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Thread of Suspicion
  • Текст добавлен: 15 октября 2016, 06:38

Текст книги "Thread of Suspicion"


Автор книги: Jeff Shelby






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Текущая страница: 6 (всего у книги 13 страниц)

TWENTY-FIVE

 

 

“The cancer is in my liver,” Peter Codaselli said. “Stage Four.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Me, too,” he said with a tight grin. “I did not plan on going out this way.” He paused. “Marc doesn’t know.”

“Doesn’t know you have cancer or that it’s so advanced?”

“Neither,” he said. “When I was first diagnosed, I kept it from everyone. Not sure why, but I did. Then Marc left home. It actually worked out in the sense that I was able to receive treatment without his knowing. I saw him not too long ago.” He paused. “It didn’t go well. He left again. Next day, I received the news from my doctors that the cancer had essentially won. We explored some other treatment options, but none offered the odds I was looking for. And they would’ve significantly diminished the quality of my life. I’ve opted out.”

He was saying all of this in a matter-of-fact way, without much emotion. Maybe he’d worked through it already or maybe he was the type of person who could throw up an emotional wall when necessary. Either way, he did not reveal much about how he felt about his impending death.

“So, I would like to find Marc before I die,” he continued. “And yes, I probably could have teams of people out there looking for him, but I’m not ready to do that. Yet. Doing so will draw attention and bring questions.”

I thought for a moment. “Bring attention and questions from people who might benefit from your death.”

He nodded. “Precisely. If we get to the point where I need to do that, I will. But right now, it wouldn’t be prudent for myself or Marc.”

“You said that your last visit with Marc did not go well,” I said. “Why not?”

He fiddled with the crease in his pants, then looked at Isabel. “I’m curious. How does my son speak of me?”

Isabel looked like a deer in the headlights.

“It’s alright,” he said, smiling. “I can take it.”

“Uh…not well,” she stammered. “He doesn’t say a lot. All I really know is that you two don’t get along.”

“He ever say why?”

“No. And I didn’t pry.”

Codaselli brushed at his knee, sweeping away some imaginary dust. “Marc is not a fan of my choice of business. He never has been. He’s embarrassed and doesn’t want any part of it. It’s why he left home to begin with.”

“Did he just find out?” I asked.

“No, he’s known for awhile,” he said. “He finally reached an age where he had a lot of questions and I felt he deserved honest answers. Perhaps a mistake on my part.” He waved a hand dismissively. “But I thought he deserved to know. And let’s face it. It’s not like I’m a professional athlete or actor or someone he can brag to his friends about.” He smiled. “I know that my place has made his life harder.”

I wondered if Codaselli had ever wanted out. I couldn’t read him. I didn’t know much about organized crime but I knew you didn’t just turn in your resignation.

“So he took off,” Codaselli said. “And I let him. I felt that if he didn’t want to be at home, was ashamed of our name, then he should be able to do what he wanted. I let him go. I had people to keep an eye on him, not closely, but I knew he was alright. Then he came to me not too long ago. For money.”

He shifted in the chair and for the first time, he looked uncomfortable. “I tried to leverage him.”

“How?” I asked.

“I knew the cancer had spread, but as I said, I wasn’t aware of the severity. Mortality was becoming more real, though. I knew that my days were numbered.” He tilted his head to the side, rubbed his jaw. “My business is vast. And complicated. And lucrative. There needs to be a plan in place for my passing.”

I nodded.

“I’ve always wanted Marc to succeed me,” he said. “He’s my only child. I wanted it to stay in the family.”

“Even after he made it clear he wasn’t happy with what you do?” I asked.

“Yes, even after. Call me stubborn.” He smiled a painful smile. “So, when Marc came to me, I saw an opportunity. He needed something and I offered to help. In exchange for his coming to work for me and take over the business.”

“What did he need?” I asked.

“A thousand bucks,” he said. “He needed a thousand dollars.”

“Did he say what for?”

“Not at first, but I pressed him,” Codaselli said. “He tried to be vague, but I knew he wasn’t telling me the truth. It was for a girl.”

I looked at Isabel. She shrugged.

“I don’t know who she is or why,” he explained. “He wouldn’t budge on those things. But he needed the money for her and I think he was being truthful.”

“Did you give him the money?” I asked.

“I did,” he said. “And he agreed to take over my business.”

“He did?”

“Yes,” Codaselli said, smiling. “But I was fairly certain he was just saying that to get the money.”

“So, why’d you give it to him then?”

He brushed again at his knee. “Wishful thinking, I suppose. I was hoping there was a slight chance he’d come back.”

“Come back?”

“Our deal was that he’d be back the next day,” he explained. “We’d start laying the groundwork for his succession. I would’ve shared with him my cancer diagnosis. And he would’ve learned that I don’t have much longer. I knew it was a foolish wish at the time, but that didn’t stop me from making it. I could care less about the money. I just wanted my son around.”

I leaned back in the sofa. He’d gotten hit with a double whammy. Losing his son and his future at the same time. Not an easy thing to swallow for anyone.

“So, what are you doing about it?” I said.

“What do you mean?”

“I can’t believe you’re just letting it go,” I said. “Given all that is on your plate, I’m not buying that you’re just accepting the fact that he’s gone. You may not have your people out searching for him day and night, but I can’t believe that if this matters to you in the way you say it does, that you’re just accepting this as a done deal and letting your son walk.”

Codaselli pinched the bridge of his nose. He looked tired, fatigued. His clothes hung loosely on his body. He didn’t seem near death, but it was easy to see the toll everything was taking on him.

“You’re correct again, Mr. Tyler,” he said. “Someone made a mistake.”

“I’m not following you.”

He leaned forward and set his elbows on his knees. “Someone thought they could blackmail me to get to my son.”

TWENTY-SIX

Codaselli’s eyes hardened and for the first time, I saw a man who was absolutely capable of running a crime organization and doing the things necessary to stay on top of that food chain.

“They obviously didn’t know who I was,” Codaselli said. “The money that my son borrowed from me, they claimed it was owed to them by the girl. They came to shake me down.”

“Bad move,” I said.

The corner of Codaselli’s mouth turned upward. “Very. I did not take kindly to their attitude or their demands. Nor their threats toward my son.”

I didn’t say anything.

“John was able to convince them that they’d made an egregious error in judgment,” he said, the half-smile still on his face. “Isn’t that right, John?”

“Yes, sir,” John said from the conference table.

“John was able to persuade them that they needed to…amend their goals.”

“Amend their goals?”

“We changed their employment status,” he said. “A quick call to their employer and they were seemingly happy to come work for me.”

I nodded. “Got it. And what are they doing now for you?”

“Looking for Marc,” he said. “I’ve told them that if they fail to find him, it will be extremely difficult for them to find new jobs. Because they will be dead.”

I glanced at Isabel, then back to Codaselli. “Stevie and Boyd.”

“Are those their names, John?” Codaselli asked over his shoulder.

“Yes, sir.”

“There you go,” Codaselli said. “You’re apparently familiar with them.”

“We are.”

“Are they looking for Marc?”

I nodded. “Yeah. Not sure how competent they are, though.”

“Stevie’s competent,” John said. “Boyd is not. He’s expendable.”

Codaselli raised an eyebrow. “Fair assessment?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So, perhaps our interests have dovetailed here,” Codaselli said. “And perhaps you may be more competent than our new employees.”

I had no doubt that Isabel and I were more competent than Stevie and Boyd, but I wasn’t sure that meant we needed to align ourselves with Codaselli, especially if Marc didn’t want to be found by his father. As an adult, he had the right to not be found and I wouldn’t force anything on him.

“I’d like to let Stevie know that we’ve met with you,” I said. “And that he needs to share any info he has.”

“John will ensure that is not a problem,” he said.

John nodded behind him.

“But I can’t promise the return of your son,” I said. “He’s an adult. I can’t compel him in any way to return home.”

“I understand that,” Codaselli said. “If you locate him, I’d just like you to relay the…information.”

“About your illness.”

“Yes,” he said, nodding. “And that I don’t care that he took the money or that he won’t take over.” He cleared his throat, stared at me with clear eyes. “I’d just like to see him before I die.”

TWENTY-SEVEN

“What the hell just happened in there?” Isabel asked incredulously.

“What do you mean?”

We were back in her car, headed back toward Linden Hills.

“I mean, did we just agree to help that guy?” she asked, shaking her head.

“Not really.”

“Sounded like it.”

“I told him we couldn’t promise to get Marc back to him. He’s a legal adult. Marc doesn’t wanna go back, he doesn’t have to.”

She shifted her hands on the steering wheel. “You think he won’t try to get him to come back?”

“I don’t know what he’ll try to do. We’re trying to find Marc and that’s all I’m worried about.”

“You don’t care what happens to Marc if we find him?”

“I care, but there’s not much I can do about it,” I said. “I won’t force him to do anything. He has to make his own choices. But you want to find him to make sure he’s okay. Right?”

She hesitated. “Yeah.”

“Because if you don’t, then we can drop it right now,” I said. “I’m helping you. Not Marc’s father. You don’t want to find him? Then we can stop right now. But I get the sense that you’re worried about him. So, I’m looking for him to help you because I said I would.”

“I am worried about him,” she said, sighing. “He’s not terribly savvy. I don’t think he inherited his father’s…whatever.”

I nodded. “Okay. Then we’ll look for him. It’s not going to be difficult.”

“No?”

I shook my head. “No. We’ve got two things now we didn’t have before.”

“What two things?”

“We know he’s with a girl and we know Stevie and Boyd aren’t a threat. To him or us. And we can use them.”

She hit the blinker and glanced in her rearview window. “I guess.”

“Not I guess. You need to start asking the kids on the street that you’re tight with what they know. Tonight. Don’t wait. It’s a small world. Someone will know something.”

“They don’t like being questioned.”

“They trust you,” I said. “Get them to talk.”

“I don’t like exploiting them like that.”

I shook my head and rapped my knuckles on the window. “Leverage.”

“What?”

“Use what you have,” I said. “You have their trust. You aren’t exploiting them. Get off the high horse. You need information and they can probably give it to you. You aren’t using it to hurt them. You’re using it to help Marc. You need to realize that you need to focus when you’re looking for someone. If people’s feelings get hurt? Oh well. Is that worth making sure Marc is okay? I’d say yes.”

Isabel’s mouth set in a firm line and we drove back to the apartment in silence. I knew she was irritated with me—thought I didn’t understand. Her problem was that she didn’t get that I understood better than anyone she’d probably ever meet. I understood that people’s feelings got hurt. I understood that leveraging someone wasn’t always the most comfortable feeling in the world. But I also understood what it was like to not find answers.

I knew which was worse.

She pulled into the parking lot at the apartments and cut the engine. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“I’ll ask around tonight,” she said. “I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Good.”

“But you can’t be there,” she said. “They won’t talk if you’re there. Doesn’t matter that they’ve seen you with me. They’ll clam up and disappear.”

“Not a problem,” I said. “I wasn’t planning on being there with you anyway.”

“You weren’t?”

I shook my head.

“Where are you going to be?”

“Talking with our new friends,” I said. “I’ll need Stevie’s number.”

TWENTY-EIGHT

Stevie and Boyd showed up at the diner exactly at eight. The snow was falling again, but lighter than the previous night and it blew around on the streets like baby powder. I sat in a booth near the back and they both approached, tentatively.

Stevie lifted his chin and pulled off his knit cap, exposing thick curly brown hair. “Hey.”

I nodded. “Hey.” I motioned to the other side of the booth. “Sit.”

Stevie slid in first and shed his wool coat as he did so. Boyd piled into the booth after him, his ugly face frowning at me.

“First rule,” I said, pointing at Boyd. “You don’t speak unless I speak to you.”

“Hey, man, I don’t…” he said, his face screwing up with irritation.

“You’re already breaking the rule,” I said, cutting him off. “You wanna know how Codaselli described you today?”

He squinted at me.

“Expendable,” I said. “Which means that scary fucker Anchor will waste you in a heartbeat. You really wanna give me a reason to call him and tell him you’re being a pain in the ass?”

Boyd’s mouth closed and his shoulders sagged.

“That’s better,” I said.

“Am I expendable, too?” Stevie asked.

“You let me worry about that,” I said, choosing not to share the truth with him. I didn’t want him to relax.

He ran a hand through his thick hair, then nodded.

The waitress brought a pot of coffee, asked if we wanted food, and I declined for all of us.

I refilled my mug. “First thing you need to know is that if we find Marc, I think he’ll let you both walk clean. I honestly don’t think he gives a crap about either of you. I might be wrong, but it didn’t seem that way to me.”

They both exhaled.

“But we gotta find him to make that happen,” I said, looking at Stevie. “So, I wanna know everything. From the beginning.”

Stevie reached for the pot and filled his mug. “Alright. We work for a guy named Gino Miller. Used to, anyway. Marc borrowed money from him.”

“He’s a loan shark or something?”

Stevie shrugged. “Or something. He does a lot of crap, but yeah. He does a lot of that. Decent terms, but you gotta pay him back. On time.”

“Or?”

“Or shit happens.”

I sipped at the coffee, the steam rising into my nose.

“So, Marc borrowed and missed his payment,” Stevie said. “Gino went nuts, told us to go find him.”

“You guys are his muscle?”

Boyd shifted in the booth, folding his arms across his chest.

Stevie shrugged. “I guess. He tells us to do stuff, we do it. It’s a job.”

I remembered Isabel telling me that she’d helped them both, but that they were almost always up to no good. They were like a lot of runaways. They didn’t believe in themselves, didn’t believe they had any other skills than the ones they’d used to survive on the streets. Getting help didn’t necessarily mean getting out.

“So, you went looking and couldn’t find him,” I said.

Stevie nodded. “Right. Checked the usual spots, asked around. No luck. Then Boyd found out who he was.”

I looked at Boyd. “From who?”

Boyd squirmed. “Just some guy. I’d seen Marc with him a month or so ago. He told me his last name.”

“So, you guys didn’t know that before?”

They both shook their heads.

“Then what?” I asked.

“We were idiots,” Stevie said. “I didn’t even check with Gino, thought we’d pull it off, look like heroes. We went to see Mr. Codaselli.”

“You didn’t know who he was?”

Both shook their heads again.

“So, you go to shake him down, bribe him, whatever. What happened?”

Stevie took a long drink of the coffee, wiped at his mouth with his sleeve. “Anchor put a gun in Boyd’s mouth.”

Boyd flushed.

“Fun,” I said.

“Mr. Codaselli said I should tell him who we worked for,” Stevie said, biting on his upper lip for a moment. “If I didn’t, Anchor was gonna shoot Boyd, then put the gun in my mouth. Sorta realized we’d screwed up at that point.”

“I’ll bet.”

“I told him about Gino,” Stevie said. “Anchor pulls out a cellphone and calls Gino. Had him on speed dial. And he kept the gun in Boyd’s mouth the whole time.”

Boyd stared at the table.

“Anchor asks him if we work for him,” Stevie said. “Gino said yeah, I guess. Anchor hands the phone to Mr. Codaselli. Mr. Codaselli says something to Gino like he would consider it a favor if Gino wouldn’t mind transferring us to his employment and that he’d like to cover his son’s debt. Something like that. It was weird and I was scared.”

I was certain that he was. He probably had never run into anyone like Codaselli and might never again. Walking in blind might have been a wake-up call for both of them that they were out of their league.

“Mr. Codaselli hangs up, hands the phone back to Anchor,” Stevie said. “Tells us we work for him now. Anchor finally pulls the gun out of Boyd’s mouth.”

Boyd was still staring at the table, shaking his head.

“He tells us to tell him anything we know about Marc,” Stevie said. “And we did. Everything we could think of. I had no idea if he was gonna kill us or not.” He swallowed. “Then he told us to go find him and that we report to Anchor anything we find.”

All of that made sense and sounded right. Stevie sounded too frightened of Codaselli to lie to me.

“Then I got a call from Anchor tonight,” Stevie said. “Telling us to work with you. You called me. Here we are.”

“Okay,” I said, spinning the coffee mug on the table. “Now tell me what you know about Marc.”

“Can we get some food?” Stevie asked. “I’m starving.”

Boyd nodded, but didn’t say anything.

I signaled to the waitress and she came to the table. They both ordered hamburgers, fries and sodas. I forgot they were kids, probably still living on the street, without steady income or regular meals. Sitting in the diner was probably torture without being able to eat.

“Not a lot,” Stevie said after the server left the table. “About Marc. Other than he has a girlfriend.”

“Know her name?”

“Jessica,” he said. “No last name. Neither of us know who she is and we haven’t been able to find out. But he borrowed the money for her. He told Gino that when he came to him the first time. That he needed it for a friend. Gino pressed him, made sure he knew he was responsible for it, that Gino didn’t care who or what it was for.”

“But he never said why?”

“Nope.”

I thought on that for a minute. The waitress brought their food and drinks and they tore into them, not bothering to take their eyes off their plates until there wasn’t a crumb left.

“You said you knew who I was,” I asked. “How?”

Stevie wiped his mouth with the paper napkin, wadded it up and tossed it on the plate. “We’d told Codaselli about Isabel, that Marc worked for her. Then we told him about you when we saw you that first night with her.”

“So how’d you know who I was?”

“Took a picture of you and got your license plate,” he said. “Gave both to Anchor. He called me back an hour later, told me your name, who you were, what you did. Said we should stick close to you, that you’d probably find Marc.”

It didn’t surprise me that Codaselli knew who we were when Isabel and I had gone to his office. It explained why he was so quick to see us and why security had been fairly lax around us. Though I felt pretty sure that Anchor sounded like the kind of guy who always provided enough security.

“You mentioned my daughter,” I said.

Stevie pushed his plate away. “Look, man. I wanna live, alright? I’m not gonna lie. Codaselli scares the shit out of me. We don’t find his kid, I’ve got no doubt we’re gonna end up in a grave.”

He looked at Boyd. Boyd nodded in agreement.

“So, we have to find Marc,” Stevie said. “And Anchor said you could do that. And I looked you up, man. I think you can find Marc, too.”

“What does that have to do with my daughter?”

“Help us find, Marc,” he said, shrugging. “And I’ll tell you what I might know.”

“Or, I could just call Anchor now,” I said. “Tell him you guys are full of shit and I’m done with you both.”

The blood drained from Boyd’s face.

But not Stevie’s.

“Yeah, you could,” he said, staring at me. “But then Anchor would kill us and you won’t know what I could’ve told you.”

Boyd glanced anxiously at his partner, then back at me.

I laid my hands flat on the table. “How could you possibly know anything about my daughter?”

Stevie held my stare. “You’d be surprised what you can learn out there. You ask the right people, you hear things that don’t make sense. Until they do.”

He was doing to me exactly what I told Isabel she had to do with kids she knew. Leveraging. And he was doing it well.

“If you’re lying to me, I’ll let Anchor take out Boyd,” I said. “But I’ll take you apart myself.”

Stevie shifted in the booth. “I can live with that. Just help us find Marc.”

I took a deep breath, steadying my nerves and my anger. I had to trust him and remember that Tim Barron was also helping me. It might work out that I didn’t need his help.

But something told me he might be telling the truth.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s find him.”


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