Dean plunged back into the regular routine at school. The weather was a subject with the members of his dorm who all asked if he had gotten home alright on Friday. The weather in Bloomington had gotten bad much earlier than a little further north and west as it came in from the southwest. Ice had been a problem and was treacherous Friday evening into Saturday. Monday was clear and cold but the forecast for the weekend was horrible as another storm was approaching and this one was already causing big problems from Oklahoma and spreading eastwards. By Thursday, ice and snow was a problem through southern Missouri as well as Illinois and was poised to spread into Indiana.
Dean called home and canceled his weekend journey home for the first time. It was not entirely a bad thing as he had plenty of studying and papers to prepare.
The next week saw another storm come through and the roads were not good and again Dean stayed on campus on the next weekend along with most of the rest of the student population. His boots and parka were getting used and he had to do laundry in the dorm as he wasn't getting it done at home.
The middle of December arrived and exam week was upon them. Dean studied with his informal study groups and reviewed his notes and went back over some key points he had bookmarked with those little yellow Post-It notes in his texts. Exam weeks were always stressful, but this year it was worse as the weather had been wintry all month which was depressing. A big storm came through on the eighteenth and he trudged through the storm to take the final scheduled that day. He had two more on Wednesday and his last one was Thursday in the early afternoon. He felt good about each of his classes, including the one with the professor he considered a dud. He got his stuff together and packed his laptop and whatever else he wanted to take home for semester break and decided to leave Thursday after his last exam. The forecast for Friday and Saturday was for another dusting and then plunging temperatures.
The drive home was slow going. The roads had been plowed but still had slick spots and drivers were taking it easy on the state and county roads that Dean drove. He had white knuckles a couple of times when he eased around a curve to find cars stopped on the road, waiting for an accident to be cleared. His cell phone rang after he was on the road for about two hours but he was too busy to answer it. He was still about forty-five minutes from home at the rate he was traveling.
It gets dark early in December and it was past dusk already. Dean was glad that he knew the road like the back of his hand from all his trips back and forth from home to school. He got home at about half past six. It had actually taken him another hour after he ignored the call. He pulled out his phone and returned the call.
“Mom I'm in the driveway now. I couldn't take my attention off the road to call any sooner. I'm heading into the house now.”
Debbie was at work and asked: “You ok?”
“Yeah, just whipped. The normal drive of just less than two hours was almost four hours because of all the cars that slid off the road. The roads were plowed but there was some daytime melting and refreezing making some slick spots. I know the road and every curve, but apparently some people in their SUV's and 4-wheel drive vehicles get a little cocky as they were the one's that spun out and held up traffic while emergency and tow vehicles had to pull them out of the ditch. We had traffic stopped several times because of that. Coming around a curve and finding traffic at a dead stop was always frightening, especially when the guy behind me was following closely. I was prepared and going slow as I rounded the curves every time, so I avoided being rear-ended and pushed into the car ahead.
What's for supper? I'm famished.”
“I made a pot roast with potatoes, carrots and onions in the baking pan. I've kept it warm in the oven with a lid on pan so it should be okay.”
“That sounds perfect for a cold winter night. Let me call John and I will eat and I'll tell him I'll see him tomorrow as I'm tired and have laundry to do.” Dean told his mom he loved her and then ended the call. He had petted Sadie on coming in the door and as she went to the door, he let her out so she could go. Sadie was a lady and finished in a hurry and was back at the door to be let back into the warm house.
Dean then called John and told him about the drive and that he was whipped. They planned to get together for dinner the next night on Friday.
Dean went in the kitchen and turned off the oven which was on its lowest setting and got his dinner out of the oven. He put the pan on a trivet on the breakfast bar and got a plate. He poured himself glass of milk and dished himself up a big plate of food. He ate the hearty meal which he savored. He put on the cable news channel which was full of stories about all the bad weather and fender-benders. More snow was forecast for Saturday December twenty-second in their area. Dean finished eating and put his dishes in the dishwasher and put the leftovers in containers and put them in the refrigerator. The pan went into the dishwasher as well and he put in the soap and started it up.
He put his coat back on and went back out to the car and brought the rest of his stuff into the house and put his laptop in his room. He pulled out his laundry and separated it and got it ready to start a load after the dishwasher was finished in the kitchen. He wandered back into his bedroom and started up his laptop and connected to the internet via their cable router. He checked his student e-mail account and found a couple of grades had been posted per alerts and he checked in and found he had A's in three of the exams and for the final grades and just was waiting on two more. He got into his regular e-mail account through his hometown provider and spent some time cleaning it up and deleting spam. He did reply to a couple and kept a couple which he flagged for a later follow-up. He eventually heard the dishwasher click off and start the drying stage and he decided to take a shower before starting the laundry. He finished quickly and put on a pair of sweats and went into the laundry room and started his first load. He wandered back to his computer and logged into his finance program and input the transactions for the past week. He thought about tomorrow and knew his mom wanted to decorate the house and put up the tree for Christmas. He and John were planning on going to do some holiday shopping on Saturday or Sunday in Terre Haute depending on which day the weather wasn't too bad. He must have dozed off sitting at his computer because he heard the buzzer on the washer indicating the load was done and jerked awake. He put the clothes in the dryer and started another load in the washer and turned the buzzers off on both machines. The whites, consisting mostly of sox and underclothes could sit in the dryer overnight. The clothes in the washer could go in the dryer in the morning.
He called Sadie and let her out one last time and again she finished her business in a hurry and came back in the house. He locked up and went to bed.
Friday was cloudy and cold but the weather didn't look particularly threatening. Dean was used to getting up early for his classes and was up by half past seven. He looked for Sadie but she was in bed with his mom and he left them undisturbed. He started the coffee maker and went into the laundry room and took his clothes out of the dryer and cleaned the filter. He then transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer and started it. He then loaded the washer with his third load of laundry and started it up.
In the kitchen he pulled out the toaster and made toast while he heated up some water in the microwave to make some instant oatmeal. He threw in some blueberries from the freezer as well. He buttered his toast poured his coffee and enjoyed his quick breakfast. He finished and started getting the Christmas decorations in from where they were stored on a shelf in the garage. He carried several boxes in and then started assembling the artificial tree they had used for as long as could remember. It was looking pretty sorry and the more he tried to shape it, the sorrier it looked. He finally took it down and put it back in the box and decided to go get a new one. His mom was allergic to pine needles so it would be another artificial one, but at least it would look decent. He went to Walmart and found a pretty nice tree on clearance that was prewired with lights and bought it. He also bought a few new ornaments and some other decorations and loaded up the car.
When he got home his mom was up and watched as he brought in the box which had been sticking out the back of the trunk of his little Corolla. Once he got it inside with the rest of his packages, he started putting the new tree together and it looked great. The lights worked and they started on the ornaments with each one putting on their personal favorite first and then working through the ones they had collected through the years. They finished up with the new ones Dean bought and then put the new garland he also bought on the tree. The rest of the decorations were placed in their usual locations and by two in the afternoon they were done decorating the house. They had even put colored lights around the inside of the window facing the street.
They dressed for dinner and were ready when John picked them up shortly before six. They went to a local Spaghetti House and enjoyed pasta dishes with each one ordering something different and then sampling each. They discussed how Dean was doing in school, John's practice and Debbie's job as well before turning to their plans for the weekend which included shopping. After dinner, John dropped Debbie off and he and Dean returned to John's condo.
John had just poured some brandy into a couple of snifter's when Dean's cell phone started ringing. It was Bob calling in his capacity as a policeman. He told Dean that an abandoned car had been found that afternoon in the park behind their house. It had Wisconsin license plates and when they checked it out, they found out it had been reported as stolen in Chicago on Thursday morning. Bob as the investigating officer had noted there were footprints in the snow leading away from the car, but none returned. He followed them and they lead to a vantage point behind their houses on North Ash Drive. It looked like from the amount of snow tamped down that someone had been standing there for quite some time. He also found a cigarette butt and had sent it to the lab to see if they could get a fingerprint or even a DNA sample from it. The footprints then lead off to the other side of the lake and this person walked all the way around it and back out to the road and just abandoned the car. There were no reports of any carjackings so it was assumed the individual was picked up by someone. Bob told Dean that Mike was with his mom and that he was to stay away from the house.
Dean said, “is it ever going to end?”
Bob replied, “we have a call into detective Turner and he may call you so keep your cell phone handy” and ended the call. Dean turned to John and explained what Bob had told him. It put a real damper on the evening.
Early the next morning John's mom, Elizabeth Trask known as Libby to her friends, got a phone call from her private security firm about her son and his gentleman friend on her iPhone. She was informed of the latest police findings and that Dean had again spent the night at her son's condo. Libby was not just some rich man's wife and hostess, but a sharp investor in her own right. She had met John Trask Jr. at Indiana University at a sorority mixer when she was a junior majoring in economics and Jack was a sophomore in pre-law. They had hit it off at once and were soon an item. She was from Chicago where her father made his fortune at the Chicago Mercantile exchange after World War II. He owned a piece of the exchange and a very diversified portfolio and was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred million dollars when she was in college. Her mother had died in Libby's freshman year in college of breast cancer. She graduated first and they got married when Jack got accepted into law school. While he was in law school they lived in Bloomington in a rented house and she oversaw the design and construction of their permanent residence in Jack's hometown. She got the name of a good security firm from one of her sorority sisters and security was designed into the house and landscaping. They moved into it upon Jack's graduation and admission to the bar and he joined his dad's law firm. The next year on April 4, 1980, John III was born. Libby's father died in 1987 prematurely of a massive heart attack. She inherited half her father's entire estate and netted about $200 million after taxes. She had made some shrewd investments including buying a half million dollars worth of Apple stock for less than $5 per share in 1997 when Steve Jobs returned to the company. In 2004 she bought ten thousand shares of Google's initial public offering at $85 per share. She had made millions and since the Bush tax cuts, almost all her income was only taxed at the 15% rate of tax on dividends and capital gains. She had kept that same private security company since she designed their house and increased her coverage over the years as the family net worth had climbed.
She asked some questions and then ordered increased protection for her son and Dean Warner. She was advised that they would have to be told as increased protection would become more intrusive and noticeable. She said she would take care of that and ended the connection and called her son.
John's phone rang as he was pouring their morning coffee. He knew it was his mother based on the ringtone and wondered what was up. “Hi mom, we were just sitting down to have some coffee. What's up.”
Libby proceeded to tell him that she had been informed about the latest incident and that after consulting with her security company, she was ordering additional security for John and Dean and wondered about Dean's mom whom she had never met. John's mind was assessing what was said and what wasn't being said. He knew his mother could be very closed mouthed about things if she chose to. He had often asked her about all her charitable activities and donations and wondered where all the money came from and never received any suitable answers. He was approaching twenty-eight years of age and had no idea of his mother's net worth or holdings, but he suspected they were substantial. He had known the family employed security for the family home and office and he knew his parents owned the building where he lived which also had top-notch security, but had not realized a security detail was discretely keeping track of him, or Dean.
“What kind of additional security are we talking about” he inquired?
“The kind where you and Dean are going to have to check in and let them know your plans in advance so they can arrange transportation and enough agents to provide security in any event. A senior member of their firm will be contacting you shortly. His name is Bruce Schuetz and will get together with both you and Dean to outline their plans. Don't fight me on this. You are my only child and I will do what I must to protect you. The same goes for Dean.” They talked a few minutes more and then John ended the call and turned to Dean and explained what his mom told him.
They were just finishing their breakfast of coffee and toast when John's phone rang again and the security man was on the line and wanted to know if he could come up to discuss things as he was outside the building. John activated the building security screen and saw a man in a dark suit and overcoat at the door of the building and asked Bruce over the phone if he would wave his right hand. The image on the screen waved and John pressed the button to release the locked door. Bruce stayed on the phone and when he got to the elevator, asked John what the code was to operate it? Just at that moment, Dean's phone rang and it was detective Turner who wanted to meet with Dean and John. Dean asked where the detective was and was told that he was about a block from John's condo.
Dean held up his hand to John and said: “Tell your security man to wait in the lobby for Detective Turner and they can come up together.” He then relayed that to the detective as John filled in Bruce. Ten minutes later both men were sitting in the living room with John and Dean. Turner was not happy. He did not have a high regard for private security. Schuetz was not happy either, he did not like uncooperative cops.
Bruce Schuetz was not one to be dealt lightly with however, and said; “Detective Turner, you can work with me and my men willingly or you can fight the Trask money and power. Mrs. Trask is not a person to cross and her orders were explicit. We will be providing security and you will have to deal with us. I have two men moving into an empty adjacent unit in this building today. They already are involved with the case and know John from his health club where they have been working as a cover. I have another man who is also a student and living in Dean's dormitory in a pod down the hall from him. Another backup is enrolling for the January semester and will join him. All these men are smart, well conditioned, well trained, proficient in multiple weapons and martial arts and are all ex-military. If necessary, I will recruit Mrs. Warner's next door neighbors who are on your police force. Trust me, I can offer them pay and benefits that you cannot possibly match. So now, what have you learned and what do you propose?”
Jack Turner realized it was probably prudent to go with the flow and asked; “what do know of the Bruno Weiss murder and the ancillary involvement of Dean Warner?”
Bruce Schuetz succinctly and yet in a very detailed manner laid out everything that Dean knew and some more besides and then asked the detective, “again what have you found out about this latest surveillance, any further ideas as to who it was, who sent them or why?”
Turner was shocked at the amount of detail that Schuetz knew and wondered what he had not revealed.
“The car was wiped clean and contained no clue as to the identity of who left it in the park. The cigarette butt contained no fingerprints, the perp was probably wearing gloves and it was cold. It did contain some recoverable DNA from saliva but it may not be enough to match someone with any degree of certainty, even if we did have a suspect” replied Turner.
He continued: “As far as who is behind this, the intelligence guys have several likely candidates. The mob has moved onto the internet in big ways. Not just offshore gambling, but also pay porn sites and lots of scam and phishing sites as well. They try to hide behind elaborate security and distributed online sites which are nothing but gateway shells directing people to other places on the web in convoluted schemes to hide their tracks. The security people have been through tons of data from multiple servers that they think Weiss accessed and used after hacking into Dean's internet router connection and they now think his major clients may have been the mob. He lived here for several years and used his illegal hack into Dean's internet connection for several years. Some of the current protocols used on some of these sites show signs of having been designed by Weiss as they bear some of his signature way of doing things according to the experts in the bureau. Further they see them as more advanced than the stuff he did before he went into the witness protection program.”
“So it seems like the mob is after something else that Weiss created and may have left behind. We now suspect that the moving company and cleaning company hired to clean up and clean out the house before it was put on the market may have been controlled or infiltrated by them. Your two friends Bob and Mike commented on how thoroughly everything had been cleaned and gone over prior to their moving into that house. They also pointed out that the router signal booster repeater they found in the attic looked like it had been previously discovered as it was fairly easy to find but the police had not found or noticed it when they were searching the house for evidence prior to being turned over back to the estate,” Turner continued.
He then turned to Dean and asked directly; “did Weiss ever give you anything in all the time he lived next door?”
Dean shook his head no as he thought about his former neighbor and how quiet and withdrawn he was. Then he remembered that Weiss had given him something and pulled out his car keys. Looking at them and holding them up he said: “I never thought about it, but when I turned eighteen and got my mom's old car, Mr. Weiss congratulated me and gave me this key ring with the big initial 'W' on it. I put my car keys on it and have used it ever since.”