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TWISTED INTENTIONS

Title: Twisted Intentions

Series: Twisted, Book 1

Author: Lew Stonehouse

ISBN: 978-1-60975-085-5

Product Code: BK0067

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 332

Release Date: February 2015

Cover Price: $21.95

Our Price: $19.95

 

 

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Book Jacket

 

John Livingston Harvard finds himself constantly juggling the harsh reality of his job as an ex-cop and private eye with his responsibilities as a divorced dad trying to raise his six year old daughter with the love and tenderness that she needs. That balance is severely tested when a woman he has been hired to observe is kidnapped before his very eyes.

 

While investigating the abduction, Livingston learns that the woman has developed the ultimate hacking program, capable of bringing down not only people and corporations, but entire nations as well. She did this not for greed, but in an ongoing effort to end hacking forever and now her good intentions are being twisted for the benefit of an evil group.

 

Time is of the essence as he desperately fights to bring her back before her program is employed and her usefulness − and her life − are no longer necessary. As the case unfolds, Livingston finds himself mired in a nightmarish world of corporate espionage and murder that will test not only his skills as a detective, but his very ability to survive as well.

 


 

Book Excerpt

 

PROLOGUE

 

Detective John Livingston Harvard looked across his desk at his best friend, Detective Nick Giovanni. Sheets of paper containing reports, witness statements, and crime scene photographs took up nearly every square inch of desk space. “It’s him, Nick,“ he snarled uncharacteristically. “I know it’s the contractor and you know it’s him.”

Nick shook his head slowly in response. “I don’t know John. I know he’s in the vicinity of every one of the missing boys and none of his alibis stand up, but still, I…”

“NICK!” John roared, cutting his friend off in mid-sentence, “he’s snatching up boys at the rate of one a week and the week is almost up. We know that a kid on the baseball team he coaches reported that he felt him up after practice. The first victim was from the same team he coaches. In fact, that’s the one link we have, all the missing boys are on Little League baseball teams. The guy’s own wife says that he loves boys and she says she’s even suspicious about his actions sometimes. What more do you want, another missing kid? We need to do it now, Nick. We need to snatch him up.”

Giovanni calmly stared at his partner. “I know, I know, but I question the motives of the kid that claims the coach felt him up. As the coach says, he did release him from the team and the kid was pretty pissed about it. On the other hand, we’ve also got a line of people saying the guy’s a saint. None of ‘em believe he would do something like this,” his hand waved over the pictures lying on the desk while his face twisted into a grimace. “His own wife notwithstanding.” He began shaking his head again. “What’s with you buddy? Why are you so focused on this guy? It’s not like you.”

John stared up at the ceiling as he responded, his temper cooling rapidly. “I know how these contractors are. They are low life’s that got lucky and make a ton of money. They don’t have any class to go with it and they think they’re better than everyone else, smarter, untouchable.” He returned his gaze to Nick. “My best friend in junior high school was abducted. He disappeared after Little League practice. They found his body buried in the gravel of a foundation they were about to pour. The site manager decided that the floor wasn’t ready. For some reason, it turned out not to be level even though it was perfect when they left it the night before. He had a couple of his guys check it and while they were moving gravel around, they found my friend. The cops determined pretty quickly that it was the general contractor for the job that did it, but his attorneys got him off. He walked scot-free, walked out of that court room with the biggest, cockiest smile you ever saw.”

“I’m sorry about your friend, John. I really am, and now your attitude makes sense. But what happened before doesn’t change the facts on what we have now, on this case. Look, you’ve got an arrest record that most cops can only dream about. Your instincts are always right on, to the point where it’s just plain spooky at times.” Nick’s face took on a sad, imploring look. “But I’m telling ya, I think that you’re letting your past override your judgment this time. You know that no one here will argue with you. You go to the State’s Attorney and he’ll tell you to snatch him up, trusting your judgment. Maybe you are right, but I think we need to look at some of these other suspects a little closer first, especially that electrician.”

John shot to a standing position, his temper rising once more. “No! I know I’m right and we don’t have the time to be dickin’ around with anyone else.” He began to cram the contents of his desk into a huge spandex file. When he was finished he stopped and looked at Nick. “You coming?” It came out as more of a demand than a question.

Nick sighed and stood up. “Yeah, I’ll come but I’m doing it under protest.” He shook his head as he prepared to leave. “I’m your friend and I’m your partner and I go where you go.” He looked straight at John as he slowly, loudly, let out a huge breath. “But I still think we’re rushing into this.” The two detectives walked out of the office, one with hurried determination and the other with obvious reluctance.

 

 

The arrest was the headline of every paper in town the next day. The contractor’s wife immediately filed for a divorce, so quickly that even John questioned her motives. It was then that he had started to become uneasy, for it had been her statement, that even she had been suspicious about his relationships with boys, that had convinced him that the contractor was their guy. Her apparent conviction on the matter had arisen the specter of his dead friend and caused him to lock on to the contractor like a heat seeking missile. Her filing had suddenly snapped him into the present day, like being snapped from a dream by having a prankster throw a glass of ice cold water on his face and it had started the ball rolling in his mind. As the weeks progressed and he commenced his pretrial preparations, his usual analytical mind began to return and his uneasiness grew like a snowball barreling down a hill. He shrugged his misgivings off and bulled ahead. He couldn’t possibly be that far wrong… could he? After all, the abductions had stopped after they had arrested the contractor. That was further proof they had the right guy… wasn’t it?

It was months later, the night before the trial was to start, that he received a call from the county jail. An inmate had said he had information about the missing boys and wanted to talk to a detective right away. John arrived at 2:00 A.M., with mounting trepidation. As the inmate began to talk, John’s whole world began to spin. He left feeling downright sick to his stomach. He drove to his office and called Nick, holding back his urge to vomit.

“Nick,” he said slowly when his friend groggily answered the phone. “You were right. Oh my God, you were right all along.”

It turned out that the inmate had been arrested for burglary and had been paired in the same cell with a drunk. The inebriated man had been crying continuously and the annoyed inmate soon learned it wasn’t because he’d just been arrested for drunk driving. He was crying because his nephew, an electrician, had killed all those boys that were in the news. The drunk man knew that the wrong man had been arrested but he just couldn’t bring himself to turn in his own family.

Based on the inmate’s story and other evidence which heretofore had been pretty much ignored in the rush to prove the case against the contractor, the electrician was arrested the next day. They found plenty of evidence to back up the inmate’s story. “Trophies,” items taken from each of the victims, had been discovered in the electricians bedroom. The man finally confessed when confronted with the rapidly increasing mountain of evidence. He gave up the location of the remaining bodies, bragging about how clever he was to stop once the contractor had been arrested. He’d had plans to pick up where he’d left off, but in a different state and he would learn from his mistakes so that it would have been even more difficult to find him.

Things didn’t go much better for the contractor. It turned out that his wife had left him for his best friend. She’d been having an affair for quite a while and when the whole missing boy thing came up, she saw an opportunity to throw more wood on the fire, use it as an excuse to file for a divorce and get quite an agreeable settlement. She’d made up the whole story about the contractor’s over fondness for boys but the damage was done. No youth group would touch him. No one wanted their house built by him. He was destroyed. Two months after his release, they found him hanging from the spiral staircase of his home.

John turned to the bottle for solace. His own wife had little leeway for his drunken, bitter moods and she left him for another man. His only comfort was that she also left their only child, a daughter, with him. Her leaving and the sudden sole responsibility for a young girl shook him from his doldrums. John did not want to leave her alone with a caretaker for all the hours he knew his job would require. He decided that it was time to leave police work, but it was the only thing he knew how to do, the only thing he’d ever wanted to do.

In the end, he decided to set up shop for himself. He would become a private detective. It was the only logical conclusion. Now he didn’t have to make decisions that would affect the entire future of anybody. If he made a mistake, then someone wouldn’t get the divorce settlement they wanted or they might not get their stolen stuff back, a far cry from taking someone’s life away from them, forcing them to hang themselves in a drunken, demoralized stupor. Now, John Livingston Harvard would merely be John Q. Citizen, just trying to make a living and raise his daughter. He told himself that life would be great, carefree and wonderfully normal and it did indeed play out that way… for a while. Given his skills and his personality, he really should have known better.


 

  

CHAPTER

1

 

 

Three years later...

 John Q. Citizen, otherwise known as John Harvard, now a private detective, stood gazing intently at the entrance to the apartment building. It was cold. Very cold. He could feel the cold seeping into his bones like an invading disease and it didn’t feel to him as though his heavy jacket was of much use. It was the kind of cold that stays with a person until it is forced away by a blazing fire or a long, hot shower. It was unseasonably cold for this time of year though certainly not unheard of for the Northeastern United States. The groundhog had failed to see his shadow this year so, John mused, this was probably nature’s last hurrah of the season. But that did not help him on this night.

Still, he knew that if he wanted the information he sought, he would have to stay. He wished he could do this from the warmth and comfort of his vehicle. But this apartment was located in a hilly, heavily wooded area that provided plenty of seclusion and privacy. So private in fact, that most of the building could not be viewed from the main parking lot. The individual buildings in the complex were set on a steep hillside that provided each living space with a beautiful, panoramic view of the area. The apartment complex even had its own, albeit small, ski hill. Instead of huge parking lots, the builders had opted for several mini parking lots that were surrounded by trees and hidden from view, giving the entire setting a cozy, secluded feeling. It was a place to unwind and get away from the rigors of a rat race world. It was not possible to see the entrance to most of the buildings, including this one, without being directly in front of the main door. Young couples thought the hilly, forested area, was romantic, beautiful. Thieves, rapists, and cops knew it was the perfect set up for those wanting to perform activities which they did not want to be seen by others.

What John wanted was nothing more than information. Information for which he had already been handsomely paid. Information for which he would be paid even more, once it was obtained.

He had learned of this address and the apartment number from his client two days ago. Additional information had arrived just this morning with a package containing a check and a cryptic note, which among other things, directed him to this location. Not that he wouldn’t have come here tonight anyway, but on the phone, his client’s voice had a sense of urgency about it, and the man sounded like was used to giving orders… and one that was used to having those orders complied with instantly.

His client knew that Harvard did not have to do what he was instructed to do but the caller also realized that money was power and a substantial amount of it was being offered. The cash sum was so great because of a perceived dire need and the fact that John was very good at what he did. Very, very good and the money that was offered made it unlikely that any reasonable request would be turned down.

So now he stood in the woods, secluded far enough back in the leafless trees that no one was likely to see his darkened figure. He watched the entrance as his breath visibly rose silently from his nostrils, into the cold and still night air. The sky was crystal clear and there were so many stars that it did not seem like there was room for any more, a dark, twinkling blanket that hung over the earth. Fortunately for him, there was no moon. The barren trees stood like dark, silent, sentinels watching over the area. John leaned against one as he watched and to the casual observer, became one with the tree.

The particular apartment that he was watching was on the ground floor and the drapes were closed. Light flickering around the edges of the window coverings told him that interior lights were on, as was a television, but that was all he could tell.

He could see people moving about through the windows of the other apartments. Being naturally curious, he wondered about the lives in those dwellings. In one apartment, a teenage boy was in a heated discussion with an older couple that were most certainly his parents. A discussion about a girl perhaps? His grades? Where he was last night?

Another apartment contained a pot bellied man in his mid-fifties sitting in a chair, beer in hand, watching a TV. He wore a stained white t-shirt that John imagined he could smell even from this distance. The pot bellied man appeared supremely bored. A woman of similar outlook and about the same age, sat in a chair next to him, also staring blankly at the TV. Obviously a couple, they sat for hours without talking to one another. Comfortable with each other? Or just existing side by side waiting for death or some equally dramatic event to shake them from the doldrums of their plodding lives?

Was the young, beautiful blonde two doors down from the stained t-shirt on the phone with her husband? Her lover? Or a girlfriend. He had seen no one else in the apartment and she had been on the phone even as she made and then ate her dinner. She laughed a lot but sometimes her face softened into a faraway, wistful look. The kind of look a woman gets when her lover is making her think of something other than the day to day grind of living. So John supposed that it was probably a man she was talking to. But these days, even that was certainly not a given.

Harvard, himself, was forty-five. Currently, a lock of his dark hair hung aggravatingly close to his right eye. Have to get a haircut, he thought as he brushed it back up toward the top of his head. His hair was parted and was as dark and as full now as it had been when he was sixteen. He had piercing gray eyes, stood just over six feet and had an imposing, stocky build. Looking at him, one would suppose that he could have been an ex-football player, a fullback, maybe even a quarterback perhaps. He was not. He developed a passion for the game late in life and now regretted that he hadn’t played. But, like a lot of things in life, that was water over the dam. He had been something of a loner in school and had gone into solitary sports like cross country running, skiing, and gymnastics. He had raced sailboats in high school and like everything else, he usually raced one man boats where he had to depend on no one else but himself. He was good at most things he tried. He had discovered in his early thirties that what had prevented him from being even better was mental discipline, which he started to develop with that discovery.

His thoughts were suddenly broken as a dark color sedan quietly pulled into an adjacent parking lot and stopped. What had drawn his attention was the fact that the car had no lights on. When it stopped, John noted that the brake lights did not come on, which meant either the driver was using his parking brake to stop the car or the vehicle was equipped with a “kill switch,” to prevent the lights from coming on. Either way, he knew that the driver wasn’t here to conduct normal activities.

The teenager, the older couple and even the beautiful blonde were totally forgotten now and the dark car held his rapt attention. As he watched, the driver side door opened. A man in equally dark clothing stepped out and looked quickly around. John noted that the interior light did not come on when the door was opened and the driver, who now stood looking around, did so quickly, but carefully. A professional. But a professional what? A cop? A burglar? A hit man? He didn’t know. But he did know that the average John Doe didn’t efficiently case his surroundings in such a manner. John Doe doesn’t drive with his lights out. John Doe would not know how or even think about stopping his car without the brake lights coming on. No, this man merited closer scrutiny.

Soon, the passenger side door opened and the figure that exited performed the same actions as the driver. Their facial features were obscured by the distance and the darkness. The passenger’s clothing matched that of the driver. Then, they silently closed their respective doors and headed in the direction of the apartment building. Harvard noted that though they moved quickly, they did so in such a manner that a casual observer would see nothing other than two figures walking briskly. They would arouse no suspicions. He also saw that exhaust fumes from their vehicle continued to form an upward spiral of gray smoke as the car sat, apparently unattended. It had been left running.

The two figures approached the entrance to the building and walked through the main, unlocked door and into the small lobby. John could see them through the windows on each side of the main door as they approached the second, locked door. As the passenger stood looking around, the driver did something to the door and both quickly entered and soon disappeared from view. He had done a reconnaissance of the lobby area earlier and found that the second door was in very good shape and a key was needed to open it. Metal guards on the door were provided to prevent someone from jimmying it open. The door itself was made of steel and was tight fitting. It was also equipped with a very good pneumatic return so the odds of the door not fully closing were slim indeed. That meant they either had a key or someone was extremely efficient at picking locks.

John was undecided as to what to do next. It was obvious that the occupants of the car were up to some sort of skullduggery. Their reason for being there might have nothing to do with the apartment he was watching. Might have. But he felt that the coincidence would be astronomically high and he was not a big believer in coincidence.

He had not been hired to take any action on this case. Only to observe and report back on what he had seen. He had not come armed. He had spent most of his adult life carrying a gun and found it was useful only in very few situations. Most of the time, all it did was tear up the clothing of the one carrying it. Besides, he was just John Q. Citizen now. What did he need a gun for?

It occurred to him that now might be one of those situations where it might indeed be needed. No sense in second guessing it now. Taking his own quick survey of the area, John moved out of the woods and approached the still running car. He carried a small digital recorder in his pocket and he used this to record the license plate number, make, model, and color of the vehicle. He also noted the time. Keeping one eye toward the front door of the apartment, he inspected the car for any information he could uncover. He found a small sticker on the bumper and another on the windshield. The car was a rental. There was nothing inside the vehicle. Not a thing. Not a wrapper. Not a newspaper. Not a coffee cup. None of this was doing anything to alleviate his fears that something bad was happening.

Deciding that there was nothing more to be learned from the car, John hurried to the ground floor window of the apartment he had been watching. Anyone seeing him at this point would be suspicious of his actions and may call the police. Nothing to be done about it now. The cold snow squeaked in the still night as he moved to the window. It sounded to him like blaring trumpets heralding his arrival to anyone who might be interested.

When he got to the window, he quickly looked around again. No one seemed to be looking out their domiciles in his direction. No dog walker had stopped their nightly ritual to stare curiously at him as if to say, “Who the hell are you and what are you doing?” No dog, for that matter, was barking furiously inside or out to attract the attention of its owner. He did not like moving in the open so quickly and in such a totally unplanned manner. He liked to scope out the situation well ahead of time and to plan each move carefully to optimize his chances of not being discovered. He was sure that the occupants of the car had thoroughly checked this area out well in advance of their little operation and had planned every move. They would also know of the teenager, the older couple, and the beautiful blonde.

But what, exactly, was their operation? Nothing his client had said indicated that this would have anything to do with an unlit vehicle, driven by professionals who obviously did not want to be seen and who, equally obviously, were not planning to be long in their endeavors. Their actions were not the ones of common burglars. He had seen plenty of those. They were usually kids, stupid ones at that with none of the foresight or professionalism displayed by the occupants of the sedan. Besides, this was prime time for residents to be home so no, burglary was not a likely motive.

What else? If they were there merely to demand something of an occupant of the apartment building, that would mean a certain amount of time. Why leave the car running? No, talking was probably not on the menu either.

The ex-detective could only come to two conclusions. Either they were here to kill or do serious bodily harm to an occupant of one of the apartments, or to kidnap an occupant. If they were going to kill someone, why not wait until later when most people, including their target, would be asleep? They did not have to worry about the noise of everyday life drowning out their actions. They had already displayed more than enough proficiency to convince him that they could move in undetected silence.

John had another thought. Even if they were going to kidnap someone, why now? Why here? At this exact point in time? Surely there were better places to do either one. No, because of their assured actions thus far, he was sure the individuals from the car had planned something to do with someone in this building and thus had checked the area previously. But some event demanded that they take action tonight, immediately. He decided they were probably as uncomfortable about moving around in the open at this hour as he was. It gave him little comfort.

Further thoughts about the motives for their actions tonight were cut short by a muffled cry and then a thump from within the very apartment he had been watching. Though obvious enough to him, now standing directly outside the apartment window, it was doubtful that anyone else, even in the adjacent apartments, would have heard anything.

Obviously, something untoward was happening in the apartment. But what? And what should he do? He had been told specifically not to have contact with the occupant of the apartment or to have his presence known. However, he didn’t imagine that his client had anticipated tonight’s events. In any case, he didn’t think he could stand by while someone was being kidnapped or worse.

John pressed his ear against the window, straining to hear anything he could. He heard nothing. The cold glass was numbing his ear and he didn’t know how much longer he could stand the painful, stinging feeling. The outside entrance door suddenly flew open. He immediately recognized the general form of the driver. Unfortunately, the driver saw him at almost the same time. There was nowhere to go and the look in the driver’s eyes that were peering out from a newly donned ski mask in the brightly lit area, told him that the time for stealth was over.

John continued to study his opponent’s eyes, looking for a hint as to what his actions would be. He knew from experience that a gunman looks at the point where he is going to shoot, a subtle give away to those who know what to look for.  If the other man dropped his piercing gaze to look at John’s chest, gunplay would likely soon follow. Thankfully for the weaponless private investigator, the driver did not avert his gaze.

Instead, without taking his concentration off from Harvard, he mumbled something to his companion who was just out of sight behind the door. Then the driver launched himself at John and a strange sort of silent combat began. Except for the squeaking snow and the dull sound of blows landing, some muted grunts, there was absolutely no sound. It was soon apparent that both men had studied martial arts and it was equally apparent that neither man was going to quickly gain the upper hand. That was bad for John, who was out of shape and would tire quickly. It was also bad for the driver. Time worked against him in the form of attention from others. The driver knew that cops would quickly follow that attention and cops were definitely not on his list of desired people to see.

The rapidly tiring private detective saw indecision creeping into the body language of the driver. The driver was also realizing that something was going to have to happen very quickly. The driver’s head darted to the side in a futile attempt to find his partner in crime. Neither combatant had seen where the driver’s companion had gone. Each had been too busy trying to disable the other. But the current attempt by the driver to locate his cohort, quick as it was, was long enough and John was able to land a glancing blow to the front of the man’s neck.

The driver staggered back, briefly clutching his throat. This enabled John to also look past his opponent for the driver’s companion. He saw him putting a limp form into the back seat of the dark car. But he could see no more because the driver had recovered and now it was John’s turn to fend off a revitalized blitz. His opponent was coming at him with a simultaneous attack of hands and feet. The initial attack succeeded only in driving John backwards in exhaustion but the driver continued to press his assault. Harvard heard a car door slam and a moment later heard the tires of the dark vehicle spinning as they desperately tried to grip the icy pavement.

Just then, the attack by the driver had success as a well placed foot landed in John’s groin. As was the blow to the throat of the driver, it was a partially deflected strike but effective enough to allow the driver to stun John and give him the opportunity to quickly move toward the dark vehicle. His companion had stopped the car near them and had opened the passenger side door. The driver jumped into the passenger seat and the car sped away and was lost from view almost instantly. The diminishing sounds of the squealing tires and the surging engine were the only trace of the dark car as it wound its way out of the wooded complex.

John could barely stand, let alone run. He could not hope to get to his vehicle in time to catch the kidnappers. He looked around. Hell, they were almost to the main road already. No one seemed to be aware of the exchange. He gingerly walked to his SUV and got in, a dull ache in his groin. He sat there a moment, catching his breath. He was no longer cold. He did not work out regularly and it now showed in his overheated body and lack of breath.

They say that one should be able to fight for one’s life for three minutes. He reckoned that he had been fighting for about two minutes, probably less. His arms quivered from his body’s left over fight or flight chemicals, but at the same time they felt like lead and he considered himself lucky to have lasted so long. He had once been a second degree black belt in a form of martial arts originally designed to take on multiple attackers and protect a palace. One man taking on more than one attacker meant that the defender had to dispose of assailants as quickly and efficiently as possible. Therefore, most of the moves were designed to kill or maim, quickly. They were not the sort of moves that could be used in a common bar fight, but good in a life and death struggle. However, he had not gone to a martial arts class for many years and only adrenaline, coupled with instinct honed from hours upon hours of practice had allowed him to go toe to toe with the driver. A few years ago, the driver would really have had his hands full. He was grateful that there had been no gunplay since his own weapon was sitting at home in his night stand. It would have been a pretty one sided gun fight. That thought made him grin in spite of his pain and weariness. Sort of one upped the old, “don’t bring a knife to a gun fight,” routine. He would have been grateful for a knife.

But now the driver of the dark car, his companion, and the occupant of the apartment he was supposed to be watching, were all gone. As he sat there, the man wanting to be John Q. Citizen began to get angry. This was not anything like what he had expected. There was much more to this than he had been told. In spite of what the papers, movies, and crime novels would have one believe, this sort of highly professional kidnapping rarely happened in the U.S. And these men were professionals in every way. The only thing they had not counted on was ex-detective, John Harvard.

He dug a piece of paper from his briefcase, picked up his cell phone, and dialed the number that had been written on it. It had come with the certified check this morning. He tried to calm his breath further while he waited for the connection to be made. It was answered almost instantly.

“Hello,” a voice calmly answered.

“This is John,” he said, and unlike his client on the other end of the phone, he was not so calm. Not so calm at all.

“Oh, what do you have to tell me,” said the client, with more interest.

“I have lots to tell you. But first I want some answers, and I god damn well better get them.” John retorted.

“I can see something has happened to upset you,” answered the client with a mixture of amusement, but increasing interest.

Recognizing the tone, John could hardly contain his anger. The adrenaline from the fight was subsiding, replaced by a deep rooted rage, fueled by the left over body chemicals that welled up almost uncontrollably. “Listen, asshole, you told me to come here and report who came and went and to particularly watch for an old, beat up Jeep CJ5. Well guess what? The Jeep never showed. What did show were two guys in a rented Ford Crown Vic. They were pros. And do you wanna hear the fuckin’ icin’ on the proverbial fuckin’ cake? THEY TOOK HER!” he yelled.

There was complete silence on the other end of the line. John angrily shouted out, “You there?”

“Yes,” came the terse reply, followed by more silence.

“Are you gonna fuckin’ say something?” John spat out angrily and without waiting for an answer, “I’m gonna call the fuckin’ cops.”

“No!” came the instant reply.

Johns eyes furrowed in a mixture of surprise and confusion. “Why the hell not?”

“There’s more to this than you know,” said the client.

“No shit, Sherlock,” yelled John. “But we still have a case of kidnapping, at the very least. I don’t know what kind of shit you’re into here, but that girl is gone and it didn’t look very voluntary to me.”

“John, please believe me when I tell you that most likely, all isn’t as it appears. We need to talk. Please don’t call the police. I don’t believe any harm will come to her at this point. If you call anybody, it most assuredly will.”

“And how do you know that? You some sort of kidnapping expert now? I don’t like this,” John stated flatly. “Why should I believe you? You obviously have not leveled with me yet.”

“I know. I thought that your involvement would be minimal and I didn’t think this would get out of hand.” Though obviously shaken by the news, the owner of the voice was quickly getting his wits about him. “I’ll double, hell I’ll triple your fee if you just stay quiet and work with me on this.”

John thought for a moment. “I won’t be a party to someone getting raped or murdered,” he said a little more calmly as the anger began to leave almost as quickly as it had come.

The client said, “Rape has nothing to do with this John. And if we play this right, no harm will come to her. Just please listen to what I have to say before you do anything, for her sake if nothing else. You are said to be the best in your business. That’s why I called you. Now don’t you think that the least you should do is to get all the facts before deciding a course of action?”

The adrenaline was fully gone now and the anger with it. Thoughts of the contractor suddenly welled up from the mental vault that John had buried him in. As much as he hated to admit it, the voice was right of course. He was just tired. He felt all used up. A bottle of wine and some soft blues music sounded really good at this juncture. It would give him time to think this out.

“Obviously you have a lot to tell me. You’re sure that nothing will happen to her?” asked John in a resigned voice.

“Well, I didn’t take her so I can’t be one-hundred percent certain. All I can tell you is that based on what I do know, I really don’t think so. Otherwise, I would be the first one calling the police. You know my stake in this. I believe it’s in Sue’s best interest to sit tight until we can come up with a plan. Will you wait and talk to me?”

“Where?” John asked.

“Do you know where Russo’s is on Grand and 51st?”

“Yeah, by the river,” replied John, both tired and exasperated.

“Be there at 7:00 A.M. tomorrow morning. There is a booth in the corner at the back of the restaurant. We can there talk privately,” said the client.

“I’m not sure I like this,” said John. “Nothing better happen to her.”

“It won’t.”

“Tomorrow then.” He paused and with a sudden, increased ferocity, “And you better have a damned good explanation.”

“Trust me,” said the client. “It will be. I just hope you’re prepared because at this point, it seems I’ve chosen my team and if my team doesn’t get it done, well, let’s just say that Sue’s not the only one who’s going to have a very bad day.”


 

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