A squeal of tires sounded in the Florida night, as Gonzalez floored his cruiser, the engine roaring, racing through traffic, heading for Henry’s motel. It was the only thing he could think of – the only place where he knew that Henry might be. The phone trace was yet to come in, and with every call to Henry’s number, Gonzalez’s sense of dread and helplessness grew.
Henry’s world spun, a weightless blur of stars and silhouettes, flashing to blackness, the only sound in his ears a cry of his own abject terror, echoing off the wizened cypress trees. Heart pounding, each beat an eternity, bound and helpless, Henry tumbled through the cool night air.
Then, an impact, a splash, his body plunging into the putrid water as he slammed into the alligator pond. Time froze, and in abject terror Henry waited, his breath burning in his lungs. Still, he clung to the shreds of hope, willing himself to remain still, so that, perhaps, they would not come for him.
Though come they did. Tails beating the water with immense power, the largest of the huge reptiles approached, heeding the siren song of a likely meal.
A jolt on his leg, a sudden sense of pressure and ragged pain… Henry’s world began spinning again, as the alligator, following its ancient instinct, began to roll him – a style of attack called a death roll.
Furious churning, pain, rage, abject and utter despair… a million emotions, life’s end incarnate… another alligator latching on, and then the tearing began.
The waters roiled, a mix of blood and froth on that dark, dank night. Tearing, choking, no air, his lungs afire, Henry’s head broke the water’s surface for an instant, just long enough for one last and final cry, a plaintive wail of agony and mortal fear, one last shout in the face of wicked fate, before descending into that ultimate bloody maelstrom.
Choking on the putrid water, spinning, battered by overwhelming pain, the blackness descended, engulfing Henry, sparing him of consciousness as the alligators began rending his body apart in a raucous, furious cacophony of cracking bone and sundered flesh.
A brave heart, forever stilled – and then, they fed.
The waters calmed, as a silence, profound and complete, settled across that bloody pool, broken only by the returning chorus of tree frogs, as the ancient rhythm of life went on.
A few minutes later, driving south in the darkness in the fast lane of the Florida Turnpike, Bridget held her speed to four miles an hour over the posted seventy-five limit. She was in a hurry, but the last thing she wanted was to be pulled over for speeding.
Bridget held the wheel in a tight grip, her fingers beginning to ache from the tension. “Billy, things are not looking well. Unless I can produce a miracle in the coming hours, I shall be forced to leave the country forever. Your services have been invaluable, and I wish you to know that, should the worst come to pass, you can come with me to the Bahamas, where I shall pay you well, and also secure you a job with the cartel.”
“Thanks, Mrs. B,” Billy replied, with a nod and a gap-toothed smile. “I don’t have a lot holding me here, so I can go, no problem. I’ve always wanted to see the Bahamas.”
“Good,” Bridget replied, taking one hand off the wheel to stretch her tense fingers, the massive diamonds of her rings sparkling in the glare of distant headlights. “We have much to do. Assuming that my home is still secure and inviolate, we shall make our play there.”
“The gasoline and stuff?” Billy asked, with a knowing smile.
“Indeed,” Bridget replied, before making a phone call.
With screeching tires and siren wailing, Gonzalez arrived at Henry’s motel, taking note of the fact that Henry’s car wasn’t there. Gonzalez ran to the motel room door and knocked, already sure that there would be no answer. He knocked again, calling out, “Henry!” before rearing back and, with a grunt of exertion, kicking in the door.
A fast glance around the motel room revealed that little of Henry’s gear was missing. A closer look turned up nothing helpful, so Gonzalez made a call to the State Attorney’s home number, getting the State Attorney on the third ring.
The State Attorney answered , with a groggy mumble, “Do you have any idea what time it is… Gonzalez?”
“Sir, the private detective, Henry Wesson, who I was working with… I think he’s been kidnapped by Bridget Bellevue. We also have word that George Alfred is dead, and we found coke in his house.”
After a few seconds, the State Attorney, in a more wakeful tone, replied, “Kidnapped? Tell me what you know.”
Gonzalez explained what had happened as quickly as he could, and then concluded by adding, “I think they got Henry, or he’d have let me know he was okay by now.”
A now-fully-awake State Attorney replied, “If George Alfred is dead, then who killed him? Bridget Bellevue? That makes no sense… unless it does, and she was trying to clear herself by framing him and then having him vanish. Then this all fits, along with the coke in his house.”
“Yeah, and if she has Henry, this means she’ll probably kill him, we’ve got to act fast.”
The State Attorney hesitated for a moment. “I hope this is a false alarm, but… I’ll start making calls; I’ll light a fire under your department, the Sheriff’s Department, and the state. Anything you need, call me ASAP. I’ll send you my area deputy state attorney, Jacobsen, to liaise with you; with him on-scene you’ll have all the clout you need, and if you need more, call me. He’s involved with the case, so he should be easy to bring up to speed. Where are you?”
“Henry Wesson’s motel room, but I’m waiting on a location trace for his cell.”
“I’ll make sure they get that to you as fast as possible,” The State Attorney replied, before hanging up to start making phone calls.
Gonzalez gave Henry’s belongings another quick look, and then his brow furrowed. He knew that every passing minute reduced Henry’s chances.
Several minutes and much pacing later, Gonzalez’s cell rang; it was the Assistant State Attorney, asking for directions.
With his tires squealing, the Assistant State Attorney, Jacobsen, roared in five minutes later, joining Gonzalez in Henry’s motel room. “I’ve had a quick briefing from my boss and the desk officer at the department. Anything new?”
Gonzalez shook his head, and was about to speak when his cell rang. After the brief call ended, he told Jacobsen, “Let’s go, I’ll explain on the way,” and raced out, pulling the broken door closed behind him.
Gonzalez took the wheel of his cruiser, roaring off, the siren silent, heading for the waterfront. “We’ve got a location on his cell, and it’s where he sent the text from.” Gonzalez then phoned his dispatcher, to get a unit to go to Henry’s motel and secure the room, and to make certain a unit was on the way to the warehouse, though Gonzalez knew he’d get there first.
The warehouse was only a couple of minutes away, and as they approached, Gonzalez pointed ahead. “There, that’s his car.” Seeing that it was empty, Gonzalez drove slowly to the warehouse’s address. “I’m not waiting for backup. You can wait here if you want.”
“I’m armed, and I’m better than going in alone,” Jacobsen replied, getting out of the car.
By virtue of a brick, Gonzalez let himself and Jacobsen into the warehouse. Gun out, Gonzalez dashed in, using his flashlight until he found the light switch. A quick search turned up nothing, and then Gonzalez spotted it: a small dark red smear on the concrete, under the light. “That’s blood,” he said, guts churning.
Gonzalez reached for his phone, but then he heard the approaching wail of a siren and waited until the two police officers arrived to quickly brief them in and set them to work processing the scene. Gonzalez felt a gnawing sense of dread, wondering if Henry had been killed outright. Then, Gonzalez did what he had to do, following the old maxim, ‘work the case’, in the hope that by investigating what they had, it might produce a lead on Henry’s whereabouts. One of the things he did was to request that the Miami police send units to find George’s car at Miami International Airport. He then turned to Jacobsen, “We need a team to get into the Bellevue house, fast. Also, Rob’s Marine, which has armed security.”
“I’ll get it set up,” Jacobsen replied, stepping aside to make some calls.
Gonzalez called out to him, “I don’t think she’d be stupid enough to take Henry to her house. Focus on Rob’s Marine first,” Gonzalez said, well aware that, due to the hour, there were only a few police units available. More were being called in, but that, he knew, took time.
With Jacobsen outside and making calls, Gonzalez began taking a close look around the warehouse. Soon, Jacobsen returned, telling him, “They’re getting set up, but we have a problem. We need to talk, alone.” Jacobsen led Gonzalez back to Gonzalez’s car, and as they climbed in, he said, “We don’t have enough to get warrants for Rob’s Marine or the Bellevue house. We can’t go charging into a private residence with no hard evidence of involvement.”
Gonzalez pulled out his cell, “The hell we don’t, I’m calling the State Attorney-”
Jacobsen put his hand on Gonzalez’s cell to interrupt. “Take a wild guess who just told me ‘no’. Look, there’s some stuff going on you don’t know about. I’ve been working this case since before Carlson was indicted.”
Gonzalez nodded, his mind going back to the meeting where it had been decided to press for an indictment. It was at that meeting that George’s actions had made Gonzalez suspicious. The Assistant State Attorney at that meeting had been Jacobsen.
Jacobsen sighed, glancing out into the darkness. “The State Attorney has kept me briefed in, on all of it, and has had me handling the details. He’s my boss, so I’ve done it his way. Now, I need to ask; did he brief you on what happened last night, with Bellevue’s lawyers?”
Gonzalez closed his cell. “No, he didn't.”
“Two lawyers showed up at my house, unannounced, at night on Christmas, which was pretty damn strange. It got stranger. One of them gave me a suitcase in a plastic bag and put on gloves to open it, to show me cocaine hidden inside the lining. He said Bridget Bellevue told him to give it to me. He says she’s very upset, because she’s been helping George Alfred on what she thinks is an official investigation. She said he’s disappeared, but left behind the monitoring gear he was using on her guesthouse, and now she wants to know what’s going on. She said he’d borrowed a hundred thousand dollars from her, saying it was to help his investigation and the police department was good for it. He says she’s got paperwork to prove it, and the attorney did give me a copy of a receipt, signed by George Alfred. According to the attorney, the suitcase belongs to Lisa Whitaker, and Bellevue’s claim is she saw George Alfred installing the cocaine in it. She said she knew cops weren’t supposed to do that, so she gave Lisa a new suitcase, and sent us this one. Bellevue is demanding, via her attorney, to know what’s going on.”
“So the two lawyers just showed up, and it was before the deal went down with Henry?” Gonzalez, through conscious effort, relaxed his jaw enough to continue speaking. “Are you trying to tell me she’s been set up?”
Jacobsen shook his head. “No, I don’t know if she has. I’m just telling you what’s going on. We know George Alfred is dirty as hell, so it’s a viable angle for her to argue. And… there’s something else. George has been on my radar, on and off, for a few years. Three years ago, he had a party at his house, celebrating a big bust he’d made. I wasn’t invited, but I got someone who was to let me know who was there. One of the names was Bridget Bellevue. Another was Alexander Washington. The way I heard it, he introduced George to Bridget Bellevue.”
Gonzalez’s eyes opened wide. Alexander Washington was the State Attorney’s name. “I think I see what you’re getting at,” Gonzalez carefully replied.
Jacobsen shook his head. “He’s my boss, and I’m not implying anything. I can’t. I just felt you needed to know, and I hope you’ll forget you got that from me.”
“Okay, but I don’t have time for this right now.”
Jacobsen sighed. “I know, and I agree. But I can’t get an okay for a search. I can’t ask anyone to go along, but I’ll go with you, and take any heat for it. What’s your best guess on where to look first? You said you didn’t think she’d be dumb enough to take Henry to her house, but what about Rob’s Marine? It’s only a couple of blocks from here, and from what I’ve seen of your reports, she probably doesn’t know that we suspect the place.”
Gonzalez hesitated, and then nodded. “Gotta start somewhere, and that’s the closest.”
They drove to Rob’s marine, and Gonzalez didn’t bother with subtlety; he turned towards the locked gate and floored the accelerator, sending the cruiser charging at the gate and then smashing through in a shower of sparks and snapping metal.
“What the fuck,” Jacobsen mumbled, holding on tight as Gonzalez brought the cruiser to a lurching, dusty halt outside the main building.
Gonzalez jumped out, gun drawn, racing for the office door, which he tried to kick in. A hard kick, and then another, had little effect, so Gonzalez smashed the door’s glass with the butt of his gun. He stormed in, flashlight in one hand, gun in the other.
The office showed no sign of life, so Gonzalez ran back out, to find Jacobsen half out of the cruiser, glancing with concern at piles of old shipping pallets and a few old boat hulls that cluttered an area near the fence.
“Are you with me, or not?” Gonzalez shouted, already racing for the boat sheds.
“Right behind you,” Jacobsen replied, backing away from the car and then turning to run after Gonzalez.
One by one, Gonzalez searched the boat sheds and outbuildings, finding no sign of Henry or of the guards or dogs that Henry had told him of encountering when trying to gain access to Sea Witch.
Eventually, Gonzalez reached the shed that Sea Witch had occupied, finding it as empty as the rest.
After the fast search, Gonzalez returned to the office for a more careful look, where he noticed that the file cabinets were in disarray, and several desk drawers were open. He glanced at Jacobsen, and said quietly, “Warrant or not, I want a unit in here to process the scene. It looks to me like they up and left in kind of a hurry; they left the place a mess and unlocked, and all the boats are gone.”
“If you’re okay, I’ll go back to the car and make the calls,” Jacobsen said.
“Get us backup; that’s our first need,” Gonzalez said.
For fifteen minutes, Gonzalez prowled around Rob’s Marine, looking for anything else that might be a clue. Then, he heard the beep of the cruiser’s horn and dashed back to the car, where Jacobsen was ensconced in the driver’s seat, phone in one hand, radio in the other.
“Units en route, but an official no-go on the Bellevue house, we’ll have to do it alone,” Jacobsen said, his sweaty hand almost dropping the cell as he closed and pocketed it.
The distant wail on an approaching siren gave Gonzalez pause, and he handed Jacobsen the keys. “Make sure it starts, then turn it around ready. I’ll go brief in the arriving officers,” Gonzalez said, taking off at a jog to meet the arriving cruiser at the gate.
Gonzalez returned to his cruiser at a run, jumping into the passenger seat before saying, “Okay, let’s go.”
Jacobsen roared away at high speed, and after reaching the street, he pondered, “There’s a lot we don’t know. Too damn much. For one thing, we have no idea who we can trust.”
Gonzalez’s eyes narrowed. “Yeah, the State Attorney being involved… This goes deeper than I thought, a lot fucking deeper.”
Jacobsen sighed. “Yeah, but what else is going on? Let me play devil’s advocate here. Those two kids who were in Bellevue’s guesthouse – an anonymous tip was phoned in to the Australians, reporting them as carrying cocaine. They were searched, but all that turned up is drug traces on their cash. I checked the department phone logs; a call at the same exact time as the anonymous report was made to the Australian tip line number from George Alfred’s desk. And now, you’ve found drugs in Alfred’s house, and we have long thought him dirty. What if… what if he set Bellevue up as a scapegoat? What if he was playing her?”
Gonzalez was silent for several moments, before replying, “We do need to consider that possibility, I guess, but what about that text from Henry?”
“Okay, but what do we know about it? We know it came from Henry’s phone and from that warehouse. What we don’t actually know is who sent it. What if it was George Alfred and he’s got Henry? That’d fit too, if he was running a scam on Bellevue. If George is making a run for it, being reported dead would be an advantage, as Rachel Carlson proved. He may have even gotten the idea from that.”
“Then what about the stuff the forensic accountant has turned up? Bridget Bellevue has her fingers in a lot of business, and you know I’ve spoken once to Rachel Carlson, who confirmed that Bridget was probably smuggling things out of the U.S. before Rachel left,” Gonzalez replied.
Jacobsen nodded. “I’m not saying she’s clean, and I’m just looking at possibilities here, but we don’t have anything hard on her yet, and even so, one crime is not proof of another. I don’t have anything I could take before a judge and use to get a warrant.”
“Someone has kidnapped – or worse – Henry Wesson. That’s what we should be focusing on, sir,” Gonzalez said, in a quiet tone.
“Agreed, but this is part of that. You want to get into the Bellevue house, so for that, we’re supposed to get a warrant, and right now all we can say for sure is Henry Wesson has gone missing for a few hours and his phone’s off.”
Gonzalez scowled. “What if he’s there? We know George was there a lot – your own info confirms it – so we have to do all we can to save Henry’s life, and that means finding him, fast.”
“Calm down, I didn’t say we can’t have a look, I said I can’t get a warrant. I’m on your side; I think he’s at risk too, and finding him fast is his best hope. Worst case, anything we find there might be ruled inadmissible, and when dealing with judges, sometimes asking forgiveness is easier than asking permission. I’ll take any heat that comes from it. We can’t order others to do this for us though, and no one is available anyway. So… let’s go get this done,” Jacobsen said, glancing down the dark street and turning, loud enough to chirp the tires, onto Bridget’s street, and then shutting off the cruiser’s headlights.
Gonzalez cut the conversation short by saying, “Park in front of the next house.”
Jacobsen slowed, and then parked in front of the indicated house, which was next door to Bridget’s. “No lights on, not that I can see. I’ll take point, but I need you backing me up,” Gonzalez said, while checking his flashlight with one hand, while the other fumbled in his pocket.
“Will do,” Jacobsen replied, getting out and taking a few steps down the sidewalk towards Bridget’s property, and then pausing while Gonzalez caught up and took the lead.
As they reached the front of Bridget’s property, Gonzalez whispered, “Get your gun out ready. You do know how to use it, right?”
“I took a training course,” Jacobsen replied, awkwardly fumbling with the strap before pulling his Glock out his shoulder holster.
The first hint of dawn was coloring the sky. Gonzalez glanced at the house again before whispering, “Yeah, but that’s been a while by my guess,” he said, reaching out and touching Jacobsen’s Glock in the dark. “Do you have a round chambered, and do you know how the safeties work on a Glock?” Gonzalez asked.
“I’ve fired it before, just pull straight back on the trigger,” Jacobsen replied.
“Give me that,” Gonzalez hissed, snatching the Glock. A quick, faint pop, then a snap, followed immediately by the click-thunk sound of Gonzalez racking the slide, the noise echoing loudly in the night. Gonzalez thrust the Glock back into Jacobsen’s hands, and said, in a quiet, lecturing tone,“You didn’t even have a round chambered. You do now.”
“Thanks,” Jacobsen replied. He hadn’t actually fired his gun in over two years, though now he wished he were more proficient.
Gonzalez, at a half run, raced to a window and peered inside. Seeing nothing, he dashed to the front door. “Going in,” he whispered, before rearing back and delivering a crushing kick.
Bridget’s front door, which had been closed but not on a latch or locked, swung open, and Gonzalez ignored the surprise, racing in, his flashlight lighting the way.
“In here, officers,” a stiff and formal voice that Gonzalez recognized instantly called out from the darkness. “I am unarmed.”
With a sudden, dazzling blaze, the hallway lights came on, and Gonzalez, gun sweeping, glanced back to see Jacobsen’s hand on the light switch. “I thought that’d help,” Jacobsen said, giving Gonzalez an apologetic shrug.
“I am in here,” the voice called out, and as Gonzalez glanced at the arched entryway to the living room, its lights came on.
“Come on out, hands up,” Gonzalez ordered.
“There are two of us, we shall both be coming out now,” Bridget Bellevue replied, stepping gracefully into Gonzalez’s sight, followed by slender woman, roughly Bridget’s age and of similar height and build, who also had her hands raised.
“That’s one of her lawyers,” Jacobsen whispered, his own gun aimed at Bridget.
Gonzalez glanced at the supposed lawyer, noticing that she was in well-worn clothes and wore no makeup. On her left hand, Gonzalez saw the sparkle of ostentatious diamonds, though Bridget’s hands were bare. The woman’s workmanlike appearance and nervous demeanor stood in stark contrast to Bridget’s aura of calm, wealth, and power.
Gonzalez aimed at Bridget’s head. “I want to know, right now, where’s Henry?”
Bridget blinked in feigned surprise. “I hope you are not entertaining the notion that I have anything to do with that?”
“Drop the act. I know it was you. You two were expecting us – why?”
Bridget, ignoring Gonzalez and his gun, sat down daintily on a love seat and crossed her arms. “I was expecting you, this is self-evident. We need to talk, you and I. It pains me to say, but I have been played for a fool by your Officer Alfred.”
Gonzalez took a deep breath, noticing for the first time the faint scent of gasoline. “Save the bullshit, I already know it’s a lie. Either tell me what I need to know, or Jacobsen is putting the cuffs on you, and if you so much as twitch, so help me I’ll put a round through your kneecap.”
“So uncouth,” Bridget huffed. Then, with a dismissive shrug, she added, “Let us speak of our commonality of interests. Your interest is in finding Henry Wesson. I had nothing to do with his abduction, though I know who did, and also where he was probably taken. I, however, need to clear my name. I shall tell you what I know, provided that you, right now, order your people to leave me alone until this mess is sorted out. I have been framed by elements of your corrupt department, and I shall not subject myself to such humiliation. As my attorney here can vouch, I was played for a fool and my good intentions taken advantage of. I have also developed information that the rot in your department is deep, extending to the highest level of the State Attorney’s office.”
Gonzales was getting nowhere, and knew it. “You’re under arrest,” Gonzalez snapped, making a show of reaching for his cuffs, though making no effort to move closer to where Bridget sat. “We’ll continue this conversation at the station.”
Bridget sighed, knowing that her last hope of retaining her operation was gone. “I am afraid I shall not allow such an indignity, Officer Gonzalez. I doubted that I could convince you, though I had nothing to lose in making the attempt.”
“Drop your gun, Gonzalez,” Jacobsen said.
Gonzalez froze, and then turned only his head, seeing that Jacobsen’s gun was trained at him, though Jacobsen’s hands were shaking. Gonzalez, who was two yards away, gave Jacobsen a faint scowl. “You’re in it with her, Jacobsen? Why?”
“Drop it!” Jacobsen yelled.
Gonzalez backed up a pace, and said, “No way, not until I find out where Henry is.”
Bridget scowled; Gonzalez’s gun was still aimed in her direction. “He is safe, unlike you. That is all I will say.”
Jacobsen, his gun trained on Gonzalez’s head, took a step towards Gonzalez, forcing Gonzalez’s hand. Gonzalez swung his gun around to target Jacobsen at a leisurely pace, before saying, “You really should familiarize yourself with your weapon. I swapped the clip out for an empty one of mine and you never noticed. On the floor, now, or I’ll put you there.”
A sharp click sounded as Jacobsen dry fired. He stared in disbelief for a moment, before letting his gun tumble from his grasp.
“On the floor, now!” Gonzalez bellowed.
“How’d you know?” Jacobsen asked, as he got down on all fours.
“You were too eager to get me here alone, and you drove us here without needing directions,” Gonzalez tersely replied, telling only a partial truth.
Jacobsen dropped to the floor, and Gonzalez swung his gun towards Bridget and her claimed lawyer, who was no lawyer at all, but a courier. “Now, for the last time, where’s Henry?” Gonzalez asked, in a dark, menacing tone.
Bridget sighed again. “Very resourceful, Officer. However, it is time to put this charade to an end. Now, Billy,” Bridget said.
A loud click-thunk sounded behind Gonzalez, and he recognized it at once – the sound of a shotgun chambering. Gonzalez slowly turned his head, to find himself staring down the barrel of a twelve gauge.
“Drop it,” Billy said, with a smile on his face, as he emerged from the kitchen entryway.
Slowly, faced with the unwelcome surprise, Gonzalez set his gun down on the floor. Bridget’s courier stooped down to pick it up.
Bridget, with relaxed ease, stood up. “Now, without further theatrics, let us proceed with our discussion. The facts remain unchanged; you need Mr. Wesson’s location, and I need some time to take care of some pressing business. Here is what will happen, Officer Gonzalez; you will radio in and call off your people. You will then remain here for the remainder of the day, and then be released. I will give you the location where Mr. Wesson has been detained, and all this will be over. Your alternative is to die where you stand, an eventuality that shall also prove fatal to Mr. Wesson. First, you will be searched,” she said, and gave her courier the order by way of a nod.
The courier moved in and began clumsily frisking Gonzalez, who waited until the courier bumped his service revolver’s plainly visible shoulder holster before saying, “I want Henry back alive so I’ll save you the trouble; my backup piece is in a holster on my left ankle.”
The courier pulled up Gonzalez’s pants leg, and struggled for a moment, unbuckling the ankle holster and then pocketing it. She patted at Gonzalez’s pockets again before declaring, “That’s his only gun.”
“So, do we have a deal, Officer?” Bridget asked.
“I don’t see any choice,” Gonzalez replied, in a sad, dejected tone. “I’ll make whatever calls you want, but not until you tell me where Henry is. That’s not negotiable.”
“Brave words, with guns trained on you,” Bridget observed. Then, with a shrug, she added, “Very well, Mr. Wesson is tied up in a landscaping shed of the Vero Beach Golf Club. He will not be harmed, provided this goes as I wish. Now, make your radio call. Tell your dispatcher that I am with you and cooperating, and that we are en route to Orlando.”
Slowly, Gonzalez reached for his radio and made the radio call, including his call sign. After receiving verification, he clicked off the radio. “Okay, that’ll take their attention away from you.”
“Billy, please tie the officer up securely,” Bridget said, and then she told Gonzalez, “Thank you, Officer Gonzalez. I shall soon bid you farewell. You need not fear; this home will attract the attention of the authorities before the day is out.”
“Is Henry really alive and where you say?” Gonzalez asked.
“Of course, and you shall be with him within a few hours,” Bridget replied, heading upstairs as Billy began tying up Gonzalez, and then relieved him of his radio. The courier stood close by, her hand trembling as she kept a gun trained on Gonzalez.
Gonzalez studied the courier for a moment, before turning his attention to Jacobsen. “Why are you doing this?”
Jacobsen shrugged. “Lots of reasons, mainly green with numbers on ‘em.”
Billy glanced with concern at Jacobsen, and then at the courier, and then told Gonzalez, “They’ll be long gone before you’re set loose.”
Bridget returned five minutes after she’d gone upstairs, pausing on the bottom stair to announce, “The alarm is set, though with a ten minute delay until it activates.” Jacobsen’s eyes opened wide for a moment, and then Bridget handed him a large envelope, stuffed with cash, as she told him, “You know what needs to be done, and you shall hear from me soon.” Jacobsen took the envelope, retrieved his gun, and hurriedly walked to the front door. As soon as he’d shut it, Bridget told her courier, “Keep an eye on our guest. You will hear from me within the hour, and you will be out of here soon after, with a large sum of cash.” She glanced at Billy, and ordered, “Cast off, and hold her on the dock with engines.” Turning a baleful eye towards Gonzalez, Bridget said, “We shall not meet again. Farewell, Officer Gonzalez.”
“Wait,” Gonzalez said, taking a breath before continuing, “I don’t want any surprises, for you or me, because I want to live, and I want Henry to as well. There’s something going on that you and Jacobsen don’t know about; there’s a search for Henry going on in the Intracoastal Waterway, and they are stopping all boats. I didn’t know you were leaving by boat, or I’d have told you sooner.”
Bridget glanced at her watch. “Tell me what you know and be quick about it.”
Trying to buy time, Gonzalez replied, “Well, I know it’s the coast guard that’s involved. The Feds too. I can make a call and send ‘em off on a wild goose chase.”
Bridget hesitated, and after another glance at her watch, she took one last look around her foyer, paused to glare for a moment at Arnold’s portrait, and then headed for her back door, calling back to her courier, “Do not take your eyes off him.”
When Bridget reached the dock, she found the small motorboat running, with Billy at the controls. She leapt aboard, and Billy instantly began pulling away from her dock, easing the throttles forward. After a last, lingering glance, Bridget turned away from her home for what she knew would be the final time, and after a moment, she said, “I am going below to get some rifles out. I think Gonzalez was lying, but we may encounter a patrol. If you see any sign of anything, tell me at once.”
Bridget soon returned to the tiny cockpit with two 30-06 rifles, chambered and ready. Their powerful, high velocity rounds – M2 armor piercing – could send the large one-sixty-five grain bullet with a muzzle velocity of nearly two thousand miles per hour. The 30-06 bolt-action rifles were thus ideally suited for engaging perusing boats at long range. A single round could disable an engine with ease. With a cold smile, Bridget pressed the releases to allow the spring-loaded protective caps on the telescopic sights to snap open, and then carefully set the rifles down inside the cockpit before saying, “Keep under the speed limit and head for the inlet. We shall proceed out to sea, then south, close in to the coast. I have several meetings to attend.”
Billy glanced back towards Bridget’s no longer visible house. “How long until it goes up?”
Bridget glanced at her watch. “Five minutes, thirty seconds. I dearly hope it works.”
Billy shrugged. “It’ll work, Mrs. B. I used to work as a furnace repairman, so I know how to wire stuff up. I’m sure we did it right.”
Bridget wasn’t quite so confident; it had been a rush job, plans changed in haste while driving back from Yeehaw Junction. She had the supplies already in place, which had helped, but due to being forced to advance her schedule, the actual final setup of the incendiary device had not yet been done when she had arrived home from her trip to the alligator farm.
The concept was simple: a gasoline and paint thinner fire that would ignite a dozen propane tanks, all in an upstairs bedroom. The trigger was a digital lamp timer, which powered an electric igniter from Bridget’s furnace, while also opening electric plumbing valves – taken from dishwashers – installed on six of the propane tanks. The igniter resided in a large painter’s tray, filed with gasoline and wadded newspaper, with fifty more gallons of gasoline in plastic containers, large and small, stacked around it. Near them was a stack of one-gallon cans of paint thinner. The igniter would ignite the gasoline in the tray, burning until the rapidly expanding propane cloud reached it, triggering an inferno along with an explosion. That bedroom was, due to need, directly above the foyer, where Gonzalez had been left.
Bridget glared back towards her house, her jaw set, the wind blowing her finely coiffed hair. “When they find the charred bodies, they should tentatively identify them as Gonzalez and me. That, plus what Jacobsen will do, should suffice to buy me the time I need to affect the transfers. However, this is not the miracle for which I had hoped; we shall still need to leave, and do so within two days,” she said, opening her phone. She wrote a simple e-mail to Sanchez. ‘The recent treachery is much deeper than we first thought, he was after us both. I must leave soon, and I am turning over my operation to your people at once. Expect me as planned.’ Bridget hesitated, her thumb hovering over the ‘send’ key, knowing that there could be no going back. She was about to lose her operation – the work of decades – which meant more to her than anything in the world. Her fate, she knew, would be exile; a life of wealth and luxury, though not of power, and even that was predicated on dealing with the secrets aboard Kookaburra. Secrets whose revelation would, should she not succeed in shifting blame in the coming days, place her on the cartel’s death list.
With a muttered curse at Arnold and George for causing her loss, Bridget, her face pained, winced as she pressed the ‘send’ key.
After a quick check of her watch, Bridget looked back toward her beloved home, knowing that she would never see it again, save for the flames that would soon color the dawning sky.
A Discussion thread for this chapter is in my forum, please have a look and join in. direct link here. The forum enables conversations so in many cases it's a far easier to use format than the "leave a comment" section on this page, so I suggest having a look, but use whichever (or both) you are more comfortable with . :)