Nathan 1 – 6

I encountered difficulty renaming the pages and adding past and previous to make stopping and starting easier without scrolling through the whole story.  In so doing, I deleted pages and found I was 6 pages short.  Too frustrated after the dozens of previous attempts I finally came up with an idea of a Preface and including pages 1 – 6 in the endeavour.

Nathan is a romantic mystery involving…

Emma Banks reporter and journalist for the Gazette is assigned to cover local events in the community along with fundraisers and gala events.  Her boss has asked her to look into Nathan Armstrong, a man with whom she has a history.  A wealthy renown businessman, Emma is nervous about seeing him after all these years.

A man entered the newspaper office to report an incident he’d previously watched.  Due to his alcoholic haze he didn’t at first believe he’d witnessed a murder nor did he feel the police would believe him viewing him as less than credible.  As time passes, his conscience gets the better of him and he tells Emma and her Editor what he witnessed.  Little did he know he corroborated another witness’s testimony (another no one would listen to).

Nathan is involved in extracurricular activities he doesn’t wish Emma involved in much less become aware of.  To protect her and keep her safe, he must explain his involvement and leave it up to Emma to decide where she stands.

They become romantically involved and he assists her in running to ground, the perp responsible for killing an innocent young woman.  The deaths don’t stop there.

Before long, Nathan intervenes in order to protect Emma’s very life. Will they find the perp in time or will Emma forfeit her life in an endeavour to find out who killed a beautiful young woman, another reporter on the case, and is threatening Nathan, her Editor, herself, and her family.

Page 7

 

Nathan – Epilogue

Life couldn’t have seemed brighter as  Emma looked out over the crowd invited to the wedding.  She spotted her editor, Harold who sat beaming alongside his family. Beside them sat Sylvia Westwood’s mother and father who’d been delighted by the invitation.  She couldn’t help but notice the wistful smiles on their faces.  Sandra Frazer, Mark’s fiancee was also in attendance and although she looked happy to be here, a tinge of sadness could still be seen in her eyes though she seemed to be moving forward.

Her family was all present and accounted for, the hilarity in preparation unique in every way.  Jim stood alongside Jenna, looking dapper, a twinkle in his eye as he shared a joke with Jenna.

As she gazed upon those in attendance, she was more than delighted they were here.  Each had received closure.  Harold oversaw the articles she’d written, adding his own bits and pieces and declared it a winner.  He was exceedingly proud of her and Nathan and all they’d done to achieve incarceration for Jessop and his cohorts.  The list shook the community for it included many high rollers, people no one had suspected of involvement.  She’d had occasion to talk with Sandra and she’d hugged Emma tightly upon hearing the news, knowing that her former fiancee’s work hadn’t gone in vein and his death counted.  He counted.  Sylvia Westwood’s parents hugged Nathan and heartily shook his hand.  Justice had been accomplished on their behalf as well.

Her family weathered the storm as though it were but a bump in the road.  Between teasing her about Nathan and the wedding and highlighting her award from the paper, she’d been in tears.  Jenna’s first concert was the following week and although she and Nathan would be on their honeymoon, they’d instructed everyone to take pictures and send them.

Jenna joined her and said, “I don’t want to mess you up, you look heavenly.”

“I’m excited.  Happier than I’ve ever been.”  Emma assured her.

As she walked down the aisle toward the man of her dreams, her smile glowed, her eyes twinkled with promise as she met that warm sexy look he carried in his eyes.  Then everyone else disappeared and it was only them.

Nathan broke protocol and took her in his arms and kissed her passionately for all to see.  That brought a round of applause and when it settled down, the minister began.  Jim stood proudly on one side his face alight with happiness.  Jenna stood on the other staring at Jim.  He lifted a hand and whispered across, “You and me, we’re next!”

No, it wasn’t a conventional wedding in any way, but it was the only way for her and Nathan.  All that was Nathan was hers.  She gratefully accepted what was to come as long as Nathan was by her side.  She whispered, “I Love you, Always and Forever!”

“And I you, sweet Emma.”

Nathan 166

Nathan and Emma retired after Nathan reassured everyone he looked worse than he felt, which was far from the truth, but it seemed to mollify the others to some extent.

“Nathan, ”

“I’m going to be fine, Emma.  I know I must look a sight, but this isn’t usual for me.”

“It breaks my heart you took this beating because of me.”

“No, Emma.  I did it because I love you.  I’d die before I’d let that miscreant lay one hand on you.  My men had it under control.  Their priority was finding and getting you out of Jessop’s hands.  I knew they’d come for me, I wasn’t worried.  Although, I could have done without the shiner.”

“I need a quick shower.  I’ll join you shortly,” he promised on a tender kiss.

Within but moments, he rejoined Emma and eased onto the bed an ice pack on his eye, which hurt but would ease the swelling. “I guess I get to play nurse now, huh?”

“Any other moment in time, I’d take you up on that romantic offer, sweet Emma.  Tonight, I just want to hold you close, feel your warmth and know you’re safely tucked in my arms.”

Emma gingerly settled on the bed and moved slowly toward him to wait until he was comfortable.  Though it must have hurt, he determinedly pulled her close and held on.

“Words fail me, Emma, when I knew he had you, what he may do, what he planned to do…”

Emma quickly interrupted, “But didn’t, Nathan.  He didn’t get the chance, you and your men were too organized and you outsmarted him yet again.”

Breathing in the scent of her hair he continued, “He’ll pay for the rest of his life.  Of that I am equally sure.”

Staring directly into his eyes Emma added reassuringly, “And we’ll be living ours!  To the fullest!”

“Indeed we will.”

“Where do you want to go on our honeymoon?”

Emma’s eyes opened wide.  “Pardon?  Is this by way of a proposal?”

“Best way I know how!  You are wrapped in my arms, I love you beyond words, you love me, and we can fly off at a moment’s notice.  I want to show you all that is Nathan.”

Emma smiled.  “You mean there’s more?  You look pretty svelt and sassy as is.”

Nathan laughed, “Your wonderful, Emma.  I can’t picture my life without you.  Indeed, it would become meaningless.  Your the flower that has been missing from my garden, the one I so luckily found.”

“No place I’d rather be, Nathan.”  She reached up a hand and tenderly caressed his cheek.  “I love you truly, always and forever.”

“Your parents are already here, it wouldn’t take long to put a wedding together.  I can fly the rest of the family out…”

“If we were married in a courthouse, on the corner of Main Street I wouldn’t care, Nathan.  As long as we are together, there’s no other place I’d rather be.”

“I’m sure we could manage in a couple of weeks, only because it would give you time to recover so we can do the honeymoon justice.”  She winked provocatively.

“Your wish…”  he smiled adoringly at her.  “Then we’ll set a date three weeks from today.”

“I’ll be there.”

 

THE END

Epilogue                                                                                             Page 164

 

Nathan 165

Emma anxiously awaited Nathan’s arrival with nervous anticipation.  Jim’s men attempted to prepare her in advance knowing Nathan had received injuries.  She didn’t know what to expect or the extent of his injuries.  Determined to remain stoic, she calmed herself.  Although her parents were appalled when they saw the condition of her bruised wrists along with raw spots apparent where the shackles had dug into her flesh, she was unhurt.

She’d showered and changed as soon as she was home knowing Nathan would be incensed upon witnessing the remnants of her short-lived incarceration.

They were huddled together by the fire when Jim came through the door followed by a battered Nathan.  Emma rose, went to him and grasped his hands, the only part she was sure she could touch without inflicting pain.

“Nathan!”

He wrapped her in his arms and held on tight.  “Thank god you are alright, my Emma.”

“I’m fine, Nathan, seriously.” Pulling back she continued, “Looks like I faired better than you.”

“Jessop’s men worked me over, but I’m fine.  Bruised but alive.  More importantly, you are alright.”  It was his turn to pull back to examine her.  Lifting her wrists he noticed the marks, “Jesus!”

“They’ll heal, Nathan.  I’m fine.”

As if to reassure them both, he pulled her close once again.  “If he’d harmed you in any way, Emma….”

“It didn’t come to that.  Your men, Jim’s men, were well trained and found me quickly enough for which, I’ll forever be grateful and in your debt, Jim.”  She turned to him and opened her arms wide and wrapped them around him to give him a hug.

“Nice, but not necessary, Emma.  Part of the job.  Still, I’m grateful we found you when we did.  Jessop was right, Nathan.  She wouldn’t have made it out alive.  The men carefully went in after finding several booby traps.  There were several banks of explosives ready to go.”

Nathan’s fury was instantaneous.  “He’s damn lucky he’s in lock up.  I’d kill the bastard for what he’s done and would have done. There isn’t a place on earth he could hide I wouldn’t find him!” he ranted.

“He won’t last long where he’s going, Nathan.  He’s a sniveling little coward and once the inmates sense his fear, he’s done for.”

“I suppose that’s some form of consolation.”

Jake, Sarah, and Jenna moved closer. Jake shook his hand, “Glad you’re alright Nathan.  Takes more than a beating to keep a good man down.  Thank you for all you’ve done for Emma and our family.”

Sarah reached out, “Is it safe to hug you?”

Nathan’s lop-sided grin shone out, “I wouldn’t miss the opportunity,” he said receiving a heartfelt hug.

Jenna hugged him fiercely.  “Thank god you’re alright, Nathan.  There’d be no living with her, you know.”  Nathan winked at her.

“I need a few minutes.  I’m sorry you had to see me in this state.”

“Go, relax, do what you gotta do, we’ll be right here!”  Jake assured him.

Page 166                                                                                            Page 164

 

 

 

Nathan 164

A swarm of emotion slaked his aching body as he eased back into his seat as Jim drove him to Emma.  “Did you get all that, Jim?”

“Yes, loud and clear.  You have him, Nathan, have him cold, on record, loudly profusely wrapping himself and the others into a net so tight a fleet of lawyers couldn’t get him out from under. He’s destroyed himself in his eager desire to prove his brilliance.”

It was worth it then.  Nathan momentarily smiled at the knowledge that Jessop and all his associates were being gathered detained and charged with the murder of Sylvia Westwood, the hit and run and subsequent death of Robert Marks for starters, with multiple charges to follow, all provided by Jessop himself in his own words.  He’d never see the light of day again.

Jim glanced sideways at Nathan.  “You sure you don’t want to see a medic first?”

“No, I need to see Emma reassure her family Jessop’s been taken care of, there’s no need now for worry or concern.” This was one occasion when Nathan could take extreme satisfaction in a job well done since it was personal.  He was only sorry he didn’t have an opportunity to land a few on Jessop – shallow perhaps, but extremely satisfying.

“I have to tell you, Nathan… I may have used excessive force.”

Nathan turned to look at him, “Oh?”

“Yeah,” he paused significantly, “I may have landed those punches on Jessop with aggravated intent.”  He grinned at Nathan, “Wasn’t sure you’d have the opportunity, so he received three hard-hitting “jabs” shall we say, before he went down.”

“My, my, Jim, I suppose we should discuss technique… is a reprimand in order do you suppose?”

“Couldn’t say, Nathan, it’s a matter for the powers that be to decide.”

Although it hurt, he turned toward Jim and they exchanged an effusive high-five.  That said it all.

Page 165                                                                                              Page 163

 

 

 

 

Nathan 163

Nathan continued stringing the blowhard along, teasing information out of him, pushing buttons, in turn stroking his ego, silently applauding as Jessop dug himself and his cohorts in deeper and deeper. His desire for Nathan’s approval, pathetic on every level, before long he’d divulged enough information about how his operation worked, how his connections were made, that lines could be drawn easily connecting the dots.  It was an avalanche of self-incriminating proof, delivered on a platter by the gloating bloated egotist himself.

“Time’s up, Nathan.  I tire of the game.  It’s game set and match, my favour!  Wished I could say it’s been delightful, but you’ve cost me a fortune and it’s time to pay the piper.  And you certainly will!”

He turned heading toward the door when Nathan called,  “Where is Emma?  Where are you holding her?”

“In a location from which she’ll never be found, Nathan.”

Nathan’s tightly reigned in anger, rage, even touch of fear rose like bile and he lunged from the chair.  Instantly Jessop’s thugs were on him, punching him in the face, stomach, and kidneys.  Blow after blow fell and Nathan felt nothing.  His mind was blank.  He’d make it, he had to!

Jessop cringed at the sounds of the body blows.  He paid these men big bucks to do the dirty work so he didn’t have to.  He hastened outside, running to escape the sounds exploding in his ears.  Suddenly he was body slammed to the ground and three quick blows rendered him unconscious.  Jim grabbed his hands and clasped handcuffs on him with distinct pleasure.  He turned, motioned to his men who silently moved toward the barn that held Nathan.  Breaking into two teams, they entered the rear of the barn and keeping low moved stealthily forward.  They could see Nathan tied to the chair, his face bloodied laying on the ground.  A single shot rang out immediately felling the blackguard with his fist in the air about to land another blow.  It wasn’t a kill shot but it took him down.  They rushed forward and following a satisfying fight, he was knocked cold and cuffed while the other cohort who’d  used the opportunity to flee, was slammed to the ground by a flying kick that landed directly on his back.  Before he could move, Nathan’s man was on him.

Jim handed Jessop over to one of his men and raced to the front door witnessing the brutal battle.  Before hurrying to Nathan’s side, he frisked both men for the lock to the cuffs, “Got you, Nathan.  You’re safe.”

Nathan’s breath was laboured, but he nodded while attempting to catch his breath. “Emma!”

“We have her, Nathan.  Jessop’s men were only too happy to talk once they found out they weren’t leaving the compound alive unless they did.”

“Good.  Good.  Get me up.”

Jim bent close, wrapped an arm around Nathan and assisted him to a sitting position. Nathan valiantly attempted to hide the pain, but Jim knew better.  From the look of him, he probably had a broken rib or two while one eye was already swelling shut.  His arm hung limply at his side.

When he could speak Nathan asked, “Clean me up.  Can’t see Emma like this.”

Jim helped him to his feet and Nathan made it to the jeep where his gear was stored, tore it open and cleaned his face best he could.  Wincing every time he hit a bruise, he knew he was a mess.  Nothing a bit of ice couldn’t take care of he assured himself but relieved Jim arrived when he did.  He was getting the use of his arm back which had gone numb from the angle at which they’d attacked him.  Ripping open a bag containing clean clothes, Nathan dragged them on, eager to get to Emma and hold her in his arms, reassure himself she was alive and well allaying the fears swirling through his entire body.

Page 164                                                                                              Page 162

Nathan 162

“I have a trophy room, did you know that?  Of course, you didn’t.” He smirked, avarice greed and spite all equally reflected in his eyes.  “I’m trying to decide what of yours I should add.  Perhaps a painting.  Yes, indeed, but something special, something unique.”  He paused dramatically then leaned in, planting his face directly in front of Nathan, “A picture of Emma.  I’m sure you have one stashed somewhere.”

Nathan barely flinched although he wanted to punch Jessop in his sneering slimy face and keep on punching until he was unrecognizable.  Instead of allowing such fantasies to continue, he said, “I invite you to try to enter my place.  We both know it’s a fortress.”

Jessop straightened.  “Nothing is impenetrable, Nathan,  you know that.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  I have a large payroll and the will.”

“My sources tell me your business is drying up, Jessop.  Why is that?  Why are so many shunning your business acumen?”

“Because you poked your bloody nose in my business, but since you’re in the unenviable position of being a captive, with no hope in sight of leaving this place, alive, I’ll quickly mend broken fences and I’ll be stronger than ever.”

“Unlikely, Jessop. You’ve committed murder, twice, attacked the Banks family, gone after Emma.  It’s all on record. Not to mention the little side-line you have going in four separate warehouses.”

“So, it was you that broke in. Too bad the world will never know you enjoy trespassing. I’ll have to keep that little tidbit to divulge later how Nathan Armstrong wasn’t all he was cracked up to be.  The clandestine activities you were involved in will I’m sure, parlay into an inticing morsel for journalists to twitter over in their by-lines.”

“What makes you think I’m noteworthy?  I’m simply a gifted artist who travels the world.”

“Anson Morgan suggests otherwise.  He has it on good authority that you meddle in all kinds of situations you should keep your nose out of.”

“So he’s involved in your arms enterprise then?”

His eyes lost focus, he peered through Nathan as if he wasn’t there,  eyes unfocused almost demented “No harm in divulging that little tid1bit,  considering you won’t have an opportunity to disclose any of what I tell you, but yes, he’s a great asset with the right connections in all the right places.  He’s unwittingly made me a wealthy man.  I’ll have to pay him a visit with a fine scotch to celebrate.”

Page 163                                                                                                   Page 161

 

 

 

Nathan 161

One man stood with a gun pointed at Nathan while the other patted him down.  Finding nothing, they cuffed his hands behind his back and shoved him into the car.  Immediately a bag was rammed over his head.  The car ride continued for forty-five minutes, best he could tell and finally stopped. The man to his left got out and the other gave him a rough shove toward the door.

Outside the vehicle, he was dragged by a man on either side hauling him roughly along.  Nathan was angry wondering if this was the treatment they’d given Emma.

He heard the swish of two doors and a hand in the middle of his back impelled him forward.  There were no sounds, not even footsteps as they pushed him forward.  Dirt, he thought, along with the smell of manure.  Some sort of stable?

He listened intently but other than the harsh breathing of both men, there were no other sounds as yet to identify where he was.

They grabbed him and twisted him around and slammed him by the shoulders onto a chair and the bag was removed.  The moment his eyes adjusted, he scanned the area to determine, exits, the number of captors present, movement, weapons.

“Where are we?   Where’s Jessop?”

“Shut up!” one of his captors growled before slapping him across the face. Nathan’s head swiveled back to center.  “I’ll be sure and return the favour and high five your face next opportunity.” He knew he was inviting another but Nathan couldn’t resist the dig.  It came and he wasn’t surprised. The miscreant raised his fist ready to continued when a disembodied voice rapped sharply, “Enough!”

“Ah, Jessop, finally.”

“Indubitably.”

“Come out of the shadows, let’s get a look at you.”

“Why?”

“Why not?”

The moment he was visible Nathan asked, “Where’s Emma?”

“She’s fine for the moment, safe and sound.”

“Make sure she stays that way, Jessop!”

Jessop laughed, “Doesn’t look like your in a position to call the shots here Nathan.  I suggest you shut up or my men can work you over.”

“Did it give you a kick to attack innocent people such as the Banks?”

“It got your attention, didn’t it?”

“My shops will survive so no prize there,” Nathan goaded.

“I can always rectify the situation at a later date should the need arise,”  Jessop assured him.

“What of all those innocent businessmen and families, whose lives you stole by destroying their companies?”

That hit a nerve, Jessop closed the gap, fuming, “they got what they deserved!”

“I don’t think they saw it that way.”

“All that matters is that they received retribution, MY retribution.”

Page 162                                                                                        Page 160

 

 

 

 

Nathan 160

Jessop was beside himself with self-satisfaction and self-aggrandizement. His plans were working like clockwork.  Soon, very soon, he’d have Nathan locked up tight.  If only he’d thought to work this angle before….ah well, what did it matter, everything was falling into place as it should. He was vibrating with excitement.  He felt good. He had the upper hand.

His men were in place, had picked Nathan up and as ordered, he’d come alone.  Good little doggy.  He’d listened well.  He wasn’t into torture, couldn’t bear the thought of it, but he had friends who would be delighted in adding a little agony.  It was a thought.

First, he must find out how much Nathan had managed to uncover and who else knew.  It wouldn’t be enough to finish Nathan off with loose ends dangling for someone else to come upon.  He must clamp down any loose ends to finish this off.

He must give the idea some thought.  The list was long and connected.  The entire Banks family ( a slew of misfortunes could befall them, as with Nathan’s parents).  Yes, he knew all about that and how it had eaten away at Nathan for years.  It was a consideration.

The newspaper man could be taken out one way or another. His family probably didn’t know about his work or the details.  Research told him he played the game close to his vest.

Nathan’s men, well once Nathan was completely discredited and disappeared, those puny minuscule remnants would likely go their own way with nothing to hold them to Nathan.  They were simply pawns assigned to various jobs as his men were, readily replaced at a moments notice.

The creme de la creme in his mind was his ability to parlay the situation into a two-fer.  How exceedingly delightful!  What a boon!  If only there were someone to brag to.  Then there was the consideration of which piece of Nathan’s would fit in his den…there were certainly hundreds of paintings to choose from.  Perhaps he’d done one of Emma.  Wouldn’t that be the icing on the cake?  Having his beloved’s picture hanging on his wall, for his eyes only.  His eyes danced as he balled his hands into fists and raised them in the air.  Oh yes, how completely delightful!  He was a master and masterful indeed. He smiled menacinly.  “Let the games begin!  or rather End!”

Page 161                                                                                           Page 159

 

Nathan 159

Emma didn’t doubt for an instant Jim found the note she’d strategically left behind, he’d know instantly Jessop was behind her disappearance.  She shook the restraints.  After a thorough examination,  she realized there was no easy escape for her.  Those blasted movies always suggested a hair pin or something similar might work. Emma didn’t have one, and upon a closer inspection realized they couldn’t possibly work.

Thankfully, her feet were free so she could move about or sit.  She wasn’t a pacer, but right now, pacing worked.  She asked herself questions in an attempt at remaining calm.  How many men were present?  Where was she?  How would Nathan enter?  How should she respond if Jessop was near her? She went over all the moves Nathan had shown her, relieved because she had an idea of how to respond and stay out of Nathan’s way while assisting him if possible.

Jim gathered Jenna in his arms, kissed her passionately before nodding toward Jake and Sarah, met his men at the car and headed out.  He checked his watch, Nathan’s blip was coming through loud and clear.  He was nearing the airport and would touch down in a half an hour. They would be situated on sight momentarily.

Since he wasn’t sure which direction he’d take Nathan, three crews were standing by just outside the north facing exit.  His men wore bracelets with indicators as well so would be aware of Nathan at all times.  It was a waiting game now.  Calm alert and prepared for any possibility he mentally prepared.

Jake, Sarah, and Jenna wandered aimlessly unable to take their minds off the situation, concern running high.  Jake attempted to allay their fears constantly reminding them that Nathan Jim and his men were pros, knew what they were doing and would get Emma out safely.  They wanted to believe him, needed to believe him, and reiterated his words in different ways to constantly reassure themselves.  Still, none of them had been involved in anything like this.  Knowing what Jessop had done, that murder wasn’t beneath him and that he was motivated by revenge and hatred did nothing to calm their fears.

Page 160                                                                                             Page 158

 

Nathan 158

Nathan was on board his jet when he received a call from Jim notifying him Emma had been taken.  His breath caught in his throat and his heart stopped.  Until his body was fused with unstoppable anger, the kind of anger he’d never felt before, even when he’d lost his family so tragically years before.

He immediately called Jim for details.  Jim informed him it had to be Jessop’s work since he’d found the note Emma had left behind indicating why she’d taken flight.  So far no one had been contacted regarding a time or place to meet.  They both felt Jessop would contact Nathan directly.  Nathan issued orders for Jim in preparation for a meet, what they could expect and how to follow through.  It went without saying that Emma’s welfare came first and foremost.

Moments after his conversation with Jim, a call came through on his phone.  An undistinguishable voice said, “If you want to see Emma alive again, you’ll come with us upon landing.”

Big mistake Jessop, Nathan thought, you’ve provided indisputable proof linking you to Emma, to me, to all the other incidents.  The phone call was added proof for whoever was on the other end of that call, whether Jessop himself or someone else, would lead straight back to Jessop.  It wasn’t the way he’d wished to have this come down, but so be it.  Jessop would pay either with his life, or prison.  Personally, Nathan didn’t care which, as long as he got Emma out safely.

He couldn’t fault the men or Emma.  Knowing her gentle heart, there was no other recourse but to meet with whoever had Julie.  Jim indicated they were all safe, the rest of the family, surrounded by his men.  It was a ruse plain and simple, and one Emma wouldn’t take a chance with.  Just as Jessop knew he’d never take a chance with Emma’s life.  “Ok, Jessop, we end this!”

Since he was on his plane, he had all the requirements necessary to contain Jessop.  He began his preparations so that when he landed, he was ready to rumble.  He secreted the items in question inside his clothing where they wouldn’t be found upon pat-down.

“I’m coming to you, Emma.  Hold on!”  If his thoughts could transcend time and space, she’d hear his words, know he was coming, that she would be safe shortly.

He checked his watch.  Two hours until touchdown.

Page 159                                                                                            Page 157

Nathan 157

Before intermission was over Jim was alerted to Emma’s disappearance.  Martin hurried to his side and whispered in his ear.  Jim was furious.  Jesus Christ!  How did it happen?  When?  He continued questioning Martin who hadn’t witnessed her disappearance until he managed to break through the milling crowd to get to Jim.

Taking Jemma’s hand he held on then leaned toward Sarah and Jake, “We have to go, now.”

“What is it?  What’s wrong?”

“No time to explain, let’s go.”  Between him and Martin, they hustled the family to the waiting car.

Jemma stopped short, “Where’s Emma?”  Panic filled her eyes. “Emma!” she called loudly.

“In the car, please, Jenna.” Once they were inside and Martin was at the wheel, Jim explained his concerns.

“I found this.”  He held up the note Emma had left behind.  “It indicates Julie had been abducted and Emma was to meet up at the airport with the sender of the note.”

“Jessop!  Jessop’s got Emma?  What about Julie and…”

“The others are fine.  My men are with them now.  It was a ruse to get to Emma.”

“Oh my god!” Jenna shook and tears filled her eyes.  “This can’t be.  She didn’t just go with them did she?”

“I’ll find out more when I get back to base.”

“Does Nathan know?”

“He does, yes.  He’s the prime target of course.  They’ve used Julie to get Emma to get to Nathan.”

“Is he on his way?”

“Yes, he’ll be here in 12 hours or so.  He was half way to Maryland when I informed him of the situation.”

“I don’t know whether to be relieved or scared.  They could get him too.”

“Nathan can take care of himself.  I’m sure it’s Jessop and his cohorts and once they contact Nathan, he’ll place a tracking device on his body that I can follow.  We’ll get them both home safely.”  He pulled Jenna close and hugged her.

Jake and Sarah held onto each other, fear in their eyes, but a look of hope when Nathan’s name was mentioned.

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Nathan 156

No sooner had she skidded to a stop by the double doors at the far end of the airport than two men appeared, each grabbing an arm and hustling her through them and into a waiting car.  Emma took note of their appearance committing each to memory.  She couldn’t get a clear look at the driver as the divider between them was up.  No one spoke.

Emma asked where they were going but other than a sneering look in her direction, they completely ignored her presence.  The only time she was on their radar was when she moved.

They finally told her to put her head down and placed a black bag over it and she could see nothing at all.  She took a couple deep breaths in anticipation of what was to come.  One of them pushed her upright again as they continued wherever they were headed.

Emma determinedly listened hoping to glean their whereabout from anything she could hear.  Unfortunately, the music they were playing was blasting and she couldn’t hear a thing and the ride was comfortable and smooth telling her little about speed direction or impediments like railway tracks or speed bumps that could assist with a direction.

It seemed like hours before they finally stopped and as one man got out the other gave her a shove in his direction and she slid across the seat and out.  Both of her arms were grabbed in vice-like grips and she was impelled forward nearly losing her footing on the uneven ground.  She got the feeling they wouldn’t care whether she fell or not but someone said something in a muffled voice and their grip tightened and they hauled her up several steps.

She was suddenly surrounded by the fragrance of flowers, African Violets if she wasn’t mistaken … a hot-house of some sort.  As she was dragged along, the smell of potting soil and fish meal assailed her nostrils.  She was halted abruptly turned and shoved onto a chair.

“Emma, at last, we meet.  How wonderful.  I knew you’d come.  Your Achilles heal is family, of course, why wouldn’t it be.  Nathan’s is you.”

“I take it that’s why you’ve abducted me.  Where is Julie?”

“Safely ensconced in her family’s arms, I’m sure.”

Emma’s sigh of relief was audible.  “I see that pleases you.”

“I can’t say I’m not relieved.”

“No, my dear, you were my target.  Having you means I hold all the cards.”

“It simply means you have me.  Nothing more, nothing less.”

“You underestimate your worth, Emma.  That doesn’t sound like the woman I’ve come to know.”

“You know nothing about me.”

“Oh but I do, dear Emma. I have made it my goal to study you, to know everything about you.”  He rattled off several facts that anyone could obtain, her life was practically an open book.  Minus a few chapter’s she’d recently added such as the self-defence Nathan had correctly instructed her on.  Her journalistic and photographic memory added a perception he’d never understand.  Knowing her family was safe and sound was all that mattered to Emma.  She could handle herself.

“You’ll remain here in these humble surroundings until Nathan comes for you.  Relax.  You are among friends!”  he laughed at his own joke thinking himself quite amusing.

“Of course we’ll have to make some adjustments.”  With that, her arms were lifted and shackles placed on both wrists.  “Should you require the amenities, they are to your left, please feel free to use them.  I’m not completely without heart.”

He turned and left and Emma listened to his receding footsteps until the nearly silent swish of doors indicated he’d left.  The black bag was ripped off of her head and she blinked until her eyes became accustomed to the light which was minimal at best.  She watched her two captors saunter toward the far doors and they too disappeared.

Time to take stalk.  The shackles were solid with five-foot chains attached giving her some room to move. Indeed there was a bucket should she require it and a long table with planting implements, nothing more.

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Nathan 155

The family decided on an outing and along with Jim headed out for the evening to see James Hunter six, a soul-blues band from Essex, England, touring and recording for more than a decade.  It was hinted that Allen Toussant, Sharon Jones or Van Morrison may be in attendance since all three were avid fans. Jenna was a fan and had been for years and since everyone loves music, they were all as eager to attend the event as she was.

Heading out, their discussion was animated as they entered the limo.  Jim was attending alongside them and Martin would drive and stand guard.  Jim attended to all the protection before they left and double checked as they drove to the event.

Settling into their seats, they talked were talking in hushed tones even though many hadn’t taken their seats as yet.  Excitement ran high, the air filled with the electric anticipation that filled the room.  The lights dimmed twice signalling the group was about to take the stage and everyone scurried to their seats while exchanging muffled.

The show began with an introduction, which proceeded with great fanfare and humour and had the audience completely involved.  Before long the group began and silence reigned, you could have heard a pin drop.

It was just before the first intermission that a note landed on Emma’s lap.  She quickly scanned the area but due to the number of people milling about, it was impossible to tell where it came from.  Turning her attention to the note, she slowly opened it, half dreading what she might find.

It read, “If you want to see Julie again, meet me at the airport now!  You and only you. I’m a man of my word, you should know that by now.”  Emma’s hands shook as she valiantly attempted to appear calm and not let her feelings show.  Inwardly she was quaking.  Dear god in heaven, not Julie!  How the hell had he managed to get to that delightful baby?  What of her parents? A thousand questions flittered through her mind, the least of which was how to notify Nathan without causing havoc panic and dire consequences.  Uppermost in her mind was the threat.  She couldn’t allow anything to happen to that sweet baby!

Turning to Jenna she whispered, “Ladies, I’ll be right back.”  Jenna nodded and turned her attention back to Jim while Jake and Sarah were chatting with a couple they were acquainted with from back home.

Emma made her way to the washroom, then scanned the area looking for Martin.  He was surrounded by a crowd of people, his eyes trained on the family.  He obviously hadn’t noticed her departure so she hustled toward the entrance and on outside.

Flagging down a cab, she gave the driver instructions to head to the airport and prayed she was doing the right thing.  It took forty-five minutes to arrive, traffic was heavy, bumper to bumper and she barely breathed the entire trip.  She tossed cash at the driver and raced into the airport.

The moment she was inside she noticed a sign that read, “Emma Banks!”  Making a bee-line straight for the sign she said, “Yes, I’m Emma Banks.”  The sign holder handed her an envelope and turned away.

The note’s instructions directed her toward the far end of the terminal.  Emma wasn’t thinking clearly, simply reacting out of fear.  Her journalistic thought processes halted.   All she could think about was somehow getting to sweet innocent Julie and freeing her.

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Nathan 154

Jessop rarely drank, but when he did, he drank heavily.  He was listening to his own voice, unrecognizable even to himself.  He wobbled and staggered around his den talking to the objects surrounding him.  “Youuu, yuuuur mine now.  Yuuur mine, nooo one can shtake that now…not een youuu Nafan.”

He needed to sit.  He went for the chair and missed falling on his butt on the floor laughing at himself.  He’d dropped his bourbon on the way down and momentarily searched for it before giving up and falling on his back asleep in an alcoholically induced haze.  If anyone was listening, they’d have heard muted snoring.

When he woke on the floor curled in a fetal position, he was momentarily at a loss.  Then he remembered damning himself for his stupidity and loss of control.  Nathan’s fault!  It was all due to his disgustingly infernal meddling.  Damn him!  He raised on one arm, lifting his still heavy body from the floor to a knee then up.  Heading through the door he set the lock and scuttled up to his bedroom to shower and change.

He’d have to wait for his head to clear before checking on his current plans.  Damn Nathan to Hell! his mind screamed.

Nathan had been in meetings for the better part of four days and exhaustion wasn’t just nipping at his heals, it was threatening to swallow him whole. He decided he’s sleep for a few hours then call Emma.  He felt chagrined at his neglectfulness but still, it couldn’t be helped.  He’d make it up to her upon his return.  He smiled at the thought as he allowed himself to drift off into sleep.

He’d been sleeping all of ten hours when his cell went off alerting him to possible problems and danger.  Quickly rising he answered.  “I’ll fly out immediately.  Meet me at my cabin.”

His driver delivered him at the plane and within 40 minutes he was flying out.

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Nathan 153

Jim was nowhere to be seen when they re-entered through the side door.  Odd!  They went in search of their parents and found them working on the puzzle.

“Good morning my lovelies, how are you?”

“Good. Jenna and I were dancing to some new music she’s put together, it is absolutely exquisite.”

“I heard a little of it earlier when I passed by but I didn’t want to disturb the creative process so I kept going, but it sounded heavenly.  Seems to me she’s got a winner there,”  Jake responded.

“Did you really like it dad?”

“Yeah, there’s something completely appealing about it, draws you in.  It sure did me.”

“You guys had breakfast yet?”

“No, just coffee, but my tummy is rumbling so I figured I’d have to do something about that.”

“How does home-made pancakes with true maple syrup sound along with a side of sausages and bacon?”

“I’m in.”  Jake rose from the table and said,” I’ll get started on the bacon.”

In the kitchen he asked about Nathan and whether Emma knew anything more than what Jim had explained.

“No, I don’t.”  She sighed heavily.  “Not quite sure what to make of that.”

“I’m sure Nathan’s got a lot of irons in the fire and he’s busy with that.  He’ll contact you soon as he can.”

“Yeah, I look forward to it.”

Jessop was displeased.  His efforts had worked but not as well as he’d expected.  He stomped around the weight room.  He’d hoped to divide and conquer and get his hands on the Banks family, Emma in particular that despicable little… he wasn’t sure what term to use.  Troublemaker too tame, since she was beautiful, well bitch!  She’d screwed up his plans and his life.  He’d have to come up with something equally compelling to make her pay.

Nathan’s unlimited resources were making this far more difficult to accomplish than he’d anticipated.  Time to call in the heavy hitters.  It would be a one-time payoff, more than he’d bargained on, but it would work.  It had to.

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Nathan 152

They were momentarily stunned into silence at the information.  Emma was the first to speak.  “I have to admit I’m shocked.  I can only imagine Nathan’s reaction, he must feel hurt at heart thinking someone close to him was not trustworthy.”

“I’m sure he does, but that’s not his only concern.”

“What do you mean, Jim?”

“Since the individual in question had inside knowledge, it puts our men at great risk.  We’re not sure how much information was divulged and where it stops.”

“Does he know Nathan’s in Italy?” Emma asked concerned.

“Undoubtedly.  That’s not our major concern, though.  Nathan’s capable and surrounded by his own men who’ll protect him at all costs.  Our real concern is what his next target is.  He knows Nathan well, how his mind works.  With the inside information he’s got, he can use that against him.”

Before he could finish his thought, his cell rang.  “One moment, I have to take this.” He got up and immediately walked to the den.

“If his target isn’t Nathan, then what is it?”  Jenna asked perplexed.

“I’m not sure, but Jessop will consider all possibilities and hit at what he considers a weak spot.”

Jim re-entered the room.  “Well, we know his target.”

“Who, where, what?”  Jake asked rising to his feet.

“Your cabin.”

“What happened?” he took a step forward agitation clear.

“He tried firebombing it.  My men put it out before it got going and the culprits were caught red-handed, handed over to the authorities.”

“How much damage?”

“The far corner, the garage was hit.  Fortunately, my men were able to put the fire out before it got going, but there is considerable damage inside and out.  It didn’t reach the house proper.  We got lucky on that one.”

“Perhaps I should return to the cabin.  I have an arsenal there.”  Jim’s face was suffused with angry red at the thought they’d attacked his home.

“Jake, we have the situation under control.  If you go, you’ll be an added incentive to attack again, or Jessop might consider taking you hostage.”

“I feel helpless and angry.”

Emma jumped up, “I’m so sorry papa.  I never dreamed it would get this far.”

“How could you?  How could anyone?  Jessop is a loose cannon, striking at whatever and wherever he wishes.”

“If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that we can now tie the incidents at the galleries plus the strike on your home indisputably to Jessop.”

“How so?”  Sarah asked.

“He used the same type of device on three of the four locations.  The men at the cabin are scared and talking.  Most of it is here say, but we’ve gleaned enough information to use in court to tie the incidents together and to Jessop.”

“But is that enough?”

“No, but it’s a start.  When we tie the warehouses to him too, he’s done.”  Jim smiled at the thought.

They pondered the situation for a minute and Jenna walked to Jim, “I’m glad you are you and know what you’re doing.  I’m not sure how I’d react otherwise.”

“It’s what I do, Jenna, literally, put out fires.  No pun intended.”

Jenna hugged him close.  “When is Nathan returning?”

“As soon as he finishes up, a day, two at the most.”

Page 153                                                                     Nathan 151

 

Nathan 151

Everyone was excitedly anticipating their walk in the park, hopping into the limo, their chatter was unending.  First on the agenda was the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture followed by the Museum of Pop Culture and lastly the Seattle Art Museum, a little  ‘something’ for everyone.

Emma smiled at Martin who was “on-point” as it were, stiff, watchful, definitely on guard taking the job quite seriously.  He was coordinating with someone constantly, every fifteen minutes (whether it was Jim or someone else) didn’t matter.

They entered the Art Museum were half way across the entrance when all hell broke loose.  and Martin immediately herded them into a group toward the far corner pulling his weapon calling for assistance.  Within a matter of seconds, a group of men and women rushed toward them crowding around the Banks.  They encircled the family and laid a hand on a shoulder of each of them, pushing and manouvering them through the front door into the waiting limo parked at the entrance.  They didn’t have time to think let alone see anyone or anything in the rush to the vehicle.  The moment they were inside, the car started up and raced away momentarily throwing them off balance. The window between the driver and passengers opened. Jim was at the wheel.  “Sorry about that, ” he announced. “Had to move quickly.  We got word Jessop was making a move and he’d sent a crew after you.  Undoubtedly it would have been made to appear a robbery attempt gone wrong while taking you as hostages.”

“How the hell did you find out?”  Jenna was agog while everyone else stared open mouthed.

“We have a mole.  I’ll explain once we’re safely home.”

As they watched several black SUV’s approached and surrounded the limo.  “It’s alright,” Jim stated, “they’re with us.  An extra detail to get us from point A to B in one piece.”

“Is this seriously necessary?”  Jenna was shocked.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

Giggling she said, “Now I know how the President feels.”  Everyone understood it was her nervous response to the situation.  Jim couldn’t help but smile in the mirror at her.

They returned to Nathan’s in record time.  Jake asked, “Did you have this set up beforehand?”

“Yes, I did.  It was Nathan’s idea and he was right.  He had a feeling Jessop was on a roll and would make an attempt the moment he became aware you were out and about.”

“How would Jessop know?”

“Let’s sit down with a beverage and I’ll explain.”

Curiosity got the better of them and they silently followed his direction.  Coffee in hand, seated in the living room, Jim began.  “We spread some stories about regarding events you were supposed to be attending.  A group of thugs showed up at two of those locations.  Today, we announced you were going to the attend an event downtown, but let slip where you really were.  There had to be an inside source, a mole if you will, reporting to Jessop.  He made the call to Jessop and since he wasn’t aware of our monitoring system, or let’s say the extent of our monitoring system, was caught red-handed.”

Emma was almost afraid to ask, “Who?  Who was it?”

“A member of the kitchen staff who replaced another that went on maternity leave.  Not sure how they got passed out intel but it happened.  We have our inside man and we’ll get further information on Jessop’s plans.”

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Nathan 150

Jessop sat back in his chair, calm.  Juicy, indeed, this was very juicy.  Sitting back watching Nathan and company scurry around like little ants after a piece of delectable fruit.  What could be more fascinating and delicious.   He laughed aloud.  “Well, Nathan, have I at last found your Achilles heal?  I truly hope so.  In that case, I know how to up the pressure.”  He picked up the phone and dialed a nefarious connection able and willing to do his bidding and said, “Continue with the plan, now!”   He thought, yes indeed, I have him on the run.  How interesting.

Yes indeed, life was worth living and living well.  And part of living was making Nathan suffer.

Meanwhile, Nathan had met with the manager of the Paris Gallery and looked over the damage.  It could have been worse.  Most of the artwork had suffered smoke damage which he could repair.  The outside of the building required minimal restoration, it could have been far worse.

What angered him more than the damage to his establishment was Jessop’s ability to make a dent in his world.  It annoyed and frustrated him that this was an aspect he hadn’t considered.  That would change.  After meeting with the gendarmerie nationale or the Compagnie Républicaine de la Sécurité, security had been tightened, they would now watch his properties.  He hired private security to police the property immediately and throughout the repairs.  His manager was on alert with express orders to double check all requests for art and delivery and to take nothing for granted.  

He hired workman he knew he could rely on to make needed repairs expressing adamantly he required updates via snapchat, daily on the progress being made.

He returned to his Hotel and crashed for 4 hours before boarding his plane and heading to Italy.  Onboard he looked over his other galleries locations, specs and designs, prepared to place similar protection in place.

Before he arrived, however, a second gallery was attacked.  He listened attentively as the manager explained the damage,  far more extensive as some sort of bomb had been placed inside a janitor’s closet causing the back wall to cave in, taking a large portion of  art with it.  Fortunately, there were no injuries to report.

Nathan cursed as he dialed the third gallery instructing the manager to call the local police, ( The Polizia di Stato) explain that his properties were being attacked and request assistance until he arrived.  Before he had landed, men he trusted were already in place.

The bright spot in all this was that Jessop had slipped up.  Attacking one gallery could be considered unfortunate but attacking all three created a pattern.  He had only to connect the dots.  A nail in Jessop’s coffin he hoped.

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Nathan 149

Emma rubbed her eyes when Nathan rose and hurried out of the bedroom.  He rarely looked at his phone once they were snuggled in for the night.  Something was wrong and an inner battle ensued.  Should she go find out what was up, or stay put and await his return?  She was admittedly curious but also wanted to lend support and on the other hoped he’d share whatever was happening.  She lay back down and waited.

Half asleep when he returned, she rolled to face him.  “You ok? What’s happening?”

“I just received a call from my manager in Paris.”  He sighed.  “Someone torched my gallery.  The damage is extensive but repairable.  I’m going to have to fly over and survey the damage and make some decisions.”

“Nathan, no!”

“Jessop?”

“Decidedly.  I’ve never had any other incidents involving the art galleries before, so it stand to reason, he’s behind it.  As a result, I’ve placed extra security around the other galleries.  If he’s insane enough to make another attempt, it will guarantee his guilt.”

Emma sat straight up in bed and wound her arms around him.  “Nathan, I’m so sorry.”

“I knew there would be reprisals, I miscalulated on where.  That doesn’t mean he will give up on any ongoing plans he may have regarding your family, just that he wanted to take a pot-shot at me personally.”

“I’m flying out in two hours.  I’d love to take you to Paris with me and it’s something we’ll do at a later date.”

“I would love to go but I’m sure you’ll move faster, cover more ground, get more done without having to consider me.” Placing a hand on the side of his face she added, “I’ll hold you to that invitation though as I’d love to see Paris.”

Nathan drew her close.  “It’s a promise then.  When the dust settles, we’ll go together and enjoy the sights.”

“Anything I can do on this end?”

“Keep an eye on Jenna and your parents.  Try to encourage them to stay here.  It’s safer and my men can oversee the rest of your family easily enough.”

“Since he’s hit my place, he could decide to hit others.  I’ve beefed up security all round, Emma.  I’m concerned this isn’t the last of his hit and run tactics.”

“You think he’ll try something similar on my family!?”

“Unfortunately, I do.  I’ve doubled security on every location, Emma. I’m not leaving anything to chance.  This place is impenetrable, he won’t get near.  Should you go anywhere, you’ll have Jim on alert and another guard as well.  You won’t have to limit your activities, just be mindful and alert.  I’m sorry I have to leave you, Emma.”

“Don’t be, it can’t be helped and I’ll be right here waiting for you to return, safely!”

“You got it!”  he promised adding a heart-pounding kiss.  “I have to go prepare now, there’s a great deal to organize.”

He dressed, packed and before leaving returned to leave Emma with another heart-stopping kiss and a hug that had her melting.  “Be safe, Nathan, above all else, please.”

“I intend to.”

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Nathan 148

Almost before the deed was done and Jessop had begun maligning him, Nathan was aware.  He had people in low places or at least monitoring low places, and he’d heard the scuttle an hour after it began.  Although he was thick-skinned and wasn’t overly concerned, it would be something different for Emma and her family in particular.  It hurt Nathan more that they would malign her people, her family as they were salt of the earth types who had worked hard all their lives, were honourable and loving.  They didn’t deserve this.

Of course, it meant he would have to talk to Daniel and Jenna first, before explaining the situation and it’s ramifications to the others.

After that, he’d begin his own barrage of information. An

An in-depth search had rendered some interesting facts.  When he followed the dots, the connections were easy to see.  Many of the businesses Jessop had taken over came from people from his past.  Nathan began there and over the course of the last week, had contacted many of the men ruined by Jessop.  Most were unaware it was Jessop who had systematically destroyed their businesses then bought them up.

Upon learning who, the why became obvious, and they were very vocal about the type of individual Jessop had been growing up.  They were eager to go public and humiliate the man he’d become.  Although innocent as a child, his actions now, were on him.

Nathan contacted over 20 businesses that Jessop had personally followed and destroyed, and all were linked to his childhood.  Across the states, articles had been submitted in notes to the Editor portraying Jessop as a sad lonely child who’d never grown up and owned his actions or taken responsibility for wrong-doing but instead had become self-centered, egotistical and selfish.  They outlined his MO in the destruction of their businesses and lives.  It was easy for anyone reading the articles to clearly see the man for what he’d become.

Nathan wasn’t sure how he’d react upon seeing his life trivialized into the evil mean spirited vengeful man he’d become, but one thing was sure, other business men would run a mile before accepting or doing business with him from now on.

Because the articles came from the individuals involved and had nothing to do with Nathan, it wouldn’t come across as sour grapes, and indeed, couldn’t be tied to him on any level which although Jessop might figure out, could never prove.

Now for the hard part, talking to Daniel.  In that vein, he’d flown out early before anyone was up and met with him explaining the reason for the fallout and how to handle it.  Daniel was furious, not about what was said about himself (for he and all that mattered knew the truth) but that it would hurt his family. That had him stomping in large circles.  Nathan had to smile because it covered how he’d felt when he’d heard what Jessop was up to.

As soon as he arrived home, he made time to meet with Jenna and apprise her of what was being said.  Although she was in Seattle not back home, her friends and agents would certainly hear of it.

She was actually more relaxed about the entirety of the news than he’d expected.  Jenna explained that to be in the music industry, entertainment industry for that matter, you had to have a thick skin, because jealous was rampant and half what you heard were out and out lies.  She’d learned that one the hard way.  This was but a bump in the road to her.

Nathan didn’t bring the subject up during dinner, but as soon as they were finished and relaxed he explained Jessop’s latest antics.  As expected, Emma was furious.  It took a bit of doing to calm her down.  Once Nathan was finished and Jenna explained it was of no consequence, she sat down.  A little of the fire-breathing dragon was still apparent, the nostrils flared and her breath came too quickly, but she was obviously taking everything in.  The journalist in her was taking over, seeing the big picture.

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Nathan 147

Now to begin his campaign against Nathan.  He secretly met with various captains and planted ideas he desired circulated on different levels hinting at scandal, corruption, involvement in clandestine ventures too numerous to mention, covert operations involving individuals from other countries.  “Yes indeed, there were many facets to the man the community knew as Nathan, and he had no problem besmirching his name or character to remain a few steps ahead of him.

Unfortunately, Emma Banks was another matter.  Her life was very public and he couldn’t bring the same kind of pressure to bear.  That didn’t mean he couldn’t attack the credibility of members of her family.  He set about bringing snippets of information about Jenna Banks former lover’s death to light, hinting that she knew more than she’d admitted.  Hints that once fused were automatically accepted as credible weren’t necessarily true,  people were sheep enjoying innuendo readily accepting eager to believe the worst and perpetuating it, even if it was unfounded or untrue.

He sat back in his chair, pleased with his accomplishments.  “Yes, let’s see how you quell the shots, Nathan.  You’ll be so busy covering your bases you won’t have time to continue attacks on me.  That should give me breathing room.”

His next step in character assassination involved Daniel Banks.  Sure he’d been dismissed from the army due to his loss of sight, but it could be easily hinted he’d chosen to walk away because he was a weasel and couldn’t stomach the job assigned.  It would throw enough dirt his way to make colleagues and friends question his integrity. Something else to dissuade Emma Banks surely.  The good name of her family at stake would halt her step if not stop her in her tracks.  If not, there were other means at his disposal that could be used.  The more he attacked their character, the less credibility they’d have later and served his purpose perfectly.

Page 148                                                                                         Page 146

Nathan 146

Jessop loved beauty.  His home was filled with extravagant elegance. The finest crystals, imported rare woods, expensive luxurious fabrics.  Only the best would do.  As he wandered his palatial home, contemplating his plans, he smiled almost affectionately at his surroundings as he scanned the room.  Every item had a special place it belonged. When something was moved even a fraction from its original spot, he noticed and moved it back to its designated location.

Clothes were second on his list of must-haves.  Quality, style, elegance.  Therefore he worked out, perfecting his own form so he did them justice.  There was no excuse for slovenliness.  He was impeccable at all times and expected anyone that worked for him should do so the same.

He treasured all that he’d slaved for.  He particularly delighted in taking it from those who’d rubbed his position as a child in his face and these items became even more precious, so precious they were locked in glass containers inside his den.

“Yes, so fitting,” he remarked wandering through the locked room which no one else was allowed to enter.  This was his sanctuary.  This was his glory room.  His and his alone. The pinnacle of his success and all he obtained and considered worthwhile was contained within these walls.

His eyes were turned momentarily black with remembered pain.  The pain only a child can understand when made to feel small, insignificant and unimportant.  He smiled once again, that lop-sided grin that turned his handsome face into an evil mask.

He’d done well in tracking down his vicious abusers. Abusers of his emotions who’d taken delight in tearing him apart and shredding him to pieces, pieces he’d put back together by himself.

Indeed, he hoped his father would have been proud of his accomplishments, that his current wealth superseded even that of his father at the pinnacle of his wealth before that horrific disgrace.

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Nathan 145

Jessop pondered the current situation.  Threats on Nathan’s cohorts hadn’t worked so far.  Little nudges to back him off didn’t seem to concern him.  Threats of physical violence, car accidents, even sending a team to Bank’s home had not garnered the desired effect.  Nathan hadn’t taken them seriously.  Perhaps his thinking was faulty and he’d sent the wrong people.  Perhaps Nathan thought he was invincible. Striking Nathan where it hurt most was key.  That was Emma Banks.

Turning attention in her direction and what was most important in her world, it was obvious that included her family and now Nathan.  Yes, he could use this avenue very nicely.  At the moment, the family was well guarded in an impenetrable fortress and well guarded all round.  He’d keep watch, bide his time.  He could be patient when necessary.

He’d have to call in some IOU’s.  His inside man, vigilant in keeping him informed, worked out nicely.

“Well Miss Banks, let’s see what you do about this!”

He called up his right-hand woman, Cheyenne Forrester, giving her explicit instructions on how to proceed.  Jessop was good at pushing buttons, cutting to the core, ensuring loyalty.  Cheyenne was no different than the others but far more loyal and eager to do his bidding.  Hanging up, he began tapping rhythmically on the desk as an evil smile covered his face.

Page 146                                                                                                Page 144

 

Nathan 144

Jessop wandered his palatial home ranting and raving! Even the vases trembled at his approach.  How could this be happening?  How was it possible his well-laid plans were in dire straights, near collapse?  That hideous man! “Nathan!” he roared to an empty room.  “You are responsible for this!”  An extravagantly pricey crystal vase crashed to the floor followed by a second equally expensive candy dish.

He stomped around the room glaring, eyes filled with hatred and the vile evil that only comes from the wickedly insane.

His focus changed, now from protecting his growing empire, to destroying Nathan and all he held most dear.  One way or the other he would pay for what he’d done, was doing!

As he flung himself into his wing-backed chair he recalled the day he’d walked in on his father while amid a furious tirade.  Now he understood.  At the time he’d been frightened by his father’s all-consuming anger.

Having made (what turned out to be) a bad investment, they’d lost everything to a con-artist.  Then came the horrific moment they’d been forced to move from their beautiful home (filled with antiques and rare wood-lined walls) to the middle-class area of town.

Adding insult to injury, were the instances he’d been cruelly reminded of how far they’d fallen and he was overcome by the shame and humiliation at meeting old friends he’d spent time with.  The chagrin never ending, as he noted the look in their eyes containing sadness or worse yet pity, swept over him and away.  It was like rubbing salt in the open wound of their downfall from grace.  Others not content with looks added mean disparaging remarks, laughing at their unexpected financial demise.  It still stung!

It was at that precise moment, he’d determined to win back all his father had lost, and more – his goal to snub all those families they’d once known while actively destroying any and all that had looked down on him or made fun of their sudden collapse.  No one was safe from his fury.

He’d systematically tracked them down and taken over their businesses or destroyed them, leaving them destitute and broken.  A trail of broken men and their pathetic lives had fallen in his wake, and he’d smiled.

They were nothing compared to what he’d do to Nathan.  He must quieten his mind he decided, in order to concoct a plan so perfectly evil he’d have him groveling on his knees.  “Yes,” he steepled his fingers in front of his chest, “yes, Nathan, you will pay!”

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