Germany, known for its unusually cold winters, which appeared to worsen annually, was in the midst of another deep freeze. As usual though, man found a way; to adapt, to survive, and to live. The business capital of Germany was a hub of activity. Although it was the weekend, Germans lived in defiance of popular belief. Those who could afford it were quite familiar with the business of socialising. Expensive suits stood in sharp contrast to the poverty and hardship prevalent throughout Moscow, and were as common in Stuttgart as luxury sedans.
In a coffee shop one street away from the Stock Exchange, men sat discussing investments, sports and occasionally women. In the sea of faces, one face stood out. As lined as most of the other aged faces in the shop and yet not as aged in its appearance. The face and body seemed to be reaping the benefit of youthful endeavors. His was a face full, but without sagging jowls, he kept himself in very good shape. At seventy-five, Jean Pierre was in better condition than many men a third his age. His eyes, however, betrayed his true nature; they were cold, hard, and unemotional.
To most people Jean Pierre was an enigma. Stories varied as to how he got his start in business, from inheritance to underworld connections. One thing however was not disputed. He was one of the most affluent, influential unknowns in global business. A man with a reputation for secrecy and fairness. One of the most commonly told stories about Pierre dealt specifically with his takeover of a successful airline in Denmark. As the story goes, after the takeover Pierre held a meeting with all the employees and promised as long as they continued to produce he would keep the entire staff. To date, he hasn’t broken his word. He makes just enough public appearances to keep the press at bay and enough donations to charity so that society as a whole respects his privacy.
He sat sipping tea, a drink he had grown fond of while studying and living in Europe. His eyes studied the entrance casually, carefully; he was expecting two people they would not be late. Minutes later a couple walked through the cafe’s doors, young, well dressed and attractive. There was also an air of sophistication about them, something cultured and intangible. As they made their way through the cafe they smiled pleasantly and nodded at random patrons before stopping in front of his table. Jean Pierre especially liked the anonymity the cafe allowed him, most were aware of whom he was, but his privacy was respected. He stretched his hand out towards the chairs facing him, and smiled.
“Good Morning Father, I hope we’re not late?” the question was volunteered by the tanned Spanish looking man as he and the woman took the seats facing Pierre.
“No you’re not,” his voice was clear, his English near perfect “it pleases me to see you both.” he paused, studying them before he began again.
“I know you are both wondering why I sent for you.”
“We are both very pleased that you did father,” the dark haired Italian woman spoke “the reason is of secondary importance. How’s your health?”
“Your loyalty as always is heartening. As for my health,” he continued smiling “It’s quite possible that I may be in better health than both you and Carlos.”
“I understand that Peter has disappeared?” Carlos asked. Just as quickly Pierre’s smile faded.
“Peter was foolish,” Pierre said matter a factly “he didn’t disappear, he was picked up. Authorities in Amerstadam were becoming too suspicious; it appeared that he could no longer control his appetite.” He allowed himself a moment of what appeared to be disappointment in place of mourning.
“So where is he?” Rebecca asked. Pierre looked at Rebecca and Carlos in turn, his face an unemotional mask.
“Everyone else understands that there must be order, before our time can prevail without treat. You both understand this and this is why you still enjoy life.”
And without another word they accepted, because they were taught that was how things had to be. They were educated at the finest schools and ‘adopted’ by one of the wealthiest men in the world. A man they had all grown to fear and worship, a man who adopted them in secrecy and raised them in darkness. Now they accepted the news of their adopted brother’s death without emotion, knowing somewhere in their dormant conscious that the man that they called Father was responsible for his death.
“I need you both to go to New York. I need personal assurance that your sister will arrive safely. You can be my surrogate parents for the trip.”
Carlos looked at Pierre, he wasn’t worried about their personal safety he needn’t be. As he had learned over the years ‘the family’ was strategically placed all over the globe. They belonged to all walks of life, and quite a number of them held influential positions. All carrying different names all referring to Jean Pierre as Father. But there were still those who didn’t share their vision, but in time he knew they would have no choice.
“When do we leave?” Rebecca asked.
“In three hours,” Pierre replied removing an envelope from his coat “all you have to do is act like a married couple, which shouldn’t be to difficult. Everything has been prepared, you will be met at the airport by John Decker he works with the FBI. Carlos, I want you both to understand that there can be no mistakes. The FBI is heading a missing persons Task Force that’s beginning to ask some interesting questions. So keep it simple.” Carlos accepted the envelope.
“We will not disappoint you.”
“Of that I am sure,” Jean Pierre said standing and fixing his coat “I look forward to your return.” he concluded leaning over to kiss Rebecca with practiced affection on the cheek. Moments later he was disappearing out the door, and as he left they looked at each other in quiet acceptance.
FBI Field Office, Boston;
Special Agent, Simon Franz was placed in charge of an elite missing persons Task Force. The Task Force was comprised of three special agents, as well as detectives from the cities hardest hit by the epidemic. They had been together for only six months, but to their credit had solved seventeen cases. They were yet however, to make any real progress with the disturbing problem of missing babies. All they knew was that the number intensified about forty years earlier and there seemed to be no real explanation for it. Franz entered the room in his usual manner, the first button of his white shirt undone, burgundy tie loosened, and his face unshaven.
“Well ladies, where were we?”
The New York detective was the first to speak.
“I believe there is something serialistic about the missing children.”
Los Angeles, detective Arnold Kent joined in.
“I tend to agree with George, there is no set pattern but there is a common thread. Granted some of these children turn up, dead or alive, that we can accept. But the numbers of those who don’t is disturbing.”
“So what are we dealing with here?” Franz asked, his eyes searching each face for an answer. Special Agent, Phenton cleared his throat.
“Um, as you all know we have been treating each case on its individual merit. Linking cases with similar M.O.’s when possible. But we have found a disturbing link that spans four decades.” His eyes lingered on Franz.
“It can be safe to say, that for the past forty years, at least three hundred babies have been abducted and their bodies have never been found.”
“That doesn’t mean that death could be totally ruled out.” Franz added.
“No it doesn’t.” interrupted, the oldest member of the Task Force, San Francisco Detective Derrick Klein.
“But there are some commonalties that cannot be ignored. For example all these abductions took place in major cities and urban areas. And then there seems to be a deliberate attempt being made to keep the public unaware.”
“What do you mean Derrick?”
Derrick Klein leaned back in his chair adjusting his pants around his large stomach.
“We looked over all the cases, Simon. And while we didn’t find an immediate connection, there are quite a few. I already mentioned location, but I have no doubt that we are dealing with persons with influence and connections.”
“Are you saying that you suspect a cover up?”
“I’m saying that I suspect something. It’s too organized.”
The only female member of the Task Force, special agent Jennifer Lee continued.
“Franz, if I may?”
“For God’s sake Jennifer, please!” her practiced politeness always angered him.
“There is alot to support what Derrick is saying. It seems that a substantial number of the children taken were children of immigrants. That explains why it hasn’t been investigated more seriously, at least in part. But the investigations have also been stopped on several occasions, for reasons that really don’t add up.”
“Is there anything, else?” Franz added solemnly.
“Yes, as far as we can tell these babies are taken every time of the year except for the last two weeks in October. And it doesn’t only occur here.”
“Not only here?” Klein leaned forward in his seat.
“Simon, we’ve made links to countries outside the States. This thing appears to be bigger than we ever conceived.”
“O.K., O.K.” Simon added as frustration and fatigue lined his face.
“Have we received any information from these other countries that gives us any new insights into the situation?”
“We have been liaising with them, but I’m afraid that they couldn’t tell us much more than we already know.”
“That’s what I was afraid of. And what we really need is a concrete lead, an angle we could work.”
“It’s only a matter of time, we’ll find something.”
“I know Jennifer, but I fear time is a luxury that some unfortunate child cannot afford.”
Manhattan, New York;
In three weeks William had already familiarized himself with the transportation system, and had started to frequent particular places of interest, coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores. He was trying to make himself comfortable, trying not to think about the break in communication between himself and Natalie. He crossed at the intersection of 22nd and 3rd and entered the Internet Cafe. The owner had taken an instant liking to him at their first meeting, and now Richard Smyth greeted him with a familiar smile.
“William, I didn’t expect to see you today, what’s up?”
“Oh, nothing much. I guess I’m joining the ranks of people without a social life.”
“Oh are you really now.” Richard replied, arching an eyebrow.
“I’m kidding. I just thought I would surf the net for a while.”
“Be my guest, I’ll find you a free P.C.”
Moments later, as he sat in front of a P.C., he felt someone’s eyes on him. He turned and caught the gaze of a young woman, immediately attractive. A woman of generous proportions who carried herself like a lady. Bright eyes and a beautiful smile approached and as she walked towards him he realized that he knew her, and at one time he cared deeply for her.
“William Morre, I thought it was you.” William stood up and stretched out his hand. “Joseann Reece. It’s really good to see you.”
“What, no hug? Come on William is that how it is now.”
“No,” William replied, hugging her. “It’s just, you know. It’s been a long time.”
“Uh huh,” she countered, looking him up and down “but we’ve been friends for years,” “You’re right. I just wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew.”
“You really know how to make a girl feel wanted.” she answered, her eyes fixed on his. “I’m sorry, please have a seat. This has really taken me by surprise,” he continued, shaking his head, “you look great.”
“Nice recovery… Thank you. And you look really well yourself.”
“Thanks,” he paused “so what are you doing here?”
“I work here.”
“You do? Funny, I’ve never seen you here before.”
“Are you usually in here during the week?”
“No, not usually.”
“Well that explains it. I’m filling in for someone, I usually work week days.”
“So what have you been doing, are you still pursuing that law degree?”
“Yeah, I just finished my second year.” she paused smiling at him, “So have you and Natalie tied the knot as yet?” The question swung his mood. He looked away, unable to smile.
“I’m sorry. Is everything O.K. with you guys?”
“To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve been trying to contact her since I got here and.... maybe she just needs some time. But enough about me, has Brian made an honest woman of you yet?”
“No. No actually Brian and I decided to go our separate ways.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. I mean you guys were together for a long time.”
“Yeah, but you don’t have to be sorry. We just decided to stop kidding ourselves we had different needs, different desires. We finally decided that we cared about each other and respected each other too much to continue to waste each others time.”
“So you guys still keep in touch?”
“Not at first, but we talk now.” Richard Smyth approached them.
“Don’t tell me you two know each other?” As Cheryl-Ann answered, William’s gaze drifted outside to a woman and a man walking together pushing a stroller. And as the couple got closer, the woman seemed more familiar. He found himself on his feet walking towards the door... It couldn’t be, could it?
“William, are you alright?” Cheryl-Ann asked. He looked back for a moment.
“I’m sorry. I’m fine...would you excuse me for a minute, I” and before he could finish he was out the door standing in the cold trying to come to terms with the vision before him. When their eyes met, Natalie stopped. His vision blurred as he looked into her eyes, and he managed a detached smile as she approached.
“William.” she said simply.
“Hey.” he answered, barely above a whisper. She reached for his naked cold hand with a gloved one. And he felt a tear run down his cheek.
“So how have you been?” he asked as steadily as he could manage.
“I’ve been good, and you?”
“Good, I’ve been O.K.” he looked over to the man and the stroller across the street.
“I’m sorry; I tried to get in contact with you when I arrived. But---”
“Did you really?” she asked releasing his hand.
“Yes I did.” he answered, the hurt written on his face and evident in his voice.
“Look, this is really awkward. I don’t want to be the cause of any... it’s just really great to see you. I’m really happy to see you.”
“I think we need to talk. Can I call you where you’re staying?”
She wrote her number on a slip of paper that quickly disappeared into her jacket pocket.
“I’ll call you and we’ll meet somewhere and talk, Okay?”
“I really have to go now,” she added squeezing his hand “it was good to see you to.”
As she crossed the street, he stood numbed more by his emotions than the cold.
Two hundred yards away Carlos and Rebecca sat in a brown sedan observing Natalie and her child, waiting for the opportunity to strike, to spoil the perfect picture. Knowing that it would be soon, understanding that failing their father was never an option.
Special Agent, John Decker, sat calmly in the expanse waiting area of J.F.K.’s International airport. He was a lean, middle aged, hard-nosed agent from the agencies ‘old school.’ He sat waiting for his colleague and friend, Simon Franz, who was flying into New York on Bureau business. John Decker was plain looking, but his erect posture, cold brown eyes and detached presence more often than not betrayed something dangerous beneath the surface. He sat, clad in a dark blue suit and black penny loafers, his legs crossed his face an unemotional mask. He studied the crowd slowly, deliberately and before long he recognized Simon walking towards him.
“John, you look like shit.”
“I wouldn’t talk if I were you.” they shook hands and hugged briefly.
“How long are you going to be in town?” he asked looking at Simon’s single piece of luggage.
“I don’t expect to be here for more than two weeks.”
“That doesn’t give us much time old friend, your staying at my place and I wont take no for an answer.”
“Okay, no argument here, you’ve got yourself a roommate.” Moments later they disappeared out the exit. Men on opposing sides, slowly inching towards the inevitable.
The man they called father stood on the balcony of the high rise penthouse suite. Only a thick robe shielded his naked body from the cold. He smiled to himself, things could not possibly be any better for him. He had more money than he could ever hope to spend, he was in excellent health and he was protected by influential people who feared and worshiped him. But that in itself was a problem that he never allowed himself to face. He never really knew love, but to him it wasn’t a priority, he preferred fear and loyalty to love and respect. And that’s exactly what he got. It meshed well with his religion too, as those who were adopted by him and those who were closest to him were well aware. Jean Pierre had very early on given his life to Satanism and it had been of great material benefit to him. His ultimate goal however, was to gain financial control of world markets, which in reality became more and more plausible with each new child that entered the fold and grew up pledging their life and loyalty to him.
He was well protected at all times, by a couple of his ‘sons and daughters’ who were well trained and prepared to give their lives for his. He walked back into the room shutting the six inch Teflon sliding door behind him. He looked at the fifteen year old girl sleeping in his bed and smiled. She was growing into a beautiful young woman and as was the case with many of the female children her first sexual experience was with the man she called father. He taught them the importance of detachment, the importance of personal pleasure and the pursuit of self serving and selfish interests. He sat at the edge of the bed and she stirred. Slowly she opened her eyes and sat up, the sheet slipping down her slender frame exposing her firm adolescent breasts and the bruises that remained as a temporary reminder of the night before.
“How are you?” the question was asked softly, but there was no humor or concern in his eyes. Her bottom lip shook involuntarily as she tried to answer.
“I’m fine thank you father.”
“Why are you afraid, do you feel you have displeased me?”
“I don’t know if I have father.”
“Oh, but you haven’t my dear. You haven’t.”
She smiled nervously, as he continued.
“You must remember that once you’re with me you have absolutely nothing to fear. I have taught you, as well as the others, that it is those who are not with us that need to be afraid. Our time is coming, it has been promised, we only to seize It.” he smiled, and although the room was well heated she shuddered from the cold. A phone rang just outside the room and was quickly answered. Moments later there was a knock at the door before it opened.
“Sorry to disturb you father, but I have Carlos on the line.” John nodded and the well dressed man handed him the phone and disappeared through the door.
“Carlos, you’re calling with good news I trust.”
“Yes father I am. Decker has introduced us to two cousins who will assist us.”
“That’s wonderful. And how soon can I expect you two home?”
“We expect to be back by the weeks end, all things remaining equal.”
“That’s good. Give my best to your wife, and return home safely.”
“I will father, and rest easy we’ll be home soon. We all will.” John held the cordless phone in his hand. Carlos was right, they would all return safely. They would not fail it was just that simple. He walked towards the bed thoughtfully; the girl was still visibly shaken. Without warning he brought the back of the cordless phone down hard across her left temple. The blow left her unconscious. He fell to his knees held her chin in his left hand and twisted her neck quickly, violently. It was over; there was no place in his world for her weakness. He walked to the balcony once more, his breathing even, he could feel their time drawing closer, and they would not be denied.