“I think we got off on the wrong foot.”
“Is that what you call the intention to kill your son for money—the wrong foot?”
“This all could have been so different, son. It should never have come to this. Your mother had dreams of love and a family that made pancakes together on a Sunday morning. I offered her money, status, and security, but it wasn’t enough. Greedy bitch.”
“Say you kill me, Mitch. Say you actually succeed.” The sarcasm and disbelief in my words were hard to miss because we both knew he wouldn’t succeed. Mitch was just greedy and desperate enough to try despite the odds. “What happens when the money’s gone again? Will you gamble and drink it all away like you always do?”
“You don’t know me, boy. You don’t know what I’m capable of.”
“You’re right. I don’t know you, but I know a shitbag when I see one. You all smell the same.”
“Watch your mouth, boy.”
“Hit a nerve, did I?” I chuckled into the phone hoping to raise his anger enough to do something fatally stupid like come out of hiding.
“They really did a number on you, didn’t they?”
“I think it has been pretty obvious that if you weren’t twisted enough to sell your own son, my life would have been pretty much the same.”
“Did you know that you almost died, son? I was forced to settle for a home birth because your mother was less than cooperative. I couldn’t risk taking her to a hospital for obvious reasons. Despite the promise of wealth and status, your mother wanted to end things, but, of course, I couldn’t let her escape with my meal ticket.”
“Is there some point to your rambling?”
“Yes. By some stroke of misplaced luck, you came out in time, and the midwife I hired was able to unwrap the cord from your neck. If I had known what a waste you would be, I would have just let you die.”
“At least you know what your first mistake was because, when I find you, I will kill you slowly and painfully. The last thing you do in your pathetic life will be to scream and beg for mercy.”
“Those are some bold promises, son. They taught you well. I would have thought, by now, you would have forgotten about that part of your life and became… domesticated.”
“How much did they give you?”
“How much was I worth to you?”
“It wasn’t a matter of how much you were worth to me, but how much I could get for you.”
“How much?” I pushed through clenched teeth.
“I was paid ten grand for you. I wanted twenty, but they were a little less than compromising,” he chuckled.
“I’m not buying.”
“As hard up as you claimed to have been for money, you sold me for ten measly grand?”
“Believe me, nothing about it was ideal to me, but I had no choice. I couldn’t be caught with you. My brother isn’t an idiot. He would have suspected me, but he also would have known if he took the chance and accused me without proof, he would be leading me to Sophia. He wasn’t willing to put his precious son at risk. You, however, were dispensable.”
“He’s not John’s son, you dumb fuck.”
“Watch your mouth, boy. I am still your father.”
“Yeah? Well, you’re someone else’s father, too. Care to take a guess?”
“What are you saying, boy? Spit it out.” I smiled into the phone at the visual of my father’s ruffled feathers and smooth demeanor cracking.
“It seems that when your men put my brother in the hospital after you ran like a coward, it was discovered that John and Sophia’s blood wasn’t a possible combination match.
A brief silence descended before he laughed into the phone.
“So the little bastard is mine. I might have known…” I could imagine him stroking his chin as an evil leer spread like poison on his face. “All the better—more money for me.”
“Why don’t you come out of hiding so we can handle this man to man?”
“Man to man?”
“I’m not a little eight-year-old boy anymore, Mitch.”
“No, you’re not. You’re all grown up, and you even got yourself a lovely piece. I can tell you really like her. A smart man would keep her close. Tell me, son, are you close to her now?”
“Stay away from her, old man, or you’ll be wearing your balls around your neck at your funeral.”
I’d already done a one-eighty and was in my car before I finished the threat. His humorless chuckle filtered through the line as I clutched the phone to near breaking. I listened for background noise to gauge where he might be but didn’t hear anything past his slimy voice. I cranked my car and peeled out of the lot.
“We had a great conversation the last time we talked… She’s a good listener.”
“She’s inconsequential. I’m sure you know where I am, so why don’t you tell me where you are, and we can settle this once and for all.”
“The only thing needed to settle is your death certificate so I can collect my paycheck.”
“Then come fucking get it. What are you waiting for?”
“The opportune moment. I’m desperate, but I am not foolish. I like to think you got your brains from me,” he chuckled as if we were old friends. I never before felt the pressing need to watch the life fade from a person’s eyes.