“Mr. Navallo,” Alex thought as he finally found the stairway, amazed that the hospital was not equipped with escalators. “What is it about you that angers me so? What is the iron hold you have over this family? And have I made my decision, Chan, without even knowing it? Twice now, I have been caught in the middle of business that does not directly concern me and twice I have answered as if I were a member of your tribe. Why?”
Alex looked down the flight of stairs, placed his hand on the rail, and hopped over the railing allowing his body to slip down the center of the stairway. His body spun and spiraled in a well-practiced pattern. Every other floor he reached out and touched the railing, slowing himself, maintaining his rate of decent.
He landed and rolled to a door. Opening it, he found himself in the hospital’s parking garage. “No, Navallo is muscle… weak muscle,” he thought as he ran out into the parking deck, toward the wall. “He will have his necessary muscle around him. A driver. One he would call to pick him up at the front door.” Reaching the wall, Alex could see the exit stairway and the road that led off the hospital property.
“It is time to test my speed,” he thought as he reached the driveway. In the distance, he could see a limousine pulling away from the building. A moment of searching… it was Navallo. He knelt behind a group of bushes and waited. He timed the arrival of the car and jumped out into the roadway seconds before it would reach the hedges. The brakes locked the wheels, and the limo screamed to a halt. Those within heard a loud ‘THUD’ as the car stopped.
“This must be my lucky day,” Navallo said with a smile. “Go on, Louie, keep drivin’. We didn’t hit nothing worth checkin’. Course we could back up and make sure we hit something.” He laughed as the limousine pulled off. Not of the same carefree caliber, Louie and the others inside the car looked back to find nothing lying in the road. Surprisingly, nothing was said, only odd looks were traded.
The car ride lasted for about forty minutes. It was more than enough to allow him to recoup his energies. Reaching the minds of those who had looked back to see what the car had hit, touching their thoughts with Darkness and their will to speak with Silence was more than pressing for him in the midst of softening the blow of the vehicle to keep from being damaging. But the trunk was relatively comfortable and his meditation had only taken twenty minutes.
The Scent. The Sound.
Vegetation. But not the trees of the city, their scent had long since left him. These trees had rich and full blooms full of aroma.
Reflected sound. The reflected sound of the car. The depth was greater; the buildings were further and further away from the street. Then the sound was sectioned. Fences, perhaps even gates. The length of time that sound was reflected back at the car was also increased, signifying that the houses here were larger than the ones in the city. The social bracket of the neighborhood was definitely in the Upper Class region.
“This is an interesting challenge,” Alexander thought as the car turned up an incline. “Keeping a direction on how to get back to Meredith’s room. We never covered how one should ride while inside the trunk of a car. Of course, I must admit,” Alex thought, some of Chan’s English wit having rubbed off on him. “…this is one of the most comfortable boots I have ever had the luxury of riding in. So well kept and fresh.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Navallo,” a deep voice called out from a considerable distance. Alex forced the trunk lock mechanism to release. He rolled out and landed in a squatted position behind the long black car. His eye widened at the size of the mansion he beheld in front of him. It was old… nearly ancient and quite beautiful. The front of it was square with a balcony at nearly every window. Six huge columns complimented the front of the manor as they supported the rounded roofing of the porch.
“Not bad. But I’ve lived in finer huts,” Alex thought.
“How ya doin’, Jimmy,” Navallo answered as he got out of the car. He punched into the incredible figure that owned the greeting voice. ‘Huge’ was an insult in description. The man’s size and muscular build was listed as just another example of God’s sense of humor.
“A lot better dan you,” the hulking figure replied. “You forgot to pick up the boss’s daughter from the airport.”
“Shit!” Navallo snapped as he turned, looking down at the ground. His mind was thinking of a plausible excuse that would keep him from harm’s way.
A presence. A very acknowledged presence. The type felt even by those who were not of Alex’s training. He was angry, this man, and the limits of his expression of that anger had never been reached.
“Better think fast, Navallo,” Alex thought as he felt the presence. The great double redwood doors of the house opened and a tall, lean figure walked out on the porch. He wore a short lavender silk robe over his shirt. His trousers were black and tailored; the legs beneath them were aged yet sturdy. He walked slowly, employing a cane that-
Metal against wood. A sound not heard by normal ears and one that almost slipped by Alex. The tone of the metal was held though, as if it were a note played by an instrument… a bladed instrument.
“Well, Ian,” the man spoke in a potent voice, “I’m glad to hear that my princess rates at least a shit from you.”
“Oh boy,” Alex thought.
“Mr. Rutelli, I’m sorry,” Navallo pleaded. All of a sudden his face of calm, cold control was broken into a child’s fearful stare. “I just got caught up with the day. I-”
“You had one thing to do today, and you louse it up!” The man roared. He walked over to Navallo whose head was lowered. Rutelli came to within two inches of the man and whispered in his ear. “What am I supposed to think about someone in my organization that can’t remember a simple task, huh?
“Especially when it comes to my family!” he cried as the back of his hand smacked Navallo’s face. “What have you been doing all day?”
“That’s as good a cue as any,” Alex thought as he stood up.
“Don’t you know, sir?” Alex said, walking from behind the car. He walked into the circle of men, close to Navallo and Rutelli. Most of those that made the circle had their hands inside their suit jackets. Rutelli lifted his hand and shook his head. Alex stooped down to look Navallo in the eye.
“Ian, here, was at the hospital. You see, an acquaintance of mine, by the name of Meredith, was recently involved in a shooting where she was grievously injured.
“She fell into a coma after her second operation,” Alex said looking at Rutelli who was nodding understandingly. Alex knew it was feigned. He was nothing to this old man save some entertainment to break up the monotony of the day. “Mr. Navallo thought it to be the ideal opportunity to press an offer on the Winstons. I believe it was your offer, Mr. Rutelli,” he said, standing. “I would also assume it was a most unflattering proposal.”