Beta Read by Nikki and Carol Cappe
Written for PetFly by: Harold Apter
internal thoughts in italics
Tuesday 1:47 pm - Cascade Art Museum
The group of a dozen nine-year old children dutifully followed their teacher through the long hallway. Mrs. Jane Morrow was passionate about art, especially Modern Art. She was so passionate about it that she failed to notice that none of her students seemed the least bit interested.
"This kind of modern art is called an abstract," the thirtyish educator lectured. "It's how the artist tells a story with shapes and colors. Then we fill in the details with our feelings. This makes each painting a different story to each person who views it."
A few of the students automatically murmured in agreement. One young boy stifled a yawn.
"Now, remember, stay with the group," Ms. Morrow called over her shoulder. "We have much more to see in a short amount of time."
As the group moved into the next room, a young blonde-haired girl stopped and stared at one of the paintings. "I did better finger painting in kindergarten."
A woman in a guard's uniform approached. "Gwen Angeloni? I just got a call in the office about your mother. She's gotten sick and had to go to the hospital. She asked if I could bring you to her."
Greta uncertainly looked down the hall. "I need to tell Ms. Morrow." She glanced at the badge. "Officer Tanner."
"The school's going to beep her, honey." The security guard put a hand on her shoulder. "I don't what to upset you, but we need to go now."
"How sick is she?" Gwen asked in concern.
"I'm sure she'll be fine." The guard led Gwen towards the entrance as she worriedly glanced over her shoulder. "But let's not waste any time, okay?" As they left the long hallway she dropped an envelope on a nearby sculpture.
"Why are we going out the back?" Gwen asked in surprise.
"We'll miss all the traffic," the guard replied.
"Come on, Greta," the driver snapped.
"I wanna ride up front," Gwen announced.
"Get in the back." Greta shoved the child into the backseat and followed her.
"Hey!" Gwen shouted.
The driver turned around and pointed a gun at Gwen. "Sit down. Shut up. And you might see your next birthday." He watched as Greta handcuffed the child and gagged her. After she threw her jacket over the child's face, she nodded at the driver.
Tuesday 2:05 pm - Abandoned Gas Station Outside Cascade
Keeping low to the ground, Jim Ellison led his partner in a zig-zag run toward the protective cover of a State Patrol car.
"Ellison. Cascade PD," Jim identified as they crouched behind the car.
"Captain Ewing, State Patrol." The dark haired patrol commander nodded towards the building. "Hogan brothers, huh?"
"Yeah." Jim checked the ammunition in his pistol. "Robbed two banks today before heading out here."
"Let's get this show on the road," Ewing grunted. He raised a bullhorn. "This is the State Patrol and Cascade police! We have the building surrounded! Throw out your guns and come out with your hands up!"
Gunfire immediately erupted from the gas station. Everyone ducked as bullets whined and ricocheted in all directions.
Jim saw Blair curl around himself as the shattered front headlight sprayed broken glass in his direction. He pulled the younger man closer to him as his cell phone began ringing. He tugged it out, expecting to hear Simon's voice on the other end. "Ellison." He looked at Blair in amazement. "What?! Yeah, he's fine, Naomi. Wait a second." He palmed the phone and shoved it at Blair. "It's your mother. How did she get this number?"
Blair shrugged and put the phone to his ear. "Hi, Mom!" He ducked as the police began returning fire. "What? No! What makes you think we're in danger?" He scooted closer to Jim as a bullet ricocheted in front of him. "No, that's just Jim watching some police show rerun. Miami Vice, I think." He looked over his shoulder. "C'mon, man! Turn it down, okay, Jim?"
A motorcycle, carrying two men, came roaring out through the garage doors. The driver cut hard to the right allowing the man on the back to spray the area with automatic gunfire. Jim, seeing that their cover had been compromised, lunged for Blair and pulled him out of the line of fire. "Get out of the way!" Jim shouted.
"Gotta go, Mom!" Blair yelled into the cell phone as he was yanked to safety.
Jim used his sentinel sight and zeroed in on the motorcycle's rear tire. He pulled the trigger, and the tire exploded. Both riders were thrown into air and fell several yards away.
Police officers quickly moved in, putting the two men under arrest.
Jim took a deep breath and looked at his younger partner. "You okay?" he asked.
Blair pulled himself into a sitting position against the bullet-ravaged patrol car. Shakily he pushed his hair behind his ears, looked around, and nodded.
Tuesday 4:01 pm - Major Crimes Bullpen
"Fortunately, we were close when the State Patrol radioed in they'd cornered the Hogan brothers," Jim shrugged as he sat his coffee mug on his desk. "The rest was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time."
Captain Simon Banks folded his arms and sat on the edge of Jim's desk. "From what I hear, it was quite a firefight."
Blair swiveled around in Jim's chair from where he faced the computer. "Those guys had enough ammunition to start a small war."
"From the preliminary information we're getting from the Canadian authorities, you may not be too far off," Simon grunted. "Seems that…"
All three men froze.
"Mom?" Blair peered around Jim and Simon. He got to his feet with a confused smile. "What are you doing here?"
"You're all right! Thank God." Naomi Sandburg wrapped her arms around her son and held him tight.
Both Simon and Jim exchanged quick glances. Simon moved to try and escape to his office, but the attractive red-haired mother of their observer smiled over Blair's shoulder at him.
"Captain Banks! How nice to see you again," Naomi greeted.
"Ms. Sandburg." Simon smoothly smiled. "A pleasure."
"Mom," Blair squeaked. "Can you loosen up here? Just a little?"
"Oh, honey, I was so worried," Naomi explained, not loosening her grip. "You can't begin to imagine." She gave her son another hug then reluctantly released him. She looked over his shoulder and teasingly shook her head with a smile. "Jim Ellison…are you okay?"
Jim smiled despite himself. "I appreciate the concern, Naomi, but I'm fine. Sorry I couldn't talk before. I was a little…uh…preoccupied."
"I heard guns being fired," Naomi chided him. She turned back to Blair. "Are you certain you're not hurt?" She began running her hands down his arms.
"Mom, I'm fine," Blair reassured her. He lowered his voice. "Will you cut it out? C'mon…" He winced at the smirk Jim didn't even try to hide.
"Sorry," Naomi apologized with a smile.
"Excuse us a minute," Blair told Jim and Simon. He tugged on Naomi's arm and pulled her into the hallway. "What are you doing here?" He saw Jim following Simon into the captain's office. *You can run but you can't hide, Jim. She's my mom so turn off the charm!*
"Blair Sandburg, you lied to me…to your own mother," Naomi accused. "You were in a very dangerous situation. You're supposed to be an observer."
"Well, I was observing." Blair charmingly smiled. Then he saw Naomi's expression and gave her a quick hug. "Mom, I'm not making light of it, okay? But I'm fine. You can see that for yourself." He frowned. "How did you know what was going on?"
"I told her."
The force of Naomi's personality was such that Blair hadn't noticed the short stocky dark-haired man who'd been standing a short distance away.
"Oh, sweetie, this is Charlie Spring," Naomi introduced. "We were in Seattle at a convergence gathering."
"Hi, Charlie," Blair smiled, holding out his hand.
As they shook hands, the elevator door opened. Detective Henri Brown stepped out, automatically smiling at Blair. Then he did the classic double-take. "Charlie Spring?" He held out his hand. "I'm…"
"Detective Brown. Nice to meet you." Charlie quickly shook the detective's hand.
Henri's dark eyes twinkled. "You are as good as they say."
Blair smiled as Naomi happily squeezed his arm.
"I'm as good as I say," Charlie laughed.
Henri quickly pulled out his notebook and tore out a piece of paper. "Would you…"
Charlie already had a pen out. "My pleasure."
"He's a world-renowned psychic," Naomi whispered to her son.
"I know, Mom," Blair grinned. "Hey, Henri. This is my mom, Naomi. Mom, this is…"
"Henri Brown," Naomi smiled. "Blair's spoken highly of you."
Henri exchanged a quick smile with Blair. "I hope you'll keep an open mind anyway," he laughed. "Thanks, Mr. Spring." He slapped Blair on the arm and continued into the bullpen.
"So how was the convergence conference?" Blair asked.
"Blair, I won't be distracted." Naomi firmly shook her head. "You were in danger, and we're going to talk about this."
"Sure we will, Mom," Blair soothed. "But now's not the right time or place, you know?"
Jim exited Simon's office. He saw Blair in the grip of his mother and took pity on his partner. He tossed the file on his desk and walked to join them.
"I hear you, sweetie." Naomi smiled, squeezing his arm. "I knew you were in danger because Charlie got this hit."
"Hit?" Blair looked at Charlie.
"Stuff pops into my head," Charlie explained. "I call it a 'hit.' Like, I could see you behind a police car. Someone's shooting. Glass shattering. Run-down buildings." He cocked his head as he stared at Blair. "Yes?"
"Yeah, that's pretty good," Blair admitted.
"It's a gift," Charlie grinned. "I knew you were in danger."
"Not a big stretch for somebody riding with a cop," Jim pointed out.
"Ah, you're a skeptic, Detective Ellison." Charlie smiled.
"Jim is very big on what he can see and hear," Naomi confided with a teasing smile. "Charlie is also a detective, Jim. Just not officially."
"Is that a fact?" Jim replied, although he met Naomi's smile with one of his own.
Blair frowned warningly at his partner even though Jim easily avoided acknowledging the glare.
"You remember the Bramford murder case a couple years ago?" Charlie asked. "City Councilman Geoffrey Bramford disappeared. No one knew if he was alive or dead, let alone being able to find a body."
Jim reluctantly nodded. "A psychic gave the detective information about the location of his body." His eyes narrowed. "That was you?"
Charlie spread his arms wide with a wide grin. "They didn't call the psychic hot line!"
"And that couldn't be just a lucky guess on the part of a skilled investigator?" Jim questioned.
"I respect a man who knows what he doesn't believe in." Charlie nodded. "But I'll give you a copy of my new book anyway."
"It's called 'Doubting Thomases,'" Naomi confided.
"Just what I need," Jim said with a polite smile.
The door to Simon's office banged open. "Ellison! Now!"
Thankfully, Jim retreated to the bullpen. "Yes, sir."
"We just had a report of a kidnapping of a little girl. Gwen Angeloni, age 9, blonde hair, blue eyes," Simon said in a quiet voice. "She was snatched at the Art Museum two hours ago. The girl's teacher discovered her missing and found the note from the kidnappers under one of the statues. They said they'd be in touch."
"Why the delay in notifying us?" Jim curiously asked.
Simon shrugged. "The Angeloni's are in the middle of a divorce, according to Mr. Angeloni. He was on his way back from Seattle when his wife contacted him. She thought he might have taken Gwen in a bid for custody. He thought she might be hiding Gwen for the same reason. When they realized neither was guilty, Mr. Angeloni called us in."
"There was no ransom demand," a voice behind them spoke.
Simon spun around to see Charlie Spring. "Who the hell are you?" he demanded.
Blair quickly joined them. "Uh…Captain Banks. This is Charlie Spring. He's a psychic."
"So he says," Jim muttered.
"I see." Simon briefly nodded. He pulled Jim to one side. "Get over to the victim's house. Keep the parents calm until the ransom call comes in. I'll set up the monitoring situation here."
"What about the Feds?" Jim asked with a grimace as he reached for his jacket.
"Apparently Mr. Angeloni's had some dealings with them." Simon ruefully smiled. "He doesn't have a high opinion of them. He's requested they not be informed."
Jim nodded and turned to Blair. "Let's go, Chief." He smiled at Naomi and gave her a quick hug. "So long, Naomi. Good seeing you again."
"Bye, Jim." Naomi smiled.
"Gotta go, Mom," Blair said as he grabbed his jacket.
"Honey, you call me," Naomi ordered. "We still have something to discuss."
"Sure, Mom," Blair promised, kissing her on the cheek. "As soon as I get a chance."
"Let's go, Sandburg!" Jim called from the elevator bank.
"Nice meeting you, Charlie," Blair called as he ran towards the elevator.
Naomi watched as Jim put a hand on Blair's back to urge him into the elevator. Then she worriedly looked at Charlie.
Tuesday 4:23 pm - The Angeloni House
The Angeloni house was located in the middle of an upper-middle class neighborhood, the type where people didn't advertise how much money they possessed. From the outside, the house with its perfectly groomed lawn looked like every other house in the neighborhood.
Inside, Fred and Trish Angeloni greeted Jim and Blair. Trish Angeloni unconsciously wrung her hands as they spoke. Jim also found it interesting that both parents were dry-eyed and didn't seem to be emotionally leaning on one another.
"I'll pay them anything they want," Fred confessed, running a hand through his close-clipped dark hair.
Trish angrily glared at him. "According to your lawyers, you're practically broke."
"I'll sell whatever I have to," Fred snapped back. "Besides, I have some cash put aside for emergencies."
"I bet you do," Trish angrily muttered. She glanced at Jim and Blair. "Excuse me."
"Sorry," Fred muttered, wiping his face with both hands. "We're separated, and today's just the icing on a rotten day."
"We're just here to help recover your daughter," Jim quietly assured him. He glanced at the equipment connected to the Angeloni's phone. "Try to relax, sir."
He followed Blair to the doorway leading to the dining room. They watched as Trish sat at the table, turning over Tarot cards.
"Those are 18th century Napoleonic, aren't they?" Blair asked. "The artistry is fantastic."
Trish eagerly looked up. "You know Tarot?"
"Yeah, my Mom's been a believer for years," Blair admitted.
"They're cards, Chief," Jim muttered as he turned away.
Trish collected the cards and put them back into a small oak box. "I'm too upset to read them," she admitted. "Do you really believe or are you just comforting the upset mother?"
"I believe there are people out there with genuine gifts," Blair nodded. "People like Charlie Spring."
"You know him?" Trish asked in surprise.
"He's a friend of my Mom's," Blair admitted.
"Why don't you call him?" Trish jumped up and grabbed Blair by the elbow. "He could help us find Gwen!"
They were startled when the phone rang. Blair guided Trish back into the living room.
Jim was standing with one hand on the police phone and looking at Fred. "Pick up on my signal. Tell them you won't do anything until you talk to your daughter and make sure she's okay." When Fred nodded, Jim took a deep breath. "Okay. Pick up."
"Hello? Fred Angeloni speaking." He nodded at Jim.
Jim nodded at the technician, who was quietly speaking into his cell phone to Simon Banks.
Trish walked across the room and put her hands on her husband's arm.
"Yes, I'm listening." Fred nodded reassuringly at his wife.
"I want a hundred grand," Greta demanded.
"Just tell me where and when," Fred agreed.
"Tomorrow morning," Greta snapped. "I'll call with the location."
Trish leaned her forehead against Fred's arm.
"I want to speak with Gwen," Fred demanded.
Greta turned and nodded to her partner. He yanked the child out of the chair and pulled off the dirty gag.
"You've got five seconds," Greta snarled as she put the phone to Gwen's ear.
"Mommy?" Gwen haltingly spoke.
"Gwen, it's Daddy and Mommy," Fred quickly answered.
"Gwen! Do what they tell you!" Trish shouted.
"I wanna come home," Gwen whined.
"You will, baby," Trish choked. "I promise we'll bring you home."
Blair turned away, unable to watch the naked fear on the faces of Gwen's parents.
"That's it," Greta snapped. She yanked the phone away.
"Daddy!" Gwen screamed.
"Gwen!" Fred shouted. All he heard was the buzz of the disconnected phone line.
"Oh, God, Fred," Trish sobbed, leaning against him. "Our baby…."
Blair watched as Fred led his sobbing wife into the dining room. They sat close together as Trish covered her face and sobbed. He jumped when Jim's cell phone rang.
"Ellison," Jim barked.
"We've got a trace," Simon explained. "They're calling on a stolen cell number. The cell is stationary from the middle of the Cascade National Forest. We'll never get a search team in before dark."
"It's probably what they're counting on." Jim wearily rubbed his forehead. "Mr. Angeloni's going to get the money. There's nothing for us to do except wait for the call." He saw Trish walking Fred to the door. Fred was speaking to her in a low, soothing voice as he reached for his coat. "I'll have someone follow him just in case."
"Report when he gets back," Simon ordered then hung up.
"So we're just supposed to wait?" Trish angrily demanded. She glared first at her husband then at Jim.
Fred apologetically looked at Jim. "Trish, what do you want us to do? I have to get the money. We have to wait for them to call us back."
"In the meantime, Gwen is with those God-awful people and they're doing God knows what to her!" Trish half-screamed. She backed away when Fred tried to soothe her. Sobbing, she ran upstairs.
"Is there anyone we can call for your wife?" Jim quietly asked.
Fred wearily shook his head. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Jim motioned to a nearby officer in civilian clothing. "Officer Mann will shadow you, Mr. Angeloni. Just in case."
Fred's dark eyes widened then he nodded with a slight smile. "Thank you, Detective Ellison."