continued from The Ryan Exchange Part One
Milton Gardner was admiring the paintings at the gala opening of the Pucci Gallery; as a senior board member of the newly-formed Marshall Pucci Foundation he was in charge of its launch.
He became aware of a young man standing alongside him; still looking at the painting, he angled his head slightly. He looked to be in his early twenties, tall and lean with dark hair and the kind of flashing blue eyes that promised much. The young man seemed enamored by the painting he was looking at.
“So what do you think of Sunset over Rome?” Milton asked.
The younger man cocked his head slightly. “The brush strokes are pure Mark Ryan School, the thick layering of the paint and the use of half-blended color to increase the depth of the light in the picture. Perfect.” He smiled and put his hand out. “George Donnelly. And you are?”
Milton smiled and accepted his hand. “Milton Gardner, Mr. Donnelly, or may I call you George?”
“George will be fine.”
Looking back at the painting, Milton smiled. “I think Neal suits you better.”
Neal casually looked around; seeing Kate, he signaled her that his cover had been blown.
“Sorry, the name is George.” He went to leave but Milton Gardner clamped onto his arm. Gardner’s security men closed in discreetly around him and he was walked out of the gallery; he gave a slight shake of the head to warn her off trying anything.
Gardner’s Penthouse Suite
Milton stood by and allowed Neal to enter his suite, and nodded to his personal security to take up positions at the door.
“Can I offer you a drink?”
Neal smiled. “A whiskey and soda will be fine.” He wandered over to look at a couple of paintings set up on easels.
“Whatever you wish, Mr. Caffrey.” Milton smiled and waved at one of his servants to get the drink as he took a seat, looking the younger man up and down as Neal turned to face him.
“The name is George Donnelly.”
“No, Mr. Caffrey, let us drop this pretense. I think that Agent Burke would be interested in your whereabouts. I heard that he had been tracking you, but I am more interested in what you can do for me. You see, your associate Vincent Adler caused me considerable inconvenience; certain investments were lost, and that is where you are going to help me.
Mozzie was at his wit's end; he had been tipped off by Kate that Neal’s cover had been blown, and had followed him to the penthouse, but he had been blocked by security from entering it. Gardner used his power and influence like a weapon.
The next morning, in his car outside of the hotel, he saw Neal brought out with Gardner and placed in a limo. He was taken to a small landing strip and put on a Lear Jet along with Gardner’s security men. That was where he lost him.
It was three weeks later that Mozzie got a call on his cell; it was Neal—he sounded out of breath, and his voice was far from strong. When he got to him, Neal looked like a mile of bad road. He bundled him into the car, and set about putting as much distance between them and Gardner as he could. Twenty four hours later, he had Neal on a plane to Mexico. The beating he had taken had been done over a length of time; his hands and face had been untouched, but his body was a roadmap of pain.
Neal had refused to tell him what Gardner had had done to him, but only that he had been forced to forge a painting by Mark Ryan and that it was connected to losses that Vincent Adler had caused him. From then on Neal refused to use the name George Donnelly and to copy any of Mark Ryan’s paintings.
continued in The Ryan Exchange Part Three