Home > Sidetracked (Mindf*ck #2)(10)

Sidetracked (Mindf*ck #2)(10)
Author: S.T. Abby

I push off from the wall, moving to the table separating us, and prop my hands on it, leaning over until his eyes connect with mine.

“We had him. You tipped him off. What did you think he’d do with her once she was no longer of any use to him?”

He sobs, breaking in front of me. “He swore he wouldn’t hurt her if I alerted him to any threat. He swore I’d get her back. As long as I kept my mouth shut…he swore. Now you’ve pulled me in here and there’s no chance of that!”

“You’re the reason he’s out there. You’re the reason we don’t have him in custody right now,” I remind him, an icy edge to my tone as I shut off all emotions for what he’s going through as a father.

“He wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for you and your fucking team! You set a killer loose in our state, and now he has my daughter!”

“He’d be in Boston,” Leonard says calmly, “killing someone else’s wife, daughter, sister… We didn’t make the killer, Commander. We’re trying to stop him. You took our best chance away. We finally had him.”

Norris loses it, sobbing so hard he becomes incoherent. His head drops to his arms, and he cries into the crook of his elbow.

It’s possible his daughter is still alive, but unlikely. I have to detach myself from the guilt that tries to wiggle its way in. Casualties are never easy to accept. But in this line of work, they’re always there. If you don’t desensitize yourself from it, you don’t make it two months in this field.

What he doesn’t know, is that the best chance of his daughter surviving would have been for us to raid that warehouse. He’d have run. He’d have tried to get away. Bringing her along would have been too risky then.

She’d most likely still be breathing, and we’d more than likely have him in custody.

I don’t tell him that. It’s better for him to blame us than bear the responsibility of his own daughter’s death. I can at least offer him that much mercy.

Weakly, he tosses a phone out of his pocket, and Leonard picks it up. “He sent that,” Norris whispers hoarsely. “Said he’d let me hear her voice twice a day.”

“Did he?” Leonard asks.

Norris wipes his eyes, nodding grimly. “Five seconds at a time. Just long enough for her to beg me to save her.”

He breaks again, and Leonard walks out with the phone. By now, Erica Norris is either dead or wishing she was. She may have been wishing it for the past four days.

Sometimes, the homeless turn a blind eye to anything going on around them. It’s their survival mechanism kicking in, not their inhumanity. It’s street-survival. They’ve suffered for so long, that suffering more would be too much. But with enough incentive, they’ll spill every word you need.

Right now, the ones living in that warehouse are telling what they know in exchange for cash—unethical, but not illegal. But the info isn’t much.

Plemmons claimed a backroom and kept the girl chained there. He locked it with a padlock when he was gone. Took her with him at other times.

Blood was found in that room. He’s already had his way with her, possibly even sliced her a few times to get what he needed, but not enough to kill her. A couple of suture kits were found in there, meaning he most likely repaired the damage he did with crude methods, just to keep her from bleeding too much.

For four days, she’s endured him. For four days, she’s likely prayed for death.

For four days, her father kept his mouth shut and played a dangerous game he had no right playing.

He should have come to us immediately, and Plemmons would already be in custody. His daughter would be in her own bed instead of wherever she is right now.

I walk out as he continues to sob, leaving him to cry in peace.

“See if you can get more out of him when the first wave of emotion is over,” I tell Donny as he meets me in the hallway. “Anything on Lana?”

He shakes his head slowly. “No. I asked Hadley to see if she could get a beat on her, since Alan is covered up in searching footage for this guy.”

I head straight toward Hadley’s cubicle and find her pounding away on the keyboard. But it’s not Lana she’s looking for. She’s searching the same footage Alan is.

“What the hell? Donny said you’re trying to get a beat on Lana.”

“Lana isn’t my priority right now, Logan. An innocent girl is in the hands of a serial killer, and I’m trying to help save her life.”

I love how she makes it sound like I’m a controlling prick instead of trying to keep someone else from landing in his hands.

“We know she’ll be a target, especially now. If she wasn’t on his radar before, she is since the hospital incident.”

Hadley ignores me, still typing.

“Damn it, Hadley!”

She spins, leveling me with a cold glower. “I’m looking for the girl we know is in trouble. You deal with your girlfriend—who you barely even know—on your own. He’s more than likely not skilled enough to hack the hospital feed. It’s even more unlikely that he’d be stupid enough to have been there, given how organized and smart he apparently is, given our new predicament. Leave. Me. Alone.”

She spins back around, and I blow out a long breath. “Fine. Find Erica Norris. Find him.”

“I plan to. Thank so much for your approval,” she says snidely.

I hate to admit it, but she’s right. I have no business asking her to stop looking for a girl we know is in trouble to find my girlfriend. She’d be safe and tucked into her house with police protection if I hadn’t lost my temper in the hospital. I should have texted her. My phone was dead, and I had no idea someone would notify Duke of what happened.

I didn’t want to worry her, so I was just going to tell her about it later. When she could put her hands on me and know I was okay, see it with her own eyes. Who the fuck is notifying Duke about anything?

“Why would anyone from our department let Detective Duke in on that attack?” I ask Craig as I join at the board, where he’s staring endlessly at pictures.

Even he’s trying to stop Plemmons before he strikes again.

“I wondered the same thing,” he says absently. “His chief called him. The chief is being looped in on the case progression, considering we’re sharing this case with local law enforcement to join manpower. He called Duke as a courtesy to your girl, but said didn’t have specifics to share.” Craig turns to face me. “He had specifics. He just neglected to share, and our guys wouldn’t give her any information or forward her calls to any of our phones. She’s not on your call list.”

A chill washes over me.

“He knew she’d go there,” I say tightly.

“The chief is playing us because he wants this arrest,” Craig agrees. “His department gets the least attention because we’re their neighbors. All the high profile stuff from DC goes straight to us, along with all the outlying cities too. It’s more common here than any other place that we usually wait for an invitation for.”

“So he lets her in on it through Duke, knowing she’d rush to the hospital.”

“After we’d already told him we had local law enforcement guarding the hospital, checking anyone and everyone who resembled Plemmons. We told him we thought he’d want to find a way to observe our pain and see the fear or panic he’d caused.”

“And he wanted him to see Lana,” I bite out.

“And possibly even follow her home,” Craig says, his jaw ticking. “Fucking son of a bitch. I called patrol. They told me what happened. But I’m sending one of our guys to help watch too. We have some we can spare, even though they’re wet behind the ears still.”

At least one person understands that Lana is also a target, and where we know he’ll eventually strike if he’s even aware of her.

I don’t feel as paranoid or crazy now.

“Thanks,” I tell him.

He shrugs. “People will see me as rational on the matter, but find it an abuse of power if you do it. It made sense for me to step in. But I’m stepping in because I see what you’re seeing. Everyone else just sees Erica Norris.” His expression turns grim. “She’s been dead since the day he took her, even if her heart is still beating right now.”

I know this, but I don’t want to say it aloud to everyone else. In the backs of their minds, they know it too.

“Our only chance of saving her was stripped away when her father played a sexual sadist’s game,” Craig adds on a long sigh. “I don’t have to be a profiler to know that much. Our only advantage is knowing Lana is most likely on his list. We should be concentrating all our efforts there.”

“But we can’t,” I say, the frustration welling inside me.

“Because they want us looking for this girl,” Craig agrees. “And Lana is pissed at you. Her car’s GPS was disabled shortly after she bought it. Found that out, unfortunately. And either her phone is dead, or she removed the battery to keep us from locating her that way. Clever if it’s the latter. Any reason your girl would work so hard to cover her trail like that?”

Even I admit that’s weirdly suspicious. “Lana is extremely private. She’s also not as trusting of law enforcement as I originally thought.”

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