Chapter 17

The next morning, Brian headed out early, nearly duplicating his trip from the previous day. However, today he exited in midtown, walking a few blocks into a different electronics store.  A Japanese salesman greeted him as he walked in and Brian reciprocated with a “good morning” and then “I’m looking for a GPS tracker, I think you make them for kids and dogs, elderly people. Do you know what I mean?”

“Oh yes, of course.  Come, right back here,” he said, leading Brian toward the back of the store, past rows of cameras, MP3 players, headphones, Bluetooth speakers and GPS navigators. “We have many different types.”

“Ok great” Brian said. “I need one that lasts a day or more on battery and can send a panic signal.”

“Ok, so this is not for your dog, then,” said the salesman, who snickered a bit.

“That’s right,” he said smiling. 

“This one may be what you want. It has a wristband or is small enough for a pocket. It uses SMS for the distress signal and can be tracked online or via an app.  Looks like it lasts a full day, according to the package,” he said.

“Ok, sounds like what I need,” Brian said. “How much?”

“Oh, let’s see,” he said turning the box. “$299, plus tax,” he said. 

“How about $300 cash,” Brian asked.

“You got it,” said the man.

Brian pulled out $300 in twenties and handed them to the man. He took the money and walked back to the cash register.  He counted out the twenties and then checked out ten or so with a counterfeit marker. He looked up at Brian and said, “Would you like a bag?”

“No, thanks,” Brian replied, opening his backpack to stow the GPS.

“Have a nice day,” said the Japanese man.

“Thanks. Same to you,” he said waiving, keeping his head down.

He walked out and called Susan. She answered right away “Hello?”

“It’s Brian, where are you?”

“At my apartment, why,” she asked.

“I have something for you. I’m on my way,” he said. “I should be there in 20 minutes.”

“Ok,” she said. “I’ll put on some coffee.”

“Sounds good, thanks,” he said.  “See you soon, bye.”

“Bye,” she replied and hung up her phone.

Brian hailed a taxi and arrived at her place in 10 minutes. He walked up to the door and it buzzed as he reached for the doorbell. So, he opened the door and walked in. John was behind the desk. “Good morning, Brian. Susan said I should expect you and she said you can go right up.”

“Good morning. Thanks a lot,” Brian replied pressing the button for the elevator. The door opened immediately and Brian stepped in.  A few moments later he was knocking on her door. She opened it and said, “I love it when men show up in the morning bearing gifts.”  She had wet hair and was wearing a bathrobe, so Brian wasn’t sure how to take this. He walked in.

“Umm, yeah,” he said a bit awkwardly. “It’s nothing fancy, but you might consider it jewelry.”

He opened his backpack and pulled out the package. He pulled out his pocket knife and sliced it open. 

“See,” he said holding up a chunky piece of plastic on a black nylon band. “You can wear it, or just keep it in your pocket or bag.”

“Oh, I see,” she said. “Is it okay if I just keep it in my bag?”

“Of course,” he said, smiling. “We need to charge it and you should keep it near your mobile phone and charge it daily. I’ll be able to keep up with you via my phone. And you hold this button to send me an alert.”

“So romantic,” she said, smiling. “Do you always track the women in your life?”

“No, just the ones I put in danger,” he said,’as he thought “Again with the mixed signals. But I know she’s just joking.”

“Ok,” she said. “This is where I charge my phone.” She pointed to a corner on her kitchen counter.

Brian pulled out the cable and plugged it into the wall and GPS. He pulled the documentation out and entered the GPS ID into an app on his phone. “Ok, all set,” he said.

“Great, thanks,” she said. “Here is your coffee.”

“Thanks,” he replied. He took a sip of the coffee. “This is good.”

“Thank you,” Susan said. “So, where do your adventures take you today?” She sat down on her sofa and motioned for Brian to have a seat. He followed and sat on the other end of the sofa.

“Oh, nothing exciting,” he said, which was a lie. “I have to work later today and then I’m meeting some friends for dinner.” This was also a lie, but he didn’t want to mention the illegal purchase he was making tonight, nor did he want to tell her that he had already spent part of the night preparing for the event.

“Well, that sounds like fun,” she said, “the part about dinner, anyway. I’m sorry to hear that you have to work. I was hoping you could meet Liz and me for lunch. Is there any way you could meet us later?”

“Probably not,” Brian said. “I have a few errands to run, too.”

“So, let me ask you something,” she said. “If you have all of this money, why are you still going to work?”

“Well, I have to keep my job,” he replied. “This money is for a very specific purpose, and it won’t last forever. I need to have a paycheck coming in,” he said, smiling.

“And you won’t tell me about the purpose?” she asked.

“No, I can’t. Or shouldn’t, is probably a better choice of words,” he said. “I’ve already put you in danger, and I don’t want to risk your life. Or your reputation.”

“Tell me more about it,” she replied. “Let me be the judge.”

“No, it’s dangerous. And you won’t approve,” he said.

“Why?” Susan asked. “Is it illegal?”

“I’m sorry, Susan,” he said. “I just can’t involve you in this. I should probably go.”

“No, stick around,” she said. “Keep me company while I get ready.”

She got up and put her coffee cup down on a table. Then she walked into her bedroom. “What time do you need to be at work,” she asked.

“I have to make my first pickup at noon,” he replied. “Have to go get my bike, though. So, I should really go.”

“Are you sure?” she asked, pleading a little. She came out brushing her hair.

“Yeah, I should,” he replied. “I’ll call you later.  Don’t forget the GPS, OK?”

“Ok,” she replied. “Thanks for dropping it by.”

“Ok, bye,” he said opening the door and walking out.

As he exited her building, he heard a woman’s voice from behind. “Excuse me.”

He turned to find a young woman, with dark brown hair, wearing jeans, white button-down shirt, blue blazer and aviator sunglasses. He recognized her voice from Susan’s phone call. This was Liz Murphy.

“Hi,” he said, with a little smile. “What can I do for you?”

“Is your name Brian? Susan is a friend of mine,” she said.

“Yes, I know who you are,” he said. “You’re Liz Murphy.”

“Yes, you’re right,” she said. “Do you mind if I walk with you and talk?”

“Um, well, sure, ” he said. They started to walk in the direction Brian was headed. “What’s on your mind?”

“So, you know Susan is a very good friend of mine, right?” she said.

“Yes, of course,” Brian replied.

“And I gave her the opportunity to meet you, and feel you out, as to your demeanor and intentions, rather than let my guys work you over in the interrogation room. Because I think there’s more to the story than they could have gotten out of you.”

“Ok,” he said, hesitating to say more.

She continued, “and because, I think you were trying to help that day at the bank. So you probably had good intentions.”

“Yes, you’re right,” Brian said. “I’m glad you see it that way.”

They rounded a corner now and were out of sight of Susan’s apartment. Liz took off her glasses and put them in her pocket, Suddenly, she turned and grabbed Brian by the front of his shirt and shoved him up against the wall. He was so taken by surprise that he couldn’t initially respond and then decided to wait for her next move.

“Look,” she said, now with anger in her voice, “I don’t know what kind of crazy shit you’re up to with the mob, but if you hurt Susan in any way, I will make you pay!” She looked him in the eye, glaring as if she could burn a hole through his face. He smiled back at her.

“Relax,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to make sure no harm comes to her. I promise.”

She held tight, continuing to glare. “What the hell are you doing with the Russians?”

“Look,” he said, “please, relax. I get it that you’re trying to show a position of strength here, but you have nothing to worry about from me. And I could use your help making sure she’s safe.”

She held tight for another few seconds and then backed off. “So, what is it? Why is the Russian mob pissed off at you?” she asked. She stepped back and put one hand on her hip, hopefully only coincidentally, near her gun.

“They’re pissed because I stole money from them,” he said. “I explained this to Susan, she didn’t tell you?”

“No, but we’re having lunch today and I expect she’ll tell me more,” she said. “Why do you need to steal money, and why from the mob?”

“Why? Because I need it,” he said. “Why them? Because I knew they had it, knew they didn’t earn it, knew they wouldn’t report it and… because I knew I could take it from them.”

“What do you need the money for?” she asked.

“Several reasons, none of which I wish to disclose. I haven’t even told Susan,” he said. 

“Look, I need you to come clean, especially if you want my help,” she said, sternly again.

“I can’t. But I expect you’ll help me because she’s your friend,” he said. “I just want you to help me keep her safe. I feel horrible that she’s involved, through some weird coincidence. But now she is, admittedly because she was so insistent upon tracking me down. And if I hadn’t jumped in and helped that kid find her mother, none of this would have happened. So, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Right?”

“I see your point,” she said, easing her stance a bit. “But, you have to see this from my side, too.  First, it looks extremely suspect and now sounds highly illegal, even if it is the mafia you stole from.”

“Oh, I see your point, too,” he said. “But you’re going to have to trust me.”

“Trust you?” she said. “That’s a tough one. I’m still considering dragging your ass downtown.”

“Well, good luck with that one,” he said and started walking again. 

She caught up with him and reached for his arm “Hey, we’re not finished here!” When she grabbed his arm, she found it impossible to grab, so she moved in front of him again. He sidestepped her, but she leaned in to put her arm up again and found it to be like trying to stop a slow-moving car. He continued past her, almost knocking her down.  She recovered and pulled out her pistol.

“I said STOP!” she yelled. He didn’t even turn around.

“You’re not going to shoot me,” he said.

“Dammit,” she said as she holstered her gun and caught up again. “Look, I know she trusts you, but it’s my job to question everything,” she shouted as she walked quickly to keep up. “I don’t feel I can keep her safe if I don’t know what you’re involved in. You’re a liability”

“Well, there is a lot you won’t ever know about me,” he said. “But I’ve told you all that I will and I’ve told Susan everything I feel comfortable sharing with her. I was keeping a low profile and living a very quiet public life, then I screwed up and became a good Samaritan. And that always brings unwanted scrutiny. So, if you feel like Susan is now in danger because of me, remember, you’re the one who sent her my way.”

He was right, and she knew it. But it didn’t discount the fact that he broke the law. And, that there was something else at play — he was a freak of nature.

“So, what is your plan?” she asked. “What are you going to do to ensure her safety?”

“I gave her a GPS tracker and a protocol to use if she’s in danger and needs to call me,” he said.

She shoved him again, but to little avail. “That’s it!?” she exclaimed. “How is that protection?”

“Well, I hope they didn’t even realize who she is,” he said. “Plus, they’re in your jail. Right?”

“Yes, but they have a pit bull lawyer who will probably have them out soon,” she said.

“Well, if they get out, let us know,” he said. “And do what you can to stay close.”

“I need your number,” she said. “I’m assuming you have another that isn’t locked up in a storage facility.”

“Yep,” he said “470 555 1212”

She pulled out her mobile and entered the number, she had to slow down a bit to do it. She hastened to catch up.

“So, what if they do figure out who she is?” she asked.

“Well, you’ve seen her apartment, it’s pretty good, security-wise, right?” he asked.

“Yeah, but her doormen aren’t security guards. They’re just there to keep out the bums,” she said.

“Ok, you’re a cop,” he said. “What about a little protection from some of your buddies?”

“Well,” she said, “I can’t justify that.”

Brian slowed down a bit. “Right, not without mentioning me, which gets you in trouble with your boss.”

“Exactly,” she said.

“That’s why we need to work together on this,” he said. “To fix your mistake.”

“Screw you!” she said. “You’re the one messing with the mob.”

“Just keep us posted on the two in your jail. I’m jumping on this,” he said, pointing at the subway. “You have my number. Nice to meet you,”

Then he turned and walked down into the subway, while Liz just stood and watched him go.

Continue to Chapter 18
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