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The breakthrough, p.23
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       The Breakthrough, p.23

           Jerry B. Jenkins
 
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  “Hardly. But can I get in there with a gun in my pocket?”

  Tidwell nodded. “Be discreet.”

  “You wanna come with me?”

  Lefty laughed. “I wouldn’t mind, but AKA knows me. And it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the guys in there have been clients of Hammond PD. I’m not exactly anonymous ’round here.”

  Jack ran a hand through his hair, took off his jacket and tie, unbuttoned and untucked his shirt, and reached for the door handle.

  “One more thing,” Tidwell said. “No socks.”

  “Oh, man! I hate wearing shoes with no socks. I don’t even like sneakers with no socks.”

  “Not one person in there will make you for the heat if you’re not wearing socks.”

  Before he left the car, sockless, Jack studied the mug shot of Kevin Samuel Kenleigh stored in his cell phone. The only thing he knew for sure was that—unless Kenleigh had sprayed on his sunburn—he was not going to look pale.

  “Have twenty bucks ready and don’t look surprised.”

  “This is a new world for me, Tid.”

  “Cover charge. Show a receipt for at least three drinks on your way out and they’ll give it back.”

  “I’m already outside my jurisdiction. Drinking on the job too? Good plan.”

  A little less than ninety minutes into the flight, dinner was served in first class. It was all Boone could do to force down about half the chicken breast with a few sips of water. He pulled out the sheet that told him what to say to passport and customs agents, locked that in, then tore it up. He took the scraps, plus his pill bottle, to the bathroom.

  Boone threw his trash away, popped a pill, and checked his watch. Eleven more hours. If the med worked as long as it had the night before, he should awaken with a couple of hours and one meal to go. Back in his seat, he signaled the attendant to remove his tray, kicked off his shoes, untucked his shirt, loosened his belt, situated a pillow, and lowered the chair until he was flat from head to toe. He draped a blanket over himself, then fastened the seat belt around his middle. Boone intertwined his fingers behind his head and stared at the ceiling. He was so spent he wondered if he had really needed a thing to help him sleep. He considered grabbing something to read until he drifted off, but the idea of sitting up to find it did not appeal.

  Jack Keller slipped the Gents doorman/bouncer a twenty and nodded as the man welcomed him. The place was crowded and hot, the music deafening. Everything lay in darkness except the stage, which was lit like noon in June.

  He found a tiny round table near the back with a single chair and was immediately approached by a scantily clad waitress. When she started listing their beers and cocktails he said, “Diet Coke. Lime.”

  Her smile faded, and she narrowed her eyes at him. “That doesn’t go against your cover charge. You gonna want some company?”

  “I’m gonna want the soda and to be left alone.”

  She formed her mouth into an exaggerated pout and disappeared. Jack fought to adjust to the low light away from the stage, trying to casually scan the room. He saw more than one sunburned young man, but none who looked like Kevin Kenleigh.

  Shortly after the girl returned with his Diet Coke and a bill for six dollars, the bouncer pulled up a chair. Jack had to quickly decide how to proceed. “Don’t recall inviting you,” he said, shouting over the din but careful not to sound threatening.

  “C’mon,” the man said, “you’re not gonna be rude to me too, are you?”

  “Too?”

  “Weren’t you rude to my girl?”

  “Just want to be left alone. Waitin’ for my buddy.”

  “Who’s your buddy?”

  “Goes by Knives.”

  The bouncer sat back and roared. “Where you know him from?”

  “Here and there.”

  Chuckling now, the bouncer said, “He’s already here, dude. In disguise tonight.” Jack made a show of looking around. “Shaved his head about a week ago,” the guy continued. “Musta got tired of it though. That’s him up there with the locks.”

  Kenleigh sat nursing a beer with his back to the wall near the stage, dreadlocks to his shoulders.

  “Want me to tell him you’re here?”

  Jack nodded, pulling out his cell phone and texting Tidwell. Back door. Dreadlocks.

  The bouncer stood. “Name?”

  “Alfonso.”

  “You got it.”

  As soon as the man headed toward the stage, Jack headed back to the front door and peeked out through the window. Tidwell’s plainclothesmen were hurrying through the lot around to the back. Jack stood in the darkness, watching as the bouncer whispered in Kenleigh’s ear. He appeared to ask where, and the bouncer jerked a thumb over his shoulder.

  Kenleigh rose quickly and bolted for the back door. By the time Jack exited the front and got around the building, Hammond PD had the man on his face, his wig lying in the gravel. When the doorman appeared, Jack flashed his badge. “That’ll be all for tonight, Igor. Just go back inside and mind your business, or I’m sure we can find reasons to shut you down.”

  About ten minutes into Boone’s reverie, the shapes and patterns in the plane’s ceiling began to swim. He knew it was the drug, but Boone was fascinated that it had begun to affect him even earlier than the night before. He decided to see how long he could resist the effects.

  The attendant came by and said, “I assume you don’t want to be awakened for the mid-flight snack.”

  In Boone’s mind he was articulating, “That’s correct,” but he heard himself mumble and shook his head.

  “Already out, are we?” she said, smiling. “Unless you tell me otherwise, I’m taking that as a no, you do not want to be awakened.”

  He nodded. And as he did the attendant leaned close and whispered in his ear. “I don’t look like Jammer Pitts, do I?”

  Boone tried to sit up, heart pounding. But he felt leaden. He was unarmed. What could he do? Pitts in disguise? A woman? He tried to speak, to protest, to threaten, but his lips would not part. He felt his jaw move, trying to open. His eyes bugged but began blinking slowly.

  Somehow Boone forced himself onto his side, facing the aisle. His arm flopped as he reached for the attendant. He flailed at nothing. He wrenched his head to where he could look into business class. There she was, her back to him, attending to other customers. How could she have moved so quickly?

  Someone must have asked for something, because she came hurrying past him again toward the front of the cabin. Boone’s arm caught her at the knees.

  “Excuse me, Mr. Booker! I’m sorry. Need anything?”

  He motioned her close and managed, “Wha’ d’you ask me?”

  “Sorry?”

  “You, um, axed a queshion.”

  “Did you take a sleeping pill, sir?”

  He nodded.

  “You probably won’t remember any of this. I just asked if you wanted another blanket. You shook your head. You want one?”

  He shook his head again, his eyes finally surrendering to the light. And as Boone felt himself cascading into a creamy, dreamy cocoon, he realized the flight attendant was no one in disguise. He had merely . . . he had just . . . he was just so, so . . . tired.

  33

  AKA

  “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait!” Kevin Kenleigh said as Jack Keller helped pull him to his feet. “Don’t arrest me, don’t read me my rights, and I promise I’ll tell you everything I know. I can’t go back to prison, man; I just can’t.”

  “Kevin Samuel Kenleigh?” Jack said.

  “Yes! Now, please! Don’t!”

  “AKA Knives?”

  “Yes!”

  “AKA Johnnie Bertalay?”

  “Yes, now don’t—”

  “AKA Alfonso Lamonica?”

  Kenleigh sighed loudly. Keller grabbed his shirt and pulled him close. “You know I need a yes on that one, Kevin.”

  “Okay! Yes! But don’t—”

  “You’re under arrest for the—”
/>
  “Why are you doing this? You Mirandize me and I’ll lawyer up and you’ll get nothing!”

  “—kidnapping of Max Lamonica Drake. You have the right to—”

  “See? Now you’ve done it! Why do you guys always have to be so stupid? I could have made a sweet deal with you, told you more than you need, even. Everything. Man, I got to stay out of the joint.”

  “Tempting as that is, you’re not gonna con me, Kevin. Even if you told me everything from soup to nuts, if I can’t say I properly arrested you and read you your rights, you wind up walkin’. I can’t have that.”

  “Sure you can, ’cause I’m small-time. I know who you want, and I can give him to you.”

  As Tidwell’s squad crunched its way around the building to the scene, Kenleigh stood there hands cuffed behind his back, chin tucked to his chest, vigorously shaking his head. Jack completed the Miranda warning and asked if he understood.

  “Yes, I do, but you’re going to regret this.”

  Keller asked Tidwell if the two plainclothesmen could deliver Kenleigh back to Hammond, where he and Lefty could interrogate him. The two veterans followed in their own cars, and half an hour later it was just the three of them in an interrogation room about half the size of the one at the 11th in Chicago.

  “If I ask Lieutenant Tidwell to uncuff you, will you behave?”

  “Yeah.”

  Tidwell freed him, and Kenleigh flopped loudly into a chair. “Now we’ve got to wait for my lawyer. Is that what you wanted?”

  “You know what I want, Kevin. The phone’s right there. You know all you’ve got to do is pick it up and get your counsel in here before we can move another inch.”

  Kenleigh shook his head again. “You could have avoided this.”

  “C’mon, Knives. You think I’m new at this? I’ve got to cover my tail just like you do. Now are you calling your man or not?”

  “Well, it’s a woman, but no. Not yet.”

  “Are you waiving your right to counsel, and will you talk to us of your own accord?”

  Kenleigh looked to the ceiling and appeared to be thinking about it. “I reserve the right to—”

  “Stop this and call her at any time, of course,” Jack said. “But you stipulate that anything you say in the meantime can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

  “I do.”

  “I don’t know why, Kevin, but I’m gonna shoot straight with you. And I mean totally straight. I didn’t do that with Mannock.”

  “What an idiot.”

  “The very reason we misled him. He was easy. We told him whatever we needed to to get him to—”

  “Perfectly within your rights,” Kenleigh said.

  “But let me give you your props before we get too deep into this. I get it. I appreciate your gifts. You’re too smart to be misled, to be played. That’s why I didn’t try to fool with you at the club. I knew as soon as you heard who I said I was, you’d know the jig was up.”

  Kenleigh nodded and his face softened. Maybe he was easier than Jack had thought. One thing his type loved was appreciation of his skills.

  “Lieutenant Tidwell here and I are too old and too tired to play games with you. We’re not gonna pull the good cop–bad cop routine, not gonna tell you that we’ve got everybody else ready to testify against you. But I need to be even straighter with you, Kevin. You want that, don’t you?”

  “We’ll see.”

  “I’m not gonna blow smoke. You were going back to prison from the minute you took that boy out of the sight of his sitter, and you know it. You may have thought you could pull this off, and maybe now you think you can trade information for your freedom. Well, you can’t. You can help yourself, and your lawyer would tell you the same. But whether we arrested you or read you your rights or not, nothing was going to be different.”

  “You don’t know what I have to offer.”

  “I can only imagine. But I’m way past being bribed.”

  “You wouldn’t have been way past the numbers I could have talked about. Think about that when I’m back in Michigan City and you’re still covering your beat.”

  “I only want money I earn, Kevin. Now listen, here’s what I’m prepared to offer you.”

  “I can tell already it doesn’t sound like much.”

  “If you don’t want to hear it, fine.”

  “I’m listening.”

  Jack signaled Tidwell to hand him a legal pad, and he pulled out a pen. “I’m prepared to put in my own handwriting a document you and your lawyer can present to any prosecutor or judge and even enter as evidence at trial. It will stipulate that you cooperated to the fullest extent and that you should be accorded every accommodation possible in your sentencing.”

  “What’ll that get me?”

  “I told you I wouldn’t make empty promises, Kevin. But you know what I need. I’ll tell you everything we know up to this point; you tell me everything you can about what’s to happen next. If and when we get that boy back and have the perpetrator in custody, I sign this document.”

  “All those words and you still didn’t answer my question,” Kenleigh said.

  “I can’t answer it. I’m not a lawyer. You’re a chronic, repeat offender. But kidnapping is the most serious rap on your sheet, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you that any judge worth his robe is going to let you plead down to probation on a charge like that. I’m gonna say this one more time, just so we’re crystal clear: this is all predicated on your giving up Pitts and helping us get Max back. Then, if I was a betting man, I’d say that you might get your sentence reduced from life to something more akin to a slightly lesser offense.”

  “Like what?”

  “Well, the abduction of a minor for reward constitutes aggravated kidnapping, a felony in the first degree. That’s typically punishable by life in prison. We’ve got too much on you for you to credibly be able to say you voluntarily released the victim in a safe place, which might get your charge reduced to a second-degree felony.

  “The problem is, we recorded you telling one of your accomplices that you knew where the victim was headed and what his predicament would be.”

  “Which is not dangerous to him, by the way.”

  “Because now he gets to live in luxury, is that it?”

  “Just sayin’.”

  “That’s not the kind of an attitude that’s going to get a prosecutor, and certainly not a judge, to consider a lesser charge.”

  “Then what is?”

  “Some show of remorse, but mostly cooperation that goes beyond our having to plead for it. Here’s the deal, Kevin. You have come to realize the enormity of your crime. You can’t believe what you have put this child through. You know you can’t change your part in it, but you are now willing to do absolutely everything in your power to get that kid back where he belongs.”

  Jack let silence hang in the air. After a beat, during which Kenleigh appeared to seriously weigh his options, Jack said, “Listen, you know this has all been recorded. I’m willing to let your lawyer hear it and advise you. She’s going to want to know what we have on you, and I’m happy to give her every detail. She’ll agree with us, Kevin. She’ll urge you to help yourself.”

  Kenleigh nodded, but that wasn’t good enough for Jack. He didn’t want Kenleigh to merely accede to this, be forced into it. He wanted the man to embrace it, to enthusiastically change his mind, to throw himself into giving Jack everything he needed.

  “You know what happens when somebody kills a cop, don’t you, Kevin? It brings us together like nothing else. Everybody responds; everybody rallies. Well, let me tell you, kidnapping a cop’s kid is the same thing. You were never going to get away with this. There was nowhere to hide.”

  “Let me call my lawyer.”

  Jack turned the phone around and slid it in front of him.

  Constance Wells proved to be a heavyset woman of about fifty, no makeup, no jewelry, and wearing a black sweat suit. “Give me a minute with my client,” she s
aid.

  Jack and Lefty exited, but they could hear the conversation. “I’m just thrilled to be called away from home at this time of night, Kevin. What now?”

  “Felony kidnapping, and I’m guilty. This is about damage control now.”

  “Have you said anything?”

  “They got me, Connie. Thing is, they want more, and they’re saying it’s the only thing that’ll help me.”

  “I smell liquor on you. I can get them for coercing a confession from an inebriated man.”

  “I think you’d better listen to how it went down.”

  Ms. Wells turned toward the two-way mirror and beckoned Keller and Tidwell. “Let me hear it,” she said.

  “Can I ask you something first?” Keller said.

  “It depends.”

  “Are you a mother?”

  “I’m not only a mother, Chief. I’m a grandmother. Why?”

  “Just curious.”

  Tidwell brought her into the next room and issued her a set of earphones. She sat at a small desk and took notes. Jack camped out where he could watch Kenleigh—who seemed to be dozing—and his counsel, who seemed to be writing faster as the recording went on.

  When she finally removed the buds from her ears, Constance Wells, Esq., sat writing some more. And shaking her head. Finally she rose and made her way across the hall. As she passed Jack she said, “You’re a very lucky man.”

  “How so?”

  “I’m not a religious woman,” she said, “but I know that one verse from the Bible, the one the CIA has in its foyer, about truth. It says something about that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. You’re lucky because I was going to play the jurisdiction card on you.”

  “Kidnapping and crossing state lines, not to mention national borders—”

  “Trumps that; yeah, I know. But I’m really good at throwing wrenches into the cogs of the legal system when it suits me. Making you claw your way out of a jurisdiction bag would have been fun to watch, but we clearly don’t have time for that, do we?”

  “Not if we want that kid back,” Jack said.

  “Give me another minute with Kevin.”

  He appeared to rouse when she opened the door. “We bothering you?”

 
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