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The breakthrough, p.19
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       The Breakthrough, p.19

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “I’m not going to County! Unless you make up somethin’ to pin on me, I’ll be back to that dealership before dinner.”

  “Then you’d better get to the point and start putting your finger on the bad guys. Somebody’s going down for this, DeWayne, and right now the smart money is on you.”

  “All right, listen; so Jammer, he keeps putting me off, you know? Even though I tell him I got the perfect kid for him. I’m askin’ him is he serious about somebody goin’ a million bucks for these kids and would there really be a rock and a half in it for me, and he’s saying, ‘No, no, DeWayne, you don’t really want to get mixed up in this.’ I tell him I do, that I’d do anything for a hundred and a half, and he says, ‘Including giving us everything we need and then keeping your mouth shut?’ and I’m saying, ‘You know it, man.’”

  Boone moved next to DeWayne, towering over him. “Just curious. Did you tell him this was your own son?”

  “Not then. That came later. Actually Johnnie figured that out.”

  “And Pitts had no problem with that?”

  Mannock shook his head. “He just said he wanted someone not too many people would care about. You know, if the kid is well-known—”

  Boone slowly closed his eyes and was glad his sidearm was not allowed in the interrogation room. Someone not too many people would care about?

  “You’re getting ahead of yourself,” Jack said. “You said Jammer introduced you to Bertalay. Walk us through that.”

  “Well, Jammer is still putting me off. I can’t believe it. I’m no smart guy, but pretty soon I catch on that he’s just making sure about me. He wanted me to point him to a kid he could deal, but he wanted me to understand that this was serious business and to convince him I was trustworthy. I musta finally done that, ’cause finally, after months and months of dancin’ around it, he tells me he can cut me in on a deal. He’s got a live request for just the kind of kid we’ve been talking about; he’s got what he called an, uh, extraction specialist—that’s what he called Johnnie—and we’ve got to all meet and talk this through so he can decide if it’s doable.”

  “So, where did you meet?” Boone said.

  “At a coffee shop in Burr Ridge, right off the expressway.”

  “Here in Illinois, in DuPage?”

  “I don’t keep track of which county I’m in, but yeah, I guess. Jarvis’s Cafe. I remember because I missed it a couple of times and had to keep gettin’ back on the expressway and trying different exits.”

  “We need everything you can remember about that meeting,” Keller said.

  “And then I can go?”

  Boone stepped back to where DeWayne would have to wrench around to see him. Boone had a perfect view of Mannock’s face in the mirror and studied him for tics and tells that would indicate when he was lying or rattled.

  Jack leaned forward again, hands flat on the table, his face inches from Mannock’s. “DeWayne, you’ve been doing okay up to now, but you need to hurry. You don’t want the other guys’ stories on the record before yours; you know why?”

  Mannock shook his head.

  “Because we tend to believe what we hear first.”

  “Well,” DeWayne said slowly, “this is all on the record, isn’t it?”

  “Yeah, but are you going to give us the whole story first? Or second? Or last? Who are we going to believe?”

  “You can believe me ’cause I’m not lyin’!”

  “Fine, but you need a reality check, and I’ve got to ask you again, are you listening?”

  “Yeah, sure, what?”

  “DeWayne, you’re giving yourself the best chance you can here, telling us every detail. If everything you say checks out, we’re going to tell that to the prosecutor, and he’s probably going to ask you to repeat it in court.”

  “Rattin’ on these guys?”

  “It’s your only hope. What do you think they’re doing to you right now? This is your only chance.”

  “Only chance for what? Gettin’ out of here today?”

  “Now, see, DeWayne? That’s what I’m talking about. You’re in la-la land if you think you’re going to be a free man for the next several decades.”

  “Well, I think you’re wrong, and I think you’re bluffing. I’m going to tell you everything, and when you see I didn’t—”

  “What? Do anything except put these guys onto Max and then take money for it?”

  “Right.”

  “I’ve got to be honest with you, Mannock. I don’t want you to be confused or misled when it comes to what’s going to happen to you. Now I’m no lawyer, and neither are you. Still, one thing I know from decades in this business: you’re going to prison for a long time. Now don’t give me that look, and don’t interrupt me. I’m not promising you anything but a long prison term. But I’m telling you that if you quickly give us everything on Pitts and the man you know as Bertalay, you might earn some consideration.”

  “Like what?”

  “Like maybe ten to twenty instead of life. Maybe something this side of maximum security. Maybe segregation to protect you from other inmates. You’re not a big guy, DeWayne, and there is a pecking order in prison. You know what that means?”

  “I know they don’t like child molesters and stuff.”

  “Well, this qualifies as stuff. You haven’t molested a child, but do you think it’s going to be a secret inside that you sold your own son?”

  “I didn’t sell him! Jammer sold him!”

  “And you took a commission. You’ve got to wake up, DeWayne. What you’re doing now is catastrophe control. The damage has been done. You’re not getting out of here except on a bus to central booking, then straight to County, eventually to trial, and then to prison. I’d love to pretend otherwise to get you to tell us all we need to know. But you need to do that anyway, unless you want to live the rest of your life in general population in a facility full of murderers with nothing to lose and a hatred for people who victimize children. Am I getting through, DeWayne?”

  “I need a lawyer.”

  “I’ve been telling you that. But just so we’re clear, are we done here? You want to lawyer up before you tell us about the meeting with you and Pitts and Bertalay?”

  “What should I do?”

  “I can’t advise you, DeWayne. All I can tell you again is that you have the right to stop this right here and have us get you a lawyer.”

  DeWayne twisted in his chair. “What do you think I should do, Drake?”

  Boone shook his head. How he wished kidnapping were a capital offense. “It’s entirely up to you,” he said, fighting to control his breathing. “We’re not going to screw this up by standing in the way of your getting representation.”

  “A lawyer would probably tell me to tell about the meeting anyway because it’ll prove this was their thing, not mine. Right?”

  Boone shrugged, hoping, praying Mannock would not lawyer up. Not yet. “We can’t give you legal advice, DeWayne.”

  “I’ll get assigned a public defender once I go to County, right?”

  “As soon as you’re booked. Right.”

  “’Cause I can’t afford one. Not without my cash. And I don’t suppose—”

  “No, that cash is evidence. You can’t use it for—”

  “I got the other half of it at my place.”

  “Not anymore you don’t. Hammond PD has turned your room inside out, and all that is being processed and delivered.”

  Mannock seemed to be studying the floor. “You promise me a lawyer when I get to County?”

  “You’re entitled to a lawyer at any time, even now,” Jack said. “I have made that crystal clear.”

  “I think I want to keep going.”

  “What’s that mean, DeWayne?” Boone said. “It has to be clear on the record if you’re still waiving your right to counsel at this stage and want to keep talking.”

  “That’s what I’m saying,” he said. “I don’t guess it makes much difference now. But I want everybody to know tha
t, yeah, I helped and I took money, but this wasn’t my deal. It was Jammer’s. And Bertalay was his guy.”

  28

  Destination

  For the next hour, DeWayne Mannock, clearly convinced that Jammer Pitts and Johnnie Bertalay were ratting him out, did his best to turn the tables. Boone believed DeWayne was not smart enough to be making this up. Nuance was not his gift.

  The meeting had taken place on a Tuesday night in the spring when DeWayne was off work. Pitts had told him where to meet him and Bertalay. They were already there when he arrived. Pitts had told him he was late and that that was not a good sign. Mannock had told him he had trouble finding the place, and Pitts said, “Yeah, you can only see it from the expressway. Can’t imagine how you finally located it.”

  “He always talk to you that way?” Boone said.

  “Mostly. Sort of mean and like I’m beneath him, but always like he’s just kidding. I didn’t care. Kinda money I was gonna make, he could have ridden me down the street like a donkey.”

  He did, Boone thought.

  “So tell us about Bertalay.”

  “He looked a lot like a stoner.”

  “Seriously?”

  “Yeah, I’ve done my share of weed, and he didn’t look high or anything, but he was wearing an olive drab coat, way too warm for the weather and way too big for him. He was swimmin’ in it, and kinda slouched there.”

  “So what made him look like a stoner?”

  “The hair. You ever see that funny guy on TV, ‘Weird Al’ something?”

  “Yankovic, yeah.”

  “Long and black and curly like that.”

  “To his shoulders?”

  “Yeah. And he was real pale, like he stayed indoors all the time. Thing was, he got up once to use the bathroom, and his coat kinda pulled open as he slid out of the booth, and I could tell he was cut. Almost like a bodybuilder. I mean, he wasn’t huge. More my size, but hard.”

  “Interesting. Keep going.”

  “Everybody seemed to know Jammer at this cafe,” Mannock said. “But nobody called him that. It was always Mr. Pitts. Even though we were in the last booth by the wall, people were comin’ by, saying hi to him and smiling, and two showed him pictures.”

  “Of what?”

  “Their families. One woman showed him one, and he made a big deal over how the little girl was so darling and was getting so big. He showed Johnnie and me the picture, and it showed a bunch of kids that looked like the woman and one little girl from Japan or Korea or China or someplace. She really was cute. The woman gave Pitts a big hug and said she owed it all to him. When she left he says, ‘One of the perks of my job. Helps me sleep at night.’”

  “You’re saying he had sold that woman an Asian child?” Boone said.

  “That’s what I asked him. I said, ‘Where would she get a million bucks for a kid?’ Jammer laughs and says, ‘This is an affluent area, boys, but the money’s on the other end. Here I arrange the adoption and I clear a little under twenty grand. Girls are cheap in China.’”

  Boone let that sink in. “All right,” he said slowly. “Then?”

  “Then we eat. And I mean, we eat. I like a good meal, but I don’t stuff myself. Jammer orders a gigantic meal, some kind of breakfast they serve all day. Pancakes, eggs, toast, sausage, hash browns. Enough to feed a family. Thing is, Bertalay does the same thing. Not breakfast, but I think meatloaf or something with rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, beans, everything. And a big dessert.”

  “We don’t really care what they ate, DeWayne,” Jack said.

  “Yeah, sorry, but he asked what happened next, and that was it. I ate and they gorged. I don’t know how else to say it.”

  “Get to the deal,” Boone said.

  “Okay, so Jammer tells the waitress we’re gonna be there a while and could she keep people from interrupting. He said he would make it worth her while, and she said something like, ‘Oh, I know you will, Mr. Pitts. You always do.’ While she’s saying that he makes a show of setting four twenties on the table. This is for a meal for all three of us that probably didn’t come to much more’n thirty.”

  “So everybody knows him and loves him and he’s generous,” Boone said. “He helps families in that area adopt Asian kids. Sounds like a model citizen.”

  “Looked like a big shot to me. So then he tells me how his business works. He says his organization is nonprofit and places Asian orphans in Western families. It’s all girls because boys are preferred in China, and they’ve got this one-child policy. You only get one, so if you have a girl, a lot of them are happy to take a few thousand and be told a story about where she’s going. Better life, more opportunity, all that.

  “So then Jammer goes into this big explanation about the supply side of the stateside business being in poor villages where he gives the parents of baby girls a thousand or two and tells ’em he’ll make sure their daughters live in luxury in America and all that. He said other outfits in the same business make the same promises, but they send the kids into other Asian countries and get about twice what they paid for ’em. And don’t care if the kids wind up in the sex trade. Jammer said he works with a higher class of people and makes a good living at it. Says it makes people happy, gives kids a nice home, makes him feel good. I guess his town named him Charitable Somethin’-or-Other of the Year once. Says he gives a lot of money.

  “I ask him, ‘Where does the big money come in?’ That’s when he tells me that some very wealthy people in China want these blond boys to raise as their own. Maybe they can’t have their own or don’t want to. It’s some kind of prestige thing among the rich there, at least some of them. Jammer says, ‘They’re wealthy enough to be discreet.’ And I say, ‘And wealthy enough to afford you?’ He goes, ‘Precisely.’

  “Anyway, he tells me he only does these big transactions a few times a year, three or four at the most, and I’m thinking, why would you have to do it more than once for that money? Anyway, he says he’s got a client in northern China who really wants an American boy, and when he describes what he wants, it sounds like Max.”

  “How do you know?” Boone said. “How many times have you seen Max?”

  Mannock shrugged. “More than you know.”

  “You’ve watched him?”

  “That’s where my cut came in. I got paid to find out where you guys come and go, church, school, who watches him, all that.”

  It was all Boone could do to keep himself from strangling DeWayne where he sat. Through a set jaw, he said, “Are you telling me that Max is in China?”

  Mannock shrugged again. “Probably was on his way by Saturday evening.”

  Boone went rigid and his face flushed, though he felt cold in the stifling room. He doubled his fists and slammed them back against the wall, making Mannock start. “Where, DeWayne?”

  “No idea, I swear.”

  “You pointed Pitts and Kenleigh to Max, knowing he would wind up in China?”

  “Who’s Kenleigh?”

  “Just tell me.”

  “I’m just guessing where he is because of what Jammer said. The people who want these kids are in China. That’s all I know.”

  Boone stormed from the room, yanking out his cell phone. He noticed texts from Francisco Sosa and Margaret but didn’t have time to check them. He called the crime lab and asked for Ragnar Waldemarr. Boone moved past the colleagues who were huddled around the two-way mirror, listening in silence and plainly avoiding his glance. When Heathcliff Jones and Antoine Johnson peeled away and started to follow him, Boone waved them off with his phone to his ear and camped out on the landing in a stairwell, hyperventilating.

  “Boone,” Waldemarr said, “any news?”

  “Doc, you said I could come to you.”

  “For anything. Name it.”

  “Contacts in China?”

  “Whereabouts?”

  “The north.”

  “So Beijing. Yes. Are you saying that’s where—?”

  “How long would it take me to g
et a visa?”

  “Depends on who you want to be, Boone. That’s an awfully tough place to find—”

  “I want to be anyone but me.”

  “You’ll need a visa, a passport, ID, credit cards—all that, all in a new name.”

  “Right.”

  “Transmit me a head shot and I can have that done in a matter of hours. But it’ll probably run—”

  “Cost is irrelevant. What do I do about getting around, communicating?”

  “I’ve got a guy.”

  “Can I take a weapon?”

  “No, that cannot be done.”

  “Access to one there?”

  “Sure. Dangerous, but that can be arranged. Man, the last thing you want to do is fire a weapon in a country like that. We’d probably never see you again.”

  “Just in case.”

  “I’ve got here in the lab the very model you’d get over there, if you want to familiarize yourself—”

  “I do. How do I get on a flight fast?”

  “When do you want to go, Boone? American has direct flights every evening that get you in just before midnight the following night.”

  “And your guy can meet me?”

  “For a price, sure.”

  “And bring me a weapon?”

  “Well, not in the airport, but he can take you to it. You and I are going to need to meet, and I can give you more then. You got an alias you want to travel under?”

  “I don’t care, Doc. Just get it done and tell me where to meet you.”

  “Well, it can’t be here. I had nothing to do with this, right?”

  “I hear you.”

  “I’ll text you a location. And I have to get moving on this if you want to make, let me see here . . .”

  Boone heard him leafing through a book.

  “. . . the 7:55 out of O’Hare. They want you there early to clear security, so I’ll get cracking.”

  “Doc,” Boone said, as he located his own photo on his phone and set it to transmit, “you have no idea how much—”

 
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