Roger Stelljes. Smashwords Edition




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DEADLY STILLWATER


By

Roger Stelljes


DEADLY STILLWATER

By Roger Stelljes


Copyright 2010 Roger Stelljes. Smashwords Edition. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or or introduced into any information storage retreival system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via other means without permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.


This book is a work of the author's experience and opinion. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.


This ebook is is licensed for your peronal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.


The publisher and author does not have any control over and does not assume responsibility for third-party websites or their content.


Ebook cover designed by: Carole Sauers


Published by: Roger Stelljes

Visit the author website at: www.RogerStelljes.com


ISBN 978-0-9835758-0-1 (ebook)

ISBN 10: 1-59298-307-3

ISBN 13: 978-1-59298-307-0


First paper printing: 2009

Ebook version 2011.10.17


Other books by the award winning author Roger Stelljes:


The St. Paul Conspiracy


Acknowledgments


The process of publishing a book starts with the author’s written word. However, only with the help of many others does a book ultimately see print. I am indebted to a number of people who helped make this second book possible. I’d like to thank friends and family for assistance in editing, cover design, marketing, and technical assistance. I can’t thank you all enough for your time, thoughts, and encouragement. I hope you enjoy the finished product as much as you did the rough one. Finally, I’d like to thank my wife and children for their infinite patience as Dad pursues his dream.


1


Fifteen Seconds”

SUNDAY, JULY 1ST


Dictionary definitions vary, but “retribution” is typically defined as punishment imposed for purposes of repayment or revenge for the wrong committed. For Smith, retribution simply meant payback. He’d waited sixteen years for it, and now he was three hours away from starting to get it.

Smith turned the panel van left into the alley and pulled three-quarters of the way down toward Western Avenue. He stopped and then backed in behind a small office building housing an accounting office with a storefront facing Western. From this position, the back of the café was visible at a forty-five-degree angle to the right. Smith had watched the area and this parking spot in particular every Sunday for the last month. Nobody ever came to the building or parked in the back on a Sunday afternoon. He expected this day would be no different.

His watch said 2:03PM. The office building’s parking lot was elevated two feet above that of the restaurant across the alley. This allowed for a somewhat unobstructed view of the restaurant’s back patio, which was surrounded by a six-foot-high wood fence. He could only see the tops of heads or upper torsos of patrons and staff from his position. Nonetheless, the spot provided a needed clear view of the café’s small parking lot outside the fence. The target’s car, a new Prius, occupied the second to last space in the back of the lot, located close to Western.

Smith set his gaze on the back of the restaurant, Cel’s Café, a little bistro on the corner of Western and Selby avenues. The café was a busy hub in St. Paul’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood, an area of turn-of-the-century Victorian homes encircling the majestic Cathedral of Saint Paul. The stately mansions of Summit Avenue lay a mere three blocks away. The café was a busy post-church lunching spot. By the mid-to-late afternoon, it changed over to a light crowd of book or newspaper readers, drinking coffee, iced tea, and, for those living on the edge, maybe a bloody mary. Cel’s also employed a young waitress named Shannon Hisle, the daughter of St. Paul’s wealthiest and most prominent lawyer.

Smith pulled black leather gloves tight over his hands and turned to the back of the van where two large men, brothers Dean and David, fiddled with duct tape, masks, and gloves of their own. There was also a gas-filled plastic milk carton with a detonator taped on the side for later. Each had a .45 lying on the floor. Smith turned his attention to the passenger seat and the police scanner, which reported little activity on this sleepy summer afternoon.

Smith had spent fifteen years in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Because of who he was, the beatings started his first day. He had fought, but he didn’t have a fighting chance. Those first few years, he suffered broken ribs, fingers, and wrists more than once. In one of the last and most brutal of the assaults, he suffered a broken nose that left him with a large and permanent bulbous knot just below the bridge and a shattered eye socket that blurred the peripheral vision in his left eye. He spent long tours in the infirmary, recovering from the abuse, only to be put back into the general population to be unmercifully beaten again and again. He had no allies, no protection, and no hope in those early years.

If it wasn’t for the arrival of the two hulking brothers in the back of the van, he wouldn’t have made it. Three years into Smith’s sentence, David who was six-foot-three and 240 pounds of bulging muscles, moved into a neighboring cell. David saw firsthand the results of the beatings. He didn’t like what he saw. Along with his equally large and skilled brother Dean, three cells further down, David used skills honed in the Golden Gloves to put a stop to it.

David and Dean had saved his life. Smith would do anything for his two friends. It was one of the reasons why he now sat behind the wheel and had masterminded what was about to take place. Before he could get his, Dean and David needed to get theirs.


* * * * *


Monica sat at her table at the front of the bistro, sipping her iced tea, alternately reading her Harlequin novel, watching the target, and making calls on her cell phone.

Dressed in a frumpy floral blouse, faded black spandex pants, and black heels, sporting a 1960s bouffant wig of black hair, she had the look of a mid-forties woman whose social life revolved around reading about romances she would never have. It was far from her normal, stylish look, but it was the look she wanted for today. She had used it the previous three weeks when she came in on Sunday afternoons to scout the movements of Shannon Hisle. The mark was sitting at the bar now, closing out her tables, sipping a Diet Coke. She would be leaving soon.

Taking one last sip of her iced tea, Monica put the receipt in her purse, popped a complimentary mint in her mouth, and discreetly wiped down the table and the arms of her chair. She’d never been arrested nor had her prints taken, but she didn’t want to take a chance.

Hisle finished the last of her tabs and handed them to her manager, who gave them a quick look and approval. Monica checked her watch – 4:56 PM – and placed a call as Hisle put her purse over her shoulder. Smith picked up on the first ring.

Fifteen seconds.”

As Hisle pushed the back door open, Monica slung her purse over her shoulder, walked out the front door and turned right, casually strolling east along Selby Avenue and away from the action beginning to unfold.


* * * * *


Dean, a black ski mask over his head, was out of the van now, crouched down behind a parked pickup truck three cars to the right of Hisle’s Prius. David, his mask down as well, was stationed at the van’s side sliding door. Smith focused on the back door and saw the pretty brunette push her way through. He pulled the van into the alley and turned left, driving slowly down the alley, watching Hisle all the way.


* * * * *


Shannon hustled to her car with her head down and digging with her right hand across her body deep into her black purse, searching for her car keys.

When she reached the back bumper of her car, she halted and dug with both hands, leaning down and peering in.

Where the heck did they go?” she muttered. Ah ha, there they were, buried in a corner, under her cell phone. She grabbed the cell phone and keys and sensed the sudden flash of movement from her left. She looked up in time to see a mammoth black-masked man barreling toward her.

NO!... NO!....”


* * * * *


Dean scooped Hisle, putting his hand over her mouth as she screamed and thrashed against his iron grip.

Smith quickly turned right out of the alley and pulled up along the curb. David slid the door open and grabbed the struggling Hisle out of his brother’s hands. He dragged her inside, sat on top of her, and pinned her arms down. Dean jumped in, closed the door, and grabbed the duct tape as Smith punched the gas and took a hard right turn on Selby and accelerated east to Summit Avenue. Dean and David duct taped the girl’s hands, ankles, and mouth. They then put a pillow case over her head. Hisle squirmed and tried to scream through the duct tape pasted over her mouth. A brief look in the rearview mirror and Smith could see the horror in her eyes. It was only beginning for her.


2


How do they know she’s coming?”


Mac McRyan swerved his Ford Explorer through traffic in Spaghetti Junction just north of downtown St. Paul, flasher and siren going strong, as it had been since he left Stillwater and his boat fifteen minutes earlier. It had been a wonderful Sunday up until now. With his sister, Julia, her husband, Jack, and his girlfriend, Sally, he had spent the day on his family’s boat on the St. Croix River, picnicking and soaking up the sun. It was the most relaxing day that he and Sally, a busy Ramsey County prosecutor, had experienced in months – at least until now. As the group was tying up the boat and deciding where to go for dinner, the call came in. Now he skidded to a quick stop just short of the patrol car parked across the intersection of Selby and Western.

Mac’s full name was Michael McKenzie McRyan, but for all of his thirty-three years he’d simply been known as Mac. He’d been in the McRyan family business – the St. Paul Police Department – for eight years. A fourth-generation cop, Mac had relatives sprinkled throughout the department.

He rolled his athletic six-foot-one frame out of the Explorer. Ruggedly handsome, Mac had short blonde hair, icy blue eyes, and a taut face with a dimple the size of the Grand Canyon on his scarred chin. A former captain of the University of Minnesota hockey team, he was still at his 190-pound playing weight and worked hard daily to keep it that way. Sliding on his Oakley sunglasses, he walked toward a uniform cop who waved him through. Mac took in the scene, with squad cars and Crown Vics everywhere. He saw two techs from County Forensics taking pictures and prowling around the parking lot behind Cel’s. And, of course, the chief’s Boys stood just behind them.

The boys were Detectives Pat Riley, Riley’s partner, Bobby Rockford, and Mac’s own partner, Richard Lich. When St. Paul Police Chief Charles Flanagan needed results – when the shit hit the fan – he turned to his Boys. Lyman Hisle was as high profile as it got in the Twin Cities, and his daughter had been abducted in broad daylight. Not to mention, Hisle was a close personal friend of Charlie Flanagan. Needless to say, the chief needed his best cops on the case.

They were a motley crew.

Pat “Riles” Riley was a sizeable man, well over six feet tall and two hundred pounds. The veteran detective had dark eyes, a heavy Nixonian five o’clock shadow, and a thick mane of black hair, which he combed back. A sharp dresser, Riles looked like a mobster in his pinstripe suits, perfectly pressed shirts, and stylish ties. Loud, boisterous, and loyal, Riles was like a brother to Mac, having served with Mac’s father, Simon, when he first became a detective years ago.

Bobby “Rock” Rockford was even larger than Riley. He was black, dark black, with his eyes deeply embedded in his large, shaved head. When he smiled, he showed a gap between his two front teeth. He’d been a college defensive tackle and wasn’t averse to getting physical when the circumstances warranted. Rock, given his size, appearance, and growl, could be downright frightening. Mac had watched him scare a guy into shitting his pants once.

Then there was “Dick Lick.”

Richard Lich was short, squat, and balding with a bushy porn star mustache in constant need of trimming. Twice divorced, he spent plenty of time lamenting his perpetually dire financial circumstances. He blamed both ex-wives not only for his financial difficulties, but also for his inability to fix his wardrobe. Perhaps the worst dresser ever to carry a shield, Dick donned a pitiful series of old soiled suits, all some shade of brown, whether it be gravy brown, dirt brown or shit brown. He topped each ensemble off with scuffed shoes, faded shirts, chewed-on cigars, and in the winter, either a black or brown fedora. While Riles and Rock scared the hell out of people, Lich was comic relief, a true piece of work. But he was a piece of work that people tended to underestimate. Few realized that he was a damn fine detective. Possessed with a quick wit and an easy manner, he was a perfect partner for Mac, smoothing out his younger partner’s abrasive edges.

With Mac as the catalyst, the boys had earned their reputation on the PTA case. Their work had brought down a small band of retired CIA agents and their corporate employer, PTA, a St. Paul military and intelligence contractor. PTA and its various players were behind the murders of an investigative reporter, a U.S. senator and the company CFO, while trying to cover up illegal arms deals. Since that case, the chief often had the four of them work cases together as an unofficial special investigative unit.

As Mac approached the boys, Lich called out, “Nice outfit.”

Mac still wore his boating gear: tan cargo shorts, navy blue Polo golf shirt, and leather sandals – all of which was at odds with the badge hanging around his neck. His blonde hair stood up just a bit more than usual, wind-blown from a day on the river.

You’re the last person who should give fashion advice,” was Mac’s ready response. Lich had matched his shit-brown slacks with a faded orange golf shirt, untucked and fully open at the collar. Mac turned to Riley.

What the hell happened? Are we sure this was a kidnapping?”

Riley exhaled, running his hand through his large mane of black hair.

Let me run it down, and you tell me what you think.” Riles walked to the back of the Prius. “Shannon Hisle got off work at 5:00. She walked out the back door. Her car is this Prius. It looks like when she reached the back of her car somebody grabbed her. The positioning of her keys and phone on the pavement away from her car at least suggest that.”

And then what happened?”

We think whoever grabbed her jumped into a white van that pulled away and turned right on Selby. From there…” Riley’s voice trailed off.

Rock jumped in, rubbing a hand across his shaved head, “Our witnesses… well… kind of….”

Suck,” Lich finished.

Suck, like they didn’t see anything?” Mac asked.

Regular Havercamps,” Riles replied, never one to pass up a Caddyshack moment. He pointed across and to the south along Western Avenue. “An old couple was walking along the sidewalk down there, maybe a hundred yards away, and they think they saw a guy dressed in black pick her up and throw her into the van.”

Think?” Mac asked.

Older couple, in their seventies, maybe early eighties, vision is a bit of an issue.”

Anything about the van?”

White. It comes out of the alley, and turns right. The guy in black throws her in and off they go,” Riles said.

Anything else?”

Another witness, female,” Riles turned and pointed to the southwest corner of Selby and Western, “was waiting on that corner, facing north, about ready to cross the street when she thought she heard a scream. She turned around and saw the van slow and then quickly pull away, turn right and go east on Selby.”

So then what happened?”

Confusion really,” Lich said. “The elderly couple came walking up and spoke with the woman on the corner, asking, you know, ‘did you see that?’ They’re not sure what they all saw, so they walk across the street into the parking lot and see keys and a cell phone lying on the ground. They go inside the café and explain what they saw. The café workers come outside, see that Hisle’s car is still in the lot, and call 911.”

How long did all that take?”

Three or four minutes at best, maybe more,” Lich replied. “Nobody saw it all happen, just bits and pieces.”

So anyway, a squad gets here maybe a minute or two later,” Rock added. “They ask some questions, get basically what we’re talking about now, and make the call.”

So before we even have an alert out about a white van, it’s what?” Mac asked.

Lich shook his head, skeptical, voicing what everyone else was thinking.

At best, eight to ten minutes, probably more.”

Maaaaaan,” Mac groaned. “That’s a lot of time to get away before we even start looking. Did we get anything on the van? Plate, make, model, anything?”

No plate, white van. It looked like a typical delivery or repair van, panel type, no lettering, maybe slightly dented behind the driver side door, but that’s it.”

Nothing striking that would draw attention,” Lich added.

Where did the van come from?” Mac asked.

The older couple said it came out of the alley,” Rock answered. “We’re not entirely sure, but we’re thinking it was parked behind the office building.” He pointed across the alley and to their left. “From there, they would be able to see her come out the back door and take her.”

How many people?”

Driver, guy to take her,” Riles answered, counting on his fingers.

Maybe another guy in the van,” Lich added.

Why do you think not just two?” Mac asked Lich.

The older couple thinks he threw her into the van. I’m thinking there might have been someone in there to take or catch her. We don’t know for sure, just speculatin’.”

Any surveillance cameras or anything?”

Nada,” Rock replied. “Nothing outside. Hell, nothing inside the café.”

We’re askin’ the café people,” Lich asked.

Was there anyone unusual inside or outside today, last few days, anything like that,” Mac added.

Not that anyone can recall,” Rock answered. “It was busy early in the afternoon with the post-church crowd. However, after that rush, the staff says there were just regulars sitting around reading, having coffee. Pretty mellow.”

In other words,” Mac said, summing up, “we got shit.”

Hell, we ain’t even got that,” Lich replied, looking down, shaking his head.

The group stood in silence for a minute before Mac asked, “Where is the chief?”

In a sad irony, already at Hisle’s,” answered their captain, Marion Peters, as he ducked under the crime scene tape and joined the group. “The chief was out there for Hisle’s annual barbeque when the call came in.”

I assume they haven’t heard from the kidnappers yet?”

No,” Peters answered.

Are we on the phone?”

Yeah, both landline and cell,” Peters replied. “I’ve been setting that up. We’re watching the phone at her place. We have someone at his law firm watching the phone. But we expect he’ll get the call at home, and we have people and the chief out there.”

What about the Feds?” Rock asked. “Will they be coming in?”

Peters shrugged. “At some point they will. Kidnapping is one of their gigs. Hisle’s a prominent guy, politically connected, so the bureau will be involved at some point and somehow.”

We don’t know that they took her over state lines,” Lich replied.

True. But again, we’re talking Lyman here. He’ll probably want them in and the chief will accede to his wishes, they being friends and all.”

Yeah,” Mac added, “and given what we have thus far, we’ll need their resources.”

Riley’s and Peter’s cell phones chirped, and they walked away from the group. Mac left Rock, and he and Lich walked over toward Hisle’s car.

So did her old man piss someone off?” Lich asked.

Possibly,” Mac answered. Lyman had made the big time both financially and politically. You do that and you’ve made some people mad, very mad, along the way. He’d made millions on class-action and discrimination cases, fighting businesses for years. On the criminal side, he’d tussled with the police departments around town for years. Yet, given his practice, he was still popular with the local police departments. He often waived his hefty retainer and fees to help the men in blue. Consequently, there would be no “what goes around comes around” feeling that cops might have for many of the lawyers they dealt with. The cops would have Lyman’s back on this one.

It could be a nut, or….”

Or what?” Lich asked following Mac back toward Hisle’s car.

Maybe not a nut,” Mac answered blandly as he walked over to the yellow numbered evidence tags by the keys and cell phone. They were lying on the ground, to the right of Shannon Hisle’s car, strewn toward Western Avenue. The way the keys and phone had spilled suggested that whoever grabbed her had come from the left, and with force. The cell phone was a few feet from the car and the keys a good ten feet from the car, nearly reaching the sidewalk separating the parking lot from Western.

Mac pivoted to his left and scanned the cars parked to the left of Hisle’s. There was a Ford Focus and Chevy Cavalier, both compact cars. The third was a black Ford F-150, a hefty pickup truck. The pickup was parked with its back end pointing out. Mac walked around the truck to the driver’s side and crouched down. There was little of interest on the asphalt, beyond gravel and litter. It would be collected and analyzed but it was unlikely to be of any help. However, there was a definite fresh footprint in a bare patch of black dirt between the alley and the parking lot. Mac called a crime scene tech over. The print looked fresh and was big, probably size twelve or thirteen, Mac thought. The tread of the impression looked like a hiking boot. “Get a picture of that,” Mac directed, “and dust this side of the truck, especially the back quarter panel, for prints.”

What do you have?” Lich asked, walking over.

The keys and cell phone landed toward Western, to the right of the rear bumper of the car?”

Yeah, so?”

So it looks like whoever took Hisle came from this way, by the truck here. Scooped her up and ran to the van on Western. This is a big truck. You could hide behind it and wait for her. There’s a fresh footprint in that bare spot between the alley and the parking lot. If you line it up, the footprint is coming straight, as if the guy came from right across the alley.” Mac pointed toward the back of the office building on the other side of the alley. “The van was across the alley. They know Hisle’s coming out, one guy hides here, the other drives the van from behind the building, down the alley and pulls up along the curb.”

Lich picked up on the thought. “Yeah. I see what you’re gettin’ at. Our guy comes from this spot. It’s three cars to Hisle. She comes out; he pops out, scoops her up.”

Right. Three cars to here is nothing. He’d be on her in an instant,” Mac replied. “I bet that’s what happened.”

They stood in silence for a moment, and then Mac asked, “But do they know when she’s coming?”

Huh?” Lich asked.

How do they know she’s coming? I mean, their timing was pretty good.”

Beats me. Guy sits and waits for her.”

Yeah, but if the guy is hiding behind the truck here, he can’t wait all afternoon can he?”

Lich nodded, “I see what you’re saying. They had to have an idea of when she was leaving.”

So how do they know?”

Maybe she always leaves at 5:00 PM.”

Maybe,” Mac answered. “But that could be four fifty-five or five ten, depending on her schedule and what not. This is a good spot, but you wouldn’t want to be exposed for too long here. Somebody might still notice if you were here more than a minute or two. No, you’d want to know exactly when she was coming.”

Lich’s eyebrows went up. “Someone inside?”

That’s what I’m thinking,” Mac replied, already walking toward the back door of the café.


* * * * *


Smith peered in the rearview mirror as he slowly backed the van into the garage of the safe house. Once parked, he killed the engine and let the garage door down, not getting out until the door had closed. Once down, he donned a mask to match the ones worn by David and Dean. He climbed out of the van and opened the sliding door for the brothers.

The safe house was a small, nondescript white 1950s rambler located in a working-class neighborhood a few blocks off of West Seventh Street on St. Paul’s south side. While there were houses on either side and across the street, there was a large wood privacy fence surrounding the back of the property as well as railroad tracks running behind. They’d only been in the house for two days, although it had been rented since June first.

A stairway in the garage led down to the basement. Smith led the way down as Dean and David, still masked, followed carrying the pixie-sized Hisle. The basement had a small family room, a bedroom, and a full bath. In the bedroom, there were two twin beds with metal frames as well as steel-barred head and footboards. A piece of plywood was screwed into place over the small egress window. A solitary low-watt ceiling light lit the bedroom.

The two brothers set Hisle down on the bed, and Dean pinned her down. The girl began fighting, perhaps fearing she was going to be raped. But rape wasn’t part of the plan. David pulled the hunting knife attached to his belt and cut the duct tape from her wrists. He then used two pairs of handcuffs to secure each hand to a metal post on the headboard. David then cut the tape around her ankles and manacled each to the footboard. Once the girl was fully secured, Dean pushed off, and she struggled against the cuffs, grunting and pulling to no avail. The men, masks still on, watched the young woman struggle and flail. Smith wanted her to get the last of it out of her system. He wanted and needed her calm. After a few minutes, Hisle began to settle down, exhaustion setting in from fighting her restraints. She wasn’t getting away, and they weren’t doing anything more to her.

Smith nodded and Dean and David backed away as Smith sat down on the side of the bed and removed the pillow case from her head.

Settle down now, Shannon,” Smith said quietly. “We don’t want to harm you. Neither these men nor I is going to rape you or anything like that, so you needn’t worry about those kinds of things.”

She lay still, but fear showed in her eyes. Smith wanted her calm for what he needed from her. He sat silent for a few moments and let her settle down.

I’m going to take the tape off your mouth, okay? But don’t yell,” he said, holding his hand just over her mouth, “If you try to yell, I will have to hurt you. Do you understand? And I really don’t want to do that.”

Shannon nodded slightly. Smith slowly removed the duct tape, trying not to harm her. She breathed deeply before speaking.

What are you going to… do with me?”

We have taken you for a specific purpose Shannon. A very specific purpose.”

Money? Is it money you want?”

Of course, of course,” Smith answered. “It’s exactly why we chose you, Shannon. Your father has a lot of money, and we want some of it. Now if you play ball with us, and if your dad plays ball….” Smith patted her lightly on her thigh. “Well, everything will work out just fine.”

What does that mean?”

It means, if you do as we ask, your chances of making it out of this are a whole lot better. If you don’t help us out, well… it certainly could go much worse.”

So this is just about money?” she asked.

Absolutely,” Smith replied, patting her thigh again. “That’s all we’re looking for. If you’re hurt, it makes it harder for us to get paid. So, I assure you, we do not wish to harm you.”

How will you convince him you’re not going to harm me?”

Smith smiled under his mask. The girl was smart, but what would you expect from the daughter of a lawyer – a good lawyer for that matter. “Don’t you spend time thinking about that,” Smith answered. “I don’t have to harm you to make sure your father is motivated to pay what he’s going to have to pay.”

How?”

Because you’re his little girl and you’re going to help us.”


* * * * *


The café manager was Mike Haines, a balding, soft-spoken man in his late twenties. He placed the original 911 call and did a good job of holding the scene, having all of the patrons and staff stay until the police arrived. Shannon Hisle had worked for him for two years and normally worked Sundays. Pulling the schedules for the past two months confirmed that she’d been schedule for every Sunday until 5:00 PM. Haines said that she liked to work the shift, which was fine by him because it usually wasn’t a busy day and he often had difficulty scheduling staff for it.

When she got off at 5:00, was it always right at 5:00, or could it be earlier or later?” Mac asked.

She might leave a little early on occasion, maybe at 4:45 or so, but usually she would leave right around 5:00 PM.”

What does she have to do when it’s time to leave?” Lich followed up. Haines ran a hand over his balding head.

Close out her tables, which are usually just three or four at that point. Make sure her transactions balance, tip the bartender, and that’s pretty much it,” Haines explained.

How long would it take her to do all that?” Mac asked.

On a Sunday, not long. Five, ten minutes tops.”

Where does she do that, settle up?”

If we’re busy, it would usually be in my office in the back. But on Sundays we’re a little more informal, and I don’t mind if they sit at the bar and drink a soda while they’re doing it. Most of our wait staff does that, and Shannon did it this afternoon.”

So what happens is, she sits at the bar, closes everything out, and that’s it?” Mac said, moving toward the bar.

Yeah, pretty much,” Haines replied.

Mac sat on the bar stool, his back to the bar, looking out over the restaurant. He looked to his right, where a small hallway led to the back door, the patio, and then the parking lot where Hisle was abducted. He looked back out into the restaurant, where there were sixteen tables in four rows. To Mac’s left a row of tables sat along the front windows of the restaurant. There were two rows down the center and then a row along the wall to his right. He looked at the back door again.

How many people in the restaurant about the time Hisle left?” Mac asked.

Haines tilted his head, squinted, and pondered for a minute, “I’d say we had maybe four or five tables going at that point.”

How about in the half hour before she left?”

Give me a minute,” Haines said. “I can go through the receipts and get a count.”

What are you thinking?” Riles asked after Haines walked off for the receipts.

They had someone on the inside.”

How do you figure?” Rock asked, puzzled.

She leaves at 5:00 PM or thereabouts on Sundays, right?”

Yeah, that gives them a time to be ready.”

Fine,” Mac replied, “But let’s assume for a second that our guy is waiting behind that truck for Shannon to leave. He can’t just sit there for five or ten minutes with a mask on and not risk drawing some attention.”

Riley picked up on the thread.

So they know when she’s generally going to leave, but they need to know when she’s heading out so as to be ready.”

Right,” Mac said. “Somebody sits in here, eyes the situation, and calls out when she’s getting ready to go.”

And this person knows when Shannon is getting ready to go, since she sits up at the bar, having a soda and closing out her tables,” Rock added.

Probably because the inside person has been in here on Sundays, watching the pattern and knew when she was getting ready to roll,” Mac finished.

Just then, Haines came back.

In the half hour before Shannon left we had eight tables active.”

How many closed out between 4:30 and 5:00 PM? Lich asked.

Haines reviewed them quickly, “I have four closing out in that time period.”

Which is the latest?”

Haines flipped through the four that closed, looking for the time along the top of the white receipt, “Last one was at 4:52 PM. Shannon closed it out.”

How’d the person pay?” Riley asked before the others could spit it out, all thinking the same thing and knowing the answer.

Cash.”

Not a surprise. A credit card would have made it easier, Mac thought.

How much was the tab?”

$18.76,” Haines replied. “A few iced teas and a sandwich.”

Which table?” Mac asked.

Four.”

Where’s that?”

Over by the front door.”

They all walked over to the table. It was empty, except for the ceramic sugar holder and the glass salt and pepper shakers in the middle. Mac stood on the side that backed up to the front door. He could take in the entire restaurant, including the bar and the hallway to the back door.

Mr. Haines, do you recall who was sitting here?”

Vaguely. Black hair, flowery blouse. She was here for a while, reading a book.”

Was she ever on a cell phone?”

I think she was from time to time.”

Have you seen her in here before?”

Yeah, a few times.”

Over the years? Last couple of months? What?” Mac asked.

Probably more recent,” Haines replied.

Do you recall when she left today?”

Not exactly when.”

Do you think it was before or after Shannon left?”

I really can’t recall. I do know she wasn’t here when the patrol car arrived. She wasn’t here when I asked everyone to stay. She was gone by then.”

You think she went out the front door?” Lich asked.

I don’t recall her going out the back.”

We need forensics to work this table over,” Mac said.

I’ll go get them,” Lich said and left the group.

Your entire staff has to remember this woman as best they can,” Riley told Haines. “We need a name, full description, anything and everything they can think of. Call anyone in who has worked Sundays for the last month. We’ll get a sketch artist down here as well.”

Why?” Haines asked.

Because,” Mac replied, “this person may have sat right here and let the kidnappers know when Shannon bailed.”

Riley’s cell phone went off again.

Riley,” he answered. He nodded his head a few times. “Where?” He took out a notepad and started writing. “Okay… thanks.”

What’s up?” Rock asked.

We might have the van.”

Where?”

River Falls.”


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