A conversation – Short story – Part IV

Eleni left the restaurant with her husband, Nick. They were smiling and laughing. The consumption of alcohol had been sizeable, so they took an Uber to get home. The babysitter left within minutes after reassuring them both kids had behaved properly. They ate their dinner, watched tv and then went to bed, without any fuss. Eleni went up to their rooms, opened the door and simply stared at them. They were sleeping peacefully. Nick came over and stood next to her.

“How lucky are we?”, he finally said.

“We are blessed, baby”, simply said Eleni, without taking her eyes off her children. They both went in and kissed the kids on their foreheads and got out. As Nick was closing the door, Eleni grabbed him by the neck and started kissing him. Within seconds, her feet were off the ground and her legs were tightly wrapped around Nick’s waist. As soon as he had put her gently on the bed and after ripping her shirt off, Eleni’s phone started ringing. Instinctively, Nick got off her and sat on the bed, disappointed and frustrated.

Eleni recognized the ringtone playing but she didn’t remember putting it in her phone. It was the Godfather’s theme song. She looked at her phone and saw “Dad” on her screen. She then turned around and looked at Nick who simply shrugged his shoulders.

“He is the Godfather, isn’t he? Please pick up before you get into trouble with him”.

Eleni knew she didn’t have a choice.

“Hello, dad”.

“Hello, sweetheart”.

“Everything alright?”

“No. I haven’t been able to get ahold of your brother”.

“Ok. When was the last time you spoke to him?”

“Early this afternoon. That’s more than 12 hours ago. Get him on the phone or you know what? Go out and find him.”

“Dad, I just got home and…”

“Eleni”, interrupted Aristotle, “do not argue with me. Please do as you’re told. Find Costa”.

She took a deep breath. She knew better than to antagonize her father, who never took no for an answer, from anyone, especially not from his children.

“Of course, dad. I’ll get on it right away”.

“Sweetheart?”

“Yes, dad?”

“You know very well if he got into trouble, we might not be able to get him out of it, don’t you?”

She knew he was right. Regardless of how she might have felt about Costa, he was her brother still and her father’s son. She couldn’t give up on him.

“I will find him, I promise you”.

Eleni hung up and she lied back down on the bed. Nick lied next to her. They both stared at the ceiling for a few seconds.

“Baby…”

“I know”, interrupted Nick, “Family comes first”.

She kissed him and then proceeded to change her outfit. She wore jeans, a black top, combat boots and a leather jacket. She looked like the teenager who wasn’t afraid of anything, the same teenager Nick had liked from the first moment he laid eyes on her even if she was 2 years ahead of him at school. Eleni came back and gave Nick one last kiss.

“Eleni…”

“Yes, baby?”, she said as she turned around.

“Don’t forget this family!”

“Never. I would fight a thousand times harder for this family”.

“I know. I just feel sorry for whoever is on the other side”.

She smiled and blew him a kiss. She went down the stairs fast and she got into her BMW. She sat in the car and exhaled. The night was about to be eventful and probably dreadful. After driving for half an hour, Eleni was knocking on a door, while looking around, making sure no one was watching her. There was a light next to the door, but she was dressed in all black-except for the jeans- so the chances of someone in the neighborhood getting a good glimpse of what she looked like were slim. She heard someone move behind the closed door and she could see their shadow underneath the door. Finally, the person opened the door.

“Hey Eleni. What brings you here?”, asked the man with a genuine curiosity. Eleni looked at him with disgust and punched him in the nose as hard as she could. The man avoided her punch as if he had seen it coming. He took a step back and Eleni took a step forward, furious and looking to punch him again. He put his hands out, indicating he wanted her to stop.

“Jesus Christ, Eleni! What the hell are you doing?”

“You piece of shit! Where is Costa?”

“Calm down first, woman! What the hell?”

“You didn’t answer my question!”, said Eleni, with a tone filled with anger. He kept one hand up and got his phone out of his left front pocket, while keeping her eyes at her. Then, he took another step back, hoping to keep a distance between him and Eleni. As he looked down at his phone, Eleni took another step forward.

“Seriously?”, he said while looking up at Eleni.

“You still didn’t answer my question”.

“You really think you’re gonna beat me up or something? Stop this silly shit, ok?!”

In all fairness, Jazz was at least a foot taller, a foot and a half wider and probably twice Eleni’s weight. He literally towered over her, but Eleni still wanted to hurt him because she wasn’t scared of anybody. She had spent the last 10 years as a police officer, arresting people, sometimes beating up dudes who were twice her size. Yet, Jazz was a whole different character and when he told her to stop, there was a gravity and a thin veiled warning. She took a step back and Jazz showed her his phone, where she could see a ping on Costa’s address, in Verdun.

“As you can see, he hasn’t moved. He is home. You happy now?”

Eleni took the phone and looked at it, realizing the ping wasn’t wrong. Her phone had given her the same information, but she thought it might have been a malfunction of some kind. The app Jazz was using had been created by Karim, Eleni’s friend who had made his fortune developing apps for various companies over the years. It was more accurate than google but it hadn’t gone to market yet. It was an app that was linked to Costa’s ankle monitoring bracelet, that he wore every time he stepped foot into Canada. Costa had a lengthy criminal record, and he was obligated to wear that monitoring device. It was only removed at the airport whenever he went overseas.

“Costa isn’t answering his phone”.

Jazz looked at Eleni with a mix of surprise and fear. The app created by Karim, not only showed the geographical location, but it could also give someone’s access to the phone right away. It had an alarm that told the owner of the phone when the battery was at 20%, so they could charge it. In the 2 years since its creation, the app had worked perfectly. No glitches, no malfunctions, no shutting down. It had been flawless. So, Eleni had accessed her brother’s phone; the battery was over 60% and had been for the past hour. She had called him, but he didn’t pick up. She even checked his messages, and nothing out of the ordinary. A couple of messages about some business and that was it. There weren’t any unknown numbers or sketchy messages.

“I spoke to him, not long ago”.

“When exactly?”. Eleni’s anxiety was rising by the minute. If Jazz had spoken to him, that was always a good sign.

“4 hours ago. We spoke, as part of our regular check in and he told me he was gonna stay home. And from the looks of it, he is home. Did you stop by his place?”

“That’s your job, isn’t it?”

“My job is to check in with him every 6 hours, not to go to his place and make sure he is tucked in.”

“When you spoke…”

“Yes Eleni, I used facetime and he was sitting in his living room.”

“Have you checked the cameras in his place since?”

“Only your father has access to the cameras, you know that!”

Eleni looked worried, and Jazz picked up on that. Costa had been sentenced to 6 years in jail for sexual assault, and he got off easy, thanks to his father connections otherwise he would have gotten more than 15 years in jail. His crimes were notoriously bad. The sentencing happened more than 15 years back and he had to wear a monitoring ankle bracelet, controlled solely by the police. It was part of the new federal law that went in effect in Canada in 2023, after a complete overhaul of the sexual assault part of the penal code. It was about harsher sentencing, more control over the offenders, more oversight by the federal and provincial governments and not surprisingly, sex crimes and assault had been reduced substantially.

For Costa, he was lucky because his father, the mighty Aristotle, was able to get judges and prosecutors to lessen the sentencing. The victims never forgave the judge and the prosecutors for their leniency and Aristotle, the ever-escape artist, managed to hide his involvement. Moreover, there had been one attempt on Costa’s life and that’s when Aristotle hired Jazz to check in on Costa, whenever he was in Canada, to make sure he was safe and to make sure he wouldn’t commit any other crime. The last part had become easy given all the surveillance and scrutiny that the police put over every sexual offender on Canadian territory. Still, keeping an eye on Costa was a must, as Aristotle had said. Jazz didn’t like it but the monthly payments he received from Aristotle had changed his mind.

“You know my father sent me here, right?”

“He sent you here?”, asked a visibly worried Jazz, who knew how powerful and ruthless Aristotle could be. Eleni simply nodded and crossed her arms. Jazz took a step back and turned around, visibly distraught. Eleni couldn’t help but smile. Her father’s influence was alive and well. She liked that kind of power. She loved seeing people bend to her will, but she loved it more when mentioning the family name brought total terror in people’s eyes. She had seen prosecutors, judges, journalists, restaurant owners, politicians and even one minister change their behavior, tone, and attitude once Aristotle’s name was mentioned. She didn’t even have to mention the last name; the first name was more than enough.  

“Ok. I will go to his place right now.”

“You do that.”, and she left. Eleni drove to a few bars Costa loved to hang out and where the owners were indebted to her father. They all assured he hadn’t been in, and she knew they wouldn’t lie to her. They knew better. She was lost in her thoughts when her phone rang. It was Jazz.

“He is not here”, simply said Jazz, in an ominous tone.

“Ok. How does the house look?”

“Neat. The alarm was set, everything looks ok, and his phone is here, Eleni”.

Eleni pulled over and got out of the car, in downtown Montreal. She put on her ear buds and lit up a cigarette.

“Ok. Let’s be practical. Why would the app show he is at home? I understand his phone is there, but he isn’t. And the app was supposed to synchronize his location. There is no way he would be more than 10 meters away from his phone. So, what does this mean?”

“I don’t know”.

“Let me get Karim on the phone, stay on!”

It was 2:48 am, on a Friday night. Karim would be home, but would he pick up? She decided to call. No answer. After 4 attempts, Eleni decided to give up. Then, she sent a message to her dad, asking him to have Karim call her. Less than 3 minutes later, she saw Karim’s name on her phone, and she smiled. “Dad still got it”, she said to herself. She picked up and she put Karim in a conference call with Jazz.

“Karim, Costa’s phone is at his place, but he is not there”.

Silence.

“How is that possible?”, said Karim, utterly surprised.

“You tell me.”

“I am at his place right now Karim”, said Jazz.

“Jazz, look around at every electronic socket of the house. Every socket in the wall, right now.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t understand English all of a sudden? Look around, quickly.”

A minute went by. Then two and after the third minute, Eleni stopped looking at the clock on her phone and opted to put it in her jacket pocket. Finally, Jazz spoke.

“I just found a small green outlet that looks like a charger with no USB port on it, in a socket located in the basement, in a small room, behind some cleaning products.”

“Damn!”, simply said Karim.

“What does this mean?”, asked Eleni.

“I am coming to Costa’s place. I will meet you all there in 30 minutes.”

It took Eleni 15 minutes to get to Costa’s place. Jazz opened the door and let her in. Two minutes later, Karim walked in.

“Show me that thing”, he said to Jazz. Karim took in his hand and examined it. Eleni had examined right before him and it was simply a cube, like the ones used to charge any smartphone but it had no USB port. Karim get his laptop out of his bad and started typing.

“What are you doing?”, asked Eleni.

“I am trying to hack this damn thing”.

“What the hell is it?”, asked Jazz.

“It is an electronic device that can literally scramble any sort of frequency, from Wi-Fi to radio signals. I had heard about those little things, but this is the first time I see one up close and personal. They were supposed to be in the development stage, not out! It is impressive, I gotta say.”

Eleni could tell there was an undertone of admiration in Karim’s voice, and it angered her.

“So, are you saying this device pulled one over your precious app?”

Karim looked up and their eyes met.

“I didn’t say that, ok?”

“Yet, you are admiring this device or whatever you want to call it?”

He ignored her question and went back to typing on his laptop. Eleni stepped up to him and stood above him. Karim looked up again.

“I’ll say this again even if I hate repeating myself; my brother is missing, and you are playing games with me?”

“I don’t know if you noticed but I am trying to hack the damn thing so we can find your brother! Is it ok with you, Your Grace? Could I get some space to work in peace? Do you think you can do that?”

She hated when he used “Your Grace”. It was a nickname he came up with when they were both at the Université de Montréal, studying law. Karim had seen all the privileges and nods she was getting from all the professors and other people, simply because she was Aristotle’s daughter. To him and the rest of the world, she was royalty, and he was like a serf in medieval times. Karim came up from nothing, as a second-generation son of Algerian immigrants. Despite all the favours she was getting, Karim managed to put his envy to the side and they had remained good friends and later business partners.

“Eleni…”, said Jazz, while grabbing her by the arm to pull her away from Karim

“You stay out of it!”, she answered while yanking her arm from Jazz’s grasp. She looked at Karim again, with contempt this time.

“I repeat; my brother is missing, and you are playing games with this old-ass name calling?”

“How many times are you going to repeat that? I know he is missing, ok? And frankly, I guess I forgot to be terrified by you, Eleni. You want to argue, or should I go back to work? Unless you suddenly got my computer skills, and you can crack this?”

Silence.

“No? I didn’t think so. Let me work in peace then”.

Eleni’s phone rang as Karim was finishing his sentence. It was her dad. She reluctantly picked up and told him what was going on. As she was apologizing for everything, Karim said out loud he had cracked the encryption within that small device. She told her father she had to go but he requested to be put on speaker and Eleni did as she was bid.

“Talk to me, Karim”, said Aristotle, with his usual calm and deep voice. Karim cleared his throat and started explaining everything.

“So, this device, as I told Jazz and Eleni before, is designed to scramble every sort of frequency, from Wi-Fi to radio signals. In this case, it scrambled the Wi-Fi and made it look like Costa is here, since his monitoring device is linked with a secure police connection, but through the Wi-Fi. Whoever put this here, knew what they were doing, and they wanted to make us think Costa is here.”

“Jazz, anything on the security cameras?”, asked Aristotle.

“I checked as soon as I got here sir, there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.”

“This device can mess with the cameras as well since they are connected to the Wi-Fi. Whoever did this, must have put the camera’s images on a loop.”

Silence. No one said anything and they all seemed to hold their breath. Aristotle had that effect on people, and especially those who knew him and had dealt with him.

“So, my son is gone, and no one seems to have an idea where he is.”

“Yes, daddy.”, answered Eleni, who didn’t know what else to say.

“Find HIM!”, and Aristotle hung up.

Eleni felt the anger in his voice, and it made her shudder. Jazz and Karim saw Eleni’s tremors and they looked at each other with fear.

“Listen”, said Karim, “I think I can find where this came from. I just need to continue working on this damn thing.”

“Whoever put in the cleaning closet knew what they were doing, for sure.”, said Jazz.

“This was planned and if it comes from someone who has access to this device, we are talking about someone extremely well organized, with deep connections and amazing computer skills, which narrows it down. Eleni, who cleans Costa’s house?”, asked Karim.

“Why?”

“Remember Jazz found this device in a closet located in the basement, where cleaning products are kept.”

“It’s done by a cleaning service, which was contracted by my father’s company. They come here once a month when Costa is outside of the country and once a week when he is here. You think they did this?”

“They must have. They put the device in the cleaning closet which means they wanted to hide it, obviously.”

“Ok. Let me get on that.”, and she went into the kitchen to make a few phone calls.

“Can you find out who is manipulating this signal?”, asked Jazz.

“I will know for sure within an hour.”

“How are you going to manage that?”

“Every electronic key leaves a digital footprint, and I will find it. Otherwise, you know we’ll both be in trouble with the Godfather.”

Jazz and Karim looked at each other, weighing what Karim had just said. They knew it was true and things would only get worse as time went by. Eleni came back with a ghastly look on her face. She was simply walking around, barely looking at anything, moving around like a ghost.

“Eleni?”, said Jazz. She didn’t answer. He looked at Karim who was as curious as Jazz.

“Eleni?”, yelled Jazz and she jumped out of her catatonic state of mind.

“It’s her.”

That’s all Eleni and she went back to being a ghost. She walked around, opening and closing her fists and muttering things to herself.

“Who are you talking about?”, asked Karim.

“It’s her.”

“Eleni, help us a bit here. Who in the hell are you talking about?”

“It’s his mom! How did nobody catch this?”

“Whose mom, Eleni? Talk to us! What is going on?”

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” and then she grabbed and threw a vase against the wall missing Karim’s head by less than a foot. Karim got hit in the back of his neck by the debris but he was wearing a scarf so there wasn’t any injury. Jazz had to put his arm around Eleni and forcefully stop her from moving. Eleni ended up calming down and she sat on the couch next to Karim. She looked lost, tired, and hopeless. Finally, she spoke.

“The cleaning woman…We ran her face through a facial recognition program. She applied for the job a while ago, using a fake ID and somehow, it didn’t raise any alarms. Someone is going to go to hell for this once my dad finds out.”

“Who is she?”, asked Jazz.

“She is Josephine and Eric’s mother.”

Jazz and Karim looked at each other, wondering if they should know those names. Evidently, they didn’t so they had to push Eleni a bit more.

“And who are they?”

Eleni gave both men a look of surprise and they simply stared back at her. She then realized they didn’t know Costa’s criminal history.

“Josephine is one of Costa’s victims. He sexually assaulted her a while ago when he was 16 and her 15. Oh Hell! He raped her.”

Silence followed. Jazz and Karim both looked uneasy. They had gotten a reminder they were helping protecting a rapist, a serial offender, a despicable human being who is out of jail and free to roam the streets of Montreal, simply because his father was an important and powerful man.

“Sometimes”, continued Eleni, “I forget my brother’s crimes and I only think about protecting him. I mean, he is still and will always be my brother but when I think about what he has done…”, and her voice trailed off. Silence became the only sound they could all hear.

“It was Josephine’s testimony that put Costa away for a few years.”, Eleni said after clearing her throat and shaking her head.

“You mentioned her brother.”, said shyly Jazz.

“Yes…Eric. He was older and tried to hurt Costa. And I know he has been trying ever since to find Costa, so he could finish the job he started. He did say a while back he wouldn’t let this go until Costa paid for his crime.”

“And you believed him?”

“He is smart, has many connections and he has been on my father’s radar for the past few years since he’s been making powerful and important friends. Like I said, the kid is smart, ambitious, and possibly dangerous.”

“Are we sure we are not exaggerating here?”, asked Karim.

“How is that hack coming along Mr. Gates? Any day now?”, replied Eleni. Karim had a nickname for her, and she had one for him. He didn’t seem bothered; he looked more worried than anything else. Eleni knew Karim didn’t want to face Aristotle’s wrath.

“Somebody hacked your perfect system Karim, so I wouldn’t talk much if I were you. And you think seeing the mother here, as the cleaning lady is a simple coincidence? What is it you say about coincidence Jazz?”

“Coincidence is a made-up word. There is no such thing as coincidence.”

“You’re damn right!”

“So, what now Eleni? Are we going to go after a middle-aged woman who is a cleaning lady? I mean, come on!”

Jazz sounded sincere. He had no intention of pursuing a middle-aged woman, neither did Eleni. She wanted to involve as few people as she could.

“Ok. Let’s leave the mother alone. Let’s go pay Eric a visit.”

“You know where he is?”

“I have his phone number. Karim, can you run a trace on his phone and see where he is?”

“Sure! What’s the number?”

Within a few minutes, Karim was done tracing Eric’s phone. And he also had his home and work addresses. Eleni simply needed the current location, nothing more.

“He is on Saint-Laurent. At a restaurant.”

“Ok, what’s the address?”

“Well, you know it. Your family has been going there for a few years now.”

“The Acropolis?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting. Let’s go Jazz. If he moves, let us know.”, Eleni said as she walked through the door. Jazz followed in his car, and it took them 25 minutes to get to the Acropolis. The parking lot on the left side of the restaurant was empty. There was a young man smoking outside the restaurant, which seemed closed. Eleni got out and started conversing with him. Jazz came along and the young man felt uneasy to see a humongous person like Jazz approaching, with his long dark spring coat. He simply told them Eric’s car was behind the restaurant, in the alley but Eric was gone. He had left with his date and that was it. The young man asked to be excused, because it was late, and he wanted to go home. Eleni felt like they were intimidating him, and she made a head movement asking Jazz to go around the restaurant and look at Eric’s car. Eleni thanked the young man and wished him good night. As he was leaving, he turned his head one last time and she simply waved at him with her irresistible smile, and he simply smiled back. “I still got it”, she said to herself.

“Eleni”, screamed Jazz from the back of the alley. She rushed to him and found him holding a phone in his right hand, while Eric’s car door was open. There wasn’t a car Jazz couldn’t jack, seriously. The man was simply too good.

“So, he is gone, but left his car and his cell phone…”, she finally said. Jazz nodded and showed a sign of exasperation by cracking his knuckles. He did that when was angry or frustrated.

“I guess we are going to pay a visit to the mother.”

Eleni looked at Jazz with utter incredulity. “Now, you want to pay a visit to the mother? I thought she was out of the equation.”

“We better find your brother otherwise, I will be in trouble with your dad.”, he said while putting Eric’s phone in his pocket. Eleni smiled, turned around and she couldn’t help but let out her favorite phrase.

“Atta boy!”, and she walked to her car with a smile on her face. “Let’s go break some doors down!”


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