Antrim had been waiting for an opening. Sure, this should be handled slowly and carefully, but he had to maximize the short amount of time he’d managed to snare. His only hope was that Gary Malone would demand more time. Thanks to the Georgia surveillance and wiretaps he had some idea what had happened between mother and son. But apparently, more significant face-to-face conversations had occurred for Gary to specifically ask about his mother’s sordid past.

“Who was my mother seeing?” Gary asked him. “She won’t tell me much.”

“Why is it so important?” He was hoping the boy would realize that he had to give in order to receive.

“It involves my dad.” Gary paused. “Actually it involves another dad. Or birth father. Whatever you call him. My mother had an affair and I was born.”

“How do you feel about that?”

“I don’t know what to think. But she lied to me and my dad for a long time.”

He’d imagined this moment since that day in the mall when he first saw Gary. He’d been involved with a lot of women. But none had ever, to his knowledge, become pregnant. He’d actually thought the time for him to be a father had passed, but Pam Malone’s admission had changed his thinking. Now here he was with an opportunity — one Pam never would have provided him. Her bitter denials alone had been enough to spur him forward. Who the hell did she think she was? He almost smiled. No failure had occurred in this operation. Everything had played out perfectly.

“Come with me,” he said to Gary.

He led the boy back toward the office. The warehouse landlord thought this was a start-up operation for a manufacturing concern, Antrim part of the advance team. So far no one had questioned anything, nor interfered, the rent paid far in advance. A restroom jutted from one side of the office, its door opening into the warehouse. He stepped inside, switched on the light, and motioned for Gary to come close.

He pointed at the mirror. “Look at your eyes. What color are they?”

“Gray. They’ve always been that.”

“Your mother’s are blue and your dad’s are green. Look at mine.”

He watched as Gary focused on his irises.

“They’re gray,” the boy said.

He said nothing and allowed the moment to sink in.

And it did.

“You’re the man my mother was seeing?”

He nodded.

Shocked filled Gary’s face. “And you didn’t know, either?”

He shook his head. “Not until that day in the mall, when I saw you. I then went to your mother’s office and confronted her and she admitted it was true.”

“She never told me that.”

“I’m afraid she didn’t want either of us to know the truth.”

“How did you manage to find me and my dad?” Gary asked. “How did we get here?”

He couldn’t tell him the truth. That he’d been watching both Gary and his mother. That he’d arranged for Malone to escort Ian Dunne to London. So he simply said, “One of those lucky breaks in life.”

Of course, he also could not say that Norse and Devene worked for him and that Gary’s “capture” had been a ruse, a way not only for father and son to connect but for Gary and Cotton Malone to both feel grateful. Of course, his men were supposed to corral Ian Dunne, too. But when Dunne ultimately fled, he’d modified the plan as a way to occupy Malone.

“I’m your birth father,” he said to Gary.

* * *

Gary did not know what to say. He’d wrestled with the fact that there was another man responsible for his creation, wanting to know who that was, demanding from his mother that she tell him the truth.

Now here he was.

But was it real?

His doubts must have been evident because Antrim laid a hand on his shoulder and said, “There’s a simple way to be sure. We can do a DNA test.”

“Maybe we ought to.”

“I thought you might want to do that. I have some swabs in the office. Just a swish around your cheek and we can have it done. I know a lab here in town that can do the test fast.”

“It’s only going to say what we both know, right?”

Antrim nodded. “Your face. Your eyes. Your build. They’re all mine. And your mother admitted that it was true. But I don’t want there to be any doubt.”

He was ill prepared for this. He’d come to the conclusion that he would never know the identity of his birth father.

“What do we do now?” he asked Antrim.

“Get to know each other. Neither one of us had that opportunity before.”

“But what about my dad?”

“We tell him when he gets back.”

For some reason, the prospect of that conversation bothered him. He felt awkward. Uncomfortable. Two men. Both his father.

Only in different ways.

Again, Antrim sensed his anxiety. “Don’t worry. Cotton seems like a good guy. Maybe he’ll be relieved to know, too?”

Maybe so.

* * *

Antrim did his best to calm the boy’s fears, but he had no intention of telling Cotton Malone anything. Prior to this moment he hadn’t made any final decisions as to what would be done after he told Gary the truth.

He’d wanted to see the boy’s reaction.

Which had been good.

He doubted there’d be room for two dads in Gary’s life. That could become awkward. But why should there be? This boy was his. Not a drop of Malone blood flowed in his veins.

One dad was plenty enough.

His real dad.

So he made a decision.

Operation King’s Deception would end.

He’d be paid his five million pounds from the Daedalus Society.

But he’d also demand one other thing.

The death of Cotton Malone.


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