Marion 'Zeke' Crumb entered the front door of McGinty's and joined Marissa
at the bar. She had been trying to concentrate on the books for the last
two hours of the morning without success.
"No word yet, huh?"
Marissa shook her head in answer to Crumb's question. "Did you find the van, Crumb?"
"Yeah. Right where you told me. I noticed a coupla 'Chicago's best' lurking around outside when I parked it."
"They're watching us. I suppose our phones have been tapped as well." Crumb nodded to his sightless friend, "It's what I would've done. I just hope the kid knows enough to keep that in mind. Marissa?"
"You don't know where he is, do you? I mean, he usually wants to make sure you don't worry or nothin'."
"That's just what I'm worrying about, Crumb. I'm sick, thinking that he's on the streets and I'm scared to death hearing the media announcing that he was wounded. Where is he? I wish he'd call so I can hear in his own voice that he's okay."
Crumb extended his arm around the petite black woman, "Now you, little lady, need to stop thinkin' the worst. He'll call, Marissa, he knows you're worryin'. Hobson's no stranger to this kinda stuff. How he manages to get in so much trouble, I'll never know-and I don't think I really wanna either. He'll call."
Mrs. Perry knocked and peeked in the open door where Father Mark and Aram Fortas had been having their regular discussion on the state of the Judeo-Christian world. "I have some shopping to do. Can I bring you two anything before I leave?" She was a friendly person, but was stingy about smiling.
Her employer assured her that they were both fine. "See you tomorrow," he called as she left.
After her interruption, Aram relaxed back in the chair.
"Well, Aram, we've done it again, we've debated almost an hour on one topic." Aram nodded, smiling in agreement at the realization. "And we've ended up exactly where we began-except, of course, we know how each of us views the subject. Biblical history and world history can take the same event and have any number of interpretations for it. In this case, that includes the story behind the siege at Masada."
Agreeing with this viewpoint of his friend, even if he didn't agree with all of his views of it, Aram leaned forward and asked quietly, "Mark, I want to pick your brain a bit before I leave."
"There was an article in last month's Tribune about a man in Cincinnati whose wife was suffering intensely with an incurable disease. She'd had to endure terrible pain for the previous five months. A month ago she was taken to the hospital again and died two days later. They attributed it to her medical problem and the doctor signed the death certificate. The trouble was, the hospital made a mistake and performed an autopsy. No autopsy was called for because she'd been under the care of the doctor for a long time and he felt the death was normal for her malady." He stopped to take a sip of his iced tea.
Mark was serious as he envisioned the article and the pictures of the people involved. "I think that I read that same item. It opened a hornet's nest, didn't it?"
"It did at that. Instead of the death being from the ovarian cancer, the results of the examination found that she actually had a massive dose of morphine in her system. Morphine was part of her medication, but in normal doses for her."
"What's your question, Aram?"
"I guess I want to know what your stand is on mercy killing. They're charging her husband with having administered the overdose because of some evidence that they're withholding from the public. I'd like to hear your personal feelings, not your priestly ones. Mercy killing in this case seems more humane than criminal, doesn't it?"
"You're going to be disappointed if you're looking for a confrere here. I'm one of those not-so-common people who're against capital punishment as well as mercy killing. I sorta hate the idea of 'save the whales, save the trees, save the ecology..kill the human.' I take it you're on the husband's side."
"You know what, Mark? I'm going to leave the topic undiscussed. I guess this is one subject that I feel wouldn't benefit either of us to argue." Rising, he started to leave, "Thanks for the hospitality and mental stimulation. I'll be going now."
As they reached the door leading outward, Aram asked nonchallantly, "Remember that guy you introduced to me last time?" Not waiting for Mark's answer, he hurried to comment, "Have you seen his picture in the paper?" Adding for effect, "He's wanted for murder! I guess we didn't resemble each other in everything."
"Shocking, wasn't it? Actually, according to all the papers, he's still considered a 'suspect,' but if he wants to clear this up he's not helping himself any by running." He seemed to be pondering the issue, "Somehow he didn't impress me as anything but a normal, hardworking man."
Aram made a harumphing sound as he commented, "That's the trouble with evil people; they appear to everyone as normal, law-abiding citizens. Take Baby-face Nelson, for instance." Checking his watch, he changed his mind about opening a discussion as he was walking out the door, "I have an appointment or I'd stay and get into this with you."
"See you next week, Aram." As an afterthought, he added, "If you'd like to come to lunch Thursday, this week, I have it open. Give a call."
Aram Fortas needed time to think and he needed to locate a particular lookalike. This situation would not benefit from the passage of time. He needed to call a few people to assist him in his missing person search, willingly or unwillingly. The first one would likely be Detective Paul Armstrong. This fellow member of the 'Task Force' might be a good luncheon partner.
The morning began with the confusion present when you awaken from a deep sleep in foreign surroundings. They looked foreign at first. As he tried to roll over, the pain in his arm and shoulder reminded him how he came to be, not just in the home, but in the bed of Toni Brigatti. He groaned audibly as he rolled back to a more comfortable position.
He heard her coming down the hallway. Before she was fully into the room, she started asking, an uncharacteristic note of concern in her words, "Hobson! What? You okay?" She saw him lying there watching her as she entered the bedroom. Her hair was wet and she was wrapped in a white terrycloth bathrobe. There was a look of legitimate worry in her face as she pulled the covers back and checked the bandaging job she had done on his shoulder.
He stared and wondered how she could look so stunning in such a condition of undress. All the times that he had come in contact with her, her hair in a variety of degrees of disarray, but it always had the ability to draw his attention to its dark, shining beauty. It was with a bit of remorse that he remembered back to their less than friendly meetings. Was it his fault that she so easily hardened in attitude as they talked? As they sat together on the bed at the hotel to care for his arm, it seemed for a while that they could, that they could have, that there was some hope for them to, maybe.. He dismissed any possibility of hope from his thoughts, for the moment, at least. Giving her his best reassuring smile, he rubbed his hand over his shoulder to explain his source of discomfort.
"How's the patient this morning? I'm glad to see you lookin' awake." She didn't wait for his end of the conversation, but continued with, "I'm getting ready for work. I'll check on you this afternoon. Take it easy."
Before she was completely out of the room, he called, "Wait. Toni. I...I..thought you were taking a 'personal day' today. Or was I dreaming?"
"Very good, Hobson. I took the day off yesterday! You pretty well slept through it." Her tone softened as she said, "I'm sorry, but I can't stay here today. It's one of those damned Mayor's Task Force meetings again, preceded by a department briefing. It's gettin' so that, with all the meetings, there's just no time to do any real work. I just hope they don't single me out with more questions about whether I have any idea where you are!"
Very quietly, and in a hurt voice, Gary said, "I'm not the killer, Brigatti. I didn't do it; so you're not hiding a criminal."
"You're an accused felon, Hobson, or haven't you heard? To add to it, you evaded arrest. And that's not even mentioning my part in this. Now, don't make me late; I've gotta be on time today." She left him to consider the fact that he'd lost a whole day to sleep and that his situation really hadn' t improved from the previous day.
As he closed his eyes to consider how he could take a shower and still keep the bandaging dry, something landed on the bed. 'Don't open your eyes, Hobson!' he warned himself, 'Don't look. Maybe it's not...'
He could imagine and wish all he wanted, but it didn't erase the truth. Opening one eye just enough to peek, he saw Cat in all its glory, sitting on its usual cushion of newspaper. It was only then that the cat issued its demanding yowl.
"Just what d'ya think Detective Brigatti has in the way of cat food? Come to think of it, if she catches you here, I'll be eating cat soup tonight."
He'd never felt sorry for the cat before, but as hungry as he, himself felt, he decided that he'd make an effort to feed them both.
The whole trick to getting out of bed with the least aches and pains was in getting up slowly. Keeping away from his left side, that was the other key. Eventually he made it to the kitchen and found a can of tuna after searching the cupboards. He was surprised to see a bowl of cereal set out on the table for him. The two strange 'friends' sat in silence as Gary read the paper, afraid he'd find something that needed attention.
Toni had also left two cups of brewed coffee remaining in the pot. That and the cereal made Gary ready to take a makeshift shower and attempt to save an office worker from having his necktie dragged into a shredder while he was still wearing the tie! It sounded easy. Sure, easy. Brigatti would never know and he could be back before lunchtime. The only scary part of it was in keeping from being recognized while he was out. If only he could stop at the loft and pick up some fresh clean clothes.
Again, he couldn't even ask for help.
He showered as best he could. It was refreshing just to feel the warm water running on his chest and legs. The plastic trash bag that he had wrapped around most of the bandages kept his wound dry. He had to put on the same clothes as yester...as the other day, for the moment anyway. When he found his clothes, he found that his resident cop had washed, ironed and folded them. 'Not bad, not bad. Who'd have thought that Antonia Brigatti would be washing AND IRONING my clothes? In that same way, who'd have thought that Toni Brigatti would not have just have offered me her bed, but tucked me in! ' He couldn't help but chuckle at the thought-but not within her earshot. He was careful to walk to a public phone to call for a taxi. Before the cab arrived he went into a multi-department drugstore and used some of what money he had left to buy Tylenol and a baseball cap. That cap was about as good as it was going to get as far as disguises went.
The taxi dropped him off right in front of the Gentry Insurance building. After paying the fare, he went in to ask for Harry Congers in 'payroll'.
This save was so easy. He found Harry. Gary decided that by introducing himself as the designated safety officer for the company, he was able to convince Harry to tuck his tie in his shirt, military-style, when doing any shredding. Harry never knew what he had almost experienced.
The trouble was the darn Tylenol just didn't seem to be cutting it with the headache that was encircling his head like an ever-tightening metal band. In addition, the cereal and coffee didn't seem to be sitting very well in his stomach. In a word, he felt awful. The elevator was packed tightly and seemed to take forever to reach the street floor. Some man standing next to him had an armload of file folders in a large box. Every time the elevator stopped-and it seemed to do so at every floor-the box would bump against Gary's left arm. He knew that it was impossible to have a headache in your arm, but as time went on, the two aches seemed to have connected.
"You feelin' okay, buddy?" The man with the box noticed the sweat beading on Gary's brow and his pasty complexion.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm..fine. It's just a little warm in here."
The other people in the elevator looked from one to the other, then at him. The air conditioner was sending out frigid blasts and they wondered how much longer they'd have to be in this enclosed space with this sickly person.
Meanwhile, they all edged as far away from him as the space allowed. He would like to have had the cabdriver take him to Brigatti's door, but didn't dare chance being remembered as having been left off there. At one point, on the way back to her home he chose a good, sturdy tree to lean on for a while. Determination was the only thing that allowed him to make it all the way back. Checking around to see whether anyone might be watching, he went around to the back door and let himself in the same way that he had another time when he hadn't been so fortunate as to reach Brigatti's more vulnerable side.
By the time he secured the door behind him, his strength was all but gone. He sat down on the nearest dining room chair, put his head down on his arms, and passed out. He didn't hear the front door open; didn't hear Brigatti's shocked gasp as she saw him there. He didn't even feel it at first as she tried to rouse him. She was becoming truly alarmed at the difficulty she was having in waking him. Just as she took her phone from her purse to call for help, he moaned and moved his head.
"Gary. You scared me to death. What's wrong?"
When he didn't answer, she picked up the phone again. He opened his eyes as she began punching in the numbers and pleaded, "No. Don't do that. Please. I'm all right; I'm fine-just a little...tired. That's all."
"Right! A little tired! What're you doin' with your jacket on? Comin' or goin'?" She saw him making the effort to stand up. When he began to lose his balance, she stepped closer to him in order to take his right arm.
"Okay, so I'm no good at TLC. C'mon, let's get you back to bed." As soon as she said it, she heard, or rather, felt him snicker. "Leave the laughter for another time, Hobson. Just walk, dammit."
With him undressed and settled back into the bed, she heard him say something and asked, "What was that?"
She had to struggle to hear as he whispered, "Please. Please try to let Marissa know..." He changed his mind, "Then again, maybe, maybe you shouldn't."
"Don't worry your head about Marissa. I talked with her last evening."
His eyes shot open, "You talked with...last night? Toni."
"Yeah, I know. The phones. I told you not to worry. I've got it covered. Go to sleep."
"What do you mean you have it 'covered'?"
"I told her that I picked up her cat at the vets. At first she was real quiet, but she caught on fast and asked what the vet had said."
"Well? What did you tell her?"
"I told her that he treated the cat's injuries and that the cat should be better soon. Now shut up and go to sleep. Oh, and Hobson?"
"I'm hidin' your clothes."
End of Part 4
Part 5 of 10
CHAPTER ONE Marissa sat with Chuck for a long time in a McGinty's booth, whispering in conference about their fugitive friend. At first, Chuck had been afraid to do much hanging out at McGinty's for fear that Gary might want to contact him at his hotel for help.
It had been almost four whole days since the newspaper coverage of the murder. Marissa had called to ask Chuck to stop by 'for help with the inventory.' His first impression was 'when did Marissa ever ask him for help?' He showed up anyway, ready for duty. Instead of assigning an inventory task to Gary's former partner, Marissa asked him to sit with her to discuss their missing friend.
"Chuck, has he called you or gotten in touch with you at all?" It was hard to just wait for things to happen, hard to be patient when they both wanted to be able to help in some way.
He had hoped for some kind of contact, but had to admit that he hadn't had any.
"Is there anyone in any of the other booths near us?"
He stood up and made the effort to walk the line of booths. Sliding back in opposite her, he gave her the go-ahead. "Coast's clear."
Even though he confirmed that they wouldn't be overheard, she whispered, "Gary's safe."
Chuck nervously glanced around, "Did he call?"
"Call? Chuck, you do know about the phone lines, right?"
"Give me some credit, Marissa, that's why I asked you. How do you know that he's safe? Where?"
She kept her ears tuned to listen for people coming near. "Toni Brigatti called and told me."
Sarcastically, Chuck said, "Oh, good. Brigatti called. That makes me feel much better. Tell me, Marissa, what makes it safer for Brigatti to call here than for anyone else to?"
"No, Chuck. She did call, but she told me that she had picked up my cat from the vets."
"I didn't know you had a cat, Marissa. And what did that have to do with Gary? Was it his cat?"
Trying to maintain her patience, Marissa started over again and finally was able to make Chuck Fishman understand the message that Brigatti had left.
"Ya know what?" He smiled broadly, a weight having been lifted, "I don't remember ever receiving better news. That was pretty smart of her. But...Brigatti? Why Brigatti? He told me that she flat refused to help him during the Scanlon murder case. He begged her. Begged! What made him think that she would now?"
Still whispering, she asked, "Where else could he turn? To you? Or me? Not to anyone, Chuck. He was alone-and hurt."
"I'll have to give her credit. If he's still in her home, she hasn't notified any authorities. Maybe I should pay her a little more respect."
"Don't strain yourself. She'd be suspicious if you did."
He ignored her comment. "Knowing how those two get along, I wonder which one will be the last one standing to be declared the winner?" Laughing as he envisioned the combatants, he wondered, "So what happens now? Have you had a chance to find out what she's gonna do?"
Shaking her head, she answered, not really happy with being kept in the dark, "I'm hesitant to call her. Maybe I should invite her to dinner, or something. I'll call her at work later. I wish I could talk with Gary."
"If you talk to her before I do, tell her, ah, tell her, ah... Never mind; I'll wait and tell her the next time I see her."
After they finished their conversation, Marissa went back to the office and Chuck moved to the bar where another man was sitting with his back to him, apparently watching the television news. There were a few other customers, but the lunch crowd hadn't arrived as yet. Vadim was tending to his duties behind the bar when Chuck called asking for some snacks.
A bowl of chips was placed between the two men.
First thanking Vadim, Chuck nudged the elbow of the other person, "Hey, buddy, how about some chips?"
As Aram turned to address this type-A individual, Chuck got a quick look at him, instantly thinking it was Gary. It did look like Gary, though dressed differently from Gary's usual jeans, tee-shirt and sports shirt. "Gar!"
The expression of amusement on Aram's face quashed Chuck's exuberance and he realized that it wasn't the person he had wished it to be. "Oh, sorry. Gee, you look just like.almost like."
Aram nodded knowingly and smiled, "So I've been told. Actually Gary and I have met and commented about it. Good thing that I haven't had my nose changed or we'd have to wear nametags. How do you do, I'm Aram Fortas."
"Chuck. I'm Chuck Fishman and I'm.stunned. Say, how did the two of you ever meet?"
"Long story, Fishman. We have a mutual friend who made sure that we had the opportunity to meet. That was one memorable occasion, I promise you." He set his drink closer to the chips, still facing his newly met friend. "Ya know, I've read about his troubles in the paper. Serious stuff, you know. I'd like to help him."
No warning sirens sounded in Chuck's head at that point. He was still staring at the startling resemblance that Fortas bore to Gary. "They haven' t been able to locate him yet" he told Aram, "We're all concerned about him all right. Being on the loose like that, on the Chicago streets, is not safe-or smart."
"I understand that he's been wounded."
"That's what they're saying."
When Chuck checked his watch, Aram, worried that what he considered his chance to find out more was jeopardized, asked, "Do you think that you could have him call me if you hear from him? I know they're looking for him, but I have some connections that could be useful to him."
If Aram was trying to breach Chuck's confidence, he had just succeeded. "That's pretty nice of you to offer," Chuck said with sincerity, "He has some 'connections' of a sort too, and right now, he's relying on one of them. I can't explain more, but I know he'll be exonerated soon. Meanwhile, I'm told he's recuperating. We were sure worried before she called."
Though his head was buzzing from this conversation, especially with the reference to 'she' having called, Aram, in a controlled voice, commented,
"That's good to hear. I'm sure it won't take much to clear his name. He's lucky to have friends in high places." He finished his drink and left. 'So, the missing person wasn't 'missing' anymore. It shouldn't be all that hard to figure out which of his friends, female friends, was 'entertaining' a houseguest.'
It was even easier than he would have thought to narrow the list. From discreetly asking around, he had an amazingly limited list of women friends for the bar owner. Most of them lived out of state and he eliminated them for the time being.
He placed a star next to the name of Antonia Brigatti, even though she was a CPD detective. How convenient, he thought, that she had been assigned to the case. It made her all the more prominent a suspect because of its unlikelihood. He referred to his theory about it as 'The least likely is the most likely.' To his amusement, it seemed to put a Sherlock Holmes spin on it.
"Marissa. You shoulda seen that guy I was talkin' to at the bar." Chuck leaned back on the chair and put his feet up on Marissa's desk as she was working.
"I 'shoulda seen' a lot of things, Chuck. Why this particular one?" Before he could answer, she added, "And take your feet off of my desk. You know I hate it when you do that."
He slipped his feet to the floor and ignored the impulse to comment on her uncanny sense. "That guy.....I tell ya, I've never seen anyone who looked more like Gary! Same coloring, same size and shape--same facial features! Well, maybe not all the facial features. He had a more interesting nose than Gary's generic one. Kinda noticable since all the rest of him looked like our own Gary. Anyway, they're not related, so he says. All the while he's talkin' to me, though, all I could see was Gary with a fake nose plastered in the middle of his face."
"You didn't tell him that, did you?"
"What d'ya take me for, Marissa, some kind of jerk?" He could see that she wanted to say something, but he continued, "He said that he and Gary had met before and he wanted to know if I had heard from him. You know, small talk. He even offered to use whatever influence he had to help Gary with the law."
"Chuck! You didn't tell him about Brigatti's call, did you? Tell me you didn't."
With a disgusted look, Chuck answered, "Of course not. Marissa, I'm amazed that you would think that way. I know when to keep stuff to myself. Besides, we didn't talk all that long. What he wanted to know was the same as we wanted, was he okay."
"I told him what Brigatti told us, that he was recuperating fine."
"You didn't say 'Brigatti,' did you? You didn't!"
His disgusted look came forward again. "Have a little faith in me. I didn't use Brigatti's name."
"And he didn't ask how you knew?"
"Well, actually, I think I said 'she' called........but 'she' could be anyone."
"Oh, Chuck." She exhaled deeply, "I suppose you're right. He couldn't possibly know about Brigatti." Stacking her papers neatly, she asked, "Want to have lunch with a 'bargirl'?"
They both laughed.
The CPD briefing that morning had been of short duration. Since they still hadn't located the suspect, they were continuing in their efforts to sort out the evidence and the backgrounds of those witnesses that they knew about.
Ballistics reports confirmed the identity of the murder weapon. Medical reports could find no evidence of rape or molestation in the victim even if the murdered woman had appeared that way. The items of physical evidence weren't the problem; it was questions about the murderer that were open. It was the same mystery of the suspect being in two different locations at the same time that caused the investigators the headaches.
They needed to find Gary Hobson.
Paul Armstrong and Antonia Brigatti took a coffee break together before going on to the Mayor's Task Force meeting. Because of the political character of the session, it lasted until slightly after noon. Throughout both of the meetings, Toni kept a box of Kleenex in her hands and obviously needed it.
"Got a cold, Toni?" Paul asked, concerned with her sneezing, coughing and nasally voice.
With her nose noticably full, she answered, "No, not a cold. I've had this awful allergy flare-up the past few days. I just wish it would go away and leave me alone."
He chuckled and found a place to rattle her chain, "You haven't been near Hobson's cat again, have you? I know about your 'fondness' for that cat."
The smile on his face was all that kept her from tearing into him. Allergy sufferers lose their patience before other people do.
"Hobson's cat? Half the time he claims that it isn't his cat at all. The other part of the time he protects it and talks to it like a person."
Inside of her, she felt that Paul was right. Somehow or other Hobson must have had that cat nearby; she was sure of it. "Nah, I'm allergic to half a dozen different substances. Something must be getting to me. Maybe it's just the season--something in the air."
The man on the other side of Brigatti at the conference table leaned over and said, "Ms Brigatti, do you have an allergy prescription? You shouldn't let an allergy go untreated."
"Thanks, Mr. Fortas, I'll take it later. It makes me too sleepy to work." Something about this man irritated her. He was always close and he was always listening!
"Do you have a cat or dog?"
"Thanks for your concern, but I don't have any pets and I don't like to discuss my allergies." Toni Brigatti could be as rude and abrupt as the worst of people when it suited her. To have the psychologist turn back to his notepad--and his own business--was just what she wanted anyway. He did turn his attention away from her, but not his thoughts. 'Hobson has a cat. Brigatti has no pets. She does have allergies. She's allergic to cats. Could she be near someone who has a pet? The allergic flare-up was in the past few days. Could she be the 'she' to which the man at the bar referred?' Aram made mental notes as he sat appearing to hang on the speaker's every word.
After the meeting, one of the other members of the committee came over to him. Patting him on the shoulder, he offered, "Sorry to hear of your loss, Fortas. I didn't know about it until one of the others mentioned how well you're holding up. Let me know if I can do anything to help. My wife died ten years ago and, I tell you, it's like yesterday."
Toni's ears perked up. This time it was her turn to eavesdrop.
Aram's reply sounded almost self-conscious, "Thanks, Caprini, I'm okay. It was so terrible for her that I'm glad she doesn't have to suffer anymore." Toni Brigatti filed away the information with her thoughts for later consideration. She didn't offer her condolences even though she heard Joe Caprini offer his. Any contact with the man at all was too much. The man may have looked like Gary Hobson, but looks were where the resemblance stopped. 'Maybe,' she thought, 'maybe that was why she felt irritated by the very proximity of this man.' She just hoped to get back home and take some lunch to her patient. And question him about that cat!
George (Sonny) Simonson sat in his ten-year-old car under the shade of an oak tree two houses away and across the street from Antonia Brigatti's house. He'd been sitting there for the past three hours, less the 45 minutes he had dozed off. It was more boredom than fatigue that allowed him to nap. Nothing had happened at the Brigatti residence since he got there.
Well, except for the guy who warily came out of the door-in his boxers for Pete's sake-for a moment to retrieve a newspaper and his cat. Sonny had no idea when the paper and the furry rat arrived. One minute the stoop was empty, he turned away for a second, a SECOND-no more, and when he turned back, there was the little yellow animal, sitting on the paper. He noted the information and the time and went back to observing the small home.
If he had known what a furor would erupt with his 'boss,' he would have called him immediately. Who knew? If Fortas wanted him to do something about it, he should've said so when he had called that morning, telling Sonny to watch the house. Okay, so he watched the house.
Aram was beside himself at the ineptness of this man; he couldn't ever call him a friend. Sonny was a former patient of Aram's, referred to him while the youth was in his teens. The young man had been in trouble all of his life, sometimes serious things like auto theft, other times things like vandalism or petty theft. After counseling the boy for a little over three years, the patient was released from the probation requirement. He had reached eighteen and was a 'man.' Now what?
Aram was the only adult who ever listened to Sonny. Over the three-year period, the patient-to-counselor relationship had widened to become substitute father-to-son. That was Sonny's viewpoint, not Aram's. A son was not someone who made mistakes like this kid had, not serious, stupid mistakes. If Aram had allowed himself to have had children, they would have known what was expected of them and been guided toward that. This kid had no concept of right and wrong, not really. If anyone had said 'steal that airplane' to him, he wouldn't have hesitated taking a ladder and storming the cockpit! No, Sonny was free and on his own, solely because Aram allowed him to call him on Wednesdays and Fridays to, mostly, vent.
The kid had been easy to convince that it was okay to dispatch the nurse. Aram had told him that Pearl Swantz had been threatening him, Aram Fortas. In fact, if she'd had her way, he told Sonny, Pearl would have ruined Aram and sent him to jail-without cause. Sonny knew nothing about Pearl having supplied Aram with the necessary morphine to put an end to his wife's sufferings. All the young man knew was that the attractive nurse was vindictive, malicious and was trying to send 'the great father figure' to jail. That made it right as far as Sonny was concerned.
When he missed the first try at the clinic, he had almost cried. Aram hadn' t told him what to do if things had changed. He stood transfixed at the sight of Pearl standing there, in the open waiting room, talking to someone who looked disarmingly like his 'boss.' The second chance that he'd was at the street corner when things were working fine, until that same individual with Aram's looks intervened at the last moment. Then, to top it all off, the man had interfered again in the parking area at the clinic. Sonny's heart was thumping like a jackhammer within him as the elevator doors closed on the scene. The frustration level was so high that time that he had felt tears form in his eyes.
Aram had been furious, but controlled his initial anger and patted the boy on the back, "Sorry, Sonny," a phrase that brought bile to the back of his throat, but he went on, "I should've explained more fully. Okay, it's okay, son, you go on home. I'll take it from here. Are you going to be home later tonight?"
To the young man's 'yeah,' Aram patted him on the back again and walked him to the door. "If you'll stay by the phone, I'll try to give you a call. Or, maybe I'll stop by. Would you like me to?" To the boy's nodding, he said, "Okay. One way or the other, if you'll be home, I'll be talking with you." He closed the door behind Sonny and noted the information in his mind.
End of Part 5, Chapter 4
As Gary sat at the table, still in his underwear since Toni had hidden his pants in a yet undiscovered place, he read through his special edition-the one-day-early one! Just below the main story of the day, the one about the big scandal in the assessor's office, was the story of an explosion ripping through the apartment of a young man, killing him and causing damage to the apartments near his. The ensuing fire had been controlled before more extensive damage could occur. The shocking part of the story was the picture of the man who had died. Gary recognized him as the one at the clinic. That wasn't difficult since they stood staring at each other for a while. And, though the lighting had been poor, he thought it looked like the man he'd seen at Pearl Swantz's car. He read the name and age. The deceased had no known employment. Neighbors thought that he probably supported himself with odd jobs. He had been identified by his uncle who lived in the same building as he had.
Although Gary had a full hour to stop the fatality from happening, he had no clothes! Who would take him seriously if he appeared in his boxers? It was time for Brigatti to be arriving home for dinner. 'C'mon, Brigatti. Don't be late tonight, of all times.' He sat at the window and watched for her. When her car finally drove up at the curb, he stood behind the door, ready to open it for her.
"Thank God, you're here. Toni, I need my pants."
"Hobson..." It had been a long day, full of complications at work. She sounded tired and out of the patience needed to deal with him.
"This is important!" He faced her, his hands on her shoulders, his eyes trained on hers, hoping to instill the importance of his request on her, "I NEED MY CLOTHES!"
Maybe it was the eye contact, she wasn't sure. A little of it was the feel of his hands on her shoulders. He had not so much as touched her during his stay except to assist in her caring for him. Whatever it was, she solemnly walked to the kitchen and removed his jeans from the freezer, handing them to him in one neat, stiff packet. Not a word was uttered until then.
Instead of arguing with someone who seemed to be out-of-his-mind-desperate, she said, tiredly, "Do you need some help?"
He took the jeans and, heading off toward the bathroom, said, "No, it's something I can handle..if I can get these damned icy pants on." He couldn' t start to imagine what her questions would be if he would take her along and she had a chance to see the building explode. That is, if he didn't arrive in time. If all went well, the explosion wouldn't occur, at least it wouldn't cause a fatality if he hurried.
The running felt good at first. He hadn't had any real exercise to speak of since he did the one save at the insurance building. It was the first payday of the month for most people and the streets were full. He found himself dodging pedestrians every step of the way.
To save himself the hassle of avoiding people, he took to running in the street as close to the parked vehicles as was safe. At one point someone opened their car door just as he was abreast of it and he was thrown flat on his back. In the few minutes that it took him to gain his composure and catch his breath, he found that he had no time left. As hard as it was, he changed to all-out racing. The address should be on the next block. He could still make it, he thought, hope flooding his whole being.
The paper had indicated that the apartment was on the fourth floor, no number, and certainly no information dealing with the controlled entry of the building. The boxes outside the door listed G. Simonson in 410. After he assisted a woman trying to manuever a stroller and child out of the doors and out of his way, he searched out and found the elevator. The only elevator car for the apartments was one moving upwards after having left the woman off.
As impossible as it sounded, even to him, he could have sworn that he recognized Aram Fortas in the hallway, heading toward the side door. It was only an impression, really, because whoever it was, he was wasting no time as he went through the 'parking exit' door. A little paranoia, as the song said, 'will destroy ya.' Pearl may have thought that she saw Gary everywhere, but at least in her case, he was everywhere because of the paper. Aram didn't appear in the paper. Why would he think that he saw Aram in this apartment house? He dismissed it from his thoughts.
The stairways provided his only hope remaining in finding the predicted victim in time. He started out at two stairs at a time. By the third floor he was taking them at a much slower rate. 'Please, please,' he muttered as he neared the fourth floor. He was so close. So close that he could smell the gas from standing just outside the door. Trying the handle and finding it locked, he braced to break the door down as he called out to Simonson. He heard the sudden noise and felt the sensation of being thrown like a rag doll, landing at an opposite wall. After that, his next awareness was that of being lifted. "Easy, mister. We're just trying to get you out of the way of the firemen. The paramedics are on their way up. Lay still." Their patient didn't understand what they were saying; his ears were not able to hear anything except a loud buzzing. He knew, though, what he could expect next if the firemen were already passing them in the hallway. He knew the paramedic team would be next, and they wouldn't take 'no' for an answer when they saw him lying flat on his back.
"Lemme up. Please, I need, I need to stand up!"
"Uhunh, buddy." He knew what they were saying, without hearing it. It made him struggle all the more, trying to gain his feet. The more he struggled, the more they made an effort to impede his progress.
Out of desperation, he muttered in a panicked voice, "I'm gonna be sick. Let me up!" It caused the two holding him down to release their hold and quick-step out of the way of any possible personal involvement in his need to vomit. One of the others standing by offered Gary a hand up before stepping back himself. With one hand over his mouth for effect and the other using the wall to support him on his way to the stairway, Gary staggered away. Before working his way to the ground floor, he sat on the stairs to clear his head and muster some strength. Firemen were still coming up the stairways and hurrying on past him, but they were too intent upon reaching the scene of the disaster to bother with him. He knew it was a matter of time before someone would stop to 'help' him and possibly even recognize him.
He had no problem in locating and exiting from the rear door of the building. After that, crossing the street and taking another route, he took his time going back to Brigatti's house. As soon as he turned back to the street leading to her home, a vehicle pulled up next to him. The window rolled down and Toni Brigatti yelled out, "Get in the car, Hobson. Now!"
He didn't argue. He didn't even hear it, but anything that involved sitting seemed fine to him.
Once in the vehicle, he allowed himself to breathe at a calmer rate.
Neither of them spoke and he was more than thankful for the fact. His head was pounding. He should be used to it by now. Every 'save' seemed to hone in on attacking his head. When they reached her home he was only too willing to allow her to assist him in-again.
He obediently went in and sat on her bed, waiting for her as she went off to fetch the necessary first-aid supplies. She knew where to find them; because of him she'd had to locate them in the first place. Now she kept them handy. As she helped him off with his shirt, she had him keep a package of frozen peas on the gash on his forehead.
She was afraid to talk to him for fear of what she'd say and how she'd say it. Inside, instead of her usual feeling of irritation with this man, she found herself quivering with fear for him. After he had left the house earlier, she had followed him in her car. She hoped that he wouldn't ask why. Parking the car across the street from the building, Toni had watched him help the mother struggling with the stroller. Toni sat outside watching him as he disappeared inside the building.
About the time she began feeling embarrassed for having followed him, she heard the explosion and saw the windows blow out of an apartment, followed by thick dark smoke. The sprinklers must have gone off because the smoke lessened until she could see the window's opening. 'Hobson! This had better not be you or your doing.' Immediately after thinking it, she added, 'Please God, don't let it be him.'
Toni was about to get out of the car when she heard the sirens. They seemed to get there awfully fast, she was thinking. She drove around to the rear of the building intending to search for him and saw Gary heading off down the sidewalk at an unsteady gait. By the time she was able to catch up with him, he was halfway down a one-way street. She had to circle the block to finally intercept him. As she drove up to a parallel position, at first he didn't seem to be aware of her. She drove forward slightly until she was a little ahead of him and tried yelling to him. He seemed to suddenly discover her presence. It looked to her as though he wasn't quite recognizing her or the car, but as he neared it, he didn't hesitate to open the door and slide in.
Back at her home, at the bedside, Toni washed the grime off of her forever-patient. So far he hadn't spoken a word. He sat on the edge of the bed as he had before, with his eyes shut. She asked him, finally, if he'd like her to take him to a hospital, or clinic, or something. When he failed to respond to her, she thought he might have fallen asleep, sitting up. She clutched his bare shoulder, the right one, and asked again. He opened his eyes at her touch, but acted as though he couldn't understand what she was asking.
Taking his face in her hands, she directed her words so he had to be aware of her, "Gary! Can you hear me? Gary!"
His eyes held little life and no comprehension. He seemed to be staring at her mouth and eyes, alternately. "You can't hear me, can you?" As if he could, she asked, "Just how near to that explosion were you, my friend? You need to see a doctor. Like it or not, that's where we're goin'." Picking up the rest of the first-aid supplies, she put them away and prepared him for leaving.
As she walked him back out to the car and buckled him into the seat, he acted automatically to her promptings. Her intentions went unquestioned. Normally everything that involved the two of them became a bone of contention, a reason to argue. That, in itself, was not typical behavior for this man. As they pulled into the parking garage of the medical building, though, she thought that she detected a degree of anxiety on his part. "What?" When he didn't answer, she commented, "You're hurt, Gary. I don't know how much you can understand of what I'm saying, but there's a time when you have to bite the bullet. If you're recognized and get caught, I'll also be caught. My career will be in the dumpster and I'll find out, firsthand, what it's like to serve a jail term, but if you can understand, I promise that as long as you need it, I'll try to help."
He understood enough of what was happening to rebel by attempting to pull away from her. Through it all he remained mute. Since he had no strength and no real will, she was able to pull him along into the second floor urgent care after hours clinic. Signing Gary in under the name of William H. Bonney, she sat down with him to wait. Still not having uttered a word, he sat bent over, head in hands, his elbows on his knees. Toni almost didn' t react when the name 'Bonney' was called.
Dragging him along, they entered one of the facility's examination rooms where William H. Bonney was weighed in and his blood pressure was taken. After that, the wait was short, allowing them to indicate to him to remove his clothes and don an examination gown. Though Toni accompanied him into the examination room, she didn't watch as they checked him for broken bones. After all, he just might remember the situation at some time in the future and she would suffer for it. She gave the doctor and staff the explanation that they were at a fireworks demonstration and one of the larger ones went astray. Cockamamie, she knew, but how would they be able to prove otherwise?
After they dressed the cut on his forehead and the multiple other small cuts and abrasions, they allowed him to get dressed. The doctor came back into the room to address Mr. and Mrs. Bonney. "There doesn't seem to be any broken bones. I don't think you need to worry about a concussion. He's experiencing a temporary hearing loss, but it should be fine in a day or two, at the most. The most disturbing problem is that he seems to be suffering from shock-probably from the explosion. If the symptoms don't clear up in a couple of days, make an appointment with your primary physician. Oh, Mrs. Bonney. Has he been in an accident before this? I noticed some strange scarring on his left arm and on his back." He suggested, in a hesitating way, "If I had to guess, I'd say at least one of the scars was caused by a bullet," going on to explain as he pulled the sleeve up to illustrate for her, "Clean, round entry hole." He waited for her explanation and wasn't going to leave without one, it seemed. Forcing herself to laugh as she spoke, she gave him what he wanted, "Oh, that. You know how some men love to go hunting. Billy here, is an archery fanatic. He loves to go bow and arrow hunting. About a week ago he went target shooting and one of his friends wavered as he released his arrow. The field-point tip went through like a knife through butter. It had to be removed by breaking off the shaft. Scared us to death seeing all the blood. It healed well though, don't you think?" Her smile was meant to ease his suspicions.
She paid their bill on the way out, never offering an explanation about the name difference on her check. Toni loaded Gary back into the car and drove back home. Once in bed, he fell asleep as soon as she turned the light out. Once in a while she could hear him stirring, moaning incoherently, but he would fall back into silence after a few minutes.
In the morning she arose and called in to work, claiming allergy problems. Paul would have no problem believing that. They'd been partners, sharing an office, for long enough for him to be acquainted with her allergies.
The clock read 11:30am when Gary next opened his eyes. The sun and his stomach told him it was time to eat. As he went in to shower and shave, he noticed fresh new clothes having been set out on the vanity. It made him stop and think about the hospitality he'd been given by the most unpredictable Ms Brigatti. True to her word, she had not turned him in even though it was her job and highly dangerous to harbor him. He couldn't begin to imagine why she hadn't, but that, too, was Brigatti. One minute an icebox, the next a hotbed of emotion; then, before you could turn around, it was back to icebox. For some reason, not understood even to him, her wild unpredictability was probably what kept his interest piqued since their very first encounter.
His ears were still buzzing a bit, but he could hear Toni humming in another room. In the shower, he noticed the patchwork quilt of discoloration from bruises on his torso, one color bordering on another. Some of the stiffness had eased up under the showerhead's output. He knew that he should feel lucky to have the friends he had, but somehow the memory of being too late to save Simonson still left a pall over his heart. That and the guilt that he felt over not having been able to visit his dad this week.
He finished up and went out to join Toni at the table. "Mornin'." He hoped that he put a cheerful spin on the word.
"Mornin'," she said, returning his greeting. "How's the battered body? It looks as though the doctor called it right about the ears."
"Yeah, we went to a doctor; I wasn't sure it wasn't a dream. The ears're working. Not perfect yet, but working." He made himself smile for her sake. She had made a more substantial breakfast to serve more as a brunch since it was almost noon already.
He hadn't thought of it until now, but he twisted around, his eyes searching for the paper. She noticed and retrieved it from the telephone table near the entryway. "This what you're looking for?"
His eyes searched her face for a betraying look of guilt, or possibly of knowledge. Not seeing any, he asked, "Was there a, ah, ah... Did it have a, ah.." She seemed to enjoy seeing him stumbling through his question.
"You aren't by any chance referring to that cat of yours, are you?"
"It's not really my cat," he argued, "But, yeah, was he here? He likes to be fed when the, ah, paper comes."
"You know I have allergies, do you not? Ever since you came here I've been suffering with allergy flare-ups. I can hardly breathe. Why would you make it worse by inviting that cat here?"
"In-inviting the cat? I don't invite the cat; he invites himself. All I do is let him use me and my home for a feeding stop."
"He's been here every day and today's just another occasion for his visit. Except today I had to feed him. Hobson! Do you know he's also rude?" Adding, "But I should expect that from your cat." She emphasized the 'your' hoping to get a rise from him.
Not believing what she had just said, Gary asked, "He's what? He-he's rude?" It suddenly dawned on him why she gave the cat the label of 'rude,'
"You tried to feed him 'people' food, didn't you?" Defending the cat that he refused to admit was his, he said, "He's not rude; he just has preferences. Preferences, that's all. He likes Fancy Feast Chicken. He'll eat canned tuna, but he prefers the other."
"Well, he got leftover salmon from yesterday. I ignored him when he sulked. How do you happen to have your paper delivered wherever you are? What if someone follows that subscription to you? How do they even find you? I remember, at the hotel that time..."
Trying to sound casual, he hedged, "It's just a paper. The Sun-Times. I think it gets delivered at random. It's okay, though, it's something to read."
He continued paging through the paper until he found something that caused him to absentmindedly release a groan that alarmed her.
"What? You okay? Tell me what's wrong?"
"Sorry. Nothing's wrong. I guess I was thinkin' about something. Toni, I need to-to-to tell you something. Something important. Y-y-you may not like what you hear, but I need to say it." His tone worried her. "Toni, I, ah, I need to tell you thanks for all you've done for me."
"Don't mention it. Is that what you call important?"
"Wait. I need to mention it because I can't keep using your hospitality like this. I need to, to, ah, I need to..leave."
"Why? Nothing's changed. You're still wanted for the Swantz murder. You' re safe here, for the time being at least."
"Toni, there-there's something else."
"Why'd you do it?"
Perplexed, she said, "I didn't do it. What're you talkin' about?"
"Why'd you help me?"
"I guess I'm just a pushover for a wounded bird."
Persisting, he asked again, "Why'd you help me, Brigatti? You put your life on hold and your career on the edge. Why'd you do it?"
"Do ya have to keep pushing? Can't you just take my first answer? Maybe I' m just gettin' soft in my old age." She could see that he wasn't going to allow her an easy way out.
"It's this way, Hobson. I don't know whether you knew, but my uncle died a few weeks ago-right before your mother did. Uncle Georgio was straight from Italy. He came over here with practically nothing. From that nothing he worked his head off and when he died he owned six restaurants. From nothin' ! You read about people like him comin' from poverty, workin' day and night, living for the morning so's they can get up and go to work again. The sad thing about Uncle Georgio is that he had a beautiful house with a live-in housekeeper. He even had a cook-again, straight from Italy."
"What's so sad about that? It sounds like he did pretty well."
"Uncle Georgio's cook and housekeeper was my Aunt Tina. No, she didn't get paid for it; she was his wife and she worked in the restaurant too. She and my uncle spent all their time making a living; they never took time for a life.
"They would always say that they wanted kids...someday. Someday-that's what they said. They found out that they weren't able to have children. So they just kept workin'. That was their life."
"You asked me why? I asked me why, one time when you stood in my house and asked for help. Did I say asked? You begged me to help you! You stood there, unshaven, your eyes so tired that you couldn't even think. You told me that you were innocent. Despite my vocation, deep inside I knew you couldn't have done what you were accused of doing. Just standing over a body isn't evidence of guilt of a crime. I think we all knew that, but you were so, so easy to blame. Even when the lie detector indicated that you may have actually been the one, my inclination was to disbelieve it. Even when the report on the gloves came back, something didn't ring true."
She sat down and took a few deep breaths. "I was on automatic pilot when I was preparing to call for assistance as you faced me in my house. The whole city was searching for you on a 'believed to be dangerous' warning and there you were, pleading for sanctuary-not to hide out, especially, but to have a safe place to sleep the night! Maybe you should be asking yourself why you chose to ask a Chicago police detective for haven."
Seeing that he was going to say something, she stopped him again. "I'm not used to having a man affect me in so many ways." He looked questioningly at her. "Yeah, you heard me. Antonia Brigatti was affected by Gary Hobson; write that down. The first time I saw you, when I was assigned to protect you as a witness, I heard all the sirens go off in my head, warning me to watch out." She laughed with all the self-loathing she felt at the remembrance of the occasion. "I don't find every man who's walking on this earth..interesting, ya know. I don't have my heart pound and the sweat run down my back every time I'm introduced to a male."
Now she was embarrassing him and he had the sensation of the blood rushing to his face. "Y-y-you didn't act like you felt any.anything towards me."
"A girl has pride, you know. No, you wouldn't think that way, would you? Other men might take advantage of the situation when they see that their presence has thrown a curve at someone of the opposite sex. It didn't take me long to recognize that you weren't 'other' men. I have to hand it to you, Hob..Gary, you're one of a kind."
"Toni, you don't have to do this."
"Hey, if you didn't want an answer, why'd ya ask? Remember the kiss we shared on the boat?" He nodded. "Okay, then. How about the one in the jewelry store. Remember that?"
He rubbed his forehead and smiled, "Oh, yeah. I definitely remember that one-and my shin hurts just thinking about it."
She ignored his reference to her kicking him in order to break up the steamy kiss that they both participated in with such zeal. "Didn't you think that the kissing made an impression on me? You just kept pushing, wanting to have me admit it. I guess you could say that I'm kinda uptight about my inner feelings. The more you pushed, the higher I built the walls around them."
"Ton...Toni. Why are you saying all of this now?"
"What do you think would have happened if Marissa hadn't called just as we were about to...kiss...there in the hotel room? Neither of us would have been able to stop. You know that, don't you?"
He nodded, thinking of the time. He found her breath on his lips intoxicating as he had leaned in closer. The memory came back to him often. "We danced with others and hungered to be dancing with each other that night. We both knew it. That we were madly jealous of each other was obvious to everyone. When Amber, that is, Jade grabbed you like that, I can tell you that it was all I could do to control myself from tearing you away from her."
Stopping a minute from what was more closely resembling a soliloquy than a conversation, she walked over to the windows and looked out before going on. "All of this is getting us nowhere. What I want to say is, I loved and respected my uncle, but I don't want to follow in his philosophy. I don't want to get to the end of my life and have someone-like Paul Armstrong-say, 'There's Brigatti, a damn good cop. Too bad she didn't get a life." Her words sent a sword through his chest as he was taken back to Lucius Snow's reminder to him.
"I know this may have been a mistake to tell you, Gary. It'll probably plague me the rest of my life. Regardless of how you feel about me, and God knows you have a right to hate me, I have a need to tell you the truth. It' s the truth. I swear it. Anyway, going to your rescue was my way of initiating a 'life.' Funny, hey?"
He put his arms around her and they stood there together, clinging to each other as if releasing their hold would find them collapsed in a heap on the floor. He rested his chin on her head and spoke into her hair, "Is this a wrong time to say that you fooled me completely? I had no idea that I had a chance with you. Your career.."
"My career colored, not just my workday, but my homelife as well. I came home, but not really. My job came home; I never left work."
She backed out of his arms and held her fingers over her eyes briefly, "I-I-I'm tryin' to have you understand that I had this feeling...that my feelings for you had taken second place to my job. My damn job! People are supposed to love their work! There was a time when I loved it. Just like my uncle, I lived for the morning so I could get back to work. God knows, I had no 'life' outside of the CPD."
"Brigatti, don't beat yourself up like this."
"You asked me, Hobson...Gary." She corrected herself. "I needed to give you the real explanation-all of it. I don't think I'll ever have the guts to say these words again. Don't expect me to."
"Don't say any more." He pulled her into his arms again. Tilting her chin upward, he moved to allow their lips to meet. The kiss was far more satisfying than he could have imagined. It was as though they had each surrendered themselves into it.
He held on to her long after the kiss had ended. "Toni, I've gotta go."
"Go? Now? Where'll ya go? You can't just sleep on Chicago's streets."
"Yeah, I know, I know that. I'll work it out."
"Can you let me know...how you are, if you're okay?"
To his suspicious gaze, she added, "Okay, so I'm worried about you. You don 't have to stay on the phone long. Just say..just say somethin' like 'the traffic's good' or 'the traffic's bad on the Outer Drive today.' Something like that. Will you?"
"I can do that."
Another thought came to her mind as she extracted the wallet from her purse. Searching through the currency she plucked out a ten and returned it to her purse, handing him the rest of the bills. He hesitated at first, to which she said, "Don't say anything. Just take it. If you're on the streets, you'll need it."
Both embarrassed and thankful at the same time, he stuffed the wad into his pants pocket.
"I still don't see why you have'ta go. There should be a breakthrough soon."
His tone skeptical, he asked, "Has there been any progress?"
"Well, not really." She hated to admit it. "They..."
He stopped her from saying any more, "No. It-it-it's not safe! I've gotta leave. You have to make sure nothing re-re-remains here to have anyone think that I, that I was ever here. Ya understand?" The urgency of his tone made her worry anew.
"No. Why should I understand? No one knows about you being here."
Speaking slowly, he emphasized, "You have to, to understand 'cause I.I can't allow you to be endangered or, or to be in trouble because of me. Someone knows and has informed the police. They'll be here in about.." He checked his watch, "about ninety minutes from now."
Her skeptical look caused him to plead, "Please. I know this. Y-y-ya have to believe me."
"But how could you know something like that?"
He didn't dare disclose more to her. He'd already said enough. He rose from the chair and cleared his dishes away.
"I'll let you go quietly if you'll promise to tell me someday how you receive these cosmic messages." She had slipped into sarcasm, the sarcasm that had been missing during most of the past week. He shook his head and turned away.
The headlines of the paper had announced, 'MURDER SUSPECT ARRESTED AT HOME OF CPD DETECTIVE'. The article below it described how the police had received a tip from an anonymous source about the hiding place of the suspect in the Swantz murder case. It described in detail, for which he was thankful, the time of the 'raid' and the circumstances. A friend of the detective had approached the door and led the way for the other officers. They searched and found the fugitive. No resistance was met. He cleared away everything that might indicate that a male had been in the house. Because of her knowledge of what to expect in a search, she was able to zero in on things like whiskers, extra dishes with fingerprints, extra towels, and the things that might be overlooked by an ordinary citizen. While she did the laundry, he loaded the dishwasher and started it, leaving her to police up any remaining fingerprints.
As they finished up Toni reached out to hand him her cell phone. "Here, you may need this."
"I may need a phone, but not a phone so easily traced to you. Thanks. I'll be fine."
With his hands at her shoulders, his eyes caught hers and he stood for a minute examining her face as if trying to commit it to memory. Then he leaned down and gently kissed her fully on the lips. It wasn't the kiss that they had once shared in the jewelry story so long ago, more like the goodbye kiss of a dear friend. She felt the burning of tears welling up, herself not quite ready to admit the reason for them.
Leaving by the back door, he cut across other back yards and exited the neighborhood by way of another street. For a while he sat on a bench beneath an old maple tree at the small park near a school, questioning himself. Finally he took a seat on the grass and, using the large tree as a backrest, dozed off.
By his watch, he had rested for more than two hours, far longer than he had intended. A few sprinkles began to spot the sidewalk, drying almost as soon as they landed. Off in the distance, he could hear thunder, promising a storm for later. He rose to sit on the bench in order to scan the paper. The prior story of his arrest had disappeared. He needed to make a few phone calls.
End of Part 5
Part 6 of 10
The telephone he found was not in the least bit private, but it was the only one that wouldn't make him stand out from other people. The busy downtown hotel had a bank of telephones and most of them were being used.
Gary had his messages planned out and written down, at least in outline. He had to convey the messages to the particular parties and be off of the telephone in the shortest amount of time. __________
Aram Fortas' secretary informed him that he had a call from a Mr. Simonson on line one. The name startled him, making him wonder why Sonny's father was trying to reach him. "Aram Fortas. Mr. Simonson, I was devastated to hear about Sonny. What can I do for you?"
His voice in a robotic monotone, Gary asked, "What were you doing in Simonson's apartment building at the time of the explosion?"
"Who is this?" Aram demanded, irritated and for the moment, afraid.
"I saw you at the building."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Who are you?" His mind was racing as he tried to think who could have seen and recognized him. Someone did. Who?
"The police may have some questions for you when they hear about it."
The voice on the other end had not made any demands for money--yet, but Aram was sure that would be next. "What d'ya want? I have nothing to hide from the police, but what do you want from me?"
Without further comment, the caller hung up.
Aram was not a man who was easily riled, but he was agitated after he hung up. When someone caused him to become nervous, he became angry and had the desire to lash out at the offender. But who? A patient? Not a friend, obviously. Not the law, just as obviously. Who would bother to question him instead of going directly to the police with any suspicions? Maybe they couldn't go to the police, he speculated. Maybe, maybe it was someone who didn't have anyone who could be consulted in this matter. Maybe. A knowing look spread across his face as the answer was laid out before him.
He prided himself in his ability to think both logically and rationally in the face of danger. The longer he thought about the identity of the caller, the more sure he was of his choice of antagonists. Something needed to be done--sooner than later!
Hobson's second call was of a different nature.
The call was received at McGinty's. Vadim brought the phone to Marissa as she was having coffee at the end of the bar. He identified the caller to her as 'Fred.' Her expression as she picked up the phone was one of curiosity. The only Fred that she knew was her mother's cat.
"This is Marissa."
"Hi, Marissa, this is Fred."
Her heart pounded until she thought it must have been visible to others around her as she recognized Gary's voice. She was silent for fear of giving him away, but allowed a tear of relief to escape down the side of her face.
"It's been a long time, Marissa. Feels like forever." He knew she was listening. "I've been thinking about you, I'm sure you know. I don't have much time, but I was remembering that time when we were talking with Sikorsky about Zucker's notion regarding that Siamese dream that you had." He waited.
"But, those are......"
"That seems like a long time....."
"Yeah, it's been a real dog's age, hasn't it?"
"You do know that Paul and Toni's friends come around here regularly, don't you? And they usually ask about you."
He didn't respond to her question. "Well, I just wanted to say 'hi.' I gotta go now, my train's leaving, but I hope to see ya soon. Please? Bye now." Without waiting any longer, he replaced the receiver and turned to go.
When she heard him hang up, she returned the phone to Vadim and went into the office to make a more private call.
"Hey, Marissa. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"How do you feel about taking me to an early dinner?"
"Well, sure, ah, anything on your mind, Marissa?"
"Can't I ask my friend to dinner without a motive?
"Sure, sure, but you don't usually, ah, shall we say 'seek me out'?"
"Pick me up in an hour. I'm treating."
"Yeah. What've you got for me, Gilbert?"
"A call came in to McGinty's a few minutes ago. You wanted to know about Marissa Clark's calls."
"I do. Talk to me."
The officer played back the recording of the call. Paul recognized, or thought he did, Gary Hobson's voice as 'Fred.' His ears perked up as he listened to the rest.
He commented, "Strange call, huh? Does any of it make any sense to you?"
Gilbert answered, "I listened to it, and thought, 'Gee, I'm not sure about Sikorsky, but I know that I've bet on horses named 'Zucker's Notion' and 'Siamese Dream.' That only makes it more strange, doesn't it?"
"Maybe not, Gilbert, maybe not. Thanks. Let me know if she receives any more calls. Oh, by the way, did she make any calls after that?"
"She called someone named 'Chuck,' and told him she was buyin' him dinner and that he should pick her up."
"Let's see, that was about, um, three. He should be picking her in about thirty minutes."
Without thanking him again, Paul hung up the phone. He told the desk sergeant to call for support and backup, assigning the city and suburban locations to others, reserving the State OTB for himself. That done, he attached an emergency light to the roof of his car and drove as fast and direct as he could manage, hoping he would be correct in the choice of locations and in time to catch a certain prime suspect.
Chuck, true to his task, picked up Marissa and they drove to the State Street OTB that she had designated for their meal. He deposited her at the table and excused himself to make a quick bet on the current race before ordering.
Upon his return, she heard the chair slide as he seated himself across from her. "Now, what's for dinner? The specials today are fresh trout and Stroganoff. What d'ya like, Marissa?"
She asked, "Are there people within earshot of us, Chuck?"
He glanced at the nearest tables, "Well, there are people all over the place, but they're not real near. What's the secret?"
"Gary called." She stated it point-blank, waiting for the reaction she knew would be forthcoming.
As expected, Chuck reacted--for somewhere near ten minutes, ranting and raving in subdued tones, how dangerous that was, how foolish it was, how Gary should have called him first, and how thoughtless of him to put them through the worry. Throughout it all, she remained calm, waiting for him to take a breather so she could relay the rest of the message.
Before that breather happened, the waiter came by, or rather, he stumbled by, upsetting Chuck's water glass all over his pants. Jumping to his feet, Chuck was about to tear into the waiter. The first thing that held him back from venting his wrath on the man, was that the waiter towered above him by at least four or five inches. He outweighed him by, probably, thirty pounds or more. The last thing that held him back from reacting fully, was that the waiter was.....Gary!
Setting his tray down, Gary went about making a fuss with blotting up the spill from the table surface.
Chuck Fishman, for once in his life, was rendered speechless. His eyes grew to saucer size as he floundered with the English language, unable to utter a coherent phrase. Taking a cue from the stammering habit of his friend, Chuck stood there, "Uh, uh, uh, Ga.., uh."
Gary rescued him by apologizing profusely, in waiter's character, to them both and asked Chuck to follow him to the men's room while he fetched some towels. People did stop their dining to stare at the spectacle, but went on with their business after the trio walked away towards the rest rooms. After checking for other inhabitants, Gary placed a 'Rest room being cleaned' sign outside the door and assisted Marissa in joining them inside. The reunion of the three friends began with relieved hugging all around. That over, Chuck, checking the wet spot down the front of his pants, asked, "Did ya have'ta go and spill it in that spot? What're people gonna think?" Marissa chuckled at what she imagined 'that spot' to be. "How're ya, Gary? You okay?"
Gary shrugged, admitting, "I've been better. What's happening at the bar?"
Between Marissa and Chuck, they condensed the significant occurrences for him. He only asked in order to get to another, more urgent subject so he didn't demand much in the way of details. At the first break in the conversation, Gary asked, "Chuck, I need a place to stay."
"I thought you were stayin' with Brigatti."
"I can't put her in that danger any longer."
Chuck nudged Gary in the ribs with an elbow, asking, "Did she kick you out, Gar?"
"No! I...I just need to find another place. Someone reported that she was harboring me and they paid her a visit to investigate it. The Paper came to my rescue by warning me in time. Now I need a place to stay for two or three nights." He was giving Chuck the hopeful look.
"I hate to tell ya this, buddy, but Amber is pressing me to get my ass back, ah, sorry, Marissa, to get home. I'm leaving on tonight's last flight."
"Can't you extend your room for another couple of days?"
"Gary, Gary, Gary. I'd do it in a minute, but will it help?"
As if it were obvious, Gary affirmed, "Well, yeah. It would mean that I won't be sleeping in a dumpster for one thing. I need to call someone later. I think that I have a handle on who's doing these things and attaching my name to them."
"These things? You're referring to the murder, right?"
"Make that 'murders.' At least two. I don't have proof yet, just my belief by adding up the details that I do know."
Marissa was shocked that he was considering doing investigating work involving murder, or murders! "Gary! Call the police. The person's a killer! You can't do this yourself."
"I have to do it myself. The CPD won't listen to me without putting me behind bars. Who's gonna believe me there?"
"Tell Brigatti...or Armstrong."
"And what? Brigatti can't arrest someone because the main suspect in the case asks her to. And Armstrong?" He threw his hands in the air.
"There's another reason that you shouldn't think about hiding out at my hotel. I have a distinct shadow these days. The guy thinks he's bein' obscure, but he must be new to the job; he stands out as if he had a brand on his forehead saying 'cop.' Besides, buddy, much as I hate to leave ya in this mess, I really can't stay around to run interference for you. In my last conversation with Amber she told me that I had a message that this project that I'm bleedin' for is at the final negotiation stage. I gotta be there or I'm out."
Trying to get a commitment from Chuck, Gary asked again, "Can you hold the hotel room just two more days? If I need more time after that, I'll look for the cleanest dumpster in the alley." He smiled to give his friend confidence, a confidence that he, himself didn't possess. "We'll deal with diverting the surveillance man's attention. You just ask the hotel to extend 'your' stay."
"I already told them.. Aw, nuts. They'll have to get over it. I'll notify the desk manager when I go back to get my things."
He patted Chuck on the back, relieved. "Thanks, Chuck. I can help you to sneak your luggage out."
Through it all Marissa stood by, wishing that she could let him stay at her place. With the close scrutiny she was receiving, there was no chance of his not being noticed. "Have you any money, Gary?"
"Uh, yeah." He probably shouldn't have said it, but he added, "Toni forced some on me."
Chuck's eyebrows rose to meet his hairline at the mention of Brigatti.
"What d'ya mean by that?" Gary knew exactly to what he was referring. "She helped me more than you'll ever know." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he knew what Chuck's reaction would be.
"I'm not even gonna say anymore, but you're way off. Without her help, I would have been.. I'm not goin' there."
They were about to say something else when a very familiar voice was heard outside the rest room door. Paul Armstrong knocked twice, loudly, "Hobson! I know you're in there. Don't make it any worse than it is. Come out with your hands in plain sight."
He heard water running.
Repeating his command, he added, "There's no use making this difficult."
Chuck opened the door, his face and hair dripping water. Sarcastically, he commented, "Say, where's the pizza? I called in an hour ago."
"Funny, Fishman. Very funny." Armstrong visually examined the room.
"Where's Hobson?" As soon as he asked it, he noticed the window open-wide. Addressing the two of them, he warned, "You two are about to find out what the consequences are for obstructing justice and abetting a fugitive."
It was obvious that he wanted to continue, but Marissa cut in adding a slight southern accent to an oversweet remark, "Detective Armstrong. What brings you to the men's room today?" Almost to herself, she said, "The people you find in a rest room!"
Chuck added an explanation that was unable to be disputed (at the moment), "Ms Clark came in here to help me wash my eye out. I don't know what it was, but something lodged itself in it. You shoulda seen the tears." Paul didn't ask how a blind woman could help someone wash out their eye.
Marissa didn't see the expression of disgust and anger on Paul Armstrong's face, but she knew it was there. It wasn't the intuition for which she was reputed, but the tone of his voice as he acknowledged defeat. Not much for him to say, without proof or witnesses. He turned and left the room without further comment. What he really wanted to say was not what a CPD detective should ever allow himself to say.
End of Part 6
Continued in Installment 3
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