By Cindy and Walt
“They aren’t the police honey, they are just people who owe me a favor,” I said.
After they left I sent a coded email explaining it all, then I called and said wrong number to the floating cell phone number. By noon I had the answer.
‘We don’t have time to drop anything to you.’ The coded message read. Then there were two Internet addresses. One was labeled ‘voice’. Which I assumed were the conversations on Carlos’ cell phone and the other ‘location’. Both sites were only working because Q10 were a bunch of stupid thugs. If they were really criminals they would have destroyed Jose’s cell phone and would never do business with Carlos over the phone.
It was 2 PM when I called Jeremy. “Hey Jeremy are you bored yet?” I asked.
“You know it is a common condition we all suffer from. So what is on your mind?” he said.
“I might need you to help me follow someone. Why don’t you come over about four and I’ll explain everything.”
“Oh this sounds just mysterious enough to be fun,” he said.
I called Joan at school. I decided to risk it. When she answered, “Do you know where our young friend is at the moment.”
“No and I’m worried sick. He didn’t show up for our date on Friday and he isn’t answering his phone,” she said.
“Do you have any idea where he might be?” I asked.
“No, I just told you, I’m worried sick about him,” she explained.
“Joan, you stupid bitch, you need to save the fucking romance for the movies. Jose is missing. He was on his way to fuck you. Now tell me where he was headed.”
“He was coming to my house,” she said.
“Where was your husband?” I asked.
“He says he was visiting his parents again. He might have a piece on the side, I don’t know,” she said.
“Could he know about Jose?” I asked. All kinds of thoughts were running through my head.
“I don’t see how, we have been very careful,” she said.
“Please tell me what is careful about fucking Jose in your husband’s bed?” I asked.
“Rose, I don’t know what happened to Jose and I’m scared to death for him,” she said.
“Bullshit, you are scared for you. Can’t you be honest for a change? I don’t think you are so stupid you’d lie to yourself all the time,” I said.
“What do you think of me then?” she asked.
“I think you are all about what you want and you have very little self control. Now that young man’s life is hanging in the balance. So could your husband have found out and done something to him?” I asked again.
“I don’t know, but I will never forgive myself if he has,” she said.
“Just forget about this call and about Jose and get on with your life,” I said then broke the connection. There was something much less satisfying about pushing the end button, than slamming the receiver down on an old fashioned phone would have been.
“Jeremy and Alice arrived. We played the calls on Carlos’ phone with an instant translation program. The ones about buildings were of no interest to me. At five the call came in. The translation went something like this:
Q10: Do you have the money?
Carlos: I have made arrangements. I am to pick it up tonight on the way to meet you.
Q10: Pick up the money and bring it to the ball field at Roaring Gap Community Center.
Carlos: Will you have Jose there.
Q10: Do you think we are stupid. When I return to where he is being held, we will release him.
I knew where his cell phone was being held, I just wasn’t sure Jose was there. If I had been sure, I would have gone to get him.
Just bring the money and don’t do anything stupid. Be there at 8 PM.
Carlos: How will I know you.
Q10: We will know you, don’t worry.
Then the phone went dead.
“You two need to get to the park. Hang around but don’t look like cops. It most likely will be full of Illegal kids playing basketball, so be careful. If you can find a spot to observe do that from your car,” I said.
“What are you going to do?” Jeremy asked.
“I’m going to track down the cell signal from Jose’s phone after I hand over 5k to Carlos,” I said.
Jeremy and Alice had a good head start so they would arrive before either of the parties in the transfer. There should have been other moves on the part of Q10, but there weren’t. The meeting was set to happen without any changes. Very amateur I thought.
I went to the street address where Jose’s cell phone was located. I drove my pickup truck by the address. I had a really eerie feeling as I pass the darkened house. The house was middle class in a neighborhood clear of any signs of gang activities.
“Look’s like a middle class working neighborhood,” I said into the cell phone. “Not the kind of place a gang would use to hold a hostage.”
“Why would his phone be there,” Jeremy asked.
“I’m going to find out after the ransom is paid. If nothing moves here, I’ll just knock on the door,” I said.
“What will you say?” Jeremy asked.
“I’ll think of something,” I replied. I watched the house from a block away until Jeremy called.
“The pick up just happened. Do you want me to follow him?” Jeremy asked.
“Not if you got a good picture of him,” I replied.
“Alice got a good shot of him looking inside the bag. It would look really good on the 6 PM news,” Jeremy said.
“Weren’t you listening when Andrew asked, do you need your face in the news?” I asked.
“I was and I don’t,” he replied. I was just saying.
“Go home and email me the picture. Make sure you aren’t followed,” I said.
“Yes mother we will be careful,” Jeremy said. I could imagine the look on his face at that moment. That image made me smile.
I sat on top of that hill until an hour after dark. When no one came of left I made a call to Carlos. “Has Jose been returned yet?” I asked without even saying hello.
“Not yet it has only been two hours but we are worried,” he said.
“It would have been better if you had told them to negotiate with me,” I said then immediately regretted it. If this went sideways, I didn’t need him blaming himself or me. “Look I’m sorry there is probably nothing I could have done then, that I can’t do now. I have to go. There is something I need to do.”
I said it then broke the connection before he could object. I carefully opened the door to my pickup. The light from the interior bulb had been disabled long ago. I didn’t know who had done it, but I expected it was the SBI garage. I left the truck in the driveway of a house for sale. If anything I expected the police to come ask me about the house where I was parked, not the one I was about to burglarize. I had the tiny LED light and the light amplifying headset I had been given to use on the boat for the dope drop. I had ‘forgotten’ to return it. I hadn’t needed it on that job, but I might on this one.
I walked through the back yards of the houses between me and the address where Jose’s phone still appeared to be. I had his phone pinpointed on the smart phone GPS site. It was exactly the same as the location furnished by Church Camps Geek. The LED light would hold together for about four feet then just disappear. The light was only visible to anyone else when they looked directly into the lens. It was invisible from even five degrees off perpendicular, without the glasses. It was a lot like a laser pointer.
When I got to the back yard of the location where Jose could be, I sat down in the rear yard and began to allow my eyes to become accustomed to the almost complete lack of light. I waited till I was sure there were no sounds coming from the house as well as no light, then I moved to the plastic trash can. I removed the lid, then turned the head light on to see what was inside.
To my surprise the can was totally empty. So that led me to believe the house would be empty as well except maybe Jose’s cell phone. I hoped it was just his phone. I began working on the lock with the pick set. The ones I had been given at Church Camp. At that time I had worked for the SBI. To bad I wouldn’t have their cover tonight. If I did, I could have called them, I told myself. Then I realized that I couldn’t have called them either.
When I got the lock open and cracked the door, I knew that it wasn’t going to end well. I smelled the smell that can only be one thing. I had found Jose, I thought as I pushed my way inside. Sure enough he was in one of the small bedrooms and was very dead. He had bled out on top of the mattress with no sheets.
I guess I had feared it even before I left the car, because I had brought my gloves. I moved carefully toward Jose. When I got to him it was hard not to gag, but I held it down. I went through his pockets till I found his cell phone. I took it, then I left the house relocking the rear door on the way out. I made my way carefully back to the truck, which hadn’t been disturbed at all. Even so I wished I had not used my real license plate on the truck.
I dropped his cell phone in the door pocket of the pickup. I drove the truck to a convenience store a few blocks from the house where Jose’s body lay. I used the same smart phone I had tracked Jose’s phone with to make the 911 call. After it was done I used a jewelers screwdriver to remove the battery and the sim card. Yes I brought the screwdrivers with me because I expected to use them for just that purpose. I drove away from the convenience store. I tossed the wiped down battery out the window in a residential area that had no connection to me whatsoever. While I was dismantling and destroying phones I took the Card from Jose’s phone and tossed the rest out the window.
I went about a mile further down the road then did the same with the Sim card from the smart phone. My final act of clean up was to put Ari’s smart phone into a dumpster beside an apartment building just inside the Roaring Rivers public housing project. It too had been wiped down before I discarded it. That was the final tie to Ari put in the trash where it belonged, I thought.
The final thing to go out the window were the vinyl gloves. “Good luck on putting any of that shit back together,” I said very quietly into the darkness. From the public housing project, I drove home in a very circular route. Just to be sure I wasn’t being followed. When I got home, I had a stiff drink then switched to coffee. I knew I needed to keep my wits about me for a while longer.
“Question one,” I said aloud to no one. “What, if anything, do I tell Carlos? Hell, what am I going to tell Jeremy and Alice?” I asked the darkness from the deck of my Country Store. “God I wished I smoked cigarettes at moment like this.” People in the movies with this much shit on their minds, always had a cigarette and somehow it all worked out. Nothing was ever going to work out for Carlos and Nita. Did I really want to be the one to tell them? If I did, I would be violating rule one in Church Camp’s rule book. Protect your cover at all cost.
Jeremy and Alice were a different story, they already knew. But what did I have to really tell them, which they wouldn’t find out from other sources. I needed advice from someone who knew what to do. I coded a message for Andrew then sent it. I didn’t make a phone call. This one could wait.
I didn’t feel like I had a choice. In the meantime I went to an especially bad chat room. It was one that seemed to have more S&M than any other I had found. I spent two hours in it pretending to be in the most vile place in my mind, but nothing happened. It was as if I was in the middle of a fantasy that was just saying words without feeling anything. I’m not even sure my nipples ever got hard.
I gave up and went to bed. I did have trouble sleeping that night. When I closed my eyes, I saw Jose alive at the church work sight. Then I saw him lying in that strange house on a mattress soaked with his own blood. Son of a bitch, I thought. I never lost a minutes sleep over the ones I killed, but one I didn’t kill is haunting me. That made no sense at all.
At 4 AM I gave up and moved to sit by the fire wrapped in a blanket. I moved to the computer to check my emails. I found one from Sylvia Porter. ‘Save your favors, they are like money in the bank. Exhaust every other avenue to identify the man who picked up the money first. After you do that, I will check with the locals for you.’
What the fuck did she see that I missed? Something made her sure there was another avenue to pursue. Okay so somebody grabbed the kid and killed him. We assumed it was Q10 because they said it was. What if it was someone who used their reputation to return the victim alive? Well that was almost as likely as they finally got an abduction that went south.
Screw it I guess I needed to talk to the leader of Q10, I thought. I could always ask him nicely, but first I needed to get him alone. That shouldn’t be too hard. They probably wouldn’t be questioned for days, so there would be no reason to see me as a threat.
With a decision to do something, I had to fight to stay awake. I was awake and ready when Jeremy and Alice met me for the race to breakfast. I brought my money because I was pretty sure I would lose. I did lose but not by much. Even so I had to pay for breakfast. When I handed Jeremy his biscuit and coffee he said, “Pussy.”
After the business questions and pleasantries I asked, “Any idea who the guy who picked up the cash might have been?”
“I don’t know many Latinos,” Jeremy said.
I turned to look at Alice.
“Don’t look at me like that. I know fewer than Jeremy,” she said.
“Okay here is what I know,” I said then I told them everything.
“Well I think you are right either it was Q10 or somebody posing as them. Somebody who is trying to lay the boys body on them. I would bet you they would like to know about this before the cops come calling if they didn’t do it,” Jeremy said.
“So what we need to do it is tell them, of course if they did it and it just went south, they might decide to kill me,” I said.
“So it’s time to grab him and ask him what he knows,” Jeremy suggested.
“And if he won’t talk?” I asked.
“One thing I learned at Church Camp was, nobody ever ran out of fingers before they talked,” Jeremy said.
“So we watch him till we can grab him. Hood over his head and horse tranquilizer,” I suggested.
“Can we get the tranquilizer,” Alice asked.
“I found a vet tech after we got home from Church Camp. I felt like we might have a use for it again,” Jeremy said.
“You didn’t tell me?” Alice asked. “I’m not so sure I like the new you.”
“Just a need to know thing honey, nothing personal,” Jeremy said with a grin. Alice was grinning as well.
“Tonight we grab him in the parking lot of his club,” I said.
“How do you know you can get him there,” Jeremy asked.
“I’ll get him there alone within the first hour, or we grab him when he leaves with four guys, which is not a very good plan,” I said.
“It does seem best if you get him alone,” Jeremy said.
“I could do it,” Alice said.
“You set up the last one so it’s my turn,” I said. “We need a car that isn’t going to come back on us, if it’s spotted.”
“An Impala,” Jeremy said.
“What?” I asked.
“I read on the Internet that the only people who buy Chevy Impalas are car rental agencies. That’s what we need,” he said.
“We can’t rent a car,” I said.
“We know a nudist who works for a car rental agency. They park them in the long term parking at the airport in College Hill Airport. And Andrew was nice enough to give me a set of dealer keys for GM products. We get the car, grab the leader of the Q10, do our tap dance on his head in a blacked out cabin at the old Church site then we drop him off somewhere,” Jeremy suggested.
“A better plan, Grab him using the borrowed Impala. Take him to where we stashed my truck. Do a swap and I’ll take him to the cabin while you take the car back. That way we got all the time we need. Be careful there will be security cameras on the lot.
“Yes but no guards. I just have to drop money into the basket, and take a ticket going in. I’ll wear a wig and glasses. I loved the disguise course at the camp,” Jeremy said.
“You and Alice go get the car and I’ll get the cabin ready. I guess we need to hang loose till seven,” I said.
“Something like that. We will pick you up at the recreation center parking lot. People leave cars there all the time. As long as you don’t have any unpaid parking tickets the cops leave it alone,” Alice said.
“Okay, then we grab his ass tonight,” I said. “Agreed?”
“Yeah,” Jeremy said.
“Yeah, do you need any help getting the cabin ready,” Alice asked. “I expect I saw the same video you did.”
“It ain’t about a video. It’s about having the stomach for doing what needs to be done. I can handle it and I want to get the place ready. I want to be sure nothing gets overlooked.”
I went by Home Depot where they knew me from all the shit I had bought for the cabin previously. “Hello there, back for another tarp,” I said to the man in the paint department.
“Well we sure got one or two back there,” he said.
“Good two is all I need,” I replied smiling. “And a roll of duct tape.”
I drove directly from the home depot to the cabin. I covered the windows with newspapers first. Then I moved the furniture out of the living room. I covered the hardwood floors with the plastic drop cloth. Then I rolled the movable Kitchen Island into the living room area. I used a razor knife to cut off a piece of the second drop cloth to cover the table. I found a chair and covered all but the arms with the rest of the drop cloth. I stepped back to remove my vinyl gloves. I left them on the table and walked out and went home. When I got home, I sat down with a cup of warmed over coffee while I tried to think of some other way, but of course there was none.
I heated the water then took a shower. I stayed in the shower a long time. When the water ran cold, I left the shower room. I entered into the larger bathroom and leaned against the wall. I slipped into a pair of black lace bikini panties. It would be cold but I wore no stockings at all. I wore a short skirt so short I wouldn’t dare sit anywhere before I got to the club. Then I wore a black blouse open to the waist with no buttons at all. It just wrapped around my body and tied in the front. I had never worn that blouse and probably never would again. Unless the head of Q10, Martinez, whose name Sylvia gave me in a second email, talked early, the blouse likely would be ruined. I was the only one whose face would be exposed. I had no choice but to convince him to talk early, or I would have to kill him to protect my ID.
I drove my truck to the community center arriving about 10 PM. I was happy to be there alone with my thermos of reheated coffee. I sat remembering Jose. The shame was I knew he was dead, but had to pretend I didn’t know when I spoke to his father. He didn’t know at all. He couldn’t go to the police, but he would know soon. Someone legal would be sent to identify the body of an unknown Latino boy. It might require a digital photo they could send around, but my guess was he had already been identified. No one had bothered to call me, since I was an Anglo.
The parking lot was empty when Jeremy and Alice drove in. “So you ready to do this?” Jeremy asked when he pulled up beside me.
“Yeah, torture is so much fun,” I said with no humor at all.
“Well it may be the only way to find out what happened, but then again he might be willing to talk quickly,” Jeremy said.
“I’m betting on at least one finger,” I said still serious.
“Well only way to know is go do it,” Alice said. She was looking forward to doing something. More so even than me or Jeremy.
When we arrived at the address provided by Porter it proved to be a re-purposed convenience store. The gas pumps were gone and the display area had been turned into a dance floor with counters along the walls, where people could stand and drink. There were a few bar stools spread around but not many. In a corner there was a DJ playing music with a definite Latin beat.
There were plenty of slutty looking women hanging around. Some of them were even blondes and some of them had really nice bodies. None of them had bodies as good as mine. Plus I was an Anglo which made me stand out even more. Sure, there were a few Anglo women but none as attractive as me. I know this only because it was part of the persona I had to maintain to be of any use to the Church Camp gang. I danced with anyone who asked me until I saw Martinez go to the mens room. I went right after him.
I literally bumped into him. “Excuse me,” I said trying to pass him for a trip the lady’s room.
“You got nice titties puta,” he said.
I wanted to give a flip answer but I expected it wouldn’t translate well. “Gracias,” I said.
“Show them to me Puta,” he demanded. I untied the wrap around blouse and held it open showing him my breast. “You like,” I asked.
He reached out to feel my right breast then he said, “Fake.”
I suddenly wondered if I should have sent Alice in after all. “Yes I’m afraid so. I’m sorry,” I said.
“Don’t be sorry,” he replied “Your cunt is real?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Show me,” he demanded. I lifted my skirt then pushed my panties down. ” Do not put the panties back,” he demanded.