The butler opened the door and showed the two of them into Hardwick House.
Stepping into the small alcove next to the door, Joe noticed that Giles had had the place redecorated since he’d last been in. All the old Victorian furniture with its intricate carvings had been replaced by modern furniture with straight lines, uncarved wood, and basic shapes. Joe wondered where all the old stuff had gone, but did not plan to ask. It really didn’t matter.
Turning to the butler, he said, “Mitchell, If you don’t mind, we’ll find our own way in. They’re at the top of the pyramid, right?”
The butler nodded.
As they followed the main hall from the older, Gothic mansion to the pyramid shaped section on the far end, Joe sometimes poked his head into the rooms and pointed them out to Romy.
“The ballroom,” he said.
A little later… “The library.”
“That’s the guest suite. I think Teddy Roosevelt slept there once.”
Without the old furniture, they looked less cluttered but somehow less impressive, Joe thought. On the other hand, it wasn’t as if he was ten anymore. He couldn’t seriously expect Giles to have kept the house the same.
The elevator stood in a column in the middle of the first floor of the pyramid. They stepped inside and Joe pushed the button.
“A pyramid. A tower. A house that recalls the style of a cathedral,” she said. “It’s as if the owners are desperate to be old, but this house isn’t even one hundred, is it?”
“It might be eighty,” Joe said. “Still, it seemed impressive enough when I was a kid. Try to imagine playing hide and go seek here. The basement is almost as large as the house.”
“What do they use it for?”
“Not much. I think they started digging before they started asking why they wanted to dig.”
They reached the top floor. The elevator opened and they stepped out into an open room with windows on all four sides. The top of Hardwick House’s tower stood just across the roof to the west, blocking the view of part of downtown. Past it, Grand Lake and Lake Michigan merged into the darkness.
Chuck and Giles sat at a table near the window.
They both stood up as Joe and Romy stepped out of the elevator. Giles saying, “Good to see you both. Can I get either of you a drink?”
“I’ll have a beer,” Joe said.
Romy said, “What have you got?”
As Giles waved her over to the bar, Chuck stepped up to Joe. “You told her?”
Joe said, “She asked.”
“My wife asked, but I didn’t bring her in. You don’t tell people about this.”
“You know Romy can keep a secret. She worked with us for almost half the war.”
Chuck glanced toward the bar. Joe followed his gaze. Romy and Giles were already walking back.
“OK, she can help, but watch her.”
Joe didn’t say anything.
“Well, let’s start,” Giles said. “Chuck and I have been going over the basics and we have come up with some ideas. We can’t just tell the Chicago mob to keep away from Leonardo’s because if we go after them after that, they’ll guess we’re connected to his father-in-law. What we need to do is think big. We’re going to tell them to get out of Grand Lake.”
Romy handed Joe a glass of beer as they sat down at the table.
“We’re just going to kick the mob out of the city?” Joe said. “That won’t be easy.”
“Easier than you’d expect,” Chuck said. “The cops have to pay attention to evidence and proof and all that. We don’t. I figure we go after one thing only — the profits. The mob wants to make money. If we want them out of here, we make it too much of a hassle to make a profit and they’ll go.”
“How?” Romy said. “How exactly will we go after their profits?”
“Lots of different ways,” Chuck said. “First, my father-in-law has a good general idea who’s paying protection money. I’m going to go in as Night Wolf and tell them not to pay.”
“That’s one,” Romy said.
“The other one,” Giles said, “and this is the part I love, is that we start going after their property. They own some warehouses and some businesses. We burn down the warehouses and start giving their businesses hell. I’ll use my influence to start investigations by the police, and make sure anything they need from the city bureaucracy moves at a snail’s pace. I’ll have my people buy up anything they need and sell it back to them at double the price.”
Joe nodded. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like parts of it, but off the top of my head, I see a few problems. The mob’s going to strike back and the obvious target’s going to be the other business owners. We need to make sure they don’t take the brunt of it. Second, we’re going to end up fighting the police or maybe even Man-machine when we start burning down buildings. Do you think we can get away with it?”
“Details,” Giles said. “We’ll sort it all out in the end.”
“We’re better off if we start sorting it out now,” Joe said.
Romy took another sip out of her wine glass. “I think we’ve got the germ of something good here. Let’s start one step further back. What sort of resources do they have?”
They talked until well past two in the morning.