A return home for Layla does not mean all is well. Her Uncle Jack works tirelessly to help bring his family to safety, all the while learning of a twist that turns the case into something much more shocking than he originally thought.
While Layla strives to keep it together at home and with her friends, both the teen and her Uncle must keep the case as quiet as possible. Layla for her own reasons, and Jack for fear that he’ll be making room for two behind maximum security.
Jack Dixon hung up the phone with trepidation. What would he tell his brother? How could he face his niece? The knowledge he’d just obtained both from the evidence and from his friend over at the F.B.I. was startling, shocking and painful. Jack knew this would be a case unlike any he’d ever taken on in his fifteen years as a criminal lawyer. This time it was personal. His family had been victimized, and in his hands Jack held the evidence that could possibly put Wayne Elliott away.
Knowing he had to work carefully and expeditiously, Jack placed another call before taking the evidence over to Agent Ingram. No courier service, no cab driver, nobody could ever take as much care in delivering the precious items to the F.B.I. for analysis as Jack. So he first made sure his family was safely tucked away in Holly Springs, North Carolina, while he hailed a New York cab to his side and asked to be driven to Agent Ingram’s office.
When the cab stopped at the curb, Jack looked up at the polished glass and granite building and a chill went up his spine. The large square office appeared very generic and sanitized; like nothing bad could ever happen there. However, Jack had intimate knowledge of many crimes in New York and neighbouring states, although none of them ever hit home like this one.
The criminal lawyer was signed in at the reception desk and instructed kindly to wait in a small room off to the side of the glass-enclosed area. Minutes seemed like hours. The longer the evidence took for analysis, the more time would pass that his family may be in harm’s way. Had Wayne Elliott finished damaging the Dixon’s? Or was he simply getting started? Jack made a mental note to follow up with the North Carolina police to ensure that his brother’s home was being watched as requested.
Agent Ingram appeared with a pasted on smile from behind the glass doors. “Dixon, my boy,” he greeted. “Come on upstairs.”
“Thanks,” Jack said, following his friend into the neighbouring elevator. “I appreciate this, Billy.”
“No problem, buddy,” Billy responded. “You been waiting long?”
“Not at all.”
The elevator pinged its arrival on the tenth floor and both men exited and walked single-file down a narrow hallway. “You tell your brother about anything yet?” Billy asked.
“Nothing.” Jack shook his head. “I want to have everything covered first.”
“Smart,” Billy conceded, as he stopped beside a sealed door and slid an identification card through a reader. When the contraption beeped, the steel door opened.
“Flannigan’s in today, so this should be smooth sailing,” Billy commented under his breath as Jack stepped into the laboratory. The tight passageway had a knee wall on both sides, and glass up to the ceiling. Laboratory workers, about a half dozen, were clad in white jackets with photograph name tags pinned to their left breast pockets.
To the left was a small office with a closed door and the lights on, visible from the tiny square window at eye level. Knocking on the door, Billy entered the room with Jack in tow and was welcomed by a short, stalky, white-haired man. “Hey, Ingram,” the man acknowledged. He glanced at Jack and recognition came to his face. “Dixon, right?”
“That’s right. Nice to see you again, Flannigan,” Jack commented kindly, shaking Flannigan’s proffered hand.
“You can call me Kevin.”
“Great, Kevin. Thanks for seeing me on such short notice.”
“Err…remember, this is on the QT,” Billy reminded, slipping his hand beside his face, feigning telling a secret.
“No problem, Ingram. We all slip a few things through analysis every now and again,” Flannigan chuckled. “So, what have we got?”
Jack had taken the evidence out of the backpack his niece’s friend Carla had given him prior to leaving his office, and placed it in a small black pleather duffel bag. Removing the items, he passed them to Agent Flannigan and explained each one carefully. Most of it was obvious, but Kevin asked what Jack would like done with the SD cards containing critical video evidence.
“Have you got someone who can analyze the voices? I want to confirm that that’s Wayne Elliott speaking in the shots.”
“Sure, as long as we’ve got something to compare it to.”
Jack swore under his breath, feeling stupid for the oversight on his part. “I haven’t got anything like that,” he said, and then an idea struck him. “But I might be able to get it.”
“Sure.” Flannigan nodded. “Send it to me via email and we’ll use it for comparison.”
“Sounds good. Can you also make sure the footage hasn’t been tampered with?”
“Definitely.” Kevin nodded. “And I assume you want everything else tested for DNA and trace?”
“I’ll need DNA for comparison as well,” Kevin reminded, and then added, “From both the victim and the accused.”
Jack pursed his lips, handing Agent Flannigan another parcel from inside his coat. “That’s all I’ve got for now.” He knew the drill but somehow hoped it would be easier. “I’ll see what I can do about the rest.”
“Okay.” Flannigan bobbed his head up and down. “I’ll give you a call.”
Both men thanked Kevin and walked out of the laboratory.
“Was that DNA you gave him?” Billy asked.
“Yeah. I took a sample from the inside of my niece’s cheek before she left.”
“You need more swabs? I’ve got a fresh supply in my office,” Agent Ingram offered.
“Nah, I’m good for now.”
“How are you gonna get the rest of what he needs?”
“It’s gonna be tricky, but I’ve got a few things in mind.”
“Good luck, man,” Billy said. “Let me know how it all works out.”
Officers Mandel and Howard pulled up close to the Dixon residence at approximately seven thirty on Wednesday morning. Parked behind a large oak tree two doors down and across the street, Mandel rolled down his window and unfastened his seatbelt. Howard, the younger of the two, retrieved a photo out of his left breast pocket and examined it.
“So, how long are we supposed to stick around here?” Mandel asked Howard.
“Dunno. Sergeant Wright says until further notice,” Howard answered, resting his sunglasses on top of his forehead.
Mandel cocked his head to the side to get a closer look at the photograph. “This guy that we’re watching for, is he a suspect or a witness?” he asked.
“A suspect I think,” Howard answered. “Wright was pretty vague about it. He just said to keep six on the house, without being noticed, until he called. We’re supposed to let them know if this redheaded punk shows up.”
Frowning noncommittally, Mandel sighed. “Well, at least we don’t have to sit here in uniforms.”
“Wright insisted we stay unnoticed,” he chuckled. “Although I’d be suspicious if this K-car and two men were parked in front of my house at any rate.”
“This is a great assignment.” Mandel was facetious. “I love babysitting.”
Howard patted his friend on the shoulder. “Cheer up. Maybe we’ll see the guy and get to follow him.”
“Did Wright even say what we should do if he shows up?”
Mandel shook his head and laughed. “No.”
“Great,” Howard muttered. “Glad I signed on for this job. Six weeks of busting my butt at boot camp for this?”
“Hey man, at least you’re still young,” Mandel commented. “Try doing boot camp when you’re thirty.”
Howard was about to say something quirky back when there was movement coming from the house. A man in his forties, dressed in a suit and tie, was leaving the small, two-storey dwelling. He was carrying a leather medical bag in one hand and a briefcase in the other. Moments later, a woman around the same age, wearing dress pants and a casual cream-coloured blouse appeared, also carrying a medical bag and briefcase.
“These two both doctors?” Howard asked.
“That’s what Wright said.”
The couple entered a small blue sedan and pulled out of the driveway. Mandel and Howard were unnoticed as the couple drove away, casually chatting as they passed the unmarked police vehicle. The two officers sat idly for another thirty minutes when a school bus arrived, just one door down from the Dixon residence. A flurry of activity took place then as two teenage girls hurried a younger girl out the door, who then ran to catch the bus.
The middle girl went back inside the house, while the oldest of the three stood on the sidewalk. Howard whistled. “Wooeee! They don’t make ‘em like that in Holly Springs.”
“That’s because they aren’t from here,” Mandel corrected. “This family is from New York. The Big Apple,” he added, as if Howard wouldn’t know. “They moved here to work at that medical center where Dr. Paul practices.”
“Wow.” Howard was impressed. “I bet Christmases at the Dixon house are pretty fancy, huh? Two doctors? I bet those kids want for nothing.”
“And this little honey here is going to be a doctor, too,” Mandel added.
Howard gave his partner an evaluating glance. “I thought Wright didn’t tell you much about these people.”
Mandel clucked his tongue. “I have my ways.”
“You and I are rookies, hoss.” Howard was a little shocked, and somewhat hurt. “How is it you know more than I do?”
Mandel smiled, placing both hands on the steering wheel. “You know that bag of muffins on Sergeant Wright’s desk?”
Lifting his thumb towards his chest, Mandel answered. “I bought ‘em.”
Walking from patient room A to patient room B, Chris heard his cell phone ringing from the lunch room adjacent to him. He knew it was his phone because of the distinct Dire Straits Money for Nothing ring tone he’d downloaded recently. To his knowledge, Mary was attending to a patient in room F, and wouldn’t be able to answer the call. Chris hurried into the lunch room and quietly closed the door behind him.
The phone was conveniently sitting on the counter, just beside his empty lunch sac that he’d emptied into the refrigerator when he arrived. He answered it promptly. “Dr. Dixon here.”
“Chris. It’s Jack. Is it a bad time?”
By rote, Chris looked around to see if the coast was clear. “No, not at all. What’s up?”
“Listen, I’m sorry for not giving you guys a lot to go on with Layla, but it’s for the best.” Jack’s tone was apologetic.
“That’s quite alright, Jack. As long as Layla is safe, that’s all that really matters. And I’m kind of glad you’re involved,” Chris admitted. “Sometimes I don’t know how to deal with these kids.”
“I understand. But hey, I wanted to ask you…does Linda have her cell phone back?”
“Yeah. We had a huge argument about it, Jack. It wasn’t worth the heartache, so we gave it back to her.”
“Good.” Jack couldn’t contain the slight relief in his voice. “Because if all goes well, she’ll be able to get something that I need.”
“What do you need?” Chris was curious.
“You know that Wayne kid that was at your birthday party?” Jack asked.
Dr. Dixon lifted a brow. “Err…the redheaded kid that goes to NYU? Linda’s friend?”
“Yes, him. I need Linda to be in contact with him somehow.”
Chris shifted his weight from one leg to the other. “Why?”
“Because I need his voice recording for comparison with the evidence.”
Jack cleared his throat. “I know Mary doesn’t know much, and you, too, but Chris, if I tell you what’s going on I need you to swear you’ll keep it between us…don’t even tell Mary. I need everyone to stay calm while I build this case. Situations like this tend to get messed up really easily and then the assailant is let off the hook.”
Scratching his head, Chris drew in a deep breath. “Jack, what the hell is going on?” His tone raised an octave.
Jack was deadpan. “I need to bait Linda so I can prove it’s Wayne’s voice in the Nanny-cam videos.” He paused. “I’ve got some physical evidence, too, and I’ll also need DNA for comparison—“
Chris interrupted. “You’re going to bait my daughter? For what?” he demanded.
The lawyer let out a puff of air and as delicately as he could, told his older brother the story. He told him about the videos, the evidence, everything. When he was done, Chris stood silent, digesting the disturbing information.
“That son of a bitch. I’ll kill him,” Chris murmured. His tone was eerily calm.
“Now, Chris. I need you to keep your head in this. You’re the only one who knows.” Jack was firm. “You can’t let on that you know anything more than Mary. If I can’t get this evidence put together the slime ball could walk.”
The doctor’s nostrils were flaring. But as soon as he was going to retort, the door opened. It was the medical receptionist. The expression on Chris’s face was telling. She suddenly paled, but looked at her watch intentionally, signalling he had patients waiting. “Jack, I gotta go.”
“Alright. I’ll be in touch,” Jack said.
When Chris hung up the phone, the muscles in his jaw were tense. How could he paste on a brave face? This kid had violated his daughter and he had had no idea. Somehow Chris felt he’d failed her; he felt he’d failed as a father. Wayne Elliott would pay. Oh yes, Wayne would pay, and Chris would be sure of it if it was with his dying breath.
Officers Howard and Mandel had sat just slightly down from the Dixon house all morning and for most of the afternoon. One would nap while the other kept watch. Nothing happened the entire day except for a woman out walking her dog, who accidentally set off a nearby car alarm.
Yawning, Mandel stretched his arms as best as he could in the small sedan. “This blows,” he whined. “When do we get to take a break?”
Howard checked his watch. “We’re supposed to check in with Wright in about five minutes. He said he’d have a cruiser come relieve us.”
“Well, at least we don’t get the graveyard sh—”
Howard caught Mandel’s glance as he watched a young girl, about eighteen or nineteen, walk up the sidewalk. “Isn’t she home a little early? It’s only two thirty,” Howard asked.
Mandel looked her up and down, as if she was a prime target at a single’s bar. “That’s the little honey that came out of the house this morning.”
“Easy,” Howard warned. “She’s much too young for you and we’re on the clock. You can shop in the female department after hours.”
Mandel didn’t seem to hear what his partner said because he was still scanning the girl’s body as though she was some whimsical goddess. A voice came over the police radio, breaking the men’s concentration. It was an alert about a man falling ill on the street about six blocks from where they were.
“Should we go?” Mandel asked Howard.
“I’ll check in with Wright first,” Howard answered, picking up his cell phone from the dashboard. He speed dialed and Sergeant Wright answered on the first ring.
“Yeah, we’re still here at the Dixon residence.”
“Any sign of Elliott?” Wright asked tersely.
“No, but there’s another call—“
“Yeah, I know about that; I’ve got ears,” the Sergeant said bluntly. “Go on over there and deal with that. I’ve got two other men on their way.”
“Copy that,” Howard said and hung up. As he pushed the key in the ignition and turned the car around, Linda turned and looked at the unmarked car.
Mandel tipped his head at her and she smiled, batting her eyelashes at the handsome officer. “Have a nice day, ma’am.”
“You, too,” Linda said, giving him a teasing wave.
“Thanks, hotshot,” Howard said. “Cat’s out of the bag.”
Layla walked out of the school and instantly felt like she was being watched. The hair on her neck stood upright as she nonchalantly scanned her immediate surroundings. It wasn’t difficult to see the unmarked police cruiser that was parked slightly down the street, and Layla caught a glimpse of the officer looking at her through the side view mirror.
“Subtle,” the teen commented facetiously as she pulled her cell phone from her backpack. Calling up Uncle Jack’s number, she blew a lock of hair out of her eyes.
Jack answered on the first ring. “Layla. Is everything okay?”
“Everything is fine, except, did you ask the police to keep watch on me?” she asked. “There’s a cruiser up the street and I just wondered if they were for me.”
Running his hands through his hair, Jack felt his frustration rise. He instructed Sergeant Wright to make sure the vehicles were well out of sight; if Layla could spot them, chances were Wayne would, too. “Dammit. Yes, they are watching out for Wayne and are supposed to be protecting you. I guess them being there is kind of useless now.”
“I doubt he’d be stupid enough to come to my school anyway,” Layla conceded. “If he’s going to worm his way in he’ll do it through Linda.”
“I’m already working on that,” Jack explained.
“What do you mean?”
“Don’t worry about it for now. Just…if you hear Linda talking to Wayne or about Wayne in the coming days, don’t panic.”
Layla’s eyes widened. “Are you crazy? The guy is a sicko! Why are you encouraging her to talk to him?” she was incredulous.
“Because I need comparison evidence, Layla.” Jack paused. “I can’t just submit a bunch of video and some DNA and call it a day. There are rules.” He waited for her to interrupt, but when she didn’t, he continued. “If I want to build a solid case so I can arrest him and charge him, I’ll need to prove it’s his voice in the video and his DNA on the clothing.”
“Oh.” Layla was deadpan. “So, how are you going to do all that?”
“How about you let me worry about that for now?” Jack’s voice was soft but confident. “It’s best for you to stay safe and let me do my job.”
There was silence, and then Layla spoke hesitantly. “Okay.”
“Trust me, Layla. We’ll make sure Wayne is put behind bars for what he did. I promise you that.” Jack paused again. “Once I can prove he did it, I can get a warrant for his arrest. It’s much better that way. If I have him arrested now, just on suspicion, I can only hold him for twenty-four hours until I can get the back-up evidence. And if I can’t get it in that time, he walks.”
The teen’s brows furrowed. “Back-up evidence?”
“The comparison evidence,” Jack clarified. “A voice recording, and DNA that confirms Wayne’s placement at your apartment.”
“And then what?”
“I’m digging into this as we speak, Layla,” Jack reassured. “I’m checking his background and seeing what else is on his record. Anything to help make him look as much like the dirt bag he is.” The desk phone began to ring. “I’ve gotta go, Layla.”
“Okay, Uncle Jack.”
Jack hung up with Layla and grabbed his desk phone on the third ring. “Dixon,” he answered tightly.
“Jack. It’s Billy,” Agent Ingram greeted. “I just heard from Sergeant Wright over in Raleigh.”
“Hey, Billy. What have we got?” Jack asked, resting his cell phone on the desk. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten, but his stomach was telling him it had been too long.
“No sign of our guy yet,” Billy reported. “Apparently Wright had two guys keeping watch all day and another two have been there since three o’clock and nothing.”
“Thanks for letting me know,” Jack said, fighting the urge to tell him that the officers in Holly Springs weren’t too bright, seeing as a sixteen-year-old spotted them within seconds. “Can we keep it up for another day or so?”
“Sure,” Billy said kindly. “We’ve got all the evidence processed, too.”
“Oh? Anything unusual come up?”
Billy drew in a breath. “Well, you don’t have to get confirmation on his DNA. We cross-referenced a strand of hair with our sealed records here.”
“Oh, that’s great. Thanks, Billy.” Jack was relieved.
“But that doesn’t quite place him at the scene, does it?” Billy spoke out loud. “That could have gotten there any other way. He was at your brother’s birthday party, right?”
“Yeah, I didn’t think of that, but you’re right,” Jack admitted.
“So you still have to get confirmation of his voice before you can make an arrest. And be careful with that; you know all the loopholes,” Billy warned.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Good luck, Jack.”
Layla lay in bed that night and had, once again, the sense that someone was watching her. It wasn’t the same feeling as she’d had earlier when she saw the police cruiser, no, this was different. Goosebumps formed on her arms even though her bed was warm with the spring breeze. Was it loneliness? The Dixon family had called it an early night, and Layla did everything in her power to avoid Linda, so heading to bed was a great escape tactic
Her older sister hadn’t spoken to her since she returned the previous day. Her tone, when used only in necessity, was cold and terse. Linda was disgusted with her sister for putting the family through such panic for nothing. The eighteen-year-old was also frustrated that Layla got away with it, with no punishment at all. Had she pulled a stunt like that, Linda was sure Mary would have grounded her for a month at the very least.
However, Layla was undergoing her own torment, regardless of what Linda believed. The sixteen-year-old was suffering from severe panic, nightmares, cold sweats, and worst of all, flashbacks. Feeling the sense of dread, Layla slid out of bed and kneeled at her bedside, steepling her hands under her chin. There she sat for as long as her knees could handle it, and prayed.
Tears flowed down her cheeks uncontrollably as she asked God to rid her of this pain. She begged Him to protect her and her family from further anguish; they’d been through enough, and it wasn’t over yet. Uncle Jack still had work to do, and he had to do it fast, if at all possible. Layla asked God to give her faith in her uncle, for he’d never failed her before. She referenced the sickly acts that Wayne had bestowed on her family, and prayed that nobody would ever have to endure them the way the Dixon family had.
When her feet were numb from the position she’d been sitting in, she rose. The hair on her neck stood upright and she instinctively turned around. A gasp came from her mouth as she saw a figure behind her. When the figure came forward in the dark, she felt her heart pound, and then she relaxed.
“Layla, honey, I’m so sorry I startled you,” Mary said soothingly. “I just wanted to check and make sure you were okay. I heard you crying.”
Layla placed her hands over her mouth in shock; not because it was her mother, but because she wondered how much of her confidential prayers Mary had heard. “I’m okay, mom. You can go back to sleep.”
Mary giggled gently and quietly in the dark, a sound she reserved for tender motherly moments like this. “Let me at least tuck you in, sweetie. I am your mother, no matter how old you are, you know,” she whispered kindly.
Trying to read her mother’s unreadable expression, Layla crawled back into bed, and did as she was told; she let her mother tuck her in. “There, now…go to sleep, baby,” Mary whispered, kissing her finger, and then touching her daughter’s nose.
Mary turned to exit the bedroom and her expression didn’t waver. Layla watched, but it was hard to see in the dark. Had her mother heard the real story? The sixteen-year-old lay in bed for hours wondering just that.
Officers Howard and Mandel were just patrolling a street where there had been a report of kids loitering around a corner mom and pop store, when they heard the call come over the radio. To Officer Howard’s dismay, the dispatcher asked them to head back to the Dixon home at the request of Sergeant Wright. “We’re on our way,” Howard responded.
“Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse of the little honey again,” Mandel teased.
“That’ll be great for you,” Howard pointed out. “I think it’s pointless for us to be there, especially since the girl will be able to recognize us.”
“Yeah, but we can’t tell Wright that.”
“He’s going to find out if the girl tells her folks we’re watching her,” Howard argued. “If they call in, we’re sunk.”
Mandel waved. “Relax. It’s after midnight; they’re probably all tucked away in bed anyhow,” he said as they turned onto the street where the Dixon’s lived. “Just park farther away from the house is all.”
Howard lifted a finger at Mandel. “And you just park your hormones for tonight. Here,” he said, handing him a paper bag from the back, “eat this, and be sure to save some for me.”
Mandel was starving and grateful for the late night snack. He forgot all about Linda and began to dig in, handing Officer Howard one of the paper-wrapped hamburgers. They ate in silence, devouring the fast food, when they suddenly saw some movement coming from about five houses down.
A small park area lay at the corner of the street, viewing distance from the opposite street where a local church was located. At the entrance to the park was a manicured shrub, a miniature white picket fence, and a large rock with ‘Trinity Park’ etched in red.
“You see that?” Howard asked after swallowing the last bite of his hamburger.
“What?” Mandel responded, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin.
“I thought I saw something over by that bush.”
Mandel lifted his head and took a sip of his soft drink. “Probably a raccoon.”
Just as Mandel said that, a tall male body emerged from behind the bushes. He was wearing black jeans and a black hoodie, with a black baseball cap. “Awfully late for a walk,” Howard commented speculatively.
“Has he got a dog?” Mandel asked. “They gotta go all hours of the night, you know.”
Howard watched him approach the Dixon’s house, hunkering down behind the Dixon’s small sedan. “He doesn’t have a dog. But he’s sure interested in that house.”
Mandel pulled out the photograph of Wayne Elliott. “You think it’s him?”
Scrunching his nose, Howard hissed. “You think we’re going to be able to see what he looks like in the dark, you idiot?”
Activating the small walkie-talkie on his lapel, Howard began speaking. “We have a male approaching the Dixon house; could be the suspect. Please advise.”
A moment later the dispatcher responded. “Approach with caution. I’ll send back-up.”
Howard lowered the volume of his walkie-talkie and the radio inside the car. “We get out slowly and quietly. The first time we see him climb up a drain pipe or try to peak inside a window, we get him.”
Thankful the doors had been recently lubricated, Howard and Mandel cautiously opened them, and one by one, walked towards the Dixon home. The male had walked to the back of the house, seemingly looking for a way to get inside. Once he opened the gate, the Officers would know they could arrest him, at the very least, for trespassing.
Howard saw him fiddling with a loose hinge on the basement window and called out to him. “Hey, what do you think you’re doing there, boy?”
The male looked up as Mandel flashed a light in his eyes. “That’s him,” he confirmed.
Realization came to Wayne’s eyes as they widened and he tried to bolt, but Howard grabbed his arm. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“I was just meeting up with Linda,” Wayne lied.
“Oh, yeah? She tell you to meet her out back? In the basement?” Howard’s tone told Wayne the Officer wasn’t convinced.
“Um…yeah. Her parents don’t like me.”
“Yeah? Well, we don’t like you much either, son,” Howard said as Mandel began reading his Miranda rights and slipping cuffs over his wrists.
A flood light suddenly illuminated the yard and Chris appeared from the side door in his bathrobe. “This the punk you’re looking for?” Howard asked, holding Wayne in place as he wiggled, trying in vain to loosen the grip the officers had on him.
Chris frowned, wiping his face with his hand. “I’m afraid so.” The muscles in his jaw began to clench and his hands balled up into fists.
Wayne caught the movement. “Err…sir, whatever they told you about me, it’s all a lie.”
The doctor’s nostrils flared and his eyes darkened. His voice was low as he glared at the man who attacked his daughter. “You better get yourself a good lawyer,” was all he managed to say without pouncing on the twenty-one year old predator. He turned to the officers. “Get him out of here.”
“Will do, Sir,” Howard responded.
Chris watched the young boy being hauled off into the cruiser as he walked back to the side porch. He stood there until Wayne was in the car, locked up safe with no hope of hurting his family, at least for the meantime. Feeling a hand cup his shoulder, Chris turned around. “Did they get him?” Mary asked, as if she’d been standing there the whole time.
“Yeah,” he whispered, staring at his feet.
“Don’t worry. Jack’ll make sure he’s put away.”
As the cruiser pulled off the street, Chris caught a glimpse of Wayne’s beady eyes from the back passenger window as they turned the corner. “I’m glad the cops found him before I did,” he said. “I would’ve been the one going to jail.”
He knew it was late, but certain his brother would welcome the call, Chris opened up his cell phone and dialed Jack’s number. When Jack picked up, he sounded as alert as if it were noon. “Dixon here.”
“Jack, it’s Chris. They just arrested Wayne.”
“Jesus, was anyone hurt?” Jack’s voice had raised an octave.
“No, he was slumming around in the backyard. Two cops got him. They must have been watching the house.”
“Yeah, I called in a favour from a friend in Raleigh.”
“Good work, Jack,” Chris said sincerely. “What happens next?”
Jack paused. “I’ll catch the next flight out. I’ve got most of the evidence I need already.”
“Great. I’ll make up the couch for you.”
“See you shortly.”
Jack hung up to Chris and his cell phone began ringing. “Dixon.”
“Jack, it’s Billy,” Agent Ingram greeted. “Did you hear?”
“Yeah, I just hung up with my brother.”
“So, are you heading out there?” Ingram asked.
“Yep. I’m just booking a flight as we speak,” he said, keying into his laptop.
“And you’ve got all the paperwork I sent you?”
“You need anything else, just let me know,” the F.B.I. agent said.
“I appreciate it. Thanks, Billy.”
Jack called Chris the moment his flight landed. He asked him to meet at the local police station where they were holding Wayne. It was three o’clock in the morning. Bleary-eyed and on his fourth cup of coffee, Jack saw his brother walk into the station, and welcomed him with open arms.
“Glad to see you, Jack,” Chris said, patting his brother on the back. “Had this been in anyone else’s hands, I’m not sure what would have come of it.”
“Not to worry.” Jack patted his briefcase. “We don’t know much about this kid, but we’ve got just about everything we need to put him away for a long time.”
Jack didn’t want to mention Wayne’s past, and that he’d been in trouble before. He didn’t want to think about the fact that the Elliott family might already have experience getting their son out of trouble. The judge wouldn’t like it much knowing that this wasn’t the kid’s first offence, but if it did end up going to court and Jack didn’t have all his ducks in a row, it might spell trouble for the Dixons. It was critical that Jack get into the interrogation room and get a feel for what Wayne’s plan was.
The Holly Springs police station was a small, square-shaped, single-storey building, and at that hour, it was rather secluded. There was a vacant nineteen-seventies style desk by the main doorway. Wood-paneled walls adorned the foyer and two short hallways running on either side of the foyer were painted cream. Directly in front of the reception area was a closed door, and behind that was a bank of small, singular jail cells not visible from Jack and Chris’s vantage point.
A tall, pot-bellied man approached from an adjoining hallway where they stood. Hustling his pants up with one hand he held the other out to shake Chris’s hand. “Doctor Dixon?” he greeted. As the man smiled, Chris noticed his plump, ruddy cheeks.
“Yes, that’s right,” Chris confirmed, reciprocating the shake.
The man introduced himself as Deputy Sheriff Cummins. “Mighty fine job you did fixing up my nephew’s eye last month.” He cocked his head to the side for dramatic effect. “He’d-a lost it if you hadn’t caught that infection right quick.”
Chris remembered the only boy he treated last month for a severe infection in the cornea. “I’m glad we got it cleared up in time.”
Deputy Cummins stood back and rolled on the balls of his feet, tipping his chin upward. “Mighty sensitive situation we’ve got over here I’d say.” He whistled, lowering his head. “Can’t say we’ve ever had to deal with anything like this here before.”
“The suspect isn’t from here,” Jack clarified. “He’s from New York.”
“We’re from New York as well,” Chris added. “The boy is friends with my older daughter.”
“Damn shame,” Cummins commented. “He says he’s studying to be a doctor at the University there in New York?”
“That’s right.” Jack nodded.
Adjusting his hat, Cummins grunted. “Well, we best get in there and see what he’s got to say for himself. His mama got here about an hour ago and ain’t nobody been in to see him since then.”
Turning to his brother, Jack pursed his lips, almost apologetically. “Chris, I hate to ask—“
Chris raised a defensive hand. “It’s no problem, Jack. I’ll wait out here.”
Jack patted him on the back as Cummins took a step forward, towards the interrogation room, when the main door squeaked open. A man about Chris’s age walked in wearing a shiny leather jacket and charcoal grey dress pants. He had thick brown hair and a receding hairline. His hair was slicked back and he was carrying a fat leather briefcase.
“Can I help you?” Deputy Sheriff Cummins asked kindly.
The man took a step forward, offering his hand to Cummins. “Gregory Stonewall. I’m Wayne Elliott’s attorney.”
Chris’s face paled. Jack gave a terse nod and placed his hand on his brother’s forearm. Chris looked at his brother and Jack winked, as though reminding him that this was all part of the process and to remain calm.
Cummins introduced himself and showed Mr. Stonewall to the interrogation room. He looked back at Jack before opening the door. “This’ll just be a moment.”
Nodding, Jack saluted him. “Take your time.”
Minutes seemed like hours as the two brothers sat on two lone chairs in the reception area. When Cummins reappeared, he invited Jack to come inside, while he took a seat beside Chris.
“Good luck,” Chris said before his brother disappeared. Jack didn’t seem to hear him; either that or he didn’t respond because he didn’t need luck. Chris hoped it was the latter.