Where Is My Brother?
"The FBI had been tracking the workings of the Vivaldi Family for months now," the blond female reporter from Channel 5 news said into the camera. She stood outside the Vivaldi house where countless other reporters stood hoping to get a glimpse of the arrest of Toni Vivaldi, one the most notorious Mafia leaders since Al Capone.
"Toni Vivaldi is a suspect in the deaths of five men in Los Angeles just this past year," the reporter continued, "And he has been rumored to have Mafia connections in New York and Chicago."
"Step aside, coming through." Don said to the reporters as he escorted a handcuffed Toni Vivaldi through the media and into a squad car.
"You got nothing on me," Vivaldi gruffly said to Don. Don smiled.
"Math doesn't lie," he replied. Don was sure to look into the camera as he said it.
Charlie smiled as he watched the news footage of his brother arresting Vivaldi on television at FBI headquarters with Colby. "Nice work," Colby said to Charlie, patting him on the back.
"Thanks, man." Charlie replied, blushing a little. For the past few months, he and Don had been working on tying Vivaldi to the deaths of the five businessmen. Yesterday, Charlie had finally worked out a statistical analysis that put Vivaldi at the scene of every one of those murders. It hadn't been easy. The guy was good at covering his tracks. He never left any fingerprints or DNA behind and any witnesses of the crimes would mysteriously disappear. There was no doubt Vivaldi was involved in numerous hits and criminal enterprises. Most of the time, he got others to do his dirty work; the FBI could only tie Vivaldi to these five murders. "It's enough to get him behind bars," Don had said to Charlie. Charlie agreed.
"Your chariot awaits," David said, smirking as he opened the cop car door for Vivaldi.
"Smirk now, Agent Eppes," Vivaldi hammered back. "Your evidence will never hold up in court."
"Haven't you heard?" David replied. "My boss has a math genius as a little brother. Happens to work for the FBI and has fine tune numbers that put you at those crime scenes."
"Numbers aren't proof!" Vivaldi answered back.
"That's enough," Don said, shoving Vivaldi into the back of the cop car. He didn't like having a criminal like Vivaldi knowing about Charlie. "We'll see you in court." And with that, the cop car drove Vivaldi away to prison.
"Congratulations, boys!" Alan Eppes said to his sons that night at the Eppes home. They clinked beer bottles as they sat in the living room, watching baseball. "Another murderer is off the streets thanks to your hard work."
"Yeah, for now anyways," Don replied. "It's up to the prosecutor to keep him there."
"Do you think our evidence will be enough?" Charlie asked Don. Don shrugged.
"I don't know, Charlie. Guys like Vivaldi, they're slick. They have high priced attorneys who will do anything to get their client off. They'll try everything they can to discount you on the stand. Just don't let them intimidate you when the time comes. With your testimony, we should be able to nail this guy."
"Well, no pressure on me, I guess." Charlie said casually. Don smiled. He was about to thank Charlie for his help when Charlie's cell rang.
"That'll be Amita," Charlie said. He took the phone into the dining room. "Hey Amita. Are you still at the lab?"
"Yeah," Amita replied. "Looks like I'm going to be at CalSci all night trying to grade these reports before class tomorrow. Why in the world I agreed to take on Dr. Rhode's and Dr. Brown's classes, I have no idea."
"You want some company?" Charlie offered.
"No, no," she answered. "You're with Don and Alan. I'll be okay."
"It's no trouble," Charlie said. "I'll pick up some pizza. We'll grade them together."
Amita grinned. "Pizza sounds great. Having your company sounds even better."
Charlie smiled back. "See you soon." He put on his coat and grabbed his backpack. "Gotta run. Going to meet Amita at CalSci."
"You're gonna miss the game!" Don said.
"I'll catch the next one with you. I'll see you tomorrow." Charlie said as he walked out the door. Don and Alan didn't get a chance to say goodbye.
Two hours later, Don's cell phone rang. It was Amita. She sounded worried.
"Hey Don, have you heard from Charlie?"
"No, I thought he was with you." Don replied.
"He said he was going to pick up some pizza and meet me at CalSci but he never showed up." Amita said into the phone. "When did he leave?"
Don stood up. "He left as soon as he got your call. That was like two hours ago. Did you try calling his cell?"
"Yea, I tried calling him three times. There's no answer." Amita said. Don started to get worried.
"Okay, well I'll try calling him." Don replied. "Maybe he just got caught up somewhere."
"Maybe…" Amita said to herself.
"Look, I'll try him now. If he doesn't answer, I'll go looking for him." Don offered.
"Okay, thanks." Amita said, hanging up. Something wasn't right, she thought to herself.
Thirty minutes later, Don was in his car driving to CalSci, hoping to get a glimpse of Charlie or his car on the way. It was around 10 pm now so it was pitch black outside. Don had tried all the pizza places in town and the hospitals. No one had seen or heard from Charlie. And his cell phone was going straight to voicemail. Don convinced himself that Charlie was fine, but when he spotted Charlie's car at the side of the road, his heart started racing. He quickly parked and ran towards the car. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the car's rear end was all smashed up.
"Charlie? Charlie!" Don screamed as he approached the car. Charlie wasn't in the car, but the keys and his backpack were. The car door was open so he went through Charlie's backpack and found his wallet and his cell phone was there. That didn't make sense. If Charlie was in an accident, he surely would have taken his stuff. Even if he was taken by ambulance, the EMT's would surely have grabbed Charlie's personal belongings. Don took out his phone and called David and Colby.
Four hours missing…
"Let's block this area off." David said to several police officers who had come to the scene. Don paced back and forth. He was talking on his cell phone.
"No Dad, it's better you stay there." Don said into the phone. "Charlie or someone else might call. Amita is on her way back to the house. I'll keep you updated. Okay, bye."
David approached Don. He could see his boss was very worried. "The damage on the back of Charlie's car isn't bad. Looks like another car rear-ended him. Maybe Charlie went to the hospital with someone."
Don shook his head. "I've tried all the hospitals. No John Doe's that match Charlie's descriptions. No one has seen him..."
"Don!" Colby called from a few yards behind Charlie's car. He was shining a flashlight on the ground in front of him. Don and David went over to Colby and looked where the flashlight was pointing. It shined on a pool of blood.
Don cursed. "That's blood…get it to the lab!" Don walked away. He couldn't believe this was happening. David tried to calm Don down.
"It may not be his, Don." David said.
"Somebody took him!" Don replied. "They rear-ended him and when he got out of his car, they grabbed him!"
"Okay," David answered. "Then we'll search the area; question anyone who might have a grudge against Charlie."
A thought flashed in Don's mind. He turned and ran towards his own car. David followed, calling after him. "What is it, Don?"
"It's Vivaldi, that son of a bitch," Don replied, getting into his car. "He knew that with Charlie out of the picture, there would be no evidence to put him in jail. He sent one of his men to kidnap my brother!" And with that, Don drove off.
One day missing…
"Where's my brother, Vivaldi?" Don screamed into the face of Toni Vivaldi. He had the man, dressed in prisoner attire, up against the wall of the interrogation room.
"How the hell should I know?" Vivaldi answered with a smirk on his face. "I'm locked up in here."
Don grabbed his shirt and squeezed. "One phone call is all you needed."
Vivaldi shook his head. "The only calls I've made are to my wife and my attorney. Check the records. You'll see."
"Oh, I will." Don replied. "Let me be clear: I want to know where my brother is right now. Tell me or I swear to God you'll be sorry."
Vivaldi laughed. "Is that a threat?"
"Damn straight it is!" Don yelled back. David walked into the interrogation room and pulled Don out of there.
"Don, you need to calm down," David said once they were out of the interrogation room. Don was fuming.
"He did this, David!" Don replied. "He took Charlie!"
"And we'll find him," David answered. "I promise you."
Five days missing…
Don splashed water on his face. He was in the FBI headquarters bathroom. He hadn't slept since Charlie went missing. The past few days, Don and his team had questioned every person who had ever been associated with Vivaldi. They searched their businesses, knocked down the doors of their homes. Charlie was nowhere to be found. And it really did seem like none of the men had any idea where Charlie was. Don was beginning to think that maybe Vivaldi didn't take Charlie after all. But then who did? Charlie didn't have any enemies. Don went back to his desk, scouring through old crime cases where Charlie consulted. Maybe they would give him some hint as to who could have taken Charlie.
Fourteen days missing…
"I don't want to go see a movie!" Amita screamed. Larry was attempting to ease Amita's nervousness these past weeks, but nothing seemed to work. When he suggested that she
go out to a movie to distract herself, she freaked. "Charlie is missing! My fiancé is gone. I can't just pretend like nothing's wrong."
"I know that, Amita." Larry said soothingly. "But you can't stay cooped up in his office the whole time."
Indeed, Amita hadn't left Charlie's office for several days now. Alan insisted Amita stay at the house, but she couldn't bring herself to go there. To see Charlie's things, to sleep in his bed. Amita started crying and collapsed on a sofa in Charlie's office.
"Where is he?" she said to no one in particular. Larry sat down next to her.
"Our young Charles will come back to us," he said.
"How do you know that, Larry?" Amita asked, tears in her eyes. "He's gone. And nobody knows where he is!"
Twenty days missing…
"This isn't working!" Don said. He scratched the scruffy beard growing on his chin, rummaging through stacks of papers. There had been no ransom demands, no phone calls from kidnappers. The 24 - 48 hours after someone is missing is the most crucial. It had been 20 days now. With most missing person cases, police officers would have already presumed the victim had either run away or was dead. Don couldn't bring himself to think of the latter. "If Vivaldi didn't take Charlie, then who did?"
"We've canvassed every area that we could think of. Charlie's 8x10 has been sent to every police station in California." Colby offered.
"Then let's send his photo to stations out of state!" Don exclaimed.
"We have, Don." David answered. "Border patrols, toll booths, hospitals, they've had his photograph for weeks now. No one has seen him."
"That's not good enough!" Don said. "We need to put more men on this case."
"We have a hundred man hours on this!" David answered. "We can't afford to spare any more men. Don…" David trailed off. He pulled his boss aside. "Don," he whispered. "I think it's time to face reality." Don glared at him with cold eyes.
"My brother is still out there," Don said. "I will find him. I will not give up!"
Sixty-four days missing…
Don sat in the living room of the Eppes' home, looking at a picture of Charlie and Don as children. It was late and the television was on but he wasn't watching it. Alan walked in, looking tired. He put a plate of food in front of Don.
Don shrugged it away. "Not hungry."
Alan sighed and sat down. "You have to eat, son. And you need some sleep. You can't go on like this."
"Look who's talking," Don replied. They sat together in silence for a while, listening to the rain falling outside.
"Where's Amita?" Don asked, breaking the silence.
"Still at the university. She's sleeping at his office."
Don put his head in his hands, feeling helpless. Alan rubbed his son's back.
"I don't know what else to do, Dad." Don said into his hands. Alan could see Don was desperately trying to hold back emotion. "I've tried everything, looked everywhere. It's been two months and I still can't find him. I can't find my brother."
"It's going to be okay, Don" Alan said. "You'll find him."
Don looked up at his father, ignoring the burning in his eyes. "How can you be so sure?"
Alan shrugged sadly. "That's your job."
Don took a deep breath. He sat back and they both stared at the television. After a while, they both fell asleep.
Sixty-five days missing…
Five a.m. that morning, Don woke up in a startle. He was still on the living room couch. He had a blanket over him. His father must have gone up to bed. Don walked in a stumble, the blanket still over his shoulders, and opened the front door. The air still was damp from the morning dew and Don shivered a little as he grabbed the newspaper on the porch.
When he looked up, Don had to do a double take. A young man was standing in the driveway. He wore a grey wool cap on his head and he was dressed in a pair of dirty, baggy jeans and a stained shirt. His face was covered in bruises, he was pale, and his cheeks were sunken. At first, Don couldn't make out who it was. Then he looked into the young man's eyes. It was Charlie. Charlie stared back at Don, his eyes fuzzy and out of focus. He was a good ten pounds lighter than we was two months ago, and his clothes hung loosely on his body.
Don's throat went dry. "Charlie?" he asked hoarsely. Charlie didn't say anything. He just stared at the house, as if trying to remember a place from his childhood. Don yelled his dad's name twice inside the house before running to his brother. "Charlie! Where the hell have you been?"
Charlie eyes were glassy as he looked at his brother. "I don't know," he answered softly.
"It's okay, I'm here," Don said reassuringly, touching his brother's shoulders as if to make sure he was real. He put the blanket that was around him over Charlie and then took Charlie's face in his hands, examining the bruises on his brother's face. "Who did this to you? What happened?"
Charlie shook his head, as if in a daze. "I don't know," he repeated. At that moment, Alan ran outside. He stopped in his tracks when he saw his youngest son.
Don looked back at his father. "Dad, grab your keys. We need to get him to the hospital." Alan didn't ask questions. He ran inside and within seconds, was by Don and Charlie's sides. Don took the keys from Alan and ran to the car. Alan took Charlie by the hand and led him into the backseat. As soon as they were all in the car, Don took off.
"Charlie, where have you been?" Alan asked, sitting in the back with his son. Charlie just stared straight ahead. Alan touched the cap on Charlie's head. It was soaked. He took it off and found that Charlie's head was covered in blood. "My God, what happened?" Alan exclaimed.
Don looked back. "Dad, he's in shock." Don replied. He took a quick look at Charlie's head. "Put the cap back on and press against it to stop the bleeding. Is he cold?"
Alan felt Charlie's hands. "His hands are freezing," Alan answered nervously.
"Make sure the blanket is around him," Don said. Alan secured the blanket firmly around Charlie and started rubbing Charlie's hands with his own.
"It's okay, son. We're going to take you to the hospital," Alan assured.
Don tried to force himself to pay attention to the road, but he couldn't help looking back at Charlie. Don finally took out his cell phone and dialed David.
"Hello?" David answered.
"David, Charlie is with us." Don said. "He just showed up on our doorstep. We're taking him to L.A. General. We'll be there in 10. Meet me there."
Ten minutes later, nurses were leading Charlie into an examination room. Don asked Alan to call Amita and Larry and wait for the police officers in the lobby. Alan started to argue but he eventually complied. Don grabbed a dark-haired doctor in his late thirties who was standing in the hall.
"You, I'm Agent Don Eppes. FBI. I need you to come with me." The doctor followed Don into Charlie's room. The nurses were already taking off Charlie's hat and examining his head.
"What have we got?" the doctor asked.
"Head wound," nurse said. "Several hours old. The bleeding has stopped." She started taking off Charlie's clothes. They were soaking wet.
"Okay, bandage the wound and watch for infection." The doctor shone a light into Charlie's eyes. "What's his name?" the doctor asked Don.
"Charlie," Don answered.
"Charlie, I'm Dr. Snyder. How do you feel?" the doctor asked Charlie.
Don sneered at that. How the hell did he think Charlie was feeling? Charlie didn't answer so the doctor asked again.
"Um, feeling tired." Charlie answered, rubbing his eyes.
"Can you tell me where you are?"
"Hospital," Charlie mumbled. Dr. Snyder examined the bruise on Charlie's cheek. Don could see that Charlie also had a black eye and a split lip.
"Can you tell me how you got these bruises?"
Charlie shook his head no.
Dr. Snyder felt Charlie's neck. "Do you know what day it is?"
Charlie thought a moment and looked at Don wearily. Don gazed back at his brother, concerned. Charlie shook his head no.
Don bent down to look his brother in the eye. "Charlie, what's the last thing you remember?"
Charlie rubbed his head and then flinched when it hurt. "Driving to meet Amita."
"What about after that? Did someone stop you? Were you in an accident?" Don probed.
The doctor pushed Don back. "Agent Eppes, I'm going to need you to leave until I finish examining the patient."
Don stood his ground. "I'm his brother. He's been missing for 65 days! I'm staying here!"
Dr. Snyder put his hand on Don's shoulder forcefully, but said kindly, "I understand, but let me ask the questions right now."
Don took a deep breath and nodded. Dr. Snyder went back to examining Charlie. The nurse had taken Charlie's shirt off. There was a bruise on Charlie's stomach. He was very thin, thinner than Don had seen him in a while. Dr. Snyder waved his index finger back and forth in front of Charlie's eyes.
"Charlie, I'm going to need you to follow my finger." the doctor said. Charlie did. The nurse who was standing behind Charlie motioned for the doctor to come to her. Dr. Snyder walked behind Charlie. He looked down for a moment. "Go get some bandages and some swabs." He whispered to the nurse.
"What?" Don asked, confused. He went to stand behind Charlie. He gasped. Charlie's back was covered in long red slash marks. There were at least ten of them. Some were still red. It looked as if Charlie was whipped with a belt or some kind of a strap.
"God, Charlie." Don said in a whisper. He walked around and knelt down in front of his brother. "Charlie, tell me what happened? Who did this to you?"
Charlie just looked at him like a child looks at his mother. "I don't remember." Charlie answered. Don sighed and rubbed the side of Charlie's face tenderly.