Jonas and I spent months chasing pointless leads, going to unimportant locations, and gathering information. The team back at HQ picked apart any and all information that we gathered, sorting what was valid and what wasn’t. It was exhilarating when leads started coming together, pieces of the puzzle falling into place.
We’d spent so much time in the car that we relished in our lunch times, which Holly kindly extended to an hour each day. Everyone was stressed out and emotions we’re running high, but we all pulled together better then ever, working like a well oiled machine.
Three and a half months into the investigation, we got a lead to connect us to one of the Armana members. I drove us to the location- well, a half a mile from the location, and Jonas walked the rest of the way. It was a rundown Indian Cuisine restaurant, and Jonas was looking for a guy name Eric Nazim. He was to be our connection with Armana. I heard their conversation play out via the comms Jonas and I were both wearing.
It was hard for me to just sit back and listen, but it was crucial that it appeared that Jonas was alone- just a guy looking for some employment and anything would do. He even dressed down, in jeans and a loose button up. Eric seemed hesitant at first, as they talked. I hated that I didn’t have eyes on the situation too, but it’d have to do.
Finally after an hour of questioning on Eric’s part, he agreed to bring Jonas along with him for a couple of drug runs, to assure that Jonas had what it took to do the job. “Just a couple of tests first, then, if you’re worthy, we’ll see what the boss thinks of you. We don’t let just anybody join.”
Twenty minutes later, Jonas arrived back at the sedan and we left quickly, taking back roads to assure we weren’t being followed. Jonas agreed to meet Eric back at the Indian restaurant the next day to being his “tests”.
We went back to HQ to deliver the news. Now that we were actually getting somewhere, everyone was excited, but anxious all the same. We all sat around the conference room table, discussing various strategies and plans.
“I can’t wear a comm, it’ll be too dangerous. They’ll be looking for stuff like that.” Jonas said.
“How are we going to be able to keep communication?” I asked, not liking the idea that we wouldn’t be able to hear what was going on at all times.
“Eddie,” Holly said. “Do you still have those old button cams?”
Eddie perked up. “Yeah, tons of em. We could get Tina to sew some onto your shirts. We’d have eyes, just not ears.”
“That’ll have to do.” Holly said, looking like she was uncomfortable with the idea of not being able to hear, too. There was only so much we could pull off without being obvious and putting Jonas in danger.
“I can put a microchip in one of your shoes too, under the insert. That way if you don’t have your phone, or they ask you to turn it off, we’ll still be able to track your location if anything goes wrong.” Eddie said and Jonas nodded.
“That sounds like a good idea.” Holly said. “Let’s get started. Jonas, go get some shirts. Eddie, find the cams.”
“Righto.” Eddie said, and he and Jonas both scurried from the room, heading for the elevator to go upstairs.
“Penelope,” Holly turned to me as everyone else went back to their work. “I know it’ll be hard, but I want you stationed here when this is all taking place. We can’t risk blowing Jonas’ cover. I’ll have Eddie setup the cam feed to this TV, and you’ll be the one to monitor it and the tracker. I’m going to do the same, I want to monitor all movement as well.”
I swallowed thickly and nodded. It was all becoming real now. We were sending one of our own in with dangerous criminals. Thinking about it too much made it hard for me to breathe, but I had the utmost faith in Jonas’ capabilities.
Throughout that day, everyone worked hard in helping Jonas prepare. Tina replaced a button on several of Jonas’ shirts with the button cams, and Eddie microchipped a few pairs of Jonas’ shoes. Holly tried to tell him what to expect, even though she really didn’t know what he was about to walk into either. Luckily, Jonas was a pretty chill guy, and didn’t seem to be as stressed as the rest of us. He was confident that he could pull this off.
The next day, I was sitting in the conference room, eyes glued to the TV screen, which was streaming crystal clear video from the button cam. Jonas had taken my old car, which was still parked at HQ, as to not look suspicious, pulling up in a decked out black sedan. My red Volvo fit his profile better. Holly was next to me, and everyone else was there too. Various laptops, tablets, folders, paperwork, coffee cups, and snacks littered the table before us.
This was our routine for the next two weeks. Everyday, we all took the same seats, watching Jonas tag along with Eric, and occasionally another Armana member as they did various unsavory tasks, like drug runs and dropoffs, window smashing of a few abandoned storefronts, and they even held up a tiny convenience store. Luckily there weren’t any customers inside at the time, and they’d worn masks. Some of the things they did were childs play, some of it was much more severe.
As each day passed, we could see it was taking a toll on Jonas. He was a good, standup guy, and doing criminal things was getting to him and weighing on his conscience. He didn’t say much about it, because he was determined to get the job done and to do it right.
Finally, the day came for Jonas to meet Casper. The conference room was silent as we all sat with rapt attention, watching. Jonas met Eric at the Indian restaurant, and from there, they got into a beat up Toyota Corolla. They drove for what felt like hours, but it was only fifteen minutes. I got up and paced around behind the table, hardly able to calm my nerves.
Eric pulled up to a tall brick building with a weathered sign that said “Ingle’s Shoes”. One of the windows was boarded, and it was obvious that it was abandoned. Eric quickly brought up the location on his computer.
“There aren’t any other building within a half a mile in either direction.” He stated, voice ladened with anxiety.
We watched as they made their way inside. Holly made a phone call to the local police department and gave them our daily update, but today, she told them to be on standby. We were all feeling like something bad was going to happen.
Inside was dilapidated, cobwebs and dust covering every inch of space except the floor, which was clear due to what I assumed was heavy foot traffic. Jonas followed a few feet behind Eric, as to give us a view as well. Eric lead him to a staircase that went down. It opened to an extensive basement, crawling with Armana members of all ages. It was well lit, unlike the upstairs had been, and there was extravagant furniture all around. I even spotted a few velvet pillows. I half expected to see a chandelier at any moment, hanging from the crumbling ceiling.
Eric stopped outside a large wooden door that looked freshly polished, and turned back to Jonas with a smirk on his face. He said what looked like “Ready?” Before raising his hand to knock.
This was it, we were finally going to have a face to go with the name. We were about to see the man who had now progressed to murder; the man who was connected with my brother’s death.
The door swung open, and we could see a huge desk and a high winged back chair, facing the wall. It felt like a scene from a movie. Eric stepped to the side and we had an unobstructed view of the room from Jonas’ button cam. We didn’t have but time to catalog the space before the chair spun around, revealing the man sitting in it.
“Oh my god,” I gasped. “That’s my father!”
“Your father?” Jacobs says, both he and Olger looking shocked. I honestly have no idea how they didn’t already know this information. Maybe they did and they were playing it up for my benefit. “Your father is the leader of Armana? He’s Casper?”
“Was.” I correct, reminding him that he’s dead. “I’m getting there.”
I had to sit down. My father. Richard Foster. The supposed stockbroker, sitting before my eyes in a suit I’d seen him wear so many times, when I thought he was leaving for work. I couldn’t believe it. How long had this been going on? How long had he been a criminal, a murderer? I felt like I couldn’t breathe, unable to peel my eyes off the screen. I wanted to scream. I wanted Jonas to be able to hear me so I could tell him to run.
I may not have known this side of my father, but I knew, now especially, that he wasn’t someone to mess with.
“Your father?” Holly asked, her voice barely above a whisper. I didn’t answer, just kept my eyes on the screen, watching my father speak. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk, and steepled his fingers over the bridge of his nose. It was a gesture I’d seen him make so many times, it was so familiar, now a memory attached to a man I didn’t know at all. Tears welled up in my eyes. The conversation continued before our eyes, us having no idea what was being said.
I hated every minute of it. I couldn’t fully process the situation, I was in shock. Things looked like they were going well. Jonas just had to get out of there, and we’d never have to send him back.. Right? This was too dangerous. If my father had no problems finding a way to hurt my brother (even though I wasn’t sure that’s what happened), who knew what he’d do to a complete stranger.
Actually, we already knew what he’d do to a stranger- he kill him and nail something to his chest. Bile rose in my throat. My father. I was devastated. Toby had known. What happened to him, my brother, our family golden boy? I couldn’t stand it. My eyes were drawn back to the screen as my father picked up the phone on his desk.
I saw his face harden, his brow furrow, and I knew something was wrong. “Look.” I said, even though everyone already had their eyes glued to the screen. “Something’s not right.”
The longer the call went on, the more severe looking my father became. He looked Jonas up and down, his knuckles white on the receiver of the telephone. A moment later, my father returned the phone to it place and sat back in his chair. He said something, and Jonas patted his chest twice, over the button cam. That was the signal.
“He’s been made.” I jumped up, unable to look away as I watched my father pull a gun out of a drawer in his desk. He fired, and Jonas’ cam went black. I was out of the room, dashing for the elevator before I even fully processed what had just happened. I heard Holly calling after me, but I didn’t stop.
Read the next part!: Let Me Explain: Part Nine