Russ Brandon hurriedly put the shotgun back into the hidden cabinet that was built into the closet. He had the cabinet installed in his office shortly after Dick Jauron was fired. He wouldn’t be caught unarmed again if he had anything to do with it.
There was a knock on the door. It was weak. He had just closed the gun cabinet. Should he go for the gun again? He had an instinct to, but left it there.
He walked over to the door, but paused. He could hear ragged breathing behind the door. It suddenly sharpened as if drawing whatever strength it could.
It rattled like a dying windmill. It had to be Wilson. Brandon paused. “What are you doing out of your ward?”
“Ain’t no cell that can’t be busted out of. Open this.” There was another knock, but it was louder. His walking cane? His old revolver?
Brandon opened the door. “Hurry.”
“When you’re this old,” Wilson let out a great, wet cough, “Ain’t no sense in hurrying.” He shuffled into the office using a cane for aid. As Brandon turned toward his desk he caught a glimpse of the revolver sticking out of Wilson’s old raincoat.
“What do you want, boss?”
“Brandon,” Wilson coughed again, “This Maroon fellow that you hired.”
“Are you sure he has his crap together?” Wilson asked as he collapsed into a chair in front of Brandon’s desk. As Brandon sat down himself, he could see a glimpse of Wilson’s nurse standing just outside his office. She hurriedly closed the door. Wilson had traveled with a nurse ever since the Phillips incident back in 2000.
Brandon did some quick calculations. If Wilson just arrived from Detroit, he probably had about six hours before he had to be back in the hospital ward for his next round of shots and treatments. He had paid enough just to have the scientists keep him alive. It cost a lot more money to pay off all the staff at the hospital and look the other way while he left, and Wilson was loath to do it.
He got the personal nurse through Medicare.
“We keep losing. That’s good. It keeps the money coming in,” Wilson said. His breathing was as rough as ever. He paused between almost every word. “You know,” he said with another greater cough, “With that game in Toronto he drew enough attention up there to almost ruin the whole operation. Someone might find out what we’re really up to in that town.” Wilson let out another cough. “I had to pay Ford almost half a million bucks just to show up and distract all those useless twerps at the News.”
Brandon wondered how Wilson was still alive.
“They won’t find out about Toronto,” Brandon said. “I’ve put enough static out there to throw people off the trail,” Brandon said as he rummaged through a drawer in his desk. He never liked looking a Wilson directly. It reminded him too much of a corpse.
“They better not,” Wilson warned. “It took me twenty years to set up that operation.” Another cough. “Do you know how much money I’ve made off of anacondas this past year alone?”
“Four-million nine-hundred and ninety-seven thousand two-hundred and seventy-four dollars and twenty-one cents,” Brandon replied. The illegal pet gambit was only a fraction of the Wilson crime organization, but it was Wilson’s darling.
“You’re a numbers guy, Brandon.” Wilson coughed out. “I ain’t asking about numbers now. This football team has one purpose and one purpose only. To keep my businesses out of sight.”
Wilson thrust himself out of his chair. He pointed his finger directly at Brandon. It was as if he was seventy again.
“You make sure this team keeps doing that. Do only just enough to keep people interested,” Wilson ordered. “I nearly lost it all when that Field of Dreams joke showed up wanting to do a frigging movie. They could’ve blown the whole works.”
Brandon was defensive.
“You gave me control of this team because you thought that you could pull off one last heist and you wanted someone to mind the store,” he said. “How can I keep doing that with you flopping down in here every other week giving me orders? I need you to trust me.”
“I don’t even trust the President, and I’m the one who got him elected twice,” Wilson said. He began hobbling to the door. “You’re still a fool if you think you can trust anyone.”
As he reached the door, Wilson turned one last time. The nurse from outside opened it for him. Her stare was a cold one.
“You make sure Maroon understands his role in the organization,” Wilson said, making that menacing smile of his.
Brandon stood up and shrugged in exasperation. “What do you want me to do?” he asked.
Wilson turned for the door. “Whatever is necessary.” He left. The door shut quietly behind him, and Brandon was left to front for the largest criminal enterprise in North America.
If only Marrone knew how deep he was in this thing.