Bruno nodded in agreement. “I figured W. John Burns was really Tony Kirchoff. The fake name being a famous detective was a giveaway for me, but you recognizing his picture is all the confirmation I need.”
“So go arrest him and let’s get Jane back.” I was getting a bit impatient due to my concern for her.
“Capturing him and rescuing Jane safely is the plan and I already have the wheels in motion. Getting everyone ready is going to take some time, so it’s just a few of us in the meantime. I can’t call for everyone to come in guns blazing unless there is the threat of imminent danger, and we are not there yet. We need to make sure we do this right, not only for Jane but also for your situation.”
“Once Jane is safe and out of harm’s way, we can worry about me,” I added quickly. “What’s being done?”
“I have a couple of colleagues who are getting a team ready to get her back once we confirm where she is being held. The main problem is we don’t know where either Jane or Tony are right now. The address you see on his driver’s license is a parking lot, so we don’t know where he lives or where Jane could possibly be held. We have nowhere to start. I talked to one of the officers on the drug task force, and he gave me a couple of locations where the cartel continued their work. It’s a much smaller, scaled down organization but they still are into some illegal activities. I had an undercover officer drive by the locations and a couple of them seem promising.
“You need to watch one of the properties. We now know it is Tony Kirchoff who is behind this. We will get his picture out to everyone on the force, but you may recognize someone else. Take pictures of everyone who is coming and going from that location as well as see if you recognize anyone. Call me immediately if anyone you see is familiar. I will come with the cavalry. Also, don’t follow anyone. Stay where you are. Call 911 if needed. They are obviously out for revenge and if they find out you are on to them, it could go bad very quickly.”
“Alex, let me say you are damn good on a stakeout. You can find great spots to observe and take pictures. Those you do take are the best in the business. I’m not just saying it, either. The officers all want to use you on their cases. The only issue preventing more work for you is the budget. Everyone is requesting your services, but only a small number are getting approved due to the budget cuts.”
“Thanks, I needed a vote of confidence.” I was still dumbfounded all of this was happening, but I pushed away any reservations I had to be dealt with at a later time. “Anything else?”
“No. Here is the address. You had better get going.” Bruno handed me a piece of paper with the location. It was not very far away. I stood up and started walking to the door, eager to be productive and make a difference on this case for once.
“Don’t forget this.” Gus’s deep baritone voice startled me. I looked behind to see him holding a vacuumed thermos in his outstretched arm. “Nice and hot and very strong. You might need it. This is shaping up to be a long night.”
I grabbed the thermos thanking him, then quickly headed out to the car Bruno had provided me and drove away quickly. The stakeout location for me to watch was only about fifteen minutes away by side streets. During the entire drive over my mind was blank, thinking of nothing in particular. I was simply ready for whatever needed to be done.
The address was to a house on the far west side of town. An old home in a much older neighborhood. Everything on the block screamed neglect and deterioration. A third of the homes on the block looked abandoned while the rest appeared to be on the verge of the same fate. I parked on a side street near an intersection which allowed for an unobstructed view of the front and one side of the house. It was as close as possible for a workable view, but far enough away to not be noticed.
Thankfully, the light rain had stopped. Rain was the worst for surveillance. It often prevented you from getting a clear view of the subject. From the water on the windows and the inevitable fog that forms, it is often impossible to watch for any period of time without being noticed. The sun was recently down and my location was well away from any streetlight. A perfect spot and weather for watching for what might be an extended night.
I reached in the backseat getting the camera equipment ready for use and poured myself a cup of coffee Gus was kind enough to send along. He must have a great deal of experience in this area. I made a mental note to ask Bruno more about Gus and their history. He is not someone who I remember ever meeting before and his enormous size would be something I wouldn’t have forgotten.
The street was quiet for quite some time. For two hours straight, I watched the house and the surrounding area but there was nothing. There were a couple of first-floor lights on in the house being observed, but no movement ever presented itself behind the sheer curtains. I was on high alert, so I was hyper-aware of what was going on around me. The problem was absolutely nothing happening. The block seemed somewhat frozen in time. I debated getting out and going for a walk around the block to see if I could notice anything different but the cold steel of the gun in my front jacket pocket reminded me of the seriousness of the situation. I decided to stay put and wait this out. Stakeouts were marathons and were best rewarded with patience and unwavering attention.
An hour later my perseverance finally paid off. Three cars from my right slowly drove down the street. I sunk down into my seat, not wanting to be seen as they passed but bolted up immediately after they went by my car. The camera with the long telephoto zoom lens was easily able to capture the license plates from each vehicle. All three cars were parked on the street in front of the house. A total of ten people got out of the cars and made their way inside. They were all dressed similarly, appearing like carbon copies of each other. Dark jeans and dark jackets. Completely nondescript and virtually indistinguishable.
I managed to get decent pictures of all of them as they exited the cars and made their way to the house. No one looked even vaguely familiar. It was a little frustrating to not know if this was the right place to be watching or not. There was no other choice, so I continued to sit and be patient. The details on what happened were quickly sent to Bruno via text but he didn’t respond.
I continued to watch the house from my vantage point. The property was quiet for the next hour, with no additional cars coming or any movement behind the curtains. This struck me as a bit strange. While I didn’t have the best vantage point of the entire house, I should have been able to see some signs of activity inside. When the ten entered the house, they simply walked right through the front door. No unlocking it or waiting for someone to answer. Direct entry must have meant someone was already there. At least one other individual was in the house. When you add the ten who just showed up, you have close to a dozen people in one location. You would expect to see some action or movement, but there was none at all. They must all be in the basement. It was something to keep in mind.
Around ten-thirty at night, I finally saw some movement behind one of the curtains on the first floor. It appeared to be two individuals walking through one of the rooms. A moment later, a light was turned on in one of the upstairs windows. I took a few pictures for no other reason than it was something to do. Their value for any investigative or prosecution purposes was zero. A few minutes later, the light went out and the same movement in the lower window reversed itself.
The front door opened revealing two large individuals who paused in the doorway to adjust their clothing. They were both dressed in off the rack generic suits, the type which every man owns at least one of for various purposes. I couldn’t see their faces yet from where they were standing. I snapped pictures continuously anyway, not wanting to miss any possible evidence.
My initial reaction was one of complete disappointment. They looked nothing like any gang or drug cartel members I have ever encountered. Then again, if you exclude media coverage and movies, the number was strikingly small. My only encounters were the times were when I met my dad at the precinct for some reason. Then it was always a closed and controlled environment where the illegal activities and threats of violence had been removed.
When both of the guys exited the house, my perception changed completely. I had a clear view of both of them and their faces. These were the two individuals who kidnapped Jane. The camera captured a few images of the cartel members and was unceremoniously dropped in the passenger seat. I reached into my front jacket pocket where I grabbed the gun I was carrying.
Reality set in an instant later when I subconsciously determined what I was going to do next. What was the plan exactly? Step out of the car and start shooting? The other members in the house would come running and what then? A ten to one shootout? Could I sneak up from behind and disarm them? Possibly, but realistically unlikely. Even if I did manage to get the upper hand, what next? I had no handcuffs or anything else to apprehend the two of them. Getting out of the car on my own was not a realistic option. Bruno had warned me of doing something beyond my experience. My best option was to call him. He answered on the first ring.
“I got your text about the three cars and ten men getting out. Did something else happen?”
“Yes. I am still at the house now. The two guys who kidnapped Jane are leaving. They are dressed in suits for some reason. Should I follow them or stay with the house?”
Bruno paused for a heartbeat making a quick possible life or death situation. “Stay with the house. It could be way too dangerous for you to follow them. I will get someone to pick them up. Do you have a description of the car and the license plate number? Both would be helpful.”
I quickly gave him a rundown of both as the two of the suspects got into a car and drove off in the opposite direction. Watching the car drive away pained me considerably, hoping beyond hope I was not passing up a golden opportunity to find Jane.
“Good work, Alex,” Bruno said. “Anyone else watching the house would not have made the connection.”
“Thanks. This has got to be the place. Hopefully, Jane is in there and OK. Are you and the cavalry coming?”
“We are gearing up now.” I could hear a flurry of activity happening around him through the phone. “We should be there in about twenty minutes but hopefully a little sooner. Stay where you are at and keep watch. Document everything you can when we show up. We don’t get many opportunities to have one of our incursions documented for evidence. It might not seem like much to you but it could negate any possible counter lawsuit. Besides, I can be certain then you are out of the way if you are still in the car taking pictures.”
“I will do my best to capture your best side. Text me with some advanced warning if you can. Good luck.”
“Will do and see you soon.”
Hope and optimism flooded through my body. There was a chance this was all going to work out and Jane would be fine.