“Where are we going?” I asked my dad. I’d been paying no attention to where we were driving, but now I saw that we were almost to the exits for the Loop. “I know you said you wanted to ask some questions, but where?”
“WGN. The radio station. If someone saw Charlie get snatched by those guys, we might be able to figure out more about the whole situation.”
I looked once more at Charlie’s picture on my phone, then stowed it in my bag.
“So, you…” my dad said. But just those two words.
I looked at him. He was simply driving, as if he hadn’t said anything. “So, I…what?” I asked.
He shifted a bit in the seat. He’d taken off his jacket. The white cotton shirt he wore was wilted, and there were perspiration stains under his arms. I looked away. It was too human a thing to see.
“So, you…” he continued. “You went to the University of Iowa for college, is that right?”
I glanced at him. “Sounds like you know all about it.”
He swallowed hard, kept looking at the road. “I know the facts. I don’t know if you liked it.”
I stared at the dashboard, then I leaned forward and drew my finger over it. I don’t know why. I guess I just wanted something to do, wanted to think for a second. But there didn’t seem to be any reason not to respond. “I liked it a lot. I loved it. Iowa gets a bad rap outside the state. People think pigs or corn, but it’s idyllic actually. The perfect place to go to college. Great little town, nice people, good football program.”
My dad coughed. It sounded like a fake cough.
“What?” I said.
“Well, my family was never into football growing up, but during my masters program and later when we lived in Detroit, I followed Michigan football.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake. You mean, I not only have to deal with you being alive, but you being a Michigan fan?”
My father blinked for a second, then we both started laughing.
After a minute, we fell into silence. Then, staring out the front window, not even seeing Chicago, I started telling my dad about how I’d floated through a few majors at Iowa like Pharmacy (too much science) and Leisure Studies (it sounded more leisurely than it actually was), and eventually ended with a Communications Studies degree.
My dad nodded the whole time I was speaking, as if he was gulping up the information. “You do communicate well,” he said.
I chuckled. “Thanks.”
“And law school? What was that like?”
“Fairly brutal. I mean, during the first year you can barely see, there’s so much work, and then it gets a tad easier the second year, and then by the third year when you’ve just got the hang of it, you realize that you have to find a job and get your butt out of there.”
“Did you have a hard time finding the job at Baltimore & Brown?”
I looked down at my hands, tapping my fingers together. “You know about that, too, huh?”
He cleared his throat. “Like I said, just the basics, that you worked there.”
It felt weird that someone I didn’t know, not really, had known all about my life all along. Yet it felt familiar, too, like a recognition inside that I’d always known but never called to the forefront.
“I lucked out by getting a summer associate position at Baltimore & Brown,” I said. “And after seven months of nail biting they finally made up their minds and gave me a permanent offer.”
We kept talking. And it got easier. Even enjoyable.
I was about to ask him some questions when I realized we were on Wacker Drive, not far from WGN, and then all I could think of was Charlie, and I veered the conversation back to today, to what we were facing.
“Okay,” I said, “so let’s figure out what Dez Romano wants from you. Because if he’s not going to be prosecuted by the Feds, then why isn’t he just keeping his head down at this point?”
My dad nodded thoughtfully. “He must know that I know more about the Camorra than he does.”
“So he wants information?”
“That makes the most sense.”
“What kind of information?”
My father shook his head. “I’m not sure.”
“We need some dirt on Dez Romano to counter with, something we can use as leverage.”
My father nodded again.
The WGN producer, a young guy with prematurely gray hair and frameless glasses, had a horrified look on his face. He’d agreed to talk to us immediately, and now he walked us outside onto Michigan Avenue to show us where they’d grabbed Charlie.
“We were on the air.” He pointed at a glass wall that looked into a radio studio.
Two guys were broadcasting now. They were talking into their big microphones but looking out at us with curious, somewhat fearful expressions on their faces.
“Everyone is freaking out,” the producer said.
“What’s the purpose of this glass around the studio?” my dad asked.
“People watch us while we’re live. They walk by all day and they wave, and do silly stuff. Sometimes they hold up signs or something. But this time, these two guys started pounding on the glass and yelling. They wouldn’t stop and you could hear it on air. So I told Charlie to get out there fast and get them to stop.”
“Don’t you have security for that?” my dad asked.
“Yeah. In the Tribune Building. But by the time I called them and explained the whole thing, I thought it would take too long. I thought these guys were just drunk out-of-towners here for a Cubs game, and I figured it would take two seconds for Charlie to get them to stop.”
“But they didn’t?” I asked.
The producer threw his hands up into the air. “They grabbed him. It happened so fast, I’m not even sure how it went down. I looked up and saw them hauling him that way.” The producer pointed to stairs.
“Where does that lead?” I asked.
“Lower Wacker. There’s a parking lot down there, and access to the river.” He ran a hand over his anguished face. “I called security and the cops. I couldn’t get out here myself because we were on air, and by the time security got out there, there was no sign of him. He was gone.” The producer shook his head, looking as agonized as we felt. “He was just gone.”
We got back in the car, and the air somehow felt bleak. We hadn’t learned anything. We were no closer to figuring out this situation. I looked at my father. His eyes were narrowed as he stared out the front window, looking as if his mind were working hard but failing to find any solutions, anything that would help.
I thought back to when I hacked into Michael DeSanto’s computer last year, downloading information from his hard drive. Mayburn and I knew such information wouldn’t be usable in a lawsuit or federal investigation, since it was an illegal search and seizure, but Mayburn used the information to get the ball rolling, used it to direct the bank in the right direction to get enough information for a warrant. Once they did, the authorities found the same information under their warrant, information that was then used to charge DeSanto. The thing was, I was sure Mayburn still had that information from Michael’s hard drive.
I looked at my dad. “Does your cell phone work here in the States?”
“Can I make a phone call without it being traced?” I was still a little nervous about my phone being tapped, and I didn’t want anything to interfere with getting another e-mail from Charlie via Dez Romano.
My father took his phone out of his jacket pocket and handed it to me.
I called Mayburn. “Where are you?”
“Hi, to you, too.”
“Where are you?” I repeated.
“Working from home. Paperwork. You still in Italy?”
“Nope. See you in fifteen minutes.”