A Crowdsourced Novel
Read it here – Say what comes next.
Roya abruptly turned serious. “That was unprofessional of me—taunting him from the window when he’s stalking us. Now he knows where we are.” She said something sharp in Russian. “We played these cat and mouse games, my Sergey and I. We took risks—enjoyed the game so much.”
Frank didn’t know what to make of the way she flipped from American to Russian or the way her sensuality ran hot and cold. He decided, for the moment, to take her at face value. “He’s gone, Roya. We lost him.”
“No.” Her voice cut. “He steals a car. Boards the train somewhere down the line.” She pinched her lower lip, then smiled and became the blonde American girl again. “The guy’s a ringer for you, except he’s a hunk—sorry, Frank, you’re in good shape but this guy packs more muscle. We need to know his game.”
Frank stared out the window at the lights of the passing industrial landscape and listened to the sound of the train while he went over the horrific events one-by-one. Roya kept calling it a game but this was real life and death. Then with a start, he turned to her. “Speck—Luigi called me Frank Speck. It’s our stalker’s name. When they kidnaped me, they thought they had him.
Roya waved a hand. “Let me think.” She held his gaze and her expression got more and more intense. “I’m still trying out the idea you’re who you say you are. Let’s say you’re for real and this other guy’s Speck. Maybe Speck’s some kind of alias. No, don’t interrupt. Must be big money—a deal gone wrong. Drugs. Guy’s got no field craft or we couldn’t ditch him so easy. He’s not a spook. Not a PI. Only half-good as a tail. Uomo Grasso wanted you so it’s personal with him.”
“Yeah, let’s follow that idea. Must be a big contract—I don’t know who but it’s big with front money—lots of money. Say somebody was supposed to get whacked and it didn’t come off. Grasso wants the torpedo and the torpedo wants to disappear. Who was supposed to die? Somebody real big—had to be.” She snapped her fingers. “So Speck set you up like a scapegoat. He needs you dead so he can melt away. The mob doesn’t do post-mortems—they do concrete—so they never find out, never look for him once you’re dead.” She dropped her gaze to the floor.
“What’s the matter? You were on a roll.”
She looked up. “It’s just that things don’t look so good for you, Frank. Problem is, if he can’t get the Mob to kill you, he’ll do it himself.” She glanced out the window. “Next station coming up.”
A sick feeling formed in Frank’s stomach. A man doesn’t like to be hunted and he was hunted by the Mob, the Feds and now this Speck—or whatever his name was. And what about Roya? Wasn’t she using him to get to Grasso? What would she do when she didn’t need him any more?
“Frank, we can’t risk getting off at a local platform. Too sparse. We stand out. We’ll go all the way to Union Station. Crowded this time of day. Just a couple blocks from there to the Ogilvie Metra. We take a train out of the City. My sister Tatiana has a nice place, way out in Crystal Lake. Maybe lay low a few days. Plan our next move.” She nodded. “Okay. Now we need some place to hide till the end of the line. Now where…” She bit her lip again.
* * *
Tony Ferragamo, alias Frank Speck swerved around cars. He clipped a fender and kept going, a blaring horn receding behind him. There was the station. He left the car in the street and ran for the platform.
* * *
Investigation work was often tedious, but solving the puzzle, the twists and turns—that’s what kept Agent Stan Harris going. Back in the Chicago FBI office, he slowly gathered bits and pieces. Then came the usual grind, going through the random data. Then finding a pattern—if he was lucky and after years of experience, Harris knew to trust his gut.
The legal wiretaps on Desi Grasso helped his intuition a lot. His field agents questioned the Joliet hotel clerk and Harris ran through the surveillance footage of the lobby and parking lot. His tech guys enhanced a few grainy shots and he sat reviewing them. There was Tony Ferragamo alias Frank Speck—or was it? He’d been Tony’s handler for a good 18 months and something didn’t click. This guy looked too lean. Why would he use a credit card in the name of Luigi Gastroni—one of Uomo’s favorite lieutenants? Ferragamo was hiding from those people. He studied a shot of the subject getting into a car, a woman behind the wheel. He was almost positive he’d seen her. He’d circulate that picture around the FBI offices. His gut told him he needed to take another look at the truck driver shooting in Missouri.
“Stan, we got something.”
At the interruption, Harris didn’t look up for a few moments, then: “Let’s have it, Paul.”
“Double murder at Joliet Airport.” He dropped a stack of photos on the desk. “It’s Luigi Gastroni and the big guy, one Giovanni Ragliani—they call him Gort—positive ID. Coronor’s on the way and we’re running prints now. And Stan—you gotta see this one for yourself.”
Harris pushed back from his desk and rose to his feet. “Let’s go. And get me the St. Louis Bureau. I’ll talk to them on the way to Joliet.”
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60’s Bond movie, then it’s out. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. If so, I’ll list your name prominently as a contributor. If not, then we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.