Hot water ebbed and flowed against Bill’s chest. When the hot water receded, his skin felt sticky in the humid air. The low-hanging sun was still hot, and his once pale skin looked darker and redder. Bill reached for his cocktail. The chilly fruit juices with a splash of rum felt cool against his throat.
Harold sat across from him in the round hot tub. His eyes were closed, and his head tilted up towards the heavens. Harold’s face and head were mostly a mass of red hair, protecting him from the sun. The yacht gently rocked in the water and had appeared to put his brother to sleep.
The sound of footsteps coming up the ladder made Harold raise his head. Garcia appeared in a teal and yellow bathing suit with surfers printed on it. He had on his sunglasses and held what appeared to be two rum runners in large glasses.
“Mind if I join you, boys?”
Harold waved him over and put his head back against the railing. Garcia eased into the water. He put one drink on the decking near him and swallowed down half a glass of the other before setting it down.
Garcia said, “Frank sure knows how to make a good rum runner.”
Harold spoke without raising his head, “What brings you up here? You don’t wear those sunglasses without reason.”
Garcia responded, “The sun’s bright.”
Harold lifted his head, “It’s almost sundown. Please don’t tell me you’re interrupting a little quiet brother time for no reason.”
“I didn’t realize I’m intruding.”
Bill said, “You’re not.”
Harold caught Bill’s attention by raising his index finger from the rail where it rested. “You may be sorry. The last time Garcia and I had a quiet chat, I couldn’t drink coffee for a month.”
Garcia said, “That’s not true.”
A grin poked out from Harold’s hairy face.
Bill said, “I take it that’s an inside joke.”
Both men nodded.
Bill asked, “What’s the deal between Maria and Alice?”
Harold answered, “Oh, you don’t cross paths with Maria. I grew up with her. She was like the older sister most guys loved and feared. She would cover my tracks when it would keep me out of trouble with my parents, but if my friends and I did anything she didn’t approve of, she would either go to mom and dad or face off with my buddies.”
Bill asked, “Did Alice do something to you?”
Garcia interjected, “Not to Harold. Joshua and Maria were at the orphanage studying your case, and Maria hit it off with the orphans. We had to pull them out of the area when our sting with Chuck went sideways. That woman does not like to be kept at home or anywhere she doesn’t have work to do.”
Harold interjected, “Don’t forget Haidar shooting Darla. Thankfully, it was a flesh wound in the shoulder. Unfortunately, once Maria considers you family, she takes any sort of attack very personally, even when it doesn’t involve her.”
Bill asked, “So, she blames Alice?”
Harold answered, “Not without cause. Joshua has been involved with most of our work before and after the orphanage. That only made Maria angrier. She feels like a third wheel, or at least not appreciated. Alice made the mistake of talking with her. Let’s just say Maria found their first conversation a little condescending.”
Garcia asked Harold, “What’s the temperature today in the tub?”
Harold answered, “I have it down to one hundred, so we can stay in here as long as we like.”
“Good. I wanted to talk to Bill, but you’re welcome to stay. It’s about Chuck, Joshua, and yourself. You already know the story.”
Harold laid his head back on the rail, “I like a good bedtime story.”
Garcia turned his sunglasses to Bill. “I know you’re wondering how you ended up here. I can provide you some of the answers if you want them.”
Bill leaned forward, “Are you kidding?”
“I’ve known about you and your brother since Harold was adopted as a toddler. I was a friend of Richard Brown, his father. Well, it was an assignment, but we became friends. I had asked for a job stateside. The CIA basically gave me babysitting duty over Richard and Barbara, Harold’s mom. We were still in the cold war, and anyone dealing with nuclear weapons was a high-security risk.
“Richard and I hit it off, and he confided in me that he was planning to adopt a son since they couldn’t have kids. I told him I might have a lead for him in North Carolina. Before he was at the orphanage, Joshua worked in Army Intelligence. He mostly profiled various terrorists and Soviet spies. He hated the work, but it gave him some practical experience while deciding what he wanted to do with his life.
“So, Harold was adopted by the Browns. After they brought him home, Harold begged them to adopt you. However, there was a problem. Harold’s biological father.”
Harold interrupted, “Sperm donor and rapist.”
Bill asked, “What?”
Harold raised his head and looked at Bill. “My uncle raped our mother, and I was the result.”
Garcia jumped in, “It’s true. To make matters worse, he had tried to get custody, but the courts obviously said no. Harold’s biological father got nabbed a short time later for smuggling drugs. He jumped bail and has been missing ever since.
“We hid Harold’s adoption from his biological father by changing his given name. California seals the adoption records, so we knew Harold would not be traceable. However, we were afraid that if the Browns adopted you, you would lead Harold’s father right to the Browns. For security reasons, I couldn’t let that happen.”
Bill asked, “Why couldn’t you just change my name?”
Garcia answered, “Your mother, Rachael, would not give up custody. The adoption would have gone through a drawn-out legal drama. That would have attracted attention at some point. I worked with Adam and Joshua to make sure the two of you were separated.”
Bill said, “So that’s why Joshua thought Harold and I might be dangerous.”
Garcia answered, “Somewhat. He was concerned with Harold’s outrage and your previous episodes before he hypnotized you. In any case, I couldn’t allow the adoption to keep Richard safe.
“This past year has been one misstep after another. I feel like we’ve all been one step behind Chuck. He was involved with the men who blackmailed Harold’s dad with fake evidence of an affair. After Richard killed himself, Chuck backed away. His partner, John Richmond decided he would try and take Parabolic Defense Systems himself, and the rest is history.”
Bill rubbed his forehead, “What does that have to do with Chuck, and me, now?”
Garcia continued, “I hadn’t made the connection when we first engaged Chuck. He was interested in buying weapons on the black market from Harold. We had led Chuck to believe that PDS was about to go bankrupt and Harold was desperate. On the day of the sting, things turned ugly. Chuck detected a faulty computer chip and discovered our trackers. All hell broke loose. The only reason we survived was Darla and Harold. They had previously saved Chuck’s life from an employee who tried to kill him.
“Chuck got away. He led us to believe he wanted revenge, to prove to people he was still in charge. This entire time we thought he was targeting me and possibly Alice if he found out about her. Now, we don’t know what he wants, and we don’t know why.”
Bill asked, “Could any of this link to Harold’s father?”
Harold interrupted, “Sperm rapist.”
Garcia answered, “Possibly. I just don’t know why he would be doing this now?”
Bill asked, “Do you know his name?”
“What is it?” asked Bill.
Harold started silently moving his lips.
Garcia answered, “That’s need to know.”
Bill asked, “Does Harold know it?”
Harold answered, “No. It’s probably just as well. I might kill him if I met him.”
Garcia continued, “I just wanted you to understand a little bit of what’s going on. Harold has wanted to be with you since you were kids. I know you’ve lost the family you were hoping to have, but you do have a brother who loves you. No matter what happens with Chuck, Harold is still your brother.”
Bill sighed. Garcia finished off the other half of his first glass and started on the second.
Bill finally answered. “I appreciate that. I just want you to know, my anger with Chuck isn’t about all of this. It’s about Lori. Chuck took away not only my wife to be but my child. No offense to my brother, but he can’t replace them.”
“None taken,” said Harold.
Garcia took off his sunglasses, placed them next to his empty glass, and looked Bill in the eye. “I can appreciate what you’re feeling. I’m protective of the people I love too, but you need to remember this whole thing is greater than your revenge. Chuck is the only person who knows why he wants your brother. It could relate to anything. Nukes, conventional weapons, maybe it’s even someone seeking revenge for what happened with John Richmond. We don’t know.
“If you kill Chuck, we may not find out, and your brother and his family could still be in danger.”
Bill slid his hands under the water and stared at his palms. He finally looked up, “I’ll do my best, but if he tries to hurt Carol, all bets are off.”
Garcia slid his sunglasses back on. “Fair enough. I’ll see you at dinner, gentlemen.”
Garcia pushed himself out of the hot tub, threw a dry towel over his shoulder, grabbed his two glasses, and went dripping down the staircase.