Amos said nothing as the gate unlocked and the two stepped through. Brooke was prepared to lead the way, but Patel walked right on past her as if he owned the place. Maybe, when all was said and done, he was hoping to.
In fact, he completely ignored her as they made their way up to the house – that is, until the house itself came into view and Patel stopped to study the scene before him.
“The fuck has this guy been doing?” he muttered under his breath, noticing the very things that Brooke had noticed when she first walked up to knock on the door.
Brooke said nothing – the question wasn’t meant for her. They walked in through the gate at the fence and up to the door. Patel just opened it himself, knowing that it wasn’t locked.
“Ilyin!” he called. “I know you’re here!”
“He’s not in the house,” she said.
“Where is he then?”
“I don’t know, but he’s not in the house. Trust me.”
Brooke knew that sometimes, as a private investigator, the best thing you could do was to watch and wait for things to play themselves out. Here, this was all she could do as Patel rounded into an adjacent hallway, prepared to storm every room in spite of what she’d said. But as soon as he saw what had become of the great room, he was stopped dead in his tracks. It had begun to mist outside, and the chill, moist air drifted in unimpeded.
Patel’s mouth fell open and said nothing, but the look on his face spoke volumes. Clearly, Jack Ilyin belonged in a mental institute as far as he was concerned.
He dashed across the giant expanse of cushions, through the broken doors, and out into the battered courtyard, head turning this way and that to look at everything with wide eyes.
“Who in the hell did this?” He turned around and looked up at the shattered windows and gutted rooms on the second story.
“With his bare fucking hands? Yeah right.” He pulled out his phone and took some video, panning around for a few seconds before bringing it back to his face. Brooke was waiting for him to realize that there would be no cell service, and a moment later, Patel scowled and cursed. “You gotta be kidding me!”
“Who were you going to send that to?”
“It’s none of your goddamn business!”
They kept walking, with Brooke in tow. There was no sign of Jack anywhere, and she was wondering if he was making himself scarce or if he had something else in mind. Though what that could possibly be was beyond her. This was, it seemed, the end of the line for him. The pair were near the pool, now, and Patel was growing even more irritable. He stood beside the water, hands on his hips as he snapped his head around to look about.
“Jack!” he called. There was no answer. “Jack, you know I’m here! Stop being chickenshit!” Still nothing, not even a rustle. Patel scowled and walked over to the other side of the pool, Brook warily following, and shouted some more. But it seemed Jack wasn’t interested in confronting his friend-turned-enemy just yet.
But Patel was impatient. He smacked his lips together a few times in thought, rubbed at his chin, and eventually turned his eyes to her. She got the sense that he was changing tactics.
“So why are you here and not your dad, the man I hired?”
“He told you that Jack wasn’t dead. What more did you want? The job was done.”
“You didn’t answer my question, young lady.”
“I’m here because he hired me to do a different job,” Brooke said, trying to keep calm and collected.
Patel stepped up to her and scoffed. “What sort of job would a grown man have for a pretty girl like you that would involve gifts of designer clothing?”
“A man’s allowed to buy people clothes, Patel.”
Patel’s icy stare narrowed. “OK, let me rephrase that: what sort of job would involve lavish gifts and overnight stays?”
Heat was rising to her face.
He took out his phone again, leveling it at her. There was a nasty smirk on his face. “I can see the headlines now: Jack Ilyin: Tech Magnate Turned Cradle Robber! And here’s the face of the girl sucking his dick! C’mon, smile for the camera!”
Patel didn’t seem to notice the faint quaking of the ground, or the deep, muffled thuds of something hitting the earth, but Brooke did. In fact, Jack was moving so fast that she only knew what direction he was coming from when she heard him yell. If his goal was to get Jack to come out, he succeeded with flying colors.
“Leave her alone, you son of a bitch!”
The next second was a blur, but there was a cry, a thud, and a splash, and next thing she knew Patel was in the pool, wiping the water from his face and glasses and cursing loudly.
Wait for it…
He froze as soon as he was able to open his eyes and look upon, for the first time in two years, his business partner.
Jack was standing next to Brooke, hands balled into fists. He was imposing, fierce, and solid. His face was screwed up into a deadly grimace, and his blue eyes dared Patel to move.
“Wh… I… Y-you…” the man stammered, moving backward in the pool to get away, to get a better view, or maybe both. “J-jack I-Ilyin?”
“What are you doing here?” he growled. Patel cowered at the sound.
“What the fuck happened to you!”
“What are you doing here?”
“I…. I’m not answering any questions w-without my lawyer. Th-that was assault, Ilyin!”
Jack turned to look down at Brooke. “I thought he tripped?”
She shrugged. “I saw him trip.”
Patel swam to the other end of the pool, and pulled himself out, looking over his shoulder at them every few seconds. “This is fucked,” he cried. “Fucked!” Then with all his strength, he made a mad dash for the trees and disappeared.
“I take it he’s going to be staying with us for a little while?” she asked.
Jack reached into the pool to grab the man’s phone from the bottom. He glanced at it for a moment and then tossed it over his shoulder with a sigh. “Unfortunately, I don’t see any other way out of this.”