At 8:00 AM Charles sat at a table in a conference room at the FBI’s Atlanta field office.
Drake was there, Wanda Kotterman, Paul Burke, and two other men who were introduced as Paul’s supervisor and a federal prosecutor.
“Your roll will be simple,” Paul said. “Get Gayle out of the house for two hours. When you leave, call Drake, and he will call us. We will send a team in and quickly install sound and video. On your return have Gayle call Abernathy. Say that you want to talk to them privately.”
“So what do I talk to them about?” Charles said.
“Pour your heart out,” Paul said. “Tell them you know and get them to admit to as many things as possible.”
“What in particular?” Charles said.
“Attempted murder and using your dealership to traffic drugs,” Paul said. “Mention Frankie Gomez. Tell them you suspected him. Knowing Abernathy he will be all to happy to supply other names to show how incomplete and bumbling you are.”
“What about Gayle, Drake’s mother?” Charles said.
“She’s the woman who wanted to kill you,” Paul said.
“Drake,” Charles said, “how are you feeling about all this?”
“Dad,” Drake said, “if trying to shoot you was a momentary lapse, that’s one thing, but she continued the affair with Abernathy from day one.”
“What about Missy?” Charles said. “She and Mom have argued since you’ve been gone. Missy doesn’t know about the attempt on your life or the trafficking, but she knows about Abernathy and knows it has been going on before your disappearance.”
“You never talked this over with her?” Charles said.
“No,” Drake said.
“That’s not what a brother would do,” Charles said, “but it’s what and FBI agent would do. How long have you worked for them?”
There were some uncomfortable glances.
“Wanda,” Charles said, “what are the chances of an FBI agent being on the plane with me?”
“When someone started looking for you in Atlanta we were notified,” Wanda said. “We contacted Mrs. Bradford. She was very concerned for your safety and was willing to assist. We could not dump this on you all at once. You had to come around in you own time and own way.”
“Six years ago the six months I thought you were in Europe you were actually being trained by the FBI?” Charles said.
“Yeah,” Drake said.
“How long have you known I wasn’t Charles Abbot?” Paul said to Drake.
“This was all news to us,” Drake said.
“Your son objected to us wanting to intervene when you started your quest across the country,” the supervisor said. “He threatened to quit. He said he was not going to leave you worse than what you were when this started. He risked prosecution himself.”
“Normally we don’t allow agents to go undercover or otherwise become involved in something the family is involved,” Paul said, “but this seemed to fall in place.”
“Wanda,” Charles said, “did you really buy a car from me?”
“Yeah,” Wanda said.
“Bring it in to get it serviced,” Charles said.
Wanda smiled. “I’ll call for an appointment.”
Charles stood and forced a smile. “I’ll call Gayle in a few minutes. I’ll tell her I’m at the edge of town and want to take her out for lunch. Can you do things then?”
The supervisor stood and reached across the table and shook Charles’ hand. “We’ll be in and out in no time. Just remember to give Drake a call and if you should happen to suddenly come back before the two hours are up, call Drake again; you know make something up.”
Charles reached for the doorknob.
“Dad,” Drake said, “Are you alright with this?”
“Sure,” Charles said, “It’s hard to explain, son, there’s just nothing there. I feel nothing for your mother.”
“What about you?” Charles said.
“That’s not my mother,” Drake said. “I don’t know what happened to her.”
“Do you know when it happened?” Charles said.
“Yeah, Dad,” Drake said. “I was 10 Missy was five she tried to drawn her in the pool. She said if I told she would say we were lying and kill us later. We said nothing and soon we did what you did – forgot. She hung on to you, Dad, because…”
“I was a meal ticket,” Charles said.
“I suppose,” Drake said.