4. My Father's Son Ch. 04-06byinspirixis1©
Grace didn't think it was possible to feel more miserable than she did, but Zach looked like he was running a close second. His face sagged and he had bags under his eyes. He chewed and swallowed his breakfast wearily. He looked defeated. He looked how Grace felt.
"Should we just get a room here?" She asked. They had gone to the hotel that Adrian had recommended for breakfast.
Zach shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, why not."
She went back to picking at her food in silence. Even though she hadn't eaten properly in days she wasn't hungry. She had no appetite, just an awful twisting ball of nerves in her stomach that made it impossible to relax.
"Grace I'm so sorry."
She looked up. It was Adrian.
"I didn't realize that he was going to be that bad. I'm sorry you had to hear that."
She sat there dumbfounded, blinking at him. What was Adrian doing here? She thought he had agreed to stay away from her.
Adrian squeezed into the booth beside her, nudging her over so that her plate was in front of him. He took her fork from her and started eating her breakfast.
"You guys aren't going to believe what the cops wanted with my dad," he said through a mouthful of eggs.
Grace and Zach couldn't keep up with Adrian, they sat there looking at him dumbly.
"It turns out the Chicago Police Department have a mystery on their hands, one of the big organized crime bosses showed up dead in his penthouse apartment on Wednesday night, blunt force trauma injury to the head."
He paused while he shoveled more food into his mouth.
"When they fingerprinted the bathroom they found something unusual. My dad's name was written on the mirror in the bathroom. They couldn't lift a print from it so they don't have any leads on who this mysterious killer might be. They figured that it was a warning, they think that my dad is next on the hit list."
"Nicholas," she whispered.
Adrian smiled at her. "Pack your bags Gracie, we're going to Chi-town."
"We're going? But you told your dad..."
"Yeah, I feel kind of shitty about that, but this is making up for it for now." He leaned down and patted the bag at his feet.
"What's in there?" Zach asked.
Adrian smiled. "Chandrasekhar's file. Everything my dad knows about him is in this bag. Needless to say there is no reason for me to go home."
"You stole it?" She asked.
"That's not the only thing I stole." He had a boyish grin plastered on his face as he jangled a set of keys. "How do you fancy trading that Corolla for something a little more stylish?"
Adrian's mom's Porche was so much fun. It was so comfortable and sleek and fast and it handled like a dream. Adrian let Grace drive and she discovered that she loved fast cars. She would never have guessed that she could be so taken by a machine, it's funny the things you learn about yourself by accident. She guessed that she got it from Robert, her biological father. Robert was a mechanic who worked solely on European luxury vehicles and himself drove a super-charged Alfa Romeo. She would have to ask him if she could take it for a spin the next time she saw him.
At the rate Grace was driving they would have been in Chicago by the end of the day, except that Adrian insisted on a detour. They were not far West of Boston when he directed her into the rolling green hills of the Massachusetts countryside and to an enormous estate that had similar huge wrought iron gates to his parents' house in Boston.
"Is this your house too?" Zach asked on their way up the long drive to a huge house.
"This is my parents' 'country home.'" He used his fingers as quotation marks around the words.
"I never realized you had all of this Adrian," Grace said.
"Does it make a difference?" He asked. "Would it have changed anything?"
It was the first time Adrian had ever referred to the fact that they used to date. She glanced at him as she drove, he didn't look upset or angry. "No. I just never knew. You don't act rich."
He shrugged his shoulders. "What's rich?" It was more of a comment than a question.
They followed Adrian as he unlocked the front door and led them through the cavernous foyer, up a set of stairs and to a room that looked like a library but only had bookshelves on one wall, on the opposite wall were locked glass cases full of guns.
Adrian went to the bookshelves and pulled out a large leather-bound book and opened it on the waist-high table in the middle of the room. He went to the index and then flipped through the pages and started reading from the near the middle of the book.
Zach and Grace busied themselves looking at the guns, they were mostly big long ones but there were some pistols too. Grace had never seen a gun in real life before and these ones looked sleek and beautiful and refined. It was strange to think something so beautiful was so deadly, kind of like Nicholas.
"Fuck," she heard from behind her.
"What?" She asked as she turned to look at Adrian.
He looked disappointed. "None of these are going to be legal in Illinois. There isn't a state preemption law that trumps local municipalities so there are no reciprocity laws with Massachusetts."
"I thought it was our inalienable right to arm ourselves? I thought it was in the constitution?" Grace was surprised, she had always assumed she could have a gun if she wanted one.
"Well yeah, but you still need the right permits, otherwise you're breaking the law. This isn't the movies, you can get in a lot of shit for carrying a firearm without the proper permits."
"You were going to take a gun with us?"
Adrian rolled his eyes. "Grace, Nicholas would kill me himself if he found out that I hadn't done everything I could to protect you."
Although the comment had been made casually it still jarred her. "You don't really believe that do you? You don't really think that he would kill you?"
Adrian's face softened. "No Gracie," he said gently. "Nicholas wouldn't kill. My dad doesn't know what he's talking about, he just acts as if he does."
She nodded. God she hoped that was true.
"Hey," Adrian continued. "Maybe you see Nicholas differently because you are in love with him but I'm pretty sure I'm not. There is nothing wrong with my judgment and I don't think he's been tricking us, I think he's been abducted."
Zach smiled and then he started laughing. It seemed inappropriate.
"What's so funny?" She asked.
"Can you imagine Nicholas trying to trick someone into believing something about him that's not true?"
She had to admit it was kind of funny.
Adrian started laughing too. "The guy is practically socially retarded."
That comment sent Zach into a fit of hysterics.
"Hey, he is not retarded," she said defensively. "He's just..." If she were a bigger person she may have admitted that socially retarded was only a little bit too harsh of a way to describe Nicholas. "...shy."
Zach and Adrian were still laughing uncontrollably.
"When they were little Grace and Nicholas used to take ballet lessons together," Zach started to tell a story. "They were like six or seven or something and they had this Christmas recital and everyone went to watch, all of the grandparents and kids... everyone.
"Nicholas was the star. He was absolutely brilliant. Even back then he could do all of those insane jumps and tricks and turns and all of that shit, and in perfect time with the music. It was impossible to tear your eyes away from him when he was on the stage.
"So anyway, the recital finishes and everyone goes back to Grace's parents' place for the rest of the afternoon. It wasn't until we all sat down for dinner that his mom goes, 'Where's Nicholas?' He was nowhere to be found. Nobody had seen him all afternoon. The fucking star of the show and nobody had noticed that he was missing for hours."
Zach started laughing again.
"His dad was flipping out, he wanted to call the cops, he thought..." He was laughing so hard that he couldn't complete the sentence. "...He thought he'd been kidnapped and sold to..." More laughter. "...To the circus!"
Adrian burst out laughing and Grace couldn't help but join in. She could totally picture Tyler saying something like that and being dead serious about it too.
"Maya, his mom, called the recital hall and asked them if Nicholas was there and they said no, and I still remember this... she goes, 'Can you check the bathrooms?'"
Now Grace had forgotten being offended or standing up for Nicholas' honor, she was laughing just as hard as Zach and Adrian.
"But he wasn't there right? So Tyler decides that his little border collie mutt is all of a sudden a bloodhound sniffer dog and is waving Nicholas' hat in front of her nose and saying 'Cassie, find Nicholas, find Nicholas,' and the poor dog has no idea what is going on. Maya is on the couch crying, convinced that her son has been sold to the circus and Grace's mom is trying to console her. All of the little kids are crying. The grandparents are all out to trolling the streets for him and Grace's dad, who is totally unaffected by the whole scene says to me, 'Why don't we go and check the recital hall just to be sure?'
"So we go back out to the recital hall and it's actually a community center right? There are lights on and some function going on inside and outside sitting on the curb, shivering from the cold, is Nicholas.
"He sees Sam's car and he gets up with his gym bag and climbs in and goes 'Hi,' as if it is the most normal thing in the world for a seven year old to be left sitting on the curb in the middle of winter for several hours. He's shivering uncontrollably and his teeth are chattering and Sam asks him why he didn't go back inside the hall and he says, 'Well I didn't want to miss you when you came to get me.'"
There was a pause while everyone laughed.
"Ah Nicholas. He was such a funny kid," Zach said as he wiped the tears from his eyes with the back of his hand.
Adrian was shaking his head and smiling. "Yeah... Let's go get him."
When they got to the Chicago Police Department late that night he told Grace and Zach to let him do the talking. Adrian had assumed an air of responsibility over the day, a kind of authority that she was happy to obey and follow.
The deputy superintendent was visibly annoyed when he finally showed up. He had been called in late on a Saturday night because Adrian had managed to convince an officer that they had information that couldn't wait.
"Okay, let me hear it," he bristled. He was in his late fifties or early sixties with a thick moustache, graying hair and a straight up and down, almost militaristic demeanor.
"I am Adrian Wheeler, my father is Charles Wheeler, the one whose name was written on the glass in Lombard's bathroom."
"And we think we know who is responsible for it." Adrian slid a photograph of Hamid from his dad's file across the table to the deputy.
"Who is this?"
"Hamid Chandrasekhar, he was a big player in New York back in the eighties."
"Never seen him before. Why do you think he's involved?"
Adrian explained their story and the deputy superintendent nodded and asked questions but he never volunteered any information. He was stone cold. Not an ounce of emotion in him.
"So you want to give me your father's file on this Chandrasekhar guy?" He asked when Adrian came to the end of the story.
"Kind of. As you can imagine we are very concerned about Nicholas, we want to find him and, if he is mixed up in some sort of organized crime circle, extract him. We want to know everything about the Lombard case. We want to know about the organized crime cartels in the area."
The deputy superintendent looked from Adrian to Zach to her and back to Adrian. "You can talk to Guiterrez, the chief of our Organized Crime Division, but I can't guarantee anything."
They met with Guiterrez the next morning and were given a lesson on the mob. It was surreal. Grace thought that organized crime was something that was exaggerated to make action movies, she hadn't realized that it was alive and well. It was an intricate web of dirty people, dirty money and dirty deeds.
Guiterrez was warm and friendly despite the early start on a Sunday morning. She obviously loved her job.
"Your Fiancé, Nicholas, do you have a photo of him?"
Grace got out Nicholas' passport and handed it to her.
"That's his middle name."
Guiterrez picked up the phone and pressed a few buttons. "I need Ben to come in..." She said. "... as soon as he can. Now if possible."
She turned back to Grace. "Tell me about him."
"What do you want to know?"
Half an hour later Grace was still answering questions about Nicholas when there was a knock on the door and a stocky guy wearing cargo shorts and a t-shirt walked in.
"This had better be good Susan," he said.
"This is Officer Benson, he's an undercover agent in the Torini house," she introduced him.
"Yeah, an undercover agent who is not impressed by being dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning."
"Tell me about Amir," Guiterrez requested.
He shrugged his shoulders and collapsed into a chair. "Early twenties. Looks like an Indian, talks like an American. He showed up on Monday or Tuesday. He's a specialist, although I'm not sure what he does, he didn't bring a weapon with him."
Grace's heart jumped. That sounded like Nicholas.
"Is he there willingly?"
He leaned over her desk and picked up her coffee mug. "I assume so."
Guiterrez slid Nicholas' passport across the desk and Benson picked it up. "Yeah, that's him. Shit, he's got a lot of names huh?"
"Mm..." She slid the photo of Hamid across the desk. "Is this... Waziri?"
He picked up the photo and examined it carefully. "Yes. I think so. He looks young here though."
"Ben, Amir is Waziri's son."
A smile crept across his face. "No shit? I thought so but I didn't want to ask incase I offended him."
"Yeah, well get this, Amir was kidnapped. This is his fiancée Grace and his friends Adrian and Zach."
Benson shook his head. "Not possible. His fiancée's name was Maria. She's dead, she was killed accidentally on Wednesday."
What? Is that what Nicholas thought? "My first name is Maria. I'm not dead. I'm here. I'm looking for him."
"Yes. I was being followed but I got away on Wednesday, I tricked the guy who was following me in the airport."
He looked at Guiterrez. "I don't get it, why would Torini lie?"
Guiterrez turned her palms to the ceiling.
"He's fucking with his head," Adrian said.
Everyone turned to look at him.
"Chandrasekhar, or Waziri or whatever you want to call him, is a master of deception. He's manipulating Nicholas to get whatever it is that he wants from him."
Benson shook his head. "Waziri is a serf, he doesn't tell anyone what to do."
"No way," Adrian insisted. "Waziri is running the show. Read the file, he's a genius."
Benson raised his eyebrows. "Waziri?" He seemed skeptical.
"Is that possible?" Guiterrez asked.
He shrugged his shoulders. "I guess it's not impossible. I would never have guessed it though, he's so... personable."
"What does he do?" Adrian asked.
"Okay, there are three types in the Torini house." He lounged back in his chair and crossed his legs so his ankle was resting casually on his knee. "The specialists, they're the ones who actually do the hits and cover the deals, they live in the house and have their every whim accommodated. The contractors, like me, we're the ones who do reconnaissance, set up the hits and deals, follow people of interest, all of that sort of stuff. Then there are the staff, who just do what they're told. Torini and his right-hand man Cosgrove run the whole operation.
"Your friend Amir is a specialist. He lives in a nice room, with a..." He stole a glance at Grace. "Well, he's comfortable, let's put it that way. Waziri is head of staff, he sees to the specialists personally."
"How many other specialists are there?" Adrian asked.
"What are they like?"
"Cold. Distant. They're both marksmen. A sniper and a target shooter."
"Is it possible that they're there against their will?"
"Ah... I don't think so. I don't see how they could be kept there against their will, I mean they're highly skilled and there is no security detail on them. It would be easy for them to escape."
"Physically maybe, but what about mentally? I think your specialists are prisoners."
Benson leaned forward towards Adrian. "Explain."
"Somebody has a skill you want to use, they're a sharpshooter or a ninja or whatever but they're not dirty, they couldn't be bought, so how do you get them to do what you want? You send out some contractors to stalk their family members and tell your specialist that he has to do what you say or else his mother or brother or sister or whoever will be shot."
"Okay, but why kill his fiancée? Wouldn't keeping her alive be his greatest motivation?"
Adrian nodded. "Maybe in the short-term, but think long-term, you want to get your specialist to the point where he's given up on his old life, to turn him. In order to do that you need to break his ties, you need to take away his reason for living the life he was living and nurture the evil in him."
"Hey." Grace thought that was taking it too far. "Nicholas is not evil."
"Grace, everyone has a little evil in them, it's human nature. Waziri just gives that evil a chance to flourish."
Grace thought back to the photos of the man in the stairwell. She hadn't realized that Nicholas was capable of that, of course he was physically capable but emotionally she would never have guessed that he could beat someone to death like that. He'd never expressed any remorse for killing those men. Not once had he mentioned any feelings of regret. He'd gone on training and going to school and working as if it had never happened. Maybe Adrian was right.
"Besides," Adrian continued, "the Lombard hit was on Wednesday night, what better way to get an essentially good person to commit a heinous crime than throwing them off balance by telling them that the love of their life is dead?
"And throughout all of the trauma Waziri is there to personally comfort and bond with the specialist. As far as they know he is just the head of staff, he doesn't have any control over the guns pointed at their loved ones. They grow to trust him and rely on him, in the end they would do anything for him."
Benson was nodding his head thoughtfully. "It's not a bad theory. Sometimes when I'm sent out to follow someone it feels wrong. Sometimes they're just normal people going about normal lives."
"You said Nicholas was 'comfortable,' what does that mean?" Grace asked.
"Specialists get anything they want... drugs, alcohol, women... anything."
She gasped. "Nicholas has a woman?"
Benson cringed. "There is a woman who stays in his room. Jaidee, she's a little Thai girl."
Grace felt her heart breaking. Another woman slept in Nicholas' room. Did she sleep in his arms? Was he having sex with her?
"He thinks you're dead," Benson said apologetically.
"Do the other specialists have women who stay with them?" Adrian asked.
"Yeah, Ralph, the sniper, has a kid with his woman."
"That must be part of the process. Give them a new life, something to keep them anchored."
"We have to get him out." Grace was becoming panicked. She didn't want Nicholas to become anchored in a new life with a new woman. "Where is he? Where is this house?"
Benson and Guiterrez looked at her sadly.
"Grace it's not that easy. What about Maya and Luka? If Nicholas tries to leave they might kill them," Zach said.
She felt desperate, like she could feel Nicholas slipping away from her. She turned to Benson. "You have to tell him that I'm still alive."