Chapter One
September 19, 2003
  Sean O’Brien slowly regained consciousness – not sure what happened and no idea where he was. He remembered the valet handing him the keys to his BMW, getting in the car and pulling out of the parking lot turning left. Then it hit him – the face in the rear-view mirror and the gun. O’Brien pulled over to the curb when he was told, expecting a car-jacking. That’s when everything went black.
  His head was pounding as he opened his eyes. O’Brien found himself hanging by his feet, bound and gagged over a cracked and stained linoleum floor. Panic set in as he tried to get his hands free from behind his back. He screamed. All that came out was a muffled squeal, the ball gag in his mouth saw to that. O’Brien spun around on the chain as he struggled, stopping as quickly as he started. He wasn’t alone.
  The man hanging next to him appeared to be unconscious; a trickle of dried blood on the right side of his neck. He was similarly trussed, hands behind his back with a ball gag in his mouth. O’Brien recognized him immediately: it was Tao. Mr. Tao, as he was known by all, was head of one of Chicago’s largest Tongs. Seeing him hanging there added to O’Brien’s confusion and panic.
  Their abductor sat in the next room less than ten feet away, cloaked in darkness. He was leisurely smoking a Gurkha Beast while he waited. Now that O’Brien was awake Tao would be coming along shortly. He’d been busy while waiting for the effects of the sedative to wear off; cutting off most of his hair and shaving his beard while standing in the middle of a plastic drop cloth. When he finished, he wrapped up the clothes he’d been wearing, stuffing everything into a trash bag. He slipped into a pair brown cargo shorts and an old Emerson Lake and Palmer tee shirt from the Taurkus tour. He’d picked it up in a re-sale shop in Cicero and cut the sleeves off.
  There was a tattoo on his upper right arm. It was the word Juden in black, overlaid onto a yellow Star of David. The design was taken from the only picture of his grandfather he possessed. He could never find a picture of his grandmother, so he wore the Star in memory of them both. Beneath the tattoo were two sets of numbers. They were the identification numbers used for his grandparents when they were taken to Auschwitz.
  He knew going in Tao would be a far more difficult target than the insurance executive. The elderly crime lord was rarely alone. It took five months to work his way close enough for Tao to even acknowledge him. It took another two months to set up a meeting under the pretense he wanted to purchase three girls. Tao was known in Chicago for running the majority of the Oriental massage parlors, as well as an excellent selection of high-end escorts. He was finally able to put together a meeting with Tao for Friday, September 19th to discuss the purchase.
  Grabbing O’Brien would be easy. The insurance executive was a creature of habit. He ate at the Acadia on Wabash every Friday before driving to Plano in the western Chicago suburbs. O’Brien was an arrogant asshole, at least according to anyone who had dealings with him. He believed himself to be untouchable, primarily because of his long running relationship with Tao and the Tongs. O’Brien handled millions of dollars of property and health insurance for Tao’s more legitimate operations. All his abductor had to do was slip into the back seat of the BMW while O’Brien ate, waiting until he came out.
  O’Brien was stopped at a light several blocks from the Acadia when he spotted him in the rear-view mirror. The stranger put a gun to the back of his head, directing him to pull around the corner. Once the car was in park, O’Brien was injected with a dose of Etorphine, rendering him unconscious. The kidnapper stuffed the big Irishman in the trunk and then drove the black 735i to Chinatown for his meeting with Tao.
  The kidnapper was known to Tao as James McDonald, a Scottish National and procurer of rare commodities for an elite clientele. McDonald arrived at the Golden Moon Restaurant at 8:45, parking near the rear entrance as he had the first two visits. His light brown hair was tinted red, as was his beard. Black horned rim glasses and blue contact lenses completed the disguise. McDonald always had a touch of plaid on him, as might be expected of a Scot, either in his tie or handkerchief. Tao believed McDonald to be vacationing in Chicago.
  There were two guards loitering outside the entry, handguns flashing under their windbreakers. As before, they did an amateur-like and inefficient job of frisking him. (That would come back to haunt them.)
This was McDonald’s third visit to the restaurant. He’d noted their youth, coupled with the reputation of Mr. Tao, made them overconfident. Not once had either of them checked the boots he always wore. After the cursory pat-down, the one called “Snake” escorted him through the kitchen to an office in the back.
  “Would you like me to stay?” Snake inquired of Mr. Tao.
  “That won’t be necessary,” Tao replied. “Get back out front with Chang. Keep your eyes open.” Snake bowed, giving the red-headed man one last look before closing the door as he backed out of the room.
  Tao stood, extending his hand. “Good evening, Mr. McDonald,” he said, looking at his watch. “I see you are fifteen minutes early, a good sign.” He motioned to the chair in front of his desk. It was an old leather lounge chair, tattered along the seams but surprisingly comfortable.
“Good evening, Mr. Tao,” McDonald responded with a very passable Scottish brogue. “I don’t like to keep people waiting. My father taught me it was inconsiderate.”
Mr. Tao nodded. “It is indeed. Your consideration is appreciated. You are always prompt and have never kept me waiting, a rare thing these days. May I offer you some tea?”
  “Thank you, yes,” said McDonald, accepting the proffered cup with both hands. He took a sip and smiled. “Good tea, Mr. Tao, as always.”
  The two men sipped their tea for about 5 minutes making small talk, mostly about Tao’s love for his Chicago Bears. He was quite the football fan, which somewhat surprised McDonald. He knew better than to attempt to steer a conversation with this man. Tao was notoriously slow-paced when talking, prone to wandering off topic on the most innocuous subjects. Tao used those times to evaluate the man in front of him. He would test their patience, knowledge of world events and personality traits. It gave him insight into the type of man he was dealing with.
  Tao was a very patient man and expected it in return. Tonight however, there would be no stories or parables. It was time to do business. He was satisfied that McDonald wasn’t a vice-cop or affiliated with any law-enforcement entity or rival gang. He’d received assurances from his contact in the Chicago Dark Lords that McDonald was legitimate, well-funded and as reliable as he was discreet.
  “Mr. McDonald,” said Tao, “I understand you wish to make a purchase from me.”
   “I do,” McDonald replied. “I am in the market for three entertainers for a client of mine in Edinburgh.”
  “Edinburgh is in Scotland, is it not? Why then, do you wish to deal with me for this purchase?” asked Tao. “Surely there are numerous European suppliers much closer, the Russians for example.”
  McDonald nodded. “That is true. However, I am here in Chicago, and my client desires delivery within the week. He is accustomed to prompt service and I don’t wish to tarnish my reputation by failing to fill his order in a timely manner. One week doesn’t allow me the time to procure the product through normal channels. That is why I have come to you, Mr. Tao.” McDonald continued, “I’ve been told by several trusted contacts here in Chicago, that your quality is far superior to that of the former Communists. My client has a penchant for oriental ladies and from what I hear, none can compare to the women of Tao.” McDonald watched the old man’s face light up from the flattery.
  “I am curious though,” Tao commented as he leaned back in his chair. “Who do you normally use as suppliers?” asked Tao, feeling McDonald out.
  “With all due respect, Mr. Tao, that would be my business, certainly none of yours.” McDonald leaned forward for emphasis, “If it were that easy to get me to divulge my clients and contacts, I would have been dead years ago.”
  Tao smiled, “I agree, Mr. McDonald. In fact, I would have been most disappointed had you responded in any other fashion. Discretion is a character trait that is crucial to our business.” McDonald had just passed another of Tao’s tests.
  McDonald replied politely, “I sincerely hope that I did not offend you, Mr. Tao, with the directness of my response. I assure you it was not my intent,” ending the statement with a nod of his head.
  Tao returned the nod. “No apology required, Mr. McDonald. You were direct. That is a quality I respect. It is imperative no one question your discretion when it comes to your, shall we say, business partners.”
  McDonald smiled and took off his glasses, slowly twisting off the right temple. It contained a needle with a small dose of Etorphine. The dosage would be enough to render Tao unconscious, but not enough to keep him that way more than 30 minutes. Now all he needed was the opportunity to make his move.
  “Do you have photos of the product?” asked McDonald.
  “Of course,” replied Tao. “Six very lovely oriental girls to choose from, all 18 years of age as you requested. Three are Japanese, one is Chinese and the other two are Thai. I find the Thai women particularly intriguing myself,” added Tao a bit whimsically. He opened a manila folder on the left side of his desk, spreading out pictures of six very beautiful, very naked Oriental girls.
  “May I?” McDonald asked as he stood, craning his neck as if to get a better look.
  “Certainly,” said Tao, turning the folder towards him. McDonald moved to the left side of the desk, his right hand at his side. As Tao turned his attention back to the photos McDonald struck with speed and accuracy, plunging the needle into Tao’s carotid. The reaction was swift as the elderly man slumped over the desk.
  McDonald had to move quickly. Tao was light, which would be an advantage when it came time to carry him out. He searched the desk, locating a .40 caliber Sig Sauer p320 in the upper right drawer, right where he expected to find a weapon. No silencer, but that wasn’t a concern. He tucked the Sig into the back of his pants, retrieved a compact Tanfoglio Witness P and silencer from his right foot, and a 16-round clip from the left. The Italian made Tanfoglio was loaded with hollow point 9mm’s. The rounds would provide maximum impact while minimizing the possibility of a through and through.               One of the ballistic traits of a full metal jacketed 9mm was penetration, sometimes to the point of hitting unintended subjects behind the target.
  McDonald opened the back door to the office, locating the exit at the end of a short hallway. The door had a panic bar labeled with a warning that an alarm would sound when opened. He wondered to himself if it was armed. If it was, he’d have plenty of lead on Snake and Chang. What McDonald didn’t know was there were two more guards posted out back.
  He tossed Tao over his shoulder, heading for the door and the BMW sitting close to the exit. A loud pulsating sound hit him when he opened the door. “Fuck!” McDonald exclaimed as two very surprised guards turned towards him.
  Dumping Tao unceremoniously on the ground, McDonald fired two rounds at the man on the left as he was bringing up his weapon. He put the first bullet in the guard’s chest and the second in his head. As the dead man hit the ground, McDonald dropped to one knee, using Tao as partial cover.
The second guard had his weapon up, another Uzi from the look of it, but he hesitated when he saw Tao in the line of fire. That was all the time needed for McDonald to put two in his torso. The guard fell to his knees looking down at his wounds. The third bullet hit him in the forehead, knocking him over backwards.
  McDonald scooped up Tao in one arm and ran to the BMW, tossing him in the back seat. As he opened the front door shots rang out from behind him. Chang and Snake were coming around the corner.
  The first shot hit the roof of the car just to the right of McDonald’s head. The second caught him on the outside of his left thigh before he could get his leg in the door. Swearing to himself, McDonald fired up the engine and floored it, smoke billowing from the rear wheels. He spun the car hard to the right while lowering the passenger side window.
  McDonald spotted Chang first, who was turning to follow the car, firing in the direction of the BMW. The second shot from the Tanfoglio found its mark in the center of Chang’s chest, dropping him to the ground.
  Snake dove behind a parked Camry for cover. McDonald fired continuously through the passenger window as the BMW sped through the parking lot. Seconds later, Snake lay dead behind the Toyota, one of the rounds having hit him just below his right ear. He never even got off a shot.
  Coming out of the lot, McDonald took a right on Archer and then a hard left, arriving at Halstead and 21st Street less than two minutes later. He took the alley around back of the vacant three-story red brick building on the corner, pulling to a stop and cutting the engine.
  McDonald gave himself a cursory examination of the gunshot wound to his thigh. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been. There was blood, but it wasn’t flowing freely. He took off his shirt, fashioning a temporary dressing for his leg. He picked up sirens in the distant, working their way towards the restaurant. He punched a number in his cell and hit send.
  “It’s me,” said McDonald, when the call was answered. “I might need some stitches,” he added with a chuckle. “I caught a round in the left thigh.” He listened for a minute or so. “No, it’s not bad, a through and through. The bleeding’s already begun to slow. I’ve got a field dressing on it that should do for now.”
  McDonald listened another minute. “Negative. No one comes to the kill zone, unless they have a serious death wish. I’ll shoot first and identify later.”
  After a short pause he responded. “Yes, I have both targets.”
  “The cops are heading this way. I’ll fill you in later.” Without further ado, McDonald ended the call.
  The car was all but invisible behind the building with the black BMW tucked in the shadows under the fire escape.
   McDonald glanced at the south east corner and saw a shadow moving in the shadows. A red laser dot appeared and disappeared quickly. His look-out was in place. Seconds later a Chicago patrol car shot by on Halstead, heading south. McDonald waited five minutes. One more cop car had blown by seconds after the first, but nothing since then. Satisfied that would be it for now, he went to work.