The Robbins: Old Farts Gone Bad

 

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A Crime Novel

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The Robbins old farts gone bad A crime novel by Timothy Freriks

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Copyright © 2016 by Timothy Freriks All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review or scholarly journal. First printing: 2016 ISBN-13: 978-1530786305 ISBN-10: 1530786304 Timothy Freriks PO Box 270467 Tampa, FL 33688 Contact: tfreriks@timothyfreriks.com Disclaimer This book is not based on real people. I know no one like the Robbins—I promise. Places and events are only used to support a fictional story with some fictional characters. In full disclosure, I own a motor coach we call ‘The Boat’ and enjoy visiting some of the parks I mention. I have a Chevy Spark—a dinghy I call ‘Toad’—a daughter named Lauren and a granddaughter named Jordan. Don’t read any more into the book than is intended. I am not a crook. Seriously. This is fiction and I’m sticking to that statement.

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Dedication To my family, who has supported me throughout the years of the development of this book, I give thanks. Special thanks to my wife Kathy: It isn’t easy to live with a guy who has multiple personalities, one real, many fictional, but I wouldn’t be doing what I love if it weren’t for the love and understanding of my family and friends and the support of my readers. And special thanks to my big brother who gave me a lot of insight into the way Federal Law Enforcement works.

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The Robbins 1 Chapter One Early October 2015 The tall old man crouched against the rough concrete block wall, nervously pushed his wispy blond/silver hair—what was left of it— back along the sides of his head and waited. The distant footsteps grew fainter then stopped, followed by the sound of a car door opening. A pesky parking lot pole light in the distance cast a strange blue glow that didn’t really illuminate him, but it was enough to make him feel exposed nonetheless. The man pulled his black wool coat tighter against the night chill as the headlights of the sales lady’s car finally swung around the corner then pointed toward the main road. After a moment, the car was gone, and, except for the pounding of his heart, almost total quiet returned. Wayne Robbins flexed his hands and stood, scratching at the patch of psoriasis on his elbow. Scanning around again, he shifted his weight, trying to relieve the stiffness that had formed in several joints; he had waited motionless in the semi-darkness for quite a while. Damn the sales lady: why didn’t she leave on time? And damn this fucking arthritis… and the knee surgery. At 73, Wayne was still tall and trim and broad-shouldered, but he was succumbing to the oldest affliction: age. A string of cars on Tara Boulevard passed, and he used the ensuing silence to slip around to the front corner of the deserted neighborhood strip center and peek through the fancy storefront. The C.J.C. sign was unlit outside and the lights were off inside. Security alarms and lights and cameras were dead as well—as planned; he had taken care of that earlier in the day. Robbins looked down the faces of the other stores: Only the Subway at the other end had some action.

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Timothy Freriks 2 Except for the occasional red ‘closed’ sign, the covered walk was dark enough. No problem. Ducking back behind the wall, he took a calming breath, put on his latex gloves and pulled out his black ski mask. He had to remove his black glasses first then put them back over the mask. You look ridiculous, dear, Betty had said often. Wayne didn’t think there were any fashion police in the robbery world, so he really didn’t care. Creeping silently to the ornate French door, Wayne bent and studied the latch where he had inserted his device. To the sales lady, the bolt would have sounded like it penetrated the hole in the jamb, and it would sound like it was secure. It would even feel like it was secure. But, of course, it wasn’t. Not for Wayne. His hand closed around fob in his pocket, and he pressed the recessed blue button. The latch rewarded him with a soft ‘click’. Brilliant! Every time it worked he thought that this invention definitely could find a market; maybe he should start toolsforthieves.com. He had proven its effectiveness nine times before this. That success rate wasn’t something he could put on a website, though, but maybe… Back to now, you ADHD dickhead! he ordered himself. Concentrate! Five more seconds passed as he scanned the parking lot. He tried the door, and it slid away from its home far enough to allow him to slip inside and crouch down. With one hand, he removed the device from the strike plate then re-locked it. In the faint glow coming from the pole lights outside, Wayne felt his way around to the back room then to the rear door. No lights were on, no alarms went off; the red light on the security camera was dead. Again, as planned. As engineered. Betty was there, pressed against the outside wall, waiting, her mid-length white/blond hair reflecting the partial moonlight. She had pulled her black peacoat tightly around her and carried her mask in her hand. Her blue latex gloves were already on. “It’s cold out there,” Betty said softly said as she entered and gave her accustomed sigh; it was part relief that no one could see her now that she was inside, and part excitement, and part—a big part—a complex fear.

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The Robbins 3 Wayne glanced at her. He still loved every wrinkle even after 52 years of life together. After 71 years of living, she used to be tall and thin; now she was noticeably shorter, a little stouter, and starting to hunch. Damn Osteoporosis! It was eating at her as surely as the cancer was. But from that face, which had wrinkled and tightened over the fine cheekbones, her eyes shone with the fire of youth. “Ready?” She pulled on her black ski mask over her blond/white hair. “Let’s do it,” she said, after clearing her throat. “Quiet.” But Betty cleared her throat again, a little louder. “Seriously?” “Sorry. Reflux.” “Jesus. Stop already,” Wayne said as they moved toward the display room up front. “Anyway, I still don’t think it’s reflux.” “It is. Maybe hormones.” “Whatever,” he said as he re-oriented himself in the darkness. “I don’t think Doc Stevens would approve of this method of keeping our heart rates up, but...” “But we need to exercise somehow.” She completed the sentence for him. “You say that every time, honey.” Betty moved past him, drawing her hand lovingly across his cheek and slipped into the display room. “Consistency is important.” The familiar anxiety now returned as they bent and kept to the shadows. Wayne retrieved the key from the drawer under the cash register which he had taped open while the sales lady was busy earlier that day. He methodically unlocked every case. Betty pulled her reading glasses from her pocket then followed, opening each cabinet, removing the ‘fast-movers’: wedding and diamond rings, mid-priced and expensive watches, solid gold anything. Knowing exactly what to take was easy: She had picked most of the store’s inventory selections out years before. It took only ten minutes to gather their ‘withdrawals’, almost $1,100,000 at retail, $450,000 at wholesale, Betty estimated. Of

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Timothy Freriks 4 course, Benny would only give them 18 percent of wholesale, but that was up from 15 percent earlier in their career—less than a year ago. “The withdrawal is a little bigger than normal,” Betty said softly. “Good location.” “Your choice, partner,” Wayne responded as they slipped back into the back room again. “I’m surprised the stores still have a good selection. That’s something. He hasn’t cheapened the merchandise yet. Did you grab the engagement ring you picked out?” “Got it. By the way, was that a proposal earlier?” Wayne laughed quietly. “Let’s get out of here. Check-check?” “Check.” Wayne moved to the electrical panel. “Wait,” Betty called to Wayne. “What? Jesus, be quiet.” “I gotta pee.” Wayne could see that odd sideways smirk even in the dark. “Sorry, honey.” “Oh, for fuck on a stick. Hurry up.” Several minutes passed before the toilet flushed and the door finally opened. Wayne’s nervous foot-tapping didn’t hurry it up; it never did. “They need to clean that bathroom. It’s not okay.” “How about if I call Ken Paulson in the morning,” Wayne exclaimed sarcastically in a whisper. “It doesn’t matter.” “It does to me. I care what people think of the stores we helped build. You done?” “Yes. No one could ever tell the store had been compromised.” “You’re so good at this. I’m proud of you,” Betty as she patted his shoulder and slipped out the rear door. Shaking his head, he removed the last of four devices from the electrical panel, stood back and waited. The night lighting in the display area snapped on. “Beautiful,” he said as he moved to the security panel, pushed the ‘Arm’ button then pulled his device out of the cabinet. After six seconds, he heard the gentle ‘bing’ of the alarms being reset “Done,” he whispered to himself.

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The Robbins 5 Wayne started counting down the sixty seconds it would take before the system would be re-armed. He headed to the rear door, closing and re-locking it behind him. After double-checking the security light, he trotted toward the Chevy Spark (the perfect fourdown Toad, the RV salesman had said), climbed in and removed his mask and gloves, throwing them on top of the bulging bag of goods and the Palmer Electrical Services uniform he had worn earlier that day. He smiled and waited. Five seconds later the security light over the rear door went on. “And done.” “Deal closed,” Betty said as she started the car and put it in gear. She drove along the back of the strip center, past the Kroger to the south exit and pulled onto Tara Boulevard for the 30-minute drive down US 41 to the KOA RV park in Forsyth, Georgia. “My support hose itch,” Betty said. “Scratch. We’ll be home soon.” A few minutes passed before Betty said: “It was easy. Again.” Wayne didn’t disagree as he watched the dark scenery pass. Their procedures and systems and equipment were flawless and undetectable. It might be an unfair fight, Wayne thought, but their mission was just, almost holy. They passed a hunched old man in a threaded coat walking slowly down the edge of the road. There but for the grace of God… Holy, yes, but Wayne wasn’t sure anymore which of the two unholy motivations had become the most important: survival or revenge.

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Timothy Freriks 6 Chapter Two Mid May 2013 – two and a half years earlier “I’m what?” “Let go.” Wayne Robbins couldn’t believe his ears. “You can’t let me go; I fucking built this division!” “A division that is losing money. We just can’t keep you.” “Your father and I grew this company from four stores into a diversified empire.” “He’s dead.” Wayne’s face became flush. “Ken, I need to tell you something, you arrogant little prick. Your father was a saint, one of the finest men I’ve ever met. Your grandfather was, too, but they were also sensible and honorable businessmen. The three of us made it possible for you to live your selfish and privileged, narrow-minded little life, you shit. And this is how you repay me?” “Whatever.” Ken Paulson waved his hand and leaned back in his chair, a crooked smirk forming on his perfectly arranged face. “I’m the boss now. You’re out. Thanks for the inventions and the time you put in. But we can’t keep paying you anything anymore. There’s not enough revenue.” “Not after you take your personal expenses out of it. You’re sucking it dry! You’re killing… wait.” He stiffened his elbows. “What do you mean ‘can’t pay me anything’? I get royalties.” “Engineering owned the patents on…” his eyes went down to a paper in front of him, “…manufacturing devices and equipment, processes, electronic devices for security hardware and related

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The Robbins 7 security software. You designed them, Wayne, but we owned them. They were assigned to Paulson Holding last week. Engineering has no value without them. And about the royalties: The contract reads that you are entitled to royalties as long as you are… let me read: ‘actively employed in managing them for the benefit of the company’. That will no longer be the case. You’re out.” “What the hell?” Ken carefully drew his manicured hand through his exquisitely coiffed blond hair. “Paulson Engineering no longer exists except on paper. All assets have been absorbed into Paulson Holding.” “Ken. I have a contract! I own shares!” “You own shares in a company that doesn’t have any value. Don’t you get it? Are you already senile? They are worthless.” He paused. “No, wait.” He moved some things around on his desk and finally found a piece of paper. “Ah, here it is.” “The shares have been liquidated at $.01 per share. Here’s the confirmation that your payment was accepted into your bank account: $5,000 for your one million shares. We took out a half a penny for legal expenses.” He glanced at Blair Donahue, the new Chief Legal Officer, and winked. Wayne’ heart was pumping hard as he fought for control and for words. “Bullshit! You can’t do that without shareholder approval. You have to give notice if any proposed action would change the valuation of the stock.” A flush of red anger suddenly rushed into Ken’s face, and he was on the edge of shouting. “I gave notice to the majority shareholder, which is me! And I approved. In writing. It’s none of your business. It’s my business! Mine!” Wayne looked into the rage-filled eyes of a young man who was a selfish, spoiled and angry child just a few years before. He hadn’t changed. “Listen, Ken. It is my fucking business. What you did was illegal! You can’t unilaterally wipe out shareholder value with a stroke of a pen. That’s our damn retirement fund! This company is not a toy that you can destroy on a whim. These are real people you’re screwing with!”

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Timothy Freriks 8 “Whatever.” Paulson forced his blood pressure to drop and he calmed down. “Already done. Paulson Engineering was an independent private corporation, and I held the controlling interest. And I also approved the transfer of certain assets.” He smiled. “Anyway, again, Paulson Engineering Corporation is done.” Wayne found himself halfway across the table, his hands clenched and snarling like a mad dog. “That’s all the money I had! The agreement was that Paulson contributed shares every year, and when I retired, Holding was going to buy me out. You can’t do any of this! That’s mine!” “Holding isn’t going to buy shares in a worthless business, even if it’s a subsidiary. But, I’m honoring the spirit of that handshake agreement, and I stress ‘hand-shake’ since nothing was written to that effect. I don’t have to do this, you know, Robbins. But I will. Here’s the payment.” He slapped the confirmation off the table then threw it at Wayne. “As I said: $5,000 for one million shares. Consider yourself bought out. It’s a gift.” “My shares were worth $2.8 million dollars, you little shit.” “$2.80 per share doesn’t reflect any rational valuation anymore. Without the inventions and other assets, it has nothing but debt. My father didn’t run a very tight ship, I’m afraid.” Normal color had returned to his face. Ken Paulson casually picked something from under his fingernail. “You and the other seven shareholders are just victims of circumstances.” “Circumstances that you created, you bastard! It’s stealing! I’ll sue the living shit out of you!” Ken smiled, revealing teeth that looked like perfectly arrayed Chiclets. “You have every right, and after, oh, six or seven years, I’ll settle for pennies on the dollar. Go ahead. By that time, you’ll be dead or too old to do anything with it.” Ken glanced over at Donahue, who was sitting at the end of the conference table, trying to get Ken’s attention. “Oh, yes. Thanks, Blair. But I will give you a consolation,” Ken said, turning back to Wayne. Wayne tried to calm his breathing. “And what could that possibly be?”

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The Robbins 9 “The agreement was that royalties were paid only while you were active in company business.” “So?” “I won’t sue you for the royalties you were paid during your nine months away from the job.” Wayne thought his head was going to explode, and he slammed his hands on the table. “I had a fucking double by-pass!” Wayne’s mouth was trying to say additional words that didn’t come. He felt like he was a big-mouth bass gasping for water. A familiar tightness was gathering in his chest. “You little shit! You can’t do this.” Ken suddenly came alive, and he once again leaped forward to meet Wayne’s eyes, his face hard and red. “I can, and I am. And I did. The only division still making money is Consumer Jewelry Centers. That’s the core business, and the C.J.C. units have been carrying the rest of the business. That’s over. The losses have to stop.” Wayne was shaking with rage now. “There were losses because you drained them of money for your boats and babes. The stores are only making money because of my innovations. My manufacturing systems gave you the ability to make jewelry efficiently and undercut your competition! And you’re getting paid for my licenses to other manufacturers.” “And we appreciate that.” “You’re a selfish little piece of fresh shit. Your father would be disgusted with you.” “Well,” Paulson said as he relaxed and looked at his Rolex Yachtmaster, “but he’s still dead and I’m alive.” He stood. “Clean out your office and be out of my building by end-of-day. I have another meeting now.” “Is this what they teach in the MBA program at Dartmouth? I swear I’ll cut your balls off.” “Really?” Ken Paulson ignored him, turned and sauntered to the door, straightened his Salvatore Ferragamo tie then, with a last condescending look back at Wayne, smiled and left the room. Wayne stared at him through the glass walls for a moment, still gasping for a real breath, and then swung his head to the CLO, who was just a year older than Ken Paulson. “Did that just happen?”

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Timothy Freriks 10 Donahue stood and pushed some papers together. “Time for new blood, Mr. Robbins. He is restructuring everything. No more manufacturing. And he wants to be a high-tech internet retailer within five years. It’s all new. All the dinosaurs are being let out to pasture.” “What are we supposed to do without the money we were promised?” “It wasn’t like a 401K, Wayne. It was a stock accumulation arrangement, which was highly unusual. But stock values are always vulnerable to market fluctuation.” “Fluctuation? That was damn manipulation!” “I really can’t presume to speak to what judge might decide . But as Mr. Paulson said: sue us and we’ll find out. More work for me.” “’Mr. Paulson’?” Wayne said through gritted teeth. “He’s goddamn 26 years old. He knows nothing except how to spend money on cars and girls and boats and houses…” Donahue snickered. “He knows how to have fun. That is true.” “Are you really going to follow him down this path?” Donahue picked some sleep out of his eye and examined it. “For $800,000 a year, I’ll follow anybody.” Wayne choked. “Eight Hundred…” “I’m good.” Wayne fell back into his chair. “C.J.C. can’t survive the drain that idiot will cause. This company will be bankrupt in three years.” “Perhaps. So, I wouldn’t count on that lawsuit, Mr. Robbins. I hope you had some savings.” He picked up a paper and handed it to Wayne. “Here are the conditions of your termination. No need to sign it. It’s done.” “I don’t suppose I can retire instead.” “No, sorry. Benefits will not follow you. Medical ends next month.” “You know Betty has cancer, right?” “Again, I hope you have savings. Now, I expect you will be gone by the end of the day. I don’t want to have the security people make a scene.”

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