Authors: Rayven T. Hill
The doctor turned to Jake. “Mr. Lincoln, I assume you know your job is to deliver the money and not to apprehend the kidnapper.”
“That’s my plan exactly.” Jake pulled the vehicle into the driveway, got out and retrieved the briefcase.
Inside the house, Dr. Gould locked the front door. “I have a safe in the office. I can put the bag in there for now, or would it be better if you took it with you?”
“I think it’s best to keep it here until it’s needed,” Jake said. He didn’t want to be responsible for it until it came time for the delivery.
Dr. Gould nodded and picked up the case. Jake waited in the foyer until the doctor returned.
“It’ll be safe there,” Dr. Gould said.
Jake looked at his watch. “I’m expecting the call at 4:00. I’d better get back to the office, but I’ll let you know what the kidnapper’s instructions are.”
Wednesday, August 31st, 3:51 PM
ANNIE LET HANK in the front door and she motioned toward the office.
“Jake’s waiting for the call,” she said, and looked at her watch. “It’s almost four o’clock.”
Hank followed Annie to the office and settled into one of the guest chairs.
Jake was behind the desk fiddling with his iPhone. He looked up as Annie slipped into the other empty chair. “I’m just checking the app to make sure it’s working properly.” He set the phone in front of him. “It seems to be ready to go.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine,” Annie said, and then asked Hank. “Did Simon King find out anything?”
“He found Mrs. Gould’s car in the underground parking where you said it was. He got a forensics crew there right away and they went over it. No surprise, they didn’t find anything.”
“Just the one set, presumably Mrs. Gould’s. And no prints on the door handles except hers and they went over it thoroughly. It’s been towed to the auto pound on Cherry Street.”
“What about the people she works with?” Jake asked.
Hank slipped out his notepad and leafed through it. “Just three other people. Two of them were already gone for the day when Mrs. Gould left. The receptionist took the bus home, but one of the partners, Williams, also parks in the underground parking. He never saw anything suspicious when he left at approximately five o’clock.”
“And the third person?”
Hank consulted his pad. “Whitney Thresh, the other partner. He said Mrs. Gould left just after five o’clock as usual. He was in his office at the time. She said goodbye to him and that’s all he knew.”
“So no leads there,” Annie said. “What about the burner phone?”
“Between Callaway and King, they managed to track down the guy who had it. If the kidnapper’s prints were ever on it, they were long gone by the time they got to it. The only prints were from the bum who found it.”
“And inside the phone?”
“Three outgoing calls. One to here, the one to Dr. Gould’s house line, and the one when he sent the picture to the doctor’s cell.”
“What about the dumpster where the phone was found?” Jake asked.
“They were able to track that down, but it’d been emptied in the meantime.”
Annie said, “I doubt if there would’ve been anything else in there.”
Hank shrugged. “Not likely, but they went over it anyway.”
Jake said, “And what about—”
The phone rang.
Annie jumped. Hank leaned in.
Jake glanced at Hank and picked up his iPhone. He touched the screen and put the call on speaker. “This is Jake Lincoln.”
A deep, synthetic voice spoke. “Jake Lincoln, it’s nice to talk to you again.”
“Unfortunately, I can’t say the same.”
“Now Jake, there’s no need to be rude.”
Jake said nothing.
“Are you ready for my instructions?”
“There’s no point in putting it off. We’ll make the exchange this evening. Do you have my money?”
“I have your money. Just tell me when and where.”
“You’ll go to Richmond Valley Park at seven o’clock. I’ll meet you there.”
“Richmond Valley Park is a big place. How’ll I find you?”
“Come in the north entrance and sit on the bench by the hotdog vendor. Just be there by seven and I’ll find you, Jake.”
The unnatural voice became ominous and even deeper. “I’m afraid I must repeat myself. As long as the police are not involved, everything will go off without a hitch, but...”
“I’ll be there,” Jake said. “What about Mrs. Gould? Where’ll we find her?”
“Mrs. Gould is safe, Jake. In fact, she and I were just having a lovely talk. She so longs to see her husband again, it almost brought me to tears to hear her.”
Jake rolled his eyes and the voice continued, “I look forward to doing business with you, Jake.”
There was a click on the line and then silence.
Jake touched the hang up icon, set the phone down and looked at Hank, who was on his feet, talking on his cell.
Annie leaned back and waited for Hank to finish.
“No luck,” Hank said, as he dropped his cell back into its holder. “Callaway traced the call to somewhere in the downtown district, near Benson Avenue, but that’s as close as he could get. The GPS was turned off, as expected, but King is down there looking around, but with no exact location, he’ll never find him.”
“And the phone itself?” Annie asked.
“A burner phone.”
“No surprise there,” Annie said.
“So we have to carry out the money drop,” Jake said.
Hank nodded. “That’s our only option, but we’ll get the park covered and we’ll catch him.”
Annie wasn’t so sure. The kidnapper hadn’t left a trace behind him thus far and she was sure he would have a foolproof plan in place.
“I talked to the captain,” Hank said. “He made a phone call and was able to get an exception for you to carry a pistol.”
Jake’s head spun toward Hank. “A pistol?”
“Just for this one time. Just in case, you never know.”
Jake shrugged. “I haven’t had much experience with a gun, but I’ll manage.”
Hank looked at his watch. “We don’t have a lot of time, so let me get the detail in place. They’ll know exactly what to do, and then you and I’ll go to the range and fire off a few shots.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jake said.
Just then Matty came charging into the office with a younger boy shadowing him. “Hey, Uncle Hank.”
Hank grinned and tousled Matty’s hair. “What’s up Matty?”
“Not much. I saw your car out front.” Matty motioned toward the other boy. “Kyle and I are just messing around, probably practice a little soccer later.”
Annie and Kyle’s mother, Chrissy, were good friends. They lived next door and her seven-year-old son seemed to trail Matty wherever he went.
“What’re you guys up to?” Matty asked.
“We’re doing a job for a client,” his mother answered.
“All right. Call me if you need any help,” Matty said, as he zipped from the room, Kyle behind.
Hank chuckled and turned back to Jake. “We’d better get going.”
Wednesday, August 31st, 4:39 PM
JAKE FOLLOWED HANK to the Richmond Hill Police Precinct, parking their vehicles behind the building. He jumped from the Firebird, looked at his watch and joined the cop. “We don’t have a lot of time to spare.”
“This won’t take long.”
The pistol range was located in the basement of the precinct. Half the lower level contained holding cells, divided by a concrete wall from the range.
It wasn’t an elaborate setup like the big cities had, merely nothing more than an area set aside for target practice, padded and soundproofed, with two stationary shooting positions a dozen yards from the targets.
A small shelf held a variety of protective equipment. Hank selected a pair of earmuffs along with safety glasses and handed them to Jake. “Put these on.” He chose a similar pair for himself, settled the earmuffs in place and donned the goggles.
Hank slipped his hand under his jacket and removed a pistol. “I got this for you. It’s a Smith & Wesson 40 caliber. A semi-automatic and not too big.” He hefted it in his hand, seemed satisfied and moved to the shooting position. He flicked off the safety, went into a firing stance and fired. As the gun exploded, a hole appeared in the forehead of the paper silhouette of a human torso.
Hank pushed back his earmuffs. “Think you can do that?”
Jake shrugged. “Piece of cake.”
Hank demonstrated how to pop the magazine in and out, and how to grip the weapon in his right hand and steady it with his left, before handing the gun to Jake.
Jake took the weapon and wrapped his hand around it. It felt natural and not too heavy. He snapped the magazine in.
“The first round has to be manually loaded into the chamber,” Hank explained. “To load, pull back this slide and release it. After a round is fired, the spent casing will be ejected and a new round loaded into the chamber.”
Jake fumbled with the pistol a moment, finally got it loaded and aimed at the target.
Hank looked at Jake in amusement. “Make sure you’re in the proper firing stance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with your left foot about a step past the other. Lean forward slightly with your knees bent, keep your head up and make sure you’re balanced.”
Jake did as he was told. It felt a little uncomfortable and not at all natural.
Hank chuckled. “You look like you’re about to start the hundred yard dash. Relax a bit and keep your thumb away from the hammer, or else when it pops back, you can get a nasty bite.”
Jake frowned at Hank, adjusted his stance and relaxed.
“Now, line up the front and rear sights and then take a breath, exhale and pull the trigger at the bottom of your breath cycle. Jerking the trigger abruptly will throw off your aim, so you need to squeeze the trigger.”
Jake aimed for a spot between the sightless eyes of the target and squeezed.
“The safety’s on.”
Jake grinned. “I knew that. I was just testing it.” He flicked off the safety and lined up the sights again. This time, when he squeezed the trigger, a shot exploded and echoed off the bare walls behind.
“Not bad,” Hank said. “You only missed the target by eight inches. Try again.”
Jake frowned at the weapon and took another shot.
“That’s better,” Hank said. “You clipped his ear.”
Jake took a few more shots, emptying the weapon, and finally managed to come close to where he was aiming.
Hank showed Jake how to reload and the next shots were more accurate.
“I got the hang of this,” Jake said.
“Ok, that’s enough for now. Click the safety back in place and reload the magazine,” Hank said, as he turned away.
As Jake reloaded, Hank returned with a shoulder holster and a bulletproof vest. “When you get home, wear a t-shirt, then put the vest on, then your shirt over top and then the holster. It might get a little warm under there, but you’ll get used to it.”
“I don’t expect to get shot at,” Jake said.
“Probably not, but at least you’ll be safe.”
Wednesday, August 31st, 6:55 PM
JAKE PARKED the Firebird on the side street nearest the north entrance to Richmond Valley Park and stepped out. He felt a little uncomfortable in the vest, especially when he was driving, and the weapon underneath his jacket felt bulky.
And to make matters worse, Hank had insisted Jake wear a wire, so Callaway had fitted him with a small microphone fastened inside the lapel of his jacket.
He reached in the back seat, removed the briefcase he’d picked up from Dr. Gould a few minutes ago, and strode across the road and onto the grass of the expansive park. It was a warm summer evening and all was quiet except for the tweet of a bird somewhere in the trees. A dog barked a distance away and the occasional person, or couple out for an evening stroll, wandered past.
As he crossed the lawn near a hotdog vendor, he glanced at the man behind the counter. Jake recognized the apron-clad merchant as one of the officers he’d seen around the precinct. He suspected the cop had a weapon nearby, probably under his apron. He was busy chopping something up, but from where he worked, he would have a clear view of the bench where Jake was headed.
A lamppost fifty feet away supported the back of a wino, sitting on the grass, wearing tattered clothes and hat, his right hand holding a brown paper bag, his head bowed as if dozing or in a drunken stupor. From that position, the bum would still have a clear view of the entire area from the corner of his eye.
Jake approached the bench where he was to meet for the exchange, sat down and laid the briefcase beside him. He leaned back and looked around.
Off to his right, on another bench, a couple of lovebirds were deep in conversation, not giving him a glance, seemingly intent only on each other. Between the two of them, they would have a clear view of anyone coming into the park from either direction.
He was surrounded by cops. Jake suspected there were more about, probably at all entrances to the area and perhaps even a hidden sniper. Hank would be around somewhere as well.
He looked at his watch. It was one minute after seven. He didn’t know what to expect.
He watched a pair of squirrels run by, weaving and dodging as one chased the other across the grass and finally up a tree and out of sight. The leaves rustled and branches bowed as the furry animals leaped from tree to tree and continued their game elsewhere.
Jake felt under his jacket. The pistol was loaded, the safety on.
And then his phone rang.
Jake frowned. That wasn’t his ring.
It rang again. The sound came from under the bench. Jake got down on one knee and peeked underneath. A cell phone was taped to the underside, held firmly in place by a piece of duct tape.
He carefully peeled back the tape and retrieved the phone.