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Signature Five

CHAPTER FIVE

 

Back at the farmhouse they enjoyed lunch in good spirits.

"Gentlemen, may I call you gentlemen," Hadley joked. "We are good at what we do. We make a good team. Yesterday we sniffed out a nosy female investigator. Today we have a police lieutenant's wife locked in our cellar."

"Are you sure that's safe?" asked Duggan with his usual insecurity.

"Couldn't be better," said Hadley. "The only link to us was made by them and not by us, so they have no reason to come here and certainly no justification for a search. This is the safest place."

"I'll shoot her now," suggested Mitchell.

"I'm not so sure," Hadley replied. "Let's make a plan. You know what. I think this may be a good time to rob a bank, while the police are hunting abducted police wives, you know, otherwise engaged."

"You have a bank in mind?" queried Duggan.

"Funny you should ask." Hadley had a smug grin on his face. "I was thinking about the branch on Main Street. Go for the safe this time."

"You out of your mind?" It was Mitchell's turn to assert himself.

"That's exactly it, Bob," Hadley replied. "Who in their right mind would rob the same bank three times in a row? No one. Right?"

"Right." Both Duggan and Mitchell assented to that.

"So that's settled then," said Hadley. "We will, because they won't expect us to rob it for one moment."

"But I'll shoot the woman first." Mitchell was back on his favourite subject.

"Let's put that on hold for the present," Hadley proposed. "In the back of my mind I have another thought. She doesn't know who we are. If we can think of a way of using her to keep the attention off us and maybe shift attention somewhere else, it could even be interesting to release her. We can shoot someone else, Bob."

"I like that one," Duggan cut in. "Let's explore that. We might need some kind of get out of jail free card."

"She's a very attractive woman with a very engaging manner," Hadley continued. "I enjoyed the interview with her yesterday. So remember she is our guest. I want to make it comfortable for her down there. Also, and I know I don't need to say this to you gentlemen, we are not going to rape her or otherwise molest her. On the one hand, we are civilised human beings, and on the other hand, we do not wish to plant any unnecessary forensic evidence. Frankly, we should avoid all physical contact. That's another reason why I want her to have access to the bathroom down there. Let her wash off any evidence that might have resulted from the abduction. We'll get her some fresh clothes and burn those she's wearing."

"I'm still keen to learn what she was after and why," Duggan squeaked, bringing them back to the issue in hand.

 

The bounce had gone out of Jenny. Her wrists were chaffed from the cuffs, her head ached from the poor air under the hood and her whole body was stiff from the awkward position in the car. As soon as they set released her in what appeared to be a basement, she drank what seemed like gallons of water. Agitated she paced the room, and after a few minutes decided she should examine the detail of where she was, in case there was a clue to where she was or who these people were. It had to be Bill Hadley from yesterday. When would John miss her? Would he have Hadley pulled in? She looked around. The room was set up like a guest room with a bed, an armchair and a small wardrobe. There were two doors. The one by which she had entered, which was locked, and next to it a door which led into a shower room with a toilet and washbasin, where she had drunk the water. Ventilation was by way of fans in a narrow shaft. Natural light came in through a section of translucent glass bricks set just below the ceiling. There was no indication as to where she was and no way out other than through the locked door. She saw a telephone point next to the bed, but no telephone. A basket of fruit was on the table as well as a tray with biscuits and packets of fruit juice. Then the thought of their dead friends hit her, and she began to tremble uncontrollably. Sobbing, she crawled into the bed, closed her eyes and wished herself elsewhere, but to no avail. Behind closed eyes one nightmare scene succeeded another, until totally out of control, she was screaming with rage and despair. She must have fallen asleep, because when she finally threw the bedcovers from her, there was a tray of food, placed next to the food basket, with salad, boiled eggs, cold meats, bread and a thermos flask of hot coffee.

 

I am not playing this right, she thought. I must keep my wits about me and find out what is going on. I must pick up any clues I can, so that when John finds me I can provide valuable information to help catch these men. What are hostages supposed to do? I'm supposed to bond with them, so that they do not harm me. Again she shuddered at the thought of these callous, ruthless men who gunned down innocent people. She lay back and thought of John. She saw his tall frame before her, imagined his eyes flashing with anger when he found she had been kidnapped and trusted herself to his power to rescue her.

 

John had not been told whether or not he would be reinstated, but no one objected to his presence. Ross had unofficially been assigned to look after him, but confusion reigned in the precinct. There had to be a link between the two robberies and there had to be a link to the kidnapping of Jenny Ralphs. Hadley was the obvious link, but that did not seem to stack up. If anything it was John who was bringing order into this chaos. He moved around, questioning the members of the team, trying to develop thought processes, looking for an angle to follow up. Forensics had turned up nothing to go on so far. John ignored the suggestion that he should be at home waiting by the phone in case a call came. That was too simple, he thought. This is not a straightforward kidnapping. If and when they want to get hold of me, they will. They must know who Jenny is. This is not just a random event.

 

John came back to Ross's desk.

"You know, I never got round to calling Chris," John said. "Maybe it's even more important now, than it was. We should go ahead with our plan. It might help Jenny."

"I'll call him now." Ross picked up the phone, and Chris answered on the first ring.

"Hi, Chris. You've made a tape? Great. We'll get it now. There's bad news Chris. John's wife, Jenny. They've got her." The shock on the other end of the line was palpable.

"OK," John said, as Ross hung up, "can we organise this, that everyone who was at the warehouse at the time of the hostage scene gets to listen to the tape and gives us his view? Maybe it's not evidence, but it might confirm whether or not we are aiming in the right direction."

 

John returned to his apartment late that evening. As he knew it would, the emptiness and the loneliness struck him. In the afternoon he had advised immediate relatives of the situation. Jenny's parents had taken it well. He had asked them not to come over, but to let him get on with the job. It was a harrowing experience. So far friends did not know, and the longer that lasted the better. He did not want interminable expressions of sympathy. In his professional capacity he had requested at Jenny's workplace that they keep quiet about it. Publicity was not felt to be of value at this stage, certainly not before they had developed a better understanding of what was going on. This was all the practical side. With this he could live. But the victim was Jenny this time, not just a victim. Where was she? How was she? What were they doing to her? How was she taking it? His mind went round and round in turmoil. He looked out of the window to where it had taken place. He flicked on the television. He turned it off. He made some coffee, and then poured it away. Restless, he wanted to go out, but he wanted to stay in. He decided to get some sleep, but lay awake with the same thoughts running through his mind over and over. The defence lawyer towered over him: "So this is the man you saw," he said, pointing at Hadley. Ralphs: "No, no, that is the man I heard." Defence lawyer: "The man you heard. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, consider carefully this man is not an eyewitness; he is an earwitness." "No you don't understand." John awoke with a start. God this is awful, he thought. How can this have happened? Where is she? What can I do? He checked the dial of his watch ... four a.m. He decided to get up. I'll try to set pen to paper, and see if that helps with a plan, he thought.

 

At six John called Ross and invited himself to breakfast to expound his plans.

"The point is, Ross, that we precipitated the kidnapping with our plan to entrap Hadley. Now let's assume Hadley is guilty and playing a very clever game. In that case, we have to be even cleverer."

"Any thoughts as to how, John?"

"Well, we've got to be quick. I really believe that time is not on our side if we are going to get Jenny out. That means we cannot simply investigate. We've got to make something happen."

"Like we've already made something happen," Ross said.

"What we have now, Ross, is the tape. I say we doctor it a bit and add in a bit that sounds like Kinley on the megaphone. Then we have to work out a way of confronting Hadley with the tape, claiming we recorded him at the warehouse. It has to be a plausible confrontation. No doubt he will deny it, but it will prompt him to take action. If he's hasty he might make a mistake."

"Are you not worried about increasing the danger to Jenny?" Ross countered.

"I am acutely aware of the danger she is in," John said, "and I see that danger growing every day that we do nothing. If Hadley perceives himself to be in danger, surely that will take pressure off Jenny to some extent. Well, that's what I have to hope. I see no other way."

"Then we have to work out a way of confronting Hadley in a way which is constructive," Ross said. "Not that he just cuts and runs."

"Right, Ross. Let me make one thing clear. This is about Jenny. This is also about Kinley and the rest of them. Jenny took this risk for them. I want her out, and I want her risk to be rewarded, her personal risk which she took for our friends, and to stop these bastards ever doing something like this again. That's what this is about, Ross." Determination set upon John Ralph's face.

A thought began to form in Ross's mind. "You know, John, Hadley is not the weak link. You saw how much he was in control, when we were in his office. Confronting him with the tape would be like revealing your hand in poker. I think we should pull in either Duggan or Mitchell. Now Duggan's the other one with a voice – he's the guy who talked in the bank. If we went after Mitchell, we could claim we have Duggan on tape as well. We could claim it's even more damning, but only play Mitchell the Hadley tape."

"You saw Mitchell and Duggan, Ross, when you checked out the alibis. What were they like physically," John asked.

"Duggan's a weedy fellow and Mitchell is a very big man," Ross answered.

"Well you know what. It was a big guy whose back I glimpsed in the street when Jenny was kidnapped. If it was one of these three, then it was Mitchell." John felt a plan was coming together. "What have we got to lose? If it was him, we can rattle him, and if it wasn't, too bad. Let's try to unnerve them, and see where we go from there.

 

It was not difficult to track down Bob Mitchell, as he worked from home. Mitchell opened the door to John, towering over him as he lead him through to the lounge. John wasted no time. He simply pulled the tape player from his bag, set it on the table and pressed the play switch. Bob Mitchell listened to the tape in silence. Across the table sat John Ralphs. In a car outside listening in on a radio receiver sat Ross, which Mitchell did not know. The tape clicked off.

"We have another tape, one of Duggan in the bank," John said.

"Well, that sure sounds like Bill," Mitchell admitted.

"Look, Mr Mitchell, I'm not accusing you of anything. I'm asking you to help us." John looked Mitchell square on. He had to persuade this man that there was a way out for him, if they could get to the big fish. "You know these people, and we believe they may be involved in criminal activities. We are appealing to your civic duty."

"I don't see what I can do for you. Yes, I know Bill and I know Jim. I know lots of people." Mitchell replied firmly in his deep voice.

"We're looking for information, Mr Mitchell. If you had any, or knew anyone who could help, well, if it was incriminating for them, we would do a trade, do a deal with them." John felt he was not being very subtle in insinuating that there was a deal for Mitchell to take.

"If what you say is true," Mitchell said, "then I fear for my own safety. More so now that you have asked me to listen to this tape."

"Your own safety?" John queried.

"Yes, think about it. If what you say is true, now I know too much. So what do I do?" Mitchell looked at John questioningly.

"You come in and talk to us," John answered.

"Either that," Mitchell responded, "or I take off. I have no ties here."

"No, think of the threat these people pose. Talk to us," John insisted.

"First comes me, as far as I'm concerned." Mitchell sounded adamant. "But I'll do a deal."

"Tell me the terms." John leapt at this change of heart. The mood was changing in his favour. A vision of Jenny moved to the front of his thoughts.

"The terms? There are no terms. My safety: that's all. Jim's meeting Bill in his office at four. I know because they asked me to come over." Mitchell held John's gaze. "You give me a guarantee and I will talk."

"What's the guarantee?" John asked.

"No, not a guarantee. From what you tell me these guys are too lethal for you to guarantee anything. I'll tell you what. You take these guys in. When you have both of them locked in a cell, I'll talk. You call me here when you have both of them locked in a cell, and I'll drive into town. I'll come and see you. Is that a deal?" On his own John could not have made a deal. With Ross listening in and recording everything outside in the car, he thought there could be a deal. Anyway, it was all he had. Mitchell had made a proposal. The ball was in his court.

"It's a deal," John said.

 

As John got in the car, Ross gave a low whistle.

"Wow," Ross exclaimed, "that is some deal. What do we do?"

"Ross, you call on the radio while I drive, and you recount my conversation with Mitchell to HQ. Then propose two things. One: they take the surveillance of Hadley's farmhouse and Duggan's bungalow and move everyone pronto to Hadley's office. Two: with as much back up as can be mustered, they hit Hadley's office at four and take them both in for questioning."

 

Bob Mitchell had watched Ralph's intently to make sure he did not place any bugs while he was there. Now he relaxed. He took a beer from the refrigerator in the kitchen and threw himself down in his television recliner. The bedroom door opened and Bill Hadley stepped out.

"I'm gonna recommend you for an Oscar, Bob." Bill was smiling broadly. "Do they have one for best actor without a script? That was perfect, sending them to my office."

"I'm not just a pretty face, Bill. My brawn is matched only by my brain. Clearly they've got us pinned down, so I had to send them off somewhere believable," Bob replied.

"I think it's time we went on holiday. Plan B. We'll call Jim at the farmhouse now. The clock's ticking." Bill was already reaching for the phone.

 

Bill Hadley had honed the planning process to what he considered to be perfection. Each scenario would be set out on paper, graphically displayed so that it was 100% clear to each of them. The likely course of events was set out in a planogram, as he called it. Decision boxes in the planogram led to different courses of action, depending on the decision required by circumstances. Weaknesses and risks were calculated and listed. Hadley's view was that the simplest plan was the best plan and the simplest plan usually entailed risks. Therefore things would go wrong but that did not matter because countermeasures were planned in.

 

A frequent symbol in the planning process was a red revolver, which meant, we shoot our way out. This symbol had been used several times on the decision tree leading from the bank just over three weeks ago. Hadley had learnt that while violence could be counter-productive, extreme, sudden violence was highly effective. Hadley had rented a cabin by a lake for the "holiday" plan. The plan was simple. Wherever they were, they would all head for the cabin. The risk in this case was surveillance and that any one of them might be followed. The initial phase of this plan had a number of red revolvers drawn in on its planogram.

 

Jenny was sitting in the armchair dreaming of home, of her apartment, of John, when she heard a rustling sound. A typed note had been slipped under the door.

 

Mrs Ralphs,

 

It has unfortunately become necessary to bring you to a place of greater safety. I do not wish to harm you, and I regret the insult to your dignity when I brought you here.

 

I ask you to co-operate. I am on my own and I do not wish to be obliged to employ force. I respect you, and admire the fortitude you have shown in bearing these regrettable circumstances.

 

In the draw at the bottom of the wardrobe you will find a black hood. It has holes for your mouth and nose, so that you may breathe freely. Please pull the hood over your head and knot the drawstring below your chin. You will also find handcuffs. Please cuff both wrists in front of you. In ten minutes I will lead you out. Unfortunately, the first part of the journey must be in the trunk, but I assure you that this will be for no more than a few minutes, before we change vehicles. By the way, there is no purpose in trying to get a look of me. I shall be disguised.

 

Please accept this note for what it is: an attempt to make an unpleasant task as bearable as possible. Take my assurance that this will be over soon.

 

Panic surfaced and subsided. This will be over soon, she thought, and grabbed at that straw. She reached into the draw, carried out the instructions and waited, in her own personal darkness. She heard the lock and then the door. A touch on her shoulder and she was guided up the stairs and along a corridor. It was eerie underneath the hood, pitch black. Another door and they stepped into a room with a hard surface. Then the click of what must be the catch of the trunk, and she was gently helped into the trunk and the lid slammed above her. Her calm up to this moment dissipated and she began to sob, more in self-pity than fear. The note had had a calming effect, clear and courteous, somehow removing the immediate threat. A moment's panic: will I suffocate in here? And then the motor sprang to life and they were moving.

 

In the driver's seat, Jim turned out into the road, tapping numbers into his phone. Bill answered.

"No surveillance so far," Jim said.

"OK continue towards the track. Approach slowly until you see us in the distance, and then set your speed so that you turn in immediately behind us. Even if it comes from nowhere out of the bushes, no police vehicle is to get between us," Bill instructed. Bill had given Jim a start time which should result in them arriving together almost to the second, meticulous as ever. The road ahead was a clear stretch of a mile and a half. Jim saw his partners' vehicle approaching. He checked his mirror and still there was no sign of life behind. On the road ahead his partners were the only ones in sight. Up ahead was the track, on Jim's right. Bill's vehicle cut across in front of Jim, and Jim followed it, turning into the track just ten feet to the rear. One hundred yards further, the track entered woodland and curved left. Jim saw Bob roll out of the passenger door on the move and take up position behind a tree, aiming a high-powered rifle back from where they had come. Fifty yards further was a clearing with black pick-up truck. There was a superstructure mounted on the rear to create a separate cabin with smoked glass windows.

 

By the time Duggan had transferred Jenny to the rear cabin of the pick-up truck, Bob had sprinted up to join them. The clearing was a start point for hikers and hunters and it was not unusual for vehicles to be left there for a few days. The pick-up pulled off across the clearing and they headed up another track to join a different road. Fifty yards before they reached it, Bob jumped out, recced the road up ahead and waived them on, boarding the pick-up truck as it turned onto the road.

"Boring," Bob said.

"You mean no shooting," Jim squawked. "As far as I'm concerned, no surveillance this time was good news. Let's go fishing." And Bill hit the gas pedal. In the back Jenny sat on cushions with her left hand chained to the pick-up and her right hand free. The hood was removed, so she could follow the route, although nothing looked familiar to her and she did not know from where they had started. Next to her was a bottle of water, a thermos flask of coffee and a picnic hamper. She was no longer nervous, but too resigned to her fate to think of giving these kidnappers a star rating just yet.

 

The police had taken up positions outside Hadley's office. John had not been reinstated, at least not yet, but he was allowed to come along, given his central role and that he was technically a victim through his wife. They did not know if Hadley was inside. They would wait for Duggan to show up. Four came and went. Four thirty came and went without Duggan. They decided they would have to send someone in to check out what was going on. They chose a low-key approach with an officer out of uniform who might have been anyone. It took thirty seconds to establish there was no Hadley. Expecting the worst, they had moved everyone over here to provide support in case Hadley resisted arrest. Now they had to check out the three men's residences. That took longer but yielded the same result. What struck John, in particular was that Mitchell was gone, the man who had agreed to speak to them, his great white hope for Jenny's rescue. He looked across at Ross and could not stop the tears forming in his eyes, tears for Jenny, tears for Jenny and for him.

Contents

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Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen