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Protecting David-Alex's Story
--- Chapter 17 ---
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Protecting David-Alex’s Story 17

Sunday Evening, Palo Alto

Alex

Sunday evening Larry and I dropped the whole crew at the plane, hugged and kissed everyone helped load luggage and then hugged some more. Way to soon the door was closed the engines rose to a shriek and turning slowly and with us waving wildly it slowly disappeared into the sea of airplanes moving around SFO.

We had brought my car and the van that we had rented that now had to be returned so I followed Larry to Hertz and then we were headed home. Larry reached over and held my hand.

His head was lying back against the headrest and he rolled it towards me. “We need to make slow love tonight.” He laughed. “A couple of times.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see him shake his head slowly. “I can’t fucking believe that we’ve got school tomorrow.”

I added, “And exams not far off!”

“Mark and my dad were talking about everyone coming to our place in Aspen for Christmas. Great views! We could ski.” I got an instant flashback to Tommy but forced it out of my mind.

“Sounds great! Oh fuck!”

“What?”

“Christmas presents!”

“What about em? You don’t need to get me anything.” I glanced quickly at Larry, saw his face, and laughed.

“Yeah, right! Besides, you’re the easy one to buy for. It’s my dads and your dad that are the problem. They have everything and need nothing. At least Bob and Becky still need stuff and there’s tons of stuff we can buy the twins.”

Larry said, “I’m easy to buy for?”

I smiled. “I’m in love with you, I can buy you….in love stuff.”

“That’s true. You could gimme a handful of dirt and I’d think it was great.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure that I can do better than that but you’ve got the idea.” I thought for a moment. “Course David is pretty tight so there are some things that I could get him that I know fer sure he’d never spend the money on himself.”

Larry raised my hand to his lips and kissed it. “How tight can David be? That plane hadda cost him like a zillion bucks.”

“That’s business, he’ll spend it for that, it’s personal stuff that he gets weird about. Mark kinda keeps him from getting too bad. I’d be driving a 92 Chevy with two hundred thousand miles on it if it wasn’t for Mark.”

“Okay, Alex, so what do you want for Christmas?”

I had to think about this for a minute. “Sweetheart………..anything you get me’ll be great. The thing is that next to having you………..everything else just seems…….I dunno………..anticlimactic. Just knowing that you’re there……….that’s all I need.”


A light rain had begun falling, one of those California rains, where if your from the Midwest you wonder what the point is, I mean, geez, if it’s gonna rain then rain. It just seemed to make the house seem all the more empty. Having had Bob, Becky and the twins with us for a few days had been great and the house had seemed so alive with activity.

Larry dragged me by the hand from the garage to the bedroom.

I protested. “Larry, I gotta set up the coffee pot before this sexfest begins. You’re gonna be looking for it tomorrow morning so just lemme get that outta the way.”

I was fighting to keep his hands off of my nipples. He said, “You’re not gonna start fucking cleaning or anything are ya?” He started to unbutton my shirt and kissed the side of my neck. “I’ll fix the coffee tomorrow. I’ll get up early.” He stuck his tongue in my ear while he was pulling my shirt out of my pants.

I was lying spread eagle on our bed with Larry lying exactly on top of me his fingers entwined with mine his feet next to mine and his cock lying in the cleft of my ass. His dick was hard and was pressed hard against my perineum and the head was jammed down into the mattress. His tongue was slowly lapping from the top of my shoulders to the beginning of my hairline. His fingers closed tightly around mine and then he pulled my hands in to my chest until his arms were wrapped around me and my hands were pinned beneath me and our fingers were still entwined.

Larry’s hips continued a gentle thrusting even though the head of his cock was nowhere my asshole but buried in the bedding.

Finally he whispered, “You ready?”

My face was buried in the bedding and I muttered a muted, “Go slow!”

“Yeah! Like I’d just jam it in!”

I lifted my head and laughed. “Doesn’t hurt to remind ya. That dick should be licensed.”

“Babe, I would never hurt ya.”

“I know.”

He lifted his butt and his dick popped up, hanging away from his body at a forty-five degree angle. He carefully let the head of his cock find my asshole and just pressed it against it firmly enough to hold it there, then he laid back down on my back and began licking the back of my neck again as his cock began to slowly enter me.

------------------------------

Monday, Palo Alto

Alex


He had his hand on the back of my neck and was trying to pull me back into bed.

“Larry! Sweetheart! I’m all dressed and I got an eight o’clock class!”

“Mmmmmmmm………..kisses……….more.” He wasn’t even awake!

I pried his hands off of me a finger at a time. “I gotta go, Babe! I love you! I’ll see you this afternoon.” I shoulda skipped classes.

The ambulance pulled up in front of the library steps and even before it stopped an EMT jumped out and came running up to me. He was excited and out of breath. “You gotta be Alex, right?” I felt a sense of dread. “Your roommate, Larry, he’s been hurt………he’s asking for you.” He grabbed my arm. “Come on man! He’s not letting us take him to the hospital till he sees you!” We started running to the ambulance while groups of students held back with concerned looks on their faces.

“In the back door! He’s on the gurney but hurry!” I was too numb with panic to even imagine what could have happened to Larry.

The EMT opened the back door and I climbed in next to Larry on the gurney while the EMT got in behind me the door closed and we began to roll. “Larry!” I reached out my hand.

The sheet was covering Larry’s face and he wasn’t moving. Suddenly there was movement under the sheet and it lifted off of him. It wasn’t Larry and there was a gun pointing at my head. My mouth fell open and my voice caught in my throat.

I turned my head to look for some kind of reality but the guy behind me was also pointing a gun at me. “We know that you’re fast, Alex but trust me you ain’t faster than a bullet.”

I was having trouble getting my mind around this. “Where’s Larry?” My head swiveled around looking at the three men. It still seemed like he should be here. “He’s not hurt?” I knew………..but I didn’t want to know. It was sunny out after last nights rain, there were students walking past us, this couldn’t be happening.

There was a middle-aged guy sitting on the seat just behind the cab and he spoke for the first time. His voice was deep with a rough urban edge to it. “He’s not hurt yet, Alex and he doesn’t have to be hurt but if you give us a hard time………” He shrugged. “I got a guy parked down the street from your house. You don’t cooperate and Larry gets a bullet in his head. It’s not something that I want to do but I can live with it either way.” He sounded like he was explaining how a lawnmower worked and he actually looked like he regretted the idea of it. I was kneeling on the floor of the ambulance and every muscle in my body was straining.

The middle-aged guy spoke again softly almost like he was exhausted. “It’s not worth it, Alex. Look……..we tell your dad we got you, he pays the ransom and then you’re free. You got your whole life ahead of ya. Don’t do anything stupid.” He was right. I could maybe kill one of them, probably the guy still on the gurney but it’d be the last thing that I did. My muscles seemed to collapse.

I took a deep breath. “Okay. Whadya want me to do?”

They had me lie down on the gurney while they strapped me down and covered me to the neck with the sheet. “Can’t have anyone looking in and wondering what’s going on.” I was beyond being terrified, I was certain. I was certain that I wouldn’t survive this and I was certain that they didn’t realize what they had started.

The middle-aged guy who’s name was Tony was good looking in a “hundred miles of bad road” sort of way. He looked like he had probably been quite the street fighter when he was younger but now had settled into middle age and had put on a bit of weight.

Ralph was the guy who had been lying on the gurney under the sheet and he seemed like he was on something. Every bit of him was in motion at all times, a leg jiggling a foot tapping his head jerking around, always something.

Paul was the guy who had lured me to the ambulance and he seemed to simply fade into the background as the ambulance picked up speed. He sat back and closed his eyes.

The scariest guy was the one that I hadn’t even gotten a good look at yet. Arnie was the driver and he had a way of laughing about nothing at all that sent shivers up my spine. Finally Tony told him to shut the fuck up and also yelled at Ralph for bringing him.

“Ralphie what is it with that asshole? I told you not him! What language you figure I’m speakin?”

“Tony, he’ll be fine, really. He’s my wife’s cousin and she’s drivin me fuckin crazy to get him work! But, Tony, really……..he’ll be good. What’s there for him to do? Even he can watch television all day.”

We were moving faster now which meant we had worked our way through the city of Palo Alto and seconds later we were making the tight clover leaf turn onto the freeway.

I knew that David and Mark would pay but I also was certain that these guys didn’t intend to turn me loose. I had seen all of their faces really well and everything that I had ever read said that if kidnappers did that it was because they knew that you wouldn’t be around to pick them out of any lineup.

I wondered who was gonna tell Larry. Surely they wouldn’t talk to him about a ransom. No, fer sure they’d talk to David. For one thing these days Mark was traveling constantly so they’d never get him and for another David was the more visible of the two. They contact him.

I felt bad for Larry. This wasn’t the kinda thing that I figured he’d handle well. Jack and Bob would probably come and stay with him. But shit, he was gonna be a mess. I wondered how they’d kill me. Fuck! I gotta put that oughta my mind! Maybe there’ll be a chance to get away. Ralph made that remark about Arnie watching television all day maybe he was gonna guard me until they got the money. Maybe there’d be a chance. A bullet, they’d shoot me, clean, quick. Why do it any other way?

How long would it take Larry to stop thinking about me? No! He’d never stop! I’d never stop thinking about him. But he’ll get over it. No. I’d never get over it and he won’t either. My hands are shaking. Fuck! He’s just a freshman in college, he’ll find someone else. He’ll tell the guy about me and the guy’ll be sympathetic. They’ll slowly grow close. He’ll be okay.


Monday, Milwaukee

David

Problems seem to accumulate over a weekend and on a long Thanksgiving weekend it’s even worse. Everyone who let things go unattended so that they can get away early for the holiday are trying to make up for it.

I looked at my watch it said eleven-thirty. Marks plane would be landing in D.C. in another two hours. I sighed and answered my ringing phone.

“Yeah.” It was Joan telling me that Kattie from the security company in Palo Alto was calling. I hadn’t told Alex but I bought the condo across the street from him and the security company that I used to watch out for him was using it.

“Kattie! What’s up?”

“Hi, Mr. Kerry. I’m not sure yet. There’s been a car parked at the end of the street and it looks like the driver’s been paying a lot of attention to the condo.”

“Where’s Alex?”

“Early class but Larry’s still inside.”

“You run the plates yet?”

“Yeah, we’re waiting for an answer.” She sighed. “I’d feel a lot better if we could shadow Alex.”

“I know, me too but I promised we wouldn’t. He says that no one knows him there and it makes him feel weird to be followed around.”

A buzzer sounded and my fax machine began to make a whirring sound. A second later and a fax dropped into the basket.

I reached for the fax and said, “Larry should have protection too. We’d be just as screwed if anything happened to him.”

I reached over casually and picked up the fax and my heart seemed to stop.

WE HAVE YOUR SON – 40MM USD CASH
THREE DAYS. CONTACT NO ONE.

I held the paper and my hand started shaking so badly that the sound of the crinkling paper seemed to fill the room. I thought of the last time that Mark and I saw Helmut and how terribly ill he looked, to be dead within hours. I thought of my promise to him that we would take care of his little boy. I remembered how our dog, Joe, used to lie on Alex’s bed and guard him and how a little boy with platinum blond hair and bright blue eyes used to stand next to our bed waiting for us to wake up. The images flashed through my mind without end and it felt strangely comforting watching Alex as a little boy and the images seemed to be on an endless loop in my mind.

Joan came rushing into the office.

“Mr. Kerry! Sir! Are you alright?” She was ringing her hands.

I turned to look at her and she gasped. She almost screamed, “It’s Kattie! She thought something had happened to you!” What was happening to me?

I looked down at the phone in my hand and then back up at Joan. “What line is she on?”

Joan came over and nervously pressed the button on the phone.

“Kattie, hang on a second.” I turned to Joan. “I’m fine, Joan. Go back to your desk and shut the door. When I’m done with this call have Tom Tulley and Brian waiting outside and setup a conference call with Jamie and Emi.”

I read the ransom note to Kattie and she said, “Oh fuck! We need to call the FBI.”

“No…….not yet. Have you gotten the info on those plates?”

“Yes, Sir. They’re registered to Paul Argento.” She sighed. “He’s been associated with Nick Bonurato. He’s really big out here. Controls prostitution, drugs, etcetera. Also owns a lot of stuff in Reno and Tahoe but it’s not like these people to get into kidnapping.”

“Yes……..I’ve heard the name and maybe their changing their business plan.” Actually I was very familiar with Mr. Bonurato.

“Katie, call your boss. I want the security increased to appropriate levels at our offices here, New York and London, also increase the security on Jamie and Emi. Mark is on his way to Washington, you have the flight info in the computer, have security meet him and tell him that he better learn to live with it.”

“I want all the info that you can get me on Bonurato including everything that he owns. I realize how little of that is public but use other sources. I also need to know where he is now. I know that will be difficult but bribe whoever you have to, money isn’t an issue here. Review all the security tapes of cars going by the condo and see if any of his people made other passes. I want security people in that condo with Larry, NOW! Don’t tell him about Alex! Come up with some excuse. Call me back.”

I punched Joan’s line. “Get me Jack Donovan!”

I took out my satellite phone and called Gerhardt Mueller in Salzburg.

A pleasant female voice asked me in German if she could be of help. “Dr. Mueller please.”

She immediately switched to English.

“May I say who is calling sir?”

“David Kerry.”

“Oh. Yes Mr. Kerry please wait one moment.”

A minute later a masculine heavily accented voice came on the line. “David! Good to hear from you. All is well?”

“Thank you for taking my call Gerhardt. I know that the bank is closed but this is an emergency.”

“How can I help?”

“This is, of course, for your ears only but Alex has been kidnapped. I need forty million US in cash, probably hundred dollar bills.”

I could hear him gasp and then slowly expel the breath. “My god! You’re sure? Ach, of course you’re sure! What am I saying?”

“Gerhardt, the biggest problem is that I need the money in cash and I need it to be in Vancouver Wednesday morning, my people will take it from there, I don’t expect you to try and bring it into the U.S..” I didn’t tell him that I wasn’t planning on telling the FBI but then I knew that he would assume that. “Will that be possible?” That much money in one hundred dollar bills took up a lot of space.

“I’m sure you have that………….well let’s look at your account. Hold please.”

The line went silent for a moment and then a recorded female voice said in English, “Please enter your account number.” Using the keypad on the phone I entered a nine digit number.

The voice then said, “Please enter your personal code.” I entered an eight digit number and received a, “Thank you. One moment.”

Gerhardt came back on the line. “Well, the money isn’t a problem. The problem is getting it assembled in dollars. They won’t take anything else?”

“No, Gerhardt, they specified dollars and cash…….unfortunately.” This would be infinitely easier any other way. Both of us realized that this needed to be done without alerting either the FBI or the IRS.

He sighed. “Well, it isn’t a case of can we do it, we must do it.”

“Gerhardt, I need it in San Francisco on Wednesday so the money must be in Vancouver on Wednesday morning. My security people will be checked into the Hyatt in Vancouver under the company name of Eastwood Sales Company. We’ll fly it in to the US but you’ll need to get it there. Naturally I’ll pay all costs.” That indeed went without saying but I said it anyway.

“David………if it becomes a problem I may have to tell a few trusted people what has happened. Helmut has not been forgotten and you have many friends, there are many who would be anxious to help if they knew.”

“Gerhardt, I’ll trust your judgment.” I thought for a moment and decided that it couldn’t hurt. “I think that the person that ordered this is Nicholas Bonurato. He’s a gangster in San Francisco and has been known to do business with a bank in Brussels. Should you come across any information………..please call.”

If I was telling the FBI none of this would be necessary but if I told them I would be seriously risking Alex’s life and it was already hanging by a thread. If Bonurato did this the last thing that I wanted was him picked up or alerted.

Joan called and told me that Jack was on the other line.

“David, what the fuck is goin on? Larry says there’s security people all over the condo and they wont tell him anything.”

“Alex has been kidnapped.”

“Oh shit!” He drew a deep breath. “Ohhhhh fuck!”

“Jack, Larry doesn’t know that yet.”

“Oh holy fuck!”

“Jack, I need you to take Bob and get on the first plane. Unless I’m really surprised Larry isn’t gonna take this well and I can’t get out there until late this evening.”

“Fuck………David this is gonna be bad. I’ll charter a plane. I gotta call Bob. I’ll call ya back. David………..I’m so sorry.”

“I know, Jack, thanks. Just get to Larry. He’s gonna figure this out any moment.”

Joan called to say that she had Jamie and Emi lined up for a conference call.

“Joan I want to take that call in the IT conference room. Transfer it down there.” I opened the office door.

“Guys I need you in the IT conference room. Brian, grab my laptop.” They had been leaning against the wall in the hallway. Brian came into the office and grabbed my laptop. The laptop had a built in satellite phone, so you could check your email even if you were in the Sahara, I took it everywhere.

Tom asked, “What’s up, Boss?”

We were walking and I thought for a moment. “Tom, I………..don’t want you to know just yet but you may need to put in a lot of overtime for the next week. Who’s your best researcher?”

He asked, “Companies or people?”

“People.”

“Mary Reynolds. No question.”

I was surprised and turned to look at him. “With the piercings?”

“Yep.”

“Get her. I need some privacy for this call but get her started on this name.” I wrote out Bonurato’s name. “I need every shred of info that exists on this guy. Check foreign banks, this guys got a lot of money buried. I need to know every piece of real estate this guy or his relatives own. Hack if you need to hack, just don’t leave prints. You’ll find a lot of info in our London office. Wait, I’ll go with you for a second and get you into their computer.”

We went into the main IT office and Tom brought up the London office data banks. I pressed my thumb to a pad. It confirmed my identity and overrode all security.

I went into the conference room and closed the door. I punched a button and two computer screens lit up, one with Jamie on it in his office and one with Emi in his. They could see me, just as I could see them.

“Hi guys.” I was suddenly exhausted. “Alex has been kidnapped.”

They both did the same thing. They both dropped their heads and said, “Oh fuck!” The only things that were different were the accents.

“Emi, are you still in touch with your Sicilian friend?”

“Salvatore? Yes, of course. You realize that it’s only a casual friendship but still we do talk. David, you think that this was organized crime? It would be unusual in the U.S. On the plus side, Salvatore is not particularly happy with his American cousins.”

“Emi, a car was seen parked near Alex’s condo that belonged to someone affiliated with Nickolas Bonurato. He’s a gangster from San Francisco. I need to know if he is indeed the person that did this.”

Jamie asked, “David, isn’t he the fellow that tried to open an account with us?”

“Yes. Jamie, didn’t he try to give us forty million?”

“I’d have to check but that sounds right.”

“That’s the amount of Alex’s ransom.”

Jamie just said, “Ah.”

The both said at the same time, “Do you need money?”

“No. Thanks but no. It’s got to be in US dollars and in cash and that’s causing some problems but I think that it’s covered.”

I looked down at my laptop and at the encrypted email message on the screen that I was about to send.

Asian Imports,
Alex taken. Need fifty people Northern California with another fifty available. Please arrange for escort as discussed. Leaving here in 45 min.
Will pick you up early this PM and will call from plane.

I pressed the send button.

“I just sent an email to Mr. Tam. I intend to take the battle to the enemy. Does anyone know if that’s his real name?”

Emi said, “I don’t think it is. He’s the best, expensive but the best. But you must listen to him, David.”

I sighed. “I will. As long as he tells me what I want to hear.” I looked up into the monitors. “Call my satellite phone. Emi, I need to know if this guy did it. Salvatore will want money. I understand, it’s a matter of face. Pay him what he asks and I’ll replace the money. And please, both of you, find out what you can about Bonurato. Between the two of you you’ve got the best connections in the world and I desperately need your help. I’ll be leaving here shortly and flying to Vancouver to meet Mr. Tam. You can get me on the plane and I’ve always got my laptop.”

I called Joan and told her to make sure that the plane was ready and then I went in to see Tom and Brian. They were sitting in a group with three computers going. The young Mary Reynolds was wearing jeans that ought to be illegal and there were piercings everywhere. “Would you three join me in the conference room for a few seconds?”

They settled around the table. “My son, Alex has been kidnapped.” They all tried to speak.

I held up my hands. “Thank you but there’s no time. We have very little information to go by yet.” I gave them all the information that we had up to that moment. “I want you to concentrate on bank accounts and real estate. As I recall when he approached us it was through a Brussels bank. You can look it up. My hunch is that if he was comfortable banking in Brussels at the time then we can at least make a guess that he’s avoiding the usual tax haven banks like the Cayman Islands.” I sighed.

“This takes priority over everything else and, Tom, I would rather that no one knows that you’re doing this. I’d really like you to take this group down to the panic room and do it from there. Tell the desk that you’re all sick and going home.”

The place that we called the panic room was a suite of offices two floors below us that contained back up files and redundant systems. When we leased the space I leased it under the name Eastwood Sales Company so that it wouldn’t be associated with us. Well at least not without some serious digging.

The phone rang and it was Joan telling me that there were two young women in the lobby waiting for me and that some men were there from the security company. She said the women told her to say that they came from Mr. Tam.

“Joan, ask the women if they have a car or if we should get a limo?”

She came back a moment later. “They said that they’d take care of everything.” Thank god someone would.

They were both dressed casually, jeans and blouses and colored leather jackets. One was oriental and the other occidental. The oriental lady held out her hand.

“Mr. Kerry,” There was no accent, “Mr. Tam asked us to accompany you on your trip. It’s very nice to meet you, Sir.” Out of the corner of my eye I could see a look of slight disapproval on Joan’s face.

“Did he mention a company name?”

She smiled in approval of my caution. “Yes, Sir. Eastwood Sales.” I nodded and she turned to the other lady. “This is Ellen and I am Samantha.” Then somewhat hesitantly, “Are you ready to go now or do you need more time.” They didn’t look threatening but Mr. Tam would have only sent the best. He might not get paid if anything happened to me.

“I just need to get a few things from my office. Wait here.” I went back to my office and slipped my laptop and my satellite phone into my briefcase and then at the last moment I reached into the bottom drawer of my desk and pulled out a loaded Glock 27 and slipped it in too.

Thirty minutes later the plane was rocketing into the southern sky and would soon be banking to the west/northwest. Mark would be landing soon in Washington if he hadn’t already and I wondered how he’d take it. I wondered how Larry would take it. I frankly wasn’t all that sure how much help Jack would be but I knew Bob would be invaluable.

The plane was still climbing when Sally, the young woman who feeds us, cleans up after us, and generally takes care of us brought me a telephone. “Mr. Kerry, Mr. Chauvet is on the line.” Oh fuck! I took the phone nodded and she walked towards the front of the plane.

“Hello, Mark.”

He was angry. “David, what the flying fuck is going on? You’ve got enough fucking security guys here to protect the fucking president! Didn’t we discuss this? Do we have to fucking do this?”

I said softly, “Mark……Alex has been kidnapped.”

In my minds eye I could see the destruction those words were causing. The phone was still silent and then finally, “When?”

“Sometime this morning. I got the ransom note about eleven thirty.”

Mark’s voice was choked. “He’s just a baby!”

“I know. It seems like only………………” Those thoughts would get us nowhere. “I’ve arranged for the money to come into Canada. I haven’t notified the FBI.”

“You sound like you know who?”

“I might. We’re checking.”

“A name.”

“Mark.”

“I won’t hurt him until Alex is safe………..give me the name.”

“Bonurato. But, Mark.”

“I won’t touch him, David, like I said. You want me here or there?”

“There. I think that ultimately this will be resolved in Washington and I need you to use your contacts in the FBI and Pentagon to get me any available info on this guy.”

“I love you.”

“You too. That will never change.”

My pilot, Billy Howard had, up until two years ago, been bouncing F-14 Tomcat’s on and off the pitching deck of the USS John C. Stennis. Unfortunately for Billy, or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it, his wife was tired of wondering when he was going to kill himself doing that. Having met his wife it was pretty clear the Navy never had a chance.

So there was no doubt in my mind that Billy could make this plane tap dance if he wanted to and when I picked up the phone and said, “Billy, I’m running out of fucking time! Firewall those fucking engines!” I got a crisp and happy, “Yessir!” and the Gulfstream seemed to leap forward. We shot up to 51,000 feet and there, away from commercial aircraft, were able to take the most direct route to Vancouver.


Northern California
Alex

I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up and this will all have been a bad dream. That, of course, is not to be. Now I’ve begun to wonder if anyone even knows what’s happened. What if everyone just figures that I’m still at school and nothing is wrong? What if Larry is just going to classes like normal and figuring that I’ll be home when he is and what about when I’m not? How long will it take him to understand that something has happened? What if they’re sitting there with a gun pointed at him and he hasn’t even been able to go to classes? What if everyone knows but the don’t care? What if it’s all too much trouble and they just decide to wait it out and see what happens? I’m pretty sure that we’re headed in the direction of Sacramento.

After we had been heading east for about an hour we turned off to the south and that was a much less busy highway, well it hardly even seemed to be a highway, more of a road. Something under a half an hour after that turnoff we turned left onto a real country road. Not that it wasn’t paved, it was but it was narrow and there was a lot of gravel that we kept hitting on the side of the road and no other traffic that I was aware of. Finally we slowed and pulled into a gravel drive that seemed to be about three hundred feet long. It suddenly occurred to me that this was the place that I would die. It all looked so dusty and dead anyway. What would one more death mean?

If it had been in the Midwest we would have called the house a farmhouse but here it would probably be called a ranch house. There were dust devils forming out in the empty fields and they would whirl for a while and then dissipate. The house was mostly white clapboard that was peeling in places and while it didn’t look abandoned it didn’t look occupied. There appeared to be several out buildings with machinery in them.

They pulled the ambulance into one of the out buildings. Ralph dug out a pair of shackles from underneath his seat and clamped them onto my ankles before he unstrapped me from the gurney.

Tony tapped me on the shoulder. “Don’t try anything, Alex. You’re getting nowhere with those on and we’ve all got guns. Sit up and put your hands behind your back.” That was harder to do than it seemed like it ought to be but I made it. He used those plastic ties to secure them.

The house was empty with the exception of a television set and a beat up old sofa but I wasn’t going to be lucky enough to use those. With one of them on each arm they led me over to stairs and we slowly made our way to the basement. It was difficult moving with my feet shackled together and my hands behind my back and I even wondered how my body could move at all. I mean I wondered why all the stress hadn’t killed me and how my body could still be working and I could still be able to talk but increasingly I felt like it wasn’t happening to me like I was outside of myself just watching what was happening to this other Alex.

There in the center of an empty space was a cage about four feet by eight feet. It was made out of two inch square steel box beams and had heavy wire mesh welded to it. There was a narrow door made exactly like the rest of it and a small rectangular hole about ten inches by fourteen inches. The right side had a crude bed that was metal springs with a blanket thrown over them. Everything that was metal was welded to everything else that was metal. The chains around my ankles were left on and four foot chains were attached to each wrist. Next to the bed was a port o potty and I could just reach it. The chains that attached to my wrists were welded to a spot just above the head of the bed.

I sat on the edge of the bed and Tony appeared and handed me a microphone, he already had a video camera in his hand and he said, “Tell your dad that you feel fine but you need him to pay the money.”

I said the words but while I was doing it it was like I felt Larry’s arms wrapping around me like they do when we sleep and he spoons me. I could even feel his breath on the back of my neck. He was slowly pulling me down into bed and it felt really great and I just lay there with him as his chest pressed to my back and his legs molded to mine and his arms were holding me safe while I watched what was happening to the other Alex.


David’s Plane

David

We were two hours away from Vancouver and I had just spoken to Mr. Tam and arranged for him to join us and fly to Palo Alto. We were on the ground in Vancouver for fifteen minutes tops. We rolled to the area for private planes and were met by a van that said City of Vancouver on the side. Mr. Tam and a young lady slid out of the slide door and up the stairs of the Gulfstream. The engines had never even been shut down; we immediately got into the cue to take off and were on our way to SFO. The young lady was introduce as his granddaughter, Eleanor.

Mr. Tam was a Chinese gentleman with an international reputation. Everything that was thought to be “known” about him was either rumor or speculation. The story went that in his earlier years he had made his fortune supplying private armies and munitions to corporations, individuals and governments. The story also went that with the fall of the Soviet Union that that business, while not dead was diminished. No one knew for sure and Mr. Tam never volunteered the information.

Jamie had introduced me to him at a glittering party my partner had thrown in London for he and his wife’s tenth anniversary. I also found out that Emi knew him but then Emi seemed to know everyone.

Mr. Tam was a handsome man of about sixty who spoke English with a heavy accent. There was a peaceful quality to the man that made being with him feel like an oasis in the desert at a big party like the one Jamie had thrown. At the end of the evening Mr. Tam and I exchanged business cards and he casually remarked that if I ever needed “special” security people that I should call him. It ended up that I did use his service from time to time but then Mark and Alex began to demand that all security end and so I used his services less and less. I’ve often heard Mr. Tam described as mysterious but I think that I would have used the term complex. You never quite reached the bottom of Mr. Tam, just when you thought that you really knew him you came to realize that there was a whole other level that you hadn’t been aware of.

On our way to Vancouver, somewhere over Montana, the high-speed printer on board the plane began printing out all that we had been able to learn about Bonurato. This coupled with what Mr. Tam’s organization already knew gave us a starting point.

Just as he and I sat down to talk I got a call from Emi. “David, I just got a call from Salvatore Armento and you were right. Salvatore says this Bonurato has a reputation for being a little, hmmmm, not insane but erratic, yes erratic would be the right word. His fiefdom is northern California and northwestern Nevada, which essentially means Tahoe and Reno and as such should come under the control of Robert Guarino who ultimately controls it all. The thing is that is Guarino can’t control him. The last time that they spoke Bonurato had implied that he had something like this in mind. Guarino told him that he was insane, that the U.S. wasn’t Sicily and you couldn’t get away with doing that but Bonurato just laughed and said that this was a sure thing.

I said softly. “Emi………..I can’t tell you how I appreciate what you’ve done. You may have gone a long way to saving Alex’s life.”

He said earnestly. “I pray for him, David. Tomorrow there will be a high mass said for Alex at the Cathedral de la Almudena. David, I must tell you that Bonurato’s associates like Guarino are not on his side in this. He brings discredit to them and they are all very aware of it, you may receive help from unexpected quarters.” I immediately sent a test message to Mark in Washington.

I brought Mr. Tam up to speed on everything that had happened. He suggested that I call Gerhardt Mueller and tell him not to even have the plane bringing the money park but to do basically what we did when we picked him up. His people would load the money onto another plane and then bypass customs. I made the call and Gerhardt told me that the cash had been gathered and the plane would leave Salzburg early tomorrow.

We also decided that each of Bonurato’s top associates should be followed and then it occurred to me that we might find it as productive to track even the less important members of his family. We decided on his four top lieutenants and the twelve people who reported to them and we also put his immediate family under surveillance.


Palo Alto – The Condo

David

Mr. Tam and I would be staying at the condo across the street from Alex’s and his driver pulled up there. I told him that I had to go across the street for a while and he and his granddaughter went in as I walked over to see Larry. I was dreading this.

A huge security guy answered the door and I showed him my drivers license and he opened the door. Samantha went in first while Ellen watched the street. When Samantha waved me in Jack was standing there and looked worse than I could have ever imagined that he would.

“David!”

“Jack. Sorry it took so long but I had to detour to Vancouver. How’s Larry?”

Jack brought his hands to his face for a moment and then finally rubbed his eyes. “The crying stopped about an hour and half ago but now he’s just numb. He’s sure that Alex is already dead and no amount of logic seems to get through to him. I think that the whole idea is just so horrific in his mind that he’s steeling himself against the possible reality.”

Jack looked around the room like he was hoping the answers were there somewhere. “I don’t know what to do for him anymore. He’s in their bedroom. Bob is in with him and seems to at least be able to keep him calm but I don’t think that he’s talking to him either.”

I put my hand on Jack’s shoulder. “Lemme see what I can do.”

The feeling in the room was like lead, both Bob and Larry were lying on the bed both of them were fully dressed. Bob was sitting back against the headboard and Larry way lying on his side almost curled into a ball, Bob’s hand was on his shoulder.

“David! Bob climbed off the bed and shook my hand while Larry didn’t move at all.

I shook Bob’s hand and looked over at Larry and then back at Bob. He just shook his head slowly. I walked over and knelt down at the side of the bed.

Larry just said matter-of-factly, “He’s dead isn’t he?”

I reached out and touched his hair. “That’s not true.” I spoke firmly. “First of all they wouldn’t hurt him until they got the money and Larry, they will get the money. There’s no reason for them to hurt Alex and I’m moving heaven and earth to make sure that it doesn’t happen but Larry, he’s gonna need you. I know that this is hard but you’ve gotta try and stay positive for him because when we get him away from those people he’s gonna need your help.”

He whispered. “You’ll never get him back.”

“Larry, I already know who took him and I’ve got people all over the world working on getting him back. There’s no reason for them to kill him and every reason for them not to and I intend to make that more and more true. I just need you to hang on for a couple more days.”

My satellite phone was ringing and I pulled it out and answered it, it was Mark.

He asked, “Is your encryption module on?”

I slid a switch to on. “It is now.”

“The Lucky Angelina II sailed outta San Francisco bay on Sunday afternoon and your friend was aboard. She’s been kinda putzing around but is just off Carmel now about twenty miles out.”

I was amazed. “How do you know this?”

“You wouldn’t believe the shit that Naval Intelligence keeps track of. Anyway it seems that he practically told every other ships captain that he was leaving.”

“A good cover.”

Mark said, “Not perfect but good but even then only as far as him actually doing the job himself is concerned but then nobody ever figured he did anyway.”

“Mark, I know that you won’t be sleeping tonight so can I think about this and call you in an hour?”

“Course! How are you holding up?”

I’m keeping busy enough that I’m not totally thinking about it.” I look down at Larry and even though he was only five feet away I talked about him to Mark.

“I’m here with Larry and he’s not doing as well, why don’t you talk to him and see if you can give him some encouragement?” I handed the phone to Larry who sat up on the edge of the bed.

The conversation seemed to start gently but Larry’s answers seemed to be bringing a more and more heated response from Mark and pretty soon Larry’s answers were limited to crisp, “Yes, Sir” and he was sitting up straighter.

I walked over to Bob. “I called your boss and hired you.” He looked surprised and started to ask why. “You may hear or see stuff in the next two days. I wanted you to be my lawyer with all that’s involved with that.”

“Is this going to work out?”

“It has to.”

I walked over to the living room window pulled the heavy drapes back a bit and looked out. It was a cool misty early December evening in northern California, the streets were shiny from the light rain. I thought of Alex and what he must be thinking, what he must be enduring. I closed my eyes and tried to tell him that we were coming.

Samantha came up beside me and spoke softly. “Sir, you shouldn’t be in front of the window.”

“They won’t hurt me, Samantha. They haven’t been paid.”

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