had more power than those who remained sane and rational.
What was this world coming to? Madmen in Congress, otherwise sane and rational people falling prey to imagined threats, an increasing influence of industry in politics, not to mention a vile little toad that threatened to destroy the virtuous reputation of the Midwest’s crown jewel—the city of Des Moines.
He rose from his place behind his desk, grabbed his jacket, and started for the door. He needed to go to the mansion and gather his own defense. Letters. Documents. Memos. He had to gather them together and turn them over to Larson. Even if it took him down, he had to allow justice to be served.