FORTY-TWO

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"Mommy? You've been doing that a long time," Janine said from her seat at the kitchen table.

Virginia came back to reality, looking down at the soggy piece of toast she was holding, its surface shiny and thick with butter. "Oops. I'll make a fresh one."

She must have checked her phone at least a hundred times during the night hoping for an answer to her texts. In between, her mind raced with the possibilities, both good and bad, as to why he was not answering them.

"Virginia," Carol called from the living room. "Your captain is on television."

The knife was tossed and toast forgotten. Virginia rushed to join her with Janine following. Bill appeared out of another room. The four of them stood glued to the television as a BREAKING NEWS banner rolled across the bottom of the scene taking place in the front of the Chilvati office building. Captain Beal was one of many police officers standing in the street. Behind them was a cordoned off area, the yellow tape a defining line between attest and arrest. The people within it, most wearing the FBI logo on their backs, were busy loading SUVs with the boxes being carried out of the building.

Judging by the disorganized gathering of junior correspondents mulling about, this had all happened without any forewarning to the press. The vantage point suddenly swung to a young female reporter standing in a circle of people and getting last-minute adjustments to her hair and makeup. The woman frowned and pushed a fingertip against the white earpiece she wore. Then her eyes shot to the camera, and she swatted away hands before putting her game face on. Her team hunched down and slinked out of view.

The reporter's voice was breathless as she yanked the microphone to her mouth and started, "As you can see behind me, the FBI has raided the offices of the renowned Chilvati family today, arresting both Augustus Chilvati and his son Gus Chilvati Jr. Many high-ranking company officials of the Chilvati Group have also been detained for questioning. Computers and files by the truckload are being removed as we speak. Word has just come in that this scene is being repeated at a few other local businesses in the city.

"This all comes after Mark Spinelli, well known to be Augustus Chilvati's right-hand man, was abducted yesterday after exiting the same building. Witnesses reported seeing him being attacked on the street"—her finger pointed down to the pavement as her eyes flashed wide—"right where I am standing. We have a short cell phone video taken during the attack." The woman's head nodded to a spot just off camera. "Let's take a look."

Shaky footage taken from some distance away played on screen. In it, a hooded man struggled against the hold of two others. For a moment it looked like the victim might win out over the two-against-one odds, but the sudden shift in power was a sign that his attackers were serious and well prepared—this wasn't a random robbery gone bad. With all fight suspended, the man was dragged, dumped, and sealed inside the van. Within seconds it was gone.

The reporter reappeared. "Whether the two incidents are related, we have yet to find out. Police Chief Lawson of the Los Angeles Police Department is about to make a statement."

The camera swung right. Vincent Lawson, also known as The Black Cat, was a man with a weathered face. As chief, he spent most of his time tucked away in an office, but he'd grown up in a tough neighborhood and had the gang tats to prove it. The nickname, some said, existed because he had been shot or stabbed in eight different attacks before deciding he'd cheated death enough and turning his life around. Others believed it had more to do with the fact that if Vince Lawson asked to see you, it was usually a bad omen. All the same, he was good at his job and a firm proponent for decentralization of policing, placing more control locally to increase flexibility and reaction time. For him to be showing up at a crime scene was highly unusual, but then again, having the FBI swarming the area wasn't standard operating procedure either.

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