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“He’s got options from here.”
The Explorer sped north, engine roaring, the siren and lights moving traffic out of the left lane as the needle on the speedometer passed one hundred. Mac worked the wheel, with Lich scanning a Minnesota map, checking out Clearwater. Riley and Rock were trailing in an unmarked sedan, alternately on the phone with the Clearwater Police, the State Patrol, Mac and Lich, as well as Burton and Peters.
Five miles from the exit, Mac said, “You know what was weird about the call?”
“What?” Lich asked.
“They didn’t ask for the ransom,” Mac replied. “If this is about ransom, why not ask for it right then?”
“They’ll call back, I’m sure,” Lich replied. “Maybe he figures if he stays on the line too long he’ll get pinched.”
“Maybe. Maybe. But something doesn’t seem right.”
“There’s nothing right about any of this.”
Mac hit the exit ramp, hammered the brakes, and turned hard right. Two state patrol cruisers, a Clearwater squad car, and a Sherburne County Suburban, lights flashing, clustered at a pay phone in the parking lot for an abandoned fast-food-joint. Lich sighed.
“That’s what I feared.”
“What’s that?” Mac asked.
“He’s got options from here.”
Lich pointed at the map, where Interstate 94 and State Highway 10 bracketed their position. Mac understood immediately.
“He could make the call and go north on County Road 24 for four miles, which gets him to State Highway 10, or he could go left and back over to 94,” Lich said.
“Or just stay south on 24, which will take you toward Annandale and Maple Lake twenty miles to the south,” Mac added. “Shit.”
“And if he jumps onto 94 heading back to the cities, with the traffic coming home from up north, he just blends in with everyone else,” Lich said glumly as he climbed out. Riles and Rock were out of their car, and Riles immediately started in.
“Shit, he could go any number of ways….”
“…out of here,” Mac finished.
“We know,” Lich said with disgust. “He has options.”
The area around the phone had been taped off by the locals. Forensics personnel from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) would arrive shortly and begin processing the scene. The Clearwater police chief, a pot belly man named Billy Miller, introduced himself and then ran it down.
“No surveillance cameras, this old burger stand’s been closed for over a year now.”
“How about at the convenience store across the road, Chief? Is there any surveillance over there?”
“A trooper went over and asked and looked at their surveillance system. But….”
“You can’t see anything across the road and into this parking lot,” Mac said, shaking his head.
“Correct,” Miller replied.
“Are we checking with all these businesses, gas stations, and restaurants around here?” Riley asked.
“My two guys are on it,” Miller answered, “along with a couple of troopers. They’ve been at it for a half hour, but as far as I know, they haven’t come up with anything.”
They turned and watched as the BCA folks arrived and began walking around with flashlights, fingerprinting the telephone, bagging everything in sight. The effort was being made.
“Maybe the BCA will turn up something,” Rock said unconvincingly.
Miller shook his head, downcast as the rest of them.
“I don’t suspect much will be found, and when he rolls out of here….”
“We know,” Rock replied, waving to County Road 24. “He’s got options.”
* * * * *
Smith dropped the car at the Park & Fly, which was emptier now, and jumped back into the van. Inside the van, he revved the engine and turned the radio to the talk station. The kidnapping of Shannon Hisle was big news, and the talking heads were focused on it. Of course, so were the nuts, all of whom were frothing at the mouth, ranting for all to hear.
“I agree, it was a brazen act in broad daylight,” the host responded to a caller.
“Well, with something like that, it’s just further evidence that people should be carrying a gun to defend themselves. If this girl had a gun, she could have defended herself.”
“Well, as all you listeners know I’m an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment, conceal and carry,” the host responded, “but I think that response is perhaps an overreaction….”
Smith smiled at this as he turned left onto Shepard Road, motoring east back to the safe house. A gun wouldn’t have mattered for Hisle. Even if she did have one, Dean was on her so fast she never could have used it. But what really made him smile was the environment such coverage created – of people behaving hysterically, stupidly, carrying guns, calling the police to report every little thing, distracting them from the task at hand. It was perfect.
And then he smiled again.
If people were hysterical now, just wait until his next plan went into effect.
“Only the paranoid survive.”
It was after midnight when Mac pulled back into Lyman’s driveway. The crowd had thinned some, but there were plenty of folks hanging around, family, friends, and media, all hoping for a break.
The group made its way back to Lyman’s office and found him, the chief, Burton, Duffy, Peters, and the mayor quietly talking. For now, it appeared that the chief, the mayor, and Duffy were all tolerating one another. The chief had to be chafing. They learned on the way back that the mayor wanted the FBI to take a prominent role and had essentially forced it on the chief. Mac imagined that, when they got in private with no mayor, no Duffy, and no Burton around, the chief would swear a blue streak.
“Nothing, I assume?” the chief said.
“We crapped out,” Riles replied.
“No surveillance cameras?” Burton asked.
Everyone just shook their heads.
“Probably wouldn’t have mattered,” the chief said. “I know the place. It’s right on County 24 up there and when he pulls out of the parking lot….”
“He’s got options,” they all replied in unison.
“Plus, if the abduction is any indication, even if there was surveillance or we got a plate, I’ll bet you it was stolen,” Mac said. “These guys have thought this through. They knew exactly what they were doing and were gone like that.” He snapped his fingers, a little admiration in his voice.
The group hashed over the abduction, River Falls and Clearwater all over again, but a sense of helplessness, at least for the time being, pervaded the room. If there were to be any progress, it would come from Lyman’s files, some tip, or a mistake by the kidnappers. Finally, the chief suggested Lyman try to get some rest.
“One thing I want to do first,” Lyman said as he reached inside a duffel bag. “I prepared a couple of these black bags while you were gone.” He handed one to Mac and one to Riley. “The bag contains a vial of Glucagon, a needle, and a syringe. You would administer this if her sugar is too low.”
“Wouldn’t she need insulin?” Mac asked.
“She may and I’ve included a vial of that as well. I’ve also included a spare glucose meter. If you find her, depending upon when and the last time she took insulin and depending upon what her blood sugar is, she may need either Glucagon or insulin. Are you familiar with this Mac?”
“I used one once,” Mac said.
“Me, too,” Riles added.
“Good. But as a refresher for you guys, here is what you do.” Hisle showed the group the contents and instructed them in administering the proper dosage.
Mac asked the hard question.
“How long can she go without insulin?”
“It’s hard to say,” Hisle answered. “She has had some episodes in the past where she went without insulin for just a few days and got very sick. So it depends upon when she last took insulin and I suppose whether she has any with her and they let her take it. If she hasn’t been diligent and she doesn’t have any with her she could have issues within a few days. So it just depends on when she last had insulin. Did you find her purse at Cel’s?”
“No,” Mac answered, “Just her cell phone and keys.”
“Well, if they have her purse, hopefully she’ll have an extra dose or two with her. She should. I’ve always told her she needs to do that, but she’s a college kid. If she has insulin with her and they allow her to take it, she shouldn’t have a problem, at least not for a few days. If she doesn’t have insulin with her, she doesn’t get the proper food, and then if this goes for a while, it could be an issue, a big issue.”
“What do you mean by a big issue?” Mac pressed.
“If she goes too long without insulin, she can become disoriented and then eventually pass out. If it goes beyond that, she could end up in a coma. That almost happened once a few years ago.”
“So if we find her, we give her some insulin or Glucagon and that should help get her blood sugar back in line.”
“At least until she gets medical attention. She knows what to do if she has insulin and food available.”
“Then let’s hope they’re taking care of her,” Burton said. “I expect they will. If there is a demand for ransom, which is what we’re hoping for here, they’ll take care of her.”
“If anything comes up, anything at all, we’ll let you know,” the chief said, “but for now, my friend, you need to try to get some sleep.” The chief added as he walked Lyman out of the library and put him in the custody of his sister, who would take him across the house to his room. Hisle was spent and exhausted. He needed to rest, although sleep would likely prove elusive.
Once sure that Lyman was gone, Lich cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Are we sure Lyman is in the clear?” Mac shot Lich a look, as did a few others, but he was undeterred.
“I’m sorry, but the question has to be asked.”
“And it’s been answered,” the chief answered sternly. “Lyman’s clear.”
“Burton and I put him through the paces,” Peters added.
“For the record,” Lich replied, noting the looks from others, “I didn’t think he had anything to do with it. But I thought a prudent investigator should ask the question.”
Mac took his chance to change topics.
“So what do you think? Is this all about money?” he asked Burton. There was a hint of doubt in his voice.
“That’s certainly a part of it,” Burton replied and added confidently, “And if it is, we’ll have a good shot at catching them.”
“Because of the drop?” Lich asked.
“Exactly,” Burton replied, “Hell, I always pray it’s about the money. If it’s about the money, the person kidnapped stands a better chance of making it. The other thing is that if it’s about the money, that gives us a good chance of catching them because they have to pick up the money. That’s when we get ’em.”
“What are the odds on the drop?” Peters asked.
“Overall, really good,” Burton answered confidently. “Like I said, they have to expose themselves to get the ransom, that’s when we can catch them.”
“What about doing the money electronically?” Lich asked.
“Nah,” Mac answered before Burton could answer, “I’d think it would be easier for the FBI to track that. Especially as good as the government has gotten on that with the war on terror.”
“You’re mostly correct about that,” Burton answered. “Since 9/11, I haven’t had anyone try it on me that way, at least on a domestic kidnapping. If you have someone, however, who’s really good at the electronic transfer process, and moves it to countries that have been less than helpful, then it could be an issue, although in the end we’d still probably be able to track it down.”
“We’re talking money here, aren’t we being just a little presumptuous. I mean they didn’t demand the ransom when they called,” Mac stated and then he turned to Burton. “Does that strike you as odd?”
Burton was nonplussed. “A little. But I’m pretty confident they’ll get to it. Given how they’ve operated thus far, I sense we’re only part way into whatever it is they have planned.”
“You’re thinking this is only about money though?” Riley pressed.
“Not necessarily,” Burton answered. “I suspect there is a personal element to this as well. These guys aren’t crazy. What they did was well planned, well thought out. They picked Shannon Hisle for a reason, and that reason may well have something to do with her, or….”
“Or more likely her father,” Mac finished. “Lyman has represented a lot of high-profile people and taken on a lot of high-profile cases. Somebody certainly could have it in for him.”
“So I’ve been told,” Burton said. “So we need to be looking at his associates, clients, everyone he’s come into contact with over the years.”
“Man that’s a lot of people,” Lich said, running a hand over his bald head. “That could be hundreds of people.”
“More likely thousands, given clients, friends, political contacts, business contacts,” Riles tallied.
“Speaking of clients, that will be the deepest pool we’ll fish from, have we started that process?” Burton inquired.
“I’ve started the process of looking through his client files,” Peters said. “I’m not getting too much flack from his law firm. We’ll have files to look at first thing in the morning. They’re trucking them over to our place.”
“Criminal and civil?” Mac asked.
“We should probably focus on his criminal clientele,” the chief said.
“What about his civil cases?” Mac asked. “Lyman’s done a lot of work there. I don’t want to forget those.”
“We can and should look at those well,” Burton answered, looking to Peters for confirmation.
“Good,” Burton replied. “However, I think the chief is right. The criminal files are the better bet, at least to start with.”
“Even looking at just the criminal files, it’s going to be a long list,” Peters pointed out. “And if we find someone in these files worth looking at, it’ll be a bear to track them down.”
“Indeed,” Duffy said. Burton snorted his disagreement.
“Difficult? Yes. But we have all of the FBI’s resources at our disposal,” he said. He turned to Peters, adding, “What’s mine is yours. We’ll hook you up with everything we’ve got, including manpower. Just let me know what you need, and we’ll make it happen.”
“I appreciate it,” Peters said, taking out his cell phone and calling downtown.
“No problem,” Burton replied. “Look, technology is our strength. We can find patterns, tap phones, conduct electronic surveillance, run censuses, and create spreadsheets like nobody’s business.” Nodding to Mac and the boys, he smiled. “You guys are good street cops, not always the bureau’s strong suit. I need to have you guys looking over the data we get, checking the possibilities we find, talking to your folks on the street. A cop is only as good as his informants, and around here, you guys are the ones who have them. Let’s share and stay in touch.”
“We can do that,” Riles agreed.
“Good,” Burton answered, rubbing his hands together, on a roll now. “I’m going to have my team in first thing tomorrow, three men and two women. Everything we collect, no matter from where, we feed in to the team and see what we come up with. It’s a process that’s worked well for us, helped us get people back. Add that to your resources and we have a shot at bringing the girl home in one piece.”
“Sounds good,” Peters replied. “Where do you want to work out of, your local office?”
“You can run out of your place,” Duffy added, “We’ll run out of our….”
Burton cut Duffy off, “No. No. No. Ed. We’ll run everything from the police department headquarters. If we’re split, we’re not sharing information and we get dumbass turf wars, people trying to one-up each other. Us Fed types are classic for that. I don’t care who cracks this thing. I know that doesn’t necessarily sound right to all of you, but I really don’t care. So let’s work it together; feed your information to my team on the technical side, and you can access anything you need. You feed us what you’re hearing on the street, and we’ll crack this thing. And getting back to business, when is it again we’ll have Hisle’s files to work through?”
“First thing in the morning,” Peters answered.
“So until it’s ready, you boys get some sleep,” the chief ordered.
* * * * *
Mac quietly opened the door to the bedroom and went to his side of the bed. He lightly laid his wallet, badge, and watch on the nightstand and looked down at Sally lying under the bed sheet, wearing a red teddy, looking beautiful.
He had met her eight months earlier. Sally Kennedy was the prosecutor on the case where he made his name. Mac was immediately attracted to her long red hair, curvaceous body, perfect bright smile, and passion for everything. Not to mention, she was smart, tough as nails, and a damn fine prosecutor.
Both were recently divorced when they met, and both were looking to get back into the dating game. But they knew it right away – they were right for one another. The relationship quickly moved beyond dating, and they were now practically living together. Well, there was no practically about it – there were half-emptied boxes all over the house and far too much furniture. Some of it would have to go into storage – the two of them just hadn’t figured out which pieces yet. His mother, a devout Catholic, of course protested the living arrangement prior to moving in.
“That’s living in sin,” she had lectured.
“I’m already divorced mom. What could I possibly have to lose in God’s eyes at this point?”
“Well at least make her an honest woman then,” his mother said.
“Mom, don’t even go there,” Mac had replied. He and Sally hadn’t even uttered the word. It was as if there was an unspoken agreement to not discuss marriage. Their divorces left them both scarred and fearful of the “m” word, but not commitment. They loved each other, said so to each other often and were very happy together. For now, that was enough for both of them.
Sally woke as he put his keys down.
“Tell me. Is it as bad as it seems on the news?”
“Right now, yes,” Mac answered and then brought her up to date. “I don’t know,” he finished. “Something about this is off.”
“They didn’t make the ransom demand, perhaps?”
“That’s exactly it, babe. It’s got me wondering,” Mac replied, nodding. “Nobody else seems terribly bothered by that, but I thought it was odd. I figured the kidnappers would want to move quickly on that before we had a chance to start digging. Instead they’re giving us a chance to start the hunt.”
“But the kidnappers said they want money.”
“They didn’t say that specifically. It sounds like they do, their actions suggest they do, everyone assumes that’s the case, but there was not a specific demand made. But if that’s what they’re after, not asking for it right away is strange in my mind.”
“Maybe they’re after Shannon,” Sally offered. “It could be they want her.”
Mac shook his head. “Naw. If that’s what they wanted, why call? Just to be sadistic? I don’t think so. I don’t think harming Shannon for the sake of harming her is part of the game here.”
“So they’re not crazy.”
“Other than kidnapping a woman in broad daylight in the middle of a big city – no.”
“It sounds like they’ve planned it well so far,” Sally noted.
“That’s for sure. The abduction was ballsy, but it was done with precision and planning.”
“They sound like they’re good,” Sally replied. “And from what you’re telling me, the pay phone, on that road, left him….”
“…with options,” Mac finished, frustration seeping into his voice. “Damn it. To me, abductions are the worst. You know something bad is coming and you’re almost powerless to stop it, no matter how hard you try.” He undid his shorts. “I’m going to take a quick shower,” he grumbled.
Mac went into the bathroom and started the shower, letting the water heat up. The house was over seventy years old and had a bathroom that, while remodeled, retained its original charm and fixtures. The shower poured water into a long and wide cast-iron bathtub.
Climbing inside the shower, he tilted his head up and let the warm water wash over his head while he had both arms up against the wall of the shower. He needed to unwind. For five minutes he let the shower loosen his muscles, letting his mind clear. The shower curtain slid open and Sally stepped into the shower behind him. He turned to say something, but she put her fingers to his mouth and then kissed him lightly.
“I know you. You’re all wound up.” She reached for the soap. “I’m going to help you relax. Otherwise you’re no good to Lyman, and he needs you.”
Mac didn’t fight it and just let the water run down his body while Sally soaped his back and lightly rubbed his muscles, letting her breasts brush lightly against his back. After a few minutes of washing and rubbing, she spoke.
“What about the FBI? They’re in?”
“Yes,” Mac replied, not moving. “We’re lucky… I guess. Their best kidnapping guy – this guy named John Burton – was coming to town to do some training, so now he’s working it.”
Sally detected his uncertain tone.
“What’s the problem with the FBI guy?” she asked, washing around his right hip.
“I don’t know, he was awfully….”
“Helpful. Seemed like a good guy.”
“And that’s bad?” Sally asked, lightly reaching around him, washing lightly down his lower stomach, moving ever lower.
“No, except…” Mac hesitated, Sally’s hand having gone very low. He was about to turn to her when she lightly pushed him back into place.
“Juuuust relaaaaax,” she murmured, moving the soap to her left hand, “and tell me about the FBI guy.”
Mac did as he was told and let her continue washing and relaxing him.
“He said all the right things. ‘We’re here to help, we’ll coordinate with you, access to everything they have, anything you need, we’re going to get Hisle’s girl back,’ so on and so forth.”
“Again, that’s bad?” Sally replied, coming around in front of him.
Mac smiled – a small wan one.
“The FBI can often be territorial and condescending. They consider the local cops to be good for traffic control, writing parking tickets, breaking up domestics – and maybe, just maybe, a run-of-the-mill homicide. We usually don’t have college or law degrees, nor have we gone through the mystical Quantico. We’re not the almighty F-B-fuckin’-I.”
“You’re paranoid, you know that?”
“Only the paranoid survive.”
Sally laughed and then continued.
“I’ve hear that about the FBI before, but they want to make the case just like you do. They want to get Shannon back – maybe not at the emotional level that you do, but they want to get her back just the same.”
“You’re probably right,” he said, leaning down and kissing her on the lips. She returned the kiss, slowly putting her arms up around his neck and pulling him to her. After kissing him deeply, Sally pulled away and looked Mac in the eye as she slowly guided him down onto the bottom of the tub and then followed, straddling his body while kissing him deeply, probing with her soft, moist tongue. Mac pulled his mouth away.
“Is this what you meant by relaxing me?” he whispered.
“Uh huh,” Sally replied in a hushed moan. She rose up and let Mac softly suckle on her breasts while she eased him in, the water of the shower cascading down on their bodies. Sally slowly increased her pace, breathing faster and arching her back, her breasts flattening. Mac responded to her need, pulling her hips closer and pushing his thighs up so that her back rested against them. He moved his hips faster and in rhythm with her, causing her moans to become louder. He felt the wet ends of her hair brush against his legs as he brought her close to climax. And then, as she so often did when they made love, she brought her mouth back to his, breathing heavily and moaning lightly as she came, her body trembling, causing him to respond in kind, as he exhaled a breath into her mouth, his lips brushing against hers.
As the water continued to flow down, the two lay in a silent embrace, looking in each other’s eyes, quietly catching their breath. After a minute, Sally sat up, and he looked into her deep green eyes.
“I love you, you know that?” he murmured.
“Yeah, I do,” she replied softly, leaning back down, and gently kissing him on the lips. “The feeling is quite mutual.”
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