I couldn’t, in good conscience, leave you guys hanging with that cliffy, but don’t get used to this… This will be the last time I do back to back chapters of Raising in the same weekend. Well, maybe not the last time, but not this frequently. 😉
Having said that, go easy on me on this one. It took a lot of work and I’m not sure I got everything right, including the laws as they relate to the storyline. Some of this is “shooting from the hip” and trust me—it was hard to write. So, just this once, I’ll ask that you be kind.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 38—An Untimely Shift
“They may be stalling,” Ros says, looking over the last numbers from Albien Manufacturing. This doesn’t please me. The numbers from Capito Industries have shifted yet again, and they’re not looking any better than they have been over the last several weeks. Now, it appears, we might have narrowed down the source.
“We’ve been over this and over this. I thought we hammered out all the technicalities. Didn’t we address all their issues or is there something that I missed?”
“That overseas factory,” Lorenz says. “That has to be it. Capito is holding out to see if you’re going to relent on it.”
“What’s so damn important about a small factory in Madrid?” I ask. “It’s barely a blip in comparison to the entire corporation, which is about to crumble into the sea if he doesn’t make a decision soon. These numbers are horrendous by any standards no matter how he tries to dress them up.” Does this asshole think he’s playing with an amateur here?
“That’s what we need to find out,” Ros interjects. “If he’s so reluctant to let it go, it’s not as small as we think. There must be something else.”
“Of course, we need to find out what that something else is… fast!” I tell her. She nods and makes a note in her iPad.
“Speaking of Madrid, have you heard anything else about Casa del Escudo Sagrado?” Lorenz interjects, referring to the Spanish hotel chain we’re considering, also based in Madrid. “There’s been a bit of uncomfortable radio silence on that front, too.”
“No, and I’ve noticed,” I tell him. “Look into that. We may need to put a fire under them, as well. I don’t want any mistakes, so make sure that we’re armed with all the information that we need.”
“On it,” Lorenz nods, now typing information into his own iPad. We’re deep in pulling apart the current mergers and acquisitions on the table when Andrea interrupts us.
“Mr. Forsythe is here to see you, sir,” she says. He doesn’t interrupt meeting unless it’s important.
“Can you two get to work on those projects that we discussed and get back to me as soon as possible?” They both nod and leave my office. Al strides in once they’re gone.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you,” he says, closing the door. “This’ll only take a minute if you want to call them back.” I shake my head.
“There’s only so many fires I can put out at once,” I tell him. “They’ve got two to douse already. The rest can wait.”
“Well, I hate to put another fire in your lap, but I just want you to be prepared.” He drops an envelope on my desk. I open it and pull out a hefty, multi-page packet of documents.
“What’s this?” I ask as I begin to examine the document.
“That’s your copy. I’ve been working on it all morning. Jewel called me hysterical about four hours ago.” I frown. Hysterical? What the fuck? “She’s fed up with the hoops the licensing board is putting Helping Hands through and now, she wants to file a complaint against the director.” I’m thumbing through the document a bit blindly.
“Does she have grounds for her complaint?” I ask.
“And then some,” Al says, pointing at the documents in my hand. “Universities endure less stringent regulations than that. This is harassment, plain and simple, and now I know why.”
“Why?” I ask. “Is it that Felton woman?” He raises his eyebrows at me.
“You know?” he asks. I nod.
“Butterfly vented a few times. So did my mother, once or twice. I didn’t know that it was to this extent.”
“Read that report,” he says, heading for the door. “They’re being harassed—put through unnecessary rigors for no good reason, so much so that I can effectively argue that her actions are not only personally against Jewel, Grace, and the Center, but also against the common good. I know Jewel doesn’t want your involvement in this, but the services that this woman is preventing are detrimental to the community and I would consider it a personal favor if you could somehow get this investigation rushed for me—no special dispensation, just don’t let it get caught up in the bureaucratic red tape.”
“Butterfly won’t be happy if I interfere,” I argue.
“You didn’t hear her on that call, Christian.” Christian, not Chris. “She was devastated. It was like she spent two years on a thesis and the professor failed her work.” The two of them being intellectuals, I can only imagine how painful that would be. I was never a scholar, myself, so I can’t really empathize. “If there’s any fallout, I’ll take the heat—I’ll tell her that I couldn’t stand her crying and that I pulled the strings.”
Crying… enough said.
“I’m on it. I’ll see what I can do.” He nods and exits my office. Licensing… for accreditation. Good fucking grief. As if we haven’t had enough trouble with licensing. Who do I call? I know a lot of people, but I’ll admit that I’m out of my realm on this one. This wouldn’t be the same licensing board that called her into review, I know that much. There are seven agencies named in this complaint—he’s leaving no stone unturned. I start in the only place I know to start.”
“Hello, Christian, how are you? I haven’t heard from you since the wedding, which was beautiful, by the way. How goes things?”
“Getting used to family life,” I say to Charlotte. The Governor and I go way back. She helped to get evidence rushed when David kidnapped Butterfly. It doesn’t hurt that I discovered that she and her husband are also into kink, but we’ve had such a friendly relationship, I’ve never had to strong-arm her, not that I ever would. “You know we have twins now, right?”
“Who doesn’t know that you have twins now?” she responds with mirth. “The collective heartbreak heard ‘round the world when admirers of all ages, colors, and religions discovered that the fair Anastasia was not just the flavor of the month.” I laugh.
“I think you exaggerate,” I tell her.
“I think not,” she retorts. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of this communication?”
“I need some help,” I tell her. “If you can point me in the right direction, I’d be grateful.” Her tone turns serious.
“Point you in the right direction… this is new,” she says. “What is it?”
“I’m holding a 19-page complaint addressed to several different government agencies—the Department of Early Learning, Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Department of Health, the Workforce Training & Education Coordinating Board, the Department of Licensing, the Department of Revenue and the US Department of Education.”
“That’s a lot of departments,” she says. “What’s this about?”
“It’s about the accreditation of Helping Hands,” I tell her. “They’re claiming harassment and discrimination due to a person conflict… one Gloria Felton…”
“Oh, God, her,” Charlotte laments and I fall silent for a moment.
“You know her?” I ask.
“No, but I know of her,” Charlotte replies. “There’s been… rumors… about her tactics, but nothing that can be proven. I don’t know if she’s trying to make a reputation for herself or what, but screwing around with people’s licenses is not the way to do it.”
“Elaborate,” I say. Charlotte sighs.
“I really can’t,” she says. “It would mean breaching confidentiality that even I’m not privy to betray. Let’s just say that I would very much like it if that complaint is filed as soon as possible and with as much detail as possible. She has the tendency to make things disappear or come up missing… especially if they weren’t relevant in the first place.”
“Well, my wife keeps meticulous records and she can tell you every date, time, and meeting they’ve had and every written document exchanged since they’ve been trying to get accredited. My attorney informs me that the requirements and inspections that are being imposed upon this little center are stringent even by university standards.”
“Inspections?” she asks, bemused. “Why inspections? What did they do?”
“Nothing that I know of,” I respond, curious of her reaction.
“Unless there’s something illegal or some kind of threat to the community, there’s no need for an inspection,” she informs me. “I’m not entirely versed on this, but of that I’m certain… inspections are so rare…”
“Well, my wife and mother are going through one of those rare inspections right now!” I inform her. There’s another pause.
“Oh, this is fantastic! In progress? Right now?” she asks, like she’s getting a Christmas gift.
“As we speak and for the last two and a half weeks.”
“Oh, God, we almost missed it,” she says. “The inspection only lasts for three weeks and I can guarantee all traces of it would disappear once it came back clean.”
“You’re certain it would come back clean.” It’s a statement, not a question.
“Oh, yeah, I’m certain. Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey and Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey? Mother of billionaire businessman and not-so-secret philanthropist, Christian Grey, well-known humanitarian who runs a help center by day and saves children’s lives by night along with Seattle’s sweetheart and one-half of AnaChris…” There’s that fucking name, “… who involuntarily lives in the spotlight and appears to be a walking, talking, breathing damsel in distress, but always comes back from some horrible tragedy swinging and takes every opportunity to promote Helping Hands when a camera is shoved in her face, including admitting on television in a public service announcement that she was a victim of abuse? Do I expect that inspection to come back clean? Sparkling!” Okay, since you put it that way…
“My wife doesn’t want me getting involved in this,” I tell her. “She’s certain that the reputation and credibility of the Center would be at stake, but I need this case not to be put in the stack or placed on the back burner. It needs to be pushed to the front. It has to be legit—if my wife’s accusations are unfounded, so be it and we’ll take the fallout from it, but this complaint cannot be left sitting on someone’s desk. Take it on its merit, talk to whomever you need to in order to get to the truth, but please move quickly. This undertaking has caused more disagreements in our home because she has been so diligent in this task. I’m only asking for what’s fair—no special treatment, just don’t let it sit.” There’s a pause.
“And you’re asking me if I think the inspection will come back clean.” Another statement, not a question. “I know just who to turn this over to…” She’s dialing so frantically that I can hear it over the phone. “Nicholas… Charlotte… there’s something I need you to look into for me…”
She goes about explaining the situation to whomever Nicholas is and asks me to rattle off all of the departments involved once more, which I do. There’s a back and forth with her and the person on the other phone. “Let me know as soon as you’ve got the documents in your hands. I want everything airtight and legitimate. If what you say is true, then we need her out of there, soon. She’s a ticking time bomb.”
Damn… What did he say?
“As it turns out, you’re doing the state a favor,” she says to me and I’m assuming she has ended the call with Nicholas. “As I suspected, the rumors that have drifted to my office are most likely true. She’s using the office and its employees as her personal henchmen. No complaints have gone through because she harasses people and small businesses so badly and just when they’ve reached their limit, she gives them what they want. The only thing is that now, she holds power over their heads that they only think she has.
“If any one of those complaints had made it to the right desk, she would have been gone by now. As it stands, it usually only takes a threat to get that woman to fall in line. Apparently, your wife jumped right over the threat and went straight to the complaint. There’s been evidence that she has abused her position before—as most people in power do, unfortunately—but we haven’t been able to catch her on anything because the moment the threat of exposure is revealed, she pushes through whatever initiative she’s been holding up, thereby eliminating the problem. By your wife filing the complaint before the investigation is even finished, she can’t pull the file and the accreditation has to wait until the complaint has been investigated. It appears that she’s been on a personal crusade to terrorize people whom she feels may have wronged her in the past that need licenses for anything in the greater Seattle area. Apparently, she’s ruffled quite a few feathers over the course of time, but no one filed actual complaints. When is this one being filed?”
“My attorney is on his way to file it this moment. He’s probably at his destination now.”
“Stop him,” she says. “He needs a detour. I don’t want Felton getting any warning that this is coming.” I dial Allen on my cell before the words are out of her mouth.
“Chris, what’s up?”
“Allen, where are you?”
“I’m at the complaint desk. There are about four people in front of me and one of them is holding a file as thick as a phone book. This could take a while.”
“Not anymore—change of plans.” I turn back to Charlotte on my landline, just as I hear Allen say, “What?”
“Where should he go? He’s at the complaints desk now.”
“Tell him to go back downstairs to the guard’s desk and ask for the Office of the Director. Nicholas Winslow’s secretary is expecting him. His full name?”
“Allen Michael Fleming-Forsythe, Esquire,” I tell her. She chuckles.
“People still use Esquire?” she says.
“It’s handy in certain situations,” I say, remembering when Dad exercised the Esquire when the police showed up at our house right before Pops died. God… I haven’t even had time to dwell on that loss. I feel a clinching in my chest at the thought of my grandfather before I turn back to my cell and give Allen the instructions Charlotte just gave me.
“Office of the Director,” he repeats. “You’re a goddamn fairy godfather, Chris. I’ll have to think of something really good to convince Jewel that this was my doing and not yours.”
“If you must, tell her that you met the Governor at our wedding and when you introduced yourself, she told you to contact her if you ever needed anything. You’re a concerned citizen worried about the impact of the situation on the community and thought she might be interested, too. You were right.”
“You’re too good of a liar,” Allen warns.
“No, I’m a businessman, and I know how to get out of sticky situations. It was your idea to tell Jewel that this was your idea and not mine, and you did meet Charlotte at our wedding…”
“Yes, you did. You are a concerned citizen and yes, Charlotte is generally concerned, too. The only fudge here is that she told me to contact her if I ever needed anything, not you.”
“Fair enough. The director knows my name?” I turn back to the landline.
“Is he all set to go, Charlotte?”
“I just texted his name to Nicholas, so he shouldn’t have a problem,” she replies.
“You’re all set,” I tell him.
“I’m on it. I’ll let you know how it goes.” We end the call.
“He’s on his way,” I tell her.
“Nicholas was very happy to hear that we have something in progress against Gloria Felton. He’s as certain as I am that she’s been destroying documentation, but we just can’t prove it. Thanks for the heads up.”
“Thank you, and remember… everything on the up and up. Give her no reason to go to the press and call ‘foul’ and no ammunition to discredit my wife, my mother, or the Center.”
“Oh, don’t worry. There are no other complaints against her ahead of you, remember? This will be like shooting fish in a barrel.”
I spend the afternoon in my office doing my own research on the Madrid companies when I receive a text from Butterfly telling me that she’ll be staying a little later at the Center. I decide to call her and her voice is visibly shaken and irritated.
“I’m going over our initial plans for the Center and trying to find some other ways that we can put these renovations and hopes and dreams to use,” she had said, her voice full of disdain. “I can’t let all our work be a fucking waste!”
She’s livid and more than a little disheartened about the possibility of a long, drawn-out investigation. I want to tell her not to worry, that I was able—with very little effort—to get her investigation fast-tracked because the licensing division and the powers that be already had their eye on the thorn in her side, but now isn’t the time to reveal my interference with her already being so edgy. Since she would be working late, I decide to put in a few extra hours as well and just go by the Center and pick her up when my day is done so that we can ride home together. As I continue to examine the Madrid situation, my desk phone rings.
“I found out what the delay is,” Ros says into the phone. “It turns out that all of the positive numbers from Capito’s financials stem from that little textiles factory in Madrid. It’s the only thing that’s been barely keeping the company afloat. You wouldn’t know it unless you dissected the financials into basest cash flow, which we wouldn’t do unless we were breaking the company apart.”
“Why didn’t I see this when I asked for the breakdown of the financials last month?” I ask. “And why would he think he could get away with something like this? Of course, he must know that if he holds out on this one factory, we’re going to investigate.”
“You did see it,” Ros says. “You repeatedly said that those numbers didn’t look right. The financial analysis that it took to see the sleight of hand that he did with those statements was damn near rocket science. Once you were able to figure out the algorithm behind one formula and change, he set another into play on another statement or subsidiary and you had no idea what he was doing. Where one set of numbers looked like they should have fed into the next statement, they didn’t. They were close, but not exact. Once one house of cards fell down, the whole deck crumbled.”
“Okay, so he has one strong subsidiary and a garbage company. Sell off the rest of the company or shut it down and keep the subsidiary. Why hide it? Any idiot making an offer is going to look at this one thing you’re hiding behind your back.”
“Maybe he thinks we won’t since the factory is so small, or…” she trails off.
“Or maybe he’s sending us on a wild goose chase,” I intervene in her pause, “drawing attention away from something else.” I rub my chin in contemplation. “You know what to do.”
“I do,” she says and ends the call. I may need to pay a visit to Albien Textiles. Nothing like an unexpected inspection to put things into perspective. Butterfly won’t like the idea of me popping out of the country on such short notice, so I’ll put it off as long as I can—wait to see what information Ros and Lorenz can drum up for me.
My eyes are actually burning and the numbers and words on the pages and screens I’m attempting to read are all running together. Even the computer glasses aren’t helping and now, I know why. I’m reading a bunch of gobbledygook! I rub my eyes and stand from my desk. Shutting down my computer, I summon Jason and let him know that we’re calling it a night. On my way to the garage, I try Butterfly’s cell. There’s no answer, so I call my mother.
“She was still at the office when I left,” Mom tells me as we maneuver through traffic towards Helping Hands. She sounds just as disheartened as Butterfly. “She’s trying to find some way to re-appropriate all of our preparations and renovations. She’s been at it for hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if you walked in to find her face down on her desk fast asleep.”
“Mom, I probably shouldn’t say this. I know that you didn’t want me to get involved, but I made a call today…”
“Christian…” she begins, knowing what I’m going to say.
“Just hear me out, please. I talked to Charlotte…”
“The governor!?” she asks in dismay.
“Yes, Mom, the governor. I only wanted to know who I needed to contact to make sure that the complaint didn’t get buried in a stack of we’ll get to it later. I made sure that she knew I wanted no special dispensation. It turns out that Gloria Felton is a thorn in a lot of people’s sides and if I hadn’t called, the situation may have gone unchecked and unrecognized.” She pauses.
“What are you talking about?” she says, a bit perturbed now. I explain to her how Felton has been antagonizing business owners and license seekers since she got the job at the licensing board, but the slightest threat of an investigation or complaint usually resulted in missing referendums and disappearing proof of harassment as well as the license in question hurriedly being granted.
“As a result, there are no other complaints in front of yours,” I tell her. “People are either glad to get her out of their hair or too afraid to rock the boat once they get the licenses they applied for, but the Office of the Director has been waiting for something in progress so that he can investigate. We had to forego the regular complaint process, or she would have gotten a hold of it and made all of your evidence disappear. Granted, you would have gotten your accreditation—we think—but if any recertification process came up, you’d be going through this again, and God help the next man who couldn’t afford to wait. This is one time where you needed me to make this call, Mom, even though neither of us knew it.”
“My God,” Mom says into the phone. “I thought the woman just had a bone to pick with us. She’s on a crazy power trip.”
“It looks that way. So, yes, your complaint may delay your accreditation for a little while, but most likely not nearly as long as you thought.” She pauses again.
“You should tell Ana,” she says. “This thing has been ripping her apart all day.” So much for Allen taking the fall for me, but hell, I couldn’t have my mom and my wife in unending dismay over this thing.
“I will, Mom,” I promise, “the moment I see her.” We exchange a few more words and I end the call with my mother. A few minutes later, we pull into the parking lot of Helping Hands. Sure enough, Butterfly’s and Chuck’s Audis are still here.
“Stay here,” I tell Jason. “I won’t be long. I’m going in to get her and we’re going home.” He nods at me and begins texting on his phone, no doubt telling Chuck that we’re here. I take the short route to her office and find her light on and her cell sitting on her desk. I’m not alarmed since I see that her laptop hasn’t gone “to sleep” yet, so I know she must have just left the office. My first assumption is that she’s gone to the restroom, so I wait for a minute or two.
Unless she fell in, she’s not in the restroom. I start to make my way around the community areas of the Center until I get to the main community room. Only the lights near the vending machines and the accompanying sofas at the far end of the room are on, but it’s enough light for me to see clearly the last thing in the world that I ever wanted to see.
I take in every detail of the moment like a freeze frame of a motion picture…
The empty sandwich wrapper and tall can of green tea on a nearby table;
The florescent light with one bulb dimmer than the other above the seating area;
The click of someone’s shoes on the floor off in the distance;
My wife with mussed hair sitting stock still and gazing in front of her;
And the man gently caressing her cheek and leaning in for a kiss.
My feet don’t move. They can’t move. My breathing stops and I can hear my heartbeat in my ears, feel it in my eyes. My fists are clenched so tightly that they hurt and I almost feel light-headed.
What. The. Fuck.
She puts her hands on his chest and the picture somehow zooms to close-up. Somehow, I’m now in the frame cursing and yelling and grabbing this fucker by the jacket and demanding to know what the fuck he’s doing with my wife. Her voice rips through my subconscious and stops me just as I’m about to pummel this fucker within an inch of his life.
“Christian! Please! Stop!”
My hand stops inches, and I mean inches, away from his face. I look over at her and she’s crying and shaking, her hands on the arm that’s holding his jacket in my fist.
She’s crying. She’s crying for him. She’s trying to save him.
“Please, Christian, calm down,” she beseeches me. I feel like… fuck, I don’t know what I feel like. I can’t believe she’s saving this fucker. Time feels like it goes in slow motion when she tells me to leave… to go home. She’s saying something else, but I can’t hear her. I see her mouth moving, but I only hear, “leave… go home.” I’m shaking in fury… and hurt and disappointment. I release the fucker’s jacket and walk quickly out of the community room and out the front door. I stride without looking, without thinking to the waiting Audi with Jason.
“Let’s go, Jason,” I huff, getting into the front seat of the Audi and slamming the door behind me.
“Is everything alright?” he asks.
“Drive!” I bark, never turning to face him.
Several hours later, I’m sitting in the private lounge at SeaTac, waiting for my pilots and for the jet to be fueled and ready for take-off. The only thing I took from the house when we got there was my Glock. I know that Jason will make the necessary arrangements and get the necessary clearances to get our firearms into the country if he hasn’t already. After I told Jason to prepare for an overseas flight, I gave him exactly fifteen minutes to pack and say goodbye to his family. He knows the drill—a trip can come up at any second. This is the second. This is the goddamn second! I didn’t even pack. I’ll buy what I need when I get there.
My phone is ringing wildly, playing that goddamn song over and over again. I want to launch the damn thing across the room. Instead, I just send each call to voice mail and nurse another glass of bourbon. I don’t know exactly where Jason is, but I know he’s trying to make preparations for the flight and probably for the firearms.
She told me to leave. She told ME to leave—not the fucker that was about to kiss her, me! I throw back the rest of the bourbon and ask for a refill, the scene of this preppy-looking, young motherfucker leaning in to my wife playing over and over and over and over again in my head… for hours! I should have gone down to the gym and worked out before I left the mansion, but that would mean staying there possibly until she came back, and she told me to leave.
“Sir.” I turn around to see Jason standing in the doorway of the lounge. “Everything is ready.”
“It’s about damn time,” I say as I stand from the chair and wobble a bit on my feet. Shit, too much to drink. Jason catches me before I hit the floor.
“Will you be okay to fly, sir?” Jason asks, knowing exactly what my problem is.
“Just get me to the goddamn plane,” I hiss, leaning on him like the worthless drunk that I feel like right now.
Thankfully, I’m able to turn off my phone and stop that fucking song from playing once I get on the plane. It warbled in my pocket all the way through the airport and all the way up the stairs to the jet. It’s daylight by the time we board, and I don’t bother looking at my watch—my beloved Hublot that she bought me as a wedding present. I need a shower and to sleep off this goddamn alcohol. I sit in my seat impatiently waiting for the plane to take off and get me the fuck out of Seattle, away from this shit so I can clear my fucking head.
A hundred years later, the pilot—Norman, I think his name is—announces that it’s safe to move about the cabin. I can’t get to the bathroom fast enough. Endless flows of alcohol stream up my throat and out of my mouth. I empty every possible thing I ingested over the last 24 hours until I’m on my knees on the floor in dry heaves. After the inadvertent tears that follow unending vomiting begin, I turn on the shower and strip out of my suit, underwear and shoes and walk right into the blast of water.
Nothing can wash away this feeling of betrayal and emptiness… or the taste of bile in my mouth…
“Sir, we’re about to land at JFK for refueling.”
I’m asleep naked in the bed and my head feels like lead. Where the fuck am I? Oh, yeah, the jet.
“Where are my clothes?” I ask, my throat feels like gravel.
“Um, the suit is ruined, sir. You don’t want to wear that.”
“Well, I have to wear something unless you suggest I give our flight attendant a peep show.”
“There are no other clothes on the plane, sir. I can only suggest that you wrap yourself in the blanket or bedsheet.”
“Don’t you have something I can borrow?”
“Most likely, but my bag is in the cargo hold.”
“Fuck it, I’ll wear the pants and a T-shirt…”
So, I find myself awaiting landing strapped in the seat dressed in a toga. The flight attendant doesn’t even blink.
Jason has secured ground transportation for us in the form of a black Audi Q5. He probably called every rental car agency in the country to find that car. We get to our suite at high noon on Friday morning after he has lent me some of his workout gear. Our insteps are drastically different, so I can’t wear his suits, but sweats are universal. I have to acquire suits of my own if I don’t want to walk around the streets of Madrid looking like a goddamn dork…
… Which is exactly what I do when the valet parks the Audi and Jason and I enter some nameless store in one of Madrid’s shopping districts. To say that I couldn’t care less about my appearance right now is a massive understatement. I walk right into some store where I see Armani in the window in this ridiculous pair of sweats and a T-shirt that Jason has lent me. I proceed right to the counter like I own the joint, pull out my Amex Black and toss it down.
“I need five suits,” I tell the clerk who examines me like an alien from outer space. He takes a moment to take in my attire before showing his obvious distaste for my apparel, his nose and lip rising in that way like he’s smelling something bad.
“Don’t look at the clothes, Skippy. Look at the card,” I growl, irritated, and I think my voice actually scares the guy. As diplomacy totally evades me at the moment, Jason rightfully sees the need to take over as chief communicator. He, of course, is wearing a designer suit as usual, since I allowed him to pack. Obviously, he’s more appropriately dressed to talk to this high-nosed fucker.
“Do you like American cinema?” he asks the fucker.
“It is good enough,” the fucker replies in a heavy accent, as if American movies are beneath him.
“Have you ever seen Pretty Woman?” Jason asks. The fucker frowns at first. Seeing that Jason is serious, he says,
“Pretty Woman, yes, Julia Roberts.” Jason points to me as says,
“That’s Edward Lewis.”
It takes a moment for the words to sink in, but the commission dollar signs begin to shine in this fucker’s eyes as he looks down at my Amex Black. When he raises his eyes to mine again, his whole demeanor changes.
“Mr. Grey, of course,” he croons, “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Don’t simper,” I growl again, “it’s too late to impress me.”
He swallows hard and looks over at Jason, who is apparently my diplomatic interpreter. I don’t hear or see what Jason says to him, but the guy turns back to me with the same simpering smile and gestures for me to follow him.
“Right this way, Mr. Grey. You said you needed suits?”
“Five,” I repeat, “Armani, Tom Ford, Corneliani—I at least recognized those on your floor. Black, blue, gray—this is a business trip. And somebody tell me where I can get some goddamn Cesare Paciotti’s…”
I’m led away to a private room and shown several suits while Jason chats with the simpering fucker about God only knows what. Hours later, we leave the shopping district with a hell of a lot more bags than the five suits I asked for.
“What’s all this shit?” I ask Jason.
“Underwear, pajamas, handkerchiefs, shirts to go under those expensive suits you just bought, ties, cufflinks, toiletries, workout gear, three sets of casual clothes, Nikes, and your Amex Black was able to get you three pairs of Cesare Paciotti’s delivered to the store before we left.” He says the entire spiel with a straight face and I almost want to hit him. “Just wanted to save myself another trip, sir.”
I say nothing during the ride back to the hotel. I didn’t really think this trip through. I just knew that I needed to be away from the Crossing… away from the situation.
Away from her.
Luckily, I was smart enough to bring my laptop when I left the office Wednesday night, so everything that I was working on is at arm’s reach. Otherwise, I would have had to have Andrea overnight the damn thing to me.
“I need your phone,” I tell Jason. He digs in his pocket and hands me the phone. I call mine to see if there are messages from the office. I don’t want to turn my phone on and hear that incessant song anymore. Of course, there are numerous messages from her. The moment I hear the beginning of her number being recited back by the automated voice, I delete the message. I don’t have the strength to even deal with it, with what I saw, with what I felt… what I’m feeling right now. A message from Andrea and two from Ros managed to get through between her calls before she filled my voicemail. I’ll have to write the numbers down when I get back to the hotel.
I ask for Jason’s phone so much over the course of the weekend that he asks if he should just get me a burner. There’s no way that a burner would be able to handle all the business I need to handle, so that’s out of the question. On Sunday night, I finally decide to plug my phone into the charger and contemplate how I’m going to handle the situation at hand.
“You’re calling from Jason’s phone,” Welch says when I speak to him that evening.
“Yes,” I say, with no explanation. “Are you in the office?”
“I need something, and I don’t know how to get it.”
“Okay,” he says. “Let’s hear it.”
“Is there a way to get me blueprints or a detailed layout for a small factory in Madrid?”
“You’re asking for miracles here,” Alex says. “When do you need it?”
“Yesterday,” I tell him. “Seriously, like right now.” I can see him shaking his head in my mind’s eye.
“I don’t know if I can do that,” he says. “What factory is it? Where is it located.”
“Albien Textiles.” I give him the address.
“Christian, I don’t know if I can do this, but I’ll try. Any specific reason? It might help with the task.”
“Long story short, I think Capito is hiding something. I’m going to try to get into the factory for a standard tour of interest, but I totally expect him to resist. If he doesn’t, he’s going to do his best to keep me out of key areas. I want to know what those key areas are before I meet with this man.”
“I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise anything,” he says.
“Just do what you can.” I end the call. There’s no piano in the suite, so there’s nothing for me to do for my insomnia but work out. I go to the gym downstairs in the hotel and run until my legs feel like mush.
It’s Monday morning in Madrid. I’ve barely eaten anything all weekend and slept even less. I order room service so that I don’t keel over from hunger. Jason garners enough nerve to ask for his phone back, forcing me to turn mine on and sure enough, it’s full of voice mails and text messages again… from her. You would think she would get the message that I need to be left alone right now, but apparently not. I’m not going to get any peace if I don’t talk to her and I don’t want to talk to her right now. I consider doing something that I never thought I’d do, but I’m immediately concerned that something may happen with the twins and no one can get in touch with me. Then I remember that Gail and Chuck… and even she… can contact Jason. I delete all the voicemails and text messages and send her cellphone number to the block list. It’s the only way I’ll get any work done while I’m here.
It doesn’t help, though. Jason makes it a point to tell me that Gail has called, or she has called crying and upset wanting answers. I tune him out whenever he mentions her and proceed to try to get some work done.
Ros, Lorenz, and I work tirelessly over the next few days gathering inside intelligence on Capito and the mystery factory, nothing much coming out of the woodwork. I have to get into that factory. I know I’m missing something and the key is inside that factory. The team and I set the factory aside for a day and review documents for the hotel instead, but Ros is chewing on that bone that something is going on with Capito and that factory that he doesn’t want to let go of.
Like the miracle worker that he is, Alex somehow manages to get schematics for the Albien factory. It’s a standard operation except for a section near the back that looks like it might be sleeping quarters. I assume it’s for workers that want to stay the night because of crazy shifts. I don’t like sweat shops myself and I refuse to use them for any GEH manufacturing operations, but if that’s what’s going on, that can easily be rectified once GEH acquires the company. Armed with this knowledge and my possible conclusions about the company, I decide to pay a visit to Capito on Friday morning.
“Mr. Grey, a pleasant surprise… Antamonides Capito,” he says with a heavy Spanish accent while extending his hand to me. Fuck, I’m going to have to tie my tongue in a goddamn knot to say that name.
“Mr. Capito,” I say formally, accepting his proffered hand.
“To what do we owe this unexpected visit?”
“I make it a point to try to visit any company that I plan to do business with on this level, particularly those of special interest to me.” He raises an eyebrow.
“Special interest?” he says, gesturing to one of the seats in front of his desk. I undo the button of my jacket and take a seat.
“Yes,” I say as he sits in the seat placed next to me. “I’m particularly interested in Albien Textiles. It seems to be the only… hiccup in our negotiations and I would like to see why.”
“Of course,” he says, the comfort level he exuded moments ago slipping just a bit. “We can schedule a visit to the facility, say, Monday morning?” And there’s the stall.
“I’d like to visit the factory today,” I press. “Unscheduled visits are much more informative than the pomp and circumstance I would expect to see after a weekend of preparation.” He frowns.
“What is this pomp and…” He’s shaking his head. More stalling…
“I would like to see the factory today, preferably immediately. My time in Madrid is limited.” I look at the clock as if in a rush. I’m in no rush. There’s nowhere else in the world for me to be at this moment.
“I… can schedule something this afternoon,” he says. Still stalling. Still time to destroy important information or stage a visit. “You have given us no notice, Mr. Grey. This is highly unusual. It emits an air of distrust.”
“How long have you been in business, Mr. Capito?” I ask, hypothetically, and continue speaking before he has an opportunity to answer. “The business of mergers and acquisitions is cutthroat. The information you receive is only as good as your own eyes. You’re new to this arena, so you may not be aware of the treachery and deception that can occur with a novice in this industry. I have personally had my share of rotten apples passed on to me during my extensive tenure, as has anyone with any extended experience in this line of work. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned not to believe what’s on the surface—to dig deeper and see for myself what kind of package is being handed to me.
“I don’t charm my way through my business dealings. I didn’t become this wealthy and successful by trying to make friends. I’m shrewd, I negotiate, and in necessary situations, I bully, but I don’t charm. I see things for what they are, so if you feel an air of distrust, go with that. Trust no one. ‘Believe half of what you see and nothing that you hear.’ Always approach a negotiation with a bit of scrutiny and know that the party to which you are speaking is never exercising full disclosure… ever.” I fold my hands in my lap before I add one last bit of information.
“Also know that the fact that I am unable to secure an impromptu visit to this factory that appears to be the jewel in your crown will tell me worlds more than anything I could possibly see when I get there.” He straightens a bit, much more formal than he was when we met moments ago.
“Surely, you can give me until this afternoon,” he says firmly. “A VIP strolling through my factory would be disruptive and may cause mistakes during production, uneasiness and destruction of moral. I would at least like some time to warn my staff of your arrival. As a businessman, surely you can understand the importance of accuracy and precision in any manufacturing operation.” He’s intimidated, but I can tell that he’s dug in and I won’t get into that factory before this afternoon. I push a little harder.
“I can give you until 11am. I have other appointments I need to attend.” I’ll go as late as 1pm, but I won’t tell him that. No matter what they can do, not much can be done between now and 1 o’clock.
“Impossible. You can come at five,” he insists.
“That’s not afternoon, Mr. Capito. That’s evening,” I retort. “As I said, I have other appointments to attend.”
“I can pull it to 3pm, then.” Nope, still too late.
“Unacceptable,” I say. “Noon at the very latest.”
“As you said, Mr. Grey, that’s not afternoon. That’s noon.” And now, he’s being sarcastic. Well played, Mr. Capito, but not well enough. I put my hands on the armrest and make to stand. Never let them believe the you won’t walk away. “I can do 1pm,” he says quickly, halting my progress. I pause before rising out of my seat as if contemplating his offer. I rise anyway.
“One PM,” I confirm. “My driver and I will be here at 12:30.” I walk to the door.
“Please allow me to provide the transportation,” he says. I turn to face him.
“Thank you, but no. My security team follows strict protocols for very good reason. I trust them with my safety,” I say, stressing the word, “so I dare not alter their procedures.”
“Team?” he says, no doubt noting that Jason is the only one he has seen.
“Yes, team,” I reinforce. “My team is with me all over the world and knows where I am every second.”
“Are you fitted with a microchip, Mr. Grey?” he says coolly, and now, he’s trying to get under my skin.
“No, Mr. Capito,” I say, unmoved. “My team is just that damn good. I’ll see you at one.” I leave his office and meet Jason in the lobby. “Did you get that?” I ask inconspicuously as we leave the building.
“One o’clock. We’ll follow him to the factory.”
“Let’s get some lunch,” I say, as we leave the building.
Promptly at 12:30, we’re back at Capito’s building waiting for him to come down. He waits until 12:45 to emerge from the building. Strike one.
“My apologies, Mr. Grey,” he says as the window to the Audi descends. “I was in a meeting that ran over.” I nod once, but don’t respond, noting his glance around the car and realizing immediately that he’s taking stock of its occupants.
We drive for about twenty minutes and I realize that we’re heading out of town, not to the factory. I look at Jason in the rearview mirror.
“We’re not going to the factory,” I tell him.
“I’m aware,” he says, his brow furrowing as he dials a number in his docked phone. A phone on the other end rings twice before someone answers.
“Where are you?” Jason asks.
“At the warehouse waiting for you. Thought you were supposed to be here by now.”
“We were. There’s been a detour. I don’t know where we’re going.”
“Backup?” I ask. He nods.
“Call Alex. Tell him to initiate satellite tracking on my pendant and the boss’s watch.” There’s tracking in my watch? How did I not know that?
“I’m not wearing my watch,” I tell him. I left it at the hotel in my newly acquired accessories bag. I won’t take off my wedding ring, but I’m not wearing that damn watch. I normally look at it during various intervals during the day and contemplate just how much I adore its gifter. That’s not the order of business for today… probably this entire trip.
“Shit!” Jason hisses. “You wear that goddamn thing everywhere and today you decide to take it off!” He says it under his breath. “Track my second harness. The boss isn’t wearing his watch.”
“Ten-four,” Cox says, and Jason lifts his feet slightly off the gas, causing our lead to pull ahead.
“We don’t want to lose them,” I tell him.
“We’re not going to lose them,” Jason says as he reaches into the console and hands me a harness. “Put this on,” he says. I quickly remove my jacket and slide into the harness, adjusting it around my back like Jason taught me. “Let me know as soon as satellite tracking is activated,” he says to Cox.
“What should we be doing?” Cox asks.
“Hang tight. Surveillance.”
“There’s nothing to survey, sir,” Cox says. “A couple of guys have gone in an out of this place, but besides that, it’s a ghost town. There aren’t even any cars in the parking lot.” I frown.
“Okay. Stand by. Get Welch on the phone.” Jason ends the call.
“This is not adding up and it doesn’t look good,” I say.
“No, it doesn’t,” Jason says. “I can get away with carrying my gun inside of a factory because I’m security. You have no reason to carry yours. I’ll assess the situation when we get to our destination and decide if you should put it in that harness.” I nod as he comes off the gas even more and our lead pulls further ahead of us.
“What are you doing?” I ask him.
“One of two things is happening in that car up there,” he tells me. “Either they’re not paying attention to us at all or Capito is wondering what the fuck is going on back here. If they lose us, we probably want it that way because they just want to get us out of the city. If they slow down or stop, they have something they really want us to see, and it’s obviously not the factory. We’ve got five more miles before cell reception is going to be compromised even though the satellite will pick us up wherever we are. So, four more miles and I turn around.”
“I want to see where he’s taking us,” I protest.
“Is this deal worth your safety, sir?”
He’s right. I can’t be stupid about this. I’m not thinking self-preservation right now. Hell, I’m not thinking at all.
“At least one of us is thinking,” I say, looking out the window at the passing landscape.
Jason has now slowed to a crawl and the sleek silver sedan that shuttles Mr. Capito is slowly disappearing from sight. I guess we won’t be seeing where he’s leading us after all. We pull off by the side of the road.
“About three more miles and we’ve got questionable and possibly no cell reception,” Jason says, looking over the seat at me. Well, this was a wasted trip… maybe not so much. I learned that I’m dealing with someone sneaky and probably don’t want to do business with him.
“Turn around,” I concede, “There’s nothing ahead of us for miles that I can see. Get us back to the main road before they find us out here in the tall grass somewhere.” He nods and makes to turn around when the phone rings.
“Satlink is established, sir. We have you on CM-2004 just outside of Madrid,” Cox says.
“Well, would you lookie here,” Jason says, drawing my attention to the silver sedan speeding back in our direction. “Ceej, call me back in exactly two minutes.” Jason tells him to repeat that information and add some additional information to the conversation.
“You got it.” The call ends.
“Ten’ll get you twenty he’s going to say that we made a wrong turn,” Jason says.
“He can’t be that stupid. This is his factory,” I protest.
“But we’re not going to his factory,” Jason points out. “No matter what he says, I refuse to follow him any further out of town, sir. I’ll run him over in the road first.” I nod.
“I concur,” I say, sitting back in my seat and waiting for the show. The sedan screeches to a halt next to the Audi and Capito gets out of the back seat, walking quickly to my window. I don my sunglasses and let my window down.
“Is everything alright, Mr. Grey?” he asks.
“We should be asking you that question,” I say. “My information indicates that we’re heading in the complete opposite direction of the factory. I agreed to follow you to the factory as a courtesy. I could have just met you there at 1pm. I’d like to know where we’re going.” Before he has a chance to respond, the phone rings. I hold up a finger to silence Capito.
“Taylor.” Cox’s voice is piping through the car speakers.
“Satlink is established, sir. We have you on CM-2004 just outside of Madrid en route to one Albien Textiles with Antamonides Capito as indicated in briefing. Intelligence indicates that you’re headed in the wrong direction,” Cox says.
“We’re aware,” Taylor says. “Stand by.”
“Ten-four.” Jason looks back at me and I look up a Capito.
“We’ve… taken a wrong turn,” Capito says. It’s a good thing I didn’t take that bet. “We need to turn around.”
“This is your factory, Mr. Capito,” I accuse, “one that you swore you needed to make preparations before I could see it, and you don’t know how to get there?”
“This is why we wanted to wait for you to see the factory, Mr. Grey,” Capito says. “The main factory is undergoing renovations. We had to set up operations at a temporary location. We have only been their once or twice, which is why we were turned around. A simple error in direction. It can happen to anyone.” I’m losing my patience.
“Where are we going?” Jason asks, his voice completely devoid of emotion.
“If you would just follow me…” Capito begins.
“Where. Are. We. Going?” I repeat slowly. Capito stares at me for a moment and I stare right back as he rattles off an address in Valdilecha, some 18 miles back from the direction we just came.
“Satnav that, please,” Jason says, and we wait for about 20 seconds before Cox responds.
“Location tracked, sir. Directions have been uplinked to your GPS.” Jason looks back at Capito.
“This way, in case we have another wrong turn, you can follow us. I understand how these things happen.” He turns back to face the windshield. Capito doesn’t say another word but goes back to the silver sedan and climbs into the back seat.
“So where are we going?” I ask Jason.
“Cox, any ideas?”
“It’s some kind of storefront in a barred-up part of town,” he says. “It could be a factory. Then again, it could be a grocery store. Alex is working on it. I just Googled it.”
“What about Capito’s story,” I ask. “Could they be undergoing renovations?”
“I suppose they could, but the workers must have Friday off. Like I said, it’s a ghost town out here.”
“Well, we’ve got about 15 minutes to find out where the hell we’re going,” I say.
“We’ll get something for you, sir.”
The drive was quicker than I anticipated. Sure enough, we drive up to some unmarked building with three large, industrial doors and no information from Alex.
“Sir?” Jason says, awaiting instruction.
“It’s like you said, you can wear your gun without suspicion if we go through metal detectors. I can’t. Besides, Capito knows that we’re Satlinked and we mentioned his name particularly. Unless we’re dealing with the Mexican Mafia, which I highly doubt, we should be okay.” He nods and exits the car.
Sure enough, where given a tour through some small non-descript sweatshop operation, and these women look to be making some kind of plastic bottle tops or something. And I’m supposed to believe that this tiny operation is what’s holding up a billion-dollar merger.
The drive was more exciting than the goddamn tour, but I don’t let on to Capito that I know he’s full of shit. I don’t really have to; he already knows it. I thank him for the very informative tour before Jason and I get back on the road to Madrid.
“So… what now, boss?”
“Is Cox alone at that warehouse?” I ask.
“No, sir. He and Williams took commercial flights in on Wednesday. You can never be too sure with foreign security and I didn’t have enough time to set anything up on our way out of the States.” He’s been very professional about this whole thing. He hasn’t asked me any questions about what may have happened, and I haven’t offered any information. I want to focus on work, not my questionable marriage.
“Thanks for taking care of that,” I say. “Maybe we should pay a visit to the actual factory.”
“I hardly see a need, sir,” Jason says. “With Cox and Williams staked out there, we’ve already got eyes on the location. I can let them know to stick around for a while and let us know if they see anything worth reporting. Tomorrow, maybe? Maybe they are just off on Friday.”
“Yeah, I believe that like I believe the world is flat, but you’re right. There’s not much we can do.”
“Yeah,” he says, somewhat distracted. I watch him for a moment. He continues to drive but keeps looking in the mirror.
“What is it, Jason?” I ask.
“And we’re being followed,” he says, drawing out the and. Goddammit, as if the decoy warehouse wasn’t enough, this asshole wants to keep fucking with me. He must have gotten the same idea that I did, that I would go to the warehouse on my own if he didn’t want to give me a tour. “They’re not professionals,” Jason adds.
“How do you know?” I ask.
“They’re following too close,” he says. “Either they’re amateurs or they’re trying to scare us. Either way, their surveillance sucks.”
“Suggestions?” I ask. He reaches into the glove box and retrieves my Glock.
“Put it in your harness and fasten your seat belt…”
You can only go so fast in the narrow streets of a Spanish town. There are a lot of little alleys, though, that make for good hiding places. Maybe they’re streets, too, but they’re still good hiding places. After what could be considered a chase down the narrow Spanish streets and a detour into one such alley, we exit the car and duck into two nearby doorways, Glocks locked and loaded and waiting for our pursuer to follow. Just as we get into position, a black VW Polo pulls into the alley and blocks our Audi in. Two men get out of the car and walk to the Audi, looking into the windows.
Jason and I both come out of the shadows with our weapons drawn. I’m trained right between the eyes of the first guy and Jason walks right up behind the second, placing cold steel to his skull.
“¿Estás perdido amigo?” Jason says in perfect Spanish as both men cautiously raise their hands.
“Mr. Capito requested that we see you back to your hotel safely,” the second guy says to Jason.
“As you can see, we don’t need an escort,” I hiss. “We can take care of ourselves. I made that point very clear to your boss. Should I send him another message?”
The guy staring down the barrel of my Glock catches my meaning loud and clear and although he attempts to remain unshaken, his fear and uncertainty are quite evident.
“Eduardo, vamos. Deberíamos irnos,” the second guy says, his voice betraying his nerves.
“Listen to your friend, Eduardo,” Jason says, his voice cool. “Sal de aquí.” With his hands still in the air, Eduardo inches slowly away from the barrel of Jason’s gun while the unknown man backs away from me, meeting his friend at their vehicle. They hurriedly get into the car and back out of the alley, speeding away down the street with our guns still pointing at them until they’re out of sight. I turn to Jason.
“You’re right, total amateurs,” I say, putting my gun back in it harness. “I need to see what’s in that damn factory.”
We agree to allow Cox and Williams to remain on the stakeout to see if anything happens while we go back to the hotel and change. I bring Ros and Lorenz up to speed on what happened with the tour of the “factory” and the exciting events thereafter. Ros is as ready to drop the deal as am I, but morbid curiosity won’t allow me to let go of what might be going on at the actual factory.
I get my chance to kill the proverbial cat when we get a call from Cox right after sundown.
“Apparently, it’s a nighttime operation, sir,” Cox’s disembodied voice reports. “Once the lights went out, the building came alive. It’s buzzing with activity, so if you want to see something, now is the time.” I look at Jason.
“How can we get in without being seen?” he asks.
“You can’t, but there’s a back-access road right off the M-20 before you get to the exit for the factory. Take that to the end and it comes up to a hill on the side of the property. We have a clear view of the loading docks and everything going on in front of it.”
“I guess we’re going on a stake-out,” Jason says.
“Are you shitting me?” I hiss as Cox, Williams, Jason, and I all lay in the grass watching the comings and goings from the warehouse.
“Right before you got here,” Williams says. “Those two on the end made the drop; those two on the dock got the money.”
“Why the fuck does this always seem to happen to me?” I lament, looking through the high-powered binoculars that Cox was using moments before. “The covered trucks, what about those?”
“They arrived about ten minutes ago. I’ve only seen those used to transport people—like troops—but nobody’s gotten out of them yet. Maybe a big job coming, and they need back-up.”
“God. Dammit!” I hiss as I realize exactly what I was looking at on those schematics that Alex sent me. “Nobody’s getting out.” I hand the binoculars to Jason just as Williams silently hisses a curse. “Somebody’s getting in.”
“Fucking hell,” Jason breathes, disgusted.
“Aw, shit,” Cox says as he commandeers Williams’ binoculars. “What are they, teenagers?”
“If that,” I say, running my hands through my hair. The sleeping quarters on the schematics had to be temporary dormitories where their human stock was housed until it was time to move them. Tonight is the night and there’s no way that Capito could let me get to this factory. I’m having flashbacks of the nightmares that were the miscellaneous subsidiaries and the headaches and trauma we had getting out of those situations. Fuck if I’m getting involved with that shit again.
“Let’s get the fuck out of here. Now!” I say, crawling backwards down the hill.
“Boss, we gotta do something!” Jason hisses.
“You’re right! Get the fuck out of here!” I repeat quietly to his dismayed face. “I’ve got a Glock. So do you. Williams? Cox? I assume the same. What do you think they’re carrying?” I wait for a moment for his answer. “They’re. Moving. People! And I can guarantee you that there’s more than four men in that warehouse and they ain’t packing BB guns. Go! Now!”
He doesn’t want to move, but they all know that I’m right. We climb back down the hill and drive back down the access road to the M-20 with no lights. We meet back in mine and Jason’s suite for a debriefing.
“Did you get any kind of pictures or surveillance documentation?” I ask Cox.
“No, sir,” he laments. “We didn’t have those instructions. We had no idea…”
“I know,” I stop him. “Right now, it’s the word of four trespassers against a local, distinguished businessman who has already moved his inventory.” I push my hands through my hair. “Alex will know who to contact. Unfortunately, I know this from experience. Have him get in touch with the proper authorities and drop an anonymous tip… assuming they’re not in on it.”
Everyone at the table nods and leaves with maudlin expressions, myself included. For the first time in ten days, my thoughts settle on my wife. I want to hold her, and my children, and keep them safe from monsters like this—from a horrible, cruel world with no justice. I take a moment to lament that situation before my mind goes back to that fucker closing in on her about to kiss her…
And the wall goes back up.
While Jason is calling Alex, I call Ros and Lorenz and tell them that we’re washing our hands of the deal because something illegal is going on at that warehouse and I don’t want to get involved in it.
“You’re sure about this?” Lorenz says. “I mean about the illegal activity?”
“I’m positive, and I’ve had my share of dealing with companies that were doing similar shit.”
“This is not going to look good—that we’re just pulling out like this with no explanation,” he adds.
“Oh, I have an explanation, and a valid one at that, but I have nothing to prove to this man,” I say, definitively. “There’s nothing that his company or his factory has that I can’t get somewhere else without the hassle and possible headache that I see landing in my lap if I acquire his organization. ‘Know when to hold ‘em; know when to fold ‘em.’ He’s dirty. We’re walking away.” I hear Ros sigh on the other end.
“Okay. You’re the boss. What about the hotel chain?” she asks, not wanting to show her relief.
“I’ll be paying them a visit on Monday morning. Let’s hope that goes better than this did.”
The next morning after a workout and a shower, I’m sitting in the dining room of our suite going over the protocol of our visit to the hotel with Jason. I must admit that I’m glad that he brought back-up as he and I alone now made me feel at a disadvantage, knowing what Capito is up to. Who knows what kinds of ties that man has? I was joking about the Mexican Mafia, but after this, I don’t know who he’s in bed with… I just know it won’t be me. As I’m finishing my egg-white omelet, Jason’s phone rings.
“Hello, Love,” he says, as he takes a sip of his coffee. He’s quiet for a moment before he stands from the table. “How is she?” he asks, pacing a bit around the dining area. “Geez, are you serious?” He must be getting some news about Sophie, but apparently nothing too upsetting since he’s not having a cow. Only… what time is it in Seattle right now? Like, two or three in the morning.
“Well, why didn’t she ca…?” Whatever the question was, he’s cut off mid-sentence. After hearing his wife’s response, he raises his gaze to me and examines me for a moment.
“Oh, okay,” he says, breaking his gaze with me. “Keep me posted. So, everything else is okay?” he says as he goes into his bedroom, most likely to have to private time with his wife. I shrug off the conversation and go back to eating my omelet and reading the financial news.
A/N: ‘Believe half of what you see and nothing that you hear.’ Edgar Allan Poe’
“¿Estás perdido amigo?”—”Are you lost, friend?”
“Eduardo, vamos. Deberíamos irnos,”—”Eduardo, come on. We should go.”
“Sal de aquí.”—”Get out of here.”
Although all of the pictures from this chapter are actually in this chapter, pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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