Missing Person: A Riveting Kidnapping Mystery- Book 1, страница 1
Missing Person: Book 1
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The small town of Deville, Washington holds a population of less than ten thousand people. In addition to its annual fall cider festival, it also boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the state. It’s an idyllic little town, where people escape the big city to enjoy nature. For Chase Grant, it was a fresh start, a new beginning. But when the family down the street disappears, Grant is forced to confront a past that he had thought he’d left behind.
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Due to the chronic pain and the darkness, Charles Copella had lost track of time. He faded in and out of consciousness, only woken by a draft of cold air or a nightmare. The restraints over his chest, wrists, and ankles were a reminder of his captivity. Not that they were needed anymore. He could barely keep his head up, let alone try to escape.
But the restricted mobility only added to his torture. His feet and legs had swollen, doubling in size and turning a light shade of purple. He couldn’t wiggle his toes anymore, and any feeling beneath the waist had disappeared. He’d soiled himself a half dozen times, but he couldn’t smell it anymore.
Drifting between consciousness and unconsciousness, sanity and madness, Charles spasmed randomly in pain from the welts, bruises, and lacerations that covered his body. The worst was the wound in his left shoulder, which had finally clotted, except now it reeked of infection, and he was sure that those fever dreams that plagued his sleep were because of it. Even if he did get out of this alive, he didn’t expect to be whole again. But so long as his family was safe, so long as he didn’t give up the one ace up his sleeve, they had a chance.
Charles hadn’t seen his wife since they were taken. But he knew that they didn’t have his daughter. If they did, they would have used her against him the first day. They’d threatened his life and his wife, but so far the only damage that had been done was to him. So far as he knew.
The metallic groan of the door opening preceded the blinding light that accompanied his captor’s entrance, and Charles jolted awake, keeping his face turned away, eyes squinted shut. Whatever courage he owned was taken the night he was brought here, and as the sound of footsteps filled the room, he trembled.
Each time, the torture was different. Waterboarding came first, then sleep deprivation, and the welts and bruises on his face were from the most recent effort to extract information. The abductors made a game out of it. Every time Charles didn’t answer a question, they hit him. And every time he did answer a question, they hit him. It was a game that Charles could never win.
A fluorescent light flicked on, and the door clanged shut. In the light, blood and sweat shimmered off of Charles’s body, which no longer resembled the thirty-eight-year-old frame that was plucked from his home in the middle of the night.
“Charles.” The voice was smooth, calm, masking the violence just below the surface. “Are you ready to cooperate?”
He didn’t answer. He’d been quiet for so long, he wasn’t sure he remembered how to speak. But it was better that way. Silence was survival.
“Charles.” The voice was accompanied by the touch of a hand that lifted Charles’s face, like a human tugging the leash of a disobedient dog.
Charles blinked. The man speaking to him was blurry due to his vision struggling to maintain focus.
“I asked you if you’re ready to cooperate, Charles.”
Charles struggled to work his lips and tongue in coordination with his thoughts. He stuttered, mumbling nonsense. Finally, he stopped himself, hunching over in exhaustion.
“Oh, Charles.” The man shook his head. “Don’t you want to get out of here? Don’t you want to see your family again?”
“M-M-M-Mary,” Charles said.
“Yes, Mary,” he replied. “Don’t you want to keep her safe?”
The man paced around Charles, the expensive leather of his shoes skirting the shit and piss that had congealed around the legs of his chair. Charles used to own shoes like that. He used to wear suits and drive nice cars and take expensive trips around the world. But like Icarus, he had flown too close to the sun, burning his wax wings, and had fallen from his perch among the rich and powerful.
“I don’t want to do this anymore, Charles. You know that, don’t you?” The man squatted low and then leaned close. He was clean cut, about the same age as Charles, maybe a little older. But there were two features that stood out, even with Charles’s fading eyesight. The first was the unnatural bright green of his eyes. It was like staring into a pair of gemstones that sparkled under whatever light shone down. The second were the pointed ears that looked as though they had been filed and sharpened. The qualities likened him to an elven creature from Middle Earth. But the rest of him was extraordinarily plain.
With Charles maintaining his silence, the elf sighed, shaking his head. “I didn’t want to do this, Charles. I want you to know that.”
The elf snapped his fingers, and two men appeared on either side of Charles. They placed their hands on Charles’s head and kept it upright and face forward. And then a third man applied a metal contraption that forced his eyelids open, and Charles screamed when the prongs dug into his flesh.
“It’s so you don’t miss anything,” the elf said.
Pain and fear heightened his senses. His eyes burned and watered, and his vision blurred again as the metal door opened and a television screen was wheeled inside on a table.
The monitor was placed directly in front of Charles, and the elf pressed the power button, smiling.
“Pay close attention,” he said. “Because the consequences of your situation have changed.”
The screen flickered, and his wife, Mary, appeared on the screen. “No!” Charles jerked and bucked against the restraints, but every movement only heightened the pain around his eyes.
Mary sat tied to a chair, her head lowered and her body hunched forward as if she were asleep. The image remained on the screen for a while, the frame of his motionless wife burned into his retinas.
And then Mary’s head jerked up, though her dark bangs covered much of her face. Charles watched, his fingernails bleeding from the harsh rakes against the arm rests. He looked toward the elf, a burst of adrenaline aiding him to speak, his words escaping his lips in mournful globs. “Don’t do this. Please. Hurt me. If you want to hurt someone, hurt me!”
“I am, Charles.”
One of the henchmen forced Charles’s head back toward the screen, and he saw that two men joined her in the room. They held her still as another man entered the frame with his back to the camera, blocking Mary from view. Then after a moment’s pause, the back turned around, the man’s stomach and chest taking up the entire image.
The camera jiggled on its stand and then was lifted and placed closer to Mary’s face. She was screaming, but the monitor o
Charles’s stomach twisted, and his heart raced. He looked back at the elf still standing by the monitor. “What did you do?”
“Keep watching, Charles.” The elf gestured toward the monitor, and Charles could do nothing but submit to his torture.
A knife was brandished, and the camera dropped from Mary’s face to her left hand. Before the blade could touch her skin, Mary balled her fingers into a fist.
One of the men plucked Mary’s thumb free and straightened it while the camera tilted back up toward her face, which thrashed back and forth in the only form of defiance that was left to her.
“Baby, no!” Charles cried, his audible sobs replacing his wife’s silent screams. He hyperventilated, and his chest heaved up and down. The camera tilted down, showing the blade sawing vigorously at the thumb’s joint that connected it to the hand. Blood flowed to the ground in coherent streams. “No, no, oh god.”
Mary’s thumb was extended an unnatural length as the pair of hands that gripped the knife now twisted and pulled the thumb, breaking bone and tearing tendons as it was finally removed.
A tingling, numb sensation trickled down from the base of Charles’s skull through his spine, and he had never felt more helpless as the camera tilted back up toward Mary’s face. She was screaming, crying, her face ghostly white, the speckled pieces of dirt standing out in contrast to the porcelain skin. Her hair was ragged and clumped together. The woman he loved more than his life was now suffering because he wouldn’t give up the one thing keeping them both alive.
The monitor cut to black and was rolled out of the room. The elf took the television’s place, standing with his hands in his pockets as if he were waiting in line at the theater. “I really wish you could have heard her scream. The pipes on that one.” He removed his right hand, a white tissue sticking from his fist. He stepped closer to Charles and then slowly unwrapped the balled-up tissue in his palm.
When the elf was finished, he held up a severed thumb so Charles could see.
“I was going to let her keep it,” he said, “but I thought you might want a souvenir.” He set Mary’s thumb in Charles’s lap and then tossed the tissue aside. He leaned in toward Charles’s ear and whispered, “Every day that you don’t tell me what I want to know, I’m going to tell the men holding her hostage to cut a piece of her off and then bring it back to you.” He smiled. “I was thinking maybe an ear today, or her nose.”
Charles whimpered, his lips sealed tight. Snot dribbled from his nose, and his tears moistened the dried blood on his cheeks.
“You’re never going to let us go,” Charles said, shaking his head. “And I’m never going to give you what you want.”
The elf pulled back from Charles’s ear and grimaced. He sucked on his lower lip, giving it a brief chew before letting go. He placed his hand on Charles’s bare shoulder. It was freezing, like the touch of death. “You know, before I walked into this room, I received some good news. Some news that I think will help us both expedite this process.”
When the elf smiled, Charles’s blood froze. He shook his head, his eyes watering again. “No.”
“We found her,” the elf said.
“NO!” Charles thrashed wildly, numb to the pain of his body, numb to everything but rage. “Don’t you touch her! Don’t you fucking dare!”
But the elf said nothing as he exited the room, his hired thugs leaving with him, the eye contraption still on Charles’s face.
The door clanged shut, and the lights turned off, casting him back into darkness, his screams echoing off the bare concrete walls. His anger fed off of the madness driving him wild and out of his mind. He wouldn’t be able to save them now. He wouldn’t be able to hold it together. The elf had his daughter. And Charles knew he wouldn’t be able to watch her be cut to pieces, which meant that they would get what they wanted. And then his family would die.
The conference room was a modest size, the table inside seating twelve but able to accommodate fifteen. However, the egos that accompanied some of the people filled in the extra space. Big heads were a symptom of law enforcement agencies working together.
Nobody wanted their unit, group, or department to be the one who dropped the ball, and while talk of the common goal of delivering the suspects to the courts for justice was repeated until ears bled, everyone wanted the recognition that came with the success of solving a case like this. Everyone wanted to get the win. All but one.
Chase Grant sat at the back of the room, pencil in hand, jotting down notes from the rundown. He shifted uneasily in his seat, his body still sore from his scuffle less than two hours ago. He had done his best to try to make himself presentable. He slicked back his hair, the long, thick strands of black still wet. Flecks of grey had started to pepper his hair, and the lines around his mouth and eyes had become more pronounced as he approached his fortieth birthday. But he kept in shape, and while his mind was a little rusty from a lack of high-stakes investigations, he was still quick-witted.
It had been a long time since he was in a room like this. It had been just over four years since his dismissal from the Seattle Police Department. But his instincts as a detective were still buried beneath all of the dust of inactivity. He just had to brush them off.
But unlike the clustered group of FBI, US Marshals, and local Seattle PD, Grant no longer wore a badge of law and order. It was stripped from him after his last case. And while Grant was able to sort through his grief, his guilt, and the pain, once it was done, there wasn’t much left to do.
Then, three days ago, he’d found Anna Dunny, who he now knew as Anna Copella, hidden in his closet, thrusting him back into the action and into a world he’d forgotten how much he missed. And while his role was only as a special investigative liaison, he was glad for the work. Though he had no idea what the hell his title meant.
Director Multz, of the US Marshals, and US Marshal Samantha Cohen were his contacts on the case, and he had been given explicit instructions to report his findings directly to them. In part because of the dick measuring that was currently on display, but mostly for security.
The Copellas had been placed under the watchful eye of the marshals through witness protection, a program with a one hundred percent success rate for the individuals who followed the strict protocol and guidelines laid out by the marshals. The Copellas, who had become the Dunnys, had done all of that.
“Charles, Mary, and Anna Copella, a.k.a. Charles, Mary, and Anna Dunny.” Chad Hickem, the FBI’s deputy director, stood next to the projection screen at the end of the table. He was a mountain of a man, more gorilla than human. He hovered just below six and a half feet and tipped the scales at two hundred and forty pounds. He gestured to the family picture that the US Marshals provided. They wore matching white shirts and jeans, the three of them sitting on a blanket, surrounded by fall foliage. They had big, cheesy grins on their faces. “Charles and Mary have been missing for two days after being abducted from their home. Current intelligence leads us to believe that both Mary and Charles were smuggled out of the country, most likely into Canada, where they would be shipped to Eastern Europe. And as of one hour ago...” He clicked a tiny remote made even smaller by his ogre-sized hand. “Anna Copella was abducted. Aged five, Caucasian female, weight fifty-one pounds, height forty-four inches, brown eyes, and light-brown hair. She, like her parents, was taken by operatives that we believe are associated with this man.”
Hickem clicked the remote, and a surveillance picture, taken with a telephoto lens from a long distance, appeared of a man in a business suit. He had thinning white hair and was flanked by a security detail. “Anton Joza, Russian billionaire and international scumbag who made his fortune in oil. He has known connections with cartels all around the world and, allegedly, single-handedly stoked the flames of the 2016 rebellion in Turkey in hopes of propping up a government his company would have an exclusive oil contract with.” Hickem clicked to another slide and revealed a younger man,
A hand raised, the investigator spewing his question before Hickem even called on him. “How do we think they’ll get the girl out of the country?”
“Currently, we believe that the kidnappers will head north into Canada and then try to smuggle the girl via private plane charter or boat, both of which they could pull off on the coastline.” Hickem nodded to Sam and then to Grant’s old partner, Mocks, who sat ahead of Grant. “The marshals are handling the coordination with the Canadian authorities, while Seattle PD is helping us track any movements locally. Lieutenant Susan Mullocks will be our liaison with local law enforcement’s efforts.”
Mocks swiveled in her chair, hands folded over her swelling stomach. She was less than a week from starting her maternity leave. “I’ve spoken to the commissioner, and he has approved the overtime for additional officers to help with the search efforts. We have roadblocks set up for thirty miles on every major roadway leading out of the city. We also have patrols on the shores of Lake Washington, searching for the boat that the suspect and victim fled the scene of the crime in, and we should be getting an update on that within the next ten minutes. Photos of both the victim and the suspect have already been circulated to our precincts.”