Authors: Rayven T. Hill
Eli handed his phone to Hank. “They sent me this photo,” he said, his voice trembling.
Jake took the phone and looked at the photo on the screen. A woman, presumably Mrs. Martin, was huddled on the floor, her arms behind her back. She was looking at the camera, terror in her eyes.
“I’ll need to keep this for now,” Hank said.
Hank dropped the phone into his jacket pocket. “Do you have a photo of your wife?” He paused. “Other than this one?”
Eli stood, went to a bookcase and leafed through an album. He returned a moment later and handed Hank a photo. “Here’s a recent one. A couple of weeks ago.”
Hank took the photo and glanced at it. It was a full-length shot of Mrs. Martin, standing on the front lawn, her arm around a young girl.
“That’s her niece,” Eli explained. “Her sister’s daughter.”
Jake tucked the photo into his notebook. “Where does your wife work, Eli?”
“She has a part-time job at a beauty salon. Just keeping track of appointments and so on. It gives her something to do and gets her out of the house awhile.” Eli smiled faintly. “We have no kids, so her life is rather boring sometimes.”
“Did she work yesterday?” Hank asked.
“I don’t believe so. She works Tuesdays and Thursdays. Unless she was called in for something, but I don’t think so.”
Eli gave him the name and address of her work and Hank made a notation in his pad. He would check at her job, but that was unlikely to yield any results.
“Eli, would you like me to send an officer here to stay with you . . . just in case?” Hank asked.
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, Detective. I doubt if I’m in any danger. If they want a ransom for my wife then they wouldn’t harm me.”
“Makes sense,” Hank said.
Eli looked at Jake. “Did they give you any delivery instructions yet?”
“Not yet. He said he would call back.”
Eli shook his head thoughtfully. “I have the funds ready,” he said. “But there’s one problem.”
“What’s that?” Hank asked.
Eli hesitated a moment. “He warned me strictly the police weren’t to be involved during the delivery of the money. I . . . I don’t know what the best thing is to do.”
Hank took a deep breath and observed Eli before speaking. “I must advise you to let me know the details,” he said slowly. “I would be remiss to suggest otherwise.”
“In other words,” Jake said. “It’s up to you, but Detective Corning can’t tell you that.”
Eli shook his head slowly. “My wife’s safety is my only concern.”
“Mine too,” Hank said.
“Then . . . please, Detective,” Eli said. “Please bring my wife home safely. But be careful, I can’t afford for anything to go wrong.”
Friday, September 2nd, 6:45 PM
JAKE BUCKLED HIS seatbelt as Hank pulled from the curb. “Do you know what bothers me?” he asked. “This is the third kidnapping and we’re beating our heads against a wall.”
“We have a few things,” Hank said. “We have the vans, the phone recordings, and the eye-witness.”
Jake turned, dropped his arm on the back of the seat and faced Hank. “And how far has that gotten us?”
Hank shrugged. “Not so far yet, but give it time.”
“We don’t have time, Hank. We don’t want another body on our hands.”
Hank glanced at Jake. “We’ll get them. They won’t get away this time.”
Jake’s phone rang. He looked at the caller ID. “This might be him,” he said. “Unknown number.”
“Put it on speaker. Wait a second, I’ll pull over,” Hank said, as he touched the brakes and pulled to the side of the street. He shut down the engine and nodded at Jake.
Jake touched the screen, put the call on speaker and said, “Jake Lincoln.”
“Hello, Jake. How nice to hear your voice again.”
Hank had turned in his seat and was listening intently to the disguised voice.
“I can’t say the same,” Jake said.
“I understand. I realize it’s hard for you when you don’t hear my real voice. It kind of puts a barrier between us and makes it less personal. I apologize for that inconvenience, but I’m afraid I have no choice in the matter.”
“Can we get down to business?” Jake said. “Eli Martin has the money ready.”
“That’s good news indeed. That was rather quick, I might add. I haven’t prepared our little rendezvous until tomorrow, so he has indeed been expedient. I’m rather pleased, Jake.”
Jake closed his eyes and shook his head in disgust.
“Are you still there, Jake?”
“Excellent. Now, let me fill you in on your instructions—”
Jake interrupted. “We want a guarantee Mrs. Martin will be released safely.”
“I can only give you my word, Jake. You know I’m a man of honor and you disappoint me if you’re suggesting otherwise.”
“You’ve given me no reason to trust you,” Jake said. “Your record speaks for itself. Now, what guarantee can you give me?”
A deep sigh came over the line. “I’m afraid I’ll have to call your bluff, Jake. You know Mrs. Martin’s future is in my hands and you’re in no position to dictate terms.”
Hank was drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, his brow creased in thought. He turned toward Jake and whispered, “We have no choice.”
Jake nodded, hesitated a moment and then spoke into the phone, “What are your terms?”
“That’s better, Jake. I knew we could work that out.” A pause and then, “The most important detail is our good friends at RHPD. I realize they’re already aware of the current situation. That’s unfortunate and was beyond my control, but this is as far as their involvement can go.”
Jake glanced at Hank. “We’ll keep them out of it.”
“Excellent. I’ll personally give Hannah Martin the good news. She’ll be pleased to hear it. She’s been in a little discomfort lately, in somewhat cramped quarters. Unfortunately, our prior establishment had sustained a good deal of damage and it couldn’t be used.” A mock sigh came over the line and then, “I’m afraid her current accommodations are somewhat less than ideal and the best that could be obtained on such short notice.”
Jake rolled his eyes and said nothing.
“Do you have my remuneration ready, Jake?”
“The money is safe,” Jake said. “Just tell me when and where and I’ll be there.”
“Let’s do this thing sometime tomorrow morning, shall we? Does that fit into your schedule? I wouldn’t want to inconvenience you in any way.”
“Tomorrow morning is fine with me.”
“Excellent. Let’s say around 11:00 am. That should give you enough time to prepare.”
“Eleven it is. When and where?”
“You’ll get the funds together, take Annie’s car and drive to Midtown Plaza. Park the vehicle at the far north end of the lot and wait. I’ll meet you there at 11:00 am sharp.” A pause, then, “Did you get that?”
“I got it,” Jake said.
“And remember, you must come alone and if the police are anywhere around it might not go so well. I have a great deal of respect for our officers of the law, but in this current situation, I’d rather not see them.”
“I understand.” Jake glanced at Hank. “You won’t see them.”
“Don’t twist my words, Jake. I hope my meaning is clear. The police are not to be near, hidden or otherwise. And don’t underestimate me, if the police are hidden, I’ll know.”
Jake raised his voice. “They won’t be around.”
A deep laugh came over the line. “Then I can anticipate a smooth transaction and a subsequent happy reunion.”
“Just keep your word and we’ll keep ours.”
“You can count on it, Jake.”
The line went dead.
Jake hung up and turned to Hank. “We can’t trust this guy.”
Hank nodded. “I realize that and I’m going to make sure we do everything possible to nail him before he gets away.”
“He’s not going to meet me there,” Jake said. “He’s going to call, like last time, and lead me off somewhere.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll have that covered as well. We won’t leave anything to chance this time.”
Hank started the vehicle and pulled away from the curb. “Just do your part and leave the rest to me.”
Friday, September 2nd, 7:12 PM
ANNIE WAS IN the office when she heard the guys come in. She overheard Matty greet them at the door with his usual, “Hey, Uncle Hank.”
She pushed back her keyboard and stifled a yawn. As of late, her workload was wearing her out and she could use a bit of extra rest one of these days. Hopefully soon.
She put her iMac to sleep, then stood and wandered into the kitchen. Hank had set his briefcase on the floor and he and Jake were taking a seat at opposite sides of the table. Matty plopped down and one end and dropped his arms on the table. He looked expectantly back and forth between Hank and his father.
“How did the interview with Eli Martin go?” Annie asked, as she settled into the remaining chair.
“It went well,” Hank said. “Naturally, he’s concerned about his wife.”
“He has the funds already,” Jake said. “He has enough in his safe. Guess he doesn’t trust banks.”
Hank glanced at Jake. “Jake got the call he was waiting for.”
“Oh, he called?” Annie looked at Matty. He seemed to be losing interest, which was just as well. He was aware of what they did for a living and seemed to take it all in stride. She usually allowed him to listen in on their conversations unless things got particularly gruesome. She watched him slip from his chair.
“I’ll be watching TV,” Matty said, as he wandered toward the living room. He called back over his shoulder, “Let me know if you need any advice.”
Jake watched him go with a grin before turning to Annie. “The delivery is in the morning. At Midtown Plaza.”
“I hope you put the pistol and vest away carefully?” Hank asked.
“The pistol and the bullets are locked in the office desk,” Annie said. “And the vest isn’t going to hurt anyone.”
Hank nodded. “You’re going to need them again.”
“I have to take your car,” Jake said to Annie.
Jake shrugged. “That’s what he said, but I don’t know why.”
“Callaway’ll be here early in the morning,” Hank said to Jake. “He’ll install a tracker on the car and one on you as well.”
“What about putting a tracker with the money?” Annie asked.
Hank shook his head. “We can’t chance that. If it would be discovered, you know how strict he is about keeping the rules. One slip-up and it might not go well for Mrs. Martin.”
“Of course,” Annie said. “Our main concern is to get her home.”
“I do have some good news though.” Hank said. “Mrs. Coleman was released from the hospital. The police sketch, in combination with some mug shots, helped us identify one of the kidnappers.”
Annie leaned forward. Finally, a lead. Possibly a small one, but it was the best they had so far.
“The one she ID’ed was the guy whose face she took a board to. He’s a small-time punk with a long record.” Hank pulled his notepad from his pocket and thumbed through it. “His name is Antony Miflan, better known as Mouse. Been in and out of prison a few times in his life.”
“Any luck in tracking him down?” Annie asked.
“Not yet. We’ve checked with his known associates. Seems like nobody’s seen him for a while. He’s been behind bars for the best part of the last five years and was just released about three months ago. We’ve got our feelers out there, but so far, no luck.”
“What was he in for?”
“Burglary, car theft, petty crimes.”
“Nope. Never anything violent as far as we know,” Hank said. “I don’t think he’s our killer. He’s just a hired punk. According to Mrs. Coleman’s statement, he claimed never to have killed anyone. He said he leaves that up to the boss and he just cleans up.”
“If that’s so,” Jake said. “Then that still makes him an accomplice to murder.”
“Yup. And the same as if he’d done it himself. That’s why it’s so important we find him. Judging by his record, he’ll talk to save his own skin and lighten his sentence.” Hank reached down and retrieved his briefcase and snapped it open. He produced a photo and handed it to Jake. “Here’s the most recent shot we have of him.”
Jake took the photo and Annie leaned over to take a look. The name “Mouse” was befitting with the face she saw. He looked timid in the mug shot, but with grey eyes like steel, cold and hard.
Hank grinned. “He looks a little different now, I suspect. Mrs. Coleman did a number on his face. He might have a few telltale marks.”
“Did you find out who owns that run-down store where she was held?” Annie asked.
Hank leafed through his pad. “That whole block of buildings was acquired by a development group, Ramsey Development, a few years ago. Seems they have plans to eventually tear the whole block down and put up condos.”
Annie frowned. “Those buildings are dangerous.”
“After this, I’m sure the city will force them to make the buildings more secure until they’re torn down.”
“How’s Doctor Gould doing?” Jake asked.
Hank took a deep breath and shook his head slowly. “Not too good, understandably. He’s immersed himself back into his job, working overtime, but unfortunately, he’ll have to live with his wife’s death for the rest of his life.”
“And the fact she was murdered must be twice as hard,” Annie said. “It’s going to be a long time before he gets to the point where he can handle the pain.”
Hank sighed. “And that’s why we’ve placed a 24 hour guard over the Coleman house. She was fortunate to have escaped, but she still might be a target. An officer will be camped out at her house until this is over. We’re up against a cold-blooded killer, or two, and have to take every precaution.”
“Any luck with the recordings?” Jake asked.
Hank shook his head. “Callaway has been trying to do something with voice recognition equipment, but he says not to be optimistic about that. We have a forensic psychologist going over the recordings to see if he can come up with a profile, but as you know, forensic psychology isn’t an exact science.”