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BIG SPOILER ALERT!!! Do not read this part if you haven't read the previous parts. You will also need the prequels, "Coming in from the Cold" and "Settling the Bill" to understand some things.
Family Reunion 7/?
"Can't we do this after Christmas?" asked Chris as they slammed their car doors shut.
"Don't want her to tip him off," said Elliot, starting the car.
"She won't do that. You saw how scared she was," said Chris.
Elliot turned to look at him.
"You scared too?" he asked.
Chris just grinned at him and shook his head. Elliot could see he was pissed off though. He pulled out of the parking bay and headed north. He knew where they were headed, but didn't know the area well, so he looked out for road signs. They drove in silence past the Manhattan Bridge overpass. Elliot did not know what to expect or what to prepare himself for. His cop instincts said he should investigate further before following any lead, but after searching for half his life he couldn't wait another moment. His heart was pounding and he gripped the steering wheel tight. Chris noticed of course.
"You're a bit tight-wound, Elliot," he said, sounding very relaxed himself. "You want to go easy there, buddy. Might not be what you're hoping for."
"I gotta know," said Elliot and kept on driving.
"How far away is this place?" asked Chris, "and who are we going to meet?"
"I'm not sure. I don't know this part of town well. Probably about fifteen minutes. It's the guy who owns the building the Sopers were living in. Soper - old Arnie - worked for him back in the fifties and sixties."
"Yeah? What'd he do?" asked Chris.
He'd found a half-eaten packet of peanuts from a cop bar he and Elliot had gone to in one of his jacket pockets. He opened it up and popped a few peanuts into his mouth. He offered some nuts to Elliot. Elliot helped himself absentmindedly as he turned off the motorway into a side road.
"Hard to say. Jim says his job description's a little hazy, which probably means it was a cover up for organized crime. Looks like the Sopers had a good retirement policy one way or the other."
"Yeah?" said Chris again.
He was staring out of the window at the passing buildings.
"Where'd you say this place was that we're going to?"
Elliot told him the address. Chris sat up a little straighter in his chair. He was really staring out of the window now.
"What was the name of the guy whom Arnie worked for?" he asked sharply.
"B.G. Bertram," said Elliot, looking at him. "Know him?"
"Stop the car," said Chris. "I gotta get out."
"You feeling sick?" asked Elliot. "You don't look good."
He pulled over near a small park.
"So long," said Chris.
"Chris, wait," said Elliot. "Where are you going?"
"Back home and if you have any sense so will you," said Chris, opening his door.
He got out and slammed it shut. Elliot got out too.
"What's going on, Chris?" he demanded. "If you know who this Bertram is, you gotta tell me."
He hurried after Chris into the park. Chris marched on briskly for a while through wet grass and then stopped near a stone bench. He turned to look at Elliot. He gave him a strange and ghostly smile.
"Not who. What."
"What do you mean?" said Elliot. "I guessed Bertram might be a fake identity because Jim could find no details on him. Are you saying that Bertram doesn't exist?"
Chris rubbed his face and stared off into the trees.
"Bertram exists alright. How bad do you want find out?"
"More than anything," said Elliot.
"B.G. Bertram is the name Big Daddy gave his first company."
"B.G. Bertram is a front for the Russian Mob?" said Elliot.
Chris shook his head with the same awful smile.
"The Mob doesn't own it. Big Daddy does - or rather he did until he died. Junior would have inherited it after his death. I guess it belongs to him now."
They stared at each other for a moment. Elliot had never known the extent of Chris's involvement in the Mob. He'd chosen not to know.
"What would Big Daddy..." began Elliot and stopped.
He shook his head.
"You say it's a company? How many people work for it?"
"A lot," said Chris.
He had, but he didn't say so. It fronted as a series of evidently unrelated restaurants and bars whose back-rooms housed other operations. The staff - all of them - were paid as employees of the front businesses. They had a high turn-over and usually no retirement.
"So there's someone there who might know something about our family," said Elliot.
Christ, he was obsessive, thought Chris irritably, wondering where he got that from.
"You going to be okay going back there?" asked Elliot.
"I ain't going back," said Chris.
"I'm going," said Elliot. "Anything I should know?"
"Yeah," said Chris. "Stay away from them."
He thrust his hands into his jacket pockets and started walking again, further into the park. Elliot hurried behind him.
"Someone who knows something about our family works for Bertram," he said. "You got any idea who it might be?"
"No, but I'd be more worried about who those guys might be," said Chris.
He was staring over Elliot's shoulder. Elliot turned around to see three men in dark overcoats approaching them. He reached automatically for his police-issue gun. Chris raised his hands.
"Keller," said the man in the middle of the three as they drew nearer.
His overcoat was navy and more expensive-looking than either of his companions'. He looked to be about forty six, bland-featured, unsmiling.
"Petrovitch," said Chris.
"What brings you to these parts?"
"Just passing through," said Chris as the men stopped in front of them.
"Perhaps we can trouble you to accompany us. There's someone who wants to talk to you."
"They knew we were coming," said Elliot.
"We've been following you from Manhattan Bridge," said Petrovitch. "Could I trouble you for your weapon, Detective Stabler?"
"I'm going nowhere," said Elliot. "And I'm not giving you my gun."
"It would be best," said Petrovitch.
One of his men stepped forward more quickly than Elliot could react, grabbed his wrist and twisted the gun from his grasp. He stepped back, pocketing the weapon. Elliot massaged his wrist and glowered at them. Chris put a cautionary hand on Elliot's shoulder.
"We're cool," he said. "Where are we going?"
"We're not going with them," said Elliot.
"There's someone who might answer your questions," said Petrovitch. "We're not planning to hurt you, Detective. Your brother has had many exchanges with him."
Realization dawned on Elliot's face.
"You're taking us to the Spook," he said.
A different sort of realization was dawning on Chris's face. His eyes narrowed, but he said nothing as Petrovitch's two cohorts checked them for other weapons, taking Chris's gun and Elliot's pocket knife. When they were satisfied that Chris and Elliot were unarmed, they marched them back across the grass to a waiting tan sedan. Another car, a silver Chevrolet, was parked behind it. Another overcoated man leaned against the bonnet. He stood up straight when Petrovitch approached and when he nodded at him, opened the back left passenger door. A familiar figure got out.
"So we meet again," said the Spook.
"Yeah, it's like you've been following us," said Elliot. "Why would you want to do that?"
"I am glad to see you're keeping well, detective," said the Spook. "And Chris, I'm glad you've made such a good recovery."
Chris grinned at him, but his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. He was staring at the Spook as if he was unable to tear his eyes away from the man's face.
"Yeah, I never got a chance to thank you."
"You're welcome. I believe you both are looking for some information."
The Spook gestured at Petrovitch who went with his colleagues to stand next to the fourth man at the silver Chevy. The Spook walked in a leisurely way back into the park. Elliot and Chris followed him, Elliot first, Chris a little way behind.
"Do you know anything about our family?" asked Elliot.
"Yes," said the Spook.
"Will you tell us what you know?" asked Elliot.
Chris said nothing.
"Have you not guessed the truth?" asked the Spook. "I can see your brother has."
Elliot turned to look at Chris.
"Sonovabitch," whispered Chris.
Elliot looked back at the Spook. His eyes widened.
"You're our father," he said.
"Congratulations," said the Spook. "I tried to keep my identity hidden from you for as long as I could for very good reasons. It really is in your best interests that neither of you pursue this any further."
"But..." began Elliot.
"I can't stop you, but I strongly urge you to leave it at this."
"I need to know..." said Elliot.
"That is all," said the Spook. "All of the best for Christmas. I still keep the Russian Christmas. It falls on a different day. Goodbye."
He turned and walked back towards the cars, leaving Chris and Elliot standing. They watched him get into his tan sedan and leave. Elliot turned to Chris who was staring after the cars.
"You had no idea, did you?" said Elliot.
"I'm gonna whack him," said Chris with certainty.
Elliot, used to being the hot-head with his colleagues, found himself growing calmer as Chris became more agitated. He placed a restraining hand on his brother's chest.
"I understand, Chris, it's okay," he murmured.
"No! You don't fucking understand!" Chris told him. "He paid my goddamned salary!"
"I know, I know. He lied to you."
"I was his fucking employee for fucking years! And he was laughing behind my back the whole fucking time! I'm the goddamned laughing stock of his whole cocksucking crew."
"It all makes sense now," said Elliot, his mind racing.
"What the fuck do you mean?" demanded Chris. "It makes no fucking sense at all."
He could hardly breathe. His whole world had been thrown out of orbit. Elliot spoke again.
"Didn't you find anything strange about his treatment of you - how he took you in so readily, helped you out, let you into the inner sanctum, took you into his confidence and gave you instructions directly? I bet you everyone else goes through Petrovitch or any number of other intermediaries. What about all that legal support from Gambodge? The Spook wouldn't do that for just any of his staff. Hell, he wouldn't even do it for his most trusted lieutenants. Didn't you ever wonder why he was doing it for you?"
Chris had put it down to his carefully cultivated charm and insights into human nature that had won him so much jizz in so many spheres of life. That he'd never questioned it now merely added to his shame.
The more he thought about it the more so many things that he'd put down to dumb luck started to make sense: the way he'd always got respect in the organization, the way the Russians had always given him wide berth in prison, how comparatively safe he'd been in Oz compared with outside, how the Spook had readily suggested Gambodge get him out of Oz when the time was right, the Spook's fascination with Chris' issues with Junior.
Chris had thought his only interest had been in taking over the business when Big Daddy died. But he'd entrusted monitoring Junior to Chris to keep it in the family. That would have been his trump card if Chris had tried to cause any trouble. He would have owed him loyalty as a son. Big Daddy was the Spook's brother. He'd been spying on his own uncle. Junior, his mark, whose unwilling accomplice and then victim he'd become, was his cousin. Chris felt sick.
"He's my cousin too," said Elliot, although Chris hadn't said anything.
Elliot was becoming a mind reader. Chris had always prided himself in being inscrutable. Guess he wasn't as unreadable as he had thought. Of course Elliot didn't know the half of his relationship with Junior, or how it had played out in that basement in the warehouse. His cousin. Had Junior known too? Chris' horror was turning to rage.
"I'll whack Gambodge too," he muttered.
Elliot massaged the back of Chris's neck.
"Nobody's whacking anyone," he told him quietly, but firmly. "We need to find out who our mother is."
"Why?" asked Chris flatly.
"So that we know who we are," Elliot explained.
"I don't fucking care. I know enough, more than I wanted to know. Our mother probably fucking tipped me or let me serve her lunch or something. Maybe she let me be her fucking driver."
"I care, Chris," said Elliot, "I need to know. I need to know why we were given up for adoption and separated. I need it to make sense. I've needed to know all my life."
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