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The breakthrough, p.15
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       The Breakthrough, p.15

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “Jasper Jammer Pitts,” Jack said. “Thanks again, Mr. Loggyn.”

  “Just get me my car back, would you?”

  “Pretty sure you can count on that. Another call coming in. See ya.”

  “This is Boone, Jack. Where to next? I’m just leaving the lab.”

  “Head for the Lucky Day Casino in Hammond. We’re gonna set up there for a meeting tonight between Mannock and the owner of the Buick.”

  “Jack, tell me that no matter what goes down there, we take DeWayne.”

  “That’s the plan. And Boones, what’s your father-in-law’s name?”

  “My father-in-law? Al Lamonica. Why?”

  22

  Progress

  Boone didn’t like the idea of sitting in a surveillance van when he had no idea where Max might be. And clearly DeWayne Mannock was the best source of information. Maybe Mannock had merely given the abductors enough information to find Max and had been left out of the rest of the details. But Boone would have loved to get him alone and beat him to within an inch of his life if necessary until Mannock coughed up what he knew.

  As Boone drove toward Hammond, he called Mount Sinai ICU and reached Nurse Chaz Cilano. “No change here,” she told him. “The neurosurgeon and your doctor are encouraged.”

  “What’s to be encouraged about?”

  “No news is good news, sir. All they’re hoping for right now is to lose no ground. They don’t want her to deteriorate.”

  “Any idea how the baby is doing?”

  “Dr. Fabrie is expected tonight. If the fetus is more than three weeks along, they should be able to detect a pulse.”

  “Fetus?”

  “That’s just nursespeak, chief. I’m as pro-life as you are, and I know that’s a baby in there.”

  “How’s Margaret doing?”

  “Seems fine. Let me get her.”

  When Margaret came on, she sounded tired.

  “You going to be able to get some sleep tonight?” Boone said.

  “That cot isn’t much to speak of, but it’s got to be better than the sofa in the waiting room. Feels like I didn’t sleep at all.”

  “If you need to go home—”

  “Boone, listen to me. I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying with Haeley until you bring Max back. I don’t want to hear another word about it.”

  “But you shouldn’t feel obligated.”

  “I said, not another word! I am obligated. She’s my friend. You’re my friend. Max is my little buddy. I want you to be able to concentrate out there, so just know I’m here and always will be. You don’t even need to call. I’ll text you every few hours to keep you up to date, all right?

  Boone suddenly found it hard to speak. “Margaret, you have no idea how much—”

  “You’d do it for me, wouldn’t you? For Jack?”

  “I would.”

  “Then shut up and get back to work.”

  As Boone pulled into the massive parking garage at the Lucky Day, he wondered if the concrete floors and walls would interfere with the bugging devices. Jack had given him a description of the van and the plate number and advised that he locate it, then park a couple of floors above.

  While the garage was open-sided on all floors, drawing in a hot breeze, the near-triple-digit temperatures were somewhat mitigated by the shade. Still, the cops couldn’t sit there all day in a closed-up van with the air running without drawing suspicion.

  Boone was impressed that someone had thought to park the van near one end of the fourth level where little foot traffic would intrude. The cops could peer out the tinted windows without being seen and know when they could steal into the building for bathroom breaks or food runs.

  Boone parked on six, took the lift down, and left the elevator bank as if he were leaving the casino and heading to his car. He slowed when a group of young men piled out of a sedan and noisily made their way in. Then he slipped behind a wall and entered the van through the front passenger door.

  Ingenious. Both front side windows were open, allowing air into the back. But a thin film between the front seat and the equipment in the back made it impossible to see the surveillance setup. Boone had to look twice to realize he could squeeze through a small opening in the film and disappear into the back. The film bore an image of an empty van, so anyone nosy enough to stick their head in would see what looked like open space.

  Yet in the back, Boone was greeted by Jack and Lefty and introduced to the two techies. There certainly wasn’t room to stand or move much, but everyone had a seat and a view.

  “I’ve put Antoine Johnson on the John Bertalay phone. Nothing so far, but if AKA uses it, we’ll know where he is.”

  “We’ll know where the phone is, anyway,” Boone said. “Can’t imagine he’s still carrying it.”

  “Well, yeah. I need to let Antoine know that we’ve got Bertalay’s real name. Alfonso isn’t John. And Lamonica isn’t Bertalay. Can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” Jack turned to Tidwell. “While I’m doin’ that, can these guys play for Boone the call we just heard?”

  Boone watched Jack make his way out of the van and walk through the parking garage, whispering into his phone.

  “You know Mannock,” Tidwell said. “The other voice is Kevin S. Kenleigh, slash Johnnie Bertalay, slash Alfonso Lamonica. Listen. . . .”

  “We’re not even s’posed to be talking, Mannock.”

  “That’s why you haven’t been answering your phone?”

  “That phone is long gone, dim wad. What do you think, I carry around evidence that’ll connect me to the job?”

  “I need the Buick.”

  “I left you the Buick, just like we planned. You can’t find that beast, you’re blind. Both front windows open, keys behind the visor. If it’s not there, it ought to be easy to find.”

  DeWayne swore.

  “What’sa matter, man? You got paid, and way earlier than you should have. You know why, right?”

  “What?”

  “I told you, man. Jammer got paid in cash for his last placement, and he couldn’t deposit that much without questions. He laundered a bunch of it by paying you up front. Just don’t spend all of it, in case the thing falls through on the other end. But at least give that old black guy a few bucks and make up a yarn. Car got totaled, everyone’s fine, end of story.”

  “What if the cops got it? The sitter saw the car, right?”

  “You think I didn’t wipe it down? You’re why I don’t like working with amateurs. That car is going to be traced back to the owner. He gives you up, you can give me up. Thing is, they’ll never find me. I’m in the wind. Then it’ll be on you.”

  “Loggyn won’t give me up.”

  “When he finds out what the Buick was used for? Why not? I would. His car is gone because he trusted you.”

  Mannock sighed. “It wouldn’t take ’em long to connect me with the boy.”

  “You think? He’s only your flesh and blood, man. Hope the money was worth it. Enjoy it while it lasts.”

  “Yeah, but I got other leads for you guys.”

  “Don’t say ‘you guys,’ man. I’m a freelancer. I don’t do much repeat business. It’s hit and run—do the job, take the money, disappear. It’s what you should have done.”

  “I’m new at this.”

  “Tell me about it. You’d just better pray Jammer never finds out the kid is connected to the highest-profile cop in Chicago. And your former girlfriend hasn’t exactly been anonymous either.”

  “You didn’t tell him, did you?”

  “Are you serious, Mannock? Make him think I’m as clueless as you? I enjoyed the danger. You’re the one who’s going to have to answer to Jammer when the full force of the Chicago PD comes down on this.”

  Boone sat shaking his head. “I knew Mannock was a lowlife, and he’s never acted like Max’s father. But how could a person stoop this low, Lieutenant?”

  Tidwell studied the ceiling of the van, as if searching his mind. “People do crazy things f
or money. Question is, why so much? No ransom call, so they’re not looking for cash from you or your wife. What makes your son so valuable, and to who?”

  The inside speaker came alive. “Mannock dialing,” a techie said.

  “Who’s he calling?” Tidwell said.

  “Looks like a business number. Hang on.”

  “You’ve reached Manley Motors. We’re open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. If you’d like to leave a message—”

  DeWayne Mannock cursed loudly, and the line went dead. He immediately dialed Shane Loggyn’s cell. It went to voice mail. He dialed the Lucky Day poker room and reached Goose.

  “Shane’s working, DeWayne,” Goose told him. “I’ll tell him you called.”

  “No! This is an emergency. I need to talk to him right now.”

  Boone cringed when Goose said, “Is this about that—?” hoping against hope he wouldn’t tell Mannock a Chicago cop had been in to talk to Loggyn. Fortunately, Mannock interrupted him.

  “Tell him to call me on his next break. When is that?”

  “About ten minutes, but you know he likes to just sit.”

  “I told you, it’s an emergency.”

  Loggyn called Mannock a few minutes later.

  “I don’t think I can come see you tonight after all, Shane.”

  “Why not?”

  “I can’t get my new car till tomorrow. Why wouldn’t Manley be open today?”

  “You never heard of blue laws? You can’t buy booze and you can’t buy cars on Sunday.”

  “That doesn’t even make sense. And by the time I get my Sentra tires fixed, it’ll be too late.”

  “Not too late for me, DeWayne. You’ve got me thinking about this extra income.”

  “Yeah, about that. I talked to my people, and they’re not looking for any more help right now. Sorry.”

  “I was getting pretty excited, DeWayne.”

  “My fault.”

  Loggyn paused. Finally, “So what’re we going to do about my car?”

  “I’m still on that. And like I promised, you don’t get it back, I’ll pay you for it.”

  “I’d better just call the police.”

  “Please don’t, Shane. Give me a couple of days, okay? It’s got to be somewhere.”

  “Let me tell you something, buddy. If I don’t have that Buick by the time I leave for work tomorrow morning, you’d better be nowhere near Indiana. ’Cause if the cops don’t find you, I will.”

  “Thanks, Shane. You won’t regret this.”

  “I already do.”

  Boone was sitting glumly in the van when Keller returned. “Jack, what’s stopping us from picking up Mannock right now? We’ve got plenty on him. We know he’s connected. He’s got a lot of cash, maybe with Jammer’s prints on it.”

  “He’ll lawyer up, and that’ll just cost us more time,” Jack said. “Let’s go slow and see if he’ll lead us to Jammer.”

  “That just went out the window,” Boone said. “If he’d kept the appointment to tell Loggyn more about the operation, we might have gotten something. But that’s off the table. Give me ten minutes with him and—”

  “Threats aren’t going to do it, Boones. He’s such a lowlife that we should be able to get everything we need by making a deal.”

  “A deal? For a guy who would sell his own son?”

  “He’s still gonna serve time, and a lot of it. He’s an accessory to kidnapping, and if Max is taken across state lines, that’s a federal felony.”

  “I don’t even want to think about Max being taken that far, Jack. How will we ever find him?”

  Boone’s phone chirped, and he found a text from Margaret: Dr. Fabrie is here and wants to talk to you in person. Any chance, or should I just have her call you?

  Boone sighed. “Jack, I’ve got to defer to you on this. Everything in me says to take Mannock now. What am I missing?”

  “You’re too close to it, Boones. Sometimes things aren’t what they seem. I promise we’ll take Mannock into custody tomorrow.”

  “You don’t think he’s going to make a run for it?”

  “Lefty’s guys have him under constant surveillance. He’s going nowhere.”

  23

  Setup

  Dr. Kristin Fabrie, a striking brunette, was chatting with Dr. Sarangan when Boone arrived at the ICU.

  “Thank you for coming, under the circumstances,” she said, shaking his hand. “Murari has brought me up to date. We both feel that unless it’s absolutely impossible, you need to sleep in your own bed tonight. Can you do that?”

  “I’d rather not, but—”

  “Doctor’s orders,” Dr. Sarangan said. “Boone, I understand you’re deep into this investigation, and nothing is more important. But Dr. Fabrie assures me the baby seems in no danger, as long as we can keep Haeley stable. Can I impress upon you the importance of taking care of yourself?”

  “Frankly, I’d rather not be alone.”

  “Then can you stay with Chief Keller? Or have him stay with you?”

  “I could live with that, but I still can’t imagine sleeping, knowing every second counts.”

  “I understand,” Dr. Sarangan said. “I can give you something that will put you out. Safely.”

  “Jack says they gave him Ambien last night,” Boone said.

  “This is stronger than that. This will shut you down so you won’t be fretting even subconsciously.”

  “I need to be able to think through this case.”

  The doctors looked at each other. “Not while you’re sleeping, you don’t,” Dr. Fabrie said.

  Dr. Sarangan pulled a small bag from his pocket. “I took the liberty of having this filled here at the hospital pharmacy. Trust me, Boone. You’ll be better for your task if you’re really rested.”

  On the way to Boone’s house, Jack phoned the head of the ransom team and told them to clear out, as he and Boone were spending the night there. “You can still monitor all those numbers from elsewhere, right?”

  “We can, Chief, but you know as well as I do, the longer we go hearing nothing, the more likely it is that we’ll never hear from anybody.”

  “Just like old times, Boones,” Jack said a few minutes later as he unpacked his duffel bag. “Except you were bunking with me in those days, not the other way around.”

  “I appreciated that—as low as I was—and I hope you know I’m grateful now. Someday we’re going to have to enjoy some time when I’m not just this far from the abyss.”

  “Whoa, Boones. Sit down. Let me be the doubter here, okay? You’ve always been the strong one, keeping your blind faith in the face of—”

  “Oh, Jack, don’t even start. It’s not blind faith. I believe with everything that’s in me. I just don’t understand God sometimes.”

  “I don’t understand him anytime,” Jack said. “Margaret does, and Haeley’s right there with you two.”

  “True.”

  “I guess we all need something, Boones. I don’t want you to lose hold on whatever it is that gets you through.”

  Boone snorted. “You make it sound like some lucky charm. That’s my problem, Jack. I want the faith to believe God will bring Haeley back to me the way she was and protect Max until he’s back with us too.”

  “If I were you,” Jack said, “I’d want God to give me a clean shot at whoever’s behind this.”

  “Well, that too. I don’t know what he’s trying to teach me. He already knocked everything out from under me the first time I went through something like this, and I learned—or thought I did—that he’s there when no one or nothing else is. Do I have to prove I learned it again? I’m willing. But why should the people I love have to suffer for it?”

  “You’re personalizing this too much, don’t you think?”

  “It’s my wife and son, Jack. It doesn’t get more personal than that.”

  Keller sat there nodding. “This has me rattled too. I was starting to halfway admire y’all’s beliefs, you know? But I wouldn’t blame y
ou if this made it all seem like just theory.”

  Boone sighed and shook his head. “God is real. I know he can be trusted. But that doesn’t mean everything turns out perfectly. Nikki and Josh are still gone, and that’s what it cost for me to really rely on God. But can I really go through this again? And if I can’t, does that mean God loses you, too?”

  “Wanna know the truth, Boones? God better help us solve this one. I don’t see the point of believing otherwise. And frankly, we need his help.”

  Boone raised a brow. “We do, don’t we?”

  “This is a tough one. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but time is everything. With no ransom demands, who knows what their intentions are? That scares me more than anything. I don’t know if God lets you pray if you’re not even sure you believe in him, so I’m trying something different. I’m just telling him that if he’s really there, and if he really cares, would he prove it to me? Lettin’ us find Max would be a good start.”

  “You’ve been praying, Jack?”

  Keller shrugged. “Can’t hurt, can it?”

  “That means a lot to me.”

  “It would mean a lot to me if you were well rested for tomorrow. Take that dope and get to bed.”

  “It’s hard to believe anything will put me to sleep when everything in this place reminds me of Haeley and Max.”

  “The docs swear by the stuff,” Jack said.

  Boone took the pills and was gone in fifteen minutes.

  JULY 2

  The next morning they raced in Jack’s unmarked squad to a drive-thru for breakfast, then rendezvoused with Lieutenant Tidwell and his tech experts in the van behind a precinct stationhouse in Hammond. One of the techies borrowed their cell phones, fiddled with them for a few minutes, and gave them back, along with small earpieces. “If Mannock has his cell on him, you’ll be able to hear everything, even live conversations. His phone becomes the transmitter, even if it’s not on.”

  “I’ve heard of this,” Jack said. “How do you do it?”

  “You’d be amazed. A phone can be rigged to bug a person from halfway around the world, and they’ll never know it.”

 
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