I had to take a taxi back to my apartment, but that wasn't too far away. Arriving there, I grabbed my gun holster and raced down to the garage. I thought I might have to intimidate traffic, so I took the Dodge Ram rather than the old Chevy Malibu I used when I didn't want to be noticed. I couldn't take the Boxster; that had driven away from the nightclub without me. I slapped my portable blue flashing light on top of the truck cab and wended my way through the streets down into Brooklyn, roaring across the Verrazano-Narrows bridge onto Staten Island.

I wasn't using the siren. I didn't want to spook anyone--not on the street where I was headed to.

The door to the house was unlocked. I took out my gun and, holding it in front of me, as silently as I could, I crept down the stairs into the basement.

I was too late for some things; not too late for others.

I was too late to save Stefano Rapino the indignity of being initiated into rough male sex, but, with luck, I wasn't too late to save him from whatever Jesse had planned for him afterward.

I recognized the basement room immediately. This was where I'd been hung and fucked silly under the influence of a Mickey Finn when Jesse had taken me to the Brooklyn leather bar. He'd done the drugging, the dragging away--to here--and the fucking and then had left me in the Brooklyn motel. The guy Shad I'd cultivated upon my return to The Dungeon knew Jesse and verified that he was the one who hustled me out of the bar that night. That part of all of this I'd already figured out.

And if I hadn't completely figured it out before, what I now saw when I crept into the basement room would have immediately clicked it into place. Stefano was hanging where I had been, suspended by a chain from the ceiling in the middle of the basement room with cinderblock walls. He was kneeling on a low padded platform, just as I had been, facing away from me. I could hear his muffled screams through the choking ball gag in his mouth. A mouth harness was lying on the floor below him, telling me that he'd already been put through an ordeal. His small thighs were spread with an extender; and his nuts were vised in a ball-crusher attachment. Jesse was hunched behind him, dressed in leathers, grabbing Stefano's slim hips, raising his buttocks, and fucking up into his ass strong and hard.

I didn't do anything cops did on TV in these circumstances. I moved quietly and swiftly to behind Jesse, whose attention was quite understandably focused elsewhere, and cracked him across the back of the head smartly with the barrel of my gun. He went down like a rock.

Stefano had turned his head and was looking wild-eyed at me and trying to wail through his ball gag.

"Sorry, I'll have to be a couple of minutes," I told him with a voice that was as reassuring as I could make it--although I did take the time to relieve the pressure on his balls. "I've got to get this fucker trussed up first."

Happily, Jesse's basement room was a regular department store of devices for trussing someone up and then making them sweat hard and scream. I found just the right restraints to pull Jesse's arms behind his back and handcuff him. And I found a useful hobbling device to attach to his ankles that would let him shuffle but not do any running--or kicking. He remained dead to the world while I did that. The bump on his head was bleeding and looked like it would be a nasty pain for him for days.

"Serves you right, bastard," I muttered to him. "That was for the Mickey Finn. The SM fuck was OK, but you could have given me flowers first."

"OK, now you," I said as I approached Stefano. "Calm down, now. I'm not going to hurt you. And what is done is done. It won't get any worse--at least not by me. And not by him anymore either."

I unbound Stefano and he clung to me closely and sobbed quietly. God if he didn't make me feel like I wanted to be a top and to take him as well. But I made no move in that direction. I helped him dress and talked to him in low, calming tones about how it wasn't the end of the world and it was all over now and so not to dwell on it too much. While I did that, I searched around for Jesse's clothes, found them, and extracted his keys from the pocket of his trousers.

"Here. Take this key. It's to a Hummer. You can drive, can't you? You'll find it out on the street in front of this house. Get it and drive. Drive far away from here--and fast."

Stefano looked at me with grateful eyes--still tinged with the deer-in-the-headlight look, though--and was gone. Leaving me with Jesse, who was still out, but grunting and groaning his pain even in his unconscious state. Knocking someone out with the barrel of a gun wasn't the three-minute beauty nap most people assumed it was from watching TV.

I decided that Jesse was good where he was for the moment after I had chained his leg to a heavy piece of equipment that I didn't even want to know the function of and then I went searching the room, making sure I'd moved everything to well out of his reach when and if he came to.

I was looking for something else too. Not finding what I wanted there, I went upstairs and then, finally, on up to the second floor of the cape cod to the larger of the two bedrooms under the eaves of the roof. I found pretty much what I expected there, and then and only then I made the call to Lieutenant Kahn.

I briefly told him what I'd found and what I thought it meant--and how I'd found Jesse--and with whom.

"I'll be there with a team in a minute," Kahn had said.

If it really had only been a minute, things may have been much different later. But, in hindsight, maybe it was a good thing Kahn and the other cops didn't show up Johnny on the spot.

I gathered the treasures I had found and brought them back downstairs.

Jesse was awake now, and staring daggers at me.

"So, you were planning to go somewhere later tonight?" I asked calmly as I waved the air ticket for Aruba under his nose.

"Fuck you," was Jesse's belligerent response.

"Is that what all of this was about, Jesse? Fucking me? Did you do all of this just to get at me?"

"Fuck you."

"Well, you got to nail me, didn't you? And congratulations, because that's not going to happen again, and if you had just spun the time out, we might have gotten it on more. But drugging me and nailing me that one time wasn't enough, was it? Couldn't control yourself. You saw the young Rapino guy back at the nightclub, and you went bonkers for that sweet little piece of ass. Rapino or no Rapino, you had to nail him too. And you probably thought the Rapinos wouldn't come after you--that going to Aruba would solve all of your problems."

He just gave me a mean stare.

"Jackass," I said. And then, "And what do we have here? I do believe this is my million dollars. You were going to Aruba and you thought you'd just take a million dollars in cash with you on the airplane?"

"Fuck you."

"You're getting a little monotonous there, Jesse. And you're not all that bright. You didn't think I'd figure out that you were the one who was making the ransom calls--to yourself?"

No answer, but he was listening now.

"You're the only one who got those calls or you weren't there when they came in--and I had someone in the unit pegged for it from the beginning. There was a time when I thought it might be Mitch, but not for long."

"What do you mean?" Now he wanted to know what I knew--where he'd slipped up.

"Hank was just a low-paid cop, Jesse. We knew the Scarlottis weren't behind this. If they were, it would be Hank's body we'd have found at the Jersey landfill the other day. This had to be someone who knew Hank was worth a million dollars to someone willing to pay a million dollars to get him back. This had 'Clint's got the money to pay' written all over it. And who in New York knew I had that kind of money, not to mention that Hank meant enough to me to give over that sort of cash? Just the guys we worked with. Just our good, trusted buddies."

Jesse had gone silent again.

"You don't even know where Hank is, do you, Jesse? It was all a scam, from beginning to end, wasn't it?"

"Don't care where he is," Jesse spat back.

"Well, it just doesn't matter, Jesse. I know where he is, and that's where I am going. There, I hear sirens. That will be the lieutenant. He's not going to be thrilled to see you and the little setup you have down here, Jesse. And he's going to be even less thrilled at the little vendetta against the police--and against you specifically--that fucking Stefano Rapino is going to create with his older brothers. OK, come on, get up. Let's hobble up those stairs and go meet the lieutenant."

Jesse was looking scared now. "Damn, Clint. You don't think the Rapinos--?"

"Right between the eyes, good buddy."

I'd only said it to make him suffer, but a few minutes later, as opened the front door of his house and shoved him, hobbled by the leg chains and handcuffed behind his back, out onto the stoop, I had occasion to think on that again. At the first sound of the gunfire, I fell back into the house and scrambled out of sight of the doorway.

Jesse was dead before he hit the ground, and at least one of those bullets had gotten him between the eyes. I wasn't able to build up any regret for him.

Lieutenant Kahn and the guys were there just moments later, and, as I already noted, I was just as glad they hadn't made it in time to be in a fire fight. I didn't press the issue that it obviously had been the Rapinos. The Hummer was gone from in front of the house. I'd given Stefano back his cell phone before he left. He had had plenty of time to clear off to safety and to have called back to the club--although he probably had no idea how fast his brother and their goons could get to Staten Island to take care of family honor.

I decided to let Lieutenant Kahn take care of all that. I had someplace to go. I was going to Chicago to get Hank and bring him home.



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