Authors: Rayven T. Hill
“Jake?” It was a deep abnormal voice.
Jake examined the buttons on the front of the disposable phone. He touched the speaker button so the mike under his jacket could pick up the conversation.
“This is Jake.”
“It seems we have a problem.”
“What problem?” Jake asked. “I’m here and waiting for you.”
“I said no police.”
“I’m surprised at you, Jake. Who’re you trying to fool? The place is surrounded. You don’t think we can make a successful exchange under these circumstances, do you?”
Jake was silent.
“I was explicit in my instructions. Did you not understand?”
“Then why are there police around? I can see at least four from where I am.”
Jake glanced around. Was the kidnapper nearby? There were a couple of cars parked on the street near Jake’s vehicle, but they’d been empty when he arrived. If anyone were in the park and within sight, the police would already know about them.
He decided the kidnapper was bluffing. He wouldn’t be careless enough to show himself if he knew the police had the area covered.
“Where are you?” Jake asked.
A deep ominous laugh, and then, “You don’t expect me to give myself away, do you?”
“I have the money and I’m here to make the exchange. That’s what you asked for.”
“Change of plans, Jake.”
Jake wasn’t surprised. He didn’t expect things to be quite so easy. “What’re your new plans?”
“Very simple. You want Mrs. Gould and I want the money. Under the current circumstances, that can’t happen.” The rasp of breathing on the line, then, “You’ll take the money and get in your car.”
Jake stood, grabbed the briefcase and glanced at the pair of cops on the other bench. He had no choice but to do as he was told. The safety of Mrs. Gould was at stake.
He strode across the lawn, climbed into his car and set the briefcase on the passenger seat.
“Are you ready to go?” the voice asked.
“All ready,” Jake answered, as he started the engine.
“I know the police are listening, so do exactly as I say and don’t try to tell them where you are by making some obscure comment you think might give them a clue to where you’re going. I’m not that stupid.”
“I’ll do exactly as you say.”
“That’s the spirit, Jake. You’re being cooperative and that’s the best thing for the sake of dear Mrs. Gould.” A pause, rumbling on the line, and then, “Drive straight ahead. Go slowly.”
Jake dropped the gearshift into first, let out the clutch and pulled onto the street.
“Excellent, my friend. Now, I’m going to let you make a choice. When you get to the next intersection, you may either go right or left, but don’t tell me which way, just turn.”
Jake eased up to the intersection and turned right. “Ok, I’ve turned.”
“Keep going, slowly.”
What was he up to? This made no sense. Jake continued to drive for a couple of minutes.
“Now, turn again at the next street, either way, left or right.”
Jake spun the wheel to the left onto a narrow street. “I’ve turned.”
“Perfect. Now, take a right at the next street.”
Jake turned to the right.
“And now, a left turn.”
Jake understood now. If the police tried to calculate the location he was heading, they would be confused, but somehow the kidnapper knew where Jake was going.
“Keep driving, Jake. You may go faster now, but keep to the speed limit please.”
Jake drove for several minutes. He was heading out of the city. Soon, the buildings grew scarcer until he was on a two-lane road, heading north.
The voice on the phone interrupted him. “You’ll take a left at the next road, at the traffic lights. Let me know when you have turned.”
Jake knew the area. A narrow road intersected the one he was on a few hundred feet ahead. He eased up to the intersection. The light was green and he spun the steering wheel.
“I’ve turned left.”
The road was rough and narrow and he drove carefully for a couple of minutes, dodging potholes and bulging pavement, as he eased up the tree-lined road.
“Stop. Pull over.”
Jake pulled the Firebird to a stop.
“Get out of the vehicle with the briefcase and throw it over the fence to your right.”
Jake dragged the case and stepped from the vehicle. He held the handle of the briefcase and swung. The case sailed through the air and landed in a patch of weeds over the fence.
“You may leave now.”
Jake took a glance in all directions, struggling to see through the darkness of the trees on either side of the road. Nothing moved. If the kidnapper was around, he was well hidden.
“Jake, you’re to leave now.”
Jake knew he was being watched from somewhere. He took another quick glance and stepped back inside his car.
“Toss the phone into the ditch.”
Jake did as he was told, dropped the shifter into gear, spun the car around and headed back to the city.
He was disappointed they had no indication of who the kidnapper was, but he’d done his job and he prayed for the safe return of Mrs. Gould.
Wednesday, August 31st, 8:11 PM
ANNIE WAS CURLED up in her favorite chair in the living room, stealing frequent glances through the front window while attempting to concentrate on her book.
Jake had called a few minutes ago to let her know he was ok and he would fill her in on the rest when he got home. Hank was on his way as well.
She’d been concerned about Jake, but knowing he was safe, her worries turned to Mrs. Gould and of course, Dr. Gould, whom she imagined was pacing about anxiously waiting for his wife’s homecoming.
A familiar roar sounded outside and Annie watched Jake pull the Firebird into the driveway. Hank parked by the curb, joined Jake and together they strode up the path to the front door.
“We’re here,” Jake called, as he stepped inside. He peeked into the living room and grinned. Annie came to meet him and wrapped herself around him. “I’m ok,” he said, giving her a quick kiss.
Annie greeted Hank and asked, “Any news about Mrs. Gould?”
Hank shook his head slowly. “She hasn’t been heard from yet.”
“I’m worried about that,” Jake said. “I assumed he would let me know where she is once I dropped off the money.”
“Unfortunately, we’re at his mercy and there was no choice but to deliver the money,” Hank said. “I have people on it right now. King was downtown in the area where the cell phone was found, knocking on doors, but I’ve sent him and several officers to the place where Jake tossed out the briefcase. If there’s anything to find, they’ll find it.”
Hank dropped onto the couch as Annie returned to her chair. Jake undid the holster and removed his outer shirt and vest. He dropped them onto the floor beside the couch and sat at the other end. “That feels better.”
“Make sure you lock that pistol up safely,” Hank said.
Annie leaned forward and eyed the vest. “It doesn’t look comfortable.”
“It’s not too bad,” Jake said. “But as it turned out, I didn’t need it.”
“It’s a good thing,” Annie said. “It might stop a bullet, but it could still knock the wind out of you.” She laughed at Hank’s perplexed look and continued, “I do a lot of reading.”
Jake turned to Hank and explained. “She’s got a whole stack of books on police procedure, crime scene investigations, you name it, she’s got it.”
“You can never know too much,” Hank said, as he looked at his watch. “I’m waiting for Callaway. We suspect there was a tracer attached to your vehicle. He’s on his way and he’ll go over it thoroughly, but for now all we can do is wait until Mrs. Gould returns. Hopefully, she’ll have something we can go on to track this guy down.”
“I’m worried about Dr. Gould,” Annie said.
Hank said, “I’ve been in contact with the doctor and needless to say, he’s anxious. I’ve convinced him he has to wait, and there’s an officer there with him, but he’s almost out of his mind with worry.”
“I can understand that.”
Hank turned to Jake and slipped a notepad from his inner jacket pocket. He flipped it to a blank page and found a pen. “I have to get your statement, every detail.”
Jake told him everything that had happened while Hank took notes. Finally, Hank folded up his pad and tucked his pen away. “We’ll get your official statement later.”
Annie leaned forward. “So, the original plan to do the exchange in the park was just a ruse?”
Hank nodded. “It seems that way. And his instructions had us confused as to which direction Jake was heading.”
“But how did he know you had men covering the park?”
“I’m not sure,” Hank replied. “I believe he just assumed we did.”
“Is it possible there’s more than one of them?” Jake asked. “If he truly was at the park, he wouldn’t have had enough time to get to the drop-off point before I did.”
“That might explain it,” Hank said. “However, our officers were well hidden in plain sight. Anyone nearby couldn’t have known for sure who they were.”
“And this guy is careful,” Jake added. “I don’t think he would take that chance.”
Annie turned as soft footsteps padded down the steps from upstairs and Matty wandered in.
“Hey, Uncle Hank,” he said, greeting him with a fist bump and then perching on the couch between Hank and Jake. He looked at his father, “What’s going on?”
“Just working on a case.”
The doorbell rang and Matty jumped up. “I’ll get it,” he said, charging from the room.
In a moment, Callaway appeared in the doorway. He held up an evidence bag. “We found a tracker hidden under the rear bumper.” He walked over and handed the bag to Hank.
Hank inspected the device, squinting thoughtfully. “I presumed we’d find this. We’re not dealing with an amateur here. He had this well planned in advance.” He turned the bag over. “It’s magnetized.” He thought a moment and then handed it back to Callaway. “Get this to the lab and see what they can find out about it.”
Callaway took the bag and nodded. “Right away.” He turned and was gone.
Matty found a seat on the floor and leaned back against the wall.
“I’ve seen those trackers at Techmart,” Jake said.
“I’m surprised you haven’t bought any yet,” Hank said dryly. “To go along with your pen camera and your baseball cap video recorder.”
Jake shrugged and gave a half grin. “Haven’t needed one yet, but perhaps I will.”
“I’ve been thinking,” Annie said. “The kidnapper could have asked for much more money. It seems like a hundred thousand is a small amount compared to what one would expect a ransom to be.”
“We’ve been over that before,” Hank said.
Annie spoke slowly, her brows drawn together. “Yes, but I think he’s going to strike again unless we catch him first. He’s not going to be satisfied with that amount, especially if he gets away with it this time.”
“I’m afraid you might be right.”
“What do we do now?”
Hank replied, “We can only wait and see what the officers turn up and wait for the return of Mrs. Gould.”
Thursday, September 1st, 7:15 AM
TRENTON SCOTT’S old pickup truck rattled and rocked as he hugged the steering wheel. He was leaned forward and squinting at the road ahead as he expertly dodged potholes and patches of loose gravel.
There wasn’t much traffic on the road this time of day. In fact, this backroad didn’t see much traffic at all any more, with drivers now choosing the new and better roads to the north. Only old farmers like him were apt to be seen along this route.
He slowed and eased to the right to allow a white van to pass him, coming from the opposite direction. Trenton shook his head. It was traveling much too fast for this old road. Where on God’s green earth could anyone be going in such a hurry?
He’s liable to blow a wheel bearing, the stupid fool.
He eased back into the center of the narrow road and picked up a little speed. The missus would be expecting him back for lunch and he wanted to get those parts and have the tractor fixed up and running before noon.
He drove awhile, humming to himself, working out his plans for the rest of the day.
What in tarnation is that?
Trenton pumped the brakes and brought the vehicle to a stop. The gears ground as he worked it into reverse, and then he backed up twenty feet and stopped. He leaned sideways and peered through the dusty passenger side window.
Looks like somebody lying in the ditch. Can’t see too good from here, but it shore don’t look natural to me.
He dropped the transmission into neutral, pulled back on the emergency brake and swung from the vehicle. He headed over to the edge of the road for a better look.
He stopped short and squinted again.
“Well, I’ll be darned,” he said out loud. “It’s a woman I think and she shore ‘nuff looks dead to me.”
HANK GLANCED at the clock above the stove. It was 7:37 AM. He pushed aside his half-finished coffee and reached for his ringing cell phone. This can’t be good news.
He listened intently a moment and then sighed deeply as he clicked off the phone. The body of a woman was discovered earlier this morning along County Road 10.
He finished his coffee in one gulp, dropped the cup in the sink, grabbed his keys, checked his service weapon and left his apartment.
He’d been in contact with Dr. Gould a little earlier. The doctor’s wife hadn’t shown up and there was no word from her. And now the body of a woman was found.
As he climbed into his Chevy, he felt a wave of anger come over him. Anger mixed with helplessness. After almost twenty years on this job, he’d seen his fair share of victims. It never got any easier. Whether or not this latest victim was Mrs. Gould, it still incensed him when people preyed on others.
The body had been found several miles from town and in a few minutes, Hank turned onto County Road 10. In the distance he saw flashing lights as he approached the scene.