I got a block from the house then pulled the cruiser over. I made sure no one was hanging around or behind me before I made the call. “Vlad where are we?” I asked when he answered the phone.
“There is a boyfriend and he is missing,” Vlad said.
“Does he have family that he is close to. If so pick me up one without being seen. Bring whoever it is to the drugstore, but make sure they have no idea where they are going. stick them in the trunk and park in back. Don’t get any blood in your car. Be sure you get the cell phone.”
“We are running out of time aren’t we?” Vlad asked.
“Yes, we are not going to let that child die without a fight. If we don’t rescue her, I know where the gang will be after midnight. We can deal with them as a group there.” I said seriously.
“Be sure you count me in for that,” Anya said. Vlad had the phone on speaker.
“So, lets find her,” I said “So that we don’t have a Saint Valentines Day Massacre.”
I rushed back to the drugstore on main street, as I drove to the new condominium I thought that I wanted to fix up a clean room in the basement, but I didn’t have the time or the materials. What I did manage to do was to buy six gallons of bleach on the way to the drugstore, just in case. I purchased it at three different convenience stores so as not to appear suspicious.
Even with the stops, I got to the condo before Vlad. When he pulled into the parking lot, I went out the back door of the condo to help. I couldn’t muscle the hostage inside with my 110 pound frame, but if he struggled I could hit him with a stungun.
I need not have worried, he was too terrified to protest. He was probably having flashbacks to the bad old days in Eastern Europe. If we gave him a heart attack after the fact, I wouldn’t be all that upset.
“Get him into the basement,” The building was more or less empty and I was glad at that moment, that the real estate market was slow. I hoped that Leon had Dancer upstairs, so that he wouldn’t be curious. I doubted that he had the stomach for what might be happening under his feet three floors down.
The hostage was in a chair used by the maintenance people. When they worked on things from around the condo or even my Downtown House, they brought them to the basement work area. The whole basement was dark, gloomy, and filthy. I thought of as a modern dungeon, even before we found ourselves, in the position we were in at that moment. I motioned for Vlad to remove the hood.
“What’s his name?” I asked.
“My name is,” he tried to say before I slapped him hard. “You keep your fucking mouth shut till I speak to you.”
“So what’s this piece of shit’s name?” I asked again.
“His name is Uri,” Anya said.
“He is no fucking astronaut, that is for sure,” I said. “So lets see what or who he is. Give me his wallet.” Anya handed it to me and I left the room. When I was standing in the dark parking lot, I called the number eve had given me.
“You know what I’m doing,” I asked the chick who answered.
“I know,” she said sadly.
“I need to know who this puke is.” Then I read her everything from his wallet. Instead of the usual two hour wait she was right back with it. He has a minor record in Astonia. His record here is clean, except that we can find no source of his income, so he looks like a bad guy to us.”
“Okay, I will get back with you in a few minutes.” I said.
I walked back to the basement. I was sure that he was in the rackets somehow, even though I could not prove it. Unlike the cops I didn’t need to prove it. When I stood directly in front of him, I said to Anya give me this boy’s his cell phone. He is going to help us find his big bad brother. I found his number for someone called Andre in his history. “Is Andre your brother?” I asked.
For an answer he was trying to work up a good spit, anyone could see that. I tapped his adam’s apple not so gently. Not enough to kill him, but enough to change his fucking mind.
“I’ll be right back. If you would like to convince Uri to be a little more cooperative that would be okay. If not I will do it when I return. In the parking lot I called the farm again. I gave the same chick Andre’s number. I hoped they were stupid enough to assume that the cops wouldn’t put Andre in the jackpot so soon.
“It’s powered up and the phone is located here,” she said sending me a map coordinate. ‘That doesn’t mean the little girl is there.” I mumbled.
“No it doesn’t,” the chick said.
“Okay thanks,” I said.
“Not to worry, we like to be on the right side now and then,” she said breaking the connection.
When I returned to the basement, Uri didn’t look good at all. “Yo Uri, here is the deal. Andre is going to trade his hostage for you, or you are going to disappear and we are going to hunt down Andre and his friends. Then we are going to make all of you disappear along with you mother, father, sisters, and the family dog.” I had no idea who all was in his family. He didn’t know what I was capable of and I was glad.
“Now call your brother and tell him he wants to talk to me. Do it while you still have some value to us. When you no longer have value, then you become trash.” I said cruelly.
He made the call and tried to talk to his brother. I took the phone away from him. “Andre my name is Maxine Stone, I don’t need to tell you any more. Now listen up, I am not a cop, I am not interested in your game, except for the little girl. I’m going to assume she is still alive, and that you plan to keep her alive until after you finish your business.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” he said in his accented voice.
“Do you want to see me cut your brother into little pieces on a conference call. If you do keep up the ‘I don’t know what you mean shit’ and I’ll let you see me carve his ass up.” For once I was glad for the rep that damn TV show had given me.
“Now listen up, all I want it the girl, you can have the warehouse. You give me the girl, I give you your bother and I don’t kill the rest of your family. You tell me where and when, and it happens. Then you go about your business and I don’t return the girl till tomorrow. The parents stay in line and your brother lives.”
“I don’t have the girl, my girlfriend does. She might not give her up that easily,” he said.
“That’s your problem, but she has family as well. Lots of my friends are Spetsnaz and KGB types, she doesn’t want them paying late night visits to her family either. If we don’t get you tonight there is always tomorrow or the day after.”
Anya said a few things in Russian just to assure him I wasn’t playing. Then I waited. “I will call in twenty minutes to tell you when and where,” he suggested.
“In thirty minutes your bother will be dead and the order goes out for everyone else including you and the girl.
While we waited Vlad made some calls. There actually were some minor unnamed war criminal types living among us. Vlad knew them all. “They all have a dog in the fight,” Anya informed me. “None of us want any FBI types or high powered reporters hanging around town. This needs to end quickly and decisively.”
“You have my vote,” I said.
“If the trade does not happen, you know you have to kill him,” she said. “If not there will be a next time.”
“I know, but we don’t do it here. There are no perfect crimes, but there are faulty juries.” I informed her. “We make all the facts confusing so that no one is quite sure what happened.”
“Tie him to a lamp post, soak him in gasoline and drop a cheap match,” she suggested. “Just about as good as anything. Worst case of suicide I ever saw.”
“If this trade happens, are we really going to let them take the warehouse?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Then a few hours later, there is going to be a falling out among thieves and there will be no survivors.”
“Worse case of suicide I ever saw?” Anya asked.
“Something like that,” I agreed.
While Anya and I talked, Vlad was on the phone making several calls. I had no idea who he was calling, or why. I had an idea that, when I needed a strike force, he would have one ready.
Uri’s phone rang so I answered it. “Yes,” I said.
“The abandoned Mystic furniture plant parking lot in one half hour. Come alone,” he said. “If we see anyone else we kill the girl.”
“I’ll be alone, but if for any reason you do that, I hope you have a death wish. Not just for yourself, but everyone you care about. I do hope you don’t think we are joking here. That would be a fatal mistake.
Vlad was already on the phone sending his field team out to the Mystic furniture site. I knew none of them had any idea where it was, but they all had GPS. The Mystic site was a few hundred yards from where the cell phone signal was originating. I expected that Andre had no idea that I could track his cell phone signal, since I wasn’t a cop.
While we waited for the time to pass, Anya asked, ”Why the hell do you do this kind of thing. There is no money here. I have known that you always had an angle, so what is this one.”
“Goodwill,” I said simply.
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“One day I might go before a jury of these people. Would I rather they think of me as the woman who saved the baby, or the woman who has a piece of shit TV show?” I asked.
“I guess I can understand that, but you are risking everything for a child you don’t know at all. Probably her parents who don’t even like you.” she continued.
“It’s about the little girl, and the rush I get when there is the smell of cordite in the air. The confusion of a firefight makes me feel alive. I can speed weeks replaying it trying to figure out what really happened and why. It a whole new part of my life, not the same old crap everyday.” I said.
“Okay I guess I understand that, but you know in the end it has to end badly for you,” she suggested.
“Yes but fortunately I won’t know in advance which one is going be the end. I can hope that there will be one more close call before the big one. Now it’s time to take Uri to meet his brother or his maker.” I said.
“You really are going to kill him, if things go wrong?” Anya asked.
“He is the first one I’m going to kill. Then I’m going to kill just as many of them as I can.” I said.
“Shoot fast and straight my little cossack,” she said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Vladimir and whoever else he found will be shooting as well,” Anya said.