Famous last words in answer to a question from a killer:
The question: “You have done your research on me, correct?”
The answer: “Who do you think you are you that I should need to do that?”
Ten days later, the killer handed the evidence to the widow of the deceased, and watched as she broke down sobbing.
The journey toward the graveyard had started three weeks before that.
Major Jean-Paul Philippe Dubois received a phone call just as he was about to go out with his niece Louisa for a bike ride.
“Major Dubois, this is Mr. Varick over at the Lofton County Free Voice,” said the editor-in-chief of the paper. “I'm calling to refer to you a unique kind of legal situation.”
Major Dubois had put 20 years in the Judge Advocate General service – award after award, commendation after commendation – and then ten years at Interpol – award after award, commendation after commendation – so he was the go-to person for sticky legal situations in the Black community in and around Lofton County, VA. However--.
“Edith Coleridge reached out to us for help.”
For Mrs. Coleridge to reach out to the most controversial Black newspaper in Virginia certainly indicated a special case indeed.
“She needs a divorce, but we already know that the mainstream local lawyers are not taking that case.”
“Oh, of course not. Ahab Coleridge's international mix of lawyers and hitmen put that out of the question. However, what is our interest? Edith Coleridge has gone along with the program until now.”
“Yes, but the enemy of our enemy is our friend, and Mrs. Coleridge has achieved enlightenment in the worst way.”
Major Dubois checked his watch.
“I have promised my little niece a bike ride this afternoon,” he said, “so, send the paperwork over, and I'll have a look at it before the end of the day.”
When Major Dubois hung up his phone and turned it off, his nine-year-old niece Louisa gave him a big hug.
“Thank you, Uncle Jean-Paul!”
“Our time to ride is our time to ride – you have patiently waited all morning, and so here we go!”
Later on, Major Dubois reviewed the case, and then called Mr. Varick back.
“I'll take the case. Let Mrs. Coleridge know I can meet her tonight.”
If you weren't supposed to understand, all you saw was a woman dressed as a domestic underneath her raincoat, picked up at the bus stop she was waiting at by a man in a raincoat on a bicycle built for two – two poor people, hardly the type to be dealing with billionaire matters in the dark of a rainy night.
Nevertheless, it was Mrs. Coleridge, with photographs of what had been done to her, things done that could be seen in her face and body once she was able to take her mask and coat off in the covered, well-lit ramp going up to the door of the Big Loft police precinct.
“Dietrich Bonhoeffer explained it all, long ago,” said Mrs. Coleridge. “Ahab came for the poor everywhere, and I did not care because I have never been poor. He mistreated our servants, and I did not care because I was not his servant. He is mistreating his mistresses, too, but I thought they deserved that. I never imagined he would come for me.”
“Well, that part of your life is over, ma'am,” Major Dubois said. “My friend, Captain H.F. Lee, is the captain of the Blue Ridge precinct. He is inside waiting on us, so we will go ahead and make a police report, start the process of pressing charges, and go on and file for divorce.”
“Oh, but, did you – I mean, if Ahab doesn't have us all killed, did you read the prenuptial agreement? I won't even own the clothes on my back!”
“I read it, Mrs. Coleridge. There is a good reason the lawyers around here won't take the case. I'm not from around here, though. One step at a time. Let's get the report done, and then Captain Lee will see to your safety.”
The calming face of Lee, in Virginia ... it worked, and so the work began.
Mr. Ahab Coleridge was away on the business of serial adultery, but got home a week later to find divorce papers and himself on the front page of the Big Loft Bulletin, with the pictures of his beaten wife front and center under this headline: “Revered Local Billionaire Exposed As Abuser and Tax Cheat.”
Mr. Coleridge's lawyers had been trying to reach him because the IRS, SEC, FBI, CIA – the whole government alphabet gang – had questions, and an answer for him he didn't want to hear.
“Your wife has gotten some French attorney with international connections, and has also disappeared!”
“How – find her!”
But there was no finding her, even as more and more government agencies began looking for Mr. Coleridge. He found himself in a situation he had never been in -- forced to employ all legal resources to stay out of jail -- and knew that this public and legal beating was far beyond his wife's mind and reach.
“Who is this attorney?” Mr. Coleridge demanded of his business manager. “Why have we never heard of him?”
“His name is Jean-Paul Philippe Dubois, late of Interpol,” the manager said, “but, he also served in the U.S. Army for the Judge Advocate General service before going home to France.”
“You are letting Mr. Coleridge and his team have a completely erroneous impression about your origin and ethnicity,” Captain Lee said to Major Dubois. “It is a shrewd and terrible tactic.”
Three days later, all of Mr. Coleridge's offshore businesses and accounts were exposed to the public, and his mistresses around the world started talking, because they realized he might not be rich much longer and they wanted their piece of the pie.
The State Department had not gotten around to Mr. Coleridge's passport – so, he ran for it to a nation without an extradition treaty with the United States. It was hardly what he wanted to do, but, even with his official accounts exposed, he had a last $10 million hidden in cash in the place he went for just such an emergency.
Mr. Coleridge felt like celebrating his 64th birthday with his friends in spite of his re-location, and of course with the pandemic going on, Zoom was as close as one could get for an international party if your friends weren't quite rich enough to break the flight rules.
One thing spoiled the party. Someone crashed it, for the name came up in the little Zoom window: J.P.P. Dubois, Esq.
“Good morning, Mr. Coleridge,” came the calm, French-with-a-little-something-added voice, “from Monsieur Jean-Paul Philippe Dubois, your wife's divorce attorney. I want you to know that the courts here in Virginia, owing to your actions, have decided to grant her a divorce from you in absentia, and also that the pre-nuptial agreement was made under false pretenses, so... .”
“How did you even find this Zoom – how dare you!”
“You have done your research on me, correct?”
“Who do you think you are that I should need to do that? Let me get a look at you so I know who I will need to eradicate from the face of the earth! I'll have my revenge on both of you!”
“As you wish.”
Major Dubois turned on his camera and smiled, in all his Black French Louisianan magnificence of mature manhood, and Ahab Coleridge saw the representative of men he had dominated in America and Africa, now triumphant over him – his wife had gone to this type of man, who had come and broken into his Zoom on his birthday, and declared his victory in front of all of Mr. Coleridge's friends around the world!
Mr. Coleridge leaped up from his seat, his mouth full of curses and swearing and threatenings and blasphemies – but then his face twisted and turned gray, and he pitched forward in his seat onto the computer keyboard. There were a few moments of increasingly tortured breathing, and then – no more!
Into the perfect silence came Major Dubois's voice, purring sardonically: “Oh, Mr. Coleridge – you didn't do your research!”
Ten days later, Major Dubois presented Mrs. Coleridge the official confirmation of her husband's death, and she, now free of Ahab Coleridge forever, broke down and cried from relief and joy.
Later on, Major Dubois and Captain Lee had their Zoom call of acknowledgment, if not outright celebration.
"Thank you for introducing me to Mr. Coleridge's former jogging buddy," the major said. "Knowing why he had to stop jogging proved pivotal."
"The Scripture says 'the last enemy to be destroyed is death,'" Captain Lee said, "but until then, it is still true that the last enemy of our enemies is still our friend!"