Protecting David-Finding Christopher 24
Gerhardt put his arm over my shoulder and hugged me as we walked back towards his library. He had just arrived from the airport amidst a flurry of security people and assistants. He waved them all away including the servant who was trying to help him off with his topcoat.
“I spent the entire flight talking to your father.” He looked at his watch. “He was still over the Atlantic but he should be here in a few hours.”
“He’s coming here?”
He nodded. “Absolutely! We didn’t know if you had given any thought to revenge but he and I have given it a lot of thought. The first thing that occurred to me was our Sicilian friend, Mr. Armento.” He sighed. “But, however satisfying that might be it seems a little too obvious. He’s not noted for his subtlety. ”
I have this thing when I’m around Gerhardt were I find myself acting like a kid and all of a sudden I felt like I needed to vent and explain. “I wanna kill the son-of-a-bitch! But, you know, I don’t know what’s happening, I haven’t been able to talk to anyone! They told me not to make any calls.”
He squeezed the back of my neck. “Relax, Alex, it’s ending. It hasn’t ended yet but it will, and very soon. Larry and the boys are well. Larry is very angry as you can imagine but your father got him to fly to Washington this morning to be with the boys and to get him out of Denver.”
When we walked into Gerhardt’s library Didier was already there and sitting on a sofa that was in a large furniture grouping in front of a huge stone fireplace. Gerhardt finally shrugged off his overcoat and dropped it into one of the chairs.
Gerhardt said, “Well, to begin with, your father’s attorney, Avery Bennet, has apparently gotten the local Denver people to take a hard look at what they’ve really got and it just doesn’t hold up. That’s why they haven’t issued warrants yet. Your father doesn’t think that they will issue warrants. For one thing Mr. Tam’s people have photos of that Charlene woman meeting with that Bass fellow.” He waved a hand. “In any event I’ll let David explain all that. But what it all seems to add up to is that the police have a lot less to go on than they thought they had and even what they had is suspect.”
He sat down next to Didier and sighed heavily. “I’ve been checking out Bass. Apparently there was a time when he had some association with an investment group here in Europe. A group of French investors still own about forty percent of his company and while they’ve stuck with Bass, they’re not really thrilled with him. Some years ago he tried to buy them out and not in a civilized way. It got ugly.”
I said, “I read everything you sent me about him and his company and apparently he owns about twenty-one percent. But why, if the French investors didn’t get along with him, didn’t they just kick him out?”
Gerhardt and Didier both smiled. “It’s not the way it’s done, at least not here. If they felt he was doing a reasonable job of running the company they would stick with him and ignore the rest. Generally speaking Europeans are less inclined to let testosterone ruin a good thing.”
I grinned back at them. It was certainly true, in Europe business partnerships went much deeper than in the States.
Didier said, “He used to own significantly more than what he has now but over the years he’s financed any number of what you might call, “crack pot” schemes. I know some of his French investors and they’ve always been satisfied with their dividends even if they find him distasteful. And actually every time that he’s needed to raise money for his “projects” they been happy to pick up a little additional stock at bargain prices. His weak point is that he has had to sell that stock. He doesn’t keep enough in liquid assets.”
Gerhardt leaned forward. “There is one other thing, something you won’t see on the reports on his company. Europe accounts for almost half of his sales. When his father was alive he started a distribution company here for their products. It handled distribution all over Europe and North Africa and it was held as a wholly owned subsidiary of the main company but in 1999 he sold it, again to raise cash.”
I asked, “Who owns it now?”
Didier paused for a moment. "It's the same group that owns the rest of the company."
Later that afternoon just as the light was beginning to fade and it was beginning to snow Gerhardt and I went to the airport to pick up my dad. I guess we amounted to a caravan because besides that car we were in there were two SUV’s. We pulled onto the tarmac just as my dad’s plane was taxiing to the private area of the airport.
I could see Billy sitting in the pilot’s seat but it was useless to wave from the dark car. The first person out of the plane was a huge security guy, the same guy that I had seen in my dads house in Washington. He walked over to our car and checked that everything was okay. The lights were on in the cabin and I could see my dad talking animatedly on his cell phone but finally he closed it and then bent over and looked out one of the G550’s large oval windows cupping his hands to block out the lights from the cabin. Apparently he saw us because he waved. Suddenly I was struck by how lonely I was and how great it was that he was here.
I said to Gerhardt, “I gotta go see him. I jumped out of the car and shot up the steps into the plane.
Even though I’m a lot taller than David it always feels like it’s him holding me instead of the other way around, although it probably doesn’t look that way. He’s just got a way of making me feel safe. Not safe in a physical way like Mark can do but in an “I can deal with the world” way.
My face was buried in his thick black hair that now was shot through with silver. He said, “It’s going to be alright, Alex. I just got off the phone with Stanner and everything has been called off. The security guard told them it had been a set up.” The relief that I felt was as much physical as mental and for a moment my legs felt weak. I hadn’t even realized that I was that tense.
I pulled away from him for a moment. “Why did he finally talk?”
David laughed. “I don’t actually know but I’m assuming that he decided that it’d be better to be in prison than to be outside where Mr. Tam can get to him. Although he hasn’t said anything, I believe that somehow he got to him. I can’t imagine any other reason for the guy changing his story. Some years ago Mr. Tam filled me in on his favorite method of getting information out of people that he was especially upset with and it didn’t sound like it would be a very pleasant experience.”
“So you mean it’s okay for me to go back? Can I call home?”
He nodded and reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone. “I brought you a replacement. Mr. Tam’s people tracked your old one down to the sewer where you dropped it but it was too banged up to use again.” He turned and started walking towards the door pulling me along with him.
“Larry landed in Washington this morning at about ten o’clock aboard your plane. I was really afraid that he was actually going to kill someone in Denver and besides the boys are going crazy and Mark’s strength is about to give out. Anyway, I told Mike to bring the plane here to Geneva. He’s about three hours out but he’ll need some sleep before you can fly back. I’d let Billy fly you back in this plane but I’m going to be staying here for a few days and I’ll need it.”
“So I can call home? Really?”
“Not only can you, you need to. Seriously, Larry is going nuts.”
I laughed. “My Rottweiler. He likes to be able to see me.”
David smiled. “Your Rottweiler? Yeah, I can see that. Mark is mine. It’s nice to know that someone feels that way isn’t it?”
I nodded yes. “It’s just that he doesn’t chill out much.”
“Well, when we get back to Gerhardt’s you can call him and settle him down. You should be with him tomorrow afternoon. After you’ve calmed him down you, Gerhardt and I can decide what to do about Bass. We’ve also got some decisions to make about the new real estate management company.”
That evening I spent several hours with Gerhardt and my dad. My dad told me that somehow Charlene was apparently deeply involved in all this but they couldn’t seem to find out anything concrete. She had been seen meeting with Bass but it didn’t seem to be a regular thing. My dad figured that she was conning Bass with the idea that she knew more than she really did and trying to get money out of him. That reminding me of her wanting to meet with us at my office in what we were pretty sure was going to be an attempt to get money.
When I brought up my idea for taking Bass’s company away from him Didier started to get nervous and finally explained that his father was affiliated with the group of Europeans who had invested in Bass’s company. That meant if we drove down the price of his stock we also injured them. In European banking there seem to be many crosscurrents because in seems like no one ever sells anything and everyone is connected to everyone else. But it meant that there wasn’t really anything we could do at the moment.
During the evening Didier put down a report from Mr. Tam’s organization and said, “Your Mr. Bass meets every Friday evening with a group of his friends for a poker game at the Carlton Hotel in Denver. Every week for the last three years with almost no exceptions he had a light dinner in their Colorado Room restaurant and then walked upstairs for his card game.”
I looked at him and raised a questioning eyebrow because I didn’t know where he was going with that. He grinned and said, “It’s just that it’s for sale. It’s supposed to be a great hotel, at least according to my report.”
Later when I got through to Larry it sounded like he was being attacked. He wasn’t talking into the phone but rather yelling at the kids.
He was yelling and there was scuffling. He sounded like he was at the end of his rope but it also sounded like he was playing it up for the benefit of the kids. “Will you behave! I’m tryin to talk to Alex! Quit grabbing for the damn phone you little monsters!” The twins are really turning out to be a piece of work and even though when they think they're in trouble they turn to Chris but despite that they know exactly how to make him nuts.
While he was trying to establish order I kicked off my shoes and lay down on the bed to just listen to the sound of Larry's voice. It’s a deep, resonant, interesting voice that always fills me with warmth. It’s the sound of home.
Larry yelled, “Will you quit pulling on my belt!” Then more scuffling and finally, “Oh fer cryin out loud! Okay, okay, you talk to him first!”
I could hear the boys all yelling and then the phone being grabbed by little hands that didn’t really know what they were doing and then suddenly both twins were talking to me at once. It took a couple of minutes to convince them that I’d be home tomorrow and then Chris got on the phone and he was a little quiet.
“You’re really coming home tomorrow, really?”
“Yeah, Chris, I promise. I should be there in the afternoon.”
Then he said softly, “I didn’t know if you were coming back. I thought maybe we did something.”
I wasn’t sure what to tell him because I didn’t know how much he knew but I didn't want him to think what he was thinking. “I’m sorry, Chris. It wasn't you. It wasn't anything you guys did, it was just an odd situation and I couldn’t call, I didn’t have my phone. But I thnk my plane has already landed here and after Mike and those guys get some sleep we’ll come back. We should leave about six tomorrow morning.” Then after a moment. “So you missed me huh?”
“I guess. Mark is nice but the stupid twins took up all his time with their stupid soldier stuff. And Larry just got here today.” I didn’t know what the twin’s stupid soldier stuff was but I could imagine. Putting two violent little boys with my military minded dad was a volatile mix. I had images of war games occupying the whole of the house and little boys firing imaginary guns from the cover of overturned sofas at my dad dressed in camo clothing. Mark would love it! Anyway, apparently I was missed.
Finally I heard Larry telling the kids to go find Mark and play with him and then as the kids voices disappeared I could hear him close the door. When he came back on the first thing he did was sigh heavily and say, "I don't wanna talk about that shit in Denver. I'm so fucking mad about that that I can't see straight."
I said, "That's okay, my dad filled me in. Sounds like it's over."
Larry laughed and said, "I don't wanna say mean shit about anybody but I'm gonna kill Bass, one way or another."
"Don't Larry me, Alex! I want the fucker dead!" He took a deep breath and then paused even longer. Finally he said, "But I'll trade that, I'll trade the pleasure of beating his rotten fucking skull in...if I get you back."
"Baby I will be back. I'll be back tomorrow, I promise. Just try and relax."
He cleared his throat and it almost sounded like he was crying but then he laughed. "A few hours ago I was sitting with the kids watching television and the twins looked at Chris and grinned and then they look at me and tell me that Chris has been playing with himself." He laughed again. "I thought the poor kid was gonna explode. They really know how to work him."
I said, "Oh shit! What did you say?"
"Well, I tried not to have much of any reaction and I didn't look at Chris. I just told them that all big boys do that stuff and that when they get older they'll do it too."
"What was Chris' reaction?"
"Well, at first he wanted to kill them but when I said that it settled him down. Then I looked at him and told him that the twins were too young to understand. That helped a lot."
I said softly, "I miss being near you. Sometimes I've got like this sense that somehow you're here, almost like I can feel you."
Larry growled softly into the phone. "Come home fast, Alex."