North York. Friday, May 3.
Kerri awoke at 6:00 A.M. She reached for her Blackberry and scanned her calls and emails. The shear volume was a clear indication that the media had retained an intense interest in her story. One email, from an anonymous sender, caught her attention immediately. The subject was Sandra Schafer. Her blood ran cold as she read, “Sandra Schafer has disappeared. She will remain alive for so long as you remain silent.” The sole purpose of the email was to preserve her silence long enough for Mengalli to make it permanent.
“That son of a bitch!” she groaned to her heedless cell phone. “This is war!” she declared, then sprang from her bed, showered, and dressed in jeans, white T-shirt and red sweater. She hurried to the kitchen and found her father and Karen, still in their pajamas, and enjoying coffee in their beloved nook. They loved the nook because it faced east, exposed to the morning sun. “I have a big problem,” she said as she descended to a white wrought iron chair beside her father.
“I can tell by the color of your face it must be serious,” Karen said.
Kerri held her Blackberry at eye level. “I just got an email from an anonymous sender,” she said, then opened the phone and read its text. She placed the phone on the surface of the glass topped table, then stared at Karen and her father. The anger in her eyes spoke volumes. “Every ounce of my existence is screaming at me to do something about this, but I don’t know what,” she said.
“Who do you think send the email?” Mike asked.
“Someone in Enerco. Most likely Jeffrey Wheeler. I just wish there was some way I could prove it... Even if there was, there’s nothing I could do about it. If I did anything even remotely aggressive, I’m sure he’d have Schafer killed. We know he had Wilhelm Lentz killed, and I’m sure he’ll do the same to her.”
Mike gave Karen a worried glance, then faced Kerri. “Schafer might not be the only person in Wheeler’s crosshairs. I’m worried that you’re there too,” he said.
Her father’s comment succeeded in changing Kerri’s anger to sheer terror. Her horrible conclusion was that her father was right. It would be in the best interest of Enerco to have both her and Schafer killed. “Oh my God!” she cried, then covered her face with both hands.
“The information you have is enough to destroy Enerco, the lives, wealth and freedom of its executives. You’ve put their backs to the wall. It’s either you or them, and I know what choice they’re going to make. You’re dealing with desperate and dangerous people, Kerri,” Mike said, then stood and hugged his daughter. “I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to give this whole thing up.”
Kerri glared at her father with a look of determination he had never seen. “Never! I’d rather die than give this up. I don’t care what happens to me, and I don’t care how difficult it is. I’m going to do whatever it takes. I’m going to fight them. Those sons of bitches decided to go to war with the wrong person.”
Mike smiled and winked at Karen. “Sound familiar? She reminds me of me in Caracas.”
Karen frowned, reminded of Mike’s life and death confrontation with Jim Servito, her former husband. “She inherited your pride, the same pride that almost got you killed.”
Mike smirked and shook his head. “Not pride, sweetheart. The love of a woman. You.”
Karen blew Mike a kiss, acknowledging that whatever it was that motivated him to confront Jim Servito in Caracas, it saved both of their lives. She focused on Kerri, her expression displaying deep consternation. “If you’re going to fight these people, your going to need a plan of some kind. I’m racking my brain trying to think of something you can do, but unfortunately, everything leads to the same result: Sandra Schafer dies.”
Mike too was very worried about Kerri’s safety. He couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. His first wife had caused him to miss all of Kerri’s teen years, and he had no intention of missing more. “It doesn’t matter what you decide to do, you need protection. You need a bodyguard. I know it’ll be a pain in the ass, but I don’t want to preside over your death knowing that I could have prevented it.
“I hope you’re not talking about you,” Kerri said.
“No. I have a friend who owns a personal security company in Toronto. I’ll give him a call and set it up.” He paused and smiled at Kerri. “I don’t want to lose you. You’re the only daughter I’ll ever have.”
Fiercely independent, Kerri was initially inclined to reject her father’s offer. She had always been able to fight her battles on her own, without protection. She was reminded, however, of her confrontation with Louis Visconti at the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Had it not been for the fortuitous and timely arrival of Alfred Schnieder, Visconti would have finished raping her and then killed her, just as he had promised. Luck had saved her in that case, but she knew she could not rely on it in her present dilemma. Thank you. I really appreciate the offer. I’ll agree to a bodyguard, but just don’t force me to travel with him.”
“I won’t. Just go about living your life, but know that he’ll be there, following and watching you, everywhere you go. He’ll be wearing an earpiece, so you’ll be able to communicate with him in a heartbeat... One more thing. He’ll be my treat.”
“Dad, you don’t have to...”
“Yes I do,” Mike interrupted. “I love you.”