Chapter 22: The Search
Lassiter dropped Juliet off in front of the Vick’s home and then went to round up Henry, Gus, and McNab. If they were going to rescue Shawn and Avery, they were going to need all of the help they could get.
Juliet rang the former chief’s doorbell, and moments later the door seemed to open of its own accord. “Hi Dective Hara!” said a voice coming from below her. Juliet was greeted by a little girl wearing a pink tutu over her jeans and holding a glittery wand with a star on the end.
“Hi Iris, is your mommy home?”
Juliet stepped across the threshold as Iris skipped to the kitchen, her sandy curls bouncing the whole way. “Mommy! Dective Hara is here! And guess what? I think she has a baby on her belly!”
Karen Vick turned the corner into the living room wearing a flowery apron and pink oven mitts. Anyone who saw her now would never have guessed that she was very recently the Chief of Police.
“Iris, what did I tell you about answering the door?” she said. “O’Hara! You look great!” This was the first time that Karen had seen Juliet since the Fourth of July barbecue. “I have to admit, when I said my door was always open, I meant my office door. But this is fine too. How is everything? How are you feeling?”
Juliet didn’t answer but Karen noticed the fear in her face and the tears threatening to spill from her eyes. “Juliet, what’s wrong?”
“Iris, go play upstairs please.”
“But mommy, I want to stay with Dective Hara.”
Iris’s head dropped sadly, but she obediently started up the stairs. Karen led Juliet to the couch and directed her to relay everything. Juliet recounted the whole story to Karen, starting with the mysterious phone calls, the uncomfortable new dynamic at the station, Avery and all of her accidents, the fire, and finally the disappearance of Shawn and Avery that morning. “They took him,” she said finally. “Lassiter is picking up Gus and McNab and meeting at Henry’s. He wants us to meet him there ASAP to start the search.”
Karen stood up, removed her apron, and retrieved her gun and holster from its safe spot hidden behind a painting above the mantle. “Ok. I am going, but you have to stay here.”
“Chief, No! I’m coming too.” Karen didn’t even bother to remind her that she wasn’t the chief anymore.
“O’Hara, No! You’re in no condition to be chasing down dangerous criminals.”
“N-O! We can’t put your baby at risk. Besides, I need someone to keep an eye on Iris.”
Juliet knew there was no more arguing with her, and reluctantly gave in.
“Keep you phone on,” said Karen. “I’ll keep you posted.” She started out the door and then stopped and poked her head back in. “Oh, and can you take the pie out of oven in 20 minutes? Thanks.”
Juliet frowned as the chief closed the front door behind her.
Shawn’s eyes blinked open and he was blinded by a rusty metal ceiling light hanging above him. He ached all over and his head was pounding. As his vision and head cleared he realized he was sitting on a concrete floor and leaning against a Rubbermaid container. He tried to shift his weight to relieve an ache in his lower back, but found his motion was restricted. His feet were tied together and his hands were tied behind his back, the ropes digging into the partially healed burns from the fire the other night. His mouth was taped shut.
Suddenly Shawn remembered the last thing he saw before his vision went black; a gloved hand reaching through the car window and grabbing Avery. ‘Avery? Where was she?’ He frantically looked around the concrete storage room and saw her similarly tied up on the opposite wall, her eyes closed and head down.
“HmmMmm!” yelled Shawn, attempting to get her attention through his taped mouth. Avery immediately looked up and opened her eyes. Apparently she had only been attempting to sleep. Shawn sighed a sigh of relief.
Avery mumbled something through her own taped mouth, that Shawn thought sounded either like “Shawn, you’re awake,” or “I shouldn’t have eaten that cake”. It was clear that they were going to have a hard time communicating in their current state. They only thing they could do was read each other’s eyes. There was some fear in Avery’s eyes, but not as much as there was exhaustion and discomfort. They had clearly been sitting this way for quite some time. Shawn tried to communicate through his eyes for her to remain calm and to let him know that whatever happened, they were in this together.
After a length of time – it could have been an hour or ten minutes, it was hard to tell – Shawn heard voices on the other side of the metal garage door enclosing the room they were in. It sounded like three men. One of the voices he recognized as Harris Trout and he could also make out the nasally whine of Warren Wallace. He guessed that the third deep voice was Crofton, and realized that he had never actually met the man. Luckily for him, and unbeknownst to them, he had excellent hearing and could just make out every word. Avery, who was on the opposite side of the room from the door didn’t seem to be able to hear anything.
“Swaggs says we need to get rid of them. As long as they are here, they are a liability.”
“Don’t you think I know that?! We can’t go about this all willy-nilly though. That’s how we got in this predicament in the first place.”
“I say we shoot them right here. Get it over with.”
“We can’t just do that? That leaves the evidence right here for the cops to find it. Blood doesn’t come out of concrete, you know. No, we need to take them somewhere…somewhere remote, where no one will ever find them.”
“…or in the spirit of Swaggs and this whole damn thing, try to pin it on someone else. Call it a murder- suicide, even. It doesn’t matter what we do, with you and Swaggs in your current positions, you can get away with anything we want.”
“That’s only if we don’t raise too many suspicions and get the Fed’s attention. Unfortunately, Preggo and Mr. Bean are on to us. They are better detectives than I anticipated. If we do anything too obvious, they’ll blow the whistle.”
“Uh…isn’t kidnapping the psychic and the girl already pretty obvious!”
“Yeah, but that couldn’t be avoided. The psychic knows too much and the girl can place me at one of the scenes.”
“Whose fault is that? If you hadn’t pulled your gun on her she probably wouldn’t have even remembered seeing you. Oh, wait! And if you hadn’t managed to fail, was it two? Three? No, five times at eliminating her, she never would have gotten the psychic involved in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to off a 10-year-old?”
“Besides, you’re one to talk! You’re the one who botched the El Chotacabrabust!”
“Ok. Enough! Listen, clearly the only way out of this is to make them literally disappear. No traces left behind. So, remote location it is. We’ll need to have a plan hatched out in a few hours and run it by Swaggs.”
Shawn heard three sets of footsteps moving away from the door. He was glad that Avery hadn’t heard any of that, but also worried about what this plan was going to be. Who was Swaggs?
Shawn fidgeted, testing the strength of the ropes that bound his hands and feet. His bonds were rock solid. He was never going to be able to break free, especially with the burns on his wrists searing with pain with each attempt to pull them free. How was he going to get himself and Avery out of this one?
Another long amount of time passed. Shawn was starving and really had to pee. He hoped someone would come by and take him to a bathroom and a Red Robin sometime soon. He peered over at Avery who appeared to be sleeping…at least he hoped so. He didn’t want to wake her if she was. Maybe, at least in her dreams, she was happy and comfortable.
As he shifted into a more comfortable position, Shawn thought of Juliet out there wondering where he was and worried sick. Was she mad at him for missing the ultrasound? “O God! The ultrasound. The baby,” he thought. “I promised Jules that I would be there for every moment…that she would never have to do this alone!” He wondered if she even knew yet that he was in danger. Surely, she would realize something was wrong soon, if she hadn’t already. She would have everyone looking for him.
Just then, Shawn heard footsteps approaching the storage room. Someone fiddled with the lock on the door. This was it. Now was the time to start putting his plan into action.
“Ok. So here’s what McNab and I found out,” started Lassiter. Henry was sitting on his living room couch with his head in his hands, Karen next to him with a worried look on her face. Gus was pacing behind them, and McNab stood next to Lassiter. They all listened as he continued.
“The phone number belonging to this so-called MOM, was traced to an elderly woman in Encino by the name of Miriam Groff. McNab and I went to question the lady, but she obviously was not the true owner of the cell phone, considering she still seems to be living in the 1950s. The only phone she owns is an old rotary. We believe that this MOM must have used her personal information to buy the phone and hide his or her true identity. So, we still aren’t any closer to figuring out who MOM is.”
“Also…” McNab added, looking towards Lassiter as if asking permission to speak. “I’ve been trailing Trout, and looking into the backgrounds of Crofton and Wallace. And…well some things are a little fishy.”
“How so?” asked Henry.
“For one thing, Trout’s behavior. I followed him twice to a store house near the marina. I suppose he might just be keeping some personal things there, but…I don’t know…the place just seems too sketchy. I mean…why not use a nicer storage place closer to town?”
Everyone seemed to nod in agreement and McNab continued, becoming more confident with his observations. “Secondly, Wallace supposedly graduated from the academy in Carson City in ‘05. Well it just so happens my buddy Clark went to the academy in Carson City around the same time, but he has no recollection of anyone named Wallace.”
“I checked in with the current department head in Carson City,” Lassiter chimed in. “He doesn’t have a record of Wallace, but says it’s possible it could have been lost when their station caught fire in ‘06. Why they haven’t kept electronic records is beyond me!”
“Seriously, what century is it?!” added Gus.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t had the authority to do the proper digging to find out if Wallace is legit. And so far, Crofton’s credentials appear to check out. So essentially, we’re left with very little to go on.”
“Well, what dowe know?!” asked Gus, getting impatient. Every second they stood here talking, was one more second that his best friend was in serious danger.
“Well,” said Karen, “We know that Shawn and Avery disappeared sometime after dropping off Juliet at work and before they would have arrived at Avery’s school. At least that gives us a small window of time to work with.”
Henry perked up a bit and continued Karen’s line of reasoning. “So if we follow Shawn’s route we might find a clue as to what happened to him.”
“It’s a long shot, but I think it’s probably our best bet right now,” said Karen.
“Then, let’s go!” said Gus, already heading towards the door.
“Alright,” said Karen, “Henry and Gus, come with me. McNab and Lassiter, see if you can get a trace on Shawn’s or Avery’s cell phones. I know it will be difficult without the proper authorization, but see what you can do. Then let us know what you found. After that, we’ll check into the storage place that Trout’s been visiting.”
Karen Vick turned onto Main St. coming from the direction of the SBPD to Roosevelt High School. She glanced at Henry in the passenger seat, whose face was as white as a ghost.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll find him. Plus, we all know how good he is at talking himself out of dangerous situations. I have a feeling he’ll be alright.”
Henry gave a half smile, and for once was thankful for his son’s gift of gab. Gus, in the backseat, swallowed hard. Even Vick’s encouraging words weren’t enough to clear the lump from his throat.
“Stop the car!” shouted Henry, suddenly.
“What is it?” said Karen as she pressed her foot to the brake.
Henry didn’t answer, but immediately burst out of the car and towards the sidewalk. Gus and Karen followed after him. Henry stopped next to an empty, grassy lot. At his feet lay a parking meter that had been pulled completely out of the ground, its pole nearly bent in half. Without sharing his mental process, Henry looked around the area, noting a pair of skid marks curving into a full circle and ending at the parking meter. He squatted to get a closer look at the dented meter and noticed lime green paint that had rubbed off of whatever knocked it over. “This was them,” he said. “Shawn swerved and hit this parking meter.”
“Then where is the car now?” asked Gus, “…and why wasn’t the accident reported?”
Gus’s questions went unanswered as Henry and Karen combed the scene.
“There’s a second set of skid marks further up here at the intersection,” said Karen as she jogged closer to them and the other’s followed. “These ones are different…from a larger vehicle.”
“Yeah,” agreed Henry, “From the looks of it, an SUV.” He took a closer look at the tread marks. “If I had to guess, I’d have to say…an Xterra.”
“Are you sure about that?” asked Karen.
“Reasonably. Do you know anyone who drives an Xterra?”
Gus and Karen shook their heads and shrugged.
“Why do they swerve this way?” he said, his gaze following the curve of the skid marks which turned, full circle, towards the direction of the toppled parking meter. “Why would the SUV make a 180 pivot like that? That doesn’t make any sense…unless the driver meant to corner Shawn…”
Karen’s phone rang and she answered, “Yeah, Lassiter what have you got.”
“I managed to convince Dobson to do an unauthorized cell phone track,”said Lassiter through the phone. “No calls have been made from Shawn’s or Avery’s phones since yesterday, but Juliet’s calls and texts to Shawn earlier bounced off of the tower closest to Mariposa and Main, which means that his phone is likely to be somewhere in that general vicinity...”
Henry couldn’t stand still while Karen was speaking and began wandering around the empty lot for any indication of Shawn or Avery. Gus was pacing and trying not to throw up. Then as clear as day, they heard music coming from a nearby shrub.
“Don’t you…forget about me…Don’t don’t don’t don’t…,” it sang.
Henry knew that song from one of Shawn’s favorite movies. He frantically searched through the bushes and just as the music stopped he held Shawn’s cell phone in his hand. The phone indicated a missed call from Juliet. “She must still be attempting to get a hold of him,” thought Henry. He and Gus shared a look of both excitement and worry and ran towards Karen.
“It will be impossible to trace it to more exact location unless we call it and someone answers...”continued Lassiter.
“Uh…that won’t be a problem,” said Karen looking at Henry who was showing her the phone. “We just found it.”
“What?! Where are you?”
“The corner of Main and South. Look Lassiter, here’s what I think happened.” Gus and Henry listened as Karen filled in Lassiter. “On his way to Avery’s school, Shawn was crossing South on Main St. and swerved to miss a vehicle, most likely an SUV, that pulled out in front of him. I highly doubt this was accident though. I think whoever was in the SUV abducted both Shawn and Avery and took O’Hara’s car. They must have dumped the cell phones so they wouldn’t be tracked.”
“Ok, so great. We know what happened, but that was hours ago.”Said Lassiter.“They could be anywhere by now.”
“Yeah,” said Karen in agreement and exasperation. “Lassiter, by any chance does Trout, Wallace, or Crofton drive an SUV, perhaps an Xterra?”
“Yeah, Trout does!”
“That’s it then. It’s gotta be him,” said Karen. “We find Trout, we find Shawn. Look, Lassiter. You need to put a BOLO out on both Trout’s and O’Hara’s vehicles. Don’t worry about getting the proper authorization because obviously those authorized to give it to you are corrupt. But first, you need to report this to Internal Affairs…or better yet…the mayor himself.”
“I’m on it, Chief.”Once again, she didn’t bother to remind Lassiter that she was no longer the chief.