Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Suspense
“And Jenny . . . how did she cope with his death?”
“She loved her father very much. She was his pride and joy. She took it very hard, but we’ve worked through it together. At first, I was unable to provide emotional support for both of us, so we saw a counselor for a while, but we’re ok now. We made it through the rough part together. She’s a very strong girl. And very sensible. I know she didn’t just leave. She’s out there somewhere.”
Jake nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll find her.”
After a moment of silence Annie spoke. “I believe that’s all for now Amelia. We’ll keep you updated as we proceed. If there’s anything else we need to know, we’ll contact you.”
Jake gulped the last of his coffee and stood. Amelia followed them to the door, handing them a piece of paper. “Here’s my cell phone number. You can reach me there if I’m not home.”
Jake stuffed it in his shirt pocket as they left.
Tuesday, August 2nd, Eight Days Ago
JEREMY SPENCER didn’t know what to do with the girl. He just couldn’t go on keeping her locked up there. And providing for her. Feeding her. But he couldn’t let her go either. She could identify him in a second.
What to do! What to do!
He didn’t count on her being there. She wasn’t supposed to be there when he got the guy. But she was, and now he was stuck with her.
Her boyfriend had been easy to catch. Like all the others, Jeremy had planned everything quite skillfully. A simple plan for sure, but sometimes simplest plans were the best.
He knew the guy would drive out of town, and then along County Road 12, a seldom-used road, on his way to King City. It was there Jeremy had put his plan into effect.
He saw the car coming about a quarter mile away, around a curve. He climbed from his car parked on the shoulder and lay down in the center of the road, his leg curled underneath him. He looked twisted and broken. He looked like perhaps he’d been hit with a truck.
Jeremy heard the car screech to a stop just a few feet from him. He heard a car door slam. He heard footsteps coming toward him. He saw a figure bend over him, and then he heard an explosion as the bullet left his gun and shattered the skull of the scumbag.
Then, he heard a scream. Jeremy jumped up. The scream came from the guy’s car. What the hell!! There was a girl in the car. She wasn’t supposed to be there. What happened to his oh, so wonderful, plan?
Jeremy had a fully loaded gun. He ran to the car and pointed his gun at the girl.
“Stop your noise,” he said. “Get out of the car.”
Jenny did as she was told. Slowly she opened the door and stepped out, keeping a distance between herself and the killer. She was terrified. “What . . . what do you want?” she managed to ask.
“I already got what I want,” he said, and mumbled, “and more than I want.” He pointed toward the rear of the car. “Get over there.” Afraid to do anything else, she obeyed.
He kept an eye on her, and moving to his car, he popped open the trunk. Digging in a cardboard box, he found a plastic cable tie. He came back and tied her hands securely.
He stuffed his hand into her side pocket, and brought out a cell phone. He switched it off and shoved it into his pocket.
“Get in the trunk.”
Jenny climbed clumsily into the trunk and heard the lid slam shut above her. A moment later, the car started to move. It seemed to be going over rough ground, and suddenly it stopped. A door slammed. Then, silence.
Five minutes passed. Then, she heard another car pull up. It stopped, the motor died and all remained silent once again.
Tuesday, August 9th, 4:06 PM
ANNIE had arranged a meeting to interview Jenny’s best friend, Paige Canter. Jake was at home, in the garage with Matty, fixing the leg of an end table that had become loose during one of their wrestling bouts.
She arrived at the Canter house just after four o’clock. She parked her Ford Escort on the narrow street in front of the modest house, walked up the short pathway bordered with flowerbeds stuffed with carnations, lilies and bright red geraniums. She rang the doorbell. Mrs. Canter answered the door and led her to the kitchen. The smell of something freshly baked was in the air.
Mrs. Canter took a seat at the end of the kitchen table, while Annie and Paige sat across from each other.
The house was nice, Annie thought. Not a near mansion like Jenny’s family, but then, if Jenny was like her mother, she was not the kind to pick her friends based on their income or social status.
A vase of freshly cut flowers was in the middle of the table, giving off a subtle fragrance.
Annie dug a note pad and pen from her small valise, and placed them on the table in front of her.
“We’re worried about Jenny,” Mrs. Canter said. “She’s such a nice girl. Whatever we can do to help, we certainly will.”
Annie smiled. “Thank you, Mrs. Canter.” She turned to Paige. “When did you see Jenny last?”
Paige was an attractive girl. Maybe not as much as Jenny, but certainly appealing enough to involuntarily turn the heads of most boys. She was dressed modestly in a colorful printed t-shirt and faded jeans.
“She came to school as usual last Tuesday,” she said. “It was just an ordinary day. She has been seeing this guy. I wouldn’t call him a boyfriend. Nothing romantic or anything like that, but they had started hanging out a bit after school. She left with him right after school that day. She wanted me to come too, but I had lots of homework to do, and I told her I wanted to get right home.”
“What can you tell me about him? What’s his name?” Annie asked.
Paige stopped to think. “His name is Chad Brownson . . . or Bronson . . . something like that.” She leaned forward. “I think he’s from King City.”
“Have you seen him at all since last Tuesday?”
“No, he doesn’t come around as far as I know. They didn’t see each other every day, just two or three days a week, but I haven’t seen him since last week.” Paige paused, and then asked, “You don’t think he had anything to do with her disappearance do you? He seemed like a nice guy. Very polite and all that.”
“It’s too soon to say anything, but we have to check him out. He may have been the last person to see her.” She paused. “Do you know what kind of car he drives?”
“I’m not too good with cars, but I know it’s a Toyota. White.” Paige frowned. “I don’t know what year though. But not that old.”
Annie scribbled something in her notepad, and then looked up. “Would anyone else know Chad? Anyone you hang out with, or anyone at all?”
“I don’t think so. And he seemed to be kind of a loner. Nobody ever came with him. He was always by himself.”
“Where did they meet?” Annie asked. “Do you know?”
Paige thought a moment, and then replied slowly, “I really don’t know. I’m surprised she didn’t tell me more about him, but I think it may’ve been at a party somewhere.”
“I told all this to the police,” Paige added, “but nothing seemed to come of it.”
“The police are limited Paige. They did what they could, but they have so much to do, they can’t do much beyond a few interviews and phone calls,” Annie explained. She continued, “But right now we’re dedicated to finding Jenny, and nothing else.”
Paige leaned forward. “Please find her,” she pleaded, looking worried.
“We will . . . By the way, do you know if she had her cell phone with her? If she did, it seems to be turned off.”
“I’m sure she did. She always carries it,” Paige replied.
Annie skimmed quickly through her notes before looking up. “Well, that seems to be about all for now,” she said. She dug a card from her valise and handed it to Paige. “If you think of anything else, give me a call. Anything at all.”
“I will,” Paige promised.
Annie turned to Mrs. Canter. “Thank you, Mrs. Canter. This has been a big help.” She packed up her notepad and pen and stood. “I’ll be in touch,” she said.
Tuesday, August 9th, 4:46 PM
ANNIE SAT AT THE DESK in the small office of Lincoln Investigations. She stared intently at the computer screen, a frown on her face.
“There are only a couple of Brownsons and several Bronsons in King City,” she said. “We’ll have to try them all.”
“I think this guy is the key to it all,” Jake replied. He was slouched back, his bulk burying a small leather chair, one foot resting on the desk. “If we find him . . . we’ll find her.”
“Mrs. James seemed certain Jenny would never go anywhere without telling her.” She looked at Jake and sat back. “But yet it seems certain wherever she is, she was with Chad.”
“And it doesn’t seem to be kidnapping,” Jake added, and then said, “At least not for ransom. He would’ve contacted someone by now if it was.”
“So . . . if she wouldn’t leave without telling anyone, and she wasn’t kidnapped for ransom, then . . .” Annie hated to say it. “She’s either dead or in grave danger.”
Jake leaned forward quickly and grabbed the phone. He hit a speed dial number, and covered the mouthpiece with his hand. “Let me see what Hank can do.”
After several rings, the voice mail on Detective Hank Corning’s cell phone greeted Jake. “This is Hank. Leave a message!”
Jake and Hank had been friends since high school. They played on the school football team together, where they’d met and hit it off right away. After that, Jake had gone on to university, while Hank wanted to be a cop. Hank had wanted Jake to go to Police Academy with him, but Jake knew all too well the social life of a cop wasn’t much. Besides, Jake and Annie were already a couple, and she would be attending the University of Toronto as well. That did it for Jake. He chose Annie over Hank. “No hard feelings Hank,” he had said, “but she’s better looking than you.”
Jake was basically computer illiterate, but he had great faith in Annie’s expertise online. He knew when it came to online research, if Annie couldn’t do it, nobody could . . . except maybe Hank. But only because he had access to more resources than Annie.
Jake spoke into the phone, “Hank, it’s Jake. I need some info. What can you find out for me about a guy from King City? Chad Brownson, or maybe Bronson. Probably the last one to see Jenny. Get back to me asap.”
He slowly hung up the phone. “In the meantime,” he said, “there’s not much we can do. Hank can find out more in ten minutes than we could in a day.”
Annie was staring at the computer again. “There’s nothing on Chad Brownson or Bronson on Facebook. At least not from around here. The names do pop up in a few other places elsewhere online, but mostly hundreds of miles away. Certainly not our guy.”
Tuesday, August 9th, 4:52 PM
BENNY FLANDERS had been a bum, and a petty thief, for most of his long life. He could never seem to settle down. Didn’t want to. He liked the freedom of doing his own thing. Stealing what he needed. Bumming for cash. The occasional break and enter. Most houses were easy to get into. Always an unsecured window or some other means to help him find his way into an unguarded residence.
He’d been in and out of jail a few times. Nothing serious. He didn’t care. Actually, jail was a pretty good place to spend a night or two. Warm. Lots to eat. They could never seem to be able to pin much of anything on him. Life was pretty good. Nobody to tell you what to do. That’s what it’s all about.
A half-full bottle of cheap wine obtained from this morning’s begging jutted from the right pocket of his filthy overcoat. An unlit stub of a cigar was stuck in his face.
And today was a day just like any other.
Benny was patrolling the parking lot of the huge Walmart store centrally located in Midtown Plaza. Peeking in car windows. Looking for unlocked doors. Looking for something to claim as his own. Maybe something he could sell, or wear, or eat, or whatever the occasion provided.
Not much luck so far.
Benny leaned down and scanned the front seat of a white 2000 Toyota Tercel.
“I can’t believe it,” he said, his mouth hanging open, cigar stuck to his lip. “They left the keys in it.”
Benny hadn’t driven for many years, and he didn’t know whether he should even attempt it. But the keys dangling there in front of his astonished eyes, and a chance to break up the boredom of the day were just too much for him.
He took a quick look around. Nobody in sight. He grinned as he lifted the door handle, opened the door and slipped into the driver’s seat.
He sat there for a minute with a stupid smile on his face, and then a turn of the key and the motor purred to life.
He backed carefully from the narrow parking spot his newfound toy was occupying. He cut the wheel a bit too sharp and dinged the front fender of a sleek black Mercedes beside him.
“Oh nuts!” he said to himself. “Be more careful, boy.”
There were no more mishaps, and in a couple of minutes, Benny steered the Tercel from the lot and headed toward a side street away from Walmart. He bounced up and down in the seat with glee, chuckling to himself as he sped down the street. Not too fast. There might be cops around.
He spun through a stop sign, not noticing it until it was too late. A quick look in his mirrors assured him he was still safe. Nobody else in sight.
He didn’t want to keep the car. Of course not. It was stolen. And he couldn’t sell it. He wouldn’t know where to sell a car. Probably wasn’t worth much anyway. He just wanted to go for a little ride. Or a long ride. Whatever. He wasn’t thinking that far ahead. Didn’t care. Didn’t want to care.
The officer, in the cruiser, who tossed his donut into the box beside him, who pulled from the side street and hit his siren, didn’t care either. All he knew was he’d seen a car run a stop sign, and that was against the law.
Officer Spiegle was new on the job. He felt important. He wasn’t too bright and had only gotten this job because his daddy was a cop. The other cops called him Yappy. He didn’t know why. He didn’t talk much. But it was a name, and he didn’t care, so it stuck.