Chapter 11 — A Haggard Diner
He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who has suddenly remembered that he has forgotten to shove cyanide in the consommé, and the dinner-gong due any moment.
— P.G. Wodehouse, British Humorist
Forty-five minutes after leaving my office, Kayla and I stopped in front of Siciliano’s. Contrary to my previous statements, I didn’t actually plan on giving the pestilence any kind of newsworthy intelligence. I was pretty sure that Fernando and Co. had some place I could store her for a few days, while I took care of things up north. We stepped inside the foyer and were faced by the guard. I carefully opened my jacket and he took the gun.
“She’s with me.” I said pointing to Kayla. “Can I speak with Fernando for a second to explain what’s going on?”
“Sure.” He turned to Kayla. “Miss, I am going to need to see what’s in the purse.”
While he made sure that she was not an assassin sent to deprive the Cosa Nostra of its Chicago leadership, I stepped behind the curtain. Fernando was sitting at one of the tables with a cup of coffee and a laptop. I quickly walked over. “Fernando, we need to talk.” I whispered, worried that my voice would carry beyond the curtain.
He looked up from his laptop. “What’s the matter, Nick?”
“I picked up this blood-sucking parasite of an investigative reporter back at my office.”
“You brought a reporter here?”
“I figured you could help me deal with the problem.”
“What do you want me to do… kill him?”
I won’t deny that the thought had crossed my mind, but I wasn’t about to admit that to a cold-blooded mafia enforcer, who might just act out my inner musings. “First of all,” I explained. “It’s a her; and no, don’t kill her; just tie her up, and make sure she doesn’t cause any trouble for a few days.”
“That’s aggravated kidnapping, and around here it carries a statutory six-year sentence in prison, with very unfriendly people. People who view you as one step better than a child molester… get the picture? Besides, we don’t do that kind of thing. The Dantini family has honor.” Dantini wasn’t stepping up to his Mafioso responsibilities with the gusto I felt my plans deserved.
“She said if I didn’t confess to torching El Rey Industries, she was going to tell the Reillys where I am.”
“You torched El Rey Industries?!!”
“No! I would never do something like that…”
“Then why does she think you did?” I remembered that all my conversations with Dantini seemed to go badly.
“Because I was with Telmar that week, innocent as the driven snow, but circumstances were against me.”
“Did you tell her that?”
“Fernando, if I confess to being within a hundred miles of Terrapin Creek the day of the fire, she will take it as a blanket admission of guilt.”
“Well, let’s see if I can reason with her.”
“Good luck. You remember how those reporters Woodward and Bernstein are credited with destroying Nixon’s administration.”
“If she’d been alive and writing about Watergate back then, they would have stood Nixon’s administration up against the Washington monument, so that future generations would be able to point to the bullet holes and remember the importance of not betraying the public trust.”
“I don’t exactly follow you.”
“She’s a crusader and she’s out for blood. My blood, ok? She probably thinks that if she can expose police incompetence in their investigation, she’ll get a Pulitzer, or something like that.”
“Look, I know how to talk to women. The most important thing is to remain calm and reasonable.” He stood up, closed his laptop, and walked past me toward the curtain.
I waited, nervously biting the corners of my fingernails as I watched the unmoving expanse of fabric. It only took a few minutes, but it seemed a lot longer. Finally, Dantini opened the curtain and stepped through escorting Kayla. “What sort of restaurant searches its clientele for weapons before letting them inside?” She asked.
“That is not important, what is important is my understanding that you were threatening my friend here.”
“Is that what he told you?”
“He told me that you threatened to turn him over to the Reillys.”
“Well if he doesn’t want to get shot, he shouldn’t be upsetting mobsters.”
Dantini sighed, a world-weary expression of frustration and sorrow with the unfortunate stubbornness of individuals. I was sure that he practiced it in front of a mirror every day. “Miss, the important thing to remember is that he’s staying at my restaurant; so, if there is any shooting, my insurance premiums go up. And I don’t want my premiums to go up, again.” Dantini was speaking in a calm level voice.
“Oh, if that is all you are worried about, I’ll let them know not to shoot him until after he leaves the building.”
“See what I’m talking about?” I interrupted. “I think my first plan was the best one.”
“Mr. Chase is also my friend, and I don’t want to see him hurt.” Fernando continued.
“Then perhaps you should explain to him, it’s in his best interest to confess his crimes and throw himself on the mercy of the court. He could even ask for solitary confinement, if he feels that his life is in danger, and doesn’t trust the prison guards.”
“Are there any other alternatives?” Dantini asked.
“I’m not heartless. And while corruption and violence do make an excellent appeal to the readership, there are other options. I could be induced to postpone publishing the story I am currently pursuing, so long as Mr. Chase provides me with a better one.”
“Let me get back to you on that.” I said turning to Dantini. “You said you had some information for me. Can you show me what that is?”
“Sure, follow me.” He motioned to the table where his laptop was sitting. “Miss?”
“Ok, Miss Meijer.” He said as he picked up his laptop and coffee. “I suggest that you get something to eat while Chase and I discuss some important business. Don’t worry it’s on the house.”
“The spaghetti is especially good.” I added as Dantini and I walked toward the kitchen.
The double doors swung shut behind us. Dantini lead me past the stoves and ovens into a small office. “She could be problematic.” He said as he flipped on the light.
“Regardless of all that, I want to know what you are mixing yourself up with back in Canada?”
“What do you mean?”
“I pulled the records you wanted. Those two guys are not pretty customers.”
“Pierre Noire, born 1975. He was a ‘troubled youth’. He was in and out of reform schools until he turned eighteen. At that point, he was given a choice, join the military or go to prison. The military seemed to reform him; he joined the airborne. After he was discharged, he worked as a mercenary with Blackwater. After that, his career went south. He was a late convert to Marxism and is one of the founders of ARQ. This is the same group which recently claimed to be in possession of a world destroying virus.
I was about to interrupt but Dantini motioned me to be silent. “Now, Flannigan is an even more dismal picture. He has gone by about a dozen aliases, so it’s hard to verify all details. However, he was definitely involved with the IRA, also Marxist, also dangerous. He left Ireland in 1984 because the SAS were going all 007; failing to return suspects for trial and such. In fact, for a while it was believed that he was part of a roadbed in Kerry, if you get my drift. That was just after he left for Canada. He joined the ARQ and is probably as fanatical as they come.” Dantini paused to let everything that he had revealed sink in. I didn’t like the picture that was being painted. These did not appear to be the non-violent offenders that Cherusci had suggested. “What I want to know, Nick, is what exactly you are doing with these people?”
“Technically, I’m not doing anything. It’s my client who’s dealt with them. He lost something rather important and commissioned me to get it back.”
“Would this missing object be a deadly virus by any chance?”
“Maybe.” I allowed.
“Don’t mess with me, Nick. Those two names are plastered all over the internet right now.”
“Ok yes, it was a virus.”
“Alright.” He pushed a flash drive and a three inch thick sheaf of papers across the desk. “This is the information that you wanted.”
“That’s a lot of information.”
“You asked for a lot of information.”
“True, I did at that.” I guess I’d unrealistically assumed that the stack would include a map which said, “Evil terrorists holed up here.”
“What are you looking for, specifically?” Dantini asked.
“A base of operations.”
“And how do you plan to find that?”
“Gas receipts; because neither of them have jobs in the transportation industry, the receipts should primarily be along the line between their houses and their place of work.”
“They don’t have jobs. They’re terrorists.” He said.
“Of course, that’s what I am counting on. In this case, their place of work should be the ARQ secret lair.
“What makes you think they would drive to the lair every day? What if they were tailed by the police?”
“First of all, Flannigan would have to be trained in counter surveillance; otherwise he would be, how did you put it, ‘a roadbed in Kerry.’ Secondly, have you seen the Canadian police? They have neither the manpower, nor the inclination, to follow every person who sprays, “Vive La Révolution!” on a train car in Montreal. I think we can assume that up until this point, the ARQ have been acting with impunity.”
“That’s a lot of assumptions, Nick.”
“It depends on what we find in the bank records. We need to start on that right away. Can I borrow your laptop?” Dantini nodded and slid the computer across the table. I opened the screen and pulled up a map of Quebec. I opened the first credit card statement scanning for a gas station. I spotted one, found its address, and added a marker to the map. This was going to take a while.
Eventually, we began to uncover a pattern. Our computer map was populated with markers which ran down a narrow corridor between Montreal and the national parks to the north. It appeared that my plan was working. I say appeared, because it was at that moment that the pestilence, i.e. Kayla, walked in.
“What’s going on here? I thought you were coming back to give me the scoop of the century. It’s been nearly an hour…” She stopped when she saw the pile of documents. “Are those bank reports?” She grabbed one off the stack before Dantini could stop her. “Hmm, Pat Flannigan…Montreal… Another one of your aliases, Chase?”
“That is a confidential document, Miss Meijer.” Dantini said moving with the grace of panther as he snatched the piece of paper out of her hand.
“I know that. What I want to know is why you are violating any number of federal and international banking policies by possessing it?”
“I think it’s time for supper.” Dantini said, as I closed the laptop.
“I think it’s time for answers.” Kayla snapped back.
Dantini ignored her and pushed the office door open. “Giacomo, can you bring out a bottle of the Tignanello, ’95 please”
“If you think that a bottle of expensive wine will shut me up…”
“Miss Meijer, I assure you the thought never even crossed my mind.” he motioned her out of the office.
“I want answers.”
“You will get them.” I wasn’t sure I liked the sound of that. Dantini might just throw me to the dogs if it would get this reporter out of his hair. We sat down at a small table and Giacomo arrived with the bottle. Dantini removed the cork with practiced ease. “You’ll want to let this breathe.” He said as he poured the dark red wine into glasses.
“This is very similar to a traditional Chianti, but it contains no white grapes.” Dantini explained, “Instead Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are added to the Sangiovese.” He stared at the wine as he swirled it around his glass. “Now, Miss Meijer, what do you want to know?”
“Do you believe that Chase was responsible for torching El Rey Industries?”
“That’s an interesting question. You see I met Dr. Telmar, the one the police think did it, and he was a few fries short of a happy meal if you follow my drift.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that he was neurotic enough to get involved in all of this. I mean, they did find his body. What I doubt, is that his brain was in close enough contact with reality to carry out something that elaborate.”
Dantini took a sip from his glass and savored it. “There’s a hint of vanilla in the ’95, subtle, but a distinct touch which sets it apart from other years.”
“Mr. Dantini, why are you protecting Chase? And why are you stealing confidential financial documents?”
“Because he’s a friend. And secondly those documents were not stolen; they were given to me upon request. If you have a problem with that, you can call the RBC!”
“If you knew it was illegal for you to possess these confidential records, why did you ask for them?”
“Alright! That is it!” I shouted. “Kayla, I’m trying to save the world, ok? If you want to put my head on a metaphorical pike, or throw me in front of a metaphorical express train, I don’t really care. But you’re going to stay in Chicago, and you’re going to leave me alone until I finish my business in Canada!”
“And why do you expect me to believe that you’re going to save the world?” Kayla asked sipping her drink. She frowned “I’m not tasting the vanilla.” Dantini rolled his eyes, so I continued. “Remember that news story where the terrorists claimed to get their hands on a really deadly virus?”
“Well it’s true, and I’m the only one who can stop them.”
“Yes, I alone possess information which could lead to their apprehension.”
“And you didn’t give this information to the police, because?”
“I just discovered it tonight, and besides it’s Canada, they practically wrote the definition of bureaucracy. By the time they get done with all their committee meetings, we’ll all be pushing daisies.”
“I’m a private eye, I was born cynical.”
“So, let me get this straight, you deny any involvement in the Terrapin Creek Fire; yet fail to produce any substantial evidence to expunge your guilt. You also claim that you alone are capable of saving the world, because you have information which you’ve withheld from the authorities in an act of gross criminal negligence.”
“When you put it like that, you make me sound like an axe murderer on the lam.”
“Wow!” She looked at her almost empty glass of wine and changed the subject randomly. “This stuff is potent. It usually takes more than…one…glass…to…to…affect me.” She dropped face first onto the table.
“Umm, Dantini, what just happened?” I asked suspiciously
“Chloral Hydrate mixed with the wine. Really a waste of a good glass, but there are very few people who’ll turn down a glass of Tignanello.”
“You slipped her a Mickey?”
“Yeah, she saw too much back in the office.”
“You’re not going to… kill her… are you?”
“What put that thought in your mind? If I was going to kill her, she’d be dead already. No, we’re going for a little trip.”
“I don’t know exactly who you’re dealing with, but you have ex special-forces against you. You’re not just going to walk in with a camera in one hand and a .45 in the other and tell them to end their plans. You’re going to need firepower and experience, otherwise you are going to end up just another piece of collateral damage.”
“So, I’m coming with you. Before Chicago I spent six years in special forces. Part of that time, I was advance recon in Afghanistan. I’ve dealt with terrorists before, trust me it’s not fun. We’ll take the family jet, Kayla, and enough weapons to finish whatever mess has been created up there.”
Five minutes later, we’d pushed through the false back wall of the walk-in freezer. We arrived in some sort of arsenal. Dantini began filling duffel bags, muttering to himself as he did so. “C4 for the doors, flash bangs and teargas for clearing rooms, thermite for any other obstacles we might find.” He opened a case and removed a handgun from the foam liner. “I seem to remember that you favor a 1911, right?
I just nodded, staring at stacks of guns and crates of ammunition. “I prefer the H&K USP .40,” he continued, “More ammo, decent stopping power, also H&K is a modern high precision manufacturer.” He cycled the slide and verified that the chamber was empty. “Smooth action, also…” He handed the gun to me by the barrel. “Tactical barrels. See, they are threaded for silencers.”
I felt like I was in a safe house from one of the Bourne movies, or maybe the Matrix. I could see weapons everywhere. Cases labeled: “High Explosives”, “Danger”, “Ammunition”, etc. I also saw a large crate on a bottom shelf covered with radiation warnings. I wasn’t about to ask what was in that box.
Dantini was like a kid in a candy store, still packing stuff. “I think for our primary assault weapon, we want something with high accuracy, decent stopping power, but still relatively compact.” He pulled a gun off a rack and smiled. “Ah yes, the MP5SD with integrated stainless-steel suppressor. We also have a few G36Ks in stock. Don’t ask me where we got them. Box magazines with a 30 rounds capacity for each.”
“How are we supposed to get this all into Canada?” I asked.
“We might be able to slip it past customs at a private terminal in Montreal, but it wouldn’t be worth the risk. Instead, we fly to Plattsburgh; it’s a little US airport about 60 miles from Montreal. From there, we drive the contraband in across the border. At the border, they’ll ask us if we have anything to declare; we say no and we’re on our way.”
“And if they want to search the car?”
Dantini began pulling heavy plastic cases off of the shelf. They had labels like: “Do Not X-Ray: Film”, “Fragile”, and “Camera Lenses”.
“These are pretty handy,” he said. “There is plenty of room underneath the top layer of film equipment for our gear.”
“What are we going to do about Kayla?”
“Take her with of course.”
“What?!” I was not thrilled with the idea of allowing Kayla to view us undertaking, what could be construed as, a gunrunning operation.
“We can’t leave her here. Uncle Tony would kill me.”
“I thought the Dantinis didn’t kidnap people?”
“We don’t. If she was awake, she would be begging to go with us. All we need to do is convince her to keep quiet at the border crossing.”
“And why don’t you check on the temperature in hell while you’re at it? There’s no way that you can possibly keep that woman quiet.”
“I’ll figure something out.”
He continued to pack boxes, speaking into his cellphone as he did so “Roberto, I need to use the X… Yeah just a quick hop out to PBG in New York…No I don’t think they have a curfew… Alright, check on it.” There was a long pause and Dantini began stacking C4 and grenades in the bottom of a case labeled, “Flashes and lighting”.
Roberto must have said something because Dantini started talking again. “So, they don’t have a curfew, good… In that case we can be at the airport in two or three hours… ok, I’ll see you then.” He hung up and turned to me. “Well, Nick, in six hours you’ll be back in Montreal.”
“Look Fernando I really appreciate this, but you don’t need to…”
“Of course, I need to… You can’t stop these guys on your own. You don’t have the skill set or the equipment. Sending you in there by yourself would be nothing short of murder.”
When it was put like that, I was more than happy to let Dantini come along. “Aright, let’s get to the airport.”
“We’ll need to make a few stops first.”
“Your airplane your decision.” I said as I glanced at the arsenal we’d be bringing along. Fergie was not going to be happy.