By midday, the sheriff’s office was filled with scared, wounded youths. Wycross marveled that not one was Tobias’ top followers. These were just the little ones. Yet, each had the same story as Stanley. All told of horrific assaults, meaningless attacks on young children and adults, and the willful destruction of both business and public property. All wanted protection. None wanted to tell the police who’d beaten them.
There was pure terror in their eyes, which told the sheriff that the beating would not be the last if they were not given some form of safety. So he called a meeting of the parents. All had a connection with French Industries in some way. He called Frank and Michael in as well. Maybe they would have a solution.
Michael now stood in front of the concerned parents. “I don’t know how to help your boys without putting all of you at risk. I do know, however, who attacked your boys and going after them will solve nothing. After all, your boys-if what they say is true-called this down upon themselves by doing what they admit they did.”
Thad Wyler stood. “What do you mean it’ll put us at risk?”
Frank got up and stood beside Michael. “Your jobs will be at risk. If you are allied with Toffer, it’ll make you a target. After all, it is your allegiance to Toffer that has led to this. Your willingness to follow his lead has given your sons the wrong example.”
John Fricke appeared at the back of the room as Thad began to object. “No, Thad. He’s right. I have had to face this myself.”
Thad eyed him. “But your son died of his injuries. It was all over the news.”
William Hall had accompanied Michael and Frank to the sheriff’s. He’d already had this talk with both men and he was willing to join their crusade. After all, he had just added more information to their already fat files on Toffer and Tobias. He had been Toffer’s accountant. He had padded the books, made it look as if French Industries was prosperous, even though it was swiftly approaching bankruptcy. He rose. “Never mind who is at fault. I know that our time, if we choose to remain at Toffer’s side, is limited. Not only from an outside standpoint, but from within as well. It is only a matter of time before he feeds us all to the same wolves he’s fed so many others to. Is this what you want? To have your reputations destroyed by some lunatic whose company is failing because of his illegal practices?”
Thaddeus Wyler was a respectable man, but hard. Still, even he knew a losing battle when he saw one and after hearing what his son had told him, he knew that he had been in the wrong by following Toffer’s lead. He shook his head. “No. You are right. You’re all right. Hell. I knew in the beginning that Toffer’s quest was wrong, but I hoped it was how he was going to redeem himself.” He turned his gaze back to Michael. “What is your plan?”
Frank took it from there. “I will arrange the same thing I did for Stanley. Your boys will disappear. Those of you willing to testify against Toffer will do the same until we are ready to take him down. At which time, all files will be sent to the US Attorney General for Federal indictment and then you will be summoned by the US court, not the State court.
“The trial against Tobias will be the easiest and will probably take place sooner, since there are already enough witnesses to send him away for a good long time. Toffer will take longer, since he has killed most of the witnesses to his earlier crimes.”
Thad turned his chair around so he could talk to the rest of the group. Moments later, he turned back around. “We all have information that could be very useful to the case. We will all need to disappear. Can you do that?”
Frank nodded. “Yes. Understand that this is not sanctioned by the agencies that’ll help us, but you will be relatively safe nonetheless.”
Norbert Cross stood “We’ll take that risk. It is better than leaving our families at risk of being harassed or killed by Toffer.”
A murmured agreement rose above the crowd. Frank smiled. “Then it is agreed. You will all vanish without a trace.”
Toffer was growing agitated. His allies were abandoning him. HIs slaves were now growing bold. It was time to show them who had the power. He picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Dornan Farnham? Yes. This is Toffer French. I need you to do something.
“I would like you to come to my office so we can discuss the details. Yes. I have a few assignments for you. Yes. No, I don’t care how you do it. Nor what you do. Just do it so I can prove who controls this city.
“Yes, I need you to stop in to pick up a list of targets. Yes. I will pay you when all is done. Yes. Good. OK. See you then. ”
He hung up the phone, a smile creeping across his face. He was smug in his assumption that his targets were still where they’d always been. He wasn’t ready for what was about to happen. Nor was he ready for the war he’d started.
He was only thinking about what he was going to gain, not what he could lose. Never mind that his whole appearance was a lie. His business was only mere seconds away from bankruptcy, his lifestyle had eaten up his millions, and his vendetta had destroyed his alliances. He still thought he had all the power.
He waddled to the door of his office and let Farnham in. Farnham was 5’9″ and a dead shot. He had been in World War II as a sniper and had gone into being a hired gun from there. He hated Toffer with a passion and would sell him down the river at the drop of a hat if need be. And should Toffer neglect to pay him, he would do exactly that.
He refrained from doing so as long as money changed hands. Should that ever stop, he could turn state’s evidence and blow the lid off the whole French family. Hell. He might do that just for kicks. But only after he pulled this job.