I tried to tell the man that he was wasting his money. If I ever did find something that I would have to hand it over to the authorities.
Just as before he said, "Keep Looking!"
So guess what? I kept looking.
His daughter and granddaughter had been abducted. From everything that had been found out, the son-in-law had probably arranged the whole thing. He was a greedy SOB, and did not want to wait for any 'estate' or 'heir' thing. He must have been a little surprised when the grandfather refused to pay the ransom. The greedy bastard died of heart failure. It was felt he either killed off his wife and daughter, or sold them into slavery. When the grandfather demanded proof of life, they were long gone.
That was one of the reasons I kept telling the man that he should let the cops handle it, as they were the professionals. Yeah, right: professional coffee and doughnut eaters. But, after all, I was not a kidnap rescue-er. My only good point was that the man trusted me. He had heard from a friend that when I took a mission, I never gave up. That was during the war; but, yeah, it stuck.
I was used to having good people around me, helping me: a team effort. I called the man and asked if we could meet. I knew he lived in Paris, France. I told him I could be at Charles De Gaulle airport, the next day. He laughed and suggested he would have a ride waiting for me. He said to look for 'Mr. Smythe' on the sign in the baggage area. I thought if I met him and told him in person that he was wasting his money, then he might listen. I had agreed to a month for $20,000 plus expenses. So far, he would get back nearly $4,300 from the $30,000 he had wired me. If I had not received the call from my former client, I would never have taken the job, or the man's money. This was going to be hard, costly and more than one man could do.
The body of the son-in-law was found in Spain, near Madrid. That was about twenty days ago. He'd asked my client to have me call him less than one day after he got the ransom demand. Hell, I was willing to return the twenty Gs, if he would just drop the mission, and get someone else.
My former client was into loaning money, and the doctor was easy to find: just look in the book, or in this case, the internet. He had owed nearly five mil. He thought he was untouchable. He was willing to pay, but not right then. My client took a dim view of any contract that was not adhered to. He, like me, valued a man's word. So he had asked for a not so gentle reminder to be delivered to the doctor. It would say that the doctor 'now' owed six mil. 'Now' meant in forty-eight hours, or the next time something much more personal would happen. As usual, my client left the method to me.
I had all these great, sick ideas I had always wanted to try. Then I remembered a movie I had seen, and another idea was formed.
'He, he, hee! This is going to be fun, ' I thought.
No blood, gore, or cops; but he would get the message! It was simple enough. I bought a prop in town, paid cash, and then stopped at a greeting card shop. I bought two things. I mailed one of the cards to his house via a local document delivery service.
Late that night, I paid a visit to him. He was fast asleep and alone in bed. I went to his wardrobe, got his best suit (a Louis Roth, I think), and laid it out on the bed near him. I took the small gift and the card and put both on his clothes. The next morning he woke up later than usual, on his bed was a single lily and the unsigned card: "My Deepest Sympathy" it read.
Later that day, as he read the mail, he opened the card I had sent.
"Your Loss Will Not Be Forgotten" was followed by a date, forty-eight hours in the future. He made arrangements, and paid the six mil the next day. My client laughed so much that he was holding his ribs as he handed me a briefcase. I had been on this for less than a week; four days, in fact. The case was all leather, and was really nice.
I rose to shake his hand and leave. We had done business before, and I was not going to charge him for this.
"Don't you care what's in it, Ryan?"
I replied, "Nah, you have always been fair with me. This case is enough for me."
"You keep this up and you'll have to get a real job," he said. "Look inside the case."
Inside was two hundred fifty thousand dollars, in neat packages.
He said, "You made me some extra money with this one, plus he paid the regular interest. I figured you could use a vacation. Thanks."
You see the reason why I could not refuse to try to find the man's daughter? Paulie had always treated me fairly; so when he had called, how could I refuse his request? So with some regret at failing; I left for France, to let the man down gently. He should save his money. I did not find out until later, that the ransom of two hundred fifty million would not have been more than a few weeks worth of interest on his capital!
When I got to the airport, not one but four men and a very attractive woman were holding up signs with 'Mr. Smythe' on it.
The girl, woman, female, whatever; greeted me in the traditional European way. She kissed both cheeks, then gave me a light kiss on the lips.
"Why, Uncle Ryan, you do care for me!" she said as she brushed up against my groin. She started towards the door, saying, "Walk this way, please."
As she swayed her hips, I said, "If I walked that way, I'd be arrested."
The four men had not even smiled, but the girl was having fun. When we got to the exit, three black Mercedes 600 limos were waiting. One of the men opened the back door of the centre car. The girl got in, and let her short dress ride up near her waist. I, of course, followed. One man got in the front seat. The others went to the front and back cars.
The girl said, "I'm Max. I help the Baron when travel is required."
Then she motioned for the cars to proceed. If she'd been older, had lowered her skirt, and had not been so damn cute; I might not have kept staring at her with my mouth wide open. I did notice that the cars were armoured. By the feel of mine, it had been done by someone who knew what a tank mine could do. This car was ready to go into combat. The roof had flip down armour for over the windows and a shield that separated the front from the back.
If I had to guess, we would be protected for several hours from anything but a tank, a 105mm cannon or an A-10 with mini-guns; these were serious transports. Man, would I like to have one of these!
Max said, "Boys and their toys, can't you think about anything else to play with, except cars?"
Again I just stared at her with my mouth open. She had to be eighteen, but maybe not. She raised the seat area between us. Inside was a small arsenal.
"These are in case our trip should be interrupted; now, or later. Each car is identical."
"We will be using these cars while we search for Sheila and Sally." She showed me the flat screens in the overhead. "Satellite, aerial and drone monitors. Available in the other cars, too. There are eight more cars like this, and four large vans will join us in Spain. You will have room for up to ten more men, plus the twenty already waiting. Do you have any questions before we meet The Baron?" she asked, as she handed me a large case.
I just could not help myself. I kept staring at her with my mouth open.
She snapped her fingers under my nose and said, "Max to Ryan! Max to Ryan! Come in please!"
"Uhh!" was all I could say.
I had come to have this poor old man cancel the mission. I was going to tell him it was too big for one man. So he gets a woman (no, a girl) with twenty men, ten million in armoured vehicles, and God know what kind of firepower ... yeah, my mouth was still open.
I guess it was a day for surprises. When I opened the case, I found two graphite Sig-Sauer .40 calibre semi-auto pistols, with silencers; two deadly sharp knives; and a hard case full of pre-filled syringes. The bottom was filled with about a million in cash and gold coins, and a Swiss bank account statement showed a balance of thirty million. I looked at Max.
"Don't look at me! If you need more, talk to The Baron. I'm not giving you any of mine ... not of money, that is," she said, and then smiled.
She lowered another panel in the car. Twenty-four throwaway cellphones and a dozen pre-loaded credit cards were there.
"For emergency use," she continued. "I have a small team gathering intel for us, in Madrid (Small? Sure! She had twenty operatives there!). We will be based in Costa del Sol, where the trail will begin. Can your people meet us there?" she asked. She handed me a number, saying, "Have them call, and someone will met them when they arrive. We leave in forty-eight hours. A helicopter will take us from the chateau in two hours. The vehicles are already in Spain, so are other supplies and assets."
Whoever she was, she was good, damned good. I just shook my head in agreement. What else could I do? I wondered if she was ... Oh, well ... Nothing. She was something else!
I had said today was full of surprises. When the Chateau came into view; it was, like, ten miles away! It was sitting on top of a mountain. Man, just like the song: one could see for miles and miles. I wonder who gets to cut the grass? Max, again, is a great source of information. "There are six villages around the estate. In all, over a thousand men maintain the estate, and keep guard on the roads and waterways.
"Satellites keep watch 24/7 also. In over nine hundred years, the castle has never been breached. Even during the war, the Germans could not seize it. The Panzers could not reach the walls, as pits and mines were laid out over twenty kilometres away. Even now, our approach is being monitored. If the code phase is not given, soon; even these cars will be destroyed from above. Yes, Ryan, we do have protection here. Our Russian friends have provided us with a number of surprises. Six 'Hinds' will take us to Spain, and stay to guard us on our mission."
Meeting The Baron was another surprise. He was dying; of cancer, he said.
He introduced a team of lawyers, and then said, "My daughter and granddaughter are my heirs. I will be dead, soon; but I have left instructions in my will, as well as with these men, that you and Max should have everything you need to find them. If, in eight years they cannot be found, or are pronounced dead; my estate goes to you and Max. It is my hope that even then, you will extract justice for them. The estate is worth more than eleven billion. I would give it all, to have them back! Find them! Please, find them!"
Max bent down and kissed him, tears ran down her cheeks.
"We will find them, grandfather," she said, as she held his hand.
Now I knew why she was so into this.
"Ryan, I have asked for your help, because Paulie said you were a man who could be trusted. I am asking you to keep my granddaughter safe, as well as find my daughter and other granddaughter. Max is an orphan. Her mother and father were killed and she will inherit this Chateau. If nothing else, should you find my daughter or granddaughter, you will receive one billion. Keep her safe, Ryan."
We heard the Hinds landing outside. One of the lawyers handed each of us a note.
"These two accounts should keep you going. Call the number, give the passwords, and more will be added as you need it. Destroy these papers after memorizing the data."
The old man was asleep. We left for the gunships. Max was still crying. I put an arm around her shoulders, and walked out to the Hinds with her.
"If anything happens to me, keep looking for them," she said as she continued to cry.
Man, I was tearing up too, now. I'd hate to be them when we find whoever took the girls! Death will only be something they could wish for!
As the helicopters flew towards Spain, I called and texted messages to some of the people I wanted. I said if they needed money now, to e-mail me their bank account data, or tell me which Western Union office to contact. If not, I would have cash for them in Spain. I gave them the number to call for pick up. I then memorized the info the lawyer had given me. Tearing the note into very small pieces, I slipped them out the chopper's window, across fifty kilometres of French countryside.
No one seemed to be concerned about armed gunships flying about. We made quite a sight: six Hinds, flying in formation. These were the huge new war birds, man. I would find out, later, that these had several special features: Apache 'map of the earth' guidance, with chain guns and sidewinder missiles.
I would take Max anywhere. I wondered if she knew how to dance, too?