The grandfather clock in the hall was chiming 7:00 A.M. when Nicholas walked out the door to go to his office. Mary’s mother had given them the clock when her father died. He and Mary’s uncle had made it back in 1954 when Mary was still at home. She had always loved it and was thrilled that she had it in their home.
The day began just like any other, but it was not to end that way. Life would never be the same when this day was over.
Mary was raised in the Midwest along with her three siblings. Mary’s father, John Carlson was a second generation Norwegian and a shopkeeper by trade. He and Mary’s mother, Anna, had a little grocery store in the neighborhood where they lived. The locals all frequented the store and became friends of the family.
When Mary graduated from high school she took a job at the local bank. She worked in bookkeeping along with two other girls, it was fun and challenging. She enjoyed being with people and soon was promoted to teller. Her job provided her with enough income to be able to help the “little kids”, the ones still at home.
Mary and her friend Eleanor took a vacation to California and fell in love with the San Francisco Bay area. Within the year they loaded their meager belongings into Eleanor’s ’49 Ford and headed west.
Mary was hired to work in the accounting department for Security Mutual Insurance Company. She got the job right away and was so grateful to not have to go any further. Nicholas Strousky worked for the company as an underwriter. He had started when he was just out of college; he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley; his goal was to manage the company’s branch office by the time he was forty, a very ambitious goal.
Nicholas and Mary discovered each other in the company lunchroom and it was love at first sight. Nine months later they were married, he was 27 and she was 25.
They were unlike most couples in their circle in that Nicholas came to America from Russia with his parents when he was sixteen They had won the lottery to come to America and were able to do so immediately due to the fact that his uncle was already a citizen and could verify his ability to support them.
Life went along pretty peacefully for several years, promotions came on a regular basis for Nicholas, he was moving up the corporate ladder. His superiors had only positive comments for him at review time. His income was commensurate with the promotions and he and Mary lived pretty well.
Up until this time they had lived in a condominium, but the desire for a home of their own was strong. They wanted to have a dog and could not where they lived. They were also considering having a family. The agreement was that Mary would be a stay at home Mom at that point. As you can see they were goal setters and they pressed forward toward their goals with diligence.
Last Sunday afternoon, Uncle “D”, as Mary called him. came over to their place for Dinner. Mary made his favorite meal, beef roast, borscht, boiled potatoes and cabbage. They had a nice visit and he left around nine o’clock.
Walking out of the house that Monday, Nicholas got into his car and headed for the office, Mary had started a new job with a decorating company called “Inventive Designs”, they went into a client’s home, working with them on room design, color, furniture, furnishings etc. Mary loved it as it gave her creativity an outlet.
At 5:00 P.M. the local TV station, KSGN, broadcast the news that Dominic Strousky had been arrested as a Russian Spy, further reporting that he had been taking kick backs from Russia for years. The FBI began an investigation.
Nicholas had just gotten into his car when the announcement was made over the car radio of Dominic’s arrest. He sat in stunned silence. How could this be? Uncle D” had always been a favorite, he even felt that he was more than family, he was a close personal friend to he and Mary. He called Mary and asked if she had heard, she hadn’t. She too was absolutely flabbergasted. This was incomprehensible.
As the investigation played out, it was noted that Dominic had received $50,000 in cash for taking pictures of a sealed off area known as “Area C”, it was in the Nevada desert. The money however, was nowhere to be found.
Nicholas and Mary were heartbroken over the events that unfolded. They still found it hard to believe. Because of the close relationship to Dominic, the FBI was investigating them as well. It was very unnerving, even painful to have your loyalty to America questioned. Nicholas had long ago become a citizen and was so grateful to his chosen country. They both loved America.
If it wasn’t bad enough being questioned by agents who assumed your guilt without proof of wrong-doing, or the FBI prying into their finances, and the continual stake outs watching their every move; the San Francisco Bay area shook, rattled and rolled to a 6.5 earthquake. “What next?” They asked each other.
When Nicholas arrived home that night, he found the grandfather clock face down; when he set it up he could not believe his eyes. The door on the bottom had sprung open, in it and spilling out was $50,000 American dollars, the exact amount that Dominic was accused of taking.
When Mary arrived home she found him sitting on the sofa staring at the money on their coffee table. “What on earth do we do now?”, he asked Mary. “If we go to the police and tell them, they will think that we were complicit.” “But we can’t keep it.”, Mary said.” Nicholas had contemplated when Dominic had put it there. “He had to have put there on Sunday when he was here for dinner. What do we do Mary?”, he asked.
They got little sleep that night. They agreed they could not keep the money, that was a given. The only option that seemed reasonable was to take it to the police and let them contact the FBI. So they did.
The next several months were like Hell on earth. Their employers questioned their loyalty, their friends were suspicious and the government assumed guilt by association. They had no choice but to hire a lawyer.
Rudy Langford was the best lawyer of the best. His law firm had managed to get a high profile Basketball player free, even though most people believed he was guilty. Their hopes to purchase a home went out the window, the money eaten up in lawyer’s fees.
The trial of Dominic Strousky for treason lasted four weeks. The government proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was involved with the Russian mafia, and was extorting money from people, as well as spying on the American government for Russia. He was convicted and sentenced to death for treason.
Rudy Langford’s presentation, maintaining the innocence of Nicholas and Mary Strousky, convinced the jury that they were above reproach. There was no incrimination, they were exonerated. But the cost to Nicholas and Mary was much more than just money, their lives would never be the same again.
In the ensuing year, they both quit their jobs, moved back to the Midwest and began a new life, putting behind them the case of the grandfather clock.