Robert looked at his wife, who was still looking down. He looked around the house, as if he was looking at it for the very last time. As he did, he felt the pain and sorrow of the moment, and two long tears ran over his cheeks. He desperately looked for, but could not find, the strength to say what he really wanted to say. He wanted to cry out loud and clear that he had nothing to do with his little angel’s disappearance and that he was just living the worst day of his life. He wanted so much for Cynthia to look at him with pride and support. Instead, she had been the first one to betray their bond, to betray the promise she’d made him the day of their wedding—that he would never be alone, that no matter what happened to him, their love for each other would last forever and that, when he needed her the most, she would be there for him. He had gone back to that moment on many prior occasions and had found, in the words, the strength he always needed. But in this moment when he needed her most, her vows had vanished, replaced with hatred and distrust, and that was a feeling Robert Kruger had thought he would never have to endure. At this very moment, not having his wife’s trust and support hurt Robert the most. As Robert looked at his wife’s quiet, passive form, deep in his mind, he consciously repeated the same words over and over in an effort to reaffirm his sanity—I could never do anything that would bring sorrow or pain to my little boy. Robert was overcome with emotions, and rage took over, as he couldn’t muster a single word in his defense. He tried to open his mouth and let everyone—especially his wife—know that he was innocent but what he hated the most was that the words had deserted him when he needed them the most.
The Krye headed to his desk where he picked up a phone and punched a single key marked NY. Immediately, someone on the other end answered. “Good evening, my friend, it has been a long time since we last talked.” “I have no time for pleasantries,” the Krye snapped. “I need information, and this is what I am paying you for, yes?” “But of course, you are . . . Tell me, what is it you want?” responded the voice on the other end of the line. The Krye, without hesitation, asked, “Who the fuck is Jack Steele? Do you know him? Should I be worried?” “My dear Krye Deljanin, I was wondering when you’d call. Jack Steele is the type of pest that just won’t die and won’t go away. He keeps on coming after you until he gets what he wants. He is, for lack of a better word, your worst nightmare.” “This is bullshit! No man has ever been a threat to me or my business. He must have a vulnerability, and I will find it and kill him,” said the Krye. “Well, if you decide to go after Jack Steele, prepare well, my friend, because you will be calling me again for a supply of new bodies. Jack Steele has brought down several VERUM enterprises worth billions of dollars. This private eye is a liability and if you, my dear Krye, can bring him down the VERUM organization will be in your debt. However, if you allow Mr. Steele to destroy the profitable operation we’ve built in Chicago, I promise that you won’t have to worry about Jack Steele anymore, because VERUM never forgets. Do we understand each other?” For a moment, Belhar Deljanin—the Chicago Outfit Krye, venerated by his men and most powerful organized crime bosses in the city, feared by politicians and elements of the underground—was quiet and could not find words to reply to his longtime friend and business associate Mark Jones, VERUM organization chairman.
The Surface Beneath
As for me—I was, and am, a simple guy. I live by the rules, as they have kept me alive long enough to appreciate their value. My first rule of business is: “When your gut tells you something, you have to listen.” My guts have saved this old skin so many times that I don’t even count anymore. Andrew was an academic, and I taught him street smarts, the kind you only get roaming the streets of New York and surviving the perils of life in a city that does not forgive mistake.
A gust of blood spilled from the man on the chair, who said, “Who the hell are you talking about? I’ve killed many people in my life.”
My dad turned back and punches the guy with all his power in the pit of the stomach. “Christine, you sack of shit. Christine Steele.” I could see how his face suddenly changes when he said her name. He still love her, just as he had the first time they met.
The intensity of this moment took away my breath, and suddenly I realized that I was not breathing. I was losing grip of my posture and immediately started to breathe, but no longer slowly and easily, but as hard as I could. Nothing could control either my young heart or my rapid breathing. Dad had always told me that if this happened, I should think of something nice, take long breaths, and let them go slowly, but there was no way I could master this technique under such annihilating conditions.
Games of Mind
The moment I picked up the envelope from my desk, I knew that I was about to enter into waters I should have avoided sailing. But my loyalty to family blood was stronger than my gut feeling.
My uncle liked the wilderness, airplanes, and being away from the family. I’d always thought that he liked to be alone after witnessing the atrocities of war, and I kind of understood and respected that. The last thing that I remembered from Uncle Jimmy was that he was working at Anchorage Airport, Alaska, but his address was from yet another town called Nome, Alaska.
The door to my cell screeched as it opened, and I saw Colonel Harman with a smoking gun in his hand. As a trained operative, Harman showed no facial expression, making it hard for me to read his thoughts or anticipate his moves.
Was he going to kill me quickly, or was he going to enjoy torturing me first? This thought alone sent chills up my spine. His movements were deliberate and calculated, and as far as I could read, he was in predator mode. And that scared the shit out of me, especially when I was not in a position to defend myself, bound to a butcher’s chair three floors below ground level.