The chairman calls the meeting to order. First item on the agenda is the hunt for the Judas. Any news? He’s been sanctioned. Kostamo reports. All eyes turn to him. We tracked him down to that mountainous region of the former Soviet Union known as Georgia. Did you get him to talk? Deluca asks. Someone got there before us, Kostamo replies. Evidence of extended torture, human excrement, syringes and hypos laying around. Someone wanted to know what he knew. Who? The Asian asks. There were no calling cards or telltales or witnesses, just carnage. No one says anything for awhile.
Could he have staged it? Raul finally asks. No, Kostamo replies. We made positive identification and received subsequent DNA verification. He pauses. The entire complex was a slaughterhouse; it was so ugly that we fired it when we left.
How far behind the hitters were you? Deluca asks. My forensics guy said not more than a day, Kostamo replies. How did you track him down? The Hayseed asks. Kostamo steeples his hands and smiles his Cheshire cat grin: that’s need to know, and… I don’t need to know, the Hayseed finishes the cliché. Everyone chuckles drily around the table.
Well done, the Chairman says, and leads the others in a round of applause. The matter is closed.
The next item on the agenda is nominees for the open slot on the Executive Committee….
And having no further business, the meeting is adjourned. A word in private, Kostamo says to Raul, as everyone stands. No, Raul replies coldly. The men in the room stop what they’re doing and look between them, and tense as Kostamo reaches into his suitcoat and pulls out a manila letter envelope. This is for you. Raul makes no move to accept it. Let me see that, the Chairman says sternly. This is private correspondence, Kostamo protests, not Syndicate business. We’ll be the judge of that, Deluca says. Kostamo looks at Raul and shakes his head in disapproval, then hands the envelope to the man next to him, and it gradually makes its way around the table. Please return to your seats, gentlemen, the Chairman announces.
The Chairman opens the letter, and reads it carefully. Then he takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. This is awkward, he finally says. May I suggest a private conference with just the three of us, he says, looking at Kostamo and then Raul. I’d like to know what it says, Deluca interjects. I second that, the Asian says. Do you have any knowledge of its contents? The chairman asks Kostamo. No. I’m just the messenger. Read it, the Hayseed says impatiently. The Chairman folds the letter and puts it back in the envelope. It’s from Lana Radley. I’m not willing to read it aloud. But the jist is that the Jew is dictating terms to one of the members of the executive committee. And I find that completely unacceptable. I’ll read it, Deluca finally says. Lana is an associate of mine. The chairman gives the letter to Deluca, who begins reading it aloud as soon as he opens it.
Dona Tia stopped by my apartment this afternoon and delivered the verdict that you are off limits to me. That you must forswear any claims on me in order for Saul to consent to Samantha marrying your brother. I grieve.
At Xavier, one of my Jesuit professors liked to quote the rule of the founder of his order, St. Ignatius Loyola, not to make a decision from desolation, but to stay the course. And that is what I intend to do. I’m going to clear my name and get my badge back.
Bettina just got back in. “A faithful man who can find” is what she had to say. We both rejoice for Samantha. I will not repay the good done me with evil, but I cannot help but wish to see her uncle humbled. His design has always been to use her to factionalize the Syndicate. Now he seeks to separate brothers. Raul, you must not let that happen. The Bible story about the elders of Bethlehem trembling before the man of God comes to mind. At the wedding, have the priest ask her, “Samantha, daughter of God, comest thou peaceably into this house”? And I will be watching his face as I hear her answer, “Yea, peaceably”. And that will suffice me for the wrong I suffer.
Just back from dinner with my parents, where I gave Jax his ring back. He told me that he’d only take it back on one condition, that I tell my father about you. Then Simon outed you. Jax is his best friend; he couldn’t keep silent. But Bettina really came through for me and defended you. Based on the strength of her testimony, my father agreed to hear me out alone. I told him that you were one in a thousand, and that I’d never heard any man speak the way you do, and how you’d protected me, and had always been respectful.
Jax was waiting for me when my father dropped me off, fully expecting that’d he’d won. I let him know that our engagement was off: Plan A had been annulled, Plan B is a no go, so move on to Plan C. Bettina is upset with me for hurting him, but he gets it now. I ask only that you let him prosper in the way the Lord leads him.
Simon is going to the so-called “Holy Land” to get baptized. My mother asked him why hadn’t he proposed to Bettina yet, and he said he’s going to do that first. I’ve asked him to bring me back a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem. Growing up, I always liked reading about the mighty men of King David, who could kill with either hand, in and out of season, and stood their ground when others fled. They were completely devoted to the service of their lord, and sought to establish his kingdom with their whole heart. His wish was their command. I think you know the story. The three worthies broke through the Philistine garrison at Bethlehem to bring back a drink for their captain, and David refused to drink it, and poured it on the ground as an offering before God. And now all generations have the remembrance of these valiant men for our instruction. There is a time for war. There is a time to kill. There is a time to tear down.
Make ready, and afterwards build your house.
The letter is undated, Deluca says matter of factly, and then he folds it back up into the envelope, and hands it back to the chairman, who passes it down the line to Raul, who pockets it in his suitcoat. That’s quite a woman, the Hayseed declares. No one else says anything. I motion that we adjourn without further ado, Kostamo says suddenly. I second that motion, the Asian says drily. Opposed? The chairman asks, raising his own hand. No one else joins him. The motions carries.