Gotham City Gazette
Gotham Story Week
April 2014
Author : Various

Don Bernstein Starts The Week

It was a rainy Sunday morning  in October and the sky was grey and dark and thick with clouds.   The thunder startled Dan who was always on edge and made him spill his coffee on his couch and all over the framed picture of his younger brother Todd who he had not seen ever since he was lost at sea exactly a year ago.

 

He wiped the coffee off the couch with a towel, thinking to himself how much he missed his brother.   Then he heard a voice in his head.  “Use a regular towel to clean up your mess – not a paper towel”  – that is what  Esperanza, his beautiful dark haired Argentine wife always used to say with an accent.   Since she left, Dan was always spilling something and had to wash a lot of towels.   Not that he cared anymore what Espi used to say -- he called her Espi, even though she hated it, he was to find out.

 

They had met in traffic court six years ago.  She looked at him and smiled.   He came out of it with a lunch date, and not long afterwards they were married.

 

Wiping up the coffee stains, he thought about the time they were sitting at the bar in the lobby of The Coronado Hotel only eight months ago.  She was holding Dan tight and crying and saying she loved him.  She looked so beautiful and he wondered how he was so lucky.   One week later Esperanza took their three year old son Duardo and left for Argentina to visit her mother.  Days later she emailed Dan and said that they were not coming back.

 

Dan could not understand.  There were no warnings.  He wondered if Espi left him for that Spanish matador, El Guapo, who she had lived with in Spain briefly before she moved to the U.S. and met Dan, and who seemed to always reappear.  He never understood how she could have fallen for someone who went to work wearing tights and stabbed large animals, and it made him grind his teeth to even think about El Guapo.

 

Since that day she left eight months ago, Dan was barely able to work.  His dissertation was in shambles and he could not focus.  He barely slept and ate only Hershey bars.  His apartment was a mess and what little money he had he was now spending on lawyers.

 

The only happy moment since Espi fled was Dan’s high school reunion a month ago.  His good friend Jerry forced him to go.  “Go,” Jerry said, “it will be good for you.”  Dan was surprised to see Roberta Miller there sitting at a table eating stuffed mushroom caps.  He had not seen her in fifteen years.  Her hair was still red and long. He remembered when they were twelve years old sitting one summer behind a cabin near Dead Bone Lake.  They were spinning around and around on a merry go round and then something came over him and he grabbed and kissed Roberta until he got dizzy from the spinning and threw up all over her.   He always had a crush on Roberta.  They went for a drink after the reunion party ended and Roberta asked Dan to call her sometime.  But he was just such a mess now.  I should call Roberta, he would say to himself, she could be a good friend.   It would have to wait.  He had more urgent plans.

 

Dan wiped the coffee stains off the couch and carpet gently with a towel, hearing Espi in his head telling him to press, not wipe, and not too hard, and not to step on the wet spot.

 

The courts in Argentina were useless.  Over the past week Dan had decided to go to Argentina and find them.  His best information was that Duardo and Espi were living in the town of Tapalque, about two hundred kilometers southwest of Buenos Aires.   That is where he was going to go in two days.

 

First he would see his lawyer Otto Foy Monday morning.  Foy was plump and wore a pinky ring and a bow tie, and had a bald head that shined like a washed apple.  Dan didn’t particularly like him, and Foy told Dan not to go to Tapalque.  It did not make sense.  Dan had not even met the lawyer Foy hired in Buenos Aires, Alfredo Fransisco Jesus de Goya, and he wanted to speak with him face to face.

 

In planning his trip though his fears confronted him.  He was afraid of being hijacked.  Ever since the ship his brother Todd was working on was hijacked near Somalia a year ago, Dan was afraid to travel.  He was especially afraid of flying.

 

 

Still, Dan was going to Tapalque.  Whether big Otto or anyone else liked it or not. He finished cleaning the spilled coffee, pulled a suitcase out of the closet, and started to pack.

 

Rona Gura - Episode Two

As Dan began packing, his resolution began to fade. So he reached for a different drink, one that would help give him the courage he needed to forge ahead with his plans. As he drank from a bottle of whiskey, questions began to swirl in his head.

 

How was it that Duardo was able to take Espi to Argentina when Dan knew that Espi did not have a passport? Dan was certain that he never applied for one for his young son. Why was Dan specifically advised by Foy not to seek any help from the American courts or, more significantly, from any American politician? And most importantly, why did Foy advise him not to mention a word of what he was going through to anyone? Why could he not go to the press with his story as other fathers like him had done?

 

What was it about his son’s disappearance that required secrecy?

 

As Dan continued to pack and the questions came to mind more rapidly, he continued to drink the whiskey. He suddenly realized what he had to do and reached for his cell phone. The next thing he knew, however, it was morning. He woke up on the couch to the sound of his doorbell ringing. In his hand was his cell phone. He could not recall who he had called or what he had said.

 

 

 

As Dan was about to check his phone to see who he had called, the doorbell began to ring more incessantly. Thinking it was his cab to the airport, Dan pulled himself up and gathered his luggage and travel documents. When Dan opened the door, he saw a long black sedan parked by his driveway with his friend Jerry standing beside it. He was shocked to also see Roberta standing by his front door with a familiar looking man standing beside her. The man spoke in a soft memorable voice,

 

“Hello big brother, you have no idea how badly you need our help. You would not have survived your little trip without us. We’re taking you to Argentina with us. Get in the car.”

 

Before Dan could utter a word, he was ushered into the backseat of the sedan with Roberta and the man who appeared to be his brother, Todd. As Jerry drove the car away, Roberta began to speak, “All of your questions will be answered Dan. But that phone call you made last night put this mission in jeopardy. I am sorry to have to do this.” She then pulled out a liquid soaked cloth and placed it over Dan’s nose and mouth. “Just trust us Dan,” she said “and breathe deeply.”

 

 

As he did, his world went black.

 

Nancy Schess - Espisode 3

As the sedan pulled away, Dan fell over into Roberta’s lap. Confounded by a mix of emotions, Roberta looked down at Dan who now seemed peaceful, not the agitated man he had been just a little while before. She found herself stroking his hair, something she had only dreamed about. Of course, Roberta knew that this calm was false, or better put, drug induced, but she decided to enjoy it if only for the short time they would be together in the sedan. Roberta knew that they would soon be separated again – even if Todd didn’t.

 

Roberta glanced over at Todd who seemed not to even notice what was going on around him. Todd was looking out the window transfixed by the sights, the park they were passing and soon the open fields and grazing horses. Odd, she thought. Todd’s brother was passed out in her lap but Todd wouldn’t even look down. Forget about conversation. Todd, who had been full of stories and ideas on the way to pick Dan up, was now stone silent.

 

As Todd gazed out the window, his thoughts were drawn to Espi. Sure, he was worried about Dan but mostly about what Dan would think when he woke up and realized that Todd wasn’t lost at sea. Truth be told, Todd wasn’t in the mood to explain the past year. Espi had been so very sad, scared and unsure that last time they were together. Todd could still hear the controlled fear in her voice. They were in this same sedan and traveling on this same road. Todd took comfort then in the fact that Espi would soon be safe – that he would be able to hold her hand through the trauma and place her safely on the other side.

 

Now he took comfort in the fact that he would be able to do the same for his older brother. Dan had always been there for him when they were growing up. It hadn’t been easy. Their parents were always fighting, loud ugly fights, but Dan had played buffer so that Todd wouldn’t feel their anger.

 

Todd didn’t even realize that neither he nor Roberta had spoken a word since they had picked Dan up. That silence, however, was soon to be broken. The sedan came to a screeching halt and there was noise outside. Todd was confused, not knowing exactly where they were. Dan was still passed out in Roberta’s lap. She was strangely calm but Todd’s antennae were up. Something was terribly wrong.

 

 

Muffled male voices outside the car came closer. A loud pounding on the roof shook Todd in his seat. Todd looked frantically to Roberta. She leaned over and opened the car door. In the blink of an eye, Dan was gone. Whisked away from the calm of Roberta’s lap but nowhere that Todd could see.

 

Erik Scheibe - Espisode 4

Roberta acted calm on the outside, but on the inside realized that her time was up.  Todd had brought her into the picture knowing that his brother would trust her.  She had no reason not to get involved, no reason to turn down the money and no reason to rattle the cage once she knew in her gut that she'd never get the money.  Her lonely life of prostitution and drug abuse had sealed her destiny long before she was enticed and sacrificed by Todd.  As much as the promise of wealth had been the lure that hooked her, probably only Todd knew that it was the chance to look out for an old friend that motivated her complicity in the ruse.  A ruse that she knew would come to no good, not for her, not for anyone.  She had been ready to go for a long time.  The chance to throw a lifeline to a former love was enough to close her eyes and let go.

 

Todd had thought that his involvement would have inherently kept his brother safe.  However as the black sedan sped away, he looked out the rear window and saw one of the cloaked figures irrelevantly hold a pistol to Roberta's head and uncaringly snuff the challenged life from her body with one distance-muffled shot to the head.  Todd rode in the back seat wondering if his life's work was currency enough to buy his brother's life.  He wondered if the whole game had been a mistake, regardless of how large the stakes may have been.  His life was one that continuously fluctuated between immense control and complete reckless abandon.  He could only do what he could do.  He had done his best to save his brother's life, but it was now out of his hands.  He had to focus on his mission and pray silently that his luck, his God, his influence or his power would influence someone to decide to spare his brothers life.  It was as helpless a feeling as he had ever imagined someone could feel.  A feeling he had probably instilled in many during his prodigious career.

 

Dan slowly woke up in a marginally comfortable bed with a sizably more than marginal headache.  He tried to figure out what had happened.  Was it a dream?  He thought that Roberta and Todd had showed up at his door, but neither part of his recollection made sense.  He had planned to head to the airport, planned to go looking for Espi and Duardo.  Now he was at best looking for answers...and aspirin.  As he gathered himself, he was aware of the heat.  Where was he?  As he continued to awake, his memory seemed more and more real.  That wasn't a dream!  It was Roberta and it was Todd.  He was alive!?!  How did they arrive at his home, and where and why had they taken him.  He didn't seem to be a prisoner, or at least he didn't seem to be restricted in any way.  He walked outside into the sun and once again couldn't believe what he saw.

 

Todd arrived at the embassy and was briskly escorted inside.  He couldn't help but regret whether his plan to protect Espi by establishing her cover as being his brothers' wife was as selfish as it was foolish.   As much as he wanted his brother to live, how could he ever face him if he discovered that his wife was a plant...that the boy he believed to be his own son was actually his brother's son.  Duardo wasn't part of the plan, but it would absolutely be part of the plan's unraveling.  Todd occasionally allowed himself scant moments of lament, before pulling himself back upon the preverbial horse to focus on their crucial objective.  In the end, it would all be worth it, wouldn't it?

 

Todd had convinced himself that he was through taking orders, through degrading his own humanity with these insufferable transgressions.  He practically strode into the room with every intention of re-taking control of his pathetic life.  That was when his pathetic life got tragically and horrifically worse.  His spirit instantly cascaded into the two large video screens before him.  One of the screens showed his beloved Esperanza sitting in a chair with her arms and legs shackled down and a gag over her mouth.  The other screen showed Duardo playing in a courtyard.  He was kicking a soccer ball back and forth with an unshaven man.  It was El Guapo who the agency had provided for him to protect his family when he couldn't be around.  He understood instantly that the message was that El Guapo was no longer meant for their protection.

 

 

If Ambassador Mateo had looked like Brad Pitt or Jon Hamm sitting between the video screens, he would still have been the most disgusting sight on Earth.  Of course he didn't.  His greasy slicked back, black hair and beady eyes and his missing chin completed the scurrilous vision of this dispicable figure.  If Todd could have crushed his windpipe with the pain welling up inside of his heart, the story would have ended right then and there, but he couldn't...thus the story struggled on.

 

Ben Geizhals - Episode 5

Dan shaded his eyes as they adjusted to the sunlight and he tried to fathom what he saw. There, on the far side of the courtyard was Duardo kicking a soccer ball as only a three-year old could to an unshaven man. But this was no playground. Dan looked up at the high walls surrounding the courtyard. The razor wire that capped the walls and the three cameras confirmed that his first impression was wrong. Wherever he was, he wasn't leaving.


Where was he? He questioned again his memory of the car ride that brought him to this place. His headache reminded him that he had been drugged. But there was Duardo and he had to get closer...


The grasp stopped him in his tracks. As he resisted, he was dragged away from the image of Duardo. As he tried to call out, the hand muzzled his mouth. He was turned around by the two men when he was a few feet from the door.


As Todd watched the screens on either side of the Ambassador, the camera focused on Espi began to scan the room. He saw two men dragging another toward a chair about five feet from where Espi was strapped. The man, slumped over, seemed too tired to struggle as he was strapped and shackled in the chair and gagged. When his head rolled back, Todd realized that it was Dan.


His fist clenched,Todd took one step toward the Ambassador but thought better of it and stepped back.


The Ambassador seemed to be enjoying the scene on the screen and turned to Todd. “As you can see, you won't be needing that airplane ticket. It was all only a car-ride away. Also, assuming that you were somehow complicit in Roberta’s plan, you know that her accomplices are all meeting the same fate as she as we speak. As far as we could tell, Jerry knew nothing, but we had to be sure and it will look like a car accident.”


“You can see that your plans for the safety of your wife and son were not as secure as you thought. The happy family that you made your brother a part of was always under surveillance. We also watched you for all those years while you were working for all sides. You thought you had it covered and everyone was safe. You were wrong. No-one was safe. But things were under control until Somalia. And, by the way, El Guapo played soccer before becoming a bull-fighter. We thought Duardo could use a few pointers so El Guapo is in the yard playing with your son. Although it is not usually what El Guapo does, he is expert in inflicting pain on animals and others, he will do anything we say.”

 


“Now that I have your attention Todd, let’s talk about the shipment that was intended for my country. And please, don’t waste our time talking about the Somali pirates....”

 

Fred Klein - Episode 6

 

To: Todd Schultz
Dated: 4/25/14
FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

Following is an update on our specific efforts to reseed the Worldwide Hitler Youth.

As you well know, The Fathers of the Fourth Reich were Dr. Josef Mengle, Adolf Eichman, Franz Stangl and Claus Barbie who pioneered our movement in Argentina with the help of Juan Peron in late 1946 through 1950.

Eventually over 10,000 former members of our German military made it safely to South America through ODESSA escape routes.

With the inevitable passage of time these "Pioneers" have departed and it remains for us to replenish our ranks in an effort to achieve our goals. An innovative initiative was to dispatch loyal adherents to the United States to prospect and procreate [it matters not who the true father is as long as the baby was born on American soil and entitled to a United States Passport]. Once done all such progeny must be brought back to Argentina for indoctrination and nurturing.

Argentine Agent Esperanza fulfilled her task, but blundered badly when she mentioned the new Homeland-Argentina.

Our execution would have been flawless if the husband, your brother, had not attempted to pursue her here. It is our current mission to neutralize or eliminate him, the mother and even you if they stand in the way of our new Master Plan.

We need the shipment of kinder to continue unabated at all costs.

As always, once you have digested this entry it should be destroyed.

There is no excuse or sympathy for failure!

 

Mitch Tobol - Episode 7

As Todd read the confidential document put in front of him he felt his neck tense and his hands slowly start to clench. It seemed like an eternity ago when he had committed himself to the movement. They had put him in the town of Candido Godoi monitoring all the twins to see which had potential. It was boring work but he wanted to be a part of something bigger and he was witnessing Mengle's legacy.

 

But now his plan was all screwed up. He didn't think Dan would have bonded with Espi and the boy so much that he would follow them to Argentina. Todd slumped in the chair as he gazed upon Espi and Dan on the screens bound and gagged. He had to get Dan out of here. Espi's an agent and understands. Dan on the other hand...

 

The Ambassador seeing the helplessness on Todd's face smiled a bit thinking he had him cornered. He started to soften his tone. "Todd," the Ambassador started, "We are on a long journey and you are a very important part..." Todd watched the Ambassador's mouth move but couldn't hear a word. All he wanted was to get his brother out of here. It was then that Todd realized he had leverage...the ship, the kinder...suddenly he felt empowered.

 

He immediately stood up which startled the Ambassador who stopped talking. "Ambassador." Todd spoke as forcefully as he could, "We both have something each other desires. I want my brother sent back home, unharmed and you want the children." The Ambassador shot back "You are in no position to negotia..." Todd cut him off "All of the twins are safe and sound right now. If you don't release Dan you'll never find them. For myself and Espi, do what you want but Dan must be set free immediately and left alone." He knew they would never harm Duardo.

 

The Ambassador stood there staring at Todd. He admired Todd's sacrifice for his older brother. He wondered if his brother would have done the same. He looked at the guards and made a very small gesture.

 

 

Within in seconds Todd watched as the guards untied Dan and pulled him out of the room. He sat down relieved that his brother would live.

 

Don Bernstein - The Final Chapter

Dan was sitting on his bed in a run down hotel in Colonia, Uruguay, just across Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. He was smoking a cigarette and watching the sun set from his window.  Dan never smoked. He scratched his still sprouting two week old beard and tried to remember what had happened, but it had all been so confusing.  Every day brought a sudden change and none of it made sense.  All he wanted was to see his wife and young son and bring them home, but somehow he found himself in a 1970's spy movie.

 

 

After he was released Dan had been taken to Washington, D.C. where for two days he had been debriefed by two men from the State Department.  They explained nothing, but on the second day in walked Otto Foy, his lawyer.  And Todd. Todd worked for the U.S. Government, he was a plant with Odessa. A double agent. Foy himself cooperated with the federal authorities whenever he was involved in a case where children were abducted to South America.  He knew Dan would only get into trouble had he flown alone to Tapalque but could not stop him.  Roberta was a CIA agent hot on Odessa's trail.  She and Todd also tried to stop Dan, but it was too late.

 

 

Todd explained to Dan that Todd's own involvement was nearly compromised a year ago which is why the American government had to feign his disappearance.  Todd also told Dan that Espi was dead.  She had not planned to fall in love with Dan, but she had, an Odessa rule broken. They did not tolerate excuses or failure. She became too much of a risk and had to be eliminated; there was no point looking for her anymore Todd said.  What Todd did not tell him of course was the Duardo was his son, not Dan's.  He would never tell him that.  Some matter, Foy and Todd agreed, Dan could not know.

 

The April 25th Odessa File memo to Todd and his threats that resulted in Dan's release made Todd realize that his effectiveness as a double agent was over. He would never have their full confidence again. Todd knew that he had one more mission however. He gave his older brother papers and a passport with an alias identity and told him to meet him in Colonia, Uruguay in five days time.

 

 

Sitting in Colonia now,there was a knock on his hotel door.  A beautiful redhead stood there in stone silence.  It was Roberta. Dan's cigarette fell out of his mouth.  She kissed him and pushed him back into the room.  She explained that when they were in the car that Monday morning two weeks ago she knew they were being followed.  She could not compromise her mission and had to fake her own execution.  She told Dan that now she knew where Duardo was and the next morning they were going to meet Todd outside Buenos Aires. "We are going to need our rest while we can," she said, "get in bed.  And don't throw up on me."

 

The next day, after a ferry took them across Rio de la Plata, and after a bus ride on winding back roads, they found themselves on the outskirts of Buenos Aires where they met Todd in a secluded building.  He showed Dan a cache of weapons. Todd explained that they were going to be driven to Tapalque and to do exactly as he and Roberta said.

 

 

After a long car ride they checked into a hotel ten miles out of Tapalque.  The next morning at sunrise they awoke and Todd threw Dan an M16 military automatic rifle with a long scope.  "You have twenty minutes to learn how to use this," he told his brother.  "Then we go."  Dan was an intellectual with soft smooth hands.  He was writing a doctoral dissertation on the mating habits of blue whales and its effect on migration.  He knew nothing about guns. But it did not matter.  He would be ready for whatever they planned.

 

They drove to Tapalque and hiked to a small mound overlooking a fenced in open area.  "Now we wait," Roberta said.  After an hour, a man came outside.  He removed his had and threw a cigarette in the dirt and crushed it with his foot.  "He is with us," Todd said, "that is the signal.  Get ready."  Todd and Roberta readied their weapons.  In five minutes, out walked Duardo holding a soccer ball. And behind him, El Guapo.  "A scoundrel," Roberta said.  "A fascist scoundrel.  He orchestrated this.  He took your wife and son."

 

 

Dan's blood started to boil.  He hated El Guapo.  And now, seeing him with his son, he wanted to jump on him and cut his throat open with a dull, dirty knife.  "Make sure they are not too close," Todd said to himself.  Duardo was playing and El Guapo leaned against the wall of the building.  "It is clear," Roberta said.  Todd lined him up in the scope of his rifle.  He was about to fire and then looked at his brother.  "Take him," Todd said.  "Now! Take him!" and with that command Dan pulled back on the trigger, and in an instant El Guapo's head exploded and the wall behind him was splattered dark, dripping red.  The other man ran out, scooped up the screaming young boy and ran.

 

 

It took three days, first at sea, then through Uruguay and Brazil for Roberta, Todd, Dan and Duardo to reach home. Roberta stayed with Dan and Duardo for a week to help him return to normalcy, and for protection.  A few days later Todd paid a visit.  He explained that Odessa would not be looking for Dan.  One "shipment" lost is not worth the effort or the risk.  But they would be looking for Todd.  For that reason, he had to disappear again.  For his own safety, Dan would not know where his brother was and would not be able to get in touch with him for a very long time.

 

 

"You know, she loved you,"  Todd said as he stood up to say goodbye.  Dan did not answer. He could not think about Esperanza without searing pain.  "And the little boy," Todd added, "he looks just like his daddy."  That made Dan smile.

 

 

The brothers hugged.  "I love you," Todd say. "I am sorry."

 

"For what?" Dan asked. "You saved my life."  Todd did not answer.  He glanced at Roberta and turned around.

 

 

Todd walked out the door to a waiting car.  He opened the back door and slid in, next to a beautiful dark haired woman whose face was hidden behind dark glasses, and in a moment they were gone.

Copyright © 2018 Gotham City Networking, Inc.