From Agincourt Publishing
Frank C. Dupuy
Investigator Adrian LeBlanc is involved in the most intricate investigation
of his career as he tries to salvage a bank merger while unraveling a
convoluted fraud scheme that has the FBI, the Mafia, and several bank
CEOs all vying for a piece of him.
During the course of the investigation, LeBlanc discovers too late that
his client has failed to share critical information with him. As he endeavors
to keep the lid on a banking scandal, LeBlanc frames an innocent man for
murder and arranges the death of another while trying not to get killed
by a variety of unhappy parties.
Texas Cement is a fast-paced tale that has more Byzantine twists than
a warped roller coaster.
On the face of it, the anonymous letter writer knew what
he was talking about. One thing I had learned during my banking days was
that any loan or lease that goes bad within the first twelve months is
almost certainly fraudulent. I also knew that banks do not like to acknowledge
fraud unless they are forced to. I finished reading the document, then
turned to face Cravitz.
Roberta! he barked again. The lights came on and the screen
slowly disappeared into the ceiling. Well? he asked.
If it werent for the anonymous letter, you would probably
have written this off as a bad deal and let it go. Now you have an al-legation
that a bank officer has participated in a multimillion-dollar fraud. As
soon as Howard Beal received the anonymous letter, he should have immediately
turned it over to your security department for investigation, and security,
per federal law, should have notified the FBI that it was investigating
a major fraud.
Cravitzs did not comment. Instead, he asked, Do you know who
Buck Moody is?
I racked my aging memory banks. I believe hes a Texas banker.
Cravitz nodded approvingly. He is the Chairman of the Board of Mustang
Bank and Trust in Houston. Moody owns twenty-five percent of the stock,
and, at the moment, is in full control of the board of directors.
He paused for a moment as he considered me carefully. Non-disclosure agreement
or no non-disclosure agreement, Cravitz was not happy about having to
confide in me. Do you know why Premier National Bank acquired National
I suppose A, because the price was right to acquire another 250
branches in a four state area, and B, because the Trust Department was
relatively intact. I remember that our Trust clients included some of
Clevelands bluest blood.
Precisely. National Trust had the largest and most profit-able Trust
Department in Northern Ohio. It controlled large blocks of old money.
It was, and is, an extremely profitable operation.
Enlightenment was beginning to play around the edges of my brain. Might
I assume that your interest, if any, in Mustang Bank and Trust has something
to do with the word Trust in its name?
You might, indeed. Buck Moody, over the last thirty years, has acquired
a select Trust clientele that reads like a Whos Who of Houston society.
It is an elite and profitable institution.
Cravitz hesitated, then leaned forward to skewer me with his blue-gray
One, he rasped, that we are on the verge of acquiring.
My features remained politely impassive.
LeBlanc, we are at a critical time in our negotiations with Moody.
One or two details need to be resolved before we close the deal. If everything
goes as planned, we are scheduled to announce the merger on July 15th.
I had a question. If Mustang Bank and Trust is doing so well, why
does Moody want to merge with an out of state bank?
He would rather not merge with anyone, if he had the choice. Unfortunately,
a number of institutions have decided that Mustang is desirable and have
started to acquire stock. If Moody doesnt find someone he likes
to cut a deal with soon, he will be vulnerable to an unfriendly takeover.
What makes Premier so special? Why did Moody pick you?
The blue-gray eyes shifted minutely. If I hadnt been concentrating,
I would have missed it.
LeBlanc, Premier National Bank is solid. We have a reputation for
reliability and for being well run. Buck Moody wants a partner that will
not alienate his Trust customers. He is impressed by our Trust Department,
feeling we share a common view of the Trust business. Premier has also
made concessions. We will put all of our operations in Texas under the
Mustang name, and retain Moody as president. Moody knows his clientele.
If he merges with anything other than a first-class operation, his elite
customers will go elsewhere.
Enlightenment blossomed. And the last thing you need are headlines
in the Houston Post announcing to God and everybody that one of
Premier National Banks leasing officers has committed a six million
dollar fraud. Things like that scare the hell out of aristocratic Trust
Cravitz held his emotions in check, but it was clear that he was unhappy.
Yes, he agreed, scare the hell out of them, and kill
any chance of our ever acquiring Mustang Bank and Trust. If word of this
leaks out, Moody will terminate negotiations with us in a heart-beat.
The seconds ticked by as we contemplated each other. Cravitz broke first.
He had reached a decision.
William Farrell speaks highly of you. He says you are discrete,
and, I quote devious as hell. Those are two qualities I admire.
I want you to go to Houston to investigate this matter. Thoroughly. You
report directly to me. When you are finished, I receive your written report
and all of your notes. At the proper time, I will notify the FBI. Under
no circumstances are you to contact any law enforcement agencies. Is that
I nodded noncommittally. I wasnt agreeing to anything, yet.
You received the anonymous letter on June 11th. Why have you waited
a week to act on it?
Cravitz pursed his lips. He did not want to tell me any more than he absolutely
Yesterday afternoon, Howard Beal received a telephone call from
a Carl Ostermann. Mr. Ostermann was the sales manager for East Texas Diesel,
one of the companies that supplied cement pumpers. He informed Beal that
he was the letter writer, and if Premier didnt do something fast,
he was going directly to the FBI. Our original intent was to sit on the
letter until after July 15th.
Right, I thought, and continue to sit on it until hell froze over.
Whats Ostermanns problem?
He feels that his former employer treated him badly. I believe he
also drinks. Beal informed Ostermann that an investigator would meet with
him on Monday. He was assured that there was no need to contact the FBI.
I shifted in my chair. It was time to decide whether I was in, or out.
Some decision. I had known I was going to take the case after Cravitz
had shown me the second slide on the projection screen. Cravitz had known
it, too. My concern was that the old bastard certainly hadnt told
me the entire truth. I waited a little longer, just to make him wonder.
Mr. Cravitz, what do you want the outcome of this investigation
What I want, LeBlanc, is for this matter to be handled quietly and
without any publicity. I want it put to bed. Do you understand me?
He did not raise his voice, yet the impact of his words was nonetheless
powerful. Cravitz was asking a lot. In fact, he was asking the damn near
impossible, and he knew it. This was his gambit to make me commit to how
I proposed to handle the situation and to give him an idea of how much
fallout there was likely to be.
Tell me, LeBlanc, what can you do for me?
With a little luck, I can probably keep this from ever getting out
in Houston, recoup most of your money, and prevent the FBI from having
a fit that you didnt inform them of a major crime against your bank.
At this point, you dont actually know if a crime has been
committed, so you have no obligation to notify the Bureau. Frankly, thats
the least of your worries, assuming Ostermann is telling the truth.
On Monday, Ill interview Ostermann. When were done,
he wont feel much like contacting the FBI, especially after I point
out hes part of the conspiracy. As the sales manager, he had to
have been in on it. The bad guys probably cheated him, so now hes
out for revenge. He hasnt considered he might go down with them.
The case needs to be thoroughly documented. That shouldnt
be too difficult. By next Friday, I will be ready to interview your leasing
officer, Robbie Barton. The goal is to get a confession out of him and
keep him on ice until after July 15th. When Im finished, he can
be suspended with pay, or sent out of town on a protracted assignment.
With a confession and all of the documentation, you can probably
persuade the local FBI office to accept jurisdiction. The victim, Premier
National Bank, is in Cleveland, and ultimately, the loss took place in
Cleveland. If the Cleveland office takes the case, and Barton rolls over,
there is every possibility that the story will never get out in Cleveland,
let alone Houston. Also, the same evidence you provide the Bureau will
document your insurance claim.
Cravitz and I traded stares. He knew that I had presented a best-case
scenario, and that in the real world, best cases seldom occur. He also
knew that if he didnt do something, his carefully nurtured merger
would die when the first hint of scandal was reported by the media.
What do you need to get started? he finally asked.
Ill need Richard Freemantle to pull all of the files and review
them with me. It would help if you can find me a downtown office to work
out of. One thats away from the bank, but close enough to be convenient
if I need something. I want a letter of introduction instructing your
people to cooperate with me as your agent. All they need to know is that
Im a collections expert who is trying to recover as much of the
banks money as possible.
Cravitz did not write anything down. He could probably repeat our entire
conversation verbatim if need be. I was also certain that the invisible
Roberta in the next room was taking notes.
Yes. I want a bank auditor to go down there with me. The Houston
banks will cooperate better with an auditor than with a private investigator.
Make certain that your audit department provides someone with a personality,
someone other bankers will like to work with.
Very well, LeBlanc, I will have someone for you this afternoon,
however, the auditor is not to be informed of the merger, nor are any
of our people in Houston. You and Freemantle are the only ones who are
aware we are in merger negotiations.
I leaned back in my chair. Mr. Cravitz, if you want the lid kept
on your mess, I need your word that Ill have complete discretion
in handling this affair, including spending money for information and
outside services. Im going to have to move fast, and I dont
want to be second-guessed every step of the way.
Cravitz frowned. He wasnt happy giving anyone a free hand. I
must have one thing absolutely clear. Under no circumstances are you to
contact any law enforcement authorities regarding this investigation.
Is that understood?
Completely. Oh, you can cut me a check for $20,000. Ill let
you know when I need more.
My client flinched slightly before nodding his agreement. He was, after
all, a banker.
Back to top