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The breakthrough, p.13
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       The Breakthrough, p.13

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “He told me not to even think about what’s going on in the office. Should I wake him? Does he need me?”

  “Oh, please don’t, Boone. He was up late last night.”

  “Doing what?”

  “I told you. The usual. He’ll be up soon. Get yourself somethin’ to eat while I get myself together, huh?”

  Boone was hungry. “If he’s not up when I get back, I’m waking him.”

  “Well, don’t tell him it was my idea.”

  As Boone headed for the elevator, he saw a look in Chaz Cilano’s eyes. It didn’t take a trained observer to know something was going on.

  Downstairs, he waited in a long line for a toasted bagel and a large cup of black coffee. He ate and drank on the way back to the ICU, having convinced himself that Haeley had taken a turn for the worse in the night and that everyone had conspired to make Jack be the one to break the news.

  Back at the nurses’ station, Boone beckoned Chaz with a nod. “You and I are going to become friends,” he said.

  “Okay . . .” she said, suspicion in her voice.

  “But I need you to shoot straight with me. Have you heard from Dr. Sarangan since I talked to you last night?”

  She nodded.

  “I knew it. What’s up? I don’t need Jack to tell me.”

  “The doctor called just after I got here and said to tell you he’d drop in after church.”

  “Why?”

  “To do what good doctors do, check on his patient. He asked if there’d been any change in her vitals. I assured him there had not, so he said to look for him sometime early afternoon.”

  “No changes?”

  “No, sir, and that’s good news.”

  “Well, ’course, yeah.”

  “This is the diciest time for her. The coma is designed to keep her in stasis. You know what that means.”

  Boone nodded, puzzled. “Makes no sense that Jack and Margaret stayed the night.”

  “It doesn’t make much more sense that you stayed. Except you’re that kind of a husband. Aren’t they that kind of friends? You could be more grateful.”

  “Just stressed, I guess,” he said.

  “Understandable. Why don’t you relax until Chief Keller gets up.”

  “Relax? Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I need my phone please.”

  Boone found an empty waiting room one floor below and checked his messages. Except for a Scripture reference from Francisco, nothing. Not even a call from Florence. You would have thought . . .

  What was so important that Jack had to work late? Boone called Antoine Johnson. His wife, Rebekah, told Boone he was still sleeping. “So sorry to hear about your wife, Chief. I pray she’s on the mend.”

  “As well as can be expected right now, thanks. Was Antoine working late last night too?”

  “Yes, sir. You know he’ll never let up.”

  “What are he and Jack working on?” Her pause was too long. “Rebekah?”

  “You know he never tells me anything. You taught him that.”

  “I’d like to hear from him when he’s up.”

  “I’ll tell him.”

  Boone thanked her and rang off, idly looking at Pastor Sosa’s text. Mark 4:22. He looked it up on his mobile Bible: “For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.”

  It was time to find out what was going on.

  Boone returned to ICU to find that both Jack and Margaret were up and showering. When they finally joined him in the waiting room, he noticed that Margaret had straightened up the area where she had slept and that she had two duffel bags. “Staying?” he said.

  She glanced at Jack and nodded.

  “You don’t need to do that,” Boone said.

  “I want to.”

  “Jack,” Boone said, “they keep telling me there’s nothing I can do here, but I’m not leaving Haeley. At least not for long. But I need to tell Max what happened, and I should do that in person, don’t you think?”

  He caught the look between Jack and Margaret. “You need to sit down, Boones,” Jack said.

  “Just tell me.”

  “Sit.”

  When Boone reluctantly sat, Jack dragged a coffee table over and sat facing him. Margaret quietly left the room. What in the world?

  “Boone, there’s no easy way to say this. Max was abducted yesterday.”

  Boone leapt to his feet, reaching for the snub-nosed .38 in his pocket. What he was going to do with that he had no idea. Shoot himself? A strange feeling washed over him, leaving him cold, and he found it hard to breathe. Even learning of the death of his son Josh—devastating as it was—did not compare with this. There was a horrible finality to that, but now all his senses were engaged, and he had to know everything at once. He wanted to be able to hear it, see it, touch it, taste it, smell it.

  Boone collapsed back onto the sofa and beckoned to Jack with both hands, as if to say, “Give me everything.”

  And Jack did. He used his notes and his legendary memory for detail to paint the entire picture, from Alfonso’s visit to the pastor to the afternoon spent with Florence, and from the Buick to DeWayne Mannock.

  “Now, you won’t think you need or want to hear this,” Jack said, “but you’re going to listen anyway. I know you. I know what you want to do right this instant.”

  “No, you don’t.”

  “Don’t insult me, Boones. If I guess right, will you hear me out?”

  Boone nodded.

  “You want to go on the stakeout to Shane Loggyn’s and blow DeWayne Mannock’s head off the instant you see him.”

  “Okay, so you know me. What are we doing?”

  “If I were you, I’d feel such rage and fear right now that I’d worry whether I could be trusted to have any part in this. And the fact is, few superiors would let you anywhere near it. But as lead investigator on this, I want my best man involved. And despite that you’re the father and standing vigil at your wife’s sickbed, if you can force yourself to focus, I need you.”

  “You couldn’t keep me away.”

  “I could, and I will if I have to. If you can’t digest this and get that analytical mind of yours around it, you’ll be no good to me—or to Max.”

  Boone nodded.

  “Tell me you get it.”

  “I do.”

  “Do you need to vent first? Kick something, hit something, throw something?”

  “All of the above, but there’s no time. Why are we sitting here?”

  “You’re not going on the Mannock stakeout. You know what happens now. You have to immerse yourself in every detail of the investigation.”

  “What haven’t you told me?”

  “I’ve told you everything, but you need to get all this firsthand, starting with Florence. She’s a mess, feeling terrible, guilty, miserable. But you need to get the whole story from her and go from there. Meanwhile, we’ll bring DeWayne in. You’ll get your chance to talk to him.”

  “I want to torture him till he tells us where Max is. But you’re right; I wouldn’t trust myself at the stakeout.”

  “It wouldn’t surprise me if he doesn’t know where Max is. Why would whoever’s behind this trust him with that information?”

  “No way he could have masterminded this,” Boone said. “So who are we dealing with?”

  “That’s the thinking path I want you on. Can you stay there?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Just keep me up to date on where your head is. You’ll know if it’s too close to home for you to be effective.”

  “I said you can’t keep me off this, Jack.”

  “No way you’ll be able to concentrate the way you need to if you leave Haeley here alone.”

  “Exactly.”

  “Margaret is setting up camp where you were last night, and she’s in this for the long haul.”

  “I hope Haeley understands,” Boone said. “I mean, someday she’s going to know.”

  “She will. Now, I
’m going to Hammond. You’re going to see Florence. And I’ve told everybody—from Antoine to Dr. Waldemarr—to give you access to everything and everyone. By the end of today, I want you as up to speed on this as I am.”

  Chaz Cilano accompanied Boone and Jack to Haeley’s room, explaining that she could allow three visitors at once provided she was there. As soon as they entered, Margaret stood and embraced Boone.

  “Thanks for doing this,” he whispered.

  “I’ll do anything, Boone.”

  “But should I leave her?” he said. “What’ll she say when she finds out?”

  “She’s going to appreciate that she wasn’t left alone.”

  “But doesn’t she want me to stay,” Boone said, “me to be with her?”

  “You want to know what she’d say right now if she knew what was going on?”

  “I do!”

  Margaret grabbed Boone’s shirt at his chest, bunching the material in both hands and drawing him to where they were nose to nose. Her eyes were moist and her voice emotion-choked. “Here’s what she’d tell you, Boone: ‘Go find our son!’”

  Boone wrapped his arms around her again, then pulled away and leaned over Haeley. He laid a hand lightly on her swollen head and gently kissed her warm cheek. “I’ll find him,” he said. “I’ll get him back.”

  20

  Wiretaps

  Jack walked Boone to his car, advising him to go through the doorman at Bethune Arms to see Florence. “You call her to let her know you’re coming, she’s liable to do nothing but blubber. Just have Willie let her know.”

  Boone slid behind the wheel of the car that had been a gift from Haeley, docked his cell phone, and dialed the Bethune Arms.

  “Oh, Mr. Drake,” Willie said. “Have they found your boy?”

  Boone filled him in, asking him to let Florence know he was coming. “And I’d also like to talk to you and the young man on the street who found the car.”

  “Scooter’s not always easy to find.”

  “If you could just try.”

  “I surely will.”

  When Boone was within a few blocks of Florence’s place, Willie called him. “Two things, sir. First, Miz Quigley is all upset worryin’ you’re mad at her.”

  “I’m not. I just need to get the story firsthand.”

  “I got her to agree to see you. And I found Scooter. He’s here in the lobby wondering if he can talk to you first.”

  “Sure, I guess.”

  “He says he’ll tell you the same story he told everybody else.”

  Jack Keller met Hammond PD Lieutenant Lefty Tidwell about six blocks from the apartment complex where Shane Loggyn, the casino dealer, lived. They climbed into the back of a nondescript brown van with tinted windows. It was outfitted with surveillance devices. Two other plainclothesmen nodded, then turned back to their screens and keyboards.

  Lefty Tidwell was about Jack’s age but, unlike Jack, looked it. Jack assumed the man hadn’t seen a workout room in twenty years. He limped on a bad knee, had worn the same broken-down shoes for as long as Jack had known him, and still sported a 1970s moustache—now gray except for nicotine stains—which grew untrimmed over his lip.

  But he was all cop.

  He pointed to a map on one of the screens and showed Jack where they were in relation to Loggyn’s apartment a few blocks away. “He lives with his wife on the top floor of a six-story brick building. The area’s rundown, but the complex is tidy and fenced. We’ve got perfect reception from here.

  “Lucky for us, Loggyn has one of the newer, fancier phones my techies tell me are easy. I wouldn’t know from Adam’s housecat. I’m still lookin’ for a cell with a rotary dial, know what I mean?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Am I right?”

  It was Tidwell’s favorite question, as if he feared losing your attention if he didn’t keep you engaged.

  “You’re right,” Jack said. “Now what do we know?”

  “We put a chip in Loggyn’s phone that’ll transmit, so we can record calls in or out, but it also will record live conversations.” Tidwell nudged one of his guys, who dutifully pointed to a toggle switch. “And play for Chief Keller that one we already got.”

  The techie hit another couple of switches and handed Jack a set of earphones. The fidelity made it sound as if Loggyn and DeWayne Mannock were right in front of him.

  “Hey, DeWayne,” Loggyn said.

  “Shane! My man!”

  “Everything work out with the car?”

  “Far as I know.”

  “Your friend have a good time?”

  “Yup.”

  “You bringing it this morning? The wife’s already gone, and I’m on ten to six today.”

  “Oh, you need it today?”

  “Don’t start with me, DeWayne. That was the agreement from day one. You don’t have the car back yet?”

  “Oh, no, I got it. It’s just, ah, I had something else to do this morning. My bad, man. Hey, take a cab and I’ll pay you back, all right? I can bring the car to the casino this afternoon.”

  “And then how will you get home?”

  “I’ll take a cab.”

  “C’mon, man, the deal was I get the car back by nine this morning, so make it happen.”

  “I can’t, Shane. What if I throw in another fifty?”

  “Forget the money. If I don’t have that car by nine, I’m calling the cops.”

  “What’re you, serious?”

  “As an undertaker. Do what you’ve got to do.”

  “If I can’t get the car to you, I’ll come by and drive you to work myself, how’s that?”

  “What are you talking about? You just said you had the car!”

  “Well, not exactly. But I know he’s bringing it later.”

  “So you lied to me.”

  “Sorry, dude. But you can trust me.”

  “Be here by nine or I’m reporting the car stolen, and I’m not kidding.”

  “You got it, man.”

  Jack slid off the earphones. “We could use someone like Loggyn on our team.”

  “I know, right?” Tidwell said. “Listen, we did like you asked and let the air out of two of Mannock’s tires last night. He’ll find out as soon as he tries to pull away from the curb.”

  “Then what?”

  “Either he gets ’em fixed fast or he has to call Loggyn again, and we’ve told Shane what to say.”

  “It’s almost nine now. You got guys watching Mannock?”

  Tidwell nodded.

  “We ought to just bring him in. We’ve got enough on him already. Time’s wasting.”

  “Yeah, but Jack, don’t you want to see if Loggyn can get him to say where he’s getting his money? If it’s you or me badgerin’ him, he can lawyer up.”

  Jack nodded.

  “Am I right?” Tidwell said. “Huh?”

  Boone Drake found Scooter sleeping near a radiator in the lobby at Bethune Arms. Willie immediately rose and greeted Boone, whispering, “He wasn’t hard to find after all. He was sleeping outside on the steps.”

  Boone was antsy, wanting to get on with this. The sooner he had the entire picture in his mind, the sooner he could get to finding Max. Boone kicked the bottom of Scooter’s foot, making the young drunk hold tighter to his bag-wrapped bottle. “I’m your first appointment, man.”

  As Scooter sat up, his stench nearly bowled Boone over. “I done told my story twice. Now what you want to know?”

  “Same thing. Everything.”

  “I never seen the boy or the soldier. Only the car.”

  “Then how’d you know he was a soldier?”

  “Miz Quigley was describin’ ’em both to everybody. I ain’t deaf.”

  “That’s all you’ve got for me? You went looking when Mrs. Quigley asked you, and you found the car.”

  “I told you that’s all I got. But when you talk to her, remind her she owes me.”

  “Owes you what?”

  “She told me she’d give me a
ten to help her look and she’d double it if I found the boy.”

  “We haven’t found him yet, and you’re worried about getting yours?”

  “Fair’s fair.”

  Boone ripped a twenty out of his wallet, wadded it, and threw it at the man. It hit him in the chest and rolled to the floor. Immediately Scooter was on his knees after it. “Now get out of here,” Boone said, “before I run your tail downtown!”

  Scooter had proved a waste of time, but Willie was helpful. He had a good memory of just about everything Alfonso had said. “I got to tell you, officer, I didn’t suspect him for a second. It didn’t hit me till they didn’t come back and didn’t come back. I just kinda went cold, you know, and had to wonder.”

  Whoever Alfonso was, the way Willie quoted him made him sound like a pro—believable, nuanced, charming. Tempted as he was to scold Florence and demand to know how she could let a little boy out of her sight for even an instant, Boone wondered if he himself would have seen through the con.

  Boone found Florence’s door ajar, held open by the chain on her security lock. He knocked and she called out, “Jes’ come on in!”

  Boone hadn’t thought it possible that a woman Florence’s size could tuck her feet up under her, but there she sat, all folded in on herself. Soggy tissues lay about, and a nearly empty box sat in her lap.

  “Oh, Mr. Drake, I been cryin’ all night. Prayin’ for that boy. Begging Jesus to forgive me. Can you ever forgive me?”

  “Florence,” Boone said, sitting across from her, “you really must stop this. No one’s blaming you.”

  “Miss Haeley will! No mama gon’ put up with something like this.”

  “She doesn’t know Max is missing, ma’am. I want him back safe and sound before she even knows he was gone. I know that’s what you want too.”

  “With all my heart!”

  “It’s okay to feel bad. We all do. And we’re scared for Max. But that doesn’t help us get him back, does it?”

  “Tell me what I can do.”

  He walked her through every detail, and the more she remembered, the more she wailed. But as he kept reminding her that the best thing she could do was to help with information, she gradually controlled herself.

  Boone felt the clock ticking, knowing every second counted. The absolute best leads were found the quickest, and the longer you went without information, the worse it was for the victim. Still, before he left, Boone took the time to help Florence up off the couch so he could hug her.

 
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