“Please state your name.” The prompt from the head of the House Investigative Committee was simple but direct.
Toffer swallowed hard. “Toffer Caligula French.”
A snicker rippled through the committee. The head of the committee remained stoic. “Age and place of residence.”
“Forty-nine. 221 Dark Horse Lane. Des Moines, Iowa. The Harcourt Estates, north side.” He shifted his gaze to the floor.
Toffer kept his gaze down. “CEO and chairman of French Industries.”
“Do you know why you are here?” The committee head’s eyes bore into the top of Toffer’s head.
Toffer’s eyes remained on the floor. “Yes, sir.”
“Then, Let’s begin.” The committee head took his eyes off Toffer. “The purpose of this committee is to complete our case. The floor is open.”
A Congressman leaned forward. “Exactly what does French Industries manufacture?”
Toffer attempted an uncomfortable smile. “Furniture and home furnishings.”
The congressman seemed perplexed. “Can you be more precise?”
Toffer’s nervous smile faded. “Chairs. Sofas. Carpet. Tables. Any furniture or furnishing that needs to be milled.”
The Congressman sat back. “I see. And can you detail how you separated yourself and your company from your competition?”
Toffer had known that the question would be asked, just not this soon. “Yes. At first, it was through cheap knock-offs of our competitors’ products. Then, after I took over, I changed things so that the company was turning out sub-standard products. Cheaply made products made from second rate sub-grade materials sold at top quality prices. It was the perfect scheme.”
A second Congressman leaned forward, a piece of paper in his hands. “I am looking at a partial list of the materials your company has purchased in the past. Did you know that some of the items you ordered were illegal?”
Toffer nodded. “Yes.”
The Congressman frowned. “And still you bought them?”
Again, Toffer nodded. “Yes. Without shame at the time.”
Michael had taken his girls to the Apollo. They had spent the day marveling at the splendor as they wandered the grand theater. Afterward, they had gone to lunch at the amazing and opulent PJ Clarke’s. afterward, they went to Eddy’s Sweet Shop as a treat.
By the time they were done at Eddy’s, it was time to head to Broadway to view the latest musical, Four Saints in Three Acts. Even Shasta was excited. Still, her excitement couldn’t match Natalia’s. Even an opera was an opportunity to see actors in action for Nattie, even if she might not understand the language or the meaning.
He smiled. Finally something everyone could enjoy. A bit of culture, a bit of fun, and a little time together. Who could ask for more?
They had an hour to get to the theater, find their seats, and get settled for the show. He knew they could make it. With Tab’s driver, they would get where they needed to go at the time they needed to be there. Trace was good that way.
He sat back and closed his eyes for a second. In no time, they would be at the theater. He opened his eyes when the car stopped. Looking out the window, he noticed that they were already at the theater.
He smiled. “Alright, ladies. We’re here. Are you ready?”
“Yeah!” The twins’ answer was in unison and with an amazing amount of enthusiasm.
He chuckled and looked at Valeria. She smiled at him. “Well, at least they’re both eager.”
He nodded as Trace opened the car door. “Shall we?” He stepped from the car and offered her his arm. She took his arm and they started toward the theater, then turned. “You girls coming?”
Trace waited for the girls to exit the car before closing the door. He watched as Michael and the girls entered the theater, then got into the car and drove off. He would return in two hours and forty-seven minutes to pick them up.
Toffer’s admissions were the most damning evidence Congress could have been given, but he didn’t care. If it meant getting out from under Joey’s thumb, he would welcome going to prison. Anything would be better than being that neanderthal’s puppet. Hell. He didn’t care if he lived or died. He only knew that he wanted to be free and his deposition was the start of that.
Head hung low, he made his way to the Rive Gauche for dinner. Perhaps he could lose himself in the restaurant’s amazing cuisine. This was one of those times he wished he could get slobbering drunk and pass out somewhere just so he could forget himself for a few hours. But he couldn’t.
He had four more days of giving his deposition before he had any free time. He would be able to get as drunk as he wanted once he returned to Des Moines. At the moment, he needed to remain lucid, no matter what. No matter what nightmares invaded his nights.
And his nightmares were getting worse. Much worse. People he had killed were now coming to him in his dreams, terrorizing him. Chasing him. Attacking him.
And he deserved it. Every bit. He deserved to be haunted, even if it were only in nightmares. He had done so much to so many.
Jim Wallace had witnessed the whole spectacle of the inquest and was amazed. Not once had the Iowan, Toffer French, denied the evidence. In fact, he had actually corroborated the evidence! He had admitted to everything!
What was the world coming to? Here was a man who had every reason to lie his way out of the mess he was in, and he wasn’t. What was the reason? Why would someone willingly admit to being that evil?
Now at his desk, Jim sat pondering the surprising turn of events. His foray to Iowa had uncovered nothing he hadn’t already known. Nothing except more questions. Not one Iowa Senator had taken Toffer’s bribes. Not even at the state level. Most who had were beaten by those who had no connection to Toffer. It seemed that those who were successful avoided the French family.