The window of opportunity before all is lost….
Jean Pierre sat basking in the glow of a fresh kill. It wasn’t enough for him to know that he was responsible for death; he liked the intimacy of killing himself. His organization survived for so long because of its simplicity. He led, and everyone else followed. Very early on he inspired loyalty and on many occasions instilled fear, these were the means by which he controlled everyone.
But Pierre’s family, as he called them, was different from cults and their leaders who made empty promises. Groups who targeted the weak minded, appealing to their need to belong and be directed. Pierre was far more dangerous, he took them when they were too young to have an opinion, to believe in anything and he gave them his opinions his beliefs. The material rewards were very real and quite substantial and the rules were even simpler; those who didn’t fit the mold for whatever reasons were killed, no regret, no remorse.
He sat relaxed in a large mahogany chair carved in the shape of a hand. The nails of the hand were obscenely long giving the already darkened room an even more macabre look. The scent of fresh blood and the stink of death hung in the room like a crucified martyr and he smiled to himself. It was at these times that he felt closest to his goal...and his God.
The ball was already rolling, his prodigal son would return. He would have too, the suffering would eventually be too great for him to bear. He would return home, ultimately he had no choice.
Special Agent Simon Franz belonged to a dying breed. He was just as intelligent as the new breed of university qualified agents, but what separated him and others like himself from the rest was his wealth of experience in the field. Theory and practice were not alienated from each other but rather flipsides of the same coin. It kept him sharp and lethal. He looked into the rear view mirror and saw William holding Natalie, she was asleep and he just stared out at the changing scenery. Franz knew that they needed to lay low, at least for a while. His mind raced, how many were involved and of greater concern; how high did this go and why? He pulled into a hi-way In, he had a cousin in Rochester he knew the agency was not aware of; someone he could trust but before they got there they all needed some rest or at least they had to try to get some.
What Franz could not have known was that they were just as safe under agency protection as they were out in the open now. As far reaching as the family was they too had their limits and limitations. He got William and Natalie settled and then called his cousin, they would be in Rochester the next day and maybe then he could find some answers.
Michael Morre called in some favors and used his influence to try to get some answers. He rarely used his contacts and so they were more than willing to try and help. It wasn’t what they said that alarmed him but rather what was left unsaid. It was as if William vanished off the face of the earth, but he knew someone had to know something.
He was missing for more than a week now and although he didn’t want to alarm Cheryl he knew he had to let her know about their son. He made arrangements for her flight, but it was the only assistance she would accept. He sat in his study guilt ridden and inconsolable, Cheryl would be here soon and although a large part of him looked forward to seeing her these were certainly not the best of circumstances. She would want answers and it frightened him that he may have some.
Hearing his voice set her back twenty-three years. Although they kept in touch during those years the conversation they had two days ago was the longest and most civil they had had in years. She wanted to blame him for William’s disappearance, part of her felt she needed to so she could remain objective; to keep her distance…but she couldn’t.
As the cab got closer to Michael’s house the anxiety heightened. On the flight over she thought only of her son, but now she had to face her reluctance to be in the presence of a man that represented so much pain in her life. A man she still could not admit she still loved.
The doorbell intruded on his thoughts and immediately there was queasiness in the pit of his stomach. He took a deep breath and tried to compose himself as best he could as he walked to the door. As he opened the door she turned to face him, still beautiful. She smiled nervously and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek.
“Hello Cheryl.” He was unaware that his hands were on her shoulders.
“I’m sorry, please come in, you must be cold.” He smiled as he took her suitcase and coat. She wore black slacks and a simple white blouse and he did his best not to stare.
“Thank you…your house is lovely.”
His response was a smile.
“I’m not going to insult you by beating around the bush.” He began motioning to his den.
“There’s a lot I must tell you and I hardly know where to begin.”
“Okay,” she said following him “and your wife.”
“She’s at her mother’s.” he paused showing her to a chair as he walked behind his bar. “Please…she wanted us to have some time to deal with everything.”
She looked at him intently in silence.
“Can I offer you some tea?” he said holding a large thermos in his hand.
She nodded her consent.
He mixed to cups of lemon herb tea and sat in a chair facing her. He took a deep breath and looked into her eyes.
“I’ve tried to protect you for so long, but you must know the truth and now I must tell you.”
The tea smelled wonderful and she took a sip before she spoke.
“Well, tell me Michael.”
“I never told you anything really about my family and there has always been a good reason for that. My father you see is a very rich and powerful man.”
“I always felt that he was –”
“Cheryl,” he interrupted “you don’t understand. He’s also a very dangerous man. It’s the reason I had to leave you.”
She put her hand over her mouth and tried to blink away the tears, but it was futile. She wanted to tell him to go to Hell, but she couldn’t find her voice.
“You gave me the strength to stand up to him. It’s because of you I realized that my life was on path to self destruction and I had to protect you.” He saw the questions swirling behind her eyes as he continued.
“People within my so called family have been killed for far less infractions against our father. When I found out you were pregnant I had know choice, I had to distance myself even further.”
“What are you saying Michael?” she questioned finding her voice “Are you saying that you feared for the lives of myself and your son?”
She looked into his eyes searching for more, still pleading for answers.
“Who is your father?”
He drew closer to her putting his hand over hers.
“I don’t expect you to be familiar with his name. But I can assure you that if, as I fear, father has William he’s still alive because I’m his only paternal son, which makes William his only grandson by blood.” He paused before starting again, before speaking the name he had not spoken by choice in years.
“My father is Jean Pierre.”
William awoke, his hand immediately shielding his eyes, the glare of the sunlight painful at first to his eyes. He swung his legs off the side of the bed feeling the plush carpet beneath his feet. Where was he? He messaged his temples with his left hand, the events of the last forty-eight hours seemed one confused event to him and he found himself questioning which parts were real and which parts was nightmare.
He turned and saw Natalie at his side and he could still feel the fading soreness in his limbs and then the reality sunk in…it was all real all nightmare. He brushed Natalie’s cheek lightly with his hand, she stirred but her eyes remained closed. He smiled the woman he loved was also the mother of his child a child he desperately needed to get back.
A shadow moved catching his attention, and he turned his head to see Simon. Simon put his finger over his lips beckoning to William. As they walked down the hallway Simon put a hand on William’s shoulder.
“How are you this morning?”
“Sore, but alive.”
“Good.” He said smiling.
“There’s someone I want you to meet.” They continued walking through a spacious sitting area that was tastefully decorated in subtle colors and immaculately clean. William noticed a man sitting on the veranda that gave a breath taking view of the area they were in. They appeared to be several stories up, well protected from the bitter cold by a thick clear glass than ran at an angle from ceiling to floor. There were three large circular glass tables on the veranda each with four wine colored leather chairs around them. Christian Bain sat at the center table that was set with a large crystal jug of what appeared to be fresh orange juice, a bowl of fresh cut papaya and mangoes, fresh bread, eggs, bacon, a pot of steaming tea and utensils.
“Christian Bain…William Morre.” They shook hands and smiled.
“The architect, Christian Bain?” William questioned.
“In the flesh old boy.” He said in a clear almost British accent that was in no way pretentious. William knew he lived and studied in England for a number of years and wondered if this was the cousin Simon mentioned there certainly wasn’t any resemblance that he could see between them.
“He says we’re cousins but we’re not really,” Christian said smiling “we just grew up together in a manner of speaking. Actually he spent a couple summers in England close to an aunt of mine and we have always kept in contact, rather cryptically at times, ever since.” Simon lowered his eyes as he smiled.
“Don’t worry William,” Simon added, “we’re safe here.”
“Is there somewhere I can get cleaned up?” William asked.
“Certainly,” Christian said getting to his feet “let me show you to a spare room where you can wash up and change into some clean clothes.”
After a shower, he changed into a v-neck T-shirt and jeans that fit surprisingly well and rejoined Simon and Christian on the veranda. The artificially controlled temperature was perfect and he helped himself to some juice and fruit. He bit into a slice of mango as he spoke.
“So, Simon what do we do now?”
“Well, we rest up a bit and talk. Actually we may have fallen on some good fortune. Christian actually knows your father, which may prove quite useful.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying that my father had something to do with the disappearance of my daughter?” William asked incredulously.
“No, no that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that considering all the parts we have, there is a very high likelihood that the reason your daughter was taken has something to do with something your father is into…possibly some enemies your father has. But there is a connection. It’s all somehow linked to the case I was assigned too.”
Christian sat in comfortable silence and William wondered why they appeared to trust each other so much, it was almost as if they shared some tragic secret from the past that bonded them.
“I’ll try to remember everything, anything that might possibly help.” Christian interjected. “I hope I can be of some help.”
“And then?” William questioned, looking at Simon.
“And then we fly into the spiders web, and try not to be eaten alive.”
Jean Pierre finished his fifteenth lap in the Olympic size pool and stopped from boredom more than fatigue. He pulled himself out at the side of the pool and reached for his large white towel. As he toweled his skin he took deep breaths in an attempt to calm himself. No one ever questioned his decisions, no one ever dared, but it was he that questioned himself now. Michael was the only one that ever defied his authority and lived and that was only because he was sure that Michael was the only one that could take over his expanding interests. As he lay in the shade of an umbrella still feeling the warmth of the sun, he considered the next very real possibility. Not even his most convincing actions would be able to change Michael’s mind.
A well-dressed, attractive maid walked out of the main house towards the pool holding a sleeping baby girl in her hands. She handed the child to Jean Pierre and he took her carefully, smiling like a proud new father. Gently he moved some of her hair back from her forehead and kissed her.
“Thank you. That will be all for now.” He said without looking at the maid. She nodded and walked away without another word. He reached for the sleek satellite phone, a prototype being manufactured by one of his concerns in Europe, and punched the numbers from memory. On the second ring a male voice answered.
“How are you Anthony?”
Anthony Freech, Deputy Director of the CIA, was a man who was feared by many. A short list of three persons had the number to his private line; the two others were the President and the Secretary of State. He was a 6,6 former field agent who was intelligent and aware of how intimidating his linebacker frame was, even in his mid fifties. Yet every time he heard the distinctive voice of the man several years his senior he felt exposed and afraid. He swallowed hard before he answered.
“I’m fine. I was just about to call you.”
“We’re you? Well I guess I saved you a call.”
“Yes,” he said nervously, “I have good news for you.” He paused and then started again.
“I had someone check your house and they located that termite problem. Do you want me to call in the exterminator?”
Jean Pierre thought for a moment.
“No. No actually I think I will deal with this myself. What you can do for me though is make some arrangements for my son and daughter. It’s a surprise. I’ll like them to join me at my villa here in Spain. Of course you are also invited, and I will not take no for an answer.”
“Forgive me Anthony, yes my son. I will send you the particulars in the usual way.”
“Then I look forward to seeing you.” And with that he ended the conversation. He looked at the infant girl and whispered.
“Soon you’ll get to meet your grandfather and be reunited with your grandmother…and then I’ll deal with my pest problem personally.
His thoughts returned to his son, the son who once sat at his table and now hated him. Moreover he hated everything John stood for, so much so that he was sure that he would not be swayed by the threat of death, even to those closest to him. His heart was no longer as cold and dark as Pierre’s was and for that he mourned sincerely, but everything was in place he would find a more suitable candidate. The smile returned to his face, they would continue preparations for a feast and as usual the ultimate sacrifice would hold center stage.